MP3 Monday: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan: Together Through LifeIt only took forty years and thirty-three albums for Bob Dylan to realize what we already knew — that the accordion is the perfect instrument. His latest record, Together Through Life, which debuted at the top of the charts last month, features the excellent Tex-Mex accordion stylings of Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo on nearly every track. I think Dylan’s only regret is that he didn’t realize the accordion’s value earlier in his career:

“I wished I had used it more on some of my past records… I use an accordion player when I play off-road shows. It’s a perfect instrument in a lot of ways. It’s orchestrative and percussive at the same time. Actually accordion players were the first musicians I had seen a lot of growing up.”

Amen, Bob. You’re preaching to the choir here.

MP3 Monday: Tower of Dudes

Today’s featured track comes from Tower of Dudes, a band hailing from the Czech Republic. But there’s nothing traditionally Czech here; the lyrics are English and the music is a combination of high-energy punk and country twang. Toting an eclectic array of instruments — accordion, banjo, mandolin, melodica, glockenspiel — they remind of me of a slightly tamer, but no less interesting, version of Gogol Bordello.

MP3 Monday: Hey Marseilles

From Petosa to Jason Webley, we’ve always known Seattle to be a forward-thinking, accordion-savvy town. So it’s no surprise that one of Seattle’s hottest new bands, Hey Marseilles, features our favorite instrument as well. Drawing comparisons to bands like Arcade Fire and Beirut, Hey Marseilles plays swirling, orchestral folk-rock with soaring arrangements incorporating violin, cello, sousaphone, trumpet, bass drum, and more. Their self-released debut album, To Travels & Trunks, ranges from ambitiously sweeping to soft and spare. The selection below is one of my favorites, and a great accordion showcase.

Look Ma, No Hands! The Foot Bass

For years, accordionists have been exercising their hands and arms while their poor feet wither away due to neglect. But no more! Behold the foot bass (or “Basse aux pieds”), a 12-key bellows-driven instrument played entirely with your feet. Invented by Joseph Alexandry in 1894, this instrument was (supposedly) popular in the first half of the 20th century and, thanks to renewed interest by contemporary musicians, is poised for a comeback. A brand-new foot bass, built by Harry Geuns in Belgium, will set you back nearly 2000 Euros, but at least your feet will never be bored again.

Foot Bass

MP3 Monday: Turisas

TurisasIt’s been a while since we’ve covered the Finnish metal scene, but my inbox is overrun with readers clamoring for Turisas and I am nothing if not a man of the people. (And a fan of heavy metal accordion, of course.) Turisas are purveyors of that unique brand of Finnish metal combining traditional metal (crunchy guitars, hoarse vocals) with folk elements (like the accordion and violin), over-the-top costumes and makeup, and lyrics about war, blood, and death. You really need to see them live to get the full effect, but this track will probably be enough to give some of you nightmares.

Need more accordion? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

MP3 Monday: Chango Spasiuk

Chango SpasiukYesterday’s New York Times had a rave review for a recent performance by Chango Spasiuk, one of our favorite Argentine accordionists. Spasiuk is best known as an innovator of chamamé, a folk music from northeast Argentina which blends native Guarani, Creole and European traditions. But Spasiuk’s music goes beyond the traditional, incorporating rock, jazz and even avant-garde references. He’s drawn comparisons to his fellow countryman, the legendary Astor Piazzolla, and indeed, Spasiuk may well be doing for chamamé what Piazzolla did for tango.

MP3 Monday: Box Club

Bring together four of the best young accordion players in Scotland, each with their own distinctive style of playing, and you have Box Club. Gary Innes, John Somerville, Mairearad Green and Angus Lyon all met through the vibrant Glasgow music scene and saw an opportunity to showcase the versatility of the accordion by playing together. In a recent interview with the Highland News, they discussed the pros and cons of a four accordion band:

“One good thing with accordions is that they only have to be tuned once every five or six months, so you don’t have that thing of tuning onstage for the accordions. But it can be quite unforgiving as the note is either on or not, so if you’re all playing the same thing, the note has to be identical. So we’ve been spending a bit of time learning each other’s styles.”

This track comes from their debut album, released last Spring in the UK.

MP3 Monday: Irish Punk for St. Patrick’s Day

Matt Hensley of Flogging MollyAfter two weeks of shuffling boxes back and forth between our old and new homes, we’re back and ready to squeeze. And since we’ve left you high and dry for so long, we’ll make up for it with not one, but two tracks to add to your St. Patrick’s Day party playlist.

Metromix Denver put together a fun field guide to Irish punk bands and, of course, all such lists begin with the genre’s creators: The Pogues. Mixing traditional Irish instruments like the accordion and tin whistle with punk rock attitude and politically-charged lyrics, The Pogues are the blueprint that all other Irish/Celtic punk bands follow. This track features some nice accordion work by The Pogues’ accordionist, James Fearnley:

Flogging Molly approaches the Irish punk sound by melding old and new world — leader Dave King grew up in Dublin, but has spent most of his adulthood in Los Angeles. Named in honor of the L.A. club where the band cut its teeth, Flogging Molly have built a strong following over the years and their latest album, Float, cracked the top 5 in Billboard’s album chart last year. Skateboarder turned accordion player Matt Hensley squeezes the box for Flogging Molly:

How Many Hippies? 17 Hippies

17 HippiesThey aren’t really hippies. In fact, there aren’t even 17 of them (13 at last count). But that hasn’t stopped Berlin’s 17 Hippies from rolling dozens of genres — Eastern European folk, French chanson, Cajun/zydeco, and more — into a unique pop style all their own. Lyrics sung in German, French, and English somehow all feel at home when layered over accordion, ukulele, banjo, clarinet, bouzouki, and trombone. When the band first started, members intentionally chose instruments they had never touched; twelve years and 1200 concerts later, they’re still playing traditional tunes and instruments in an entirely untraditional way.

Last year, 17 Hippies played at Mountain Stage in West Virginia; you can listen that entire, high-energy appearance online at the NPR website. And if I haven’t sold you enough, here’s a track off their excellent 2007 album, Heimlich:

MP3 Monday: Clifton Chenier

Since tomorrow is Mardi Gras, it seems fitting to kick off the week with some zydeco from the King of Zydeco himself, Clifton Chenier. Influenced by both early Creole musicians like Amédé Ardoin and blues musicians like Professor Longhair, Chenier took the French Creole music of rural Southwest Louisiana and blended it with blues and R&B to create the sound that became known as zydeco. And unlike other Cajun/Creole accordionists, Chenier preferred the louder, more flexible piano accordion to the smaller, more traditional diatonic. But, as he liked to tell his son C.J. Chenier, “whatever you put into this instrument, that’s what you get out of it.”

« Newer posts · Older posts »