“Salamander Song” sounds like a nature preserve in the beginning. But then Kris Cherry’s song introduces an acoustic guitar that carries a real percussive and expressive rhythm as the song goes on with spare percussion often only a shaker and with backing vocals augmenting Cherry’s luminous singing. The song is like a psych folk ballad about the “salamander man” who lived among the community but had webbed feet and scaly skin and was shunned by almost the rest of the society depicted in the song because people feared his appearance even though he was soft of voice and had a “heart of gold.” He tries to assimilate but is rejected and humiliated at every turn and when he tries to secure employment merely to survive he is denied even that and he has to resort to theft to simply eat and barely get by. In terms of the dreamlike quality of the song it’s reminiscent of the kind of thing Harry Nilsson was doing on the 1971 concept album The Point! But here the obvious inference one can make is that the tale of the “salamander man” is an allegory for racism and the way it imposes limitations on so many and others them so that they have no choice sometimes but choose to operate outside society’s established rules and often on its edges and beyond its boundaries to simply survive much less thrive. This them Cherry carries on to his remarkable new experimental folk album, the cosmically gorgeous Wonderworld out now where his use of field recordings and evocative atmospherics is entrancing. Listen to “Salamander Song” and the rest of Wonderworld on Spotify and follow Kris Cherry at the links below.
For his story song “Claude The Armadillo” Lou Hazel has crafted an Americana pop song that seems to tap into similar realms of creativity and imagination drawn upon by Marty Robbins and Harry Nilsson circa The Point. The animated music video adds another dimension of poignancy and loss to a song whose gentle acoustic guitar melody, countrified vocals and touches of pedal steel flow over a steady, simply beat seemingly established by hand percussion like bongos and shakers. The whole lends the song an air of the folkloric in the story of a man and his friendship with an armadillo who has seen his share of the dark side of the American war machine and the destructive aspects of human civilization on the natural world. And yet our narrator regrets these trespasses even as he isn’t sure how to convey those misgivings to the armadillo in a way that would have any meaning without seeming like a patronizing jerk. The song ends with Claude, the titular armadillo, and presumably Lou mysteriously parting ways but with Lou saying how he misses not having the rightfully jaded Claude to talk to for a spell on their journey through this fraught world. Though we’re told they’re still friends and presumably there are more Claude stories in Hazel’s repertoire in the past and to come. It’s an odd song in a way but one that has the earnest charm of a childhood storybook for adults. Watch the video for “Claude The Armadillo” on YouTube and follow Lou Hazel aka Chris Frisina at the links below.
Cindy Gravity free associates cultural references in the video for the “Rocket Men” single. From the VHS glitch and simulation of camcorder effects and old video editing effects. From the nod to music video for Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” to a tin foil headband to eccentric early 80s music videos like if Harry Nilsson and Thomas Dolby made a parody of the format through a creative use of the limitations of available technology the video is like a collage of unusual and laid back irony. The song itself is an interesting blend of downtempo pop and what might be described as 80s New Wave kitsch with keyboards rimmed with distorted synth lines and vocals that shift from contemplative to borderline intense as though insisting someone produce the rocket men who promised us a different kind of future than the dystopian present in which we’ve passed critical years in science fiction. Certainly 1984 was long ago, 2001 nearly twenty years in the past and we sure didn’t get advanced replicants like Roy Blatty and Pris Stratton in 2016. Cindy Gravity almost sounds disappointed we didn’t get any of this except for that whole Big Brother deal. Watch the video for “Rocket Men” on YouTube and connect with Cindy Gravity at the links below.