Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars in Birmingham

Dirty clothes, fast food, cramped vans, sweaty bandmates that get super annoying, the promise of anywhere from $25 to $500 (most likely the former) to get you to the next city: all of these things make us feel bad for indie bands getting their start in the US. They endure these unpleasant conditions--not to mention having to play some of the most awful clubs imaginable--in city after city as they drive through unfamiliar cities and desolate badlands.

Every now and then, though, a band or group comes around that makes us question the hardships of these often-from-Brooklyn indie bands making their own way. One such group is Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, a West African reggae/hip-hop/Afro-pop group that formed in the squalid and often unsanitary conditions of an honest-to-god refugee camp in Guinea. Like countless other refugees, band members lost wives, were separated from parents, had limbs amputated by rebels--indeed, one member featured in the documentary film was forced to kill his own child before having rebels cut off part of his arm--and were forced to flee from the home most of them had known their whole lives.

And somehow, in the midst of the refugee camps, the musicians found their voice again and began playing to heal. Soon, they were playing to heal others. Documentary footage shows downtrodden refugees smiling and dancing at the sounds made by the all-stars on their second- and third-hand instruments and sound equipment. It wasn't long before the UN invited the musicians to return to their own country--to "look and see" the changes and, most importantly for the band, to record their record to share with the world.

As a result of that trip, we have the Refugee's first album, Living Like a Refugee, released in the US on Anti- Records. As an extended result, the band has gotten the opportunity to tour around the US to share their musical message of love and peace to the thousands who hear them play.

Finally, we have a chance to hear them in Birmingham this weekend. The All Stars will be performing at the Carver Theatre this Sunday night, January 27, at 8:00 p.m. It's rare to have such an opportunity in Birmingham, so we hope to see you all there tomorrow night!

For a taste, here are some songs from the band's 2006 release, Living Like a Refugee:

Soda Soap
Big Lesson
Garbage to the Showglass

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Roses and Tulips and...Goats

Hello, Blue Roses released The Portrait Is Finished And I Have Failed To Capture Your Beauty... yesterday. Like most Dan Bejar projects (this time with vocalist/flautist Sydney Vermont), it's growing on me. I've listened to "Sunny Skies" several times just trying to think of what other song it reminded me of, until I realized it was "This Woman's Work." Am I the only one that hears it?

Hello Blue Roses - Shadow Falls
Hello Blue Roses - Sunny Skies

Headlights is one of my favorite pop bands, so I'm greatly anticipating the release of their next album, Some Racing, Some Stopping on February 19. Their label has released their first single for our listening pleasure, and here it is in all its sweetly jangly bliss.
Headlights - Cherry Tulips

The Mountain Goats will also be releasing Heretic Pride on Feb. 19.
The Mountain Goats - Sax Rohmer #1