RETURN TO THE DEEJ!

STRAUB BATTIATA McKNIGHT

Top DC Songwriters Together at Northwest’s Infamous Underground Venue

Next Saturday, March 8th, Karl Straub joins fellow songsters Mary Battiata (of Little Pink) and Scott McKnight (of Knautty Pine and more) at DC’s best hepped secret, the Deej. Check out details at this Facebook link — and get your tickets in advance, before it sells out!

https://www.facebook.com/events/283137401843631/

+ BONUS SOLO SET FRIDAY

The night before the Deej festivities, Karl will be playing a solo set as opener for Richard Buckner at Arlington’s mothership club, IOTA. Two sets in one weekend!

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STOP! WAMMIE TIME

Yes, it’s the annual DC area lovefest for all things local music, and it’s time to show Karl the love! The Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) has posted the ballot for 2013, and we’re thrilled to announce no fewer than THREE nominations:

“HARLEM HAYRIDE,” by Karl Straub & the Graverobbers: Best Roots Rock Recording

KARL STRAUB: Best Roots Rock Vocalist

KARL STRAUB: SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR

 

Now, this is Mr.Joel typing and I can say what Karl can’t (and Rhonda wouldn’t): WAMA has done a lot for music and musicians around here, but they have never given Karl the nod despite many nominations. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that they owe him! Not because they haven’t rewarded many other worthy people, but because after a 10-year hibernation period, in 2013 Karl came back STRONG and he shows no sign of stopping. This is everyone’s chance to get in on the ground floor as we take Straubmusic to a whole new level.

WAMA members, get yourself on over to the ballot and vote!

Non-members, if you want to be plugged in to what’s happening in local music, this would be a great time to join and cast your vote too!

Everyone, if you have ever experienced the pleasure of a Karl Straub song: Tell your friends! Use those socialist mediums or whatever the kids call it: Facebook, Twitter, etc.

SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR 2013:

KARL STRAUB

It’s Time.

 

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WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF OUR PAST SELVES AND SEE NEW HORIZONS

COMING UP SO SOON

MARK YOUR DAMN CALENDARS

OMG

Friday, December 20 at IOTA: Not just a KARL STRAUB COMBO show, but one with ALL NEW MATERIAL heretofore secret! Sounds you’ve never heard before emanating from Karl’s mind, Telecaster, and brilliant veterans Matt Tebo and Jeff Muller, plus

Not just the combo but NEW MUSICIANS ON STAGE: Joplinesque belter MARTHA BEGGS backing up Karl on vox, axeman extraordinaire STEVE DAWSON, and welcoming to the Combo the polymathematical ARIEL FRANCIS on keys!

Not just an expanded range from an expanded Combo, but on a LAST TRAIN HOME Iota Takeover Weekend, just like they used to do before Eric Brace and his Americana supergroup jumped a boxcar to Nashville ten years ago.

Not just Last Train Home, but KARL SITTING IN with them to play “Tonight” and new songs alike. Maybe even some sneak peeks from the new HANGTOWN DANCEHALL album by Eric and Karl, an epic song cycle of the Great Gold Rush.

Not only songs from Hangtown, but YOU CAN GET THE CD THERE weeks before Joe Public can get his grubby mitts on a copy!

FRIDAY THE 20th! LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! Put it in your compressed silicon wafer servant/overlord and on any paper day-grids bravely clinging to existence in an atom-scorning age. Write it on the back of your hand in permanent fine point marker. DO WHAT IT TAKES.

Because YOU MUST BE THERE. Future You will never forgive you otherwise.

Iota Club and Cafe

 

 

 

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CDs ON THE FLOOR OF KARL’S CAR – Gang Starr, “Daily Operation”

First in a series of musings by Karl on the pile of CDs that travel with him everywhere.

Gang Starr, “Daily Operation”

A lot of the rap out there is either “gangsta” (lots of misogyny and bragging) or fluffy ripoffs of better songs. These are the main reasons why a lot of people don’t like rap music.

