Like a Rolling Thunder – Hunter by Hunter (A Review)

Some musicians love music.
It’s not just in what they say.
It’s in their music.
A love, a driving force behind guitar strums and overlaid vocals.

I think about this as I push play on Hunters’ “Que Sera, Sera” for the third time today.
Throughout the album I hear pieces that remind me of some of my favorite artists.
The opening to “Smooth Seas Never Made for a Skilled Sailor” reminds me of O’Death before hitting Tom Waits-esque phrasing; the aforementioned “Que Sera, Sera” reminds me of Eisley and Veruca Salt.
I’m not trying to say that Hunter sounds like a bunch of different artists.
The point I’m trying to make is there are certain musicians that ARE music. They tap into a collective musicality, a wellspring that all great musicians have access to.
IMG_7986

It’s dark outside, being after midnight. It’s no longer humid and the dew has already settled on the grass.
Apparently there is a bear somewhere in the neighborhood.
The world seems to be going to shit one protest at a time.
I use my headphones as armor.
If there is music, hate cannot touch my life.
I turn up the volume.

Hunter reached out to me after my last music review to tell me she liked it, and I found out she is a musician.
She asked me to have a listen to her album. The one I’m listening to now.
She didn’t ask for anything more.
I listened to it.
I listened to it again.
Then bought the album.
Then listened again.

The bugs are making music, a very droning nature sound that will be here long after I’m dead.
The buzz of ever-present, unseen nature.
That’s the essence of music.
It’s forever, it’s eternal.
I know that’s the same thing, but take each one with different sentiments.

When Hunter messaged me I could tell she was young, giddy, excited and passionate.
Her music is the same.
It’s youthful in a way that makes it never grow old.
It’s giddy in the way that it makes you tap your feet, then bob your head, and eventual you feel the need to dance.
It’s excited in the way that it increases your heart rate, puts a smile on your face.
It’s passionate…well, just listen, you can hear her passion for music in EVERY song.

I asked her – why music?
I wasn’t sure how this review was going to go.
But, Hunter surprised me with her answer.
She told me her story about growing up and learning instruments. Bob Dylan to put her to sleep, Beatles quizzes at breakfast.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this review. I’m not one to do the typical “this is good, you should listen to it” type of review. I want a review that is akin to the music.
I wasn’t sure what to do until Hunter said “I would do improv on every instrument to find the words I really wanted to say.”
Think about that for ten seconds. I’ll wait.
Music is her voice.

The last song on the album, “Vagabond” comes on. I can hear a very distinct Bob Dylan sounding harmonica lick in there, because, as her dad said – “Because Dylan Rocks.”
It makes me smile, the way an old memory does.

Hunter changed her name.
From what, I don’t know.
But it fits her.
Her music is on the warpath. Her music is a tiger in the jungle, eyes twinkling and claws ready.
Her voice is strong and Nina-Simone-Raw.
It’s the voice of Artemis – a cry of protection, of love. I listen, hate cannot touch me.

To hear more from Hunter, go to her bands facebook page here and I strongly urge you to buy her album on Bandcamp (only $5…and trust me…it’s worth so much more) here.

 

Advertisements

Bones In My Teeth: The Liz Bills EP

I’m sitting in a rocking chair in an old-fashioned seaside town.
People hoot and holler fueled by joy, alcohol, the unbeatable freedom that comes with a week of vacation.
A block away the ocean waves break on New Jersey sand.
Above the moon is hinting at orange and promised storm clouds begin to roll across the sky.
In my ears, the soon to be released Liz Bills EP playing over and over.

It’s getting cold as the breeze picks up.
I’m on vacation from the desert, so any drop below 80 is going to give me a chill.

Earlier this evening I went on a Haunted Trolley tour, rambling around the town learning about all of the Bed & Breakfasts that count ghosts amongst their guests.

There’s something about knowing you’re surrounded by ghosts…

There’s something about a good ghost story to plant that seed of spooky in the back of your mind.

There’s something about a good story. Period.img_7934.jpg

Some of the best songs are stories set to music.
Some of the best songwriters are musical story tellers.

Have you listened to a song and just been able to see it? Like the song automatically elicits a music video in your head?

“My Man,” the second song on the EP kicks on. The pulsing guitar strumming going in time with the swings of the young woman on the porch swing across the patio from me.
It could be her theme song as she scrolls through her phone, curled up in an oversized sweatshirt.
It’s so easy to assume that romantic thoughts are swirling through her head and with each swipe of her thumb as she refreshes whichever apps she’s looking at.

