Bowie first demo found in bread basket


Not exactly a headline I imagined writing, yet here we are. Per this article and image via The Guardian, one of the earliest recordings of David Bowie singing with his first band The Konrads recently resurfaced. Evidently, a former Konrad rediscovered the demo of the 16-year old then-aspiring saxophonist singing the tune “I Never Dreamed” in an old bread box when moving back home.

First of all, finding anything of a value in a bread box that isn’t disgusting, rotten bread (especially with the magnitude of a Bowie tape), seems like the most adorably fun, totally British situation I can possibly imagine. All the story really lacks is that typical UK rogue’s charm and charisma, AKA: actor Colin Firth.


You see what I mean. I can’t make fun though. Discoveries with historical value like this dazzle to my eye like shiny Spanish galleons from long-lost pirate ships. The concept of mythical areas like Prince’s Paisley Park vaults and wherever Ryan Adams stores his years of insane, unheard material creates the same effect. And to just have that hanging out in your house? It’s like finding a Honus Wagner baseball card being used as a bookmark in a copy of The Boxcar Children.

Wagner Honus T206 card-sm

The Bowie demo’s expected to fetch just over $13,000 US dollars at auction. Sadly not an expense I could ever afford, but may it hopefully find a good home to continue its unique little place in the musical timeline!

Reading this story also made me think back to Paul McCartney’s recent appearance on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and some of the oral history they explored around Liverpool. A lovely segment if you haven’t given it a viewing. Seeing this talisman of young Bowie just beginning to draw the line of his career is much like the scenes they show of the home where McCartney first wrote songs with John Lennon.

At the end of the day, its just wonderful to know these places and items still exist.

Sharing The Passenger Side With Webster Hall & Hugh Masterson


I don’t often dwell on past accomplishments or significant periods of time in my life. Usually that takes the better part of years or severe emotional embarrassment to do, but luckily this living, breathing entity called music exists that tends to cut that time waiting on significance in half. Or more specifically, it cuts it down to the monster of a week I just finished experiencing.

You see, this aspiring writer may have started last Monday thinking about the occupational hazard of radio station jargon, but by Thursday and Friday he took it up a notch. Make that a notch that was smack dab in the midst of Manhattan, just down the road from Union Square and through the doors of Webster Hall to see the triple billing of The Lone Bellow, Anderson East, and Hugh Masterson.

And while I could certainly spare plenty of opinion about each individually (and a ton altogether), I’d like to take the biggest focus of the spotlight and shine it down on the heartrendingly sparse acoustic storytelling of Masterson.


Going in to the shows at Webster Hall, I already knew enough about The Lone Bellow to stretch from here to several of our most common planetary structures. And when it came to Anderson East, the moment I first heard him sing “The Devil In Me” on a Daytrotter session was the moment I knew there were big things looming in his future. But Masterson came as the completely unknown wildcard as the first act on both nights, and what I came to witness as a result has left an unmistakable imprint upon me nearly a week later.

Armed with only an acoustic guitar (and later surrounding help from The Lone Bellow’s Brian Elmquist and  Anderson East Band), the Wisconsin-bred Masterson got up and just….sang with an essence of stinging honesty and conviction stretching from the backwoods of his hometown of Butternut all the way to the bright lights of NYC. Looking back on it later, I felt like Mark Ruffalo’s record executive character from Begin Again as he watches Keira Knightley’s musician Gretta sing for the first time.

She goes virtually unknown and unnoticed in a crowded bar as she strums away on a lone guitar, but he can’t keep his eyes off of her as he imagines her song blooming and the instruments (literally) sprouting to life around the talent he sees. It’s one of the more powerfully inspiring scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a music film, and as I watched Masterson’s set I could sense that same spark of potential burning from the rasp in his voice down to the path left by the tracings of his lone guitar lines.

image1 (1)

Up until now Masterson had been mostly known as the lead name in Hugh Bob and The Hustle, but with that band apparently in the rearview mirror it was refreshing to hear him not only play new songs, but present songs from the Hustle’s self-titled debut stripped right down to the nuts and bolts. Not that there’s anything wrong with the original record (it’s a strong slice of alt-country/rock), but the songs that were translated to Webster Hall benefitted greatly from a little less polish and a little more dirt under their metaphorical fingernails.

Tracks like “Passenger Side” and “Ashland County” carried a greater weight of poignancy without additional instrument arrangements, and made Masterson’s already eloquent songwriting stand out as strong as his vocals as they rang out into the depths of that concert hall. It was almost as though he was preparing to give everyone attending something as gloriously dingy and close to the soul as Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska (just soaked with a few more beers first).