Actually, a lot of hip-hop music is enormously inventive, but you have to know where to look for the really good stuff. Gang Starr was one of the most consistently listenable groups, and “Daily Operation” is arguably their best album. There are more striking and idiosyncratic hip-hop albums, but this is a good entry-level classic for the unitiated. It’s not cleaned-up pop music; there’s some cursing, but Guru’s understated rapping is personal storytelling mixed with intelligent social commentary. It’s not a bunch of crotch-grabbing bullshit.

The real attraction for me, though, is DJ Premier. He’s a James Brown expert, and his beats are always funky as hell. His use of samples is much less elaborate and layered than the work of someone like Hank Shocklee (Public Enemy), but the simplicity is deceptive. Premier’s tracks are beautifully crafted and paced, and the marriage of rapping and beats is perfection. This record makes a great argument for putting away the canard that hip-hop isn’t music. For me, hip-hop like this remains a lot more compelling than the “alternative” rock that white people were making back then.

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Diamonds & Rain, 2nd single from Bubblegum Picasso

“Diamonds & Rain” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking too much Irish coffee at an office party. Karl edges closer to the funk on this track, which features tons and tons of greasy wah-wah Telecaster. More wah than anyone has put on a single in many years? This allegation is unconfirmed at presstime, but we at STRAUBCORP encourage you to judge for yourself.

As with the other songs on the ongoing Bubblegum Picasso project, this song is bubblegum for adults. Perhaps even bubblegum for intellectuals. If you respect yourself, you need this track on your phone. If you don’t respect yourself, having this song on your phone could be the first funky step on the long road back.

Karl- vocals, Steve Cropper-esque rhythm guitar, and acres of fonky wah-wah Tele. Also, Karl played the main Wurlitzer piano riff.

Peter played bass and the rest of the keyboard stuff. We both put together the sampled drums.

produced by THE EAST COAST INTELLECTUALS

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BARBIE DOLL APOCALYPSE!

“Barbie Doll Apocalypse” is about a lot of things, but it’s primarily about the difficulty of walking through a room when the carpet is littered with Barbie shoes and other candy-colored detritus. If you’ve ever walked into a living room and been confronted with a floor-spanning fresco of plastic junk reminiscent of the burning of Atlanta, you need to have this song on your phone.

The guitar is Steve Cropper’s Stax style, including a raunchy Tele solo. It’s basically funky, soulful bubblegum. Plus, of course, social commentary. But that’s for the critics! For you normal people, you can shake your ass and sing along.

This recording is produced by Peter Fox and Karl Straub. Karl did the guitars and vocals, Peter the bass and keyboards. It’s the opening salvo of the forthcoming Bubblegum Picasso project– more songs coming soon.

Buy it quick before Mattel sends us a “cease and desist” letter!

listen/buy here https://karlstraub.bandcamp.com/track/barbie-doll-apocalypse

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THEMES– moon, clocks/time

Chat with Karl’s sassy intern at
www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell
Karl’s Micro-wit at
twitter.com/karltstraub (not for kids)

THIRD IN A SERIES, where I sit by a virtual fireplace with a hot toddy and answer listener questions about my songs. Please feel free to send in your own questions. You can tweet me at twitter.com/karltstraub,  post something for my intern to deal with at www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell, email me at karlstraub@hotmail.com, or stop me on the street at karlstraubwalking.actualphysicalworld.wtf

Tammy Hurley asked about the recurring themes of the moon, and clocks/time.

I had forgotten that I use the moon a lot. Maybe I haven’t used it so much recently. I’ll look at a couple specific examples, because I’m not sure I have a general answer to why I use this particular one. I guess the moon is evocative, beautiful and mysterious, etc. But if Tammy, or anyone else, has a specific moon-related lyric question, please ask me and maybe it will jog more memories.
Big Chips off the Moon
There’s no particular significance here; in those days I used a lot of abstract imagery. I’ll talk about that tendency more when I write about “It Only Hurts Me All the Time”.
Soda Pop Moon
This title was from an actual brand name of moonshine from the Prohibition era. This was a throwaway song, kind of a catchy one in an earlier Graverobbers style. A technique I used here was taking a combination of words I found somewhere and thinking about other meanings you could imagine in the words. In other words, as with Sugar Rum Cherries (lifted from Duke Ellington) and Pluto Water (lifted from a long-defunct fiber product that Louis Armstrong used to use), the song had nothing to do with the original product or usage.
Tonight has a moon, but it’s a straightforward visual image– no larded layers of meaning or abstract monkey business.

