Just Say Yep: The Reasons I Love Yep Roc Records
Things are cooking over in Haw River, North Carolina, the headquarters of indie label Yep Roc Records (yes, they have the word “records” in their company name, not Ltd, not the generic Music, not Ent., but records).
“Yep Roc,” says their website, “is a record label for music lovers. Rather than focus on one genre or niche of music, Yep Roc strives to put out records that feature some of the best, most soulful music of any kind… we hope you’ll agree that this is, simply put, unbelievable music. Yep Roc Records believes in the vision of each of our Artists. We strive to serve each project based on its unique characteristics. Through strong promotional and marketing efforts, our goal is to reach as large an audience as possible with each new release.”
Apropos of Record Store Day, I thought I’d just take a minute of your time to shine a little pocket Mag-Lite on YepRoc’s roster and tell you why I like the cut of their jib, mister!
Reason One: They know that mature and vital talent doesn’t have an expiry date.
Are you familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s notion that greatness in any field comes from logging 10,000 hours to perfect it? Yep Roc get it, and in addition to somewhat newer artists like Liam Finn, Bell X-1, The Sadies, Apples In Stereo, Sloan, and Peggy Sue, they release great music from relative “old timers” like Dave Alvin, Robyn Hitchcock, Nick Lowe, Peter Case, Grant Lee Phillips, Young Fresh Fellows, Apples In Stereo and Paul Weller.
Reason Two: They put out great records.
Here are only a few recent Yep Roc things that have stuck with me over the last year or so.
Robyn Hitchcock: Propellor Time
His new solo album, recorded four years ago at his London home, the album nonetheless features The Venus 3, Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin and Peter Buck plus John Paul Jones, Nick Lowe, Morris Windsor (Soft Boys/Egyptians) along with the Mancunian candidate himself, guitarist Johnny Marr who collaborated on the track he plays on, “Ordinary Millionaire”.
Paul Weller: Wake Up The Nation
This is coming out here on June 1st 2010. A little more chaotic and gritty than some of his more recent stuff, I for one am excited about this return to edgy from The Modfather. Speaking of which, he has enlisted The Jam’s bassist Bruce Foxton on a couple of songs and has an equally curious roster of other guests including, but not limited to Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), old school session drummer Clem Cattini and the mighty tom toms of Electric Light Orchestra/Move drummer Bev Bevan.
Grant-Lee Phillips: Little Moon
Released last October, this was one of my faves of the year from a frankly under-appreciated L.A. singer/songwriter who has become better with time (10,000 hours?). Little Moon was exactly like the title, both small and intimate and yet otherworldly all at the same time. In his bio, Grant-Lee admits that he had become increasingly comfortable stripping away most of “the artifice that comes with making a record. My albums are becoming more stark, more unguarded, and more vulnerable. This is the most unselfconscious record I have made – ever.” Recorded in a mere four days (his next should take even longer!), Little Moon was assisted by producer and bassist Paul Bryan, Jamie Edwards on keyboards, drummer Jay Bellerose (Alison Krauss / Robert Plant’s Raising Sand), and drummer Sebastian Aymans.
The string arrangement, by Paul Bryan and played by The Section Quartet, lends a Harry Nilsson-esque quality to my favourite song on the album, “Older Now,” cut live all together with Phillips. In the bio, again, he discussed a “profound change in perspective” in his life after his daughter was born: “I became a dad at 44 years of age,” he says, “My days are different now – there’s less time. I don’t have the luxury of anxiety anymore. I just have to get on with things – write a song, go with what feels good, don’t fret so much over it…that’s a part of why this album was done the way it was. For me, fatherhood also reaffirmed the necessity of play.”
Peter Case: Wig! (releases June 29th, 2010)
Peter Case’s moody new album doesn’t actually come out until June 29th, but I have an advance of it and think it’s pretty cool. This eerie blues-tinged rock record, a detour from his usually more acoustically inclined recordings (which you should get a hold of by the way) and appears to me, in my first listens, to be Case’s distant cousin to Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night. The spectre of mortality lurks deep in the reverb soaked room sounds of this nearly live recording, and for a good reason too. Surviving a near fatal heart scare, and uninsured – in America! – Case’s doctor told him last year that one of his coronary arteries was 99% blocked and he would require immediate open-heart surgery. “I had no idea how I’d pay for it,” Case says in the promotional materials for Wig!, “but the doctors just took great care of me and asked no questions. I owe them my life.” After a double bypass operation, plus a five day hospital stay, he was left with a ” six-figure medical bill later.” But luckily, for him, music makes a lot of friends and many of his – T Bone Burnett, Loudon Wainwright III, Dave Alvin, Richard Thompson, Joe Henry, Van Dyke Parks and many more – rallied around him to appear at benefit concerts in Austin, Houston and Nashville, plus a three nighter at the legendary McCabe’s in Santa Monica. “My fans and friends,” Case proclaims in the bio, “really bailed me out and came through for me helping with my medical bills. I have a lot to be thankful for.”
The activity and momentum lead to Case writing a new song cycle that was darky, swampier than a lot of his other stuff but somehow a continuation of redemption themes found in all of his work. He even revisits “Old Blue Car” a song which first appeared on his 1986 self-titled debut (which was produced by Burnett). He is joined on Wig! by drummer DJ Bonebrake of X and guitarist Ron Franklin of Gasoline Silvers.
Highlights for me, so far are “House Rent Jump,” “My Kind of Trouble,” “Somebody Told The Truth”, the latter of which sound like a Tom Waits cover of Nilsson’s “Coconut”, tee hee!
I don’t have any Wig! samples to show you yet. So I’ll give you some older Peter Case and send you on your way.
and take a night walk down Pico Blvd.