Saturday, June 30, 2012

New showing of pics in Charlotte

Hello All-

I've got a new show of photos here in Charlotte.
Nine large format prints of my some of the best-known musicians I've photographed, including James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Avett Brothers, and more. All prints are for sale.

Jack Beagle's
3213 North Davidson Street, Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 334-5140
Look them up on the web

Many thanks,

New photos from recent shoots

Top To Bottom-
Bootsy Collins, June 18, 2012
Woggles, May 26, 2012
Luther Dickinson, May 28, 2012
BoDeans, June 17, 2012
Maya Angelou, June 23, 2012
Madeline Peyroux, May 16, 2012
Stan Lee, June 24, 2012
all photos copyright 2012 Daniel Coston

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sights photos, June 26, 2012

The Sights
Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, June 26, 2012
all photos 2012 Daniel Coston

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Richie Furay interview, 2006

Richie Furay: Let’s Dance Tonight
Interview by Daniel Coston
originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, winter 2006 issue

The story of Richie Furay is one that has never been lacking in changes, or surprises. Leaving Ohio in 1964 for the folk scene of New York, Furay eventually found himself part of the multi-talented California quintet that was Buffalo Springfield, sharing leadership with Steven Stills and Neil Young before the band splintered in 1968. Not missing a beat, Furay and Jim Mussina founded the trailblazing country-rock outfit Poco, a band that Furay still speaks of with immense pride.

But while the careers of many of Furay’s former bandmates took different turns in the 1970s, Furay found another path. After becoming a born again Christian in 1975, Furay began to make devotional albums, while he and his wife moved to Colorado and raised their four children. 

Fast-forward to 2006. Heartbeat Of Love, his first mainstream CD in over 25 years, has allowed Furay to reach out to fans both new and old. Furay also found time in the past year to put together an autobiography, “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” (written with Michael Roberts), which covers the entire spectrum of his life experiences. Furay has also toured more in the past year, suggesting that he’s still adding chapters to his own amazing story.  

Calling in from the Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado, where he has been pastor for the past twenty years, Furay is someone that may not have always gotten the accolades he deserves, but is still happy to look back on his life, and to continue looking forward.

BT: Tell me about the new record, and how it came about. 

Furay: How it came about was that I have been going out and playing with Poco a little bit, and a few years ago we did a DVD in Nashville. We were starting to rehearse “Let’s Dance Tonight,” and a friend of mine [producer Peter van Leeuwen] was there, and he came up and said,”Richie, that’s my favorite song of yours.” And I said, “Yeah, if I ever get the chance to make another recording, that’s one song I’d like to re-record.” And he said, “Well, what’s the problem?” One thing led to another, and the next thing I know, I’m getting hold of my guys back in Nashville that have done my last three CDs, and went into the studio. 

I did record two old songs. I did record “Let’s Dance Tonight,” and I recorded “Kind Woman.” I wanted to put that sing to bed in time. (laughs) Because as I wrote it, and recorded on both the Buffalo Springfield and Poco recordings, it was more the feel that I recorded from the Buffalo Springfield [session], and there’s out of time measures in it, and I wanted to put it in straight 3/4, 6/8 time. And then recorded ten brand new songs on top of that. 

The CD is called Heartbeat Of Love, because that’s what I write. I write love songs. I don’t write political commentary, or social commentary. My forte has always been love songs. Nancy and I have been married for 39 years, so she’s had more songs written about her than one person on the face of the earth (laughs). 

One of the cool things about this recording was that as I was listening to it, I always try to have some of my friends help out. So I started thinking, for instance on “Kind Woman,” I couldn’t get Neil [Young] to play on it thirty years ago, so I wonder if I could get him to do something on it this time. So I called him up, and he said, “Steven [Stills] has already called, and he said that you’d asked him to do a song. I’d love to do something.”

So I’ve got Neil Young and Steven Stills, Kenny Loggins, Mark Volman from the Turtles, whom I used to live with years ago, Rusty Young and Timothy B. Schmidt, and Paul Cotton [from Poco], Jeff Hanna from the Dirt Band. They all came through for me, and it’s been a cool project. 

