Thursday, March 09, 2006

Taos Music...

Taos, NM has a remarkable music scene, for a town of around 5,000 people.

I don't know how to describe it. It's not "Americana," though that'd definitely be the record-store genre classification.

Maybe AmeriCaneToad.

Taos is known for having the highest per-capita number of art galleries of any city in the world. But its quotient of mandolins and bouzoukis is probably pretty damn high, too, if the CDs and the live music are any evidence.

I was very happy.

Camille & I went out and saw a bunch of live music while we were there, and I bought three CDs of local artists, though there were plenty more to choose from. Taos Music is a good introductory website for the scene, and you can also buy music through it (getting more money into the hands of the local artists).

I brought back Am I Born To Die, a collaboration between Chipper Thompson and Mason Brown, which has been in non-stop rotation in the car since then. Their version of "Pretty Peggy-o," I'm sorry to say, puts Bob Dylan's a little bit to shame. It's got a sweetness and delicacy that Dylan missed, and the whole fun of the song (to me at least) is in the mix of gentleness and surprising brutality. Their takes on "Banks of the Ohio" and "Oh Death" are also terrific. I think these kinds of albums are important for people whose sense of traditional American music has been deadened by the post-O Brother, Where Art Thou flood of "roots" releases.

I also brought back a collaboration between Thompson and Roger Landes, a Southwestern bouzouki master and founder of Zoukfest (no relation to this). Fans of Uncle Tupelo have heard a lot of bouzouki, because it was all over their third album, March 16-20th, 1992, which is incredible and a must-have. Go get it. Bouzouki has a lute-ish sound. When Camille heard the album, she said "One word: Renfair." Then we argued about whether it really sounded like a Renfair, even though neither of us has been to the Renfair. The whole Renfair thing came up because I described the band Big Country as "U2 meets up with Talking Heads at the Renfair." That's actually a good description, by the way. Moving on.

Bouzouki's been a mainstay in Irish music for a while now, though it's actually Greek in origin. When you think about it, "bouzouki" does sound like the kind of thing you'd marinate in garlic and lemon juice and bake wrapped in filo. It also sounds like a slang word made up by Missy Elliott to describe some bodily area she wants to inform us she's shaved. Anyway, the album I brought back is called The Janissary Stomp, and it's good if you've got a high bouzouki tolerance.

Finally, I bought an album by "Dulcimer Dan" Arterburn, who is, believe it or not, one of multiple "Dulcimer Dan's" out there. The album's called Just Pickin'. I assume the "...Ma" is implied. This album is only for folks that are seriously addicted to the twangahol. I doubt I'll be playing it too often in the car. Because even though I loved it at first listen, it's pretty infrequent that I feel like pretending I'm in the Blue Ridge Mountains ca. 1904. Even more rare that Camille wants to take that little trip. But I'll have the album just in case.

One last aside: I have no idea how these guys keep their instruments in tune when there's literally no moisture in the air at all. It'd be like playing bluegrass in an airlock.

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