Volume 2-2012



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Learning from Jimmy Iovine

Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine was featured in a recent piece in Rolling Stone, and it was one of those rare celebrity interviews that actually yield insight and useful information for people interested in music production and engineering. READ MORE...

On Selling Songs Through TAXI

Occasionally, as an amateur songwriter, I will open the account I have with TAXI, the Web-based Artists & Repertoire service, check out the listings, usually for those calling for Film & TV soundtrack music, and if I have something that seems like a possible match I will upload an MP3 mix and submit it for consideration. I never get anywhere with this past-time... READ MORE...



(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "Last Call" by Jay; "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"









Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects




Amanda Jo Williams  


This edition we spotlight the outsider-art ethos and courage of singer-songwriter Amanda Jo Williams, whose still nascent musical expressions are an inspired outgrowth of a rural Georgia upbringing, New York City modeling experience, Woodstock alchemy, and motherhood. She has released six albums, the first four of which were with the Woodstock punk band Army of Love. Then around 2006 she changed course with the birth of another child and publication of a book, Grace Light Warrior, which depicted her fascinations with Native American cultures. And with this period came a new album - her first solo LP, the critical favorite rockabilly-punk Yes I Will, Mr. Man - and a new performance persona, which is the one you see today: a low-pretense chanteuse in a hillbilly-thrift store dress, or possibly a plaid shirt, seated behind a kick bass drum with a fifty-dollar child's acoustic guitar on her lap. The shrill punk edge in her voice has given way to her more natural style: an almost a-musical nasal bleat that lands oddly on one's ears, putting her well out of the mainstream of modern pop music, while in overall impact achieving individuality in a world in which such seems almost impossible. One wonders if this isn't the driving force in her life. This, after all, is a person who was the subject of a four-year daily film documentation of her life with her kids and her music. That film, titled Pull Back the Shade from an Amanda Jo lyric and created by photographer Muzi Quawson, has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including The Tate Britain in London and Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City

Amanda Jo Williams' subversive vocal wouldn't mean much were it not carried along by some lovely melodic structures and sinisterly clever poetry. Probably the best way to take her in is through the Website she has on Tumblr, which features numerous videos, photographs, and artworks. Some people will find some of it disturbing, like her most recently posted video that seems born to run behind the closing credits of a torture-porn flick.

Among the many aspects of Amanda Jo Williams that make her so fascinating is a kind of open-wound aspect to her work, not in the usual sense of juvenile angst and heartbreak but in the raw, visceral sense of surgical wounds popping open to release pent-up butterflies. There is beautiful, ugly subtext underlying every tricky narrative, like windows into the mind of an old soul that has been freed of all but alternative insights and open admissions in a world that worships artifice as norm.

It is hard to think that she may be challenging us - those of us who are limited to appreciation of familiar things that reinforce our own images of who we think we are - and yet even mockery seems possible, for such is the role of the artist and the motivations of a determined rebel are not always easy to ascertain. Or maybe Amanda Jo Williams is a celebration, in some form, for much of her work - putting aside the recently posted Carrie-like video - is childlike, an observation of beauty and an expression of delight. Her ambitions may not be to replace the musical world we know so much as to attach to it, like a beautifully colored barnacle against which the hull of popular expression seems a little mundane. - RAR








We gave Amanda Jo an opportunity to respond to our questions in writing, and the words below are just as they were received, unedited with Amanda's approval - "yes, i agree. keep as is. i assumed you would. okeedoke, talk to you Tuesday. thank u."

Your publicist refers to you as a "Freak Folk" artist. Does that genre of music - often associated with Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsome, CocoRosie, Animal Collective, others - resonate with you? Or do you even think of yourself as doing a form of "Freak" or "Psychedelic Folk"?

