Monthly Archives: November 2003

The Set List — Azure Ray


The Set List

Dick Dale

A decade before Jimi Hendrix began plucking magical, otherworldly sounds from his Fender Stratocaster, Link Wray and Dick Dale were wailing away as the true pioneers of psychedelia with innovative genres known as “psycho billy” and “surf guitar,” respectively. While Wray would go on to leave his mark in rock history as the first musician to have an instrumental song so trashy (“Rumble”) that it was banned from the airwaves, Dick Dale was conferring with electric guitar innovator Leo Fender to invent a sound effect known as “reverb,” an electronically produced echo effect. Dale said that the reason he sought to create such an effect was to augment his vocals with some form of sustain, as his voice has no natural vibrato whatsoever.



Aside from Dale’s role in increasing the popularity of the electric guitar, there is nothing remotely intellectual or scientific about experiencing Dale in the flesh. His animalistic attack on his Stratocaster is an ear-grabbing, eye-popping event. His explosive guitar style creates rolling tones eerily reminiscent of waves crashing on a beach. He has a primordial virtuosity. In other words, he rocks like a motherfucker. And if his three-year-old son, who has an endorsement deal with Zildjian cymbals, shows up to play drums with the old man, you may find yourself speaking in tongues the next day. (Thursday, November 20, The Nick, $10 adv.)


Birmingham’s Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, a.k.a. Azure Ray (also once known as Little Red Rocket), will perform with Crooked Fingers (Eric Bachmann of Archers of Loaf) at Zydeco on Monday, November 24.



Moonlight Over the Mountain
The latest addition to live music “listening rooms” in the area is the Moonlight Music Cafe in Vestavia. Smoke-free and charming with a soothing lavender decor and acoustic shows that usually end by 10 p.m., the Moonlight Music Cafe is the perfect night on the town for the middle-aged, former rock ‘n’ roll animal who has decided to forgo the hearing loss due to loud guitars and has grown weary of smelling like stale cigarettes the morning after.

Local guitar hero Don Tinsley played the Moonlight Music Cafe a couple of weeks after it opened, and the usual glitches that crop up with a new joint were nowhere to be found. “It’s a good sounding room, sort of a neat crowd that comes to it, and it’s non-smoking, which is real good for me, because I don’t smoke.” Tinsley brags about how cozy the room is not only for patrons but also to performers as well, making their job that much more pleasant. “It’s new and clean, and it sounds great from the stage.”

The Moonlight Music Cafe is as easy to find as it is comfortable; it’s on Highway 31 in the old part of the Vestavia City Center near SteinMart. For more information call 822-1400 or go to for details. &

City Hall — Peace in the Valley?


City Hall

Mayor Bernard Kincaid’s election night win.


Peace in the Valley?
“How sweet it is!” shouted Mayor Bernard Kincaid, with something less than Jackie Gleason’s enthusiasm, to a cheering throng of supporters after City Councilor Carole Smitherman conceded defeat in her bid to unseat Kincaid in the November 4 mayoral runoff election. Pointing to local businessman and attorney Donald Watkins, who stood out conspicuously in the crowd as he flashed a “V sign” back in the Mayor’s direction, Kincaid admitted that he could not have been competitive without the $150,000 he received from Watkins and former Mayor Richard Arrington’s Voter News Network (VNN) political organization. Kincaid had earlier turned down VNN’s $17,500 offer for the general election, but for the runoff wasted no time snatching up the funds once they reached six figures.The VNN support was just one more fascinating twist in the ongoing dysfunctional soap opera that is Birmingham politics. Arrington was the Mayor’s perceived archenemy four years ago when Kincaid shockingly upset the former mayor’s chosen successor, William Bell. Donald Watkins was no bit player in the Arrington administration, having earned up to $1 million per year as a consulting attorney for the city. The tired cliché of politics creating strange bedfellows was dragged out for one more curtain call.

The scene was not so joyful only a few blocks south at Carole Smitherman’s election gathering. Trailing the incumbent mayor by approximately 3,000 votes over the course of the evening, eventually losing 46 percent to 54 percent, Smitherman finally appeared for her concession speech after supporters had gloomily watched a huge projection screen that was showing “Fear Factor” as vote tallies flashed across the screen. Even more surreal was the presence of former councilor Aldrich Gunn, who looked dapper in white slacks and a floral print shirt as he ruminated in his unique philosophical manner to a reporter who inquired if Gunn will enter politics again. “I’m not trying to get five votes now, all I need is one to make my decisions,” he said with a laugh, noting that he preferred being low-key. When I told him that he probably had a good shot at taking back the seat he lost to Councilor Gwen Sykes, who has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent months, Gunn replied: “I don’t kick a dog when they’re down—and I’m not calling her a dog—but I would never step on nobody when they’re down.” Gunn was not surprised that Kincaid accepted the VNN money. “You have to do what you have to do to win . . . Don’t let nobody tell you who you make a coalition with,” he said. “I think it’s nice and if it’s working, it’s working. And you sit there and don’t want this and don’t want that, sometimes you just have to chew your gum and go on.”

