Friday, 30 October 2009

Free Download Friday #33: Rodrigo Y Gabriela

I was very tempted to keep Rodrigo Y Gabriela for a When musical worlds collide post. I may still feature them again at some point in the future but I decided the downloads available were too good to miss for a Free Download Friday.

Rodrigo and Gabriela are two Mexican musicians who are currently living in Dublin. They play a style of guitar that is normally described as flamenco metal. However, I don't feel this is fair to either flamenco or metal! What ever you call it, they are stunningly talented guitarists, playing a fast, percussive and powerful style on classical guitars.

I heard them on the radio ages ago and thought they sounded interesting but for some reason I did not seek out any of their recordings. However, when I went looking a couple of weeks back, I was pleased to discover three of their tracks were available on the rcrd lbl site. (I've talked about rcrd lbl once before and always meant to go an see what else of interest I could find there.)

The three downloads are:
  1. Diablo Rojo
  2. Buster Voodoo (Radio Edit)
  3. Orion
Of the three, my favourite is probably Diablo Rojo:

What do you think? What's your favourite track?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Free Download... er... Tuesday?

I really wanted to keep this until Friday for a Free Download Friday post but I'm not sure exactly how long the offer will be available. The first time I read about it, I thought it was only going to be a week but Tom Russell seemed to suggest today that it was going to be available for a fortnight...

What am I taking about? Rock Radio are currently offering the new GUN single - Let Your Hair Down as a free download. Follow the link, enter your email address and download their new single. Excellent!

I generally like GUN's stuff but I must admit that on first listen, this one is only OK. Three stars on my iPod - which means it's earned it's place but isn't particularly special. However, as I say, it's only had one listen so far. It may be a grower...

The other reason I wanted to keep this until Friday is that the Rock Radio link takes you to the Townsend Records' site, which is currently offering a thirteen track sampler album as a free download. I've not had a chance to listen to more than a couple of tracks yet, but the names of the artists I recognise makes it look promising. For example, it has two tracks from Thunder and one from Ian Hunter. Interested?

Update: I added the following in a comment...

On subsequent listens, I decided I did like the GUN track and I'm not sure why I was so grumpy after the first listen. Of the Sampler album, I'd say the two Thunder tracks are the best but I really like the Toby Jepson track too.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Free Download Friday #32: Black Math Horseman

Following my Paint it Black post, I went looking for more bands with Black in their name. I found that I had a track on my iPod from Black Math Horseman - which I had more or less forgotten about.

Black Math Horseman
Originally uploaded by jeremiah3
I've mentioned Classic Rock Magazine's Track of the Day before and it turns out the track on my iPod came from there: Tee Pee Tuesday: Black Math Horseman. It's a great track, dark, brooding, progressive, noisy guitar - what's not to like? :-)

I decided to go and explore the Tee Pee Records website and was pleased to find a great deal available to download. For now I'll just offer a couple of Black Math Horseman related links.

First, an old news item with two Tracks for download: Black Math Horseman to release "Wyllt" on April 21st. The two tracks are Tyrant and Deerslayer. I love the guitar sound from the start of Tyrant - discordant and disturbing... and then an ethereal vocal kicks in which intensifies the discomfort. Then some grunged up guitar takes over... Excellent stuff! Deerslayer has a similarily dark opening as befits the title before a driving guitar picks up the pace. However, don't get too settled because the track continues to develop and challenge.

I'll explore the site further and see what else can be uncovered but I thought I'd finish with a link to the Online Sampler. Nineteen tracks (including Tyrant again) in a single zip file. I've only had a chance for a quick listen so far but there was plenty that jumped out even on the quick once through I gave it. I suspect that before too long, I'll be featuring Tee Pee records again in a Free Download Friday.

Let me know what tracks you like from the sampler. Who catches your ear?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Teach Yourself Guitar: Progress So Far...

Back in the middle of August, I said I was going to try and teach myself guitar using computer based and online tutorials. Initially, I said I'd report back in a month.

Unfortunately, progress has been slow. If I had been trying to match Ortis's achievement, I think I would have failed miserably! However, I thought I'd better show you where I am... prepare to be disappointed!

Mostly I've been using the Learn To Play feature in GarageBand. I think it's really good. Each lesson starts with the tutor taking you through the stuff you need to know (chords, strumming patterns, guitar tabs etc.) before giving you a backing track to play along to. So here are three videos, with some commentary. All constructive criticism gratefully received.

As I listened back to this video, I became aware of the way I was strumming. It was a chunka-chunka-chunka-pause, chunka-chunka-chunka-pause, chunka-chunka-chunka-pause,... style. The pause happened every time I changed chord. Clearly this isn't good. Yet I was completely unaware that I was doing it until I heard this video. I guess this is one place a where a face to face tutor would score over a virtual tutor as this would have been picked up much earlier.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the Guitar Savvy site and I realise that when forming the D minor chord, my thumb was slipping down and lying along the neck instead of staying at right angles to it. Again, not good and again, probably would have been spotted by a face-to-face tutor. Another bad habit that has to be unlearned. And again, the pause in the strumming pattern just about every chord change. :-(

Disastrous! Constant, driving strum - fail! Muted strings to give cool, percussive sound in verse part - fail! Elbow not tucked in to avoid awkward wrist position - fail! Add to that my inability to play at anything like the full speed and the extreme pain caused by trying to play these power chords and we are talking unbelievably pathetic fail. Sigh!

