Dear Mr. B
I don’t want you to give away any secrets of the trade, but sometimes I wonder: when do you find the time to listen to all that music and develop your opinions? I mean, I know you must have other things to do besides write album reviews, right? (Giving us all advice and guidance to helping us get through life, for instance.) Do you have “designated music periods” where you just lock yourself away in your little cabin with headphones on for days at a time? When’s the last time you saw the sun? Do you shave and stuff on a regular basis? Honest, I don’t mean to pry or be disrespectful I I’m just wondering how you do it. Thanks for giving me a reason to live.
Norm from North Dakota
Dear Norm P
Thanks for the kind words – and the lock of hair. I have to say, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but I’ll figure out something.
There’s one thing you need to remember, Norm – there’s always time for music. Sure – you can’t always give it your full attention, but I find that if I can toss an album on and let it be the soundtrack to life for a bit before I actually do up the review on it, I can get a feel for the vibe of the thing. Of course, sometimes it works out that some greedhead label lizard or inept PR person doesn’t send you a copy of an album until the day the review’s due, so then you have to dig in and go with your first-blush gut reaction. (Kind of like an audio Rorschach test, Norm. Something tells me you’re no stranger to the ol’ inkblots, buddy.)
But then you have instances like this new 5 Star Cave album by TriBeCaStan, which arrived in the old dented mailbox out here at the end of the dirt road back in early January – imagine it! I remember at the time I was desperately waiting on a couple of albums that had been promised but never delivered, so I figured I’d give TriBeCaStan a few spins in the meantime and take some rough notes. (It so happens I was going to be doing this on an early-morning road trip, Norm. Now I want you to understand something: don’t be trying this at home – or in your car, rather. I’m a master of the notepad-balanced-on-the-knee-eyes-on-the-road method of writing, okay? Safety first.)
Normally, listening to an album so far ahead of writing the review wouldn’t be a problem, but when I recently hauled out my notes on 5 Star Cave and read them over, I even weirded myself out. “ What? What did this mean? What was I talking about? Should I even have been driving? “
What I’m saying is, it was apparent that I’d either had some sort of shorting-out of the lobes that early morning back in January – or – TriBeCaStan was not your average jamband from New York.
Here: read a few deciphered scrawlings from my initial listening (written long before sunup while slaloming along some ice-encrusted road in Downeast Maine):
“Back When Tito Had Two Legs”: Surf’s up – wax the camel! Dick Dale on sarod?
“Stoned Baby”: World funk. Sublime meets Railroad Earth.
“Kabul Hill”: Slow and heavy, heavy hip shake. Belly-dancing pachyderms.
“Starry Stari Grad”: Waltzing with a Buddha. Appalachian mountain with a maharishi on top.
“Wildwood Flower”: Mother Maybelle Carter after a bowl of dosed vindaloo.
“(When You’ve Worn Out Your Shoes, It’s Time To Get) A New Foot”: Funky blues harp I jaw harp I accordian? What?
“Kali’s Sister”: Galactic in burkas.
“(I Drove My Car Down To) Baja_ – Chili dog on naan.
“Dizzy In The Dunes” – Stephane Grappelli and David Grisman take a magic carpet ride.
“From Bamako To Malibu” – The bus came by and I got on, Sahib.
There’s more, Norm, but I’m betting you get the picture by now. The land of TriBeCaStan is one crazy-ass place – wild and exotic yet familiar at the same time. In lesser hands, this melding of musical styles would simply be too Spike Jones-goofy to take seriously and I’d be saying, “This is one hell of an audio cartoon to haul out at party time!” But, nooooooo – multi-instumentalist-co-conspirators Jeff Greene and John Kurth have created this strange and friendly world where a zydeco washboard, a West-African kora, some tasty electric slide mando, and Yugoslavian goat bells all coexist with a little humor, a little world-punk-surf-jazz, and a whole lotta soul.
Fellow travelers include everybody from keyboard legend Al Kooper and genre-ignoring fiddler Charlie Burnham to percussionist Todd Isler (he’s been hanging with Mike Gordon of late) and Gordana Evacic, who happens to be the 3-TIME CIMBALOM CHAMPION OF CROATIA. (And I don’t care what you’ve been listening to lately, Norm, I’m guessing you’re seriously lacking in the cimbalom department. Well, look no further – TriBeCaStan will fix you right up.)
This is a world where people use their thumbs to play the kalimba rather than send text messages – and that right there is a good thing, Norm. A really good thing. In fact, I’m thinking that you could use a visit to TriBeCaStan yourself, my friend. DonUt you worry about how ol’ Mr. B does what he does – you just get yourself a copy of 5 Star Cave, throw it on, and crank it up.
I appreciate your concern, Norm – but you’ve got some traveling to do, buddy. Go wax up that camel.
Your old pal,