Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Belated Music Monday: Americana Bonanza!

     It Tuesday, and that means that once again its Music Monday. We're operating on musician time here, show starts at seven or whenever the bassist shows up. Though, to be honest, I watched an interview with the president yesterday and came away with a migraine and Music Monday became less important than laying on the floor and digging my eyes out of my skull with my thumbs. I'll save all the gory details for a facebook status.

      This week I'm tackling Contemporary Americana. This isn't a simple genre to define, because at its heart its just "american music." This makes it very broad, and very open to interpretation. Perhaps with a broad enough stroke Lady Gaga become contemporary Americana. In fact, if you ask me the TRUE contemporary Americana is Hip-hop, but this isn't about defining how culture will be remembered in the future, its about what we want to listen to at work this week. Contemporary Americana is a blending of blues, folk, bluegrass, country, rock and roll, soul, jazz, swing.... its as much a melting pot of culture as you would expect of America. There seem to be a few essential ingredients, though. First, you need a little twang; not too much, though- this isn't country! Second, storytelling; the american storytelling tradition is a musical one, and this music is its medium. Third, hard times; tragedy, trials,tribulations, overcoming adversity. It just isn't the american dream without a little strife.

Lets kick this hootenany off with what is my opinion the single most overplayed contemporary americana song of our day. Little Lion Man, by Mumford and Sons. And only because someone is going to cry foul if its not mentioned. Its a good song, but as you'll see there is a ton of other great music we can be enjoying instead of wearing out the welcome of what really is a great song.

Next up, another well respected, talented and overplayed band. Once again, we simply can't talk about this genre without mentioning them: Old Crow Medicine Show. I firmly believe that if it wasn't for this band the popularity in Americana music would not have had the surge it has had in the last few years.

And while we are talking responsibility, I'd like to give a mention to the Squirrel Nut Zippers. This is a band who was breaking ground with hot jazz and nostalgic sound back in the 90's before it was en vogue. "The Ghost of Stephen Foster" is, in my opinion, their magnum opus. No other song, including "Hell," really distills their twisted irreverence and honest homage down to such a searing  jam. 

Americana has some Rock and Roll to it as well, and we can find that in Eilen Jewell. If you don't fall in love with her voice I'll call you a liar. 

And speaking of voices you'll fall in love with, let me introduce you to Meschiya Lake. I have the wonderful fortune of having known her when we were younger and I can tell the spitfire of her youth has been forged and honed into the precision vocal passion you'll here in this track. If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, look up where she is playing and treat yourself. No... you know what... fuck that. Plan a trip to New Orleans to see her. You'll thank me. 

While I'm name dropping, you need to go get yourself some Haley Bonar.  I'll admit this probably has a more deserved spot on a blog of indie artists, but her music isn't so easily defined, and she is a hometown homie who still asks our mutual friends how I'm doing so this is my way of saying "Hi! I'm doing fine!"  She has a new album out, "Golder" go check it out. 

    Another critical new release from a hard to classify Americana artist is "Old Ideas " from Leonard Cohen. If you aren't familiar with Leonard Cohen, you can pay me now and thank me later.

Getting back on track, lets get down to that real roots sound. That undeniable americana comes distilled like smooth corl liquor from "The Devil Makes Three." If you can catch these guys live, don't pass it up, they are just as great live as they are on tape. 

The Puppini Sisters.

Now check out The Scarring Party. I guess I'd call this Americana Noir, a darker, grittier, almost experimental noise at times, branch of the genre.  

Southern Culture on the Skids gets a place in this weeks chart by combining groovy american fuzz guitars with one of my favorite topics: Zombies. You can download this song for free from their website, which is a testament to how much this band loves their fans. 

Few things are more american than big rigs, so lets squeeze in a trucking song from The Little Willies.

Is Texas america? Or is Texas just Texas and they let america think that Texas is part of america? I don't know, but there is some damn good american music coming from Texas. Fool's gold by the Damn Quails is a great example. 

So there you go, that should be enough new grooves to keep you chewing for the rest of the week.  Plug a few of these into pandora and remember some of the things we have to be proud of, as Americans. Just because our government has run off with the keys to the car doesn't mean we stop driving; We're Americans, we know how to hotwire this old beast. 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Art Dump Sunday.