Amanda: when freak folk is used i squirm. not sure why. my songs and art are my story. it's not a team- JN on first, DB on 2nd, etc. the artists who are in my story are Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Flashdance, what mama was playing on the piano, Hootie and the Blowfish on the radio in the truck waiting for daddy to be done pulp wooding, grandmama and her foghorn and colostomy bag, annoying cats and their pee, fire, puppies, stories of guns, etc, cancer. i want it to sell, i want people to hear it. i don't care what it's categorized as, as long as people will give it a listen. i like comparisons that go something like, "if Johnny Cash were married to Adam Sandler but he was cheating and had a clown with Joanna Newsome. Johnny (he's the girl, Joanna the boy) would raise that clown as if it were Adam's(Adam never knew) and the music sounds like that kid, the clown.

You have a sound that seems to knowingly be other than that which is going to appeal to mainstream listeners. Everything about your approach, even including the carnival-dog look of your band, says counterculture. Do you have a target audience? Who are they?

Amanda: i didn't mean to not be mainstream, i just didn't happen that way. though, you know, i bet if my songs were produced differently and sang by a normal voice, maybe the lyrics getting changed up a little, i could hear them on mainstream radio. they're catchy. that'd be fun. i would like Justin Bieber to cover a song. what a dream that would be. ha. i'd guess my main audience is 25-35, with some older men thrown in there. if most are weirdos, socially awkward, dreamers, lovers, even better. one reviewer said it's music for the kid in the back of the class, something like that. i agree. or the strange ones in front who can't see well and don't have glasses or contacts and want to make good grades. that was me.

As I read through reviews of your work, I usually find myself thinking that the reviewer didn't really listen closely to the lyrics. I often think that reviewers have responded to the trippy carnival-like sound, which often masks lyrics that seem filled with subtexts that they have simply missed. Do you feel that way? Do reviewers get what you are doing?

Amanda: i think you're right. there's maybe been one or two reviewers that said something smart about the lyrics but yeah, i'd agree. maybe the lyrics just don't mean anything to them... there are some wacky metaphors.. in "The Bear Eats Me" i say "the phone gets me oooh dippy..." that line is about waiting for a text message you never get. it takes over your life. you can't wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, bathe your child, waiting... it's horrible. i've outgrown that. but people could relate to that if they understood what i was saying. it's poetry though, as perfect as a flower and, has to be, as god made it.

In so many ways, this sounds like a very strange Appalachian take on a classic rock album. One can hear Neil Young in some of these songs, Jim Morrison and the Doors in other, though all of this may go right by the casual listener who more than likely would think he was listening to someone on acid. Is any of this drug inspired? My guess would be something organic, like peyote or mescaline.

Amanda: 5-Track, the brilliant guitar player on this album smokes weed daily as far as i know. He brings the acid feel. actually, you know, i've been accused of being on drugs a few times and i was as sober as anything. i have a big and free imagination, and i like to play, like children play and feel simple joy. i can still play and i'm almost 32. i drank alcohol whilst recording this album. i'm stuck in a shell a lot and it helps me for when i need to do things out in the world. however, most of the songs when they were written i was sober, in the morning, on coffee. i do work in the mornings. after 2pm i feel like i have to stop. of course, if i'm deep in something i'll keep going but i get so wrapped up sometimes it hurts. gotta pull myself out. sort of like shopping. i don't like doing it. overwhelming.. like a casino with no windows or clocks..

Your melodies are lovely and I notice that a strange transition seems to take place when you go from your lower to your higher register: you blossom, and I am wondering if this is calculated on your part. You become that accessible girl singer with the lovely lilting voice, and going there occasionally feels like a touchstone moment in your songs, almost reassuring to the listener, before you take them back to the somewhat unsettling Amanda Williams standard delivery.

Amanda: i'd sing high more if i didn't think i would sing out of tune. i'll record higher stuff at home just by myself b/c no one's around.. i think i'll grow into doing that more, get more comfortable with it.

Do women like you? Or do you find that certain female types are irritated by a voice that is often described as "little girl" like, though I don't really hear it that way myself. To me, it is more like an untutored hillbilly grandmother who just happens to have something like perfect pitch. How would you describe your own voice? And is it real, or a part of the act?