Time and clocks seem so significant a part of the human condition that I keep forgetting I use them a lot. Many of my songs use time shifting technique, where I’m trying to create the shifting perspectives and emotional states that come with the actual experience of time. The contrast between actual time and people’s impression of it is something I find endlessly fascinating, and it’s a big part of many of my songs. And any kind of song about memory, or specific memories, is at least partly about time as well, it seems to me.
(Another thing I like about time– and this is similar to my interest in liquid– time is part of many, many inane or mundane rituals/habits/conversational interactions/activities in our culture, but it’s also one of the most profound elements in the human experience.)
Off the top of my head I can’t think of song examples, except Cadillacs on my Eyes (and in that one I think it was mostly that I thought the word clock sounded good in the song), but I’ll  add some later and I encourage people to chime in with examples they’ve noticed. Keep in mind, even a casual fan of my work may spend much more time with one of my songs than I do– especially if I haven’t performed it in a while.

(I just thought of another– in Lonely Round the Clock, of course the song is another straightforward use of time, but it has a line I like- “I wake up to the talk of clocks.”
How do you keep evolving love songs by using different imagery-Cute Little Cup of Coffee, Cereal Box

Good question, but I’m not exactly sure how to answer it. I guess in those cases, women I knew made me think of drugs and food. One, because she drank coffee all the time, and was really good at driving while drinking coffee. In the other case, I feel I must beg off giving specific details because one day (perhaps that day is already here), my son will be reading this stuff. Of course, that’s wishful thinking on my part.

I suppose this is one of the basic techniques of poetry– you use a metaphor for how you feel about something, or someone. (“Shall I compare you to a summer’s day?”) Whether my use of metaphor is idiosyncratic, or unusual, I don’t know. I’d say it’s unusual in the world of songwriting, but probably not in the world of poetry or fiction. And this seems like a good time to point out something I feel strongly  about.

I don’t actively try to steal lyrical approaches from other songwriters, even the ones I love. (I’m not saying I never do it!) I am much more inspired to steal from fiction writers. I believe that you can learn much more about words and language from prose writers than from songwriters. Songwriters have the music there to capture a listener emotionally. Lyrics can be beautiful, profound, etc., but to me it’s undeniable that song lyrics have an automatic advantage– the music helps you notice them. Music is like a parent, and the lyrics are like children being lifted up above the crowd.

I know a lot of people love my lyrics particularly, and I’m happy and proud because of this. I do work my ass off on the lyrics. But if someone doesn’t like my music, they aren’t  going to hear the words. (And at clubs, they may not be able to hear the words even if they want to, but that’s another story. My mom once complained, after a  Birchmere performance of “Don’t Take Advice,” that she couldn’t hear the words because people were laughing so much.)

Another thought about fiction writers. Fiction writers have used tons of storytelling techniques to capture complex, layered emotional states. Passage of time and how it affects people’s perception of their world, is one of my main themes, and I believe this has been dealt with only sporadically in song. Dylan has spoken of his ideas in this area, for one example.

I also recall Faulkner demonstrating with  prose style  how alcohol can change this perception of time. The kinds of devices he used (I’m thinking specifically here of something he did in “Sanctuary.”) were elaborate, and I try to do things like this is in my writing. I’m rambling here, and I don’t have time today to polish this and make myself  seem more eloquent than I really am, but another crucial item that I steal from fiction writers is tone/voice. There are so many writers that I try to rip off in this area, I’d be here all day if I listed them, but here are a few.

Ring Lardner, John Collier, Saki, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain. If I could write songs as well as these guys write prose, that would be quite an achievement. (A recent attempt to pay tribute to these greats is “Life Story, With Umbrellas” from the Hangtown Dancehall project with Eric Brace. On the album, Jason Ringenberg sings this one, although I think I’m on the bridge.)
Re: poetry. I do love poetry, but I’m just a fellow traveller. (side note, not sure if it’s germane. When I was forced to read them in school, I thought both William Carlos Williams and Emily Dickinson were lame and perhaps even getting away with something. Now I think they were both geniuses.)

