Tag Archives: music

(NEW p.2) Looking for Yara-San, 3 Original Men with acoustic guitars (RECOMMENDED MUSIC)

This is part two of a two part post. Please see part one here. That covers my initial set up and the amazing Joe Stevens, a tremendous talent that deserves more attention.

PART TWO (Eli Conley and Adhamh Roland).

(RECAP) When I lived in Japan I found a very talented performer, a guitar player and song writer named Yara Asatomo. I really liked his style and aesthetic and the lyrical manner of the  language he used. He sang of ordinary lives filled with rich emotion.  Back in Sacramento in 2009, I came up with nothing after a year of searching. In Spring 2010, at a local fundraiser arranged by a friend, I was amazed to hear a wonderful voice. I literally thought as i heard him sing for the first time, “Hey, he sings maybe as good as Yara-San.” True story. Most people are content to live a monocultural, monolingual life, but that’s not me. I ate the apple, even if epic song sycles are still a bit beyond me.


Eli is orginally from Virginia, now living in Berkeley and Oakland. He’s been playing gigs and putting out his own albums for over five or more years.  He’s toured both east and west coasts. He is very serious about his music. Eli takes elements from folk, old spirituals and southern music and goes in his own direction, singing more laments than ballads . His love songs tend to be breakup songs with  fight and sass to them.  His modern sensibility in his lyrics tranlates his particular lovelife into something powerful that crossover audiences enjoy, which is something I look for in performers. What I like about Eli’s melancholy laments is that you always get the sense that the protagonist will always live to fight another day.

He is an expert crooner  known for his voice. He is a very modern artist, doing breakup songs like I’m Doing Me (with Ashley Moore), or issues of social justice, like Dry as Sin, a lament about big coal’s corrosive effect on an entire region of the country.  The novelist James Baldwin is also a  major influence on his work.  Eli also has a classical chorus background and something else, that makes you think of a old country spiritual sung by June Carter Cash back in the old days.  Eli is adept at merging modern elements with more popular, traditional idioms pulled from disparate places.

Eli’s song “Pinochio” was a very important song for me, shaping my earliest thinking  (2010) on characters that would later appear in a story called “Oberon Destroyers.” Four years later and Eli’s released two albums and been real busy.

Eli Conley. I have this picture at home (signed) next to Julie Benz (also signed) and Ozaki Yutaka’s picture, dedicated to talented performers who put the audience first.

Eli is very political, but he doesn’t go for the direct, artless, nagging approach in his music. Eli writes about how people experience these things in the context of an ordinary life, avoiding all the usual categories and cliches. And yet, he has this almost conservative ballad style that sounds mainstream until you listen just a little bit closer.

Besides Siren Song, a big popular favorite among the fans is  Call You Out. It’s a funny song, set to really cool music. Its about stalking on Facebook, seen from the view of the perp. It’s brilliant, and the hook, melody, all of it. It’s a great reminder that despite his traditional influences, Eli is  a thoroughly modern voice. It’s quite fascinating to see how he weaves together a life that encompasses Richmond, Virgina in the South, and the bohemian quarters of Berkeley and Oakland.

Great News – Eli announced on his website that he is getting together with long time friends and fellow musicians “Papaya” Wiitala (bass, guitar) and Koralie “K Sugar” Hill (accordion, banjo, fiddle). One hopes we shall have recordings with that wonderful full sound on Eli’s first album with Hip for Squares (see his website). soon from Eli in due time. Keep in touch.

Eli Conley Official Website –  www.eliconley.com


ADHAMH ROLANDadhamh-resize-10x10-720x720-v-12

 It’s a little difficult to write about Adhamh’s music because I feel the greatest affinity with his work. I feel it so immedietly and viscerally i have no idea what it sounds like to other people.

There’s a lot more punk and rock woven in with Adhamh’s folk roots. He sounds to me like the natural descendent of the edgy but lyrical punk band Violent Femmes (80s), known for Blister in the Sun. When I was Tokyo in 91, I bounced between two songs on the Violent Femmes 3 album – Outside the Palace and Nothing Worth Living For.  A lot of Adhamh’s work has that same quality as Outside the Palace – kind of melancholy but still with a bounce in the step.   I think it has something to so with an eccentric rhythm on an acoustic guitar. Something like that.

