Pop Rocks
By Steven Uhles| Columnist
Thursday, December 03, 2009

SOMETIMES 12 WILL GET YOU 20.

The previously announced Best of 12 Bands of Christmas CD features a banker's dozen (a baker's dozen is 13, a banker's is 20) tunes, culled from previous 12 Bands releases and augmented by two new songs.

The new tunes are interesting. The first is a Yule reworking of Tara Scheyer's Choca Choca Chip-O from her second HiFi Felix album. It's an infectious tune and a great demonstration of the lost art on nonsensical lyrics. The new song, The Chimney Slide (there must be a seasonal line dance sharing the same name) keeps those elements that worked in the original and adds some fa-la-las, ho-ho-hos and reindeer.

The second new song is the lovely One Little Boy, by Turner Simkins, Pat Blanchard and members of the Blue Dogs. Musically, it's sort of Celtic-tinged Americana (Celticana?), which seems seasonally appropriate. Lyrically, however, is where the tune excels. It's a song about Christmas, the new mission of the 12 Bands, parenthood and peace on Earth. What's remarkable is with so many moving parts, it never seems confused, never loses its logical thread.

I do have some issues with the compilation. Looking through the selections, I feel as though some of the stronger tracks from the previous six years worth of music were excluded. The Lives of Reily track from the first compilation. The Hellblinki Sextet's killer Emmet Otter medley. Night People's lush take on Listen , the Snow Is Falling . The sweet, sad Lights on the Boulevard,, by 48Volt. The Cubists take on the Kinks' Father Christmas . Those are all missing.

It should be noted that the Cubists and Hellblinki do show up on the compilation, albeit with lesser tunes.

There were a couple of issues at work during the selection process. The first comes down to personal taste. Because there were no radio releases of 12 Bands tracks, there's nothing that can be quantified as a legit hit. That means that the Best-of was a matter of personal taste, quality by committee.

The other issue might have involved royalties. While some of the originals might come cheap or free, tunes with names such as John Lennon and Jim Henson attached probably come with a price. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the Best-of set are standards, songs that have long been public domain tunes.

Still, this remains a great project for a great cause and the tunes included, while certainly not my picks, admirably deliver the spirit of the season.

EASTERLIN'S SUCCESS

Augusta-bred musician Julia Easterlin recently placed second in the fourth annual New York Songwriters Circle Songwriting Contest. She entered her tune Go Straightaway , a jazz-inspired number that incorporates found sound, recorded loops and digital manipulation. What's amazing about the tune is that although all sorts of technology are employed, the music still feels honest, authentic and organic.

Those with long memories might recall this is not her first brush with songwriting competition success. She won a special juvenile award in The Chronicle's first Singer-Songwriter Contest in 2001. Not bad for a girl who, at 12, cited '80s rocker Pat Benatar as an influence. I'm sure Pat would be proud.

POP ROCKS RECOMMENDS

There's new music coming out of the long-dormant Elephant 6 collective. Apples In Stereo mastermind Robert Schneider has a new project, a grungy proto-psychedelic band called Thee American Revolution. Unlike the Apples, which always erred on the side of sprightly pop hooks, Thee American Revolution is a heavier affair. Think Blue Cheer for a generation of fans who have never heard of Blue Cheer.

IN MEMORIAM

Speaking of Blue Cheer, it just came to my attention that Dickie Peterson, the lead singer and bass player for the classic power trio, died in Berlin in October. So much for the Cheer reunion tour I had always hoped for.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

From the Thursday, December 03, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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