Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, George Carlin!



     Happy B-Day to George Carlin! The wise old man would've been 75 years old today. It's too bad he didn't reach the 3/4 century milestone. However, the wit, humor, genuine observations and critiques he crammed into his 71 years still ring true and will always be relevant... a lasting legacy. Here are a few gems:

The Seven Words


Religion is Bullshit


Stuff


I Don't Vote


Fat People


The Ten Commandments


The American Dream

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tommy Ramone: Profiles from the Illustrations

Tommy Ramone, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Tommy Ramone has had a long journey. His birth name was Erdelyi Tamas. He was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1952 to Jewish parents who had survived the Holocaust by hiding from the Nazis with neighbors during the war. The family moved to New York City and he changed his name to Thomas Erdelyi. Forming a series of smaller bands, it was apparent Thomas had a talent for managing and producing music. In 1970, he was hired as assistant producer on Jimi Hendrix's album, Band of Gypsys.

Tommy Ramone- "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend/Blitzkrieg Bop"

     In 1974, Thomas became the manager of a Punk Rock group he formed with friends Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee called the Ramones. Originally, Joey was the drummer, but he couldn't keep up with the fast tempo, so Thomas became the drummer adopting the stage name, Tommy Ramone. Dee Dee was later quoted as saying, "Tommy was supposed to be the manager, finally he sat behind the drums because no one else wanted to." Tommy penned a lot of their early hits including "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and "Blitzkrieg Bop." 


Ramones- "Blitzkrieg Bop" circa 1976


The Ramones


     In the 1980s, Tommy started to get back into producing, working on albums by artists such as The Replacements and Talking Heads. Most recently, he has formed an old-timey Bluegrass duo with his musical partner, Claudia Tienan called Uncle Monk. They perform all over and with Tommy being the last surviving member of the Ramones, he always finds time to pay tribute to his former bandmates.


Uncle Monk- "Round the Bend"


Tommy Ramone and others- "I Wanna Be Sedated"


Uncle Monk- "I Fought the Law"



For more info, visit: http://www.unclemonk.com/home.html


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CLOSE UP: Rob Potylo

Rob Potylo, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Rob Potylo- "She-ra"


Interview with Rob Potylo for ABC's Chronicle



For more info, visit: http://robpotylo.com/



Monday, May 7, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Jan Luby (Folk Musician/Songwriter)

Jan Luby, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     I've known Jan Luby for about twenty years or so, and can honestly say she is one of the nicest, most caring people I've ever met. We met as neighbors when she, her ex-husband Tim Mason and their daughter, Ruby, moved in down the street from my mother. She was and is a very passionate person, both in music and in activist causes, which I've always respected about her. She is a talented songwriter and a great friend.

Jan Luby


Jan Luby, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Jan Luby


Jan Luby circa 1991


Jan Luby, 2012. By Travis Simpkins


For more info, visit: http://janluby.com/home.cfm



Friday, May 4, 2012

CLOSE UP: Josh Gondelman

Josh Gondelman, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


Josh Gondelman- Stand-up Comedy


For more info, visit: http://www.joshgondelman.com/


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Elizabeth Ziman: Profiles from the Illustrations

Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Growing up in Greenwich Village, NYC, Elizabeth Ziman was surrounded by art and music. From an early age, she began studying classical piano and later moved on to vocal training. In 2001, she began at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, having been awarded the ASCAP Leiber and Stoller scholarship for her original song, "Like Water is to Sand."

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Race You"


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Elizabeth had intended to devote her studies at Berklee to film scoring, and wanted to pursue it as a career path. In 2002, however, she was chosen to go on an Ella Fitzgerald tribute tour and she became fascinated by Jazz. Upon returning to Berklee she teamed up with two other students to form Elizabeth & the Catapult. They released an EP, Elizabeth & the Catapult in 2006.

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Mama's Boy"


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     With the success of the EP and the devoted following they were getting from their live shows, the band was soon signed to Verve Records. The songs from the EP were included with several new songs on their first album, Taller Children, in 2009. While this first album had a fun, sarcastic side, the band explored new emotional avenues on their next album, The Other Side of Zero (2010), and continues to evolve today... 

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Taller Children"


Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Hit the Wall"


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Golden Bloom: Art and Music (Songs that Inspired the Illustrations)

Golden Bloom (Shawn Fogel), 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Rhyme the Reason

King of Carrot Flowers (cover)


Golden Bloom (Shawn Fogel), 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Doomsday Devices

The Season I like Best

30 Lives (cover)

Fan the Flames


Golden Bloom, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


For more info, visit: http://goldenbloom.net/


Monday, April 30, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: My Nephews

My Nephews, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     My sister's kids vary in terms of interests, but are alike in that they are all easy-going, affable and studious. In an effort to challenge my skills in child portraiture, I wanted to capture each one's unique personality in relation to one another.