And that might be one of Liz Bills hidden talents.
Her songs, stories themselves, have a way of inserting themselves into the soundtracks of the lives of everyone around you.

The third song comes on, and that’s the one that grabs me in its hairy jaws. “Werewolf” plays, and I knew before it was over the first time I heard it, I would hit replay the second it finished.

The wind is picking up and the front woman of Analog Heart is crooning wolf howls with a voice that sounds so innocent it’s almost possible to forget she’s singing about pain and heartache and love and lust.
Her songs are right up their with the best of the acoustic country/rock/alternative songs you hear on your fancy satellite radio.

If I close my eyes and block out this New Jersey ocean town – ignore the cars and the people, the smells of food and spilled drinks and cigarette smoke – I can see Liz Bills, backlit by blue with her guitar singing her heart out to all the women who think they are broken, to everyone looking for the love of their life or the love for the night; to all of those scrolling through social media feeling like they are missing out and to all of those sitting in a rocking chair on a porch in Cape May, NJ with their ear buds in and eyes closed.

Liz Bills sings in a voice that is astonishingly clear and capable. Her melodies are catchy and upbeat. Her music is perfect for the bar, the party, the beach, the city.
What I’m trying to say is, she discards the safe sounds.
You can hear her peeling away her own layers as if to say “this is who I am now. I might change tomorrow, I might not, but this is me and I will always be me.”

Music changes, just like everything else. But you just know that even if her sounds change, everything she puts out will be authentic Liz Bills. Whether it’s an upbeat love song or a more secretly sinister sound – it’s her.
That’s what you get with her music – her and nothing less.

As the “Bomb Song” closes out I find myself rocking in time with the music.
I think a stray cat just crossed the street in front of me (then again, there are ghosts here).
I stop rocking. For a minute.
Then push play again and start the EP over.

 

To check out more from Liz Bills visit her at https://liz-bills-atlg.squarespace.com and soon (Very Soon) at lizbills.com

Chapter One/Teaser: Telephone Games

Below is the first chapter to a surreal detective novel that I have in the works.
If you’re interested in reading more, check out my Patreon page (www.patreon.com/LoganRiley) and pledge just $1 a month for updates on the novel plus exclusive looks at my art process and if you pledge $20, you will receive original paintings in the mail monthly.

Enjoy, and thank you for all your support throughout the years here and on Strange News From Nowhere.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The phone rings and she reaches a tattooed arm across me from underneath the sheets.
The tattoos don’t look familiar, but this early everything feels like a mystery.

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have my glasses on.”
“Well hang up then.”
“…hello? It’s for you.”

She drops the phone on my chest and rolls over.

“Yeah?”

Faint static on the line, nothing else.

She’s snoring softly.

I swear her tattoos were different last night,

Static.

Then a tinny sound like…cows?

The sound of a baby crying in an aluminum can.

A whisper, harsh and fast.

“Five thousand or we kill the kid.”

A roaring noise.
I’ve heard it before.

A shotgun.

Single barrel.

The line goes dead.

I lean over her and kiss an inked mermaid before I sit up.

Looking at my phone, staring at a random number from New Jersey, the echo of a blast and a crying baby.

Who asks for only five thousand?

She stretches and smiles.

“Who was it?”

I’m pulling my pants on, scanning the room for a lost sock.

“I have no fucking idea.”

“They asked for Charles, who is Charles?”

“Fuck if I know, babe. Fuck if I know.”

Through the window, grey light slowly crept in.

Not even fully morning yet.

Better make some coffee.

 

 

Twelve Drummers

The entire town had gathered for the spectacle. No one spoke a word. He could only hear their breath; when they remembered to breathe at all. 

His sight was non-existent. The black hood restricted everything to be seen.

 A silver slinky had been straightened and now bound his wrists together.

 The grooves of cobblestone rippled under the soles of his boots.

 It was the longest walk he had ever taken. It was the longest walk anyone would have ever taken.

 Flames danced in trash cans; he could feel them through his clothes.

 The crowd began to chant. A countdown.

 “Ten! Nine! Eight…”

 He’d wished it were a week later; then the countdown would mean something else.

 “Seven! Six! Five…”

 He began to slow his pace. Finally coming to a stop.

 “One!”

 A bellowing drum sounded simultaneously with the tolling bell of the clock in the square.

 His wrists tightened against the stretched-out slinky. Instinct told him to run; but he wouldn’t.

 A new drum joined in with each chime. The bellowing soon began to drown out the chiming.

 Twelve chimes.