Like Joe and Eli, Adhamh is a true original that weaves together a variety of sources seamlessly into new combinations, built on solid platform of popular  folk music that makes Pete Seeger applaud up in heaven. Adhamh’s first collective was something called RiotFolk, that featured other performers of note like Ryan Harvey and Evan Greer. Adhamh has done his share of “message music,” usually songs that are quite subversive in an inventive, orignal way.  He did a version of the old spiritual sung by June Carter Cash and her mother Maybelle, but turned it into a fiery song against religion. But he knew the song well enough to adapt it, y’know? In recent years he’s created more intimate, personal worlds in his music, about lives often blighted by an unforgiving world of lopsided power.

Adhamh’s music about growing up in Missouri are filled with that sensibility, but never naked propaganda. Adhamh is too much the poet for that. The midwest of his youth,  a frequent theme in songs like Don’t You Ever Forget, is a good example.  He has a good sense of how stubborness works its way in things.  This Week, a song he wrote about his grandmother’s passing and withering of family finances is another powerful song.

I think Adhamh seems to be at a point when he wants to focus on a constructive life of poetry, and just wanted to try to talk less shit. HIs gives his take on human relationships in the world of friends, family and lovers in You Treat Me Good I’ll Treat You Good. He doesn’t hold back, but you have to read between the lines a bit. Just follow that eccentric and charming guitar, and there you are.

Family,  is about creating new families in new places based on acceptance rather than biology and old categories. He brings in feelings of mortality to family, giving the song a much deeper emotional texture. His focus on fundamental themes rather than “the particulars of each case” welcome in new listeners, as with Eli and Joe. And he always has an interesting take on things worth hearing.

One of my favorites is an upbeat, somewhat blue and very modern love song, Just Ask.  He also frequently straps on his second (first?) favorite instrument – his accordion. It’s Good To Know You demonstrates that Europeans and Adhamh are a love affair waiting to happen. Blues on the Accordion, just as it should be.

More than anthing I like the tightly controlled intensity of his work, as in this live performance. After two years of not playing many shows, Adhamh is back and ready to play. In fact, he’s be in Portland in three weeks.

See? I can’t describe him at all. Too close to home, too mecurial, too … y’know. I also had a friend in Oakland, Brian the Baker, who adores Adamh’s music. He is one of those anarchist free spirits too, that always appeal to me before I throw up my hands – “Free spirit! They do what they want! Who told them they could that??!” I think its something to do with always preserving a place in your heart for the countering voice of someone who unplugs the usual power circuit, and trys something new. Prince Crow (of Oberon Destroyers) is the only character based so much on one person. Adhamh has probably seen the pictures and asked himself, “do I know that guy? I think I know that guy…” But Prince Crow also represents a mileu, outlook, and credo for a place I know so well I could write the police report without notes. We need those voices.

You can find a lot of Adhamh’s early work on Youtube, just search his name.
Many of the songs mentioned come from his album Patchwork and Threadbare (you can search the album on Youtube).
He just opened a new site to post his music, for free, and this is where I would go for his new music. I suspect the number of songs on soundcloud and wordpress will grow quickly as Adhamh uploads more new and old work – he’s written a lot of songs for a young fella:
ADHAMH ROLAND –  http://adhamhroland.wordpress.com

Part One and Two – In the Can, that’s a wrap.

Two songs to go out with –
Best single moment of crooning in all history
Ishihara Yujiro from the film “Mad Fruit” (Kurutta Kajitsu), song written by his brother Shintaro. If you have to ask you just don’t know. Just listen to that voice!! Yujiro’s diving so deep he’ll hit the bottom of the ocean soon….
If any frequent readers think they something familiar about Yujiro’s face, you need to keep walking. Nothing to see here.

a lovely piece by the Anarchist, free thinking, humanity serving, awesome band Soul Flower Mononoke Summit, who made a name playing for the senior citizens made homeless by the Great Hanshin Quake in 94. This group specializes in adapting 80-90 year old pop tunes (prewar) and adapting them. But, they stick to mostly the original instrumentation. This song is a gorgeous, lovely little ballad (not a lament).

Brian says — You should check this song out.
USA dude – But I don’t understand Japanese.
Brian – Yeah but now songs have new things like melody, harmony and rhythym which can now be enjoyed in their own right.
USA dude – What are those? New apps?
Brian – Yes. New apps.
Europe dudes- (tittering in the background)

The International in French
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHNsRZ8iqFc (Pete Seeger!)
The International in English
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2MpX2GhPZA (Billy Brag!)
The International in Chinese (rock version by Tang Dynasty!!)
The International in Japanese
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa2kTWYsjbc&list=PLc5AX98EvOAM5UilW_1l8vchwMcCJ5GMl&index=16 (Party Version) (Soul Flower Mononoke Summit!!)

