A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.
It’s been a little while since I hit the keys looking to post Saturday Jams; in fact, I’m almost certain it’s been over a year. Times of late have been turned upside-down in the Clan Ross household as a project to remodel the downstairs bathroom went from a pie-in-the-sky single weekend to a multi-week project involving all the snags and complications that Murphy’s Law has been willing to throw at us. Still persistent, ever intrepid, we now surge forward full steam with the project, as yesterday we laid the subfloor, screwed up sheetrock, did some taping and mudding, and made plans to hide the fact that the corner for the shower is nowhere near square.
So this morning I have been inspired to diversion, and as I have long believed there are few better diversions than writing. The truth is, Saturday Jams has been held up by a lack of time to brainstorm and research the list of musical topics I have at hand, but today I have a few fresh gems that have turned up as if by magic, as though the Universe is pushing me — exhorting me — to get back to writing sweetly phrased copy about all the lovely music the world isn’t trying to shovel down your throat!
And as the remodeling carries on, in the spirit of remodeling, I figure it’s good to talk about taking something old and turning it into something new. It’s a curse for all budding musicians out there that most of them out there start out not knowing how to make their own songs. You pick up an instrument, and you learn to play it bit by bit, either on your own or with friends, or by taking lessons. All of these are good things, although I feel that learning to read traditional sheet music at the beginning of instruction can cripple your ability to improvise. A lot of great musicians learn to play by ear!
So as beginners, most musicians play the songs they already know, and although some get together specifically to form cover bands, most of them don’t plan to get famous playing covers. The Interwebs strike again, however, to say that the old paradigm is not the new. YouTube spreads hot covers like crazy, and the next thing you know, that post on Facebook that some middle-aged friend just thinks is cool to share is actually a type of commentary on how the old structures have been broken down and they refuse to admit it.
Commercial music is mostly bunk anymore, I say, and even those artists like to use the old songs to make new.
On the other hand, Steve’n’Seagulls is a band from Finland (I think) that looks like Appalachia and plays some of the best songs in a way that makes them fresh again. Every member of this band is infested with rhythm, and they feature the tightest folk instrumentation I have ever seen, enthusiastically playing the most out-of-character songs, which is a recipe for awesomeness.
Then, hailing from the luscious, surfable shores of Croatia (okay, maybe not the shores — I don’t know, but I had to mention them) are cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, who seem to play whatever the heck they want and rock off the roof with it. They are known as 2CELLOS and their website states that “2CELLOS have no limits when it comes to performing live and are equally as impressive when playing Bach and Vivaldi as they are when rocking out AC/DC.”
They provide effortless proof with a segue from Rossini to Iron Maiden. You’re gonna love this:
. . . indubitably, a tutorial on how to destroy a cello bow; one wonders how much of their budget is dedicated to replacing them.
Understand that I just want to post one video per artist, and if you like them you can click through to their website or hit YouTube to find more. Or, you can do what I do: watch the first one and keep clicking on another at the end until you realize you’ve just watched about a dozen different artists already; this is how I discover them. But each time I put a video on this page, it’s because it’s possibly more awesome than the video I had picked out before, but I was tempted into watching another.
Does that make me a sucker?
The final piece, a push to get off the page but not a decision made in haste, features Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro playing a Beatles cover. It’s not a “fun” video like the other two, but that doesn’t mean this guy’s talent didn’t blow me away, and he has published 13 albums since 2002. It makes me wish I had the time to pull my ukulele down from the wall more often:
I’ve got to make the time, that’s all there is to it.
As I finish this, I realize that this isn’t the first Saturday Jams to feature cover songs; almost two years ago I published How to re-make it in the Biz. If you need more tunes for your fix, there’s a couple more videos for you there.
Just remember that when it comes to making music, the only limitations are in the mind — no instrument, no song, no note is sacred. Truth is related by the artist who just serves it up in their own voice, with their own hands and the instrument in them.
Now I must go work on my bathroom — before and after photos yet to come.