Without Pro Tools, I never would’ve been able to get this job done. All I had to to do was make these Wav files and send them off. I’d say, “This is what I hear, and what I’d like. If you hear anything else, by all means do what you hear, but this is what I’d like.”

BT: How was it to work with Neil Young after all these years? 

Furay: I didn’t work with him face to face. I sent him the parts [of the song], and I actually got him to play guitar on the song, and also sing vocal. First, it was like, “Man, I don’t know what I can get him to do. I don’t really hear his voice.” But it came out really good on “Kind Woman.”  

BT: There was a point during the Springfield [days] that he was collaborating with you as much as anyone in the band.

Furay: We have our names on a song or two, I think. Even when we did that, it wasn’t like Neil and I sat down and spent a lot of time working together. I had a bit, and he heard something, and he said,”Maybe this would fit in with this?” “It’s So Hard To Wait” is the song I’m thinking of right now, and basically there were a couple of different parts we just put together and made that song happen.

BT: How was it to see Neil at South by Southwest [in March of 2006]?

Furay: It was really nice. I hadn’t seen Neil in quite a while, not since we actually went out to his ranch, and listened to and talked about the Buffalo Springfield boxset. Seeing him after he’s going through all of his stuff, Neil looked very weak to me. I only had a short amount of time with him, but the time that I had was undivided. He gave me his undivided time, which was really neat. And we got to speak, and hug. It was nice to see him.

BT: How was it to work with Steven again? Vocally, you and Steven were the heart of that band...

Furay: I agree with you. Steven and I did a lot of unison singing, and you can hear that on the boxset. You can tell that we sat there and rehearsed, and worked on our phrasing and our harmonies. So to have Steven be a participant on the CD, and sing on it. It’s been a long time since Steven and I have done anything together. It’s been thirty-some years, and it was just awesome.

BT: A lot of music writers in the past have subscribed to the magic bullet theory, in that there was one person that started the merging of country and rock music in the late 1960s. However, I’ve always felt that there were several musicians putting forth those ideas around the same time, with you being a key figure in that starting from the Springfield days, then of course leading into Poco.

Furay: I think if you look at the Springfield, we were more folk-rock. We came out of the folk era. “For What It’s Worth,” when I first heard it, it was a folk song. When the Springfield was winding down, though, Jimmy Messina and I actually thought, “We like to put together another group, and we’d like to introduce the steel guitar.” So we called Rusty [Young]. A road manager of ours helped get us in touch with Rusty, who was in a group back here in Colorado. We had him come in play on “Kind Woman,” and we said “Hey, you’re the guy. Would you like to be in the band?”

We had an idea that we wanted to be one of the groups that bridged the gap between country music, and the rock and roll music of the day. Yes, there were others who were doing that. Gram Parsons, who was a friend of mine, was doing that with the Flying Burrito Brothers. The Byrds were doing it, with Chris Hillman. There were more than one group that was doing that, but I do believe that Poco had as big, or as more a part of carrying that on. 

Glenn Frey sat in my living room when I was rehearsing Poco. He came over when we were rehearsing on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, and sat there and just listened. So obviously, we had an influence on the Eagles, who took it to the limit, to coin a phrase (laughs). Randy Meisner, my first bass player in Poco [who later co-founded the Eagles], and [former Poco bassist] Timothy B. Schmidt, who plays with the Eagles now. 

We had a huge and tremendous influence on that style of music, that became very, very popular. We didn’t reap the financial benefits, but we know, and I know what I did in my heart, to really pioneer that. Somebody had to pioneer that. 

BT: Was it a struggle back then to get audiences to feel comfortable with the marriage of country and rock? I know that in the late 1960s, those two fanbases didn’t always mix.

Furay: From our audience standpoint, that was not a problem. Poco could generate a lot of excitement in the audience. The problem we had was with radio. I don’t know if there’s anything to that, beyond what I see on the surface, or what I look back there. There were a lot of big players out there. We became vulnerable to them. The Clive Davises, and David Geffen’s. Although I speak very highly of David in my book, because I think that he did me good. But at the same time, I don’t know what was going on in his mind. I know that he did have a problem with Poco, at the time. But who knows?