So, am I learning anything? Am I getting better? I think so. I do like the GarageBand lessons. I especially like the way you can slow the playback speed down until you learn what you're doing. You can also put sections on repeat to practise them over and over again. It works. I'm enjoying myself. I think I'm getting better.

A feature that I haven't used yet, which may help me improve, is that GarageBand can record you playing along to the backing track. Given how much I learned listening to these videos, I think this is a feature I will have to use from now on.

Finally, I want to mention the guitar I'm playing. It's the one Daughter Number 2 built at Bailey Guitars - the one I won from Rock Radio. It is gorgeous to look at, sounds great (when played by someone that knows what they are doing) and easy to play - much easier to play that the Squire Stratocaster that I practise on. I cannot recommend Bailey Guitars highly enough.

Update: Just posted some reflections on the learning process on my Education blog.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Paint it Black

I think it was the chaps on the Classic Rock Progcast that first brought Crippled Black Pheonix to my attention. I was pleased to discover that some of the work was available for download from eMusic and so I acquired 200 Tons of Bad Luck. This is a great album. I would describe it as progressive rock but other descriptions I've seen include ambient and post-rock. Probably my favourite track is 444 which includes samples of Donald Sutherland as Oddball from the film Kelly's Heroes. "Crazy! I mean like so many positive waves maybe we can't lose! You're on!" Brilliant.

Black Rainbow
Originally uploaded by The Kozy Shack
Then, I discovered The Black Keys. I'm not sure where I first heard about these chaps but, again, I was pleased to discover them on eMusic. I downloaded Rubber Factory and really like it. Stripped back, lo-fi Blues that sound a bit like The White Stripes in approach and feel but much more blusey.

It struck me as I listened to these two albums that both bands had the word black in their name, not a particularly profound observation I realise but I started thinking of other artists with the word black in their name.
I realised that I couldn't think of a single group with the word black in their name that I didn't like. I thought I'd discovered the secret to musical success... just use the word Black in your bands name!

And then with crashing horror, I remembered Black Lace and my theory was blown completely out the water!

Over to you
Is that the exception that proves the rule? Can you think of any other examples either for or against the proposition that bands with the word black in their name are worth listening too?

(Small Print: I've talked about eMusic before. Please note that if you sign up after following the links on this blog, I get a few extra downloads for sending you in their direction. You can get fifty free downloads just for checking them out and, as long as you remember to cancel your subscription, those fifty downloads are yours to keep for free. However, I think you will find plenty of music to download if you choose to pay your money and sign up fully.)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Free Download Friday #31: Alestorm

Anyone for True Scottish Pirate Metal? Now I appreciate that this is not a question you hear everyday, so perhaps some explanation is required...

Originally uploaded by Seldaek
Alestorm are a band from Scotland who produce what describes as Folk Metal. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, they make pirate themed folk metal. Perhaps they were enjoying Talk Like A Pirate Day, when all of a sudden, the wind changed and they were stuck like that.

There are a couple of videos on Naplam Records' pages that will give you a feel for their look and their sound. There is also a three minute sound clip for download on their promo page, but, to get a whole track, in all its awesome silliness, go to where you can download Captain Morgan´s Revenge. Six minutes and forty-two seconds worth of true Scottish pirate metal. Brilliant!

Finally, I can't resist some pirate themed jokes:

Why are they called Alestorm? They just aaarrrrr!

What is Alestorm's favourite shop? Aaarrrgos!

How do they get their gear from one gig to the net? By aaarrrticulaed lorry.

What do they call their fans at a gig? A vast aaarrrmy.

Perhaps not the best pirate jokes in the world, but can you do any better?

P.S. If anyone from Naplam Records reads this, can I say I'm impressed with the amount of audio and video that you have made available on your website. However, the three minute music clips are extremely frustrating. If you don't want to give away a full track, that's fair enough; a short sample of thirty seconds or so will give the flavour of the track. Three minutes though is enough to really get you into the track - enough to make it annoying when it suddenly fades beore the end. I may be a lone voice here, but I would rather have a very short sample than a frustratingly truncated three minutes worth. Actually, I'd rather have a whole track for download... but I'm taking that as read. :-)

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Times Giveaway

This Saturday, The Times newspaper gave away an R.E.M. live album as a free download from iTunes. They claim it is a first for a British newspaper... and who am I to disagree? They also say that the paper will be giving away more free songs all this week.

I have talked before about sponsorship as a model of distributing music free to fans while still generating revenue for artists and it seems to me that a download model must be more cost effective for newspapers than cover mounted CDs. I expect therefore that, although the giveaway from The Times may be a first, it will not be the last. I'm guessing that iTunes is sharing some of the cost of this distribution in some way and that the hope is it will bring new business to both the Times and iTunes. And, although R.E.M. are already a major band, I guess they hope it will generate interest in their new live material.