 Twelve drummers drumming.

 The crowd drew in a collective breath.

 He was pushed from the cobblestone, falling through the cold midnight air.  

 The first point of metal pierced his back. Then four more.

 A current from the magical star poisoned his veins. He went into convulsions.  

 The star passed through his body.

He was the new star on the big tree.

 The town would gather again next year.  

 The twelve drummers would drum again next year.  

 Another sacrifice would be made next year.

 

Eleven Pipers

Eleven distinct tunes rode the wind, snaked down the streets and gently tapped on bedroom windows. 
Christmas is a time for familial joy and happiness, for most, but there is a dark side. Some will say it’s the Krampus. Sure, but that’s not the real fear. 
The real fear is the pipers. 
Good or bad, the pipers will take children- eleven from each town. 

Parents nail their windows and doors shut on the eleventh night of Christmas. But no matter what, no matter how careful, eleven children would disappear from their beds. 
The wind is cold, on it you can hear eleven sweet songs and eleven windows breaking or front doors opening. 
Eleven children in pajamas, smiling and dancing to mysterious songs, disappear into the darkness on the eleventh day of Christmas. 

Leaping Lords

Johnny Trinket was evil, and he died on Christmas. Thus, he was automatically granted a season pass to “Winter Wonderland”, a twisted them park standing in the bowels of hell. 

Christmas was officially in three days, and Winter Wonderland was packed.

 He ducked under the archway made of sharp candy canes and meandered on the path of dismembered gingerbread men.

 Johnny passed a pack of carolers croaking “Deck the Halls”, their slit throats streaming crimson through every “Fa-La-La-La-La.”

 He wove his way through a gaggle of twirling ballerinas, their crooked heads ornamented by the broken nooses swinging from their necks.

 The whistle stopped him in his tracks. Johnny became mesmerized by the line of toy soliders, marching in perfect sync, rifles hung on their shoulders.  

 He waited for the tail end of the line, then proceeded to follow them to the destination they were determined to reach.

 Johnny followed the soldiers to a group of men.

 Lords. Ten of them.

 Johnny watched with child-like anticipation as the toy soldiers turned about face and aimed their rifles at the lords.

 At the feet of the lords.

 POW POW POW

 The toy soldiers fired at the feet of the lords, making them leap high into the air.

 Johnny clapped like a monkey with cymbals.

 POW POW POW

 Blood sprinkled along the ground, as more and more bullets found their way into the lords’ feet.

 POW POW POW

 The lords kept a-leaping.  

 The toy soldiers kept a-shooting.

Until each lord was left with only one operable foot.

 Johnny recalled his life above ground. And all of the tap dances he used to do for the press junkets, for the rallies, for the debates. Taking bullets until he would have just one foot to stand.

 POW POW POW

 Ten lords a-leaping.

 Ten lords a-limping.

 

 

 

Nine Dancers Dancing

The dancers danced. Nine women spinning with such precision they could have been on a single pinhead. 

Their feet looked like they were in matching red shoes. Glimmering. Wet. Spilling forth. 
The dancers danced. 
The spectators watched – transfixed, stuck, salivating. 

No music played. 
The women moved together, splashing their feet. 

Moving their hands deftly. 

Time and space seemed to ripple around them. 
The women danced as their feet bled. 
The spectators watched as their eyes bled. 

Snow came down in soft clouds, sticking to torn flesh. 
The dancers danced and the world burned. 

The dancers spun faster together as the flames grew higher and closer. 
The dancers danced as their feet bled, but the flames did not harm them. 
The spectators screamed as they burned, but they couldn’t stop watching. 

Snow mixed with ash and blood and the nine women danced. 

Eight Milking Maids

There are many secrets to Santa’s Workshop. Some darker than others.

 On the eighth day of Christmas, preparations were well underway for the magical trek just a few days ahead.

 Elves built and wrapped and toys.

 Santa had made his list and was checking it twice.

 And eight maids were milking.

 Eight maids who, over the years, had given Santa plenty a jolly.

 Mrs. Claus was well aware, but Mrs. Claus didn’t care.  

 But the maids cared.

 They got free room and board in exchange for their milking duties. (Tut-tut. They had ACTUAL milking duties)

 The maids milked Sugar Plum Fairies year-round. It was the essence of the Sugar Plum Fairies that fueled the eight reindeer to guide Santa’s sleigh through the skies. Hundreds of thousands of Sugar Plum Fairies gave their lives and magic for Santa to bring joy to the rest of the world.