Poco was invited to play Woodstock, and the guy that was managing us at the time turned the gig down. Because he said, “We’ve got a better gig for you.” Nobody knew what Woodstock was gonna turn into, but what if Poco had played? I think it would’ve changed the whole atmosphere of what we did. 

But we could not get radio [play]. It was in fact the song, and album “A Good Feeling To Know” [in 1972] that we thought was going to launch our career into that other place. And when it didn’t happen, that’s when I said, “That’s it, I’m leaving.” What was it about that song that was not an AM big hit? But it wasn’t, for whatever reason, so you have to live with that, and let it go.

BT: Jumping back to Buffalo Springfield, do you think that it was too much, too soon for that band? Or was that combination of people only going to last so long?

Furay: I don’t think it was too much, too soon. There was so much talent in that band, but we did not have the kind of representation that knew what to do with us. Charlie Green and Brian Stone wanted to be producers, and they should have just been managers. They should have left us alone with our records, and let them worry about how they could best present this group. They didn’t succeed.

We had problems, obviously. There were three Canadians in the group, one of whom [original bassist Bruce Palmer]  had trouble with substance abuse, and he ended up getting deported all the time. And consequently, when he was gone that left a void we had to fill. And then one of the other guys [Young], he couldn’t decide if he wanted to be in the band, and not be in the band, and he was looking out for what was best for him at that time. So it was hard to keep that band together for more than two years. 

Furay: Do you think that all of the things that have come since then, not just with your band, but also Neil, Steven, CSNY, Loggins & Messina, have almost clouded how people look at Buffalo Springfield? People say, “Oh, they went on and did this and this,” as opposed to the fact that those are three great records.

Furay: Well, I think it’s a group that stands for itself. The Buffalo Springfield is a group that’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right now. I really also believe in my heart of hearts, and I don’t believe it because I started the band, but I believe that Poco is more than worthy [of Hall induction]. Maybe not because of the hit records, but because of the influence that we had on what became the most popular music in America.

BT: Has it been nice to see people recognize the work that you’ve done with those bands?

Furay: Oh, sure. It’s very humbling, to say the least. When I left Ohio with my suitcase, tape recorder and guitar, I had no idea where it would all go, and the influence that we would have. And that I would be a part of American history, basically. I go to my daughter’s class that she teaches here in Colorado, and I go down there every year, and speak to her class about the ‘60s. We’re a part of history! (laughs)

BT: I recently was on Youtube, and saw the Springfield’s appearance on “Mannix.” What was that like?

Furay: All I remember about that show, and that day it was really early in the morning, an trying to sing that early in the morning was a bear. (laughs)

BT: What was your experience like with the Monterey Pop Festival? I know that Neil wasn’t with you at the time, but Doug Hastings [later of Rhinoceros] and David Crosby both played guitar with you that night.

Furay: I was just coming off of some tonsillitis, so it was not only the fact that Neil wasn’t there, but then the fact that I was physically run down, it was a tough experience. But man, was it also an eye opener. Seeing Jimi Hendrix, seeing the Who and Otis Redding. Such great groups playing. And boy, it was the psychedelic launching pad. It was something else. To walk around that facility. I can still see us walking around. Like they have those renaissance fairs? It was almost like [Monterey] was the start of that. (laughs) 

BT: Throughout the Springfield and Poco days, who were your favorite bands to tour with?

Furay: Obviously, touring with the Beach Boys was a huge, absolutely awesome thing. Brian [Wilson] wasn’t there, but there was Dennis and Carl [Wilson], and Mike [Love] and Al [Jardine], and Bruce Johnston. So it was what most people remember the Beach Boys live as. And we did two tours with them, and that was really an experience and a half. 

That would’ve been it for the Springfield. We didn’t do a whole lot of outside touring. We did this tour with Sky Saxon and the Seeds. Man, it was the nightmare tour from... well, you can imagine. (laughs) That was awful. We didn’t get outside of our secure little area of Los Angeles. We did make it east a couple of times, but they were very short-lived. Then we went into the midwest, and that was short-lived.