Guess what – its the same song, in many different languages. Ain’t that crazy?



(NEW) Looking for the Next Yara Asatomo – 3 Original Men with Acoustic Guitars (RECOMMENDED MUSIC)

  (NEW) Looking for the Next Yara Asatomo
3 Original Men with Guitars (RECOMMENDED MUSIC) YaraAsatomoABOVE – Yara Asatomo, Queer Original based in Osaka.

When I landed back in Sacramento in 2009 from 14 years in Japan, I immediately began checking out the local music scene in Sacramento and the Bay Area. I was deeply inspired to find someone in my home country like Yara Asatomo. I saw him perform live a couple of times, but mostly just played the hell out of his first album for ten years. HIs lyrics are filled with the kind of intimate, raw honesty that was rare for his time and surroundings. I found his music to be very powerful, just one man with one guitar.

Yara-San is one of those old, Osaka gay ghetto cranks that can’t have a single speck of English anywhere, but with every genius comes a price, and this is a very small one, already paid for in Karma. When I mention him in conversation to American music fans, the reaction is the same – “Wrong country, wrong language, Next.” See? It’s Karma, for me in the middle, yet again. Oh well, what can we find?

In the U.S., I searched for something like Yara-San, that was acoustic, folk inspired, a little or a lot political but poetic, and very lyrical. In a higher male vocal register as is popular in Japan and Europe would be great but who wants to be too picky? (me). It should be someone who plays  small venues, so the audience can experience the music in an intimate setting. Giant crowds were a thumbs down. Performers of original material is a key point.

The music had to have a love of the mother tongue and language.  It had to have blues, and had to run in a pop idiom as well, with a message that speaks to everyone on a basic level. Vocal quality also had to be the highest. Lastly, if possible, someone able to blow the roof off a small venue with the power of his voice, overwhelming the PA system.

Lucky me, I found everything I wanted except blowing the roof off the house. Japanese generally prefer exhuberant performances, but Americans like to keep things cool and reserved .
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UPPER LEFT – Adhamh Roland, Oakland/Berkeley. UPPER RIGHT – Joe Stevens, Sacramento when not roaming all over the USA.  LOWER – Eli Conley, Berkeley/Oakland.
JOE STEVENS – www.coyotegrace.com
ELI CONLEY – www.eliconley.com
ADHAMH ROLAND –  http://adhamhroland.wordpress.com

Yara Asatomo
(pure japanese website, only URL box has english, see for yourself)

(Yara Asatomo live songs on Youtube)
urusai okama (obnoxious f*ggot).
Kamome (seagull)
I love his poetic use of Japanese set to music. See bottom of the post for my English translation of Yara-San’s signature song, Urusai Okama.

Unless otherwise noted, hot linked words lead to a live performance on youtube, or the homepage of the artist. You may need headphones. This is part one of a two part series.


ABOVE: Adhamh Roland and Koralie “Sugar” Hill at a Berkeley Cafe.

Joe Stevens, who founded the band Coyote Grace with Ingrid Elizabetha and Michael Connolly, is a sacramento local boy like me. However, whenever he can,  he travels all around the country looking for big vistas. Adhamh and Eli now live in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland) across from San Francisco. Eli is originally from Virgina, and Adhamh’s from Missoura, and both write songs about it. All three have been writing their own songs, recording music and playing live gigs for at least 5 years or more. All three have toured extensively in the U.S. and put out several albums. They essenially run their own businesses dedicated to music.

They each have an authentic, individual voice. It colors every song they write. All three tap into a common folk legacy, but take it somewhere different individually. They also have a love and skill with lyrical English.  My taste in American and Japanese music is essentially the a mirror image when it comes to expressive language, and these guys deliver the goods.

Eli, Joe and Adhamh  mostly tell stories of common people, living lives rich in emotion. They believe in love,  but things are never simple. Their courage in putting so much of themselves into their music still astounds me. Gentle, their tone betrays enormous strength, just below the surface.

If you like guitars and strings like me you are in the right place.


Coyote Grace, (LEFT to RIGHT: Michael Connolly, Ingrid Elizabeth and Joe Stevens.)