City Councilor Valerie Abbott was asked if mayor-council gridlock would persist with Kincaid’s looming re-election. “Well, I can’t really speak for the rest of the council,” Abbott responded. “I guess I would like to say that I’m optimistic that the Mayor will actually start to work with the council like he said he would in the media a few weeks ago, and that we will start having regular dialogue, regular conversations, that he will stop by to visit us every once in a while and talk about stuff, because it hasn’t been happening so far.” Abbott said she had seen Kincaid on the council side of City Hall twice. “I feel like we (councilors) are a lot more loose than he is about people dropping in. He could walk down our hall and drop into my office anytime . . . and it would be just fine. But if I went over and wandered up and down his hall and tried to drop in on him, I’m not sure that I would be welcome. He has a regular ‘bulldog’ at the door that keeps you from going through without an invitation. So some things are going to have to change.”

Back at Kincaid headquarters, Donald Watkins fielded questions from reporters who approached him one by one. “I think the VNN support allowed us to level the playing field so that it could be a competitive race,” the attorney said with more than a hint of pride when asked about the role his organization played. Watkins added that the only expectation he has of the Mayor is “that he continue to lead in a progressive fashion. If he does that, he’ll be a good person for us to have supported.”

When asked if the council and mayor could set aside their bitter differences, Councilor Carol Reynolds echoed Abbott’s sentiments, though in less skeptical tones. “It’s going to be hard to forgive the past, but I think rather than forgetting it we need to forgive it and move forward.” Reynolds said she has crossed the hall in the past to meet with Kincaid and will encourage him to do the same.

Promising a “spirit of reconciliation and a spirit of coming together,” Kincaid told the assembled crowd that he promised to “get started tomorrow” in reaching out to the city council. In an interview following his acceptance speech, the Mayor revealed his priorities. “First thing is to see if we can redefine our relationship with the council. I’m very concerned about that,” he admitted, adding that he promised to “visit the council side (of City Hall) to find common ground” now that his relationship will not be defined by half of the council seeking his job (four councilors ran for mayor). Indeed, the Mayor made good on his pledge by visiting the “council side” the next day, but reportedly, no councilors could be found. This is not unusual, as council seats are part-time positions, forcing most to hold steady employment in addition to legislative duties. It’s not unusual to find councilors away from their desks on Wednesdays if meetings are not scheduled, so Kincaid’s olive branch gesture seemed empty.

Will the brief honeymoon that followed the “cooperative government” vows Kincaid and the current city council exchanged two years ago finally return? Don’t hold your breath. Kincaid was nowhere to be found at the first council meeting following his re-election. Perhaps something urgent came up, but if such was the case, two of his close aides either weren’t aware or didn’t let on. When asked why Kincaid was absent, Public Information Officer Vivian Gossett said that the Mayor was in town but “had other commitments.” Another mayoral staff member’s (one of Valerie Abbott’s perceived “bulldogs”) explanation of the Mayor’s truancy was even more intriguing. “I don’t know where he is,” the staffer responded. “He’s probably some place chillin’.” &

The Set List — Hank Williams, Jr., .R.E.M., and others.


The Set List

Hank Williams, Jr.

Hank Williams, Jr.
Though he first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry at age 11, performing his late father’s tunes, Hank Williams, Jr., later chose to rebel against the expectations heaped upon him as the son of the greatest country music singer of all time by cranking up the electric guitars and extolling the virtues of smoking pot while sipping Jim Beam. Never mind that his dad had been shooting up morphine long before Hank, Jr., puffed his first joint. Maybe the real reason he chose to rebel was that his father nicknamed him Bocephus, after a dummy used by a Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist. Regardless, Hank, Sr.’s devout legions didn’t quite know what to make of Junior’s version of a hillbilly, but his undying allegiance to the Confederate flag had them in his corner in no time. Originally viewed as an embarrassment by hardcore country fans, Williams Jr.’s, crass songs were merely caricatures of the plaintive, stark beauty of country music. For the past decade, however, he’s been more or less a saving grace in a world where Shania Twain and Tim McGraw are revered more than Loretta Lynn and George Jones, though he’ll never live down those jingles that promote “Monday Night Football.” (Saturday, September 13, at Oak Mountain Amphitheater, 7:20 p.m.; $10-$39.75. R.S.) —Ed Reynolds

