Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Constantine Maroulis does.

The transcript follows.

____________________ Erykah Badu Casts A Freakadelic Spell On Constitution Hall


J. Freedom du Lac: The most amazing thing happened to me over the weekend. I went to an outdoor concert - and it didn't rain!! You?


kennychesneyfreeusa:"...tortured if often nonspecific poetry with that amazing voice and the textured, shape-shifting sounds that the band produces -- it's a winning formula, especially live."

Is this also applicable to Kenny Chesney?

J. Freedom du Lac: Let me down a couple of yards of beer and get back to you on this.

Actually, now that you mention it, I think I'm going to have to throw Kenny Chesney into the Please Explain To Me queue. And then hope that we get cross-linked by the bloggers at


Washington, D.C.: Remember when you told and told and told everyone that High Dials was going to be big rock stars? Ha Ha Ha. How did that work out for you? You are so stupid.

J. Freedom du Lac: Do you remember when you misrepresented what I said about the High Dials? Ha Ha Ha. How did that work out for you? You are so stupid for calling me so stupid when, quite clearly, I will have the last word in front of whatever audience is gathered here today. I said they made me weak in the knees. Never said that they'd become stars. (Chris Brown, on the other hand . . . )



Washington, D.C.: Hi! Do you or any chatters have any idea how I could get a hold of a recording of Rashaan Patterson singing "Stronger Than Pride" live? I'm fiending ...

J. Freedom du Lac: Hmmm. Ideas anyone?

You know, if you just wait a little BIT, you might find a TORRENT of possibilities.


Calverton, Md.: Didn't you mention that you'd have some upcoming stuff on the blog from a conversation with Mike Mills?

Or, are you just trying to increase the click rate on the blog by name-checking upcoming interviews with multi-instrumentalist bass players? If so, I recommend you go with Colin Greenwood in this chat. The timing would make it nice and plausible.

J. Freedom du Lac: I did, in fact, mention that I'd have a Mike Mills interview on the blog. It'll be closer to the June 11 date at Merriweather.

I'm offended that you'd think I did that just to drive up blog traffic. If we were really obsessed with audience size, we obviously would've introduced a regular Constantine feature. (Note to David: When is This Week In Maroulis launching, anyway?)


Albany, N.Y.: If Jerry Harrison goes to play on David Byrne's musical building, does that count as a Talking Heads reunion?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's only a reunion tour if the rhythm section is there, too. I mean, how am I going to get in if TWP publisher Katherine Weymouth can't get comps from her aunt?

My colleague Rachel Beckman actually asked Byrne about a reunion when he was at Hemphill Fine Arts for the opening of his chair-art exhibit. I think her exact question was: "Should we be lining up for a Talking Heads reunion?" His answer? "I wouldn't do that." At least he laughed and didn't throw the $20,000 paper chair at us.


Jackson, Miss.: Since your article, I've become an obsessive reader of Bob Lefsetz's blog. He has such interesting ideas (though a questionable taste in music). Is he influential within the music industry, or just a loud critic with no pull?

J. Freedom du Lac: His influence is debatable. Bob definitely has readers across all levels of the industry, including many who reside in the executive suites. Do his ideas and opinions actually compel anybody to take action? Dunno. I suppose he's not that much different than a widely read op-ed news columnist. Only, he's louder and more splenetic. And way more profane.


Dub: Which Reggae Fest will you be attending this weekend? The one in New York, Kignston, Miami, LA, San Jose...or Anne Arundel?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm all festivaled out for the month after hitting the Ohio River Valley Folk Festival last weekend in Madison, Indiana. I'm telling ya: You haven't lived until you've gone to a Mexican dive in Southern Indiana with James McMurtry. (My field trip to the Wal-Mart there was pretty sweet, too.)


Vancouver, B.C.: Sports-related question...who do you like between the Lakers and Spurs?

J. Freedom du Lac: The Hornets.

Ask me a fantasy baseball question, and I might actually play.


Thank God I'm a Country Boy: Re: Your blog post about Garth Brooks' performance at the ACM Awards. He did pretty well, I thought. He's clearly past his prime, but he was enjoying himself. I was a little startled to see Trisha Yearwood, whose transformation over the years isn't so much to my liking, but overall, the ACMs felt like a good time was had by all.

Plus, where else in American can someone, Reba McEntire in this case, give a shoutout to the troops and get an entire auditorium to rise respectfully to its feet and applaud, with no discernible booing?

J. Freedom du Lac: Enjoying yourself isn't quite the same thing as actually, you know -- sounding good. He didn't sound good, at least not to my ears. He was having pitch problems and he seemed to be running out of breath. And when he wanted to go big, well, he just screamed.

One reason I can't watch a full ACMs telecast: Reba's cornpone humor became stale about 10 years ago. Do people really find her to be amusing? And not in an ironic way?


Westerly, R.I.: In March, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote an article in the New Yorker re: Amy Winehouse. It said - and I'm paraphrasing - that he didn't initially think she and her album were so great, but now that everyone else thinks they are, he thinks so too. So two questions. 1. Doesn't this make him kind of an a$$hat? I'm all for changing your mind, but writing about it in the New Yorker only after she was nominatated for/won some Grammys? C'mon. 2. Any bands/singers that you'd like to revisit in the pages of the New Yorker?

(Two disclosures. 1. In general I think Frere-Jones is kind of an a$$hat. 2. I obviously have too much time on my hands.)

J. Freedom du Lac: My takeaway from that piece was that he thinks La Winehouse's singing sounds like musical blackface. Well, that and he threw away his copy of "Frank" at the airport after giving it a spin on a trans-continental plane ride.


Columbia, Md.: Have you heard the new Filter CD? Any thoughts on it?

J. Freedom du Lac: No.


Fairfax, Va.: Is Springsteen's tour really going to end in Foxboro Stadium and not New Jersey?

J. Freedom du Lac: That is, indeed, what his itinerary says. Maybe he thought that Boston needed a boost after the last Super Bowl. But really, why does it matter where the tour ends? Does the ESB come out in pirate costumes or something on the final night of the tour?


Fantasy Baseball: What is that? Baseball with gnomes in it or something?

J. Freedom du Lac: No, it's indie baseball in which the entire team is made up of one man: Owen Pallett.

Interesting story about him and the one-man-band trend in last Sunday's NYT mag.


Washington, D.C.: Did you take the buy-out?

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but to quote a soon-to-be-outbought friend of Freedom Rock: I bought the takeout.

I'm not eligible. You're stuck with me for at least a little while longer. Sorry.


Re Country Boy: What? I'm a pretty stereotypical effete latte-sipping liberal and I don't recall EVER hearing ANYONE boo the troops. Seriously? Perhaps you should get your hearing checked. Or your prejudices.

J. Freedom du Lac: Could it be that the poster was getting the troops confused with that R&B group, Troop? I never did like them.


Arlington, Va.: New Hold Steady album due out in July. Any early word on how good the new songs are? I've loved all three of their albums thus far (and disagree with your take on "Boys and Girls," though that's another question), but I am sorta wondering how much farther they can run with the "boy, those krazy kids sure do take a lot of drugs, huh" theme. Some breadth would be a very welcome change.

David Malitz: I'll take this one, with J. Freedom's approval, since you're referring to my take on "Boys and Girls." The band just posted a new song on their MySpace page ( take a listen). And, y'know, it sounds like the Hold Steady. Which is fine and good, but maybe a bit of a problem, like you said. The first two albums didn't sound like anything else out there but I thought "Boys and Girls" sounded just like the next logical Hold Steady album. At their show back in November at 9:30 they played a couple of new songs and one of them was called "Ask Her for Adderall," but that one doesn't look like it made the final cut for the new record, so maybe they are making a concerted effort to move away from those krazy kid stories. I agree that some breadth would be nice but I also wonder if Craig Finn will sound as entertaining or convincing singing about anything else.


U St: All the hatred for Nissan Pavilion made me think about sheds that get high marks. The first two outdoor areas that jump to mind are Red Rocks and the Gorge, but more for the scenery than the sound. Out of curiosity, if you could be magically transported to any large outdoor venue, what would it be?

J. Freedom du Lac: The Polo Fields in San Francisco. If only because that would mean that I was home. (And, also, very, very, very close to the great dim sum at Ton Kiang.)

Strangely enough, I've never actually been to the Gorge or Red Rocks. I need to get out more.


Washington, D.C.: Marty Willson-Piper was excellent at Jammin' Java last night. How come you weren't there?

J. Freedom du Lac:"Gossip Girl" season finale. Duh.


Washington, D.C.: I'm a bit surprised by the negative-ish reaction to Scarlett Johansson's Tom Waits album. Theoretically, it sounds like a really interesting idea. Does it really sound that bad?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's so bad as it is ... weird. As Allison Stewart noted in her review today, you can't really hear ScarJo's voice. Though ultimately, that might be a good thing. Who knows? (Besides Ryan Reynolds.)


Baseball: Nick Johnson is hurt again - his favorite album is "Fragile," no?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, I think he's going to have to change his at-bat music to that Seether + Amy Lee song, " Broken."

Speaking of Seether, I rather enjoyed interviewing the band's frontman, Shaun Morgan. Funny and kind of feisty - a pretty good combination. Even if I'm not in love with his music.


Washington, D.C.: I heard David is a total hottie. Any truth to this? Inquiring minds want to know!

J. Freedom du Lac: There goes Producer David, planting questions again.


lore city, ohio: You said you were attending the Ohio river valley music festival. Have you ever been there before? I've went three times and the last two times it just seemed like more of the same, and didn't really feel worth the trip.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd never been before. Likely won't go again. Nothing against the festival or the town of Madison, which is by far the nicest town I've ever visited in Southern Indiana. Just ... well, no real compelling reason for me to make the trip. I had a good time, though. Very nice setting, and I met some very, very nice people. I was just bummed that they ran out of ribs at the BBQ stand.


Odenton, Md.: Jamie Lidell is coming to town in June. What do you think of his latest album, "Jim" and do you know if he tours with a full band?

J. Freedom du Lac:"Jim" is the best modern-vintage soul album by a male singer since, ehm, Eli "Paperboy" Reed's "Roll With You." Or, maybe, "This Is Ryan Shaw."

Nothing on it as great as Lidell's brilliant single, "Multiply." But it's a pretty good listen.

Not sure what the touring configuration is. Anybody?


College Park, Md.: Is Mount Zoomer the 2008 album of the year?

J. Freedom du Lac: You tell me. I haven't heard it yet.


Lucky you!: You managed to get out of reviewing the tragedy that is Scarlett Johannson's album. What little I have heard of it caused bleeding eardrums. I'd tell her to stick to acting, but she's not very good at that either.

BTW - the only semi-decent Waits cover is 'Downtown Train' by Rod Stewart - and if he's all you've got in terms of 'quality covers' - I say, leave Waits alone.

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno, I really don't find the album to be horribly offensive. It's just kind of ... there.

I got a good laugh out of the review in NME, though. Key passage: "This is a brilliant album that will no doubt top some "best of 2008" lists..."

Those wacky Brits!


Sarasota, Florida: Maybe you can clear this up for me. Craig Ferguson is said to have worked for the "Rolling Stones", specifically I think for Mick. Do you know anything about that connection?

J. Freedom du Lac: I do not. Everything I know about Craig Ferguson, I learned from Hank Stuever.


Swinging Steaks: Did you see them at the festival? I caught them in a club in Nashville a long time ago and they kicked butt.

J. Freedom du Lac: I didn't. They were there on Friday night. I flew in on Saturday. I saw Otis Gibbs, Greg Ziesemer and Kriss Luckett and a little bit of Tom Paxton. (Missed all of Chris Smither's set as I was "off campus," hanging with James.)


Washington, D.C.: JFdL, last Tuesday was a good day for new music as the latest Death Cab For Cutie and Old 97's records dropped. I know you aren't a DCFC fan, but do you have any thoughts on the Old 97's? Alt-country has gone off the radar compared to the buzz in the late-90s/early-00's, but it's good to see them soldiering on and obviously having fun.

J. Freedom du Lac: That Old 97's album is pretty darn good. Those guys can write a song, can't they? And it's not just Rhett Miller. Murry Hammond has a couple of winners on this album, too.

I have nothing but love for that band. L. Freedom and I even played "My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin'" at our wedding.


Washington, D.C.: Good Waits cover: Blind Boys of Alabama doing "Down In The Hole", ala THE WIRE soundtrack.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.


RE: Jamie Lidell: I disagree with you, actually. I've listened to the album a bunch, waiting to see if it would grow on me and it hasn't. It's not horrendous, but it seems over-produced and not all that memorable. I kind of expected something more Al Green-like, and less easy-listening Hall and Oates.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't hear an overproduced album, actually. And while there's nothing quite as sticky as "Multiply," I think the lot of songs are pretty strong. There's a particular elegance to the album that I think "Multiply" (the album) was missing.


Scarlett Johannson: Here I've been liking her because she seemed like one of the only women in Hollywood who isn't insanely skinny. And now she had to go do this.

J. Freedom du Lac: But you approve of her hooking up with Ryan Reynolds? If you were going to be outraged over anything ScarJo-related, that would've been it.


Tom Waits Covers: A few years ago Frito Lay hired a Waits sound-alike for a chips commercial. Does that count? Tom sued 'em, BTW

J. Freedom du Lac: I remember that. That trend is/was very strange. If I recall correctly (52% chance that I do +/- 6 margin of error), somebody once used a John McCrea sound-alike to sell some sort of food product. John McCrea!


Fantasy Sports: I think I can kick your tail at Wii boxing. What do you think?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd take you in Wii bowling. You wouldn't stand a chance.


Swinging Steaks: What a yucky name for a band.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not as bad as Fat Chick From Wilson Phillips. Though maybe the worst I've ever seen was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


Pallett NYT Article:"Annie Clark... has played with a veritable Who's Who of supersize outfits..."

I doubt this, unless of course she once took a book titled "Who's Who of Supersize Outfits" into the studio or on stage to perform with.

