Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Best of 2013

Coming up with a “best of” list for 2013 was an utter nightmare for me. Simply put, 2013 was an extraordinary year for music. From returning veterans producing their finest work in years to newer artists coming out of the gate swinging, the past 12 months produced some of the finest tunes I’ve ever heard and enjoyed. Of course, this means that developing a list of the best music of the year was a bloodbath. After weeks of agonizing consideration, I finally whittled my list down to 30 albums (with special attention given here to the first 10). After that, I went off on a tangent and added a slew of special categories for other releases that will hopefully put this fantastic year into a greater perspective. Oh, and I also threw in some words on artists to watch in 2014 at the bottom of this post. Like I said, coming up with this list was an intense process. I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself on January 1 for missing an artist or two, but I can wholeheartedly say that my life was enriched by everything listed below.

Without further ado, let’s start with the very best of the best…

1. ALBUM OF THE YEAR- Paul Roessler: The Arc

No other album I heard in 2013 came remotely close to touching this one. 

In 1975, a teenager named Paul Roessler wrote "The Arc," an epic 47-minute song influenced by the great Prog masterpieces of the era (Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick," Yes' "Close To The Edge," etc.). Before long, he discovered Punk (promptly building a very impressive career with the likes of The Screamers, 45 Grave and Twisted Roots) and put his ideas for "The Arc" on ice. Thirty-four years later, Roessler decided to revisit the piece, using his years of experience as a musician/producer to re-create "The Arc" in a modern context. Recording as a one-man band, he finally completed the project in 2012. Released this year in a limited run of 500 vinyl copies, The Arc is the sound of a teen musical prodigy finally able to express his vision thanks to nearly four decades' worth of creative exploration and growth. An unforgettable listening experience. (Check it out HERE.)

Listen below to Paul discussing The Arc (taken from a 2012 episode of my radio show, Glory Is Noise).  

2. Os MutantesFool Metal Jack

Originally formed in Brazil in 1966, Os Mutantes (“The Mutants”) create avant-garde Psychedelic Rock/Pop/What in the World? music that has to be heard to be believed, understood and appreciated. The group’s fascinating 10th album, Fool Metal Jack, is the sound of a heart breaking: From the dirge that accompanies a dying soldier’s final thoughts on the title track to frontman Sérgio Dias’ reflections on his brother (and original Os Mutantes member) Arnaldo Baptista’s suicide attempt on “Into Limbo,” Fool Metal Jack was the most emotionally brutal album released this year. Fool Metal Jack is street music born of pain, anger and the desire for a better world – perhaps what Crass might sound like if they were from São Paulo and released a new album in response to today’s planet. (Read my live review of Os Mutantes HERE.)

3. Bernie Worrell Orchestra: BWO Is Landing

What exactly makes Bernie Worrell the greatest musician of our time? To be honest, I simply don’t have the vocabulary necessary to describe it. I write for a living, but I can’t come up with a definitive way to sum up this man’s many gifts. Frankly, I don’t think the English language has evolved to that point. Worrell’s work is something you feel, not analyze. Boasting eight tracks, BWO Is Landing demonstrates the skills of a man still surpassing musical heights that many of us will never reach. Just take a listen to “Piri Piri,” “Moneypenny,” “Double W” or the live track “Thug.” (Read my full review HERE.)

4. Petra Haden: Petra Goes To The Movies

Petra’s a cappella interpretations of “God’s Lonely Man” from Taxi Driver and the main title from Psycho deserve to be heard right now rather than read about, while her take on the “Superman Theme” is downright epic. However, the album’s greatest moment is also its softest: Accompanied by guitarist Bill Frisell, Petra turns the Adult Contemporary fluff of Tootsie’s “It Might Be You” into a sweet, understated work of beauty. (Read my full review HERE.)

5. Throwing Muses: Purgatory/Paradise

After three decades in the music industry battlefield, Throwing Muses have ultimately become a band popular enough to find work on the road, but not successful enough to rise above sleeping on dirty couches. This truth is the backdrop of the crowdfunded Purgatory/Paradise, a CD/book combo that serves as a road diary/soundtrack of the group’s experiences traveling in the Mid Leagues. Without the structure of a music business machine at least trying to smooth over the band’s more self-indulgent tendencies, the listener/reader is left with songs that drift in and out, lyrics that sometimes seem to start mid-thought and in-jokes and stories that mean more to the creators than they ever could to the outside world. While none of the Muses’ past work is what you’d categorize as easily digestible, Purgatory/Paradise is downright difficult. But it is also refreshingly daring and one of 2013’s best releases. The listener/reader getting lost from time to time is a very small price to pay to experience a band allowing themselves to fully exist and create in their own world. (Read my full review HERE.)

6. Iggy & The Stooges: Ready To Die

With original Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton no longer with us, the band drafted Raw Power six-stringer James Williamson, added "Iggy and" to their moniker for the first time since 1973 and rose above the the sad passing to unleash the coolest Rock record of the year. Even 40 (!) years since "Search And Destroy," Iggy and Co. still do it nastier and with biggest balls than everyone else. Check out "Burn" and the blistering "Job" if you don't believe me. 