Jay Farrar
It’s been hard times for those who prefer Son Volt to the suddenly-sanctified Wilco. Jay Farrar didn’t even rate a mention in the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (despite his long history with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in Uncle Tupelo), and then Farrar’s first post-Son Volt project got swamped in the wake of Wilco’s lousy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Fortunately, this bought Farrar the time to record ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, an EP on which he finally ditched Americana and started exploring his avant leanings. Now, all of his visions have come together with Terroir Blues, a 23-track collection of gorgeous, quiet compositions augmented by noisy interludes and assorted reprises. Neil Young couldn’t have come up with a better mix of ambitious indulgence and genuine talent. The critics, naturally, aren’t pleased. Farrar probably couldn’t be happier. (Wednesday, September 17, at WorkPlay, 10 p.m. $20.) —J.R. Taylor

Hayseed Dixie/The Kerosene Brothers
Or Bill Dana opening for Jose Jimenez. Hayseed Dixie has been more successful than they could have hoped by playing bluegrass covers of AC/DC and Kiss. Now it’s time for the Kerosene Brothers to tour on Hayseed’s coattails—and those are mighty short coattails since The Kerosene Brothers are Hayseed Dixie in their purest form, before an indulgent side-project kinda took over their careers. Choose Your Own Title shows the Kerosene Brothers bringing that Hayseed energy to their own fun originals, with no hint of any deep insight having been buried by their successful alter-egos. It’s simply one good joke after another, and it’s not their fault if the joke has become more believable than most acts’ sincerity. (Wednesday, September 24, at The Nick.) —J.R.T.

They should be calling it the “Sorry About the ’90s” Tour since Michael Stipe can no longer tell the executives at his record label that questions about sales performance are “mean-spirited.” There have even been rumors of advance money being handed back, although that remains unconfirmed.


Let’s concede that some people out there are looking forward to buying R.E.M.’s recent best-of compilation, even after hearing the crappy new single. Meanwhile, the vast majority of fans haven’t really cared about anything R.E.M. has recorded since 1992. The fans haven’t missed a thing, either. Pete Buck still drinks and plays too much, Mike Mills remains the only talented member, and none of them know how to produce a rock album. The Michael Stipe co-produced American Movie, however, was a pretty cool film.

Sparklehorse, incidentally, is an R.E.M. tribute band, in that leader Mark Linkous’ rote sound collages—occasionally containing a good melody—are a tribute to how so many lame art-rockers have been able to limp along thanks to R.E.M.’s support over the years. Thankfully, that’s pretty much over, too. (Wednesday, September 24, at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, 7:30 p.m. $15-$60 R.S.) —J.R.T.

The Polyphonic Spree/Starlight Mints/Corn Mo
Redefining both cult-rock and the cult of Mitch Miller, Tim Delaughter’s (former singer for Tripping Daisy) traveling band of white-robed glee clubbers sounds like an honest big deal on Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree. They also do a fine job of burying the lame Sunshine Pop scene that came skipping out of the 1960s. Unlike their hippie forebears, this 24-piece ensemble plays off orchestral arrangements and fun synth touches to create truly entertaining pop masterpieces.


Corn Mo

There’s also the occasional artistic misfire. But the only real problem is that nobody seems to remember how to actually produce a record by a big choral group nowadays. You have to see the band live to appreciate some of the delicate touches that are wiped away in the album’s traditionalist rock mix.

Starlight Mints are a proudly trippy act in their own right, getting past their dull power-pop roots and now indulging in a lot of privileged quirkiness on Built for Squares. And it’s left to Corn Mo to represent the Great Spirit in his role as the Heavy Metal/Prog-Rockin’ God of the Accordion. (See feature, this issue.) (Thursday, September 25, at WorkPlay, 8 p.m. $15) —J.R.T.

Caitlin Cary/Mimi Holland
College begins, and this former Whiskeytown girl stays on the road, and that’s pretty good news for fans of both country-pop and spoken word. There’s simply no live act that better captures the simple charm of a witty Southern gal—except maybe Rufus Wainwright. And the band plays up the jangle-pop subtext that makes I’m Staying Out such an impressive recovery from Cary’s lousy debut album. (Cary only, Friday, September 12, at Laser’s Edge CDs, 5:30 p.m. Free admission; Cary and Holland, Friday, September 12, at WorkPlay, 9 p.m. $15.) —J.R.T.

