Alive Naturalsound Records

Independent record label based in LA. Home to The Black Keys, Two Gallants, Buffalo Killers, Radio Moscow, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Hacienda, John The Conqueror, Brian Olive, Black Diamond Heavies, Left Lane Cruiser, T-Model Ford, Thomas Function, Waves Of Fury, etc. More at

Friday, August 28, 2009


The members of Trainwreck Riders have been spreading their punk-tinged country rock like barbecue fire through the back yards, train stations, parks and warehouses of San Francisco since they became a band in the early aughts. In The Perch, the follow-up to their 2006 debut, Lonely Road Revival, these city boys may avoid the straightforward twang and honky-tonk of traditional country, but that doesn’t make them shy about raiding its barn.
The rootsy spirit of the album derives from its bluegrass influences: the banjo-like guitar picking in “Chug Along,” the saw’s Vaudevillian warble in “Livin Daylight.” Steel lap guitar, dobro, accordion and cowbell nudge the sound deeper into backwoods, as does the fiddle — played by the father of drummer Steve Kerwin and guitarist Andrew Kerwin.
They adopted another country-music trick, as well: the use of truism to create themes and choruses. The emotional arcs of these songs come when Peter Frauenfelder sings words like “memories don’t live like people do” and “nothing’s more pleasant with the past.” – Jenna Humphrey / Prefix Mag



While Uncle Tupelo created the template for much of what would follow in the alt country sweepstakes, too many bands latched onto the wistful high-lonesome sound of March 16-20, 1992 and Anodyne while overlooking the coffee-and-beer-fueled overdrive that dominated No Depression and Still Feel Gone. San Francisco’s Trainwreck Riders don’t appear to have been spending much time listening to the Uncle Tupelo back catalog, but they’ve unwittingly learned a lesson best gleaned from examining their full body of work — the twangy and resonant stuff works best when it’s faced off against something that rocks with a solid head of energy. Trainwreck Riders’ third album, The Perch, sways back and forth between introverted midtempo numbers and more abandoned and energetic rockers that suggest a three-way jam session between Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., and the Meat Puppets. Vocalist Pete Frauenfelder’s reedy but expressive voice communicates a powerful sincerity on the more measured stuff, but he makes himself heard with unexpected force when the band cranks it up, and he and Andrew Kerwin’s guitars weave together well. Drummer Steve Kerwin knows how to make this band cruise at any speed, and Forrest Lawrence’s bass work is subtle and in the pocket. These tales of city boys with the 21st century country blues don’t tell us much that’s likely to seem new to anyone, but the tone is always sincere and effective, like journal entries from a life whose ups and downs are clearly recognizable, and the rough, sweet tone of the music rhymes with their messages. If anything, The Perch is so straightforward it wouldn’t have hurt if the Trainwreck Riders had gussied up their music a bit more in the studio, but there’s a lot to be said for a band that errs on the side of modesty in an era of ProTools overload, and their virtues are on clear display on this album. – Mark Deming / All Music Guide

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NATHANIEL MAYER - Steady Bloggin'

Nathaniel Mayer - Why Won't You Let Me Be Black?

This is a sadly posthumous follow up to Mayer's excellent Why Don't You Give It To Me (I posted that one a little while ago here). It collects more tracks from the same sessions, juxtaposing Mayer's gruff warbling baritone with a psychedelic soul-rock backing. Its in fact a bit more consistent in sound than the predecessor, there are no detours into funk or reggae. The album is nothing but dark bluesy echoey distorted laments on love, money (mostly lack of it), and drugs. And that's pretty much all I want from it, because it does those things so damn well. So far I think I'm ranking this as the second best soul album of the year, right behind Lee Fields.

There is a nice bit about the title that came with the press description: "It has to do with the food he kept being served while on tour in Europe. When Nate finally became frustrated with the countless plates of cheese and French bread that awaited him backstage at every gig, he shouted "Why Won't You Let Me Be Black?". He agreed that it sounded like a good title for his next album. "

Sunday, August 9, 2009


New Wax

On their new album The Perch, San Francisco's Trainwreck Riders, who have been labeled "cowpunk", meld a wide variety of genres and sounds. A track like "Three To The Clouds" seems like it could easily serve as a backtrack to Jay Farrar's vocals, which is understandable considering the band is often compared to Uncle Tupelo. There is certainly a familiarity about Trainwreck Riders' sound, who have cited the Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Jr. as influences, but it's a good familiarity comparable to the smell of your childhood home or the feel of your favorite t-shirt. Rather than being blatantly derivative, the band draws from the past to create their own brand of country-tinged indie-rock. The guitars and airy vocals on "Don't You Know" are reminiscent of Band Of Horses. "Chug Along" could easily be a Modest Mouse b-side. While the band may navigate familiar soundscapes, they infuse their own sense of originality on The Perch. This is an impressive sophomore release from an evolving young band. -- Capt. Obvious

BRIAN OLIVE - Goldmine

Brian Olive
Brian Olive
Alive Records (0095-2)

Brian Olive’s a name unfamiliar to most everyone. Oliver Henry, though, will be instantly identifiable to garage fans, as he was a member of both the Soledad Brothers and the Greenhornes. Now working under the pseudonym Brian Olive, Henry’s put together a new project and delved into other sides of the ’60s entirely. Foregoing garage’s frenzy, his band instead frolic in strawberry fields of psychedelia, albeit fields planted across the deltas and studios of the deep south.