7. Crime & The City Solution: American Twilight

Armed with a stellar lineup including Einsturzende Neubaten’s Alexander Hacke and former Prong/Swans/Killing Joke/Dirtbombs bassist Troy Gregory, Australian singer Simon Bonney returned in 2013 with the gorgeous American Twilight, his first release under the Crime & The City Solution name since 1990. The album’s many highlights include "Goddess,""My Love Takes Me There" and the title track. Hopefully, Simon doesn't wait another 23 years for the next one. 

8. Sepultura: The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

Working with producer Ross Robinson for the first time since 1996’s Roots, Sepultura finally create an album that surpasses the high expectations created by the Max Cavalera era two decades ago. The Mediator… finds the band at their heaviest and most creative, effectively finding a perfect balance between the latin rhythms of their Brazilian homeland (helped along by brilliant new drummer Eloy Casagrande) and the brutal Thrash of their early ’80s influences. (Singer Derrick Green is a monster on this thing). Remember how intense and unforgettable Arise was the first time you heard it? You’ll have that same experience with this album.  

9. Gitane DeMone: The Reflecting Shadow

Former Christian Death vocalist/keyboardist Gitane DeMone made a powerful return in 2013 with The Reflecting Shadow, her first full-length solo album since 2000’s Stars Of Trash. Unlike that album, which was mostly Rock-oriented in nature, The Reflecting Shadow is closer to the dark and seductive vibes of her earlier post-Christian Death material. (With Love And Dementia immediately comes to mind.) Recorded in collaboration with Jean-Paul Garnier (who shaped much of the album’s musical style), The Reflecting Shadow is another great chapter in a legendary aural history built on work with Pompeii 99, Christian Death, The Crystelles and various other projects. (Stream the album for free HERE.)

10. Ultra Bidé: DNA vs DNA-c

The latest album by decades-old Japanese cult heroes Ultra Bidé,  DNA vs DNA-c offers 30 minutes of off-the-wall Post-Punk that would give any hipster American “noise” outfit a run for their money. Driven by broken English lyrics (“exploded fuck you right now,” “such a fuck’in I’m a killing dead”) and some truly intriguing bass playing, DNA vs DNA-c is like the soundtrack to a imaginary jam between Pussy Galore and The Boredoms where they cover Wire’s Pink Flag. If that sounds like a party to you, get this album immediately from the nice folks at Alternative Tentacles.

Here are 20 more albums that made 2013 a great year for music:

Nik Turner: Space Gypsy (Read my feature HERE)
My Bloody Valentine: m b v
Voivod: Target Earth
Away: Cities 
Eric Burdon: 'Til Your River Runs Dry
Down Among The Dead Men: S/T (Read my feature HERE)
Jaz Coleman: The Island Symphony
Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals: Walk Through Exits Only
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Zim Zam Zim
Pink Frost: Sundowning 
The Mission: The Brightest Light (Sample tracks HERE)
Ministry: From Beer To Eternity
Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs: Under The Covers, Vol. 3
Dot Wiggin Band: Ready! Get! Go! (Read my feature HERE)
Trouble: The Distortion Field 
Avatarium: S/T
Vista Chino: Peace
The Fall: Re-Mit
Doyle: Abominator
Carcass: Surgical Steel

Song of the Year – The Bloody Beetroots Featuring Penny Rimbaud: “The Furious”

When Crass founder Penny Rimbaud begins talking about "a black man in the White House" as a guest perform on The Bloody Beetroots' "The Furious," it is understandable to assume he is talking about Mr. Obama. However, it becomes quickly apparent that Rimbaud - who attacks his targets with as much vitriol today at age 70 as he ever did in the '70s - is addressing what he calls "the new Jim Crow" of mass incarcerations of American blacks. While his rage would make a natural ingredient to any Anarcho Punk anthem, the fact that he is speaking his mind over a track by a world-renowned DANCE band is what gives "The Furious" its greatest magic. The song is a beautifully subversive work of art delivered by one of the most inspiring individuals this writer has ever encountered. 

Listen below to Penny discussing his work with The Bloody Beetroots (taken from a 2012 episode of my radio show, Glory Is Noise).

Best EP – The Replacements: Songs For Slim

With their former guitarist Slim Dunlap struggling to recover from a devastating stroke, founding Replacements members Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and (on one track) Chris Mars came together for Songs For Slim, a fantastic collection of covers that re-introduced the 'Mats to the world without subjecting them to the pressures of coming up with new material after 22 years. The recording's lighthearted vibe offered levity to the seriousness behind the EP’s creation: Songs For Slim was the first in a series of recordings by various artists released to raise funds to cover Slim’s considerable medical expenses. More information on the project is available HERE. 

Best Box Set – Ten Big Stiffs

Released on Black Friday in a limited edition of 1000, Ten Big Stiffs offers 10 seven-inch singles from the famed ’70s/’80s British label Stiff’s gloriously eclectic discography. Every record is fantastic; every song is a highlight. Those on a budget are encouraged to check out the digital version of the set. Everyone needs this collection.

Best Live Album - PainKiller: The Prophecy

To say that PainKiller is NYC avant-garde sax genius John Zorn’s noisiest and most uncompromising project is an understatement. Featuring Zorn with Yoshida Tatsuya on drums and PainKiller mainstay Bill Laswell on bass, The Prophecy offers two hