The Ultimate Rock ‘n’ Roll Smoothie… or Dressy Bessy – King Sized

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When I was a child sitting cross legged on the floor watching Saturday morning cartoons mere inches from the TV screen, I was obsessed with fun songs. The show didn’t seem to matter as much as the cool theme in front of it. The sounds of Speed Racer, the Banana Splits, Josie & the Pussy Cats, Scoobie Doo… even Hong Kong Phooey were running through my head as I raced up and down the street on my banana seat bicycle. Certain songs would just grab me by the cranium and shake themselves into my consciousness. Obviously, it wasn’t about some deep emotional connection; there was just a gut instinct that made me want to jump, shake, run, ride, and sing even if I had no talent at such things. They just put a smile on my face.

Fast forward a few decades and some bands continue to pull that out of me. Dressy Bessy is one of those groups. They just allow me to spend a bit of time in a ‘happy place’, and their new album King Sized is another notch in a good time measure stick.

First you have Tammy Ealom, whose vocals could be compared to the more fun version of the Breeders Kim Deal. Then you get John Hill whose rhythm guitar jangle from Apples In Stereo takes the lead with Dressy Bessy. What you get is joyous mix of power-pop, indie and 70’s – 80’s pub rock, all tossed into a blender and arriving in your speakers as the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll smoothie.

Lead single “Lady Liberty” suggests that life is just too damn short to live with negativity as Ealom sings “there’s no room for angry people / trying hard to get along / there’s nothing if not taking role, folding cards / if only Lady Liberty could say it all / I’ll bet she would.” Sure, there is a message, but it’s subtle and comes out in rainbow coloured bursts. Even empowerment tune “Get Along, Diamond Ring” with Ealom’s protagonist exclaiming “don’t give, give me, give me no diamond ring – ‘cause I don’t want it” isn’t angry as much as a simple statement given with rolled eyes and raised brow; a boundary not to be crossed.

Fact is, while Dressy Bessy is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, they’ve been on my bucket list for most of those. Between their music and videos I get the impression it would be an awesome experience.

Unfortunately, a decent fan base south of the border hasn’t translated into any visits north. Hopefully King Sized will afford them the opportunity to play NXNE festival in June, or even better, a solo spot at one of T.O.’s (Toronto) smaller venues…, because… well… it’s one show I would want to be near the stage for.

 

King Sized will be released Feb 5th

On The Subject of Bucket Lists and Bands #1 or Dressy Bessy – Holler & Stomp

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Sometimes you need a bit of candy to see you through the dark corners of life, and sometimes music itself needs to be lit up in bright colours if only to liven things up after a downpour; that’s when Dressy Bessy entered.

After the dreariness that was rock music in the early 90’s and the arrogance that was Brit-pop in the mid 90’s some kind of intelligent fun was needed. No one wanted a return to the days of hair-metal but what could fill the void?

Well the 90’s did provide us with some direction with power-pop bands like Shonen Knife, the 5,6,7,8’s, Matthew Sweet and The Posies, but another step was needed, and Dressy Bessy jumped right into my heart.

The dual guitar work of Tammy Ealom and John Hill provided promise to this music stalwart while Ealom’s delivery and lyrics had me dreaming of the sunnier side of things. Sure they sang songs of sunshine and their tones were 60’s surf/garage/Phil Spector poppy, but they just weren’t being over the top in their quest to relate. Instead it was sunny skies, sarcasm and observational humour used in a similar style to Cracker that had me fall for them. The only problem for me is that they never seem to make their way north to Toronto and they are pretty high on my bucket list of bands. Dressy Bessy just looks like they would be a whole lot of fun to see live.

Anyway, after my initial discovery of their music back in ’99 and then getting the old mail order CD’s from their various record companies and distributors over the years – I finally see the vinyl for Holler & Stomp.

It is gorgeous.

150 Gram Pink Splatter Vinyl

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It sounds absolutely fantastic; especially on a summer day with a margarita, a comfy chair and a nice bit of shade. Which is kinda the point when I listen to their music; it’s a cool escape.

You can order it here. You can also hear a great song from Holler & Stomp below… Enjoy Folks!

 

Playlist March 15/15

Here it is… A Playlist out on the Day I planned for…

Playlist #3 – March 15/15

Enjoy!