This big bad map is what has sucked up a majority of my art time for the last couple weeks. Its a map for my pending Dungeons & Dragons / Pathfinder campaign. I had the players draw in the shapes of the continents on the whiteboard, take turns adding forests, mountains, cities etc. The goal is that the world is more personalized and thus the players, through their characters, feel more attached to it. Its a sort of toned down version of what the DM for the campaign I play in did as he started his game. 
 This isn't even its final draft. I've already made some major changes to it, most notably the font for the nation names- They looked nice up close, but once you zoom out they are unreadable. The ones I have now are better, but still lack something. I also need to name the oceans and seas, and add some more little details here ant there. A legend and compass rose will be needed too. And a scale. Damn... 
With this map I've taken a completely new approach to my cartography, and its been a learning experience, but certainly one that has produced some nice results. 

Now on to the rest of the art dump. The whole idea behind this series is to create a large volume of  low quality work, continuously throughout the year. Basically, its the American Dream- only nobody is going to see me owning a split level and a new oldsmobile as a result of this. At some point in the year I'll be having stickers made, and when I do I'll give them away to anyone who sends me a SASE. 
This is sort of the "flagship" design for the entire series. You'll be seeing the Diabolic Smile(tm) and the Scuuurvy Skull (tm) frequently throughout the series.

You may recognize that explosion-burst outline from "Surge!" soda. Boy, I miss that stuff. To anyone familiar with my catalog of art, you may recognize that this is a rework of an older design. 

I got DMCA'd for this baby, I shit you not. 

Thats it for this week.  Hopefully I'll have seven more of these for you next week, as well as some sort of new traditional media. Keep your cats on the ice.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NEW South Dakota State Flag????

South Dakota is talking about adopting a "new: state flag, as the "old" state flag isn't really much of a flag at all, simply the state seal on a blue background with a little sunburst behind it. Spearfish artist Dick Termes designed the flag that is currently being voted on, this design:

I thinks its a great design, its simple, easy to see and recognize from a distance, makes use of a simple yet distinguished color palette and carries a fair amount of symbolism that is of cultural significance to the state.

Note: this is my rendition of Mr. Termes design. The intellectual property is his, I've just done some redesigns. None of this is meant as a challenge to his work yada yada legalese basically I'm not claiming I did anything other than change a few things for the sake of discussion and illustration.

After hearing a few criticisms of the design, I took it into my image editor and played around with it. One criticism was that the medicine wheel in the center was at the wrong angle and that without the colors of the four directions it loses some of its meaning, so here is my first idea:

Unfortunately, it starts to get a little busy with all the colors right in the middle, maybe if we tried moving the colors out to the field?
Now that is distinctive... but unless I change the color of the medicine wheel, its going to look like we are the state of X-men! I also kind of miss the blue field, which reminds me of the beautiful clear blue skies in South Dakota. 

But what is the most important thing this state has to offer?
Short answer:
So lets give this puppy a REVELCAL makeover: 
Theeeeere we go, much better. You know something is missing, and that big green ring seems to be just calling out for something...what is it? Oh I know! 


But seriously, there were a lot of suggestions as to what should and shouldn't be on our flag, so I listened to popular opinion and I think I've come up with a flag that South Dakotans will be able to vote into use, unanimously. 

Pay me now, you can thank me later. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music Monday II

I'm busy this week, so here is a grab bag! There's something for everyone here, and everything here kicks some ass.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Strange Sounds over Rapid City

At roughly 3pm on january 1st, 2012, my dog, milo began acting nervous and hiding under the table. Shortly afterward I heard a low rumbling sound, which I initially took to be an airplane until it didn't stop or fade out. I started listening to it, and thought that maybe it was my neighbors car stereo, but I could see that there was no one in their car, ad the more I listened the more obvious it became that it was not music. I went outside for a minute, and it was louder outside. I filmed the sound from inside my house because it is was 10 degrees F outside, and subzero with the wind chill. Also, quite frankly, I was scared out of my mind. You can hear the sound quite plainly, and it continued for what felt like about five minutes after I stopped recording.

I do live appx 20 miles from ellsworth AFB, where the testing of the B2 stealth bomber was mistaken for UFO's back when they were top secret, and I wonder if this is the same sort of thing happening? I do not know, but this experience has shaken me.

