Category Archives: Saturday jams

Saturday Jams: Something Old, Something New . . .

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!

Lucky you!!

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.


Saturday Jams: on the Trail of Discovery!

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.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, and the demands of work and life brought the whole thing to a standstill. But the ideas keep coming, and coming back to the keyboard for Saturday Jams becomes a matter of pushing the sludgy old will into motion once more, and so the wheel turns . . .

Well, hello.

Let me start by saying that music discovery has never been my strong suit. Recently, I’ve had some help in this area; I usually work in absolute silence because it never occurs to me to put some noise on in the background while I’m doing things. What makes this worse is that at my job I am required to wear earplugs for most of that ten-hour stretch, which cuts me off from sound — and consequently, the ability to relate fluidly with my co-workers and my environment.

I have started to turn some of this around, however, by listening to music online via some popular streaming services, because I get bored pretty fast without variety. My musical love was reborn out of the heat death of the alternative wave when I finally discovered The Beatles’ Abbey Road (years after everyone I’ve ever known got over it,) and I carried this album in my heart to North Dakota with me in 2008. Some time later I fell in love with The DecemberistsThe King is Dead, which was a fantastic album about going back to our folk roots¬†— not just with music but in many aspects of life. Then when I started fooling around with Spotify (gasp, oh no I said Spotify! [that’s a touchy subject to some]) I discovered this fantastic album by a band called Imagine Dragons: Night Visions. Every song was different, every one of them as hooky as Velcro and so sing-alongable.

That’s¬†the essential¬†palette I’m working with, and so recently I’ve been striking out on musical adventure¬†by listening to Pandora in the car; it wasn’t long before¬†my Imagine Dragons station turned up some¬†songs that¬†drew me. A lot of music by The Killers, which I thought was quite appropriate but nothing new. Thumbs up. Then there’s that new song by Philip Phillips, I think it’s called Home? But after listening to more of his stuff, I thought he might be less to my taste — as in, that’s the only song I heard that really appealed to me. I’d just as well call him Vanilla Phillips, no offense!

I hate to say it, but I’m picky, and I look for those albums that have several really strong songs on them. After Abbey Road, The King is Dead, and Night Visions, how could I not be spoiled by these incredibly cohesive and dynamite sets? Then I discovered this song:

(I highly recommend watching the official VEVO video here – apparently we’re not allowed to embed¬†VEVO on WordPress anymore, but even the skilled live performance¬†below¬†falls short of the chills I get from¬†the official video.)

When I went to listen to more, I found the American Authors album Oh, What a Life to be full of positive energy, with enough variety to satisfy even my finicky palate. Recommended. Since listening to both of their albums, Spotify has been pushing me to branch out, so I figure: why not?

I was sucked in by the strange energy of a band called Fitz and the Tantrums. What is this guy selling? He’s got a voice straight out of the 80’s pop era, playing music that sometimes aligns strongly with the sounds of the sixties, bringing up visions of the Motown bands I heard in my youth on Detroit’s oldies station WOMC 104.3. Then there’s a little dark edge of saxophone a-la¬†The Blues¬†Brothers. I was stuck.¬†Watch this:

Halfway through that day (this past Thursday) I bit the bullet and bought both of their albums on iTunes (since the death of DRM I have no problem doing this,) and would you know that the downloaded deluxe album included a music video? I pop for the deluxe albums when they’re available because I like the extra tracks – I don’t care much for the PDF booklets because I haven’t figured out how to easily get them onto my phone yet, but a music video downloads with the rest of the album so why not?

This video just blew my mind. It’s like Winamp had a baby with the whole band. I can’t not share this one with all my peeps and tweeps! The new album switches up the sound a little bit, brings more of it forward in time while still preserving that strange energy the band has, and yet . . . not completely brings it forward. What I really dig about this video is that it’s a giant standing with¬†one foot in the¬†infancy of the rock music era and the other foot is planted firmly . . . somewhere nearby.¬†This is another one I’m no longer allowed to embed because Warner Music Group says no, so¬†click here to¬†watch this:

Maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion, but music gets me so jazzed! Now I have to go out for a run just to blow off all of this energy, and it’s time for you to go live your adventure.

Until next time, keep listening and exploring; comments go down below!

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The Archduke has his say: a Saturday Jams special report

America. Capitalism. Religion.

You people take way too much way too seriously.

Get over it.

With special thanks to Mme. Ross, Franz Ferdinand, Pope Francis, and all the honest minimum-wage workers out there who just want to live without struggling.

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.

Saturday Jams: Scary isn’t easy to do anymore!

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. Continue reading Saturday Jams: Scary isn’t easy to do anymore!

Saturday Jams: The real story, and the music that saved me from country, part 2

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. Continue reading Saturday Jams: The real story, and the music that saved me from country, part 2

Saturday Jams: Simmer Down now!

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. Continue reading Saturday Jams: Simmer Down now!

Saturday Jams: Shenanigans from the Emerald Isle

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. Continue reading Saturday Jams: Shenanigans from the Emerald Isle

Saturday Jams: Birthday Wishes

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.

This is gratuitous, I know it is, but:

Today is my birthday, and I’ve got about ten minutes to write this post.

Thirty-six years ago I came into this world – if you listen to my mother’s version it was after many, many hours of hard labor, but I still don’t understand why they would make a pregnant lady work, especially so close to her due date. For that reason alone, I tend to be skeptical and I like to think it was more like the beginning of the Golden Child, where the Tibetan kid is carried in on a litter, dressed in fine robes and subsequently kidnapped by demons. Except I probably wasn’t kidnapped by demons. But I’m sure you follow where I’m going with this, right? I’ve lined up some special birthday music for myself, but I can’t use the good-old birthday song because that’s actually protected by copyright and I think it’s owned by the Warner Music Group and is under copyright protection until 2030, if you believe what they have to say about it. That’s alright, we’ve heard that one a million times, and a video of that would probably bore me to tears, so I’m going for a couple of my personal faves, and see what else I can grab real quick.

