It's been almost a decade since Loretta Lynn's last record, Van Lear Rose, hit the shelves. A lot has gone down in those nine years. We've seen some of the worst natural disasters in history (BP anyone?), and we've also seen a further-magnified shift from music being played on LP devices to almost exclusively digital formats. Yet that's one of the great things about a record—it has the power to take you back. Back to where? That depends on the person, but the whole premise of a good album rests on the fact it doesn't lose its touch as the casing weathers or when the charts don't signify its importance, as it once did.
So, why is Loretta Lynn's latest record so important? Take for instance the fact that she released the album when she was 72. And, instead of having country music aficionados take the reins in the production booth, she enlisted the help of contemporary garage-rocker Jack White (most famous then for his work in The White Stripes). Seeing these two walk down the red carpet at the Grammys together might seem odd out of context, but having listened to the album, it makes perfect sense. The bond created during the recording of these 13 tracks isn't something that disappears once the lights go out and the track is deemed fit for airplay. Because if you listen to this record, you can hear the molding of this friendship manifest in the way Lynn sings—with the same vibrant twang that made her a household country name—and the way White offers a rock and roll background, letting Loretta shine amidst electric guitars, booming drums and the quieter, softer moments; see “Miss Being Mrs.”
Van Lear Rose is one of those albums that are meant to be played all the way through—no skipping. It tells a story: from the time Lynn was a girl, sitting with her coal miner father, listening to him tell the story of how he met her mother (“Van Lear Rose”) to reflecting on what made her life so joyous, but at the same time wondering where it all leads (“Story of My Life”). Looking back, I'm not surprised it won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album or ended up in the top 10 of so many year-end “best of” lists. It's a gem. Simple as that.
Part of the reason the album hit so hard is that Loretta Lynn is still that hard-talking, freewheeling, lovable woman she started out as—with her classic hit “Coal Miner's Daughter” and other notable songs like “You Ain't Woman Enough” and “Rated 'X.'” Even in her golden years, she is the same person, and she covers the same emotional ground that made her famous in the first place, ie. cheating husbands, childbirth and motherhood and struggling to make ends meet. Just listen to tracks like “Mrs. Leroy Brown” or “Family Tree,” where she takes her kids to the home of the woman their dad is cheating with and asks the husband to come out and see what he's doing to their family. That's real talk.
But it’s an album that couldn't exist without the confluence of measure. What I mean by that is the importance of knowing your limits and knowing when to let someone help out. I’m not saying Lynn has limits; maybe she does, but they're not shown on this record, and she wrote all the songs. But she knows when to let White work in his expertise, particularly on lead single “Portland, Oregon.” A drunken love song in every sense of the word, the lead guitar moves through the track like a forceful river yet calms down enough for the duo to shine—while asking the bartender for one more sloe gin fizz and “a pitcher to go.”
But don't take my word for it. I'm not even that into country music, but I’ve had a soft spot for Loretta Lynn since I watched Coal Miner's Daughter as a toddler. She was just one of those singer/songwriters who always had a presence in my childhood. This is not only one of the best albums of 2004. This is one of the best albums ever recorded, and I’ll stand by that like a man whose britches are in sync with love for all kinds of music. It’s a masterpiece. Enough said.
Depending on your aural upbringing and age, the term "grunge" may conjure up wildly divergent things. Read all about Alibi Copy Editor/Staff Writer Mark Lopez's romance with the Seattle sound in Seattle Wall of Sound: A paean to grunge. For me, Nirvana's Bleach was revelatory; Lopez prefers In Utero. Exploring difference is fun, no? In honor of this myriad genre, I compiled an hour-long grunge-tastic playlist for our dear readers, featuring tracks by: Flipper, L7, Babes in Toyland, 7 Year Bitch, Hole, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, Wool, Melvins, Sleep Capsule, Coffin Break, Soundgarden, Killdozer, Pixies, The Breeders and Green River. Stream it below. Less-than-fresh coiffures, well-worn flannel and Dr. Martens are optional.
Lovers is a Portland synth pop act made of three super-talented ladies (find downloads for a couple of songs here: bit.ly/portlandlovers). The trio is in the midst of a massive U.S. tour and stops in at Burt’s Tiki Lounge (313 Gold SW) on Monday, May 9. Animals in the Dark opens the free, 21-and-over show at 10 p.m. Find out what Lovers loves below, where vocalist Carolyn Berk has put her MP3 player on random shuffle.
MarchFourth is not your nerdy high school marching band
By Summer Olsson
If you see a horde of musicians dressed like pirates who raided a band uniform store flood out of a giant touring coach, followed by fire spinners on stilts and sequined dancing girls, you’re probably about to witness the concert extravaganza that is the MarchFourth Marching Band. On Monday, June 7, the band will stage a huge performance at the El Rey Theater. Adults and children alike have the chance to be wowed by the music and spectacle this band is known for.
This week, we ran an Alibi classified ad offering up our the air hockey table to the first person who could haul it away. We got about a zillion calls and now it’s gone. Sorry to everyone who didn’t get here first. It was really huge and took up our whole back room, so it’s kind of nice to have it gone. Our back room was packed with so much junk you could barely move in there, much less play air hockey. Farewell, air hockey table.
I knew Lord Simms before he became a pedlar of Shakespearean metal.
Back in the day, Simms was in an Albuquerque hardcore punk band called Question The Answers, or QTA as the kids called it. He has since moved to Portland (with the rest of Albuquerque) and is now charged with versification and axemanship for The Metal Shakespeare Company. The good Lord was kind enough to send me a letter with answers to my queries. The Metal Shakespeare Company plays Atomic Cantina on Friday, July 31 with Flood The Sun, Dead on Point 5 and Made in Bangladesh.
