Tag Archives: Art

The Ozark’s Worst Kept Secret – Ha Ha Tonka – Death of a Decade

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For a few years now Ha Ha Tonka has kind of been our little Ozarkian secret. Not that we were trying desperately to keep it that way, in fact I for one have been starting blazes wherever I could hoping to watch the wild fire burn. It’s been a privilege knowing these guys since 2004 when they were still learning how to walk as a band, then under the name of Amsterband, and it’s hard to imagine it has been 7 years, a name change, a record label, and 3 albums since that day I first saw them play.

Photo by Rafe Preston

Playing a Rowdy show in Warrensburg, MO – April 2006

Finally it appears all my hard work setting fires has paid off… 🙂 haha, ok so I don’t have much to do with it as their music speaks for itself and if you happen to catch these guys live you’ll be hooked as soon as your foot starts stompin’ and you can’t help but sing along as the guys are belting out the chorus. After two previous album releases I’ve seen the fan base grow a little each time, but Death of a Decade seems to be grabbing the attention of music junkies nationwide as their album showed up on the Billboard 200 at #185 and the Billboard Heatseekers Chart at #4 the week it was released. So it’s pretty safe to say it’s time to share our secret with the world. If you asked me, it’s about damn time!

Before I talk about Death of a Decade let me tell you what I liked about the two previous albums (Buckle in the Bible Belt and Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.)

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page.

Buckle in the Bible Belt
BitBB was their first release under the new label Bloodshot Records. It was actually self-released before the signing and was recorded in an old church in Union, MO. This album is by far their rowdiest, most foot-stompin’ album to date and they did their best to make it sound like their live set. It’s raw and fluff free. Just four guys making some music. They still play a lot of song off this album such as crowd favorites, “St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor”, “Caney Mountain”, “Up Nights”, and “Hangman.”

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page

Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
NSotNS had this haunting, timeless feeling to it. You can tell this album was kind of experimental for them. They did a lot more playing around in the studio with different sounds which becomes very apparent in the song “What Shepherds of These Hills?!” Though I think of this album as their softer album, that doesn’t mean they don’t get rowdy. The songs on this album seem to have a lot of ups and downs. They’re melodic and putting you to sleep at one point and the next thing you know you’re being awakened by some gritty guitar and hollering lyrics. I for one really loved the movements in these songs. It kept them interesting and gave them depth.

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page

Death of a Decade
So that gets us to the third album released through Bloodshot Records, Death of a Decade. I can easily say I think this is the best album they’ve produced. It shows just how much they’ve matured and grown into the their sound, which is hard to place into one specific genre. This album I feel goes in a more bluegrassy-rock direction than the last two because of the heavy influence of that little 8-stringed instrument known as the mandolin. Brett Anderson drives many of the songs on this album with some great mandolin riffs that are quite catchy by themselves. Luke Long’s bass vocals have improved and were much more noticeable, making the four part harmonies really stand out as a whole. Brian Roberts’ writing just keeps improving too. I love the lyrics and the unique way Brian delivers them. He has some really catchy lines on this album. Lennon Bone makes the songs come alive with his creative drumming and I love that he’s not afraid to stop playing and let the songs breathe for a bit. I can tell this album was very well thought out, yet it still manages to keep that simplistic feel to it; it’s not over produced. From start to finish you can’t help but bob your head and tap your foot. See them live and it’s a whole different story. Bring your dancing shoes.

I’d like to go on and continue the review of each song, but in case I’m boring you have a look at the just released video for “Usual Suspects.”

Ha Ha Tonka, “Usual Suspects” from Bloodshot Records on Vimeo.

Photo by Rafe Preston

The boys playing a high energy set to end their tour – April 2011

The songs are listed in album order. The number associated with the track is the order of my favorites, 1 being favorite.
Usual Suspects (9):
This song starts the album off giving you a sense of what’s to come. Starting with that driving mandolin and an infectious beat that gets your blood pumping and your legs moving. It also introduces you to some of the clever lyrics you’ll be hearing along the way, “100% I am made of cotton. I shrink when I sink in hot water. That little girl, so hot she’s scalding. Ain’t gonna be nothing left of me.” Usual Suspects is a great opener to the album that rocks you from start to finish and leaves you eager to hear more.