BELOW – Adhamh Roland. The Accordion looms large  in Adhamh’s work.Adhamh+Roland+3434847562_12c1a2b23b_z

For guys so young, they really have accomplished some notable successes through hard work and love. They are not slacking to fame. They’re working their asses off.

That means putting all your free time to writing, practicing, networking for gigs, promotion and practicing and writing more songs, more songs, more songs!!!!  I call Joe the traveling bluesman, Eli the Crooner of Ballads, and Adhamh the rock and roll free spirit. All three are highly original and have diverse influences, so its hard to pidgeon hole any of them.

Eli Conley at Trans March (live stage), SF, California, 2011. I recognize the shirt.
ABOVE – Adhamh Roland at Occupy Oakland.

Joe Stevens at the Coffee Garden in Sacramento, for a Occupy Sacramento event.

Music for them is not an excuse to put on a stylistic facade, but to reveal the inner core of their being.  All three play with the highest standards of musicianship, and would hate themselves if they felt like they cheated an audience (they never do).  I  know that for a fact. They sound better than many acts signed to professional labels (listen for yourself). And their music has mesmerized and compelled me for four years. All three are musicians in it for the long haul.



And I also just found out that after 15 years, Yara San is still playing gigs. I just found out he plays quite frequently, with two dates in October., 2014, and more in November. In Japan.

  Yara Asatomo Official Web Site.at http://www.a-yara.com


Joe Stevens (ABOVE), early 30s, is the pioneer, upperclassman of the group, and Sacramento local like me, but I call him a traveling bluesman, addicted to the road and big skies. He incorporates a lot of things, like blue grass and blues, and a popular folk sensibility,  into a seamless, effortless blend that runs at a slow to fast gallop, running long distrance. His music really sweeps you away, expecially if you’re a guitar and strings freak like me. His band Coyote Grace does these wonderful layers of strings. Just open up their website to hear what I mean for yourself (music plays when you open the site). Coyote Grace has a quite a few haunting ballands in the repertoire as well, like These Grey Days.

He’s great on stage, very humble and funny. He’s great at helping an audience to settle. Then 20 minutes into a set, “So, I used to be a girl, did I mention that?”

Joe is dedicated to  serving his community (Joe is transgender, FtM). He’s toured multiple times across the U.S. (still touring), stopping in small towns, just to give people like him facing horrible discrimination a necessary morale boost in the form of brilliant music. Joe has a great affinity for all the various misfits in the world, connecting them to the rest of humanity in his music.

Several of his more known songs are dedicated to expressing  his experience growing up and coming of age transgender  (Guy Named Joe,, Daughterson,, Ghostboi). He has a tremenous fan base of transmen that have supported and followed his work his entire career. Most artists write of love, coming of age, and events that shaped their life, and it would be dishonest for Joe to erase a huge chunk of his life from his work becasuse he is trans. As an openly trans performer, he is definitely a pioneer.

However, Coyote Grace is complicated and more than one thing.  I’ve always thought Joe was a great candidate for breakout act, as his skill, idiom and talent have a natural,  broad appeal. Joe speaks to the universal core values of ordinary, decent people, set to music and poetry, out on the prairie where people seem small.

Joes sings and plays a lot blues in his own idiom, like a personal favorite Heaven Dog, It sums up well the pathology of my father – the charming drunk, ever the adorable leech. Bullet in a Gun, The Money’s Gone, and many other betray the band as a blue collar act with great musical integrity and many catchy hooks . Coyote Grace is actually three people, and I would hate to pidgeonhole any of what the band did over 10 years and five or more albums. Bass player Ingrid Elizabeth is a great vocalist and musician in her own right. She has some great vocal contributions on several Coyoto Grace albums. And to get that wonderful “wall of strings” Michael Connolly brings the goods. Its amazing how much power they put out, just the three of them on strings, but hey that’s Coyote Grace.

And the guitar parts that just roll and keep rolling. All three have a love of folk ensemble jams, and together they just roll, and keep rolling, summoning up an expansive feeling. Like magic, transported in an instant to America’s prairies under a big, big sky.

Joe Stevens and Ingrid Elizabeth of Coyote Grace

After nearly 10 years on the road, Joe and Coyote Grace are currently on hiatus, but they still play together when they get the chance.  If you like the music, get the CDs!! Or just check out  Coyote Grace at their website. “In their own words” is always the best way.