It wasn’t until Poco that we did more national tours. I remember playing with Creedence Clearwater. We headlined a lot of college dates ourselves. Every SUNY up in New York, we were there. (laughs) Oswego, and elsewhere. I swear, I’ve been inside every gymnasium that there is in New York (laughs). 

BT: What does the future hold for you? I know that you’ve been setting up tour dates recently.

Furay: I have such a broad opportunity before me. Obviously, it’s gonna be difficult, pastoring a church back here in Colorado. I really believe that this is a very important time in my life, to get out and not only minister in churches, but also to get out and play some of these clubs, and play some of my new songs, as well as the old, and just share my life. 

At 62, I just can’t imagine that I’m doing this, but like I said, I don’t plan it. Three or four years ago, I would’ve said that I was done. I had a hip replacement, and I couldn’t even walk. But now I feel rejuvenated, and ready to go. 

BT: When I saw you in March, you were very comfortable doing your own songs, and Poco songs, but some that you had done with the Springfield. Not just Neil’s songs, but also songs that Steven had written.

Furay: I enjoy playing “Go And Say Goodbye.” And I had no idea that I would put together a medley of “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong,” “Do I Have To Come Out And Say It?” and “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” but that came out really good. I don’t play it every night, but it’s something that we enjoy doing.

BT: Do you ever do “On The Way Home” occasionally?

Furay: I don’t, but a friend of mine in California just requested it for a church set. (laughs)

That song was recorded in a time where [Springfield] was pretty fragmented. I’m not even sure how it came about that I did sing that song. I think that there were one or two songs were the whole band played on it, and that was one of them.

BT: Do you find that you look at touring differently now, as opposed to previous years?

Furay: Pretty much so, yeah, because I underwrite it all. (laughs) To be able to keep everybody on the road, give them a little bit of money for some taking time off of work, it creates a dilemma. But the Lord knows, and where he guides, He provides.   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Together tour photos, Hiawasee, GA, June 16, 2012

Top to bottom, Buckinghams, Grass Roots, Gary Puckett, Turtles, and Micky Dolenz.
Anderson Music Hall, Hiawasee, GA, June 16, 2012
all photos copyright 2012 Daniel Coston

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Random Thought

So I'm standing in a health food store, and all I want is a Snickers. Is that wrong?

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Love This Freakin' Band - Guided by Voices

Friends and loved ones, we are here today to mourn the loss of Guided by Voices. Again. At the end of 2011, the band put forth the rumor that the recently reformed "classic lineup" was done touring. We all gathered together for their "final" show, at the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC. Songs were sung, many beers were consumed, and we all waved goodbye. Again. As we have before, with different versions of this group, known to its friends and fans as "GbV." It was a long road to this final goodbye, for many of us, with so many stories between us.

For those that have not been "GbV'ed," here is a short version of their story. The band, led by singer/songwriter/ringleader Robert Pollard, form in Dayton, Ohio in the mid 1980s, fueled by a love of 60s and 70s rock, and dreams of stardom. They write and record constantly before their fifth album, Propeller (released in 1992), starts to gather attention. Realizing that they could record as much as they wanted, and spend as little money as possible, they start recording on guitarist Tobin Sprout's four-track home recorder. This gives the albums a low fidelity, do it yourself quality that endears itself to fans. The songs also become shorter, with songs quickly merging from one, into another. By 1994, their album Bee Thousand is the toast of the indie rock scene, and they seem to be releasing a new album, or EP every week. By 2005, they band would release 14 full-length albums, and too many EPs and singles to count. To this day, Robert Pollard still releases five albums on his own every year.

I first heard about the band through a short news piece on MTV in late 1994. Not too long after that, I was in a Media Play store, and saw their then-new album Alien Lanes was on sale for six dollars. I knew nothing about their lo-fi aesthetic, or that the album featured 28 songs in 35 minutes. The first time I heard it, I thought, "What is this?" The sixth time I listened to it, I really liked it. The twentieth time I listened to it, I thought that Guided by Voices were the greatest band in the world. It was like the Beatles in another universe. They were one of the first bands I had heard that took their cues from the same 1960s records that I loved, yet played it with a heart and spirit that made it their own. Between GbV, and the Velvet Underground (whom I had also started listening to around this time), my understanding of popular music exploded, and I have not stopped listening since.