Westward Bound (10): This song has a coming of age feel to it as Robert’s belts out, “I realize the youth is wasted on the young. Oh, I know I’ve wasted more than some…Oh, I know that now my wasted days are done.” Toned down a bit from the soaring Usual Suspects this medium rocker shines when the anthem like chanting of “Na Na’s (or maybe it’s La La’s)” comes in while Robert’s sings, “Hard times, we left ’em back east. And the future moves under our feet.” You can almost see Roberts smiling as he sings this song and it leaves you with a hopeful feeling about the future of this band.

Made Example Of (3): This is one of my favorite tunes and I think one of the catchier songs on the album. It’s another track that’s really driven by the mandolin and the drums that kick it off just after the brief intro. The mandolin riffs are almost eerie on this song and it consists of some of my favorite drumming and it’s great example of that breathing I was saying Bone lets the songs have. It has one of the simplest statements in it, but it’s so deep at the same time, “If you don’t change where you’re going, you’re gonna end up right where you’re headed.” You gotta do something if you expect a change.

Photo by Rafe Preston

IHOP with Bnizzle and Bone – Febuary 2005

Jesusita (5): This song starts out with some simple guitar plucking and 4 part harmonies with Long’s bass vocals really standing out. The guys all pleading, “Heaven help us now!” Then it kicks it up a notch when all the instruments come in and everyone starts chanting some “OHOooOOos.” Lyrically this song is a bit dumbed down from Roberts usual deep and rhythmic writing, but you can’t help repeating with them as they sing that haunting chant over and over.

Lonely Fortunes (4): And back again is that sweet sweet mandolin sound. This time it’s taking more of a back seat as the kick drum really drives this song. When the mandolin is in the forefront it’s just such a pleasing and catchy sound. Lyrically, this is one of my favorite songs, “We’re never gonna have much. Myself I take such as a compliment. We can blame it on the circumstances. Oh at least we took the chances we had to.” There are some more really great parts to sing along with when the guys start chanting their “La Dee Da’s.”

Hide it Well (1): I’ve read several reviews that have talked about a lull in the middle of the album and some naming this song as the one that kills the mood. I’d have to completely disagree with those claims. This is my absolute favorite track on the album. Though it may be slow it has some of the best harmonies on the whole album and some really great guitar picking. Not to mention the lyrics just flow like butter off the tongue. Every song doesn’t need to raise my heart rate to keep me intrigued and I think this is a welcomed break in the middle of the album. There’s no hiding it here. I love this song. “Honey my heart is a heavy one. I need to rest a spell, for you it was I fell. Nobody wants to act like they care too much. I’m gonna hide it well.”

Photo by Rafe Preston

Brett Singing @ Off Broadway – Opening for Murder by Death – March 2010

Dead Man’s Hand (11): I’m usually a pretty big fan of Anderson’s lead vocal songs, but this one just didn’t do much for me. It’s by no means bad, there just doesn’t seem to be much about it that really stands out to me and makes me seek it out to listen again. I still don’t pass it up if I’m listening to the album though. I do really like the opening, but it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere from there and the song seems a bit repeated. I do love the lyrics, “We got drunk off a whiskey blend. They’re all the same when you can’t stand.” I feel like I’m really bashing this song, but I really don’t mean to. Anderson’s high vocals do shine and there is some great harmonizing. Just cause it’s my least favorite on the album doesn’t make it bad, it’s still a great song.

Problem Solver (7): This hard rockin’ song brings back memories of Buckle in the Bible Belt and turns the volume back up. It starts off with some great electric guitar plucking and then some really cool clapping kicks in. This song features some of Long’s best vocals and if you have issues controlling your bowels careful on this one cause those bass vocals are liable to loosen something up. The song takes a little instrumental break in the middle before finishing out strong just the way it started. There are some really clever lyrics in this one hidden in there with that repeating chorus. “I had a little momentary lapse of self-awareness, she could care less. Yeah, I got problems that I’m working out. I know enough to know I don’t know myself yet.”