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Mermaid song cycle, plus “They Dance Real Close” redux

Chat with Karl’s sassy intern at
www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell
Brevity is the soul of Karl’s wit at
twitter.com/karltstraub (not for kids)

SECOND IN A SERIES, where I sit by a virtual fireplace with a hot toddy and answer listener questions about my songs. Please feel free to send in your own questions. You can tweet me at twitter.com/karltstraub,  post something for my intern to deal with at www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell, email me at karlstraub@hotmail.com, or stop me on the street at karlstraubwalking.actualphysicalworld.wtf

Jenn Ambrosino Milner
asked about the Mermaid song cycle and  “They Dance Real Close There”

One day twenty years ago I wrote down a bunch of abstract song titles. This was kind of an “automatic writing” exercise a la Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac. I thought that I’d go back and write songs for these titles but lost the list. (I didn’t have a computer back then.) But one title stuck in my head- “Mermaid Radio.”
So I thought for a long time it would make a great concept album. The concept, as I fleshed it out, was that mermaids in the modern era would use radio as a way of reaching more victims. (I suppose today they’d use Twitter.) Then it occurred to me that the Mermaid Radio station would have to be really good, better than any existing radio station.

I am fascinated by the mermaid mythology for many reasons. Briefly, for those who have grown up with the cutesy version of mermaids coming on land and hanging out with humans, pitching tuna, confusing Jessica Simpson, etc.,  here’s the real original myth of mermaids.
Mermaids were monsters that dragged men to their deaths. They accomplished this by singing, and also by having naked breasts. Hubba hubba.
It’s amazing to me that an entire mythology was created because of men’s love/hate for women. I doubt people want to hear me at length on this subject, but it’s similar to America’s creepy need to hear every fucking thing about the lives of celebrities (many of whom are in fact quite dull), but then want to dance on their graves when they fall from grace.

Also I like the fact that they live underwater.
People have asked me if I have an obsession with alcohol, or coffee, due to my numerous songs about them, and my answer is always this– No. But I am obsessed with liquids in general, and find that they have infiltrated our planet, our myths, our stimulants, and our dreams. Liquids are perhaps my favorite material state. Or maybe solids are, I’m not sure. (Of course the hippest choice would be plasma.)

Here’s a fun scavenger hunt for the film buff.
Check out any John Ford black and white film (hint– Long Voyage Home is about men on a ship, but there are many other examples) that has some shots of a body of water, and you’ll see an artist doing more with liquid than I’ve ever pulled off. Maybe this will help explain my obsession. (related– any Kurosawa film with rain. Even the one with Richard Gere. It had some great rain.) And for the highbrows– Monet’s work with water lilies. Or Handel’s Water Music.

Regarding the current and future state of Mermaid Radio as an album concept:
Early on I stalled on writing more songs with mermaid themes. I’m not sure if I have an entire album about this theme in me, but I’m not ruling it out. There are a clump of these songs, so if I get some new ideas I may be able to pull it off. (As I read through this stuff, I am getting more confident about the future of this project. I think that writing about it is helping me clarify my thinking, so– Thanks, Ms. Ambrosino Milner!)

OUR STORY SO FAR There’s a very old Graverobbers song, never recorded though I have a nice live version with Lee Wilhoit and Jeff Lang, called “Wardrobes of Kelp” which long predates the Mermaid cycle but fits perfectly. This song is historically important because I recall singing it with the old Graverobbers when Aiko Butler was in the group. We were rehearsing at the dark and nasty ratshit-filled dungeon in Southeast where we went twice a week for years.
I recall suddenly figuring out that if I stared at the speaker, and relaxed, and just kind of let the vocal pour out of me it would sound better, and I wouldn’t get a sore throat and headache. This was the beginning of me as a real singer, I believe.
Another little tidbit (with namedropping!) — a few years after that,  we were playing a show (maybe at dc space?) and John Cook, Matt’s brother and now a writer on Gawker (!) requested the song by yelling out “Hairdos of Kelp”! Justin Chearno, indie rock guitarist of some repute, was there and was very amused by this.

Then there’s Mermaid Radio, the centerpiece. I think this one’s self-explanatory, but as always I’ll be happy to answer any further questions about it if needed.

Mermaid Lullaby is about the late night barstool endgame, and it’s actually set at Iota. This is about the seductive nature of alcohol, and the strange and sometimes surreal atmosphere that develops when alcohol is used to help people tolerate each other for a few hours while a band struggles to get their attention. Pat Cavanaugh has a cameo role in this song, but it’s Pat from years ago, not current Pat.
Mermaid Dream is very impressionistic and, as with Lullaby, is related to mermaids in an impressionistic way rather than a plot/storyline kind of way. It’s about the seductive nature of wallowing in loneliness and depression. On a serious note for once, depression is not unlike the mythical mermaid. Just as seductive, and just as deadly.

I’m working with Peter Fox on a new album Bubblegum Picasso, and there will probably be a new mermaid song on there called Mermaid Body Shop. This song will be the first one where a human character actually goes to the Mermaid Radio station. Details later– I’m still writing the lyrics.

and more on They Dance Real Close There.
First let me say this– people often ask me about what inspired a song, or what the back story is. I can’t stress this enough– there is often no back story, in the sense of an actual incident or person from my life. The back story is, I guess, that I’ve read tons of books, seen tons of films, read tons of books about films, listened to tons of music, read tons of books about music, seen tons of films about music, and in a couple cases read books about the music in films. (And I guess I can give myself credit for listening to music about a book that was made into a film– Woody Guthrie’s song that tells the story of “The Grapes of Wrath”.)

That being said, when I was younger I did write more or less exclusively autobiographical stuff. Breakup songs were my specialty, which was convenient as people broke up with me often. Songs back then were kind of an angry response to the terrible act of dumping me. Since I’ve been married for a long time, breakups are a thing of the past, not unlike William  Jennings Bryan. And drama in my life is less gothic and Baudelairean these days, and more about my son tracking things into the house.

So, in the grand tradition of many artists (not all), I turn to the outside world for drama, comedy, and inspiration. I do make up a fair amount of material, and usually I can’t say where an idea comes from. Whenever that is easy to answer, I’ll  jump to it. Unless the information is incriminating in some way. A lot of the people I wrote songs about are still alive, and I imagine a few of them have the internet now.

Even when I was writing more from life, I gradually started padding out a person’s story, or inventing things they didn’t actually do so I could get a second verse, or combining several people into one character. This was probably initially to stretch the material. You’d be surprised how many fascinating people and events don’t work as a song. In fact, I can tell you that with one exception that I can recall (Twelve Perfect Files, great idea pitched by Matt Cook), I have never used anyone’s suggestion as the basis of a song. (This does not include the songs I  wrote for Eric Brace as specific assignments, as in, “we need a song about a preacher giving a eulogy.” He suggested a few for the Hangtown Dancehall project. And as an aside, in case I forget to put it down for posterity later, Eric had the Hangtown title and I suggested adding Dancehall to it. I love this because it seems like the opposite of the way you’d think it might break down. But Eric had some pretty dark ideas on that project. In fact, sometimes I suggested toning down the darker details, believe it or not. But I’m not going to get into specifics on that– this is just a teaser.)

Another thing is I’m always haunted by something my high school journalism teacher Nancy Cox used to say. She would shoot down story ideas as “one-liners,” and ever since I’ve treated the one-liner idea as a kind of third rail for songwriters. Basically, it’s a line, phrase, or title that sounds great on its own, but doesn’t lend itself to development. Here’s a tip for writers– the idea by itself is not the pot of gold it may appear to be. I have sometimes written songs I love that came from almost nothing in the beginning. And I’m still struggling to finish songs that seemed like sure winners. I’ve got a song from decades ago about a group of PR people crowding into a lifeboat that I know will paralyze people with its scathing wit if I ever finish it.

So, back to They Dance Real Close There.
There’s a lot to say on this one, but I can only tell what I was thinking while I wrote it. There’s nothing from life that had anything to do with it. It’s inspired by Faulkner and his landscape, but nothing specific. In fact I used Bill Thompson’s name in there because it sounded like a Faulkner name.

The process on this one was very weird. I’d written a song before I was 21 about something– probably a breakup, virtually my only theme back then. It had the arch title “The Velveeta Underground.” This title, which even then struck me as less hilarious than I wanted it to be, was stuck with a bunch of lyrics that had nothing to do with the title. It was another in my series of withering putdowns of girls who were wrong to break up with me. Eventually I cooled to that kind of song, and I rarely write anything in that vein today. I figured out at one point it was more interesting to write about a relationship that should have ended, but didn’t. (“Carolina” being perhaps the quintessential example of that kind of song.)

But the music on this thing was pretty good. It had a lot of chords, more than I usually put in a song at that time. The demo had my friend Thiele on Hagstrom bass. He died not long afterward and later I wrote a song about going to his funeral. (Acid Black)
So the music stuck in my head for 19 years. I guess I was impressed one day that I could still remember it, so I figured I’d use it in a new song. (At one point Robert Hull had advised me to dig through all my songwriting junk drawer material and use all the good stuff. I then started combining material from multiple bad songs to make one good one. I still do this today when I can. It’s like being a baseball scout in a way.)
At some point I got the idea for a comical song where a guy was telling his sister not  to go to the big city, because it was evil and corrupt. While he’s telling her this, you begin to suspect he actually is getting fired up about going himself. I thought this was a funny idea, but it was hard to write as it’s a one-joke concept. Gradually it started slipping away from comedy into something more like tragedy. (This is absolutely something you see in Faulkner’s work a lot. I’ll resist the temptation to assume that  this blurring of the tragic and comic is inspired by alcohol, either for Faulkner or me. But however I came by it, it is the central element and driving force of my writing, and if I have a style, that is it.)

Incidentally, I read a review somewhere (I think it was a review of a Last Train Home record) where the writer stated flat out that the song was about a brother and sister searching for their drunk father. That isn’t correct, but I can see how you could interpret it that way. It’s supposed to be about her beau, not her dad. And on the subject of critics making guesses and printing them as facts, Mark Jenkins wrote in the Post that the song had never been performed by the Graverobbers. We worked it out in Eric’s basement as I recall, so Eric probably heard it as it was coming together. I’m not sure why Mr. Jenkins thought his assumption was accurate– as to my knowledge he was not at any of the numerous shows where the Graverobbers played it. It also should be mentioned that the little drum fills built into the arrangement were Marty Lynds ideas. When we play the song today, Matt Tebo still puts those fills in and it always make me think of Marty when I hear them behind me.

One thing I love about this song is that I think you can still feel the humorous Mark Twain-esque idea that I began with, but it’s subtle. At least I hope it is. There is still some humor in there, but it’s buried and mixed in with gothic stuff. (By the way, I mean gothic, not “goth.” Or “visigoth,” for that matter.) I stole a great phrase from P.G. Wodehouse, “carrot-topped Jezebel.”

This might be a good time to mention that my idea of effective humor is subtle to begin with– I like Twain’s notion that a storyteller shouldn’t let on that he even suspects the existence of  humor in the story he’s telling. He wrote a great piece on this years ago. (Like all of Twain’s best work, it was written years ago.)

I sometimes break my own rule, especially in performance where I occasionally become paranoid that a crowd is missing the humor in a song. I’m not proud of this. If I was wealthy, I swear I would never camp up a song again. You’d be surprised at how scary it sometimes gets onstage when tables of drunks are yammering through a whole song. Wouldn’t it be great if you were only allowed to drink at a table if you could shut your mouth for a half hour? (Except for the actual drinking.)

I guess the “trope” (hate that word) of the rube encountering the big city vamp is related to the whole mermaid thing.

I should mention that the bridge was completely new and added later– it wasn’t part of the original Velveeta music from 1985.

I also recall a very obscure piece of inspiration. The line about “if he’s drunk he won’t get too far” was loosely based on a cartoon by a guy I consider to be a comic genius, the late and great John Callahan. I have to give him this big buildup because if I tell the joke without leaning on him it will just sound insensitive and offensive. Incidentally, Callahan, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, hated the idea that you could only tell jokes like this if you were disabled yourself. He believed the only rule should be that it has to be funny. So, as a tribute to his genius, I put it here even though I am more or less fully functioning.

also, my limited computer skills don’t allow me to get this more legible. perhaps one of you computer savvy folks out there can offer advice at a later date.

