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Still Here
© 2002 James Velvet BMI

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The Mocking Birds
Still Here

Total Time: 30:14
Cost: $9.98 +s/h*

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STYLE: Roots Rock

HOME TOWN: New Haven, CT.

Visit The Mocking Birds WEB SITE

  The Mocking Birds
1. I'm Still Here
2. Melancholy Blue
3. This Blues
4. Gas Masks And Vaccines
5. I Like The Music
6. Honey Blonde
7. Sail Away
8. Low Bar
9. Freedom Ring

Check out James Velvet's NEW CD - Just Plain Jane and Other Modest Proposals
& also his CDs - Wide Awake In My Head and  Bones 'n Clones

Check out The Mocking Birds other CDs - Foreign MoviesRocket Rides

Frank Critelli puts James Velvet "On The Sofa" for an interview, read it HERE.

Issue #38                                  June ‘02

In the post 9-11 world we are told how everything has changed – We watch, we listen, we understand the outpouring for those whose lives have been forever dismantled. If any good can be claimed by such a horrible tragedy: it should be noted that it was the overall compassion and selfless charity of untold amounts of people that helped at a time when all were helpless. There have been tributes, benefits, memorials and the like brought forth in the name and honor of those lives lost and for those family members left behind. Never can we overstate nor underestimate how those actions created the paths towards healing that were necessary for the innocent victims of this violence.

But, what of those whose lives were not directly connected? Those who sat by the radio, the television, the internet and recoiled in shock as they wondered, “What the hell is going on?” For, they also are victims of this insanity. How are they supposed to continue on with their normal day to day lives? Where do they turn in their fear, their anger, their anxiety of a world gone mad? Who can understand and console them, what compassion is there for the everyday man of your hometown in the everyday world? For, for him/us even though everything has changed – it remains the same.

Enter James Velvet (singer/songwriter, rhythm guitar) and his band The Mocking Birds – Johnny Java (bass), Dick Neal (lead/slide/pedal steel guitars, dobro, harmony vocals), and Jon Peckman (drums, percussion, silly samples) – and their new CD, “Still Here.” Like a Presidential fireside chat, the Calvary over the hill, and your mom telling you a bedtime story as she tucks you in at night all rolled into one – this CD tackles the issues that have affected our lives since last September. From the perspective of the everyday man, it tells us that not only is it OK to grieve and hurt, to hold anger and contempt, but also to carry on with the ins, outs, ups, and downs of everyday life just as we had been accustomed to before - and not to feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed because of it.

Opening with “I’m Still Here” a good time pickin’ tune that crosses the country twanggin’ / Rock backbeat line with the same ease that Buddy Holly first did with “That’ll Be The Day.” It tells the simple story of a man trapped in the same hometown. But as we listen to his tale of woe, we understand that it is actually a homage to the life and times he has loved, and still loves, shared with cherished friends and family. Even when dreamed of opportunities have been within his grasp, he still finds his comfort remaining where he is and with who he is. Taken in context to the next level, we understand how James Velvet and The Mox are addressing all of us from our personal local level, and also extending this hometown loyalty to a regional, national, and even global point of view. Allowing for us to understand that the simplest joys of life as told by an individual everyday man in his small, insignificant, everyday hometown can be applied to anyone, anywhere, and that we can all call the world our hometown.

Along with this lesson in social consciousness is the heartbreaking reality of “This Blues” – a direct tale of that fateful September day, and the shock and horror brought to life in the minds of those of us whose closest connection was the television. It perfectly emphasizes how all the emotions brought to the surface can knock us to the ground. Here The Mocking Birds achieve the only expressive artistic outlet that can relate to the uncontrollable situation that played out in front of our eyes, one that eventually slinked down from the core of our hearts to settle in the pit of our stomachs; that of the Blues. Painstakingly sung with a slightly distorted/removed/stretched vocal (which lends the proper eerie aura to the subject) delivered over a classic blues bass and drum backbeat while using a slow deliberate rhythm build. Adding to the tension is a restrained slide guitar that’s simmering just underneath as our narrator subsides his pent up conflict with a call for peace.

The same message is dished out again, yet through the twisted lens of the viewfinder on the boardwalk as “Gas Masks And Vaccines” pokes fun of the latest fads. While the song may now sound a tad dated, it only adds to the intended humor of the absurd, as much as the distorted calliope enhances the pitch of the Carney Barker elevating the status of these collectibles to those of Pez Dispensers and Beanie Babies.

Not all of “Still Here” plays as inflicted reverence. The Mox still turn it out and get down to a variety of tunes that affirm their signature Roots Rock style. “Honey Blonde” and “Low Bar” Rock the house with Link Wray and The Kinks (respectively) inspired drive, while “Melancholy Blue” could have easily been penned and performed in the Blues fashion of early Steve “Guitar” Miller.

Two standouts (in a record full of them) are “I Like The Music” and “Sail Away.” The first is a fun loving New Orleans Mardi Gras, Caribbean Carnival reggae romp that gives the green light to anything that is performed musically because “Nobody knows what is right and what is wrong / there’s no rules / it all comes down to whether or not you like the song.” It also name checks; Talking Heads, Grateful Dead, Radiohead, Kid Rock, George Harrison, and Bugs Bunny to the delight and joy of anyone who listens. It acknowledges (in a sidebar type of way) the peaceful beliefs of Hinduism (thus the George Harrison reference) and how, in a way, musical beliefs can reflect/mirror those of religion and its/their ability to bring together as well as tear apart.

Taken literally “Sail Away” shows itself to be a somber eulogy to a loved one. As the narrator assembles the pieces of their life together in their boat and lets it go, he stands and watches as this metaphorical funeral pyre sails away from him, As the oceans current acts in the same manner as time, he allows it to drift out of his life, even though it will always be a part of it. This returns us to the album’s underlying theme of our changed post 9-11 world – With some of the most beautiful English Horns extending smoothly over the mourning - we ache, grieve, and weep for/with the narrators’ emotions. We connect the dots to that of those lost in the WTC, and for that matter, those everyday ideals lost to us as we watched our television screens.

Still Here” concludes with “Freedom Ring” – stripped bare of instrumentation except for a sparse percussion track, it is a scathing political commentary of the current administration. Whether or not you choose to agree – it’s still powerful enough to get you to think.

Therein lies the beautiful reality of this Disc – A modern day concept/protest album that elevates our senses to what has/is going on around us. A call to recognize not only our individual demons and ghosts resurrected by current events, but to understand and allot for the same being experienced by our neighbors – not only those in our hometown, but also our neighbors around the world as well. “Still Here” asks us to look around, drink in, and celebrate the present as we cast an eye towards the future without ever forgetting the past and the lessons learned. Because, after all, we're Still Here.

Still Here” by The Mocking Birds.
Now available for: $9.98 +s/h*

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*Shipping & Handling charges:
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                     Add $1.50 per each CD after.
Canada - $5.00 for the first CD ordered,
                          Add $2.00 per each CD after.
Everywhere else -$7.00 for the first CD ordered,
                                        Add $3.00 per each CD after.

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