I'm not sure yet what music the Times will be giving away this week as I can't find any information on their website. The only thing I could see is a post that Mr Hudson's Supernova is currently on offer as a download from their website However, this seems to be download in exchange for signing up to a mailing list rather than an iTunes link.

I'll let you know what the downloads as and when I find out myself.

What do you think of sponsorship as a model for distributing music? Do you know of any other examples?

Update: It looks like it is single downloads rather than whole albums this week. Unfortunately, you only have until 23:59 to download the track, so I missed the Monday download because I only got around to checking the paper just after midnight. Scunner! (The R.E.M. download window of opportunity was longer - I had from Saturday until Monday.) In case you want to buy the paper and get a download, the downloads for the rest of the week are:

Tuesday: Newton Faulkner "If This Is It"
Wednesday: Placebo “Battle For The Sun”
Thursday: Seasick Steve “Didley Bo”
Friday: Speech Debelle “The Key”
Saturday: David Gray “First Chance”

Friday, 9 October 2009

Free Download Friday #30: The Answer

After last week's more mellow free downloads, I thought something more straightforward was in order this week. So I've found some no nonsense rock.

The Answer are a Blues Rock outfit from Northern Ireland and they have featured in a Free Download Friday before (Free Download Friday #16) because they had a track in the ReverbNation offer. This time, the link is from the band's own site and, in exchange for your email address you can download Highwater or Hell.

Highwater or Hell is a belter of a track. A great opening riff that keeps on coming to hook you in and a great solo about 2 minutes in.

I was convinced enough by these tracks to get their current album. What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

When musical worlds collide #2

When I wrote When musical worlds collide a couple of months ago, it never occurred to me that I'd be writing a follow up...

To break you in gently, how about some swing?

Mike Flowers had a fairly big hit with this cover but perhaps Richard Cheese is better known in the US:

Some of Richard's Christmas songs are awesome and worth checking out if you are looking for an alternative to Wham's Last Christmas. :-)

Stepping up the pace a bit is the genius that is Ade Edmondson and various Folk music worthies doing bizarre things to punk classics.

I heard them live on the radio and I suspect you have to see them live to appreciate their true genius.

Ramping it up again, but still just about clinging on to easy listening are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers:

Really not sure what to make of these chaps. It almost works but it almost makes me ashamed to be Scottish too!

And finally, to blow away the cobwebs, an a cappella group. If you are a certain age, perhaps you are thinking Swingle Singers. If you are a bit younger, perhaps you are picturing The Flying Pickets. If so, hang on to your hats and prepare to be assaulted by Van Canto.

Thanks to Mosher for bringing this one to my attention.

That's all I can add just now... unless you know can think of some others...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Free Download Friday #29: Mellow Metal

I remarked to a student recently that I couldn't see the attraction of Slipknot. My preference is for classic, progressive and blues oriented rock, though I'm not adverse to a bit of metal now and then. What little I've heard of Slipknot hasn't impressed. However, the student suggested I should give Stone Sour a try, a band founded by the lead vocalist from Slipknot.

Stone Sour Download

Originally uploaded by Andy_Pattison
To my surprise, I discovered that I had a Stone Sour track on my iPod already. It came from a Classic Rock magazine cover mounted CD. I'd given it five stars. To be honest, it had never occurred to me that there was any connection with Slipknot as the Stone Sour track has a very different feel to it. The track is called Through Glass and is beautifully melodic with a an acoustic beginning and a great noisy rock climax.

I decided to look far something else of theirs to listen to and found my way to their label's site - Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner Records featured in my very first Free Download Friday post and so it is about time I checked back there to see what was new. I was pleased to see a Stone Sour track available for download. The track is off their Come What(ever) May album and is called Zzyzx Rd. The best description I can come up with for it is: power ballad. Piano features heavily at the start of the track and Corey Taylor sounds lost and vulnerable as his vocals join the piano. I must look for the lyrics to see what this track is about because even as the other instruments kick in and Corey's voice becomes stronger, the sense of vulnerability remains. The guitar solo that features towards the end is well worth hearing. It is loose but controlled in a way the fits perfectly with the mood of the song - beautiful. As I said, I'm not sure what the song is about but it reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb - in tone at least. It has the feel of a song by someone who has reached the bottom.

Re-reading the last couple of sentences, it doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement but I like this track (four stars on my iPod) and I strongly recommend you check it out.

Black Stone Cherry Download
While you are at the Roadrunner site, you should also look for Black Stone Cherry. Currently they are offering Things My Father Said for download, another ballad. A bit different from the Southern Rock sound that has made them famous but a track that's had a fair bit of airplay on Rock Radio and one that's definitely grown on me.

And Finally...

I don't know whether to be pleased or worried that Jeff (from Totally Free Music) also headed over to Roadrunner Records to recommend a free download this week. Is it that great minds think alike or a case of fools that seldom differ? First Suburban Home recordings and now Roadrunner. Hopefully next week we'll end up in different places. :-)

Sorry that things have been so quiet in this blog but I was too busy over the last week with education stuff. I'll try to do better next week.