Left to Right – Coyote Grace – Michael Connolly, Ingrid Elizabeth, and Joe Stevens

This is two part series about three unsigned artists worthy of note.
JOE STEVENS – www.coyotegrace.com
ELI CONLEY – www.eliconley.com
ADHAMH ROLAND –  http://adhamhroland.wordpress.com

And I also just found out that after 15 years, Yara San still plays gigs,
with two dates in October., 2014, and more in November. In Japan.
Ganbare! Oyaji!!

Yara Asatomo –
(pure japanese website, only URL box has english, see for yourself)

NEXT TIME- (October 23, 2014)


Japanese original © Yara Asatomo, applies in both Japan and the United States. No copying or use without permission. Ask and see what happens. The lyrics go with this song. Wow. the power of the voice. Sometimes you have to just develop control, precision, screw up that diaphram, and hit those notes like a sledgehammer.  I love this music even if he hates on English. Enjoy!
Shitsukoi Okama (Obnoxious Gay) by Yara Asatomo
English Translation by Brian McNally
Sorry, try somewhere else.
Not my type, y’know?
but hey, you’re a man that likes nice things,
but you got me wrong. I’m no good.
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Tonight the play continues,
I feel the moonlight on my chest
I become a flower.
眠りの森 迷いの森
月の光 胸に受けて
I am so sorry, please try somewhere else.
my feelings will never change.
Oh that guy, his new man seems hot
Don’t they seem so cute together
But I laugh, that he and I used to be thing
Seems ridiculous we were together
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Searching for a map to something precious
Bring me back to the man
that threw me away
 眠りの森 迷いの森
Sorry, try somewhere else. Not my type, y’know?
You really seem like an obnoxious guy, obnoxious gays don’t do well here.
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Tonight the play continues,
I feel the moonlight in my chest
I become a flower.
眠りの森 迷いの森
  月の光 胸に受けて
Don’t you think so? Obnoxious gays are the worst.
Don’t you think so? I’m the worst, aren’t I.

3rd Party Recommended: The Rich Twins (music)

The Rich Twins


Dylan and Dustin are two nice kids from Tacoma, just out of high school. They appear to be prodigies. Their sound matches a lot of what I hear my younger friends listening to these days when at home. They do a lot of chill electronica with other people sitting in, but I don’t want to characterize their work too much as they do all kinds of things.  You just have to jump in. Its worth a swim.

Link to the Rich Twins on Sound Cloud:
The Rich Twins


Secret History of Ninja, Part 2 (25 pages). (FREE ONLINE PDF) – (139.5 MB)

“Until I Understand Right and Wrong in my Own Heart.” (23 pages)

It isn’t being Japan’s Greatest Ninja – an origin tale. Tells the story of his greatest darkness, when a personal slump right before a major secret tournament threatened to upend everything our hero has been working to achieve. Will he lose the title of Greatest? Will he screw up the family legacy? Guest starring Japan’s greatest rock artist, in a journey to find one’s authentic self, on  a beach at night in Kamakura with a Bosatsu of Rock and Roll. I am  proudest of this one.


Free Copy (about 25 pages):
Secret History of Ninja, Part 2, “Until I Understand Right and Wrong in my Own Heart.” FREE PDF ONLINE

NOTE – this is the last of the already finished issues (there are four so far, with somewhat confusing numbering, welcome to comics. They force us. Meeting of Evil Doers (ridiculous!) is the next one as we launch into the modern day story (end of April), then big Ninja action issue, then getting closer to issue six (end of July) when the three heroes come together in one room and bitch at each other, x-men style. Should be fun! Update art, sample art, preview art, news etc., updated by me, here every week, so please check back. “Kyakusama wa kamisama” (means) “Audience is a god!” Cheers, -B.

Pictures of Other Artists: Eli Conley

Final pencil sketch for a portrait of Eli Conley, first in a series I want to do of my favorite emerging talents. I now have a good one of Joe Stevens about half way there. You can capture the likeness, but you have to capture the person to light up the page. Check him out at http://www.eliconley.com. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of his work.


Oberon Destroyers, the Soundtrack

Oberon Destroyers, the Soundtrack

Music in heavy rotation over the past few years, especially when I am working. Includes a heavy portion of Japanese guitar and indy rock from the early days. I also sent a copy of this music on CD plus more to several musicians that have been deeply inspirational to me. Eli Conley, Joe Stevens, and Adhamh Roland – May we all tour Japan together someday soon and bring joy to the brothers on the other side of the Pacific.