Amanda: "untutored hillbilly grandmother"- i love that. growing up, around certain adults, like my daddy, i'd change my voice to higher pitch, baby voice. like a weak animal i suppose. maybe i'm just in a phase doing that again. i think i'm coming out of it a bit. if u listen to my album "Yes I Will, Mr. Man" from 2006 i don't sing that way at all. i sing lower and manic, hyper. i can't even listen to that album. i didnt know what i was talking about as lyrics. i don't know if women like me, never thought of that. i suppose they do. i have female friends and fans. you know how women are though, they can hate on other women if they feel threatened or insecure, jealous.. guess most everyone's like that sometimes. i sing the way i talk mostly.

How much of your stage persona is merely a theatrical presentation? In truth, it doesn't appear to be theatrical at all, but more like a hippie happening, a sort of musical be-in in which you are the emcee. What is it all about?

Amanda: not theatrical. we're not He's My Brother, She's My Sister (love those guys). we're all just these unique individuals who don't rehearse much, get onstage and do our thing. we all respect each other, for the most part.. and have fun. yeah, we have hippie souls, or gypsy souls some of us. Alex Maslansky, not on album, is just a smart, funny, unique, strange, cool guy. he plays like a helicopter. 5-Track is a wizard. hippie wizard. super intelligent. i don't know what he's talking about half the time. Lauren(Feather)- flower child thingie. she went from never having played percussion to now playing in a few bands and doing great. L.A. Weekly wrote up a little thing on her. she can eat a lot too. she's little. she's probably the most theatrical of us all and that's appreciated. she dances and bangs and beats and pounds. it's great. Jef, hmm, well, he's the oldest member. plays bass. very reliable. very friendly. he likes superheroes. generous. he's kind of the earthy one more or less, keeps it planted somewhat, while the rest of us are off somewhere. for me, i'm too shy and really don't have the desire to be flashy. when i sing the songs i'm lost in them and if i were to focus on how i or we were looking, i'd lose the words or it wouldn't feel right. having said that though, i could see myself more out front on stage, out from behind the kick drum i hide behind.. i'll do it when i'm ready. be yourself, be honest- though slow and late blooming it can be- it's worth it in the end.

Do you have aspirations for your musical career? It feels to me like any kind of major success would require mainstream acceptance, and in gaining that acceptance all that is special about Amanda Williams would be lost. Do you feel that way? Or would that just involve an evolution you would be willing to undergo?

Amanda: i want to get more songs licensed. a song of mine, 'Homeheart' was used in an MTV show "Awkward." it's tamer than most my other tunes. would love to compose for soundtracks, indie stuff and work up.. but no, i'm not going to change or stop doing what comes natural for me. we all have our gifts for the world. do what you're supposed to/good at/the gift and you'll at least be happy. i think. i want to collaborate with artists i enjoy and respect like : Jack White, Cee Lo Green, Outkast, Johnny Depp(not sure how), Tom Robbins(not sure how), Cindy Sherman(not sure how), David Lynch, Werner Herzog, there's more. long list. basically i want to make a living at art. i want a quiet studio. i make short art videos and draw.. you can find them on my tumblr. very proud of the A55 and Cr0tch series and Hi Aliens Do Hot Women series. films have always been a passion. as a little, small kid on up, i've loved movies. everything about them i love. i want my music in them. i want to be part of them.

Who let this lead guitar player go? Is that "5-Track" or Alex Maslansky? And what is his relationship to the composition of these tunes?

Amanda: 5-Track. he plays lead over my tunes.. very complimentary and yep, i never suggest anything to him. he has great instincts, straight up genius. he was there, as was Feather, in the beginning of my L.A. roots.. he can play anything i'm pretty sure, any style. he knows lot about music, unlike myself. he plays in a few more bands, one being Dead Dawn. they're great. his own project is Glass Goblins.. i don't want to tell a player what i want, because i don't know what i want, but i know it when i hear it. i want them to play their way and if it fits, yes!

Your themes seem to include a sense of personal independence that may exploit the benefits of male relationships but generally seems to want disassociate from them, keep them at arm's length. Am I getting any of that right about you and these songs?