Sure, “Ida Red” and “Calling All Around,” the tracks that bookend Brian Olive, rock and roll in best R&B style, but the Stax-y brass and wisps of psychedelia give the tracks an unusual twist. Retro in style, but thoroughly original in sound, Brian Olive doesn’t so much resurrect Sixties R&B as totally reinvent it. His influences are numerous and diverse – The Beatles, The Stones (Rolling and Roses), Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Stax soul, glamrock, and dreampop. “There Is Love,” for example, is blues filtered through the latter genre, “Jubilee Line” wafts psychedelia through the Stax studio, while “High Low” floods the delta with jazzy brass and big band beats.

Of course, Brian Olive isn’t the first to stitch genres together, they are, however, one of the few to sew them together seamlessly. Their music sounds so totally natural you can walk away from Brian Olive believing that psychedelia, blues, R&B and soul were always intertwined and natural bed-fellows. Reshaping the past, the album presents an alternate musical history where linear evolution is replaced by spontaneous genesis, and what a wonderful creation it is. - Jo-Ann Greene / Goldmine


If the opening squall of Parker Griggs’ paint-stripper lead guitar on opening cut "I Just Don’t Know" doesn’t tell you something significant about the shit that passes for high-rotation-programmed-within-a-centimetre-of-its-sad-existence commercial radio these days, go to the back of the class. You were off playing ABBA records in the home economics kitchen when the teacher broke out the sacrament and gave the rest of the class the lesson in Hendrix 101. Major Fail. To be accurate, Griggs doesn’t slavishly replicate Jimi’s distinctive overdriven tone and wah-wah wonderment across these 10 bluesy tunes, but he’s batting in the same ballpark and hitting home run after home run for the six string team regardless. Except for the "Voodo Chile" rip in "Hold On Me", it’s actually his vocal that sounds most like Hendrix (cock an ear to "No Jane" for a dose of "Electric Loudland") but who’s going to split (Afro) hairs about which guitar lick, lead-run and trill most resembles the output of which ’70s guitar hero when it all sounds this excessively good? It’s like "461 Ocean Boulevard" never existed. This is not the music (term used under advisement) that you’ll hear leaking out of ill-fitting iPod earbuds on the peak-hour train. Take that as a recommendation. Sanity can only stand so much tinny breaks or arrant rap crap on the 7.42am to Dull City. The eight-minute-plus "No Good Woman" even dares to trade in that most outdated of currencies, The Drum Solo. Far from being The Death Of Us All, the indulgence slots right in. It’s a statement of the obvious that Griggs’ quicksilver fretwork and frenetic, stuttering drums are all over "Brain Cycles." Bassist Zach Anderson goes along for the ride and pours hot asphalt into all the right potholes. Two people haven’t made this much noise together since Pamela and Tommy made their home movie. At least you can play this in front of the kids. The thunderous, acid-drenched blare of the title track might be a bigger downer than an early start on a Tuesday morning after a massive long weekend of partying, but it tastes much better than antacid and Red Bull for breakfast. Only "Black Boot" manages to interrupt the barrage of raw and righteous ’70s rawk – and that’s to dip the toe in the water of bluegrass – but the follow-up of "City Lights" gets us back on track. Sure beats "That ’70s Show" for rear vision entertainment. One of the best trips I’ve taken in 1969, sorry, 2009. – The Barman / I-94 Bar

BRIAN OLIVE - The Agit Reader

Brian Olive
Brian Olive
The Agit Reader

For those who have seen live music in Ohio, it can be argued that all the cities are known for certain styles: there’s the proto-punk and old rock & roll of Cleveland, Columbus’ current lo-fi, and Dayton’s off-kilter rock (Brainiac, Guided By Voices). Cincinnati can always be counted on for honest rock with a Southern edge, much like the city itself. So it’s not surprising that Brian Olive’s self-titled debut (recorded in a Cincy basement) is full of Southern-tinged guitars, soulful harmonies and straightforward melodies borrowed from the 1960s. Olive started his career as guitarist for the Greenhornes—some of whom went on to form the Raconteurs with Jack White of the White Stripes—and went on to join the Soledad Brothers. Some former Greenhornes also appear in the album credits, as does Mike Weinel, formerly of Heartless Bastards.