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amazon.com/Dont-Worry-Wont-Get-Foot/dp/0679728244

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“They Dance Real Close There”

Chat with Karl’s sassy intern at
www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell
Brevity is the soul of Karl’s wit at
twitter.com/karltstraub (not for kids)

FIRST IN A SERIES, where I sit by a virtual fireplace with a hot toddy and answer listener questions about my songs. Please feel free to send in your own questions. You can tweet me at twitter.com/karltstraub,  post something for my intern to deal with at www.facebook.com/karlstraubsintern.rhondamarvell, email me at karlstraub@hotmail.com, or stop me on the street at karlstraubwalking.actualphysicalworld.wtf

 

JAMES WEIKERT
What song are you most proud of?

“They Dance Real Close There.”
I am trying to borrow from fiction writers most of the time when I write lyrics, and I thought this song was the one that tapped into that world the best. For the record, although there are many lyricists that grab me (listing just a few- Yip Harburg, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Ray Davies, Lou Reed, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Woody Guthrie, Chuck Berry, Jerry Leiber, etc.), I am more interested in stealing from fiction. There are tons of storytelling devices that rarely pop up in songs; I’m trying to do my part to change the stats on that.
I think the premise of that song was the best song idea I ever got.
Also I’m very proud of the music on that song. For me this song is a homerun– if I met a great writer and he or she asked to hear one of my songs, this would be the one. I hope if that happens I will have a capo with me.
(please note–I will be posting more about this song later, as I get asked about it a lot.)
Many, many runners-up.
Note: second place is impossible for me to pick. Obvious contenders would be Tonight and Soul Parking, but although most of my songs don’t have the stripped-down iconic status of those two, I’m not sure that means a lot of others aren’t as good. Some of these songs have lots of ideas compressed into what appears to be a simple or even throwaway song. Others have fewer ideas, but seem particularly powerful to me. It’s also true that many songs are very minimal musically, but lyrically inventive. People tend to like that formula more than the opposite approach. (But fans of my more baroque writing need not worry- I’m always working on a few things in that vein. And, a little teaser for the future– I’ve been working on a structural approach that combines the two modes of writing. Basically, it’s a stripped-down verse/chorus and a more baroque bridge. I call it the Straubinical bridge, and a lot of the songs from the upcoming Bubblegum Picasso project will have that approach.)
Then there’s Lipstick Pickup, the song that has  perhaps the most lyrical ideas packed into one suitcase of anything I’ve written. It’s got drama, social commentary, murder, shifting narrative voices, experiments with time, impressionism, etc. But no-one ever asks me about that song, so I put it on my list of “baroque” compositions that no-one ever asks me about. (Hemingway had a story like that, and he wrote snippily of how he liked it but hardly anyone else did. I can’t recall the name of it just now as it wasn’t really that memorable.)

Tonight
Nothin but a Baby
Soul Parking
Pluto Water
Big Chips off the Moon
Backwards Town
Back in Love
Twelve Perfect Files
I’d Take a Bullet for You
Acid Black

these songs are recently done and unrecorded, or
still unfinished but I already put the notches on my gun.
Barbie Doll Apocalypse
Bubblegum Picasso
Julia
Diamonds and Rain

all the Mermaid songs

a few from as-yet unfinished Brain Cloudy Blues album

Think Again

Lonely Round the Clock

Trailed Off and Worn Out
Unsafe at any Speed

3 from Crowtown project
Westerberg
Beautiful Stories
All the Sad Numbers

three from the Hangtown Dancehall project (I wrote these songs for a collabo with Eric Brace)
Afternoons Gone Blind
Smile with a Little Skin
Life Story (with Umbrellas)

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ANNOUNCING: The First Karl Straub Album in 14 Years!

Karl Straub

Karl Straub

HARLEM HAYRIDE brings back the classic Graverobbers sound with never-released Karl songs and tons of great playing. You can get the digital download right now at BandCamp or  CDBaby.

Plus? VINYL! Harlem Hayride comes as a full-length LP record, in your choice of classic black or lipstick red vinyl! Available for the first time at the Record Release Show:

KARL STRAUB RECORD RELEASE
Full Band Show
July 20, 2013
IOTA Club & Cafe
Arlington, VA

The Full-On Karl Straub Combo, including Kevin Cordt and Dave van Allen!

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