Amanda: i'd say i'm trying to get my power back in most of these songs. i'm hurt and angry, feel ashamed of myself for fucking up and being weak. these songs saved me- i did get my power back ,and more. sins turned into light, made beautiful, made Jesus in my heart like. i didn't write with all my heart or pain, or perform with all my heart and pain, until this album and this L.A. band. i'm very grateful for the inspiration. huge love for it. another angel.

I pick up a kind of a Wicca presence at work with you, an association with pagan belief in organic things. Is there something to this? Are you, by any chance, Wiccan?

Amanda: haha, i'm not Wiccan. i'm just witchy, born that way. my mama's the same. really intuitive, pretty psychic, empathic. actually, i did create a binding spell once, burned it, wet it, dirted it, whipped it around in the air, all the elements, and put it in a tree hole. i've since moved so i can't retrieve it and get rid of it! i prefer nature to people. nature is powerful. it doesn't think and feel like a human, it lets you be free! if you listen and love it... it gives you songs, or acts as a great lubricant to ease them out and into the world for you to share.

Where is the world, in general, heading in your estimation? And how does Amanda Williams fit into that prognosis?

Amanda: i'd say it's only going to get better. it's takes forever to become a hi-alien evolved planet b/c the small percentage of superintelligent/superhearted have to wait for the "dummies" to catch up. same as you can't run forever from your pain and suffering, you can't leave behind your fellow human. we're in this together. we're all stars. all equal. may everyone be always inspired with massive amounts of energy to get the job done!


*Nickel On My Back- lyrics are "Don't Be alarmed when they come for you. Open up and accept the truth." and "i am a ghost and you are a squirrel. i am the host and u are the world."


The Bear Eats Me

Release Date: June 19, 2012



Amanda Jo Williams Band

5-Track (Guitar)
Jef Hogan Buffa (Bass)
Alex Maslansky (Guitar)
Feather (Percussion)
Abilene Fawn (Toy Piano, Vocals)

Besides Amanda Jo Williams herself, this band has outstanding personnel, including guitarist "5-Track", bassist Jef Hogan Buffa, and that dancing girl in the video above, percussionist Lauren Fay Levy, who is credited as "Feather" on the Amanda's albums.



by Amanda Jo Williams

Are you good as gone?

With the horses up the mountain that's where we go
With an owl friend who flies way down below
The clouds are gray and red's around but we just march on tall
Our hearts are clear and purified our feet know where to fall

That’s where my home is my token
Nobody stand in the way
And nobody will, nobody will

The sun comes out, the moon comes, the starts come out, the frogs come (4X)

Like a chicken hatching I swim in the darkness first
So I know the games you play for I am well versed
Up the mountain going we don't stop for food or air
Love is in our engines, in our veins a constant share


Is it the money, money that killed the man live
Did his heart stop beating, beating when he closed his mind
Did his mama tell him, tell him that nobody loves
Sad, it's sad to see him, see him in nobody's arms
In nobody's arms

Planet fools I suffer none they kill for more than meat
Take them down and spin them round to get them on their feet
Up the mountain gentle folks a beauty passes by
Don’t you love her show her some, she's the last to die


by Amanda Jo Williams

the bear eats me ooh dippi dippy doo de dippy dippy do
the phone gets me ooh .....

one long look, and one blue eye, all i'm saying is have a little faith in me

ooh wa

wear it well ooh dippy dippy doo ....
your fire is touchy ooh dippy

one tall kid, and one fish fry, how it can change a man put him in the boom boom

all she wanted the turkey on her brain was 50 apple ponies and a guitar made in spain, she wanted she wanted hi ay ya y ay y
all she needed was kitties and a rat, a curly tailed pig and some wood that made a bat
she needed she needed hi yayayyayayay

the bear eats me ooh dippy
the phone gets me ohh dippy

_____________________________ REVIEW

The Bear Eats Me got an opportunity to hear a pre-release version of the upcoming release.

      (3 of 4 possible) - Catchy songs with beautiful passages and brilliant musicianship, if a little heavy handed in parts. Amana Jo has a 4-star vision for what she wants this to be and an excellent supporting cast. Maybe a genius producer is all that is between her and a masterpiece.-RAR

The following are track-by-track unedited notes taken while listening to the The Bear Eats Me LP for the first time. In Amanda's interview on the right, she is responding, in some instances, to the comments below.