Where did the idea for The Metal Shakespeare Company sprout from?
'Twas a tiny metal seed, which when planted in a tavern and watered with ale, didst mature into a comely shrubbery. A companion of mine--a sculptor--didst offer the concept when while imbibing spirits I didst impart my desire to imitate the musick of Iron Maiden, though I feared it wouldst draw the mockery of mine cultured village if 'twere done not with a wink and a smile. So with this in mind, I didst one afternoon pass through the campus of Lewis & Clark College, whereupon mine ears were serenaded from a high dormitory window by an axeman most skilled. I didst follow the sound, and rap upon the door and meet a tall man with a beard and a Slayer headpiece, that selfsame Viceroy Matthew. Knowing him not, I was yet do so bold as to ask, "Sir, I intend to found a metal Shakespeare Company and couldst use an axeman as skilled as thee. What say you?" Whereupon a bond of bardcore was formed.
Do you think if Shakespeare had rocked-out a little more he could have broadened his audience?
Methinks had Shakespeare rocked the English language any harder, he might have transmogrified unto a purely steel form for so metal was his handling of our tongue.
What does your songwriting process look like?
Picture, if you will, a wizard riding a unicorn ejaculating rainbows. When first we began, 'twas not yet so glorious. Matthew didst forge our compositions whereupon I consulted the muses as to which scene woulst be the superior match and set the words thusly. Now, the musick is composed alongside the text. Thou shall see in our interpretation of the battle betwixt Tybalt, Romeo and Mercutio--in which the deaths of two of these are most heavily accentuated, the workings of our unicorn-mounted wizard.
Which Shakespearean works do you draw the most inspiration from?
Selections of three of the Scottish Play we perform. Methinks the "dagger of the mind" speech perhaps the most metal in all of Shakespeare (in fact, our full name is Lord Simms and H.R.M. Dagger of the Mind Metal Shakespeare Company). To be haunted by specters of weapons following a secret slaughter? Couldst easily have come from the mind of Sir Ronnie James Dio as from the bard's. We also perform the scene of the drunken porter, Shakespeare's love letter to alcohol.
I've known since your days in QTA that you were a big punk fan, but I never knew you were into metal. Has that always been the case?
Indeed, sir, in my youth, I was nourished by that simple frenzy, that base pleasure of punk. When I didst arrive for mine schooling at Lewis & Clark College, I was quickly acquainted with a man from the far off kingdom Bulgaria. In this kingdom, all musick was banned for many years by a tyrannical king. When his throne was seized, 'twas the late 1980s and the sounds of metal didst flood the Bulgarian plain it its celebration of liberty. This young man imparted unto me some of that spirit which the musick of Helloween, Merciful Fate, and of course that oft revered Priest and Maiden hold for him and his people. Thus, my palate shifted from that brass and bold punk to the shining steel of power metal most glorious.
How much play does the Metal Shakespeare Company get on any given night?
We are most fortunate when at a Shakespeare festival we perform, for then we may see an entire play following our performance. Otherwise, that play we see is that but we produce, typically some five or seven scenes.
Which of Shakespeare's characters do you identify most with?
What a fine question, sir! 'Tis one I've not pondered directly, for from moment to moment one may any of the bard's characters be. Methinks myself most oft King Lear's fool, one with a simple wisdom though powerless, led by madmen, and more want to entertain and by influence aid than to counsel directly.
When you were filming your music video, did you attract any curious onlookers?
Strangely, no. 'Twas a dark and ominous day. Thou canst see it little, but verily, the day on which we filmed Hamlet III.i, was, and this is fact, the wettest day in our village this year! 'Twas not by choice--it was the singular date that all the players could attend. Methinks this dark weather didst drive all from the campus of Lewis & Clark College but us. That, or the frequent falsetto screams.
What doesn't the video tell people about the band that you think they should know?
Much as the "to be or not to be" speech is Shakespeare's number one hit, our video doth put forth our most palatable personae. Other selections may be darker, heavier, more glorious and altogether more amazing, though less apt to remain with thee once thou hast them heard. And, of course, the video doth demonstrate our admiration of the bard but since in it we do not speak, it doth not us reveal as true bardolators.
Would you say Elizabethan-period garb is less gay, more gay or the same amount of gay as more traditional metal garb like spandex, makeup, women's clothing, etc.?
Methinks theater costumes always gay--since my youth I have found joy in dressing a part. And though we be a merry band indeed, perhaps the garb of the greats of the '80s is gayer than that which we wear, for 'tis brighter in colour, and for that, methinks it lifts the spirits more. We are mostly confined to the shades of the earth, though recently I have procured silver tights, but they are a magic item bestowed unto me and quite unusual.
Have you guys worked on learning much Elizabethan English?
Does not a theologian read Greek? Do not leaches cure disease? Do not all pupils know Latin? Does not the sun revolve around the Earth? Gracious, yes! From our lips pours the Queen's English, and by Queen, we mean not Freddie Mercury nor Hilary Clinton, but that luminous and golden-crowned Queen Elizabeth.
Why should people come to your show at Atomic Cantina?
Much like Shakespeare didst compete with bear baiting for audiences, so shall we do whatever is required to draw in our audience, away from the baser alternatives, even if those alternatives we must to a degree imitate. In short, I will wrestle thee if required to steal thee from the WWE or kiss thee, be thee man or woman, if it is romantic pursuits that confound thy evening plans. Whatever thou needst, we shall be it.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes! If Sir Frances Lord Bacon or the myriad others who attempt to rob the Bard of his rightful authorshippe read this, may they know their time is short. We shall come for them with the swiftness and ferocity of all the murders of Titus Andronicus combined!