Bradley's Almanac

[3 Gentlemen] On Bill Janovitz, Chris Brokaw/Codeine, & Jason Noble

Posted on June 29, 2012 at 10:40 am | No Comments

Updates on what three ridiculously talented gents are up to lately: Buffalo Tom‘s Bill Janovitz, solo-songwriter & man-of-many-bands Chris Brokaw, and Jason Noble of Rachel’s/Rodan/Shipping News.

For the past four months or so, in the wake of a relatively busy 2011 for his Boston-based band Buffalo Tom, Bill Janovitz has been cranking out new solo songs and sharing them over on his website under the thematic title “Long Island of the Mind”. As of this writing, he’s up to 11 tracks (most posted with a companion essay or lyrics), and while the streaming and downloading is free, it’s not the endgame: We’ll get a more-fully-realized (and potentially physical) collection out of this project, assuming enough of us pitch in. I’ll let Bill himself explain…

My intention is to release the mostly/completely finished tracks as they get to an acceptable state. But some will require a full band, for which I will need to hire musicians and a studio. You can listen and download to the music here for free, but I would appreciate any donations you can make via the PayPal button to the left, which will allow me to offset my costs. I don’t need to do a Kickstarter Campaign to get going, But those who send me — let’s say $12 or more — will likely get a signed, remixed, high quality CD and download version of the project once it is complete. I say “likely” because I will need enough people to sign on to justify printing up the CDs. But anyone who gives $5 (Louis C.K. has set the pricing) or more will get to download the whole thing later in high quality audio file format. PayPal will send me the emails/info for each donor, so I will send out updates to those who donate and let them know when it looks like the songs will be ready for real mix/master/packaging. Do people want CDs anymore? Is it better to make vinyl with a digital download (high quality?).

Answer Bill’s question (hint: yes!), and more importantly, throw some Paypal dollars his way to either secure your digital copy or help reach the physical-release point, by heading to his site and hitting the tip jar on the left. There’s a chance Bill will acquiesce to the pull of Kickstarter for that physical release, but if enough of us kick in to that Paypal account, he won’t need to. So make with the clicking.

Here’s one of Bill’s “Long Island…” songs, for your listening pleasure. Read more about it right here

[MP3] Bill Janovitz – “Rounding Third

That’s not all that Mr. Janovitz has planned, though. If you’ve read any of his written work, either on his blog, for Boston Magazine, or his excellent contribution to the 33 1/3 book series (on the Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main Street”), then you know he can pen a paragraph as sharply as he can a song. Seems the people at St. Martin’s Press agree, as they’ve tasked him with another Stones’ project to mark the seminal band’s 50th anniversary. From Bill’s blog

The idea is to take 50 of my favorite and/or representative songs, spread across all of their career, examine them deeply and contextualize them within the eras in which they appeared, kind of like what I did with the post here on “Gimme Shelter,” and in my book on Exile. But this is more telling the history of the band via the songs. Working title: 50/50: Listening to 50 Years of the Rolling Stones. Extremely fun, but a daunting prospect.

Bill and St. Martins are shooting for a publishing date in the Spring of 2013.

Another longtime Boston-area songwriter, who is now very much Seattle-based, is Chris Brokaw, a guy who also has quite a bit going on at the moment. Actually, this journeyman singer/guitarist/drummer always appears to have an active schedule, so saying that he’s “based” anywhere might be a bit inaccurate – he seems to constantly be on the road, bringing songs to far flung locales with a fairly disparate yet always-interesting list of musical collaborators.

Right now, though? It’s all about Codeine. As a longtime fan of the slow-rock progenitors, one who was fortunate enough to see them a few times back in the day (“the day” being the early ’90s), I’m thrilled they’ve return to duty (with Chris, their original drummer, on drums), even if it’s just for a moment. They’re about halfway through their live return, having had one stateside warm-up gig in April followed by a quick trip to Tokyo and a few European festival appearances so far. With all that under their belt, they return to the U.S. this week for just 8 dates, then done. Naturally (and thankfully), one of those stops is Chris’ former home here in Boston – there was little doubt he’d forsake us – and it’s tomorrow, Saturday, June 30th at Brighton Music Hall. Brokaw’s former Come bandmate Thalia Zedek will open the show with a her stripped-down band (their drummer is away), and the fact that it hasn’t sold out in advance is just plain silly. C’mon people, get with the program.

