Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 32: Stephen Foster "A Family Album" Hurchu Alliance "Chasin' Heat"

Well, it's happened, the last of the CDs in the bag are multiples. Or are they? There are only three CDs in the bag, and two of them are large jewel cases and the other is not a CD that was for sale at my store. Of large CDs one is an opera. I just don't have it in me to do another five hour stint today, so that's for another time. But the other one is just a case of over packaging, it's in a double CD case in order to have thicker liner notes, or as they bill it 'a book.'

So lengthwise today is not as bad as I thought it was (considering I just kicked the three hour opera down the street some more.) Instead it's another one of those harsh juxtapositions.

Stephen Foster
A Family Album

When folk music gets old enough, someone formalizes it. Then you get something like Camptown Races sung by an operatic tenor. This probably isn't a rule, but that's my impression of this CD right off the bat. That and it's weird to hear an operatic tenor sing about the relative happiness of the 'darkies.' Fuck, this country was racist. Anyway...

This, as I mentioned, was in a double jewel case but only had a single CD in it. It's another one of those CDs that allowed me to be pretentious without putting much effort into it. Oh, hey, Foster is the Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair guy...good to know.

Well, this is what it was for, that kind of thing. So I could not only go, "Oh, yeah, that's a Stephen Foster song," but I could also go, "And I have a recording of it right here." Sure, it'd be the stiffest recording of the song possible, but I would have it. The packaging makes a lot of the decleration of Stephen Foster Day (January 13th). I don't know if the CD came out in 2001 or not, to commerate it. Seems reasonable. Hmm, also good to know, he did that "Swannie River" song and it's not called Swannie River, it's called Old Folks at Home. I have a feeling this is just going to keep happening. Yep, there's Beautiful Dreamer.

So the book is actually a biography written by Stephen's brother and originally published in 1896. It's a little over fifty CD sized pages. I guess I should read it, but I'm a slow reader and won't be done before the album is...and, you know, I'm lazy. Apparently the CD is meant to not only demonstrate that Foster is the person who wrote all those songs, but is also a 'bonafide' Romantic era composer. Apparently, at least according to the forward, Foster was filling a need that was created by the prominence of pianos in American homes in the late 19th century.

Honestly, I really should know more about this guy than I really do. When I picked the CD up I went, "Oh, it's that 19th century folk guy that wrote a bunch of the songs we know." Which is true, but doesn't really qualify as 'knowing' anything about the guy. Or which songs, exactly.

There's a kind of depressing song about a sister asking if her brother was killed in battle, and apparently pressing for details.

And of course they bookend the collection with O' Susanna.

Hurchu Alliance
Chasin' Heat
 I don't know where someone would go to get this particular album, so I linked to their Facebook page. This would be one of the true, absolute treasures of working at a record store, the coveted consignment CD. But it's not, though it's similar in every way except one. It wasn't consigned at our store. Instead, it's a rap album from a group that included my brother.

To the best of my knowledge, my brother never listened to an abundance of rap. He has always, as long as I've known (there was a long period where we did our own things) a metal head. But he's also been pretty open and the kind of person his friends wanted to collaborate with, and so this rap album is the result.

I, however, did listen to a lot of rap a really long time ago. Like, Kurtis Blow, Egyptian Lover, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini long ago. I don't really have an impartial way to judge this music. I kind of got over the notion of my metalhead brother as rap artist when I saw this group preform in San Francisco. I thought it would be awkward but really, he kind of owned it. Like I said, I can't be impartial and say, "this is great!" or whatever. It's not embarrassing to listen to.

At the record store I kind of got used to referring to people by nicknames. Plinko, Hawkman, Roach, Railroad, The Casual Male. Almost everyone there called me Walrus. At a certain point it went from seeming weird to seeming normal. Most of the nicknames were dispersed among the skater kids that worked at and hung around the store. Flattering nicknames were not common, even Casual Male was snide. But since I left I've normalized, so it stands out now when I talk to my brother who doesn't generally use nicknames refer to members of Hurchu by their nicknames.

Being an older brother I always feel like I have to give advice, but when he was doing this I had a limited pool to draw from. "Well, I like Wu Tang, um...listen to Rza?" I have no idea if that influence is really noticeable. My understanding of the arrangement was that my brother did the beats as well as contributing rap parts. He's pretty good at manipulating his voice, so I'm not entirely sure which one is him to be honest. I'm liking the samples from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Ah, Explode. After my first year at UC Santa Cruz I spent the summer at my brother's place. One afternoon one of his friends came over and spent a few hours recording the hook to this song which is pretty straight forward, "Because I explode, watch me explode, because I explode." Nothing really wrong with that, it's a hook. But after a while of it I remember getting strange about it, I think doing impressions of various comedians explaining their tendency to explode and their desire to have one watch them do so.

I was able to recognize my brother on the slightly Eminem-esque rap ballad with a bit of narrative to it.

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