  1. “FOH” – Superchunk

I wrote about them and this song a couple weeks back. It’s the kind of tune that has such a good ‘riff’ that the lyrics cease to matter, which isn’t a bad thing considering it is a bit of an inside nod to music techs (roadies) and crews. Still, you just gotta love that fan made video.

  1. “Have Love Will Travel” – The Sonics

Was reading Paste (I think) a while back, and there was this playlist for the 50 Best Garage Rock Songs ever. This was the number one song on the list and they put forth a really damn good argument for this being the first punk band ever. Regardless, I’m looking to by this stuff on vinyl now.

  1. “Happy Ways” – Joe Walsh

While this song appears on a Joe Walsh record, it is actually the band Barnstorm and doesn’t feature Walsh on vocals at all. It also stands way outside his usual work in terms of song construction. Each piece of the band has stand out moments in this tune that was said to be influenced by music coming north from Mexico to California.  To my ears, this song stands out as rather timeless and I always imagine it being covered by an eight or ten piece band with horns.

  1. “Evangeline” – Matthew Sweet

Like everything on Girlfriend there is a sense of playful desperation hidden within this quest for love. Sweet’s characters never quite get it right, but remain optimistic somehow. Perhaps it is naivety that keeps things light, or just the nature of this record, but a couple decades after its release it still seems to hold its youthful soul.

  1. “Rhiannon” – Best Coast

Somehow Best Coast manages to sweep away the entire ethereal mystic evening nature of this song and turn it into a Sunday stroll on the beach. Weird thing is, it actually works. Rather than ‘Rhiannon drifting into the sunset, she seems to skip away to play in the waves. It’s a different interpretation unlike anything I would have expected. Very Cool!

  1. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” – Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick & Richard O’Brien

Despite being an important part of a large picture, I love this song as a standalone piece. It captures my imagination and just makes me all warm inside. Buy vinyl here.

  1. “Fade Into You” – J. Mascis

A most amazing cover of the Mazzy Star classic, it was the single that got away last Black Friday/Record Store Day.  Having never given up on it, it may make it into my collection at some point… soon.

  1. “Hannah & Gabi” – The Lemonheads

The first cover song I learned how to play on my beaten up old 12 string a few years back. Just a simple little song about loves lost and the confusion found as relationships end. Honest in that it really finds no resolution.

  1. “Brill Bruisers” – The New Pornographers

Saw these guys do a quick set down at Sugar Beach in September. They did an awesome cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” along with the title track from their amazing record Brill Bruisers.

  1. “California Sun” – The Ramones

What can I say, my kids were Watching Curious George (sequel) the other day and this song was a big part. Besides, I’ll use any excuse to include the Ramones on every mix I do.

  1. “Baby Six String” – Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy is on my bucket list of bands to see before I go the way of the Dodo. All it took was one listen to their debut Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons back in 1999 to make me a forever fan. “Baby Six String” is from their 2003 eponymous record, and rumour is, a new album and tour will be happening soon. Check them out.

  1. “The Root” – Kim Deal, Morgan Nagler

Something about Kim Deal has always screamed “coolest person on the planet” to me. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Pixies, the Breeders or her solo stuff, there is always an element of some twisted riff that makes you want to pogo all over the dance floor. Love that she’s selling vinyl singles from her own web site.

  1. “Hailing A Cab In Hell” – Viva Viva

Couldn’t resist putting these guys on after Kim Deal… I mean come on, they have an ep called What’s The Kim Deal?, how could I resist? Besides, they’re heavy garage ‘riff-age’ gets me throwing my hair around every time.

  1. “Whenever You See Me” – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

When three young brits sound both out of time and modern at the same time, you have a pretty awesome combination. Style jumping and instrument swapping can make them a little hard to pin down, but it sure is fun to try.

  1. “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” – Johnny Cash

My dad and I didn’t agree on much… pretty much nothing… except that Johnny Cash was frickin fantastic.

  1. “10 Million” – Gina Villalobos

Another artist on my bucket list, I became a fan the first time I heard her play this song. Ever since I’ve been ordering stuff direct from her sight – here.

  1. “I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

‘Alt-country’ before the term went both in and out of style, this song is from their best album Tomorrow The Green Grass. Oddly they were Minneapolis peers of Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Replacements.