New Red White and Blue Vermin Supreme Propaganda!

Click on image for full size version! Right click to download!
Hot off the presses from our marketing department, new Vermin Supreme Propaganda!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


More anti SOPA artwork for you to steal from me, you filthy little pirates!


Write your elected officials. Make it clear to them that voting to suppress our right to free speech will only lead to them being torn out of office. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

RevElCal Announces its endorsement of Vermin Supreme for POTUS 2012

Its official. Capitan Carl, CEO and founder of REVELCAL Petrochemical International has voiced that he is endorsing Vermin Supreme in the 2012 United States Presidential election. In a statement to himself, Capitan Carl is quoted as saying: 
"I like his hat. A man with a party hat like that knows how the people want to hear it. Plus, I'm sure we can buy and sell this guy like used furniture. Get the guys down in marketing on the phone for me."

As of the time of press the only official response from the Vermin Supreme campaign has been:
" the artwork doesn't show in my browser. i wanna se it !!" -via Twitter

Monday, January 9, 2012

Music Monday (I)

Well, folks, here it is. The first installment of Music Monday, where I tell you what you should be listening to instead of the boring old mix of 90's alternative and contemporary "Indie-Art-Experimental-Noise- ambient-dub-step-bluegrass" that is slowly but surely driving your iPod into a suicidal spiral. Lets waste no time, your ear-buds are tying themselves into nooses as we speak.

First off, lets bring up a blast from the past, to get you reminiscing about someone aside from Pearl Jam. Johnny Socko, a now defunct funk/ska band from Bloomington Indiana, was one of the hardest touring bands of the third wave ska revival and in my humble opinion one of the best. This track, "Sand Between My Toes" is a song that stuck with me, often invading my showers and road trips long after the disc was ruined as a coaster for a 40oz Olde English.

Sadly, the group broke up and then reformed as a Metal Band, but don't despair, Oh freinds of the swanky horn line, because some of their spirit still lives on in The Leisure Kings.

Next, lets move on to one of my recent favorites, French electroswing group Caravan Palace. I'm in love with the way they twist the classic swing sound and the modern electronica grooves so seamlessly, as if they were born to be together. And if the simple fact that the group formed for the purpose of providing sountracks to porn isn't enough to make you smile, check out this video for "Suzy".

Electroswing is a brilliant little genre, for those who care about such things as 'genres'. If we're talking genres, lets take a little side step over to Hip-hop Swing. Or maybe instead of side stepping we could try doing some of the batshit awesome charlseton moves that Movits! shows off in "Sammy Davis Jr." These Swedes aren't exactly obscure, having appeared on the Colbert Report as well as making several US and European tours, but I'm not here to lord obscure music over your poor unhip heads anyway. I'm here to put good music to your temple and dare you to dance. Actually, I dare you not to dance while you listen to this track.

Alright, go download those from iTunes, or Amazon or wherever and let these jams move you through the bleak seven day forecast you call a life, because the Doppler radar shows a horn front moving in and a 90% of swing. 


I always knew boothead would be something great someday. I'm verklempt.

FINALLY a candidate I can get behind!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


This week has been a decent art binge for me. I started off on Friday night, I decided to carve a woodblock print for the first time. I started off about 9 PM and had my first run of prints run off by 2 AM. Then on Saturday afternoon I had the idea to press some of this air-dry polymer clay I have into the woodcut and see how it turns out. I'm happy with it.

The design is based on a painting I did in 2010, titled "IA IA."  I regret to say I hadn't fully refined the design before I put it on canvas, so it is destined for another rendition. I had intended the tangle of tentacles to suggest a partially formed elder sign, but after I finished I realized that the suggestion was slightly lost in the rest of the design. I converged the nose lines into the tentacle lines with the woodcut and I'm much happier with it now, although I expect the next iteration to have yellow signs worked into the ends of the tentacles.

Ia Ia Artifact Wall Hanging by ~elCal on deviantART
If you are interested in owning this please contact me via email. I am asking $150 for the wall hanging, and $10 each for the second run woodcut prints (shipping included) First run prints are still availiable at $20, but supplies are very limited. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012