     Andrew, the youngest (age 10), has an encyclopedic knowledge of animals, and often wows people by answering Jeopardy questions that even the contestants miss. He also likes to make homemade movies using his iPod and LEGO sets.
Andrew Gebo, 2012. By Travis Simpkins


     Timmy (age 11) was recently accepted into the Goddard Scholars program. When I asked him what he wanted to be, he was indecisive, but said he would "probably become a teacher."
Timothy Gebo, 2012. By Travis Simpkins


     Matthew, the oldest (age 16) is set to finish High School with Honors. He is also a music enthusiast, singing and playing guitar in a local band.
Matthew Costa, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Friday, April 27, 2012

CLOSE UP: John McCauley (Deer Tick)

John McCauley, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


Deer Tick- Spend the Night


For more info, visit: http://deertickmusic.com/


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Handsome Family: Profiles from the Illustrations

The Handsome Family, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Multiple influences, both geographical and personal, have worked to shape the unique sound of husband and wife team, Brett and Rennie Sparks' music.  He is from Texas, she is from New York. Their band, The Handsome Family, was founded in Chicago in 1993 but got new-found inspiration upon moving to New Mexico in 2001. Some would categorize them as "alt-country" but their style defies labels.

The Handsome Family- "Bottomless Hole"


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Everything is balanced. They are a humorous pair, the name The Handsome Family is derived from a sarcastic joke made at Brett's expense. On the other emotional extreme, Brett's breakdown in the mid-90s has added a sense of melancholy to some of the songs.

The Handsome Family- "So Much Wine"


Rennie Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Beautiful writing keeps their songs lively. Rennie's haunting lyrics and Brett's moody rhythms are perfect compliments to one another. They tour all over, and with eleven albums out, they continue to build up an already strong following.


The Handsome Family- "Flapping Your Broken Wings"


The Handsome Family- "Giant of Illinois" (about Robert Wadlow, the World's Tallest Man)


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.handsomefamily.com/


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CLOSE UP: Rick Jenkins (The Comedy Studio)

Rick Jenkins, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


The Comedy Studio- Cambridge, MA


For more info, visit: http://www.thecomedystudio.com/



Monday, April 23, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Tim Mason (Poet)

Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     I've known Tim Mason for about twenty years or so. We met when he and his family moved in a few houses down from mine in Worcester, MA around 1990. At the time he was managing the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus and it was through him and his ex-wife, Jan, that I was inspired to learn more about Folk music and poetry. He is a gifted and prolific poet, and he still promotes and organizes Folk acts around New England at venues like Club Passim in Cambridge, and Hezekiah Stone's Coffeehouse in central MA.

Timothy Mason- "Peace"



Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Timothy Mason at GAWF





Timothy Mason circa 1991


Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.timothydmason.com/

Friday, April 20, 2012

CLOSE UP: Chris Fleming

Chris Fleming, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


"Gayle: Episode 1"



Chris Fleming- Stand-up comedy


For more info, visit: Chris Fleming



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brad Roberts: Profiles from the Illustrations

Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     It all started in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada when a rich baritone voice was featured in the night club band, Bad Brad Roberts and the St. James Rhythm Pigs. Brad Roberts eventually changed the name to Crash Test Dummies and set forth with well received shows. Brad got more into songwriting, even attending a workshop with Lyle Lovett, after which he wrote his first defining song, called "Superman's Song." It caught the attention of record labels and Crash Test Dummies recorded and released The Ghosts that Haunt Me in 1991. 

Crash Test Dummies- Superman's Song


Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     With the success of their first album, the band hit mainstream success with it's sophomore release, God Shuffled His Feet in 1993. Full of offbeat, artistic songs and Roberts' unmistakable voice, the album was a major hit, scoring with an astoundingly simple, but memorable song, "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm." All the other tracks showed the work of a fine songwriter truly hitting his stride.

Crash Test Dummies- Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm


Crash Test Dummies- God Shuffled His Feet


     Their next album, A Worm's Life explored a harder edged sound, and further experimentation on subsequent albums failed to repeat the commercial success of the first two, but who cares? The respect for Brad Roberts as an artist and songwriter continues to grow. An amazingly creative writer, he knows the value of the unknown... and always puts it into words sharply, and beautifully; directly indirect.


Crash Test Dummies- My Own Sunrise

Crash Test Dummies- Swimming In Your Ocean

Crash Test Dummies- The Ghosts That Haunt Me


Interview with Brad Roberts

Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dan Burke: Art and Music (Songs that Inspired the Illustrations)

Dan Burke, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

The Orange Ocean

Let's Go Together

"Someone Who Loves You" w/ ballet dancers

It's Wicked Cold Outside w/ Niki Luparelli

Those Were the Days


Dan Burke, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Tommy Ramone (Ramones, Uncle Monk)

Tommy Ramone, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     When I met Tommy Ramone in 2007, he had long since left behind Punk music in favor of a Bluegrass sound. His band, called Uncle Monk, had just released their self-titled debut album consisting of old-timey tunes written by Tommy and his musical partner, Claudia Tienan. He was a nice, cool guy, just doing what made him happy. It was a brave move considering the fact that a lot of people who went to their shows just saw the name "Ramone", which comes with a natural presumption for Punk Rock. Despite just having an acoustic guitar and mandolin, Tommy still possesses a lot of the Punk attitude that made the Ramones famous back in the seventies. With Tommy being the last surviving member of the original Ramones line-up, he usually finds time to pay tribute to his former bandmates with acoustic renditions of their classic songs.

Tommy Ramone- "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend/Blitzkrieg Bop"


Ramones- "Britzkrieg Bop" circa 1976


The Ramones- 1970s w/ Tommy Ramone center right


Uncle Monk- "Round the Bend"


Uncle Monk- "I Fought the Law"


Tommy Ramone and others- "I Wanna Be Sedated"




For more info, visit: http://www.unclemonk.com/home.html