  1. “Skyway” – The Replacements

Just a beautiful song for a cloudy day, by a band that helped create the whole ‘alt-rock’ movement of the 90’s. Legendary!

  1. “Committed” – Jenny & Jonny

A fun album of duets by the boyfriend/girlfriend combo… it doesn’t feel like duets at all, but rather a bunch of great songs with two individual vocalists having a great time doing harmony together.

  1. “Thorn In Her Pride” – King Khan and the Shrines

As far as I’m concerned, this would be the band I’d want to play at a very large party. They rock, they swing, and they make you want to dance.

One Happy Night at a Bar – Ryan Adams & Elton John (p.s. Evan turns six on Sunday)

When I first started venturing my way back towards vinyl in the late double zeros, I was walking through snow covered sidewalks in downtown Toronto. My wife sent me out of her hospital room for a couple hours as my worried eyes just wouldn’t allow her a moment to rest. All the concern I was showing was ‘overly concerning’ to her about how much sleep I was getting. As if I was the person who people needed to be worried about. So I decided to wander over to the record store to pick up some music.

I needed to get something that brought back a good memory, something powerful, so I knew what I was hoping to buy. Sure enough, both Heartbreaker and Gold were in stock and I bought them. As I went back into the cold my mind wandered back a few years.

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In 2001, I had been having a very rough year… I had back surgery that saw a couple discs removed from my spine, and the medication I was taking for pain had sent me into a very deep and extreme depression. As I sat in a hospital room of my own, de-toxing from prescription medication, I leaned heavily on music to see me through. Lucinda Williams, The Pernice Brothers, Deathray Davies, Dressy Bessy, Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams were beside me as I spent many an hour contemplating a single orange screw in the ceiling of my room.

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(I know it doesn’t sound happy, but I’ll get there)

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Anyway, shortly after my ‘little vacation’ and of course 9/11, Ryan Adams released Gold, which was a phenomenal record, and in the lead up had done Austin City Limits with Elton John. Anyway, I had a $15.00 ticket to see Ryan Adams on a nice warm October night at Lee’s Palace, a bar where I had seen many a band play before.

So, I walked in and the bar was filled with friends and acquaintances from my university days who were all there to check out this guy who seemed to turn heartbreak into a sweeter kind of sorrow; the kind of pain you can live through.

Anyway, the set began, and the crowd was really into it. Smiles and drinks and laughs and a set that was pulling people together, a community of strangers were having a great time. In the crowd I noticed a local musician(Ron Sexsmith), which was pretty standard for shows here, except that, well, he looked to be more excited than the audience. It was at this point, perhaps about 10 songs into the set, that Adams smiles and introduces his friend – Elton John.

Elton “F’n” John… in Lee’s “F’n” Palace… Sir Elton “F’n” John

The energy level in the bar went through the roof. I honestly can’t say how many concerts I have seen over the years, but nothing compares to the moment when Elton John took the stage. They began to play “La Cienega Just Smiled” with John behind a piano and taking over a good chunk of the vocal duties. Then Ron Sexsmith and a couple other local songwriters took the stage and the gathering blazed into John’s “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time).” With smiles going from ear to ear and every person on stage staring at Elton John; it seemed to me that the knighted one was the only person in the bar to have any semblance of calm.

So the night went on. John would stick around for  “New York, New York” and depart leaving Adams to play two sets of encores that lasted out for another eight songs. By the time we all exited the bar there was a sense of euphoria that I had never felt leaving any concert either before or since. People were happy. I was happy. In the midst of my shittiest year to date, a year when the whole world looked to be falling into chaos, I went to this concert expecting only music and instead found a life affirming spectacle. Lee’s Palace is only a 600 person venue, but that night felt like a friendly get together with a musician I adore and his friend the living legend. It was the kind of night, the kind of memory, that you can cling to as the weather grows colder.

The snow that night kept falling as I walked back to the hospital holding tight to my vinyl. Several hours after visiting hours I was sent home. Of course, I didn’t sleep, but I did spin my albums, as I watched the clock that would give me permission to go back. Two days later, my wife gave birth to my second son, and after a bit of scary, crazy… stuff – things were good. Yeah, life has provided more snowy nights than I care to think about, but little moments like that night (and the birth of my kids) continue to see me through to another spring. Evan turns six on Sunday.

Thanks Ryan & Elton