Guided by Voices was also one of the first bands I had ever encountered that inspired its own special fanbase. This was different than the Deadhead community, or other fans I had encountered growing up. GbV seems to encourage their own sense of community, like we all had been lucky enough to receive a secret code. A shared love and experience with something bigger than ourselves. The comfort in knowing that all I have to do is say the phrase, "One, Two, Big School!" and that those who know, wherever they are, will shout, sing, or think the phrase, "BIG! SCHOOL!!" The feeling of standing in a crowded room that share the same feeling as you. Everyone tied together by their love of GbV's endless fountain of great songs, and joining together in a chant of "G-B-V! G-B-V!!" before, or after the band takes the stage. It's a feeling I still look forward to.

In late 1996, I got the magazine I was with at the time to let me do interviews with various GbV bandmembers. By the time I had convinced the magazine to let me go to Dayton, Ohio to meet the band, the lineup (now known as the "classic lineup," which had recorded the albums I previously mentioned) had split up. By the time I finally saw the band in 1997, a new lineup, with Pollard still at the helm, was in place. While these later lineups will always hold a special place in my heart, the band was now a different beast. 

Also feeding this change was the crowds that were coming to the shows. Early in their career, Pollard had started drinking heavily onstage, to fend off stage fright. This led to the band, and the crowds often turning the shows into drinkfests. Some people have been surprised to learn that I largely do not drink, and yet have seen GbV fourteen times, and counting. I was never there for that. I was there for the records, the songs that made up the albums that I loved. Some will always associate the band with the communal alcohol watersheds that they often inspire, a rallying cry to drink, sing and let go as much as any human can. I understand that, but its never been my thing. 

In 2000, GbV started touring the Southeast US a lot more. I saw them in Columbia, SC, Chapel Hill, NC, Athens, GA and elsewhere, taking photos the whole time. Pollard posed for photos for me here and there, and we talked about doing more. One Friday, I was debating going to see the band play in Asheville, when my phone rang. A magazine in Pennsylvania needed posed pics of the band for a cover. Could I meet GbV at 5pm? Off I went, and the photos we did that evening also led to me having photos in Universal Truths & Cycles, their best-of, and other places.

I have had so many great experiences with the band. Going record shopping with Bob in Athens, GA, and letting him buy an album that I was desperate to have. (Still have that Montage record, Bob?) I showed up in Chicago for a festival, and appeared in the front row without telling them I was in town. The looks on their faces was priceless. I have seen Bob at his best, and, well, drunk. I have been paid a grand total of $67 by their old label, Matador Records, for a photo shoot. The following week, I received another $67 check from Matador, and someone from the label called me in a panic, pleading with me to not cash the check, saying that their system had accidentally printed and mailed another check. That second check is still in my desk, a proud souvenir of the continuing story of GbV, and me. 

By 2004, Pollard had grown tired of touring, and the lifestyles of the crowds had taken over much of the band. I saw them on their final tour, leaving an Incredible String Band show in Winston-Salem, NC, to see GbV play in Chapel Hill. And quite frankly, I should have stayed in Winston-Salem. It was like watching your friends obliterate their senses, a dark carnival of a memorial. I really like Robert Pollard, and have always enjoyed talking to him. But I know that when fans show up to "hang out" with Bob ("Hey, I consumed things with Bob Pollard!"), that my time with the Bob I've known has wound down, and the stage version of Pollard is soon to emerge. By the time the band finished later that year, I figured that I would never see the band again.

All the while, the woman that is now my wife, a native Ohioan (I once told Bob, "I have done so much with this band, marrying an Ohio lady just seemed to make sense"), let me go to Dayton to visit the band's hangouts, and gamely went with me to the band's New Year's shows, where fans of both genders were gathering in the ladies room to consume drugs, and whatever else they could get their hands on. My wife, like many, is an understanding GbV widow, and I will always be thankful for that. 