It reminded me of seeing Butch Walker open for Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall a year ago during two special nights of acoustic shows. Walker had primarily been known as a pop/rock-leaning musician and a skilled producer, but on that night I was hypnotized by his solo acoustic set of songs that would later become the Adams-produced tearjerker Afraid of Ghosts. It was fragile and more creaky than polished perhaps, but it was also cathartic and real and unafraid to risk anything in order to say everything.


I got those same rush of emotions watching Hugh Masterson step out on that Webster Hall stage last week. And without even knowing a great deal of his work or music, I couldn’t help but be more and more proud of him for taking that risk. It takes strength to define yourself as one person outside of a band you’ve known a long time, and even more of it to open for two other groups in front of crowds that could very well be completely unaware of what you do and the art that you make.

Kudos to Masterson for owning every minute of it while simultaneously being one of the friendliest, most down to earth and humble individuals I’ve ever had the great pleasure of meeting. I came away with more meaningful anecdotes in a five minute conversation with him after the show than I have in any conversation I’ve had in a very long time.


Now, if we could just get Hugh in touch with Ryan Adams to do some producing…

You can find Hugh Masterson on Facebook and Twitter, and you can buy his Hugh Bob and The Hustle LP on iTunes or Bandcamp (or listen to it over on Spotify). 

Credit for the first three (and by the far the best) photos in this piece are courtesy of Mara S. May she always be able to illustrate the best words I can sing from my mouth and out upon these digital pages.

Adams Creates No “Bad Blood” With Take On Swift’s Chart-Smashing 1989


As you know by now (you’re a living, breathing life form using the internet today; trust me, you know) Ryan Adams has covered Taylor Swift’s genre-transitioning hit pop album 1989 in it’s entirety. And it feels like the world has been obsessed ever since.

The record hit the digital shelves at 11 PM on iTunes last night (though it leaked out earlier thanks to those in Australia’s time zone), and it seems like it’s ignited a firestorm in the not-even-24 hours-since. Facebook/Twitter posts, fan opinions, articles, blog posts (clearly joining the club right now) and everything in between. Adams’ version of 1989 is streaming on Spotify, was #2 on the iTunes chart (it sits at #5 as of this posting), has tie-ins with Apple Music/Shazam, and at this point I’m just waiting for someone to discuss it on television to make the cycle complete. It’s become almost exhausting if you actually try to pay attention to all three rings of the mini-media circus surrounding this album’s release.

Thankfully, by almost the end of Day 1 I’ve learned to stop trying to do that and to just keep listening to the record instead. And at least in my opinion, that’s the most rewarding thing you could do here.

As a major fan of Adams since I was 15, I’ve experienced as much my share of feast (29, Cold Roses, Heartbreaker) as famine (Easy Tiger, Cardinology, Ryan Adams). His catalogue is an expansive one spanning multiple bands, genres and attitudes that have never ceased to amaze. “Amaze” being a word that’s a two way street between the positive and negative that’s bounced from one to the other over the years faster than the pinballs Ryan seems to idolize so much.

But that aside, Adams’ perspective on 1989 continues his astounding track record of being able to cover almost any song and fill it with his trademark spirit of brutalized angst, reflective warmth and stellar versatility. The words may be Swift’s, but every melody screams Adams. Whether it’s a Springsteen-esque slow burn on “Shake It Off”, an 80’s refrigerator glow of The Smiths on “Welcome to New York” and “Wildest Dreams”, or the buildup of hook-y goodness on “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would”, these reinterpretations instead strike at the heart as collaborative originals. And that in and of itself feels rather unique between two contemporary artists in a musical landscape that’s already seen so much in this day and age.

Admittedly, the production could be better in spots. The louder songs have a tendency to get a bit muddy and a lyrical moment or two might suffer for that, but it’s a fair trade-off for a creation that barely spent three weeks under the knife from start to finish. And coming from an artist who created the bulky metal and punk-inflected noiseyards Orion and 1984 (no relation), this really shouldn’t garner too many complaints on the ears.

In fact the most complaints I tend to see are why Ryan Adams is even doing this in the first place. And as a legitimate question…. I understand that. And Adams has started to answer it in interviews that started circulating today (which are quite interesting; check them out if you have a chance). But when people like Adams’ own fans use it as an excuse to demean Taylor Swift as an artist or say that she’s “lesser” than him is where I have a problem.