Light On – Strange sound effects behind an acoustic guitar – voice is weird, more of an expression, an odd instrument than a human thing. Wonderful melody line, nice and catchy build when the banjo hits.
There is no one quite like Amanda Williams, a fact that will tend to eliminate her potential for developing a fan base.
Morning Thunder – Triad repeat in major breaking to a bouncy chorus – vocals laid really deep in the mix with lots of reverb, making it hard to understand the lyrics, but to interesting effect, like a mosaic of occasionally surfacing visual references that pulsates in a poppy way. Nice melody, bouncy and sort of catchy.
Keep the Animals – Banjo, dark beat, 4/4 steady, interesting background singer support, very high, and nice Nashville guitar support – difficult melody line to sing, particularly in the harmony lines, but done well.
Amanda isn’t really a singer in her usual, little girl voice, which is nasal and almost non-musical, but then she goes into a higher register where she becomes far more instrument-like, and far more like your standard talented girl singer.
Soul In Songs – Nice edge with guitar feedback, always with the little acoustic guitar accompaniment, child’s guitar. Simple, childish melody, that morphs into a high section where Amanda tends to go otherworldly, as if she isn’t already. Likes to use vocal sounds as instrumentation, compositional elements, and she does that with a bridge refrain here. It works. This song is like an acid trip out in the woods.
Odd thing about Amanda Williams is that she has casually perfect pitch, and a fine sense of rhythmic singing, though she typically lives in 4/4.
Nickel On My Back – slide acoustic, banjo, upright bass, Amanda’s guitar and drum. Usual 4/4 with expanding chorus with backup singers – the most accessible vocal yet, which isn’t saying much – don’t be alarmed when they come for you…open up…to yourself be true…I am a ghost and you are a soul…I am the host and you… Adventurous guitar solo, big time talent and vision from 5-Track, if a little outside the capture zone of normalcy. You got to appreciate that they just let the guy go.
The Bear Eats Me – I think this song is about controlling a man to get what you need, but I could be wrong. “One long look in one blue eye, all I’m saying is have a little faith in me…”
Sunlight – Electric guitar effects heavy – pretty high voice melody line – minimalist lyric – “tell me you are going to change” – weird guitar sounds
Does this guitar stuff come from Amanda? Or from 5-Track?
Up the Mountain Going – Uptempo 4/4, almost rockabilly, really hillbilly voice – “that’s where my home is my token…nobody stands in our way…nobody will” Sounds like some relative dying on a mountain?
Get It On Up – “Won’t you marry me, get it on up… God is good and he loves to ride, and he visits me…get it on up” Stay awhile, we can make a fire… Seduction song, like some fortunate soul has come upon a wench in a mountain cabin. Male voice in the sub-mix.
Waiting For You – Waltz time, reverb guitar with dissonance – another cold night waiting for you – worth the wait, I hear them say… Sounds like she may be waiting for the return of Jesus, which the weird guitar implies may be a fantasy.
Hello Good Morning – Backward waltz, with emphasis on first beat, gives it an odd feel, with melody matching the beat – you’ll be in between my thighs if I let you…
There is some blatant sexuality in Amanda’s thematic content, but also a control thing, as if everything she offers is in trade.
Country Girl – tub thumper… Keep my money on my mind, keep my money all the time… Seems to be about a country girl whose mother would like to marry her off but whose inclinations are to avoid these saps.
Come or Go – It doesn’t matter if you come or go – weird guitar again, come they told me, with the little drummer boy theme. And the sun is all you need…other nature references that are sustainable, as opposed to a relationship? Or a human life?
Sick and Dying – Moaning guitar over strummed electric guitar, then the familiar Amanda 4/4 carnival beat. Slide guitar with wah. This song morphs into an extended psychedelic journey with a beautiful siren voice, may not be Amanda. Guitar feedback ala 1967.



©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), May, 2012