I was in Ohio in 2010, visiting my wife's alma mater, when my cellphone started ringing. It was various friends, informing me that GbV's "classic lineup" was touring again, and that a North Carolina show had been announced. It seemed strange to be in the band's home state when the announcement was made, but for me, it seemed to be a sign that things between me and this band were lining up again. By the time I returned home, their manager had already contacted me about photographing the NC show.

The show was, well, fantastic. Is it possible that an event was worth the fifteen years I waited for it? Well, this one was. A ton of great songs, a sold-out crowd going crazy (but not TOO crazy), and good experiences with the band, and everyone there. The lighting wasn't great, but I was able to pull out some good shots. I got home at 3:30 in the morning. I had to be up at 10am that morning for another gig, but I knew that I would be busy the rest of the weekend. I did a quick edit, pulled out five shots that I had immediately liked, and emailed them off by 5am. Later that weekend, GBV's manager emailed me back. Can the band use these for press? By Tuesday, the five pics were in papers in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere. Not much money, but lots of trade-outs, photo credits and thank yous. Just like the way it used to be. But here I was, working with GBV again, and working with the lineup I had always wanted to see.

After the Hopscotch show, the band's manager asked me a question. Would it be okay if Mojo Magazine used a photo of mine? Of course, I said. Several days later, a photo of the band from the Hopscotch show appeared in Mojo, announcing a new Guided by Voices album. 

So, friends, we gather here again, for the funeral that wasn't. Much like our love for this band, Guided by Voices has returned, again and again. With three (count 'em, three) new albums this year, and new shows planned for the fall, our collective experience will continue to change, and grow. Times may have changed, but we have been changed by our time with the band, and made better by it. The hope of any art form is that one can receive love and hope through what one creates. And for many of us, there is nothing that inspires more love than the letters G, B, and V.

GbV is dead, long live GbV.

G-b-V, G-b-V...... 

-Daniel Coston
June 15, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Is Where The World Goes

This Is Where The World Goes

We have fallen
away from where we were
Walking forward
in unison
has been turned away,
and the damage
we left in our absences
has begun to take root,
in ourselves,
and in the ground.

Sides will be chosen, and we will 
from those we once held dear.
Hands have acted out
what we thought in anger
for a moment
and the ripples of emotion
has begun to pull 
the current at our feet.
We have tripped over the axes
that have cut us off 
from communication,
and where we were.

We will claim that 
others made the choices
and yes, 
all those words were not your own
but the color of the aftermath
shades us all
clouds our memories
strains our judgment
more than the past
ever thought
we would go.
Yet we will not allow
to repairs the motions, 
and leaving
where we were
is sometimes
the hardest fall,
of all.

We are nearly there
to where we soon will be,
yet so far away 
from where we were.

-Daniel Coston
June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mercury Dime interview, 1997

Mercury Dime: From Faith To Darkling
written and photographed by Daniel Coston
Originally published in Tangents Magazine, fall 1997

"Hey, check this out," Cliff Retallick calls to me from across the room. He and the rest of Mercury Dime are setting up for practice, but Retallick, the band’s lead singer and keyboardist, can’t resist playing Darkling, the band’s phenomenal second album. The band has only had the completed CD for a couple of days, and their excitement is nearly uncontainable.

As Darkling’s sparkling first track, "The Virgin Of The Road," comes through the speakers, Retallick moves and air-guitars along with the song, acting out its every layer and nuance. As you watch him, you might even think that he is not even listening to his own record, but that special record in our collection that we all have. That album that completely envelops our senses and emotions, and changes the way we think about music and ourselves.

For others, Darkling might just become that album. Mixing elements of rock and country into a menagerie of other influences and ideas, Mercury Dime has made an album that possesses many strong musical echoes from the past forty years, and in turn produced an alchemic sound that is their own.

"Chris Stamey [former member of the dbs, who also mastered Darkling] said something to the effect of, ‘When I heard the record for the first time, I knew what it must have been like for the Wright Brothers when they first flew at Kitty Hawk,’" says Retallick.

From the gospel-inspired background vocals (provided by Charlottean Daryle Ryce) on "Peace Comes Dropping Slow," to the chamberlin strings that embrace "Lighthouse On Driftwood," each song seems to possess its own distinctive voice and character.

