Wednesday, September 23, 2009

september 24

The story of Donald Earl DeGrate, Jr, a.k.a. Devante Swing, is a mystery. Devante was the producer, primary songwriter, and defacto leader of Jodeci (he and his brother Dalvin were the “De” in “Jodeci,”) which were something of an R & B powerhouse starting in 1991. DeVante parlayed the band’s success into forming his own record label, signing and/or discovering such talent as Missy Elliott, Timberland, Ginuwine, Tweet, Flo Rida, and much more. But by 1997, the label was folded, the band was on “indefinite hiatus,” and DeVante was off the grid.
Ten years later, and I can’t believe how much trouble I’m having finding news about this guy. He’s got another brother who’s keeping himself – and his music – strictly on the side of the angels; Devante worked on a track of his 2004 album… I’m also reading some buzz about “Nodeci”, which is a Jodeci-sounding group definitely without a K-Ci or JoJo. But is it the DeGrate brothers? Or a bunch of Jodeci-worshipping wanna-bes? Will the real Donald DeGrate please stand up? For a man who contributed as much to the R & B architecture of the last 15-odd years, he’s startlingly quiet.
Here’s an example of Jodeci at the height of their powers: their performance on the 1993 “Uptown MTV Unplugged” special. Their rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” became their biggest pop hit. (By the way, Donald’s on the piano…)

His mama named him Michael Shawn Crahan on this day long ago, but most people today know him as “Clown” or “#6”. That’s right; Shawn’s one of the drummers of Slipknot. But he’s been ready to be much more; without the mask, he runs his own record label and plays with another band, Dirty Little Rabbits. As soon as the current world tour is over, he’ll host a few gallery showings of his photographs and paintings, and complete the book “The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey,” chronicling his time in Slipknot.
While researching, I found out about To My Surprise, one of Crahan’s bands that got lost in the “Slipknot side project” shuffle. The band folded as soon as Slipknot was ready to resume, which is a shame. It wasn’t as big a deal as Stone Sour or the Murderdolls, but it should have been.

Happy Birthday, Janet Weiss, virtuoso drummer. She was the primary drummer of Sleater-Kinney, as well as anchoring Quasi, The Go-Betweens, Junior High, and drumming for Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, Stephen Malkmus… The girl can’t keep still.

This week, she’s in Canada, playing with the Jinks, before Malkmus reunites with Pavement for a 2010 tour. It would seem to be a good time to take a break, but Janet probably won’t, dammit…
Here’s the album version of the song that got Janet the Sleater-Kinney gig: “Dig Me Out”.

Finally, it’s Jim Henson’s birthday. There’s so much that’s been said about his life’s work, and the joy we still feel from the love and laughter his stories gave to us. But I’m going to spotlight a subversive tribute – and by subversive, I’m referring to that simultaneous expression of sentiment and blasphemy. So I want to take a moment to talk to you about Sad Kermit.
Quoth the website: “Soon after the death of Jim Henson, Sad Kermit spiraled downward into a life full of addiction, romance and pain.” From there, Kermit discovers the acoustic guitar and Elliot Smith… and the rest is Internet history.
The saga of Sad Kermit started with the green doppelganger singing the Johnny Cash treatment of “Hurt”, along with a video of the most depressing scenes featuring a muppet ever. (Imagine Aranofsky's 'Requiem for a Muppet') But the songs themselves – Nine Inch Nails, Elliot Smith, and Leonard Cohen songs, performed with the heartbreaking vocals of Sad Kermit - can be really affecting, once you get past the joke.

Several covers are still available on the Sad Kermit website; I recommend the down-tuned version of “Rainbow Disconnection”.

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