 On this particular Eighth Day of Christmas, though, the maids had decided enough was enough.

 This was test-drive night for the reindeer. Each maid would bottle-feed one reindeer, giving them enough Fairy juice to rise into the sky, make eight laps around the Santa’s Workshop compound, then come back to the ground.  

 But, again, enough had become enough.

 The maids plotted in glances, no words.

 They fed the reindeer as expected; but no one knew a spot of coal had been included in the bottle to taint the Fairy juice.

 Santa paused from review of his list and got into his sleigh. Mrs. Claus came out from the kitchen to watch the take off.

 “On, Dasher!” Etcetera, times seven.  

Santa and his eight reindeer rose into the sky and shot off, emitting a trail of glitter.

 One lap.

 Two laps.

 Three laps.

Each lap lagged a little more than the last. Mrs. Claus noticed, and so did the elves that had also paused to come and watch.

 By Lap Six, the reindeer and sleigh slowed to a complete stop.  

 The winter wonderland watched in horror as Santa and the eight reindeer plummeted down.

 The sleigh separated from the reindeer. Santa, jolly as he was, was falling faster and was the first to his endgame.

 He fell right onto the chimney of his workshop. Blew to bloody bits on impact.

 Appendages from eight reindeer littered the grounds.

 And the eight maids laughed.  

 

 

Seven Swans Swimming

The swans appeared on the lake every year. 

Their wings whiter than the snow. 

Pure birds. Full of innocence. 

The town gathered each night with campfires and carols. 

They loved the swans. 

Tourists from all over would pay a lot of money to glimpse the seven birds. The town was even on the Travel Channel once. 

Fires raging, carols singing, and the swans would stand perfectly still – waiting. 

One male and one female, both virgins, would be sent out onto the ice. They would slowly make their way to the middle, their feet cracking and spiderwebing the thin ice under feet. 

The whole town would cheer them on. 

Their families sat front and center of the festivities, proud to be able to contribute to such a special occasion. 

The two in the middle would slowly undress each other. Whoops and hollers would erupt from the shore when both were finally naked. 

The fires were put out and the music gone. The crowd held their breaths. 

The swans began to circle the virgins. Circling and pecking st the ice, at naked flesh,  until the ice began to crack and split apart. 

The crowd would bow their heads when the sacrificial virgins plummeted into the frozen water. 

The swans would honk in unison, twelve times, and fly off. 

The water could be heard as it re-froze, trapping the panic screams underneath. 

Two more virgins added to the lake and the town would be safe for another Christmas. 

Six Geese a Laying…

Farmer Randy had a made a solid business out of selling chicken eggs.  
Like everyone else, he was looking for the next big thing.

One afternoon, Farmer Randy was driving along in his battered pick-up when he noticed a small boy taunting a small flock of geese. Trying to pelt them with rocks by way of a slingshot.  

Farmer Randy bellowed at the boy to ‘knock it off’; the boy ran off. 

The small flock of geese stuck hung around. Farmer Randy watched them for a moment; and thought of that next big thing. 

Farmer Randy dashed home for supplies and came back to trap the geese. After a few hours of plotting and clumsy execution, he’d managed a haul of six geese.

They honked in the back of his pick-up as he hurried home.   

There were three coops on his property, but only two were full. He set up the third for the six new geese and they were more compliant with their new living quarters than he’d anticipated.

A few days passed before he found the first eggs. Six of them, one from each goose. 

He gathered the six eggs and rushed into his home, anxious to cook them and taste exactly what he knew the farmers’ market crowds would be clamoring for from him. 

Six goose eggs was a hefty order, but Farmer Randy was excited to see the goods from each goose. 

One by one, crack and sear. Crack and sear. 

They’d smelled just slightly different than chicken eggs. Heartier. 

Farmer Randy was six for six with the eggs. He pulled the pan from the stove and dumped the steaming heap of scrambled goose eggs onto a plate.

Farmer Randy turned to put the hot pan back on the stove when he saw them at his feet. 

The six geese.  

They honked and pecked at him. He danced around them, kicking at them. Their honks grew angrier and they wouldn’t let up.

Farmer Randy fell to the floor, flat on his back. The back of his skull took a hard smack, dazing him.  

The six geese took turns pecking at Farmer Randy. Obliterating his eyes, packing the mush into the sockets.   

Their beaks seized his tongue while he screamed; they pulled at it, loosening it from his bottom jaw.   

Finally, Farmer Randy swallowed his tongue. Choked on it. Flatlined.

 

6 Geese A-(Laying) Avenging