Another key voice in Darkling’s chorus is the work of producer extraordinare Mitch Easter, with whom the band recorded the album over several days late last year. "He was somebody that we’d always wanted to work with," says Retallick. "Years ago, I sent him our first demo, and I would invite him out to our shows." Easter eventually mixed five songs on the band’s debut album, Baffled Ghosts, in 1996.

"He basically cut all of the rhythm tracks live," says Retallick. "We’d cut the rhythm tracks, and then I would cut the vocal track to the song right after that. It’s got a real live feel to it, unlike a lot of records these days, which have a piecemeal click-track feel.

"Everyone had written their own part and gotten their parts [to sound] they wanted on stage, so everybody knew what they were doing by the time we got in the studio."

"They were really well-organized," adds Easter, speaking from his home in Kernersville, NC. "Although we had to make this record relatively fast, its quality was not compromised. They came in and nailed the essence of their music."

However, before the band could begin recording the album, they had to wait two additional weeks while Easter finished other projects. During that time, Retallick presented five new songs to the band, all of which found their way onto Darkling.

"There’s a strange cycle we have that revolves around five songs," says guitarist Alan Wyrick. "Before we did Baffled Ghosts, Cliff brought in five new songs. And the same thing happened right before Darkling."

However, the inclusion of the new songs worked to the band’s advantage. "When you’re working songs up, there’s a peak performance that you never really get to again," says Retallick. "And it comes fairly soon. I think that the performance of those five songs peaked as we were recording them. That’s why those songs, and this album, are so alive. That’s a rare thing. You couldn’t engineer it if you wanted to."

Darkling also explores territory that goes far beyond the band’s rock and country roots, as well as the "alt-country" label that the band dislikes. "That used to work to our advantage, but now it’s like we’re paddocked in it, or shackled," says Retallick.

"I don’t want people to not listen to [Darkling] because it’s associated with country, or Garth Brooks, or something else."

One reason that Easter sites as a source from the band’s willingness to explore different sounds is their hometown of Faith, NC, a rural area just East of Salisbury. It was in Faith that Retallick, steel guitarist Darryl Jones and bassist Eric Webster first formed what eventually became Mercury Dime in 1991, and where the band still lives today.

"Unlike other bands, they didn’t start as part of a larger scene, where a lot of bands tend to sound like each other," says Easter. "They kind of invented their own scene. I can’t think of any other band that sounds like them around here, or anywhere, for that matter," says Easter.

"For me, this album harkens back to an earlier time when record companies didn’t worry about labeling the music," adds Easter. They just cared about making great music. The album sounds very familiar, in that respect. It’s very organic, and real."

The band has also found a strong ally in Tor Hansen, who runs the Chapel Hill-based independent label Yep Roc Records, which is distributing Darkling. "I feel safe and comfortable with Tor," says Jones. "Nobody’s going to push us around or tell us what to do."

"What people don’t know about all those bands that are getting a lot of money [from major labels], is that they owe all that money back to that stupid-ass record company," adds Retallick. "You’re always paying to play, and I want to circumvent getting into debt as much as humanly possible."

For Mercury Dime, the future is now ripe with possibilities and potential. But for now, the band is proud to just have Darkling within their grasp. "We paid our dues to get this record made," says Retallick. "No one can ever take this album away from us."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1934 baseball game, and Ray Hayworth

People often ask me what I have been listening to lately, and usually its up to what day you catch me. Nic Jones, Steeleye Span, Love, the dbs, early Bee Gees, et cetera. But recently, I found something on Youtube that I just fell in love with. A 1934 radio broadcast of a Tigers and Yankees baseball game.

As a rabid young baseball fan, and wannabe sportscaster, I've always had a fascination with early baseball broadcasts. I had even heard about this game in Sports Illustrated, as the oldest complete baseball broadcast in existence. And now, here it is, for all to hear. Gehrig, Greenberg, Goslin, Gehringer, and many other great players whose last name did not start with G. Babe Ruth is in the dugout for this game, but sadly did not play. I still remember all of the names of the players for the Yankees team.