First, just so I don’t run out of time before putting this out there, this one is my very favorite. It’s in Russian, and it’s a crocodile singing about how it’s so unfortunate that his birthday only comes once a year. The cartoon is neat, though.

Now my wife wants to go – we have to go to the in-laws’ for my birthday dinner.

One more:

I promise I’ll be back next week with something legitimate!

Do you know of an awesome birthday video? Do me a present and link it in the comments!

Saturday Jams: East side!

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. Continue reading Saturday Jams: East side!

Saturday Jams: Drivin’ Up a Storm!

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.

This week I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately: cars. Not just cars, but driving. Not just driving, but the drive to drive, if you can dig that. We as Americans are a culture of driving, that’s no secret. Except for some pockets of America where people are more often encouraged to ride their bicycles or walk to work, cars are a big deal and they represent big money to America. But why?

Honestly, I think it’s because we just¬†love¬†to drive. I’ve been in love with driving since I first became comfortable behind the wheel. And I can tell some stories, boy! I was once nearly ticketed for driving a 1988 Ford Escort so fast that the highway patrolman in Findlay, Ohio told me that he wouldn’t have caught up to me if I hadn’t pulled into a rest stop. I was coming out of the bathroom when I saw him hovering around my car like a fly, and I come up all nonchalant; I told him I had to go so bad and I didn’t want to pee my pants or pull it out by the side of the road and he let me off with a warning. But that was the only time they let me go scot-free in Findlay.


I was ticketed in Sterling Heights, Michigan for careless driving once. Why? Because I’ve got skills; and when you use them to gain an advantage on the road, you expose yourself to the enforcement of the law, plain and simple. Accelerate, merge; accelerate, merge – do that like five times in a row and they think you’re going to kill somebody, I suppose.

Yeah, I love to drive and chances are, you do too. If you ever experienced that moment you looked at the speedometer and you noticed that you were going 60 in a 40-mile-an-hour zone, you know what I mean. It’s not always a rush, but when you’re feeling fine and the road is calling you, how can you not feel it? I’ve discovered lately that it’s not just cars though; since starting my current job a little over a year ago, I’ve gotten handy with a sit-down forklift. More recently, due to a tricky situation with parts handlers, I’ve gotten handy with a reach truck as well, and boy those things are cool.

English: A brand-new Raymond narrow-aisle reac...
English: A brand-new Raymond narrow-aisle reach truck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Forklifts IMG_0740
A sit-down forklift (Photo credit: OZinOH)

Ford Tractor
Ford Tractor (Photo credit: dave_7)

Last night, my wife and I went out to have dinner with the in-laws at her brother’s house. My brother in-law David owns a fairly large-sized piece outside of Mandan and has been tearing up some ground to prepare for a 40- ¬†by 80-foot pole barn, and so last night he showed me his old Ford tractor and even let me run it, and let me run the disc attachment over the area he was working. What a neat thing it is to drive something like that! That’s the first stick-shift I’ve ever driven successfully.

Now I’m wondering if I can learn how to drive a motorcycle. It’s calling me. This is what it must be like when a person learns to pilot a jet, a helicopter, or anything else that can be piloted or driven. I want to learn to drive a Bobcat skid-steer loader. I’d love to drive a tank. Anything. It’s like a fever that’s starting to take hold of my mind. This is driving, the freedom that America has co-opted to keep its people believing in the principles upon which the country was founded (more or less.)

The wife and I are driving out to Minot today to run an errand, and so I have to get this show on the road; to be sure, this not-so-subtle soliloquy is what drives the theme of today’s Saturday Jams.

First of all, I have to get this out of my head and into yours. I got this stuck in there a few days ago and it’s been rolling around ever since:

Now that we’ve got that one out of the way, I’d like to show you a group I just discovered while finding songs for this post: The Mona Lisa Twins. I was looking for an original video of this song, but I was so impressed by the sweet fidelity of their live version that for most of it I forgot that it was two ladies and not Lennon and McCartney singing this:

I’m going to have to check out more of their stuff pretty soon.

Here’s one I couldn’t possibly skip. I thought this was a Junior Brown Jam, but it turns out it was originally by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, from the late 1960’s. This video, however, is a group called Asleep at the Wheel, and they do a great rendition of Hot Rod Lincoln:

Okay, and let’s talk about this. This is why I love videos from the 1980’s. They loved to tell a story, and they were often interesting or cool or just plain hilarious. I think this video falls into all three categories. I used to think of Sammy Hagar as the guy everyone points to when they talk about Van Halen‘s change from a fun rock band to a slick Hollywood sell-out. This video does not look like that to me, it looks like the reason Hagar got the opportunity to replace David Lee Roth. But just enjoy it, because the 1980’s videos are irreplaceable, though as we will see in a few minutes, the impetus for storytelling through the medium of music videos is far from dead.

Last and certainly not least, allow me to deliver on that promise I just gave you. This is Dashboard by Modest Mouse. It’s hard for me to understand the lyrics on the first listen but when I saw the video I knew I would have to share it. The imagery, and the story it feeds to the imagination – especially when you can’t understand the lyrics – are inspired. Stuff like this makes me want to write all the more.

So that’s it, and I hope you didn’t feel like I went too long this week. Five videos instead of three, holy cow! If you’re driving this weekend, enjoy it responsibly and make it there alive, but let yourself feel a little bit of that spirit it conjures up when you’re enjoying the freedom of the road.