Video: Brownbird Rudy Relic’s “Lonely When You’re Here”

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It’s no secret that I think Brownbird Rudy Relic is about the most excellent guy on the planet. And now he’s released his first video. Check it out below or view the full-size HD version.

The video is footage of Rudy performing guerilla-style around the city: in a subway station, on the subway, on the sidewalk, and in the middle of a busy street (!!). Most of the footage was shot with a concealed camera to capture the reaction (or lack thereof) of the people near him. Great, great stuff.

An Interview with Brownbird Rudy Relic

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Brownbird Rudy RelicEvery so often I get a CD to review that not only blows away all other unsolicited submissions, but anything I’ve recently purchased.  Brownbird Rudy Relic’s Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues is that type of disc.  Hands down, it’s my album of the year for 2007.  Quote me on that.

Brownbird Rudy Relic is a “a straightedge Vegan Chicano purveying traditional acoustic blues music.”  Whoa.

His music is intense.  You know how when you hear an amazing singer hit that perfect note and you get chills up and down your spine?  That happens from the first note of Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues.

Enough about the music for now.  Go check out his MySpace page and his vegan blog, buy his CD, and keep an eye on the pages of Herbivore in 2008, as I’m going to threaten Josh with death if he doesn’t let me write a feature on this dude.

Who are your five favorite blues singers?

Son House, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, Mamie Smith and Washboard Sam.

But.

In all honesty, I am always hesitant to answer this question: not because I don’t have them but more so because I refuse to let an affinity for a segment of blues musicians to define who I am. I obviously have a sincere affinity for the blues (after all it is what I play) but my personal partiality is not the barometer that I use to gauge my place within the blues itself.

I prefer to think of myself as a bit more enlightened than the average member of the blues bourgeoisie (which I would never claim to belong to) for as a blues musician I am sum of my musical and personal experiences; I don’t ape a particular style or long for days of yore – I have never sung about antiquated themes nor do I intend to. I don’t tell stories: I share my life with the listener.

For frankly, I would be nothing without the DIY ethos of Punk Rock, the rollicking Rhythms of 50’s Rock n Roll, the over-the-top drama of Mexican Ranchera, the sweet supple sounds of Doo Wop or the poetry put to page but such poetic masters like Neruda or Plath.

I am the blues, but I am all of these things as well.

How does one manage to make fun, foot-stomping blues whose lyrical
roots are clearly in painful experiences?

Both the music and the lyrics fight for supremacy. The can exist outside of each other but they would mean little for they share a sincere and symbiotic relationship. They are both built on a foundation of pure emotion but lay on different ends of the spectrum – one is the lucid feeling of happiness, the other is the horrendous feeling of pain.

The result is what my music is: an amalgam of everything I have experienced, from the depression of lost love to the weight of insecurity to the confusion that often mars life.

Please oh please tell me all about the vintage equipment and
recording techniques you use.  Permission to geek out as much as you
want: granted.

Geek out granted…

In the late 40’s Ampex created the first 1-track home recorder. It was a bulky small dishwasher sized wonder that allowed a user to demo out tracks without having to enter a studio.

This is the machine I used.

I split the one track to two 30’s Era Model 55 Shure Unidynes by using a 2-dollar Radio Shack splitter and some electrical tape.

I recorded live in a rehearsal room designed for opera (read: natural reverb) and did everything live (obviously sans overdubs). Because the recordings themselves could not be set to level afterwards (as there is little more than volume) each Microphone had to be strategically placed to fit each songs vocal and guitar specifications. Since I did not have an engineer (or anybody’s help at all) I had to cut a track and meticulously listen to the play back to ensure that everything was near perfect as there was (and is) no way to change the tracks afterward.

Finally the tracks were transferred to CD without the use of digital manipulation and mastered to industry standard from the original transfer CD.

Picture of Brownbird Rudy Relic @ CMJ ganked from suckapants Do music and veganism ever cross paths for you, or are they two
separate worlds that never shall meet?

My veganism will always play a role in what I do because it is such an integral part of who I am. I’ve always tried to use the fact that I play music to help AR and/or Social Justice causes by donating my time and the proceeds (when I can) to what I see is a greater good.

With that said I am still a bit of an unknown within the Vegan movement and I hope to change this in the coming years.

I am a compassionate person, this is why I play the blues and it is also why I am vegan.

For you see, underneath the greasy pompadour and blues aura lays a hippy of monumental proportions.

Your dream gig: where would it be held and who would be making the food?

Most people who know me well know that I love vegan food with an unbridled passion – I can talk about if for hours and I can consume it much the same way.

Most people who know me also know that I have the biggest crush on Isa Chandra and the mere thought of her cooking at an event that I might be playing at sends me into a dizzy spell.

So. Dream gig? Anywhere Isa’s cooking and there’s room to pull up a chair and play.