What I love is the simplicity of the broadcast. Ty Tyson, who was also the sportswriter for one of the Detriot newspapers, has a down to earth flair about his delivery. There's a teletype machine going nonstop  nearby him, which you can hear. Tyson also doubles as the stadium's PA announcer, which you also hear. Just great players, and a great game.

As I was listening to the game last weekend, one name suddenly stood out to me. Hayworth, as in catcher Ray Hayworth. Then I realized that this was the Ray Hayworth that I interviewed for Tangents Magazine in 1996. Somewhere, I have that piece, which I will post at some point. There he is again, out on the field, playing for the Tigers, as Ray always wanted to be.

Good to hear you again, Ray. Here's to radio broadcasts of baseball games, both new and old.
May 5, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Love This Freakin' Band - American Analog Set

It's happened to all of us. We listen constantly to an artist for a while, and then we move on to other artists. New albums, old albums, other things that take our interest from whatever held our attention for a while. Time passes, and one day you stumble over what you had listened to, and its like re-discovering an old friend. You remember when you heard that album, or that song, and your mind replays shadows of that time, usually in softer hues than how those days initially played out.

For me, certain albums are like that. Sure, there are many classic records that will always hit me that way, and always will. But for an album like Forever Changes, there's also In The Valley Of Dying Stars, by Superdrag, or Your Favorite Music, by Clem Snide. As a photographer, there's certain records that I was lucky enough to be a part of that still hold a special place in my heart. (Mignonette, by the Avett Brothers, and Darkling, by Mercury Dime, immediately come to mind.) And some records, and some bands, are just good music, and await my return.

In late 1999, I went to Fat City to see a band that I had not heard before, and had gone to see on the recommendation of a friend. Fat City was a restaurant and music venue in North Davidson, back when that neighborhood was rough and ready. I know too many stories about that place, but I saw a lot of good music there. On this night, the band I'd gone to see was the American Analog Set, a Texas group that was touring on their new album, The Golden Band.

From the beginning, I really liked the band. They looked like the indie kids I had seen here in other cities, but they were different. For one, they were influenced more by the Velvet Underground's third album as they were by whatever indie sounds were hot at the moment. I also liked their lack of airs. They weren't into flash. They just played quiet, moody, yet moving music. I took a couple of rolls of photos, and introduced myself to the band. I also bought a copy of The Golden Band, which I listened to constantly for the next couple of years.

The Golden Band sounds like an evening at home with your friends, if your friends were moody, intelligent musicians that had both a vibraphone, and a Magnus organ handy. The lyrics seem to reflect the band's outlook on life, touring, and the scene they were in. There was a lot about the scene they were in, actually, but it gave the album an intimate charm. World peace? Forget that. What about me, my friends, and so-called friends?

Over the next few years, I stayed in touch with the Analog Set, and their leader, Andrew Kenny. (Andrew sometimes went by Andrew, and sometimes went by Kenny, depending on who you talked to. A shape-shifter? Slightly, perhaps.) He asked to use some of my photos in a best-of compilation, but sadly, it did not happen. I do not have any major regrets with my photography, but there's a few "what ifs" on albums that would've been nice, if they had happened. The band changed over the next few years, and I still listened to them. But I still had a special place in my heart for The Golden Band.

I missed the band's final tour in 2005, and also missed the band's reunion in 2009. At the 2009 reunion in Austin, they played The Golden Band in their entirety. I recently found out that the entire show was videotaped, which you can now see online. Looking at it, however, I realized that I would have felt too crowded at that show. So much of my enjoyment of that album was me, at home, alone in my quiet moments, and listening to music. The way that many of us enjoy music.

Recently, I stumbled over some Youtube postings of The Golden Band, and I found myself back in those long-ago days. I remembered how much I loved that record. How I really wanted to take more photos with the band. How I went and bought a Magnus chord organ at a Value Village, because of that record. It's all still there, in my mind and on that album. Is it not cool in "the scene" that I still like the American Analog Set? Would Kenny be embarrassed by such an admission? Sod it. Time reveals all truths, and this is still the truth, to me. The listener, the fan, the photographer. The person that still owns a copy of The Golden Band.
-Daniel Coston
June 2, 2012