Sometimes the best things in life are the ones that get packed away for a rainy day, nearly forgotten until they're needed most. The comparison may be something of a stretch, but I have a feeling that's how Benji Latham's solo debut, Far Too Honest, will resonate with fans.
Recorded two years ago, this is a record that nearly didn't see the light of day. Granted, it's not a unique story-suffering artist records album, life (or finances) gets in the way, and the product of artist's effort gets lost in the shuffle. The thought of this CD suffering a similar fate, however, is disconcerting.
Fortunately, the cosmos decided Latham's debut was not to suffer such a loss. What I found in my hand was an incredibly enjoyable disc of singer-songwriter pop that captures the joy and energy of early rock and roll, channeling bits of Beatles, Big Star and The Byrds.
While Latham's songs can definitely stand on their own, part of the charm on the disc comes courtesy of his secret weapon, producer Ken Stringfellow, an accomplished pop-rocker (via The Posies, Big Star, R.E.M.) in his own right. How did the former Posie get involved with the record? According to Latham, the answer is simple.
"I e-mailed him to see if he'd be interested in producing my record and he said 'sure.' So he flew out here for a month."
During that month, Latham and Stringfellow settled into Rosewater Studios for a 28 day stretch and created Far Too Honest. Usually rolling into the studio around noon and often departing at dawn, Latham said that the two took only a half day off over the course of recording. During that time, the songs were built from the ground up.
"Basically, I played the songs acoustically and he built everything else around that," Latham shared. "He asked for my feedback and was very willing to move things my way if I didn't agree with something, but he's as much a part of it (the record) as I am."
While Stringfellow's input and musicianship augments the songs, it doesn't overwhelm them. If anything, it adds to the charm of what is a very personal and heartfelt record. By mixing the shimmer and jangle of '60s pop with Latham's direct and heartfelt lyrics, be it on something as simple as "I Miss You" or as honest and open as "Paper Me," the arrangement and production bring the heart of Latham's tunes to the forefront.
When I inquired about the classic pop and rock sound of the record, Latham said, "You know, it's funny you say that, because in a lot of the '50s and early '60s rock songs, so many were patterned around three or four chords and that's how most of these songs are."
After finishing the record, which was mixed and engineered by Wayne Morgan and mastered in Seattle, Latham shopped the disc to a number of independent labels, but was let down when he got no response.
"It was discouraging to think that I poured my heart and soul and a ridiculous amount of money into this record and no one wanted it," Latham recalled.
Attitudes changed this year, however, when Latham passed a copy on to another influence of his, songwriter Jeremy Enigk. Not looking for any input, Latham just wanted to share something with one of his influences.
He ended up hearing back from him, via MySpace, about a month later. Encouraged by Enigk's input, Latham was inspired to finish the process and put the record out.
As a result, Latham is celebrating the release of his debut disc, Far Too Honest, with a show at Tsunami Sushi this Saturday night, October 11, at 10pm.
After a push to A/C radio by a marketing company, the single "Everywhere You Go" debuted on the radio charts at #94, ahead of major acts like Linkin Park and Puddle of Mudd and continues to rise, moving up to #79 in its third week on the charts. In turn, Latham is working on setting up a tour to support the record and touch on new markets. Response has admittedly been slow, but the radio airplay will hopefully help draw more interest.
In the meantime, you can still catch Benji Latham playing around town on occasion, presenting his songs in their most basic form. Not only will Latham be playing a CD release party this weekend, but he will also be the featured artist for this month's edition of the SoundProof concert series on Thursday, October 16, at the Tulsa Press Club. Urban Tulsa sponsors the monthly concert that kicks off every third Thursday of the month at 5pm.
It's Okay, I'm a Rocker
As most Tulsans know by now, it's fundraising season for the United Way. No matter what you've done or given through work or school, however, here's another chance to contribute this week and enjoy some local music.
Following up on the relative success of last year's "Rockin' Docs Battle of the Bands," the event is back for another go 'round at the Cain's Ballroom this Thursday night, October 9. Once again, a handful of bands (all of which have at least one doctor as a member) will face off to see who rocks hardest.
This year's participants include Commoner, Zink Park, Not Our Day Job, Persuaders, Tulsa Klezmer Band and The Unusual Suspects. Each band performs a short set to be judged by the Tulsa celebrity panel of Earl Clark, Chuck "The Sports Guy" Stickl and Mac Ross. One band will also win the People's Choice Award, which the audience can vote on by purchasing tickets to cast their vote for $2 each.
"Rockin' Docs 2008" kicks off at 7pm and will wrap up around 10pm. Come honor some of our outstanding Tulsa area physicians and give others a chance to cut loose with their moonlighting and garage bands. It's a good way to have fun, get a few chuckles, and support a good cause. Tickets are $10 at the door and all proceeds go directly to the Tulsa Area United Way.
On August 18, one of our hottest local bands, Congress of a Crow, had its trailer and the majority of its equipment stolen after returning from an out-of-town gig. While the band has soldiered on by borrowing gear and calling in favors, nearly $15,000 worth of equipment isn't something easily replaced.
As an example of the spirit of community that has developed within our local music community, a number of bands are locking arms with Congress for a benefit show at The Blank Slate this Friday night, October 10. Violence to Vegas, Callupsie, and First Lady Assassins will perform, along with a headline set from Congress of a Crow, making for a full night of Tulsa-based rock. Tickets are $10 and doors open at 7pm. There will also be a silent auction during the evening, with items donated from local business, concert tickets and more. All proceeds from the evening will go toward replacing Congress' lost equipment.
Even with the status of our local all-star lineup on Friday night, it's in danger of being overshadowed by the other big shows going on nearby. Just across the tracks, Mindless Self Indulgence headlines the Cain's Ballroom with openers Die So Fluid, I Am the Dream and Dearestazazel with a $23 ticket.
Perhaps the most anticipated show of October comes early this month as The Cardinals (fronted by Ryan Adams) appear at The Brady Theater, in advance of the band's new CD release at the end of the month. Tickets are $45.25 and $40.25 for a full night of music that will preview the new disc and give you a profile of one of the most iconic alt-country/rock hybrid artists of the past decade.
Meanwhile, rocker kids can rejoice with the return of New Found Glory with A Day To Remember, Four Year Strong, Crime in Stereo and Int'l Superheroes of Hardcore to The Otherside for $18, and Lunar City Fire Flies rock Soundpony.
On Saturday night, "KVOO's Listener Appreciation Show" features Jimmy Wayne, Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser at the Cain's for $9.85. Just down the sidewalk, The Marquee hosts The Higher, Just Surrender, White Tie Affair, The Morning Of and Head Over Hills for $12, and Soundpony hosts Low Red Land and Frontier Brothers.
Local CD releases are also highlighted on Saturday with the aforementioned Benji Latham show at Tsunami, and Sir Threadius Mongus' CD release party at The Blank Slate with a $5 cover.
The most expensive show of the weekend, however, is the rescheduled Lil' Wayne show at the BOK Center. Tickets are still available, ranging from $39 to $139 plus service charges for one of the hottest rappers on the national scene right now.
Finally, the weekend wraps up with Amy Cottingham and Friends as part of the fall concert series at the Jazz Hall at 6pm. Also on Sunday, Mostly Bears and Dal Connor play Soundpony while The Lifers hold down their weekly gig at Exit 6C.
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