Category Archives: Desert Island Discs


Desert Island Discs with Hullabaloo

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Steve Denyes & Brendan Kremer of Hullabaloo, whose latest LP, Raise A Ruckus, was released on September 4th. You can preview some of the new album on their website.

Steve Denyes

Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues: I love all of Steve Earle’s records so choosing just one for my extended desert island vacation was really tough. The song that tipped the scales for Transcendental Blues is “Galway Girl.” It may be the best Celtic-hillbilly rock anthem ever. It may be the only Celtic-hillbilly rock anthem ever. . . but it is really good.

Guy Clark – Dublin Blues: The album’s opening line: “I wish I was in Austin at the Chili Parlor Bar drinking Mad Dog margaritas and not caring where you are,” says more than my ten best songs put together.

Bob Marley – Kaya: Though you’d never really guess by listening, Bob Marley has probably influenced my music as much as Woody Guthrie or Johnny Cash. Kaya is a really nice blend of the socio-political and laid-back love songs.

Johnny Cash: American IV: Listening to this album is like being inside Johnny’s head as he wrestled with his legacy and his mortality in his final years. His version of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” gets me choked up every time.

Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ In the Wind,” “Girl From the North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” would make for a pretty impressive catalogue after a lifetime of songwriting. Dylan did it all on his second album by the age of 22.

Brendan Kremer

Rolling Stones – Some Girls (Reissue):  For me, the best albums are a combination of great writing and greater performance.   I love listening to a band gelling together and putting out music that sounds like a group of musicians building off of each other.   No one does this better than the Stones and the 70’s was some of their best work.   I could have chosen Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers, but there is something about the sound on Some Girls that I love.   Must be Ronnie Woods.   And how can you pass up the Stone playing disco?   The reissue also gets my vote as it adds an extra hour worth of music which will come in handy until our batteries run out.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out:  Joe Morello is one of my all time favorite drummers as he made the drum set sound like a melodic instrument.  The solo on Take Five is genius, especially when you realize it is in 5/4 timing.  Throw in Blue Rondo a la Turk and you have drum beats that still seem amazing 60 years later.

Jimmy Cliff and others – Harder They Come Soundtrack:    Like everyone I grew up with, I have Bob Marley Legend on heavy rotation in my house.  But when I found Harder They Come and realized it was the original mainstream reggae album, I was hooked.   Every song on the album seems like a combination of the best of R&B, reggae, folk and rock.  It is amazing that one album can give the world Pressure Drop, You Can Get if You Really Want It, Rivers of Babylon and Many Rivers to Cross.

Bare Naked Ladies – Rock Spectacle:   If there is one thing Steve and I disagree on it is live albums. Steve hates them and I think they can be the best thing a band can put out.  One of my favorites is Rock Spectacle which shows that BNL was not just a group of really cleaver writers, but they were extremely talented musicians.   Recorded as they were first on their way to multi-stardom, it shows how a band can perfectly play off their audience and make for a great live performance.

Adele – 21:  Ok… so this is just to prove that someone is still trying to put out a quality album. As much as I love Pandora and I-Tunes, we are quickly moving away from the album as a complete package.  Other than 21, I cannot think of an album in the last two or three years that can be taken for more than a sum of its parts.  I will admit I bought it for my kids, but I have found that I chose to play it more often than they do.   I am also a sucker for the drum beat on He Won’t Go.


Desert Island Discs with Randy Kaplan

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Randy Kaplan, whose latest LP, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, is out now.

You’re not kidding me, this IS hard. I am cyclically obsessed with many different types of music, from blues to opera to Broadway to folk to jazz to classical to calypso to microtonal to ’80s pop… you name it. And I can easily pick at least ten essential recordings in each of those categories! But I’ll acquiesce and stick to five discs for my desert island sabbatical. Alas, I’ll have to live without some of my favorite music. Can I at least bring my guitar?

Blind Boy Fuller – Complete Recorded Works (6 Volumes)

Is this cheating? Kind of like asking a genie if my first wish could be for ten more wishes? In any event, these are all the recordings Blind Boy Fuller ever made. They span the years 1935-1940. Fuller was a master of Piedmont blues. That’s a finger-pickin’ style I love and work in. Fuller is one of my favorite singers, lyricists, musicians, and performers. I based several songs on my new CD (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie) on Blind Boy Fuller’s songs. It’s hard to pass up Blind Blake (the King of Ragtime Guitar) and Robert Johnson (the King of the Delta Blues) but since I’m limiting myself to one blues recording I’m gonna go with this one… well, these six!

Anthology of American Folk Music

This mystical collection (six CDs) was originally compiled by Harry Smith from his collection of rare 78s. If you’re a fan of the folk revivalists of the 1960s (Bob Dylan in particular) you will be amazed by many of these songs. This here is the earliest source material recorded for most of the folk songs we know! In addition to the ballads, blues, country, and folk songs there are Cajun and gospel numbers along with some very strange instrumentals. Some of the performers are blues masters (Furry Lewis, Charlie Patton, Mississippi John Hurt) and some are country giants (The Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Poole) but the vast majority of them are quite obscure. The haunting collection comes with an extensive booklet of amazing liner notes along with a reproduction of Harry Smith’s own original liner notes booklet which is more of a postmodern work of art and stockpile of arcane esoterica. These discs are more than an anthology. They’re a mythology.


