Monday, May 2, 2011

Nowhere Man

The Beatles - Nowhere Man .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

"Nowhere Man" is the fourth track on the Beatles album "Rubber Soul," released in 1965.  The song features John on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Paul on bass and harmony vocal, George on lead guitar and harmony vocal, and Ringo on drums.  The song was written by John primarily with a little help from Paul.  However, like all songs either written by Lennon or McCartney, "Nowhere Man" was credited as "Lennon/McCartney."

The song opens with a lovely a Capella three-part harmony as sung by John, Paul, and George.  John is singing the lead, George sings the lower harmony, and Paul sings the higher harmony. The three parts blend together so well that it takes a few listens to really decipher who is singing what.  This adds to the flow achieved by this harmony.

The song is in the key of E, but Lennon capos his guitar on the second fret so that he is playing in D formation.  The chord structure is relatively simply, minus the last chord of the sequence.  it uses the typical major chords of a key, but the minor 4th at the end of the phrase adds a nice flavor to the track and has a strong harmonic pull back to the tonic.  The bass bounces along the track in typical McCartney fashion, using passing tones and neighbors to add the basis of a brilliant rhythm backing track.  The guitar solo played by George achieves new levels of treble that have never been heard before on a record, using full treble and faders on full treble as well. This marks yet another studio innovation by the Beatles.

The harmonies change in the bridge, with Paul and George switching to "oh's" and "la's" instead of singing along with John.  For this part, Paul and George provide more of a backing vocal as opposed to a secondary lead.  This bridge is full of suspense, largely thanks to the chord it pulls on.  The final phrasing of the backing vocals doubles its time, further adding to the suspense.  All the while, Lennon is pleading with himself to realize the potential he has.

Lennon was largely writing about himself.  At a point in time when the Beatles had become tired of touring and the same old recording techniques, Lennon was unsure of the direction he was heading in.  Ironically, the subject matter of this song foreshadows the next albums by the Beatles.  The successive albums would constantly redefine who the Beatles were as musicians in the studio and as individuals. Anyway, in an interview with "Playboy," Lennon gave this statement about the song: "I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then 'Nowhere Man' came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down."

"Nowhere Man" is a gem amongst gems in the Beatles discography.  The album, "Rubber Soul," was a number-one hit in both the US and the UK.  The album marks a period in the Beatles' career where their experimentation both musically and in their recording techniques really started to involve in innovation they are best known for.  This song, as well as the album, is a folk-rock monument and should be heard and praised by all fans of the genre.  A favorite of mine, I could literally listen to the album on repeat and never grow tired of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Steady Rollin'-Two Gallants

Two Gallants is a relatively unknown band and it is hard to understand that given this song.  Just about everyone I've showed this song to has found it enjoyable, regardless of their musical taste.  It is folk-rock at its finest.  Two Gallants is a duo containing Adam Stephens on guitar and Tyson Vogel on drums.

The song starts out with one of the silkiest finger-picked guitar parts known to man. It has the aspects traditionalists look for, like the alternating thumb-picked bass pattern, mixed with a catchy melody that is enough to please any fan of music.  It might be my all time favorite riff to play on guitar.  It is certainly a riff I dream of writing.

As brilliant as Adam's guitar is in this song, it just might be the drums that make it.  The drummer, Tyson, branches away from the basic drum patterns you typically hear in the genre, mixing in double-bass flams, an array of cymbals, and off-beat snare hits.  Musically, the song is tight and unique.

Adam belts out the lyrics in a pattern that duplicates the melody from the guitar part.  Usually I would frown upon such a tactic, but the melody played on guitar is so catchy that it is worth duplicating.  Adding extra emphasis on such a perfect melody is not a bad thing when tastefully done.  The lyrics also seem to express a disapproval for being content with one place. Life is yours to experience all that you can.

Steady Rollin' is a song that should be in everyone's catalog.  It is one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard.  Been listening to it for years now and it has not gotten the slightest bit old.  Check out more Two Gallants here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Newport Folk Festival

The lineup has been announced for the Newport Folk Festival. It will take place in Newport, Rhode Island on July 30th and 31st. I was lucky enough to attend this festival last year and it was one of the most enjoyable weekends I've ever been apart of. Every band was great. I was able to discover new music. Also, Newport, Rhode Island is one of the most beautiful towns on the east coast. All in all, it was a weekend I would not soon forget.