Death of a Decade (8): There is something really epic about the sound of this song. The drums start out so simple and build up wonderfully. Then towards the end there are some great gang vocals that just make the build up seem so timeless. It’s hard for me to put this song so far down on the list, but that just goes to show how many great songs are on this album. With the Death of a Decade could come the raise of something new, time to make a change. “I was just about to change. Man, I gotta change my ways.”

Photo by Rafe Preston

Brian and Brett stompin’ their boots to a song @ Record Bar – 2011

No Great Harm (2): This song really just has it all. Bone laid down some amazing drums, the mandolin is in full swing, and the harmonies are top notch. It’s a got a great build to it. Starting off pretty mellow and getting into a pretty full fledged sing-a-long at the end. I listened to this album probably 3 times before I even recognized how amazing this track was. It’s kind of a sleeper buried at the end of the album between the title track and the great closer. I’m really glad I came around to this song as it’s one of my very favorites now. The beginning is quite sad, but the wording is perfect. “Carry me softly, six men strong. On their shoulders, a box of bones.”

The Humorist (6): Knowing Roberts I’m sure this song is a bit of a tribute to Missouri writer and fan of Ha Ha Tonka, Mark Twain. Ok, so maybe he’s not a fan, but I’m sure he would have been if he had heard this song. This was another one that took several listens to really appreciate. I’m pretty sure it was the chanting towards the end that really won me over. “Tell me how deep that river is. Tell me how deep that river is. Say my name. Say my name. Everybody yell Mark Twain. Ain’t it entertaining, isn’t it appealing, the thought of something’s always much better than the feeling.” This electric guitar driven song was a great way to end the album.

After putting out 3 very different albums it’s hard to tell where Ha Ha Tonka music may be a year from now, but I can only imagine wherever it is, it will be fresh, exciting, and in my CD player for months. Whatever you do, don’t keep these guys a secret.

Important Ha Ha Tonka Links:
Homepage
iTunes
Facebook
Myspace
Last.fm
YouTube
Twitter

You Still Linger

It’s been over a year since we broke up and I continue to find your hair on everything. How this happens is beyond me. In my car which I’ve vacuumed several times. On clothes which have been washed multiple times. In my suitcase which I’ve used countless times. You still linger like a ghost I can’t get rid of..

Vote Christina Maria – Peak Performance Project

You may recognize Christina Maria from a few weeks back when I wrote about her for the Song of the Day. Now I write about her again, well, because her music is worth another listen for one…AND for two she is currently in a competition in Vancouver put on by a local radio station called The Peak 100.5.

The Peak sends 20 local artists through a boot camp called the Peak Performance Project. At the end of boot camp the 20 artist can be voted on and the winner gets $100,500!!! 2nd is $75,000, 3rd is $50,000, 4th is $10,000, 5th is $5,000. Since this is a Vancouver based radio station I imagine that’s Canadian Dollars, but still…we are talking a significant amount of money to help launch this young ladies musical career.

You can skip the rest of this if you’d rather just watch me explain it in this YouTube video…or you can do both, but you’ll probably find the information in both places. There will be plenty of links in this post and in the description box of my video.

Voting is easy! Just go to THIS site and find Christina Maria. (Order of Artists will vary)
Click on her face
Scroll to the bottom and Click “Next”

The next page will ask for:
Your Name
Your Email Address
Your City
And to verify you have blood running through your veins and aren’t a robot voting machine a Captcha will ask you to type the words you see in the image.
Click Submit and you are done!

Thanks so much for helping. Christina will personally thank everyone with cupcakes in a door to door tour across the word if she wins. Ok, I made that last part up, but if you truly love the music you hear from her and want to hear more then this money would really help! Feel free to share this contest with others. Link my blog, or her Facebook Event, or my Video…or anything that could possibly bring some more votes her way.