I’ll have to insist on the original cast album from 1943. I can listen to this recording of the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II non-stop (I once did on a drive from Lawrence, Kansas to Los Angeles). Stephen Sondheim is my overall favorite Broadway composer/lyricist but he was mentored by Mr. Hammerstein and this is Oscar’s greatest achievement. I like the film version too, even though they changed some of the lyrics, judging them to be too edgy for mass consumption. Can you imagine that?! Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts, Lee Dixon, Howard da Silva, and the hilarious Celeste Holm are all part of this perfect cast. But, you say, why not listen to a later recording, one of much higher technical quality? Ha! I answer. Don’t you know by now that I prefer lo-fi and relatively ancient relics? Perhaps if any subsequent recording were half as good as this one… but none are. The original film cast comes closest.

Trojan Calypso Box Set

Another genie situation, this collection contains 50 songs on three CDs. Lord Kitchener is my absolute favorite calypsonian and a few of his gems are on offer here. Also making appearances are these great masters of the genre: Count Lasher, Lord Creator, Mighty Sparrow, Lord Invader, Ben Bowers, Baldhead Growler (can’t find this guy anywhere else), Mighty Dougla (or him for that matter), and many more. Talk about edgy lyrics; man, keep this with your push-down-and-turn medicine bottles. I hate to leave early masters like Lord Executor, Growling Tiger, and Lord Pretender at home but, overall, this box set will serve me well while I’m sequestered on that beach of sand. Most of the songs here are from my favorite calypso period, that kind of middle phase when that joyous sound evolved from the early more New Orleans jazzlike style and before the Soca trend made the lyrically intensive calypsos sound more like dance music. Man, this stuff is good.

Well, I haven’t chosen any concert music yet… or opera. Not to mention jazz or… the list goes on and on. I’m gonna have to go with something classy here, if not classical. What will it be? The symphonies of Brahms? The string quartets of Dvorak? Maybe an opera is in order. Yes. An opera. But what’ll it be? Don Giovanni? Don Carlos? La Fanciulla Del West? Ya know, I think I’ll leave Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini at home this time ’round and take The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Yes, this opera buffa will serve me well while suntanning against my will; cracking open coconuts and chomping on tropical leaves will surely be easier to take with this record in tow. I’ll risk the ire of purists and choose the English National Opera version. I’ll just have to have faith that I’ll eventually get off the island and be reunited with all the musicianers I’ve had to forsake.

Recess Monkey

Desert Island Discs with Recess Monkey

Recess Monkey

photo credit: Kevin Fry

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Recess Monkey, whose latest LP, In Tents!, is out now. You can preview a video from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!


Jellyfish, Spilt Milk

Just two records from this amazing Bay Area band. I feel robbed. This collection encapsulates so many different influences and emotions. Like many records, this one is the soundtrack for a certain point in my life. There are layers upon layers, melodically and lyrically. I could listen to “Russian Hill” on repeat forever. Never thought I’d fall so hard for a harmonica solo.

XTC, Skylarking

I was first introduced to XTC by a cassette tape my brother got from a friend. It was a copy of Skylarking. This friend had even reproduced the album art on loose leaf binder paper and cut it to size to fit in the plastic tray. From the opening notes of “Summer’s Cauldron” I was hooked. I wish I could crawl inside this record and live there.

And I might just sneak Pet Sounds and Kid A in my pack back while no one is looking. And I could probably fit Summerteeth in my toiletries bag — can I bring one of those?


Pixies, Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim

This is one of my favorite albums from one of my favorite bands — a UK release of the Pixies’ first LP and EP combined. You feel like you’re in the studio with the band…full of energy and saucy banter.

Sigur Ros, Ágætis Byrjun

When I first got this album I listened to it for about a week straight. It is so full of textures and layers that I’m still discovering nuances. Sigur Ros continues to create amazing soundscapes, but I’ll never forget the first time I heard them.


Elliott Smith, Figure 8

It’s really a toss-up between Figure 8 and xo, but Eliott Smith is definitely at the top of my desert island list. Where to begin? I think he had an exceptional ear for harmony, and I love how he reinforced melodies with several instruments playing in unison. The guy was a downright prodigy — he played nearly all of the instruments on his albums — and manages to channel the Beatles without simply emulating them. He even recorded a lot of his later work at Abbey Road! He had some real problems in his non-musical life, but musically speaking he’s the musician I most wish I were.

John Vanderslice, Pixel Revolt

It’s no secret to Recess Monkey devotees that we¹re die-hard John Vanderslice fans. He manages to keep cranking out amazing albums that represent real growth each time — what an inspiration to see another artist who never stops growing! Pixel Revolt isn’t his newest album, but it’s the one that sticks with me the most — such a unique blend of acoustic guitar, synth pop and manufactured beats. To top it off, he’s a really nice guy AND runs a great all-analog studio in SF. We keep talking about how we can figure out a way to record there.

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory

Jazz rap. Such a great album — this is one of the ones that instantly transports me back in time, but it is still remarkably fresh to my ears. I remember seeing the video for “Scenario” on MTV for the first time thinking “what IS this!?” It totally changed hip hop for me. Q-Tip is such a powerful MC! This is my favorite hip hop album of all time.

Steely Dan, Gaucho

This is another real toss-up. I LOVE Steely Dan, and each of their records has a special place in my brain. One would definitely be on the list, and this minute it’d be Gaucho. The utter smoothness of “Babylon Sisters” is what’s ringing in my ears as I type this… But if I think about it too long, I’ll probably change my mind to Can’t Buy a Thrill, and then Aja… It never ends. Such an impressive body of work!