J. Freedom du Lac: Give it up for our opening act, The Semantics!

Hey, speaking of opening acts, James Frey is headlining today at Club LiveOnline. He's on as we type. Now would be a good time to put a Liars song on the stereo.


Reston, Va.: Hi J. Free: Can you explain to me the appeal of Radiohead? Their music is all right, but it's not amazing (to me anyway). Frankly, I was pretty surprised at all of the teeth gnashing last week about the concert. It just wouldn't have occurred to me that they'd have such a large fan base. I must've been under a rock or something.

J. Freedom du Lac: Tortured poetry + textured music = beautiful art, particularly on stage. These guys are really something else live.

Not everybody's cup of chamomile, I guess - but they have a pretty decent-sized fan base, and those fans are really, really intense. Well, except for all the frat boys who have jumped onto the hybrid bandwagon.


Folk fest: I guess you missed Red Molly too. They're one of my new faves, seen them at the folk fest I hit every year (I like female harmonies).

J. Freedom du Lac: I did. Many many people were talking about them on Saturday, though. They were, apparently, a big hit - and sold a ton of merch.


Band Names: There used to be (may still be) a band called "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" in Nashville.

J. Freedom du Lac: There is not!


San Francisco, Calif.: Yeah - too bad you aren't home. You missed Constantine at the Greek Festival in Oakland this weekend. Saw him at a cooking demo making dolmas before performing.

J. Freedom du Lac: See what I'm saying? All the action is in California. All the good produce, too.

Were his dolmas better than his songs? I hope so.


Tom Waits Nightmare: I was visiting a friend once in Richmond and crashed on his couch after a party. I need to get up the next morning and drive back up to DC, but I couldn't sleep because his roommate, whose bedroom was on the 1st floor right by the living room, was playing a Tom Waits album until the wee hours. He had it on repeat and there was some strange sound that kept playing over and over and over. The guy was entertaining a lady, so I didn't feel like I could knock and say hey, can you turn that down a little ... I have not liked Tom Waits ever since.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sounds possibly apocryphal. But funny either way.

Some people have not liked Tom Waits ever since they heard the sound of his voice. No sleepless nights necessary.


Washington, D.C.: I was listening to 94.7 while painting my house this weekend and they were doing a theme weekend, with the theme changing each hour. One hour was songs about food, the next hour songs about rain, the next hour cover songs, etc. All was right in the universe until one hour they were doing a theme that was something like rebels or bad boys or songs related to crime, I can't remember, and a John Cougar song came on. I could not figure out why the song matched the theme, until I realized that the lyrics are NOT "I fight with Dorothy and Dorothy always wins." As I was pondering the song choice for the theme, a light bulb flashed in my brain "I fight AUTHORITY!" I've never been a Cougar fan so I never knew the name of the song or any of the lyrics except those few lines, and I've had that part wrong for what, 20 years? I always thought it was a song about how he lets his girlfriend win all the arguments. If it hadn't been for this silly theme weekend, I'd still be in the dark. Now maybe I can enjoy the song, although I'm a little sad to let the old lyrics go. Every time I heard that song I always had a good time thinking about how stupid the lyrics were. I guess I'll have to find a new song to pick on.

J. Freedom du Lac: There's a Web site designed specifically for you, you know. Check it out.


fantasy baseball: sigh, now that takes me back: my biggest uncommunicated crush was a drummer in college who got together with my freind to play stratogram...

J. Freedom du Lac: It's pretty clear why things never worked out for you. You weren't even interested in his interests. It's Stra-O-MATIC. Everybody knows you shouldn't date drummers, anyway. It's all about the autoharpists.


New Yorker Article: Just read that article on Winehouse... man I know Lauryn Hill is from up there...but please. I never really got it with her, my sister in law loves her and I've listened to a bunch of her stuff..

Was it so revolutionary to tell girls not to give themselves away for nothing? I guess she's OK, but lets not get crazy, way over-hyped crazy person is what is really is.

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno, I've always thought "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" was pretty great. Ditto Producer David. (See our Grammy Album of the Year rankings.)


Bungled Lyrics: My dad chaperoned a high school dance in the late 70s. When asked if he enjoyed it he said yes "except when they played that 'Ruh-ruh-ruh-Rice-a-Rona' song". What song? my brother and I asked. After a few minutes, it hit us - he was talking about "My Sharona"

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, "Rice-a-Rona" wouldn't have been as dirty as "My Sharona." His radar was working even if his ears weren't.


straomatic: I'm partial to the moog players myself!

J. Freedom du Lac: Like Mickey Dolenz?


Whenever we start talking about the Monkees here, that's usually my cue to log off. So ... thanks for playing, etc etc. Enjoy the long weekend.


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