Taylor Swift may not be your cup of tea. Neither version of 1989 may appeal to you. And that’s fine and perfectly normal in the subjective world we live in. But to ignore or simply dismiss Swift’s legitimacy as a pop singer and an artistic contributor to the mainstream is fatally flawed and downright inaccurate in my opinion.

Swift’s 1989  has sold over five million copies, charted five singles, and has continued her trend of shattering records in the music industry. Say what you will about her, but she’s a singer-songwriter who plays her own instrument, writes her own work (without 25 others in tow), and much like Adams constructs words and melody from the guitar on up.

And 1989 is a goddamn catchy slice of pop. Ryan’s interpretation is just a better chance to hear the hooks, heart and melody that was there all along (with his own spin just deepening the well it comes from). And while I don’t see myself becoming an overnight mega fan of hers as a result of this, I (much like Adams) can respect the strengths of her album. Especially mixed together with his musicality, which takes an entire RECORD of experiences…. and makes them into a whole group of new ones.

It makes me further appreciate the fact that I could come into this album with minimal listening to the original behind it. Leave your pre-conceived expectations (and your snobby hipster pretension) sitting at the door.

This one may just surprise you.


First Thoughts, Butch Walker “Afraid of Ghosts”


Another day, another preview to a promising musical release. Already this week we’ve had the major cannon blow that was everything surrounding The Lone Bellow and Then Came The Morning (out today!), as well as the less than stellar Justin Townes Earle companion piece Absent Fathers. 

But following that little bit of positive/negative yin-yang, today we have dropping the full stream of Butch Walker’s 7th studio album Afraid of Ghosts. Produced by alt-country heartbreaker Ryan Adams, this record is being hailed as one of Walker’s most “deeply introspective” and a “bare bones” departure from his usual comfort zone.

And while those labels do get thrown around in exhaustive amounts (Walker might well get dubbed the next Dylan if he keeps this up), this patchwork collaboration with Adams may be the strongest artist/producer tag team I’ve heard on record in a while. Between Walker’s tales of deep personal loss and hard luck stories and Adams’ spacious warts and all production the two manage to consistently strike at the heart of this material’s writhing emotional center. Songs like Chrissie Hynde and 21+ ring out with the tape hissing vulnerability of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, while Father’s Day and Bed on Fire attack with righteous emotion driven straight down to the screws.

For the most part Afraid of Ghosts stays in the range of quiet singer-songwriter and lets the vulnerability of tracks like Still Drunk and How Are Things, Love? take the lead, but Butch doesn’t forget his rock roots by any means either with brilliant shreds from the likes of actor/axeman Johnny Depp and legendary Husker Du leader Bob Mould. Afraid of Ghosts is not only unafraid to confront the demons lurking in the closet alongside the skeletons, it eagerly exorcises them through the murmurs of the departed, with a few walls of blasting feedback for good measure.

Boil Ghosts right down to it’s bleached white essence, and you have an album for the late nights, the long drives with the mists looking like spirits in the foreground, and the confessionals going down slow at the bottom of a glass. The album shows a stark and fragile side of Butch Walker most artists have already explored by their 7th album, but given tragic events like the death of his father it seems like this was just the album that was meant to happen at this time in his life.

Thankfully despite the heavy melancholic overtones that are present, I think Afraid of Ghosts makes as good a eulogy as burning effigy. It stands as statement and memorial to coping and moving on from loss, but does so with brilliance and unbeatable strength.

Grade: 9.5/10

Music of the Day….

So for 2015, I figured I should get my WordPress page out of mothballs and do something a bit more regular musically to possibly draw in some traffic. So I thought, why not post a little bit each day or every other about a music moment that was so good, I just had to pass it on?

For today that choice comes in the form of jack of all trades Butch Walker and his stop into the Relix Magazine offices from December 31st. Walker has done a lot in his career, from producing the likes of Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne to being a productive singer-songwriter/musician since the late 80’s, but it’s his latest solo album “Afraid of Ghosts” that might just draw Butch’s greatest acclaim to date.

With prolific musician Ryan Adams at the helm to produce, the two mesh style and substance beautifully into a rustically moody, Nebraska-inflected veneer. Take that even further by stripping these two songs down to their acoustic roots, and the vulnerable bare bones of Walker’s brilliant songwriting become even more visible. So sit back for a bit, and enjoy the following:

Butch Walker “Chrissie Hynde” and “Father’s Day”

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