Seriously though, I don’t strive for dream gigs or acclaim, just intimate moments where the wall breaks down between musician and audience. Where our thoughts, feelings and emotions become connected like thatched fingers and where we, together, are the only things that matter at that precise moment. To me that’s the dream. It’s what I chase everyday.

Up the vegans!

Brownbird Rudy Relic’s Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues is available now via CD Baby.  He’s currently performing live anywhere that’s cool and working on a 7″ with Orb Mellon to be released next summer.

Last minute vegan gift ideas

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Have you left your shopping until the last minute? Need a few final ideas for someone on your list? Well, here you go! Just make sure you’re not seeing the person until after the holiday or spring for the faster shipping, because it’s getting late!

1. Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

Nava’s most recent cookbook is a gorgeous hardback with beautiful food photography and holiday-themed dishes and menus beyond just Winter celebrations. It’s a wonderful collection that will inspire you in the kitchen year-round. We’ve only had a chance to make one or two things from it so far, but are looking forward to trying out a couple more over Christmas. (Full review forthcoming.)

2. Brownbird Rudy Relic: I Am the Juke

His first full-length album remains one of my all-time favorites and his latest is another great collection of original “holler blues.” He goes the old-school route once again, recording on a 1950’s Concertone (One Track) reel-to-reel with a 1940’s era RCA Victor Radio mic in an abandoned Brooklyn loft. You’ll be up and out of your seat in no time. (Plus, this is likely the first blues album to reference N.W.A in the opening seconds.)

3. Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal

Are you vegan? Are you or your partner pregnant? Sayward Rebhal’s handy little book published by Herbivore is one you’ll want to have your nightstand right next to Reed Mangels’ Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book. Full of both nutritional guidance as well as practical advice, the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide is a light (but informative!), fun (but helpful!) read about what can be a challenging, confusing time. (Full review forthcoming.)

… or, 4. something from one of the businesses featured in our profile or any of the many other great vegan businesses!

NY trip notes (and some music)

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A couple of weeks ago, my wife, daughter, and I headed up to New York City. It was the first time in nearly four years that my wife and I had been there and Rasine’s first time ever. We were only in town for one day and one night, but we had an excellent time and can’t wait to go back. A few, quick impressions of our culinary experiences this time around:

Two Boots Pizzeria

Though not a vegan pizza place, the Two Boots listing on Supervegan indicated that they had a number of vegan choices, so we stopped by for a few slices.

When I stepped to the counter and asked if they had any vegan pizzas made, the guy indicated that they didn’t and gave off the vibe that he didn’t want to bother making one, either. I gave him a disappointed look and said, “Oh, you don’t?” followed by a pregnant pause. He then said, tersely, “OK, I’ll make one.” He didn’t ask what we wanted on it or anything, so we crossed our fingers and waited.

What we got was one of the best vegan pizzas we’ve ever had. It was cheeseless, but they seemed to have taken every possible vegetable from their kitchen (and maybe a few from next door) and threw it on a pizza. The result was a slice piled ridiculously high that seriously hit the spot.

Pizza

Lan Cafe

We knew for sure that we were going to Lula’s Sweet Apothecary for dessert, so the next trick was finding a nearby restaurant for dinner. There were a few options, but we settled on Lan Cafe, a vegetarian (and very nearly vegan) Vietnamese restaurant that serves up veggie pho, half a dozen varities of banh mi sandwiches, vegetarian banh xeo pancakes, and every other traditional Vietnamese favorite you can imagine. The food was excellent, as was the company (we met up with a childhood friend of my wife’s that she hadn’t seen in 20 years). My banh mi with grilled seitan was perfect and my wife thoroughly enjoyed her banh xeo with mock pork. Rasine, as you can see below, dug the summer roll appetizer:

Summer roll

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary

If there’s any spot in New York that’s worth the hype, it’s Lula’s. The Supervegan page is one glowing review after another stating that the homemade ice cream is equalled only by the friendly service of the two proprietors. For those that haven’t heard, Lula’s is an all-vegan ice cream parlor (one of two in the city!) that looks like an authentic, old school ice cream parlor (and not in the kitchy way, at all). To get a good feel for the vibe, check out this excellent photoset.

As soon as we entered, the owners told us, “Let us know if there’s anything you want to sample.” And sample we did. I eventually settled on a malt (a MALT! REALLY!) made with cake batter ice cream. Huyen and Rasine split a simple, but tasty, mint chocolate chip cone. I’m pretty sure that on our next trip to the city, we’ll be coming here each night.

Yay for Lula’s!

Lula's Sweet Apothecary 1

As an added bonus, I was lucky enough to catch up with the world famous Brownbird Rudy Relic. It was great to finally meet him in person.

With the Brownbird

And while we’re at it, I thought I’d throw in a video of an amazing performance of his in Australia last December. Be sure to check out his entire set, available for streaming online.

(special thanks to Rich, Jason, and Deb for the help and suggestions with regards to restaurants and parking!)