Unexpected, however, is just how much musical ground is covered in this gem of a record, and with such cohesive results. There’s the upbeat horn- and piano-infused New Orleans parade of “The Day the Sun Is Coming (Sainte-Marie’s Dream),” the swagger of “Stealin’” and rollicking “Ida Red.” Throughout much of the record, Donna Jay Rubin and Holly and Tori Kadish lend their backing vocals for melodies that add soul and depth without ever being superfluous. “High Low” is aptly named, with its low sax and drums rumble laced with intricate bits of guitar. “See Me Mariona” is fully psychedelic—the Stone Roses meet 007 circa ’67. While “Echoing Light” comes off as a sweetly retro ballad, the record loses some of its momentum on slower tracks like “There Is Love” and “Killing Stone.” Still, it’s hard to find fault in these simple, yet inarguably pretty, ballads. Even those who are familiar with Olive’s work in other bands should have expectations succeeded by this impressive debut.
Josie Rubio

MP3: “There Is Love”


Fear not. That’s not the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped.We lost a good ‘un when resurrected soul veteran Nathaniel Meyer shuffled off this mortal coil in 2008 and this is a fitting tribute, even if assembled from studio bits-and-pieces.
Half-a-dozen of these eight cuts are from the session that yielded "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?" with the balance from a live-in-the-studio acoustic bracket taped for radio. The differing approaches meld seamlessly.
If you didn’t hear the predecessor album "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?" then you need to. It was an astounding comeback-from-God-knows-where that welded Mayer’s scarred, knife-edge vocal to sometimes sparse and often confronting accompaniment from a crew of underground notables like Dave Shettler, mostly from Nat’s Motor City. Black Key Dan Auerbach’s guiding hand (and guitar) was on the tiller and Jim Diamond engineered.
"Dreams Come True" is a restrained opener and sweetly soulful in its own inimitable way. Mayer’s voice is undeniably ravaged but he doesn’t push it to the edge here. For that we only have to wait a song; "Mr Taxman" reverts to recent type – a seven-and-a-half-minute vamp wrapped in fried guitar and lyrical allusions to being down-and-out. Its sister track is the intently plodding "The Puddle", another intense burner. Brevity’s at the soul of "She’s Bad" but it, too, shares the same postcode.
Mayer’s vocal is at its most pure on the acoustic "You Are The One", a mid-album oasis among all the brooding and dissonance. "The Girl Next Door" is ushered in by Tim Boatman’s plaintive piano and harks back to "Why Dontcha?" form the previous al
Apart from a distorted bass solo in its closing bars, "If You Would Be My Guide" faintly echoes "Unchained Melody." No shame in that ‘cept Nathaniel Meyer puts it out there more nakedly than the Righteous Brothers ever did.
If the acoustic "What Would You Do?" seems an oddly quiet way of closing, you can’t but smile at Nat’s mumbled reference to being happy in his own world on the end. Let’s raise a glass to that. – The Barman / I-94 Bar


You won’t find a better album title this year, folks. Apparently it’s what the lifelong East Detroit resident shouted out during a tour of Europe, frustrated with the same French bread and cheese platters that he was constantly being served backstage at his gigs — you can’t make this stuff up! Nathaniel Mayer is one of those semi-legendary Windy City soul singers and his releases from the sixties made him a local legend, his music later serving as a major influence on Detroit-based artists like the Black Keys, Dirtbombs and recent Stones Throw signing Mayer Hawthorne. Though Mayer had a top 40 hit in ‘62 with the classic "Village of Love," for many deep soul aficionados you can’t talk about the singer without mentioning his brilliant 1966 single, "(I Want) Love and Affection (Not the House of Correction)," an uptempo stomper that showcased his hard, bluesy tenor. Mayer pretty much disappeared from the public eye for more than 30 years and many fans assumed that he had died, but in 2004 he resurfaced again, encouraged by the local Detroit artists who were championing his music. Back in the spotlight, the singer would tour the states and performed some club dates in Europe, yet sadly he passed away following the release of 2007’s Why Don’t You Give It To Me? This album at hand, Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?, comes from the same two-day recording session as its predecessor, featuring the musical support of members of the Black Keys, Dirtbombs and Outrageous Cherry. In his later years, Mayer’s clear-throated tenor had become a gruff, raspy howl, but the echoey, garage-rock backing from his all-star band is a perfect fit. Tracks like "Mr. Tax Man," "She’s Bad" and "The Puddle" are smoky, electric blues burners that conjure ghosts of Electric Mud, while "What Would You Do" and "You Are the One" are intimate acoustic performances culled from a 2007 radio interview. For those who like their R&B and soul served up raw, pathos-tinged and slightly unhinged, step right up! – Duane Harriott / Other Music


Tuesday afternoon trying-to-pay-the-bills music: Nathaniel Mayer


“Mr. Taxman” – Nathaniel Mayer

“Money’s gone
Taxman at my door
What you need my money for?
To feed the poor, or start a war?
I’m broke!
I’m broke
I’m going to the bar
You know why

My money’s gone
I lost my home
I’m all alone
Help me!
Help, help
Help, help
Help me, help me

From Nathaniel Mayer’s forthcoming posthumous album Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?, released next month on vinyl and cd through the good people at Alive Records of Burbank, California, and available now in digital format from Other Music of New York City.

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