VOTE HERE

Links!!!
Christina Maria’s Homepage
Myspace
Twitter

FREE DOWNLOAD OF CAROLINA

Facebook Event

She is…

She is full.
Full of love.
Full of beauty.
Full of a great sense of duty.

Full of life.
Full of passion.
Full of art in every fashion.
But there is no room for me.

She could tease.
She could please.
She could bring me to my knees.
But she keeps me standing here.

She is free.
Free to live.
Free to sing.
Free to kill with every sting.

She could kiss.
She could hiss.
She could give me so much bliss.
But our love she just lets go.

Song(s) of the Day – 9/15/10

Well, apparently I’m not so good at this blogging thing as I’m routinely missing my Humpday Song of the Day! So here I am playing catch up again. Got two for you today. One I was just recently exposed to by Christina Maria, the Canadian women that was in my last post. And the other was shared with me by an old Australian friend many years ago.

Nina Kinert – Beast

So let’s start with the new. The song is called Beast and it’s by a Swedish Folk singer named Nina Kinert. Wow, just wow, what a great voice and a kind of haunting simple song played on the piano and accompanied with some strings. I can’t wait to delve deeper into this artists music. Unfortunately her newest album can’t be found on iTunes.

Found this cool live version. The only album version on YouTube was a still shot of the album cover and that bores me!

Nina Kinert Links:
Official Website (This site is pretty useless as it only has a couple links to click and one is to order her CD and it’s in Swedish and the other is to her Myspace page)
Myspace
Last.fm
Wiki

Northstar – Pollyanna

Now on to the next treat for the day. This song is called Pollyanna and is by a band that broke up in 2005 named Northstar. Two of the members of Northstar have gone on to form the band Cassino. Northstar was kind of a high energy alternative rock band with some catchy songs. Even though one of their favorite songs of mine is more of an acoustic ballad called Two Zero Two I wanted to show you their fun side.  Why they never got as big as some of the bands they used to tour with is a mystery to me.

Sorry, couldn’t find a more interesting video for this song. Plain album cover with music.

Northstar Links:
Myspace
Last.fm
Wiki

Song(s) of the Day – 9/01/10

Once again I got behind last week. I was all about the Blog Contest that my friend had entered and didn’t get around to posting anything else. So here’s another Twofer Song of the Day!

I love spreading the word about musicians that have tons of talent, but aren’t known by hardly anybody. Here are two greats I’ve found via YouTube.

The first is Christina Maria and I couldn’t decided between here songs so I’m gonna share two! She’s a young and talented musician with a great voice. She’s Canadian and loved to travel which is apparent from her YouTube videos. Her music is a little bit folky, little bit jazzy, and a little bit bluesy and her vocals are soulful, and I loved how I read someone describing her, seductive. She just has one of those voices that is kind of timeless. It’s a bit of a fluke how I came across her channel. It started when I was searching YouTube for Rafe just to see what videos of mine came up or possibly trying to find my IamRafe channel and I came across a Canadian guy who plays music and promotes other bands on YouTube and his name just so happened to be Rafe. His channel is Rafem and he occasionally posts videos by other musicians to get the word out as his YouTube channel is kind of popular. Well one of those videos was one by this young lady and I was blown away…though I think I was hooked before I even heard her sing. Watch this video and tell me that isn’t the coolest entrance ever!

I’ve since subscribed to her channel and purchased her latest album on iTunes which is great. Here is the title song from that album and a pretty cool video too!

This is a fast paced fun little one!

Christina Maria Links:
Official Website
Myspace

Last.fm
YouTube
Twitter

Next up is Tyler Slemp. An Oklahoma native who I happened across when another YouTuber I follow did a cover of one of his songs which is still one of my favorites. Come to find out one of his best friends played golf for Drury and I had hung out with a few times. Tyler writes amazing lyrics which have a way of putting you right into the stories they tell. He’s got a soothing voice that could put you to sleep if he didn’t put so much emotion into his singing. Stealing another quote from a bio I read that was taken from the producer he’s currently working with. “He is one of the few singers on this planet that can convey the same emotion in the vocal booth as he did the day he wrote the song” This couldn’t be more true. You can listen to any of his YouTube videos and just hear him pouring his soul into these songs….well maybe not all of his songs as he has a couple that are just for SnG. Unfortunately I don’t think any of his songs are for sale yet, but he’s been in the studio and is trying to finish up the album any time now. Was supposed to be done in July, but I think something came up with his car or something and alot of the money he raised for the album had to be spent elsewhere. Check out his Facebook page and see if you can’t donate so he can finish this album!