Onto this year's edition of the Newport Folk Festival, I was more than intrigued by the lineup. There are a few of my favorite contemporary bands playing like Delta Spirit, the Felice Brothers, and Middle Brother. There are also some elderly artists that still manage to put on a great show like Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello. And per usual, there are many other bands that will undoubtedly amaze me. My hopes are high for this summer's Folk Festival.

The full lineup is here:  Newport Folk Fest Lineup

And here are some gems from last year:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Helplessness Blues

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Performances

I know what you're thinking: a folk blog is not first place to go when one wants to read about performances at the Grammy's.   A night of celebrating the world's most popular artists rarely includes prominent folk or folk rock acts (unless you were lucky enough to grow up in the 60's-early 70's when the likes of Paul Simon, the Byrds, or CSNY were "mainstream").  However, this annual edition of the Grammy's did manage to bring to light two of today's best folk acts, The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons

I found out a few weeks ago that these two bands would be performing at the Grammys and I was somewhat surprised.  I have been following the Avett Brothers for a while now, and they have consistently been a band that I can enjoy listening to.  Hailing from North Carolina, both Scott and Seth have an aptitude for creating vocal harmonies (this is an extremely quick way to garner my musical interest).  There's something about being genetically identical that just makes a band's harmonies sound tighter.  It has been proven time and time again by bands like the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, the Bee Gees, etc.  The Avett Brothers are no exception.  Anyway, I saw them live over the summer at the Newport Folk Festival, and they were clearly one of the standouts of the festival with their energetic performance.  Not only did they leave everything on the stage, but they were virtually flawless in reproducing the intricate harmonies and melodies produced on their albums.  Needless to say, I was very excited to see them perform for one of the largest audiences possible.

Mumford and Sons are from West London.  They haven't been around for that long, maybe a few years.  However, while listening to them, you get the impression that they've been together for a lot longer than their age might indicate.  Mumford and Sons is another great band that I wish would achieve a more "mainstream" audience.  Don't get me wrong, Mumford already has a large and devoted fan base, much like the Avett Brothers, but I felt it was about time that the fans of Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga understand that there is a world of talent beyond what you typically hear on the radio.  In many cases, talents such as Mumford and Avett are vastly under-appreciated in the World of Beiber, auto-tune, and over-produced music.

And to top it off, both bands would back Bob Dylan for one song.  For those of you that live under a rock, Bob Dylan epitomized the folk revival of the 1960's.  His songs of protest, hardship, and heartbreak made him one of the most recognizable faces (and voices)  of past decades.  His contributions to the folk scene are worthy of entire websites, so I won't go that much further and hope to cover said contributions in a single paragraph.

Enough background information.  Getting straight to the point, these two acts stole the show, even if they only played a few minutes each.  Considering mainstream music is highly comprised of solo acts who can virtually hit "play" on a computer and proceed to sing along, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers were more than a breath of fresh air.  They were a reminder of a day when bands received proper recognition for their ability to construct every single aspect of their music.  They were a reminder of a day when a group of musicians can get on stage and physically re-create every sound they recorded without any computer enhancement.  They were a reminder of a day when the crafts of harmony and melody came solely from the artist.

Excuse my nostalgia for an era I was never a part of, but popular music these days is so incredibly lacking compared to previous decades.  But, that's another topic for another day.  In a night dedicated to the celebration of music, my hat is tipped to those who were responsible for getting two real musical "artists" and not "performers" on stage, even for as brief a time as it might have been.  I'd be hard-pressed to say those performances will start a musical invasion of the mainstream, but I can always hope.

Note: Once videos of these performances are made available on youtube, I will edit this post to include them.

Monday, January 31, 2011


This blog is going to be about folk music, both new and old.  I will uncover songs and bands that you might not know about.  Specifically, I'll discuss a particular song, share what I find enjoyable about it, and open it up to the audience to comment on how they felt about it as well.  The idea is to have an open discussion.  Discussing music is all about forming personal opinions based upon what a song does for you and then sharing that opinion.  I will surely share mine.