So why the Codeine reemergence? If you don’t already know, it’s to mark this week’s release of “When I See The Sun”, a big ol’ box set (6 LPs and 3 CDs) containing remastered editions of the band’s entire discography along with a whole bunch of bonus material. It’s a real gift for both Codeine completists and those who missed the boat the first time around. The thing is guaranteed to look gorgeous, as the esteemed Numero Group is behind the packaging and presentation, and I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival on my doorstep as I was working on this post… it has arrived

Holy hell, this thing could and should win some design awards.

Speaking of Brokaw & Zedek, they’re together on another recent release worthy of your attention, and subsequent purchase: “The Journey Is Long: The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project”. Released overseas by Glitterhouse, it’s an 18-track tribute that’s more than a simple covers project — ambitiously, those involved (as Chris says) “cover/interpret/fill out primarily unreleased compositions by The Gun Club’s late great Jeffrey Lee.” In addition to Chris & Thalia’s take on the song “Zonar Rose” (their first recording together since ’98), the comp includes contributions and collaborations from Nick Cave (both solo and with Deborah Harry), Steve Wynn, Mark Lanegan with Isobel Campbell, Barry Adamson, Mick Harvey, Tex Perkins with Lydia Lunch, and more. An impressive group, to say the least.

The single-disc / double-LP are import only, so they’ll set US residents back a bit if bought direct from Glitterhouse. Fortunately, Chris got his hands on a bunch of the CDs (which include 20 pages of liner notes), so you can order one from him direct for a mere $18 ppd in the U.S/Canada or $22 ppd elsewhere (just Paypal to address chrisbrokaw -at- yahoo -dot- com). Having bought one, I say go for it.

Another recent addition to the Brokaw discography I must mention is his excellent “Stories” EP, a 3-song solo recording released (and quickly sold out) on 12-inch by Limited Appeal. While the vinyl’s long gone, you can still get your hands on a 6-track CD version (which includes 3 instrumental mixes) direct from Chris. Hit up his merch page to snag it. If you want to get an idea what you’re in for, head to Epitonic, who have shared up an excellent Brokaw 9-song in-store set at Chicago’s Saki, during which he performed the EP tracks “Stories” and “Hills“. Man, can he play the guitar. And the drums.

(A glorious footnote, speaking of CB on drums: Word is there’s a new album from The New Year on the way. Get excited, kids.)

Yeah, there’s a distinct lack of musical output from Rachel’s/Rodan/Shipping News genius Jason Noble in our lives lately, but close followers know the likely reason – he was diagnosed with with Synovial Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer (by the way, fuck you cancer) in 2009, and has been in treatment since. Fairly frequent updates come to us from his CaringBridge site, and last week gave great news: Jason was just accepted to a promising clinical trial at Maryland’s National Institutes of Health. While we keep our fingers crossed, we can also get excited about the news that “He is working on music and writing projects…”. So, so glad to read that.

As Jason’s journey continues, his friends and fans have joined together for a very special benefit release: “In Pleasant Company: A Mixtape For Jason”. Spearheaded by DC-based “rock cellist” Gordon Withers (who covers Rodan’s “Bible Silver Corner“) and Adam Nanaa (of the futurerecordings label), the collection has recordings from Jawbox‘s J. Robbins (a solo track), Janet Morgan (as OneLessOrgan), noise duo Hidden Tooth (Bostonian David Michael Curry & Chris Brokaw – yes, there he is again), The Pauses, Olafur Arnalds, Small Brown Bike, Andrew Wagner (BLT represent!), and the first new song (stand-out “The Robbery“) from Boston’s own Drew O’Doherty in too long.

While the 23-track compilation can be downloaded from the Bandcamp site, it’s called a “mixtape” for a reason – 200 copies of a limited edition cassette are also available, inspired by the way so many of Jason’s longtime fans first heard his music (and also because, at 110 minutes, the comp would have to be a cost-prohibitive 2 discs or 3 LPs… gotta love 120 minutes tapes). Zach Barocas (Jawbox/BELLS≥) contributed the sure-to-be-sweet artwork for the cassette, and TW Walsh (Soft Drugs/Pedro The Lion) mastered the thing, so it no doubt looks spiffy physically and sounds spiffy digitally. As a whole, it’s a gorgeous, evocative album with a remarkable flow not often found on multi-band compilations. So independent of the fact that the purchase price goes to help Jason and his wife Kristin with expenses, it obviously deserves a spot in the various artists section of your own collection.

A companion album titled “Kentucky Battleground Songs” will be released this fall, collecting live recordings of 21 bands from Jason’s hometown of Louisville. Keep an eye on the same Bandcamp site for that in a few months.


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  • About the ‘Nac

    This is Bradley's Almanac. I'm your host, Brad. Barely holding it together since February 2000.

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