Here’s the first song I ever heard by Tyler Slemp

Here is another one of my favorites.

And how could I not post this one. We share the same love of Zooey Deschanel.

Tyler Slemp Links:
YouTube
Facebook

Week #8,9 & 10 Photo A Day Challenge

HOLY WOW!!! I got really behind here! Time to catch up. Enjoy 3 weeks of photos! Some are good…some are not so good, but I’ve managed to stick to it…so far.

August 8th: #50

Took some photos for church today. Went around to some of the classes and the childcare. It’s easier to take pictures of kids. They love cameras. Adults on the other hand get all weirded out.

August 9th: #51

The Bowe’s dog again. This time we’re inside and she’s posing for me with the sweet curtain backdrop! I really do like this shot though!

August 10th: Photo #52

We are having an Open House for our Distance Profs on campus tomorrow so we were setting stuff up for it today. This was our little display table with business cards, programs, and some frames of relevant stuff. The Open House flyer you see framed in the background I designed as well.

August 11th: Photo #53

This is literally the only photo I took today. Stopped at a light…that was actually green (I was in the turning line and no one was behind me.) I snapped this shot out my window.

August 12th: Photo #54

Make a wish! This was the only photo I took all day. As you can see. I barely even got it in before the day was up! If only I had taken this yesterday…on the 11th!

August 13th: Photo #55

My friend Chris bought a hookah and we were trying it out for the first time. As I waited over a week to post this I don’t recall what flavor it was.

August 14th: Photo #56

Dave and Jessy’s cat soaking up some rays with his head propped up on a CD case.

August 15th: Photo #57

Probably not the best photo I took all day, but how could I pass up on the opportunity to embarrass some friends?

August 16th: Photo #58

Sunset I drove way way way out of the way to try and find a good spot to take a picture of it…this about sums up how successful I was! Not to mention gravel roads for a few miles that have left me car looking pretty dirty!

August 17th: Photo #59

I LOVE LAMP!

August 18th: Photo #60

Trying out a technique I had read about online. All you do it take off your basic crappy kit lens…turn it around and hold to the front of your camera and you get a basic crappy Macro Lens!

August 19th: Photo #61

Stuck on a Macro kick I took this of the wood grain on my dresser.

August 20th: Photo #62

I loved how the sunset was kind of reflecting off the siding of my neighbors. I’ve really enjoyed the sunsets this summer. I feel like I’ve taken a ton of sky shots!

August 21th: Photo #63

Shady part of Rolla? Maybe! Josh was getting some money at the ATM across from this tattoo place. This one didn’t turn out so well, but I only took a few pics tonight and I didn’t like any of them.

August 22th: Photo #64

I told you I love lamp….where you not listening?

August 23th: Photo #65

MORE LIGHTS!!! Sorry, I’m mostly just getting lazy and taking some pics of stuff around the house before I got to bed! haha.

August 24th: Photo #66

I’ve noticed it’s hard to get a good pic of the moon at night, but if you can get it while it’s still kind of light out it helps…still would have been better had I had my telephoto with me. Next time perhaps.

August 25th: Photo #67

I hate going to work early…and by early I mean when most people probably go to work 🙂 Twice a week I go in at 11:30am…the other days are 8am and 7:15am. There is one good thing about the morning though. Morning light is fantastic. Great for photos.

August 26th: Photo #68

I convinced Josh to go on a Donut King run late tonight and had to get a pic of our spoils!

August 27th: Photo #69

Oh hi Dave!

August 28th: Photo #70

Addie is sleepy!! This is Dave and Jessy’s dog Addie. Apparently she thinks she can just take a nap anywhere!