Blue Rodeo
Remember how stupid those Brits looked battling it out between Oasis and Blur? Canadians were reduced to taking sides between Blue Rodeo and The Tragically Hip—two interesting, brooding bands that each took their time compiling an album’s worth of decent live material. Blue Rodeo gets some bonus points for being a lot more Canadian, though, slowly compiling an epic farmland rock opera. In the process, they managed a few masterpieces and a lot of pleasant minor tunes. They’re still a big deal back home, but it’s always enjoyable to see Blue Rodeo working small clubs and pulling out greatest hits for an audience that’s never heard of them. (Friday, September 12, at The Nick.) —J.R.T.

Leon Redbone
It’s funny how quickly Leon Redbone has been forgotten in the midst of the continual O’ Brother mania, despite his having a long-standing set list that could’ve passed for a rough version of the film’s soundtrack. He’s certainly contributed to his own low profile, too. A night at the local public library seems like a step up from touring kiddie shows, but at least it’s one less tax dollar being spent on a professional storyteller. And though his Panama Jack routine was thoroughly tired by the ’80s, he’s spent his old age priming himself as a blues guitar god capable of replicating lost artists. Redbone’s death will be like losing Tiny Tim, taking a good section of the Great American Songbook with him. (Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13, at the Hoover Public Library, 8 p.m. $15.) —J.R.T. &

Wright Brothers Replica Coming to Town

Wright Brothers Replica Coming to Town

John Reynolds spent four years building this replica of the Wright Brothers first airplane, which will be in Birmingham on November 15.

A replica of the first engine-powered airplane that Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully flew will be on display at the Southern Museum of Flight from November 15 to 30. Built by John Reynolds and his wife, Carol, the Wright Flyer celebrates the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of an aircraft in sustained, controlled flight. Reynolds describes the project as an all-consuming, “almost religious” task that took four years to complete, much longer than he expected. “I thought I could knock it out in about six months. If I knew then what I do now, I probably could have,” he laughs. The biggest obstacle was visualizing the finished airplane in his mind, explains Reynolds, who completed the project with his wife in 1994. “When you’re working off a set of plans, it’s hard to translate that into a three-dimensional image. I found you just had to make it according to the drawings and it would come to itself, so to speak.” Reynolds relied on drawings supplied by the Smithsonian, where the original is on display. The Wright Brothers left no detailed sketches behind, so the Smithsonian had plans drawn when the plane was restored in 1985.

Reynolds was determined to approach problems of construction much as the Wright Brothers did. “I built the aircraft as authentically as I could, if we assume the Smithsonian is the standard. Some of the [original] fabric and pieces of wood just weren’t practical. The Wright Brothers used Pride of the West Muslin [for the wings] and I just used pima cotton, which approximated the same thread count and density.” He’s amazed that many people don’t realize the lasting impact the Wrights had on the future of airflight. “They were scientists and engineers even though they’d never had any formal training in those areas, and the airplane alone has probably seven or eight inventions that are original ideas developed by them. The propeller, they originally invented that. There was no data on aviation propellers. They started their invention using boat props . . . that just goes to show you how amazing these guys were. They weren’t a couple of kids who got lucky. A lot of people think they just kinda cobbled this thing together and just went out there and flew. But that’s not the case at all.”

John and Carol Reynolds will be at the Southern Museum of Flight on November 15 to introduce the Wright Flyer to Birmingham in honor of the First Flight Centennial at Kitty Hawk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And yes, Reynolds’ aircraft was built to fly, though it’s powered by a different engine than the Wrights employed. Reynolds has an 18 horsepower Briggs and Stratton tractor engine because he wanted to fly his plane repeatedly. According to Reynolds, the Wright Brothers’ engine can be made “fairly reliable, but it just doesn’t have the reliability to where I felt comfortable with climbing in the plane.” In the decade since he completed the project, he has yet to try it out. “I built it to fly and I plan to, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to put it in the air,” he says. “I think it’ll be best to wait until after the Centennial celebration (December 12 through 17) that way if I break it, I won’t let anybody down who wants to see it.” Reynolds claims he will fly it himself, eventually. “I don’t think I can find anybody else crazy enough to do it.”

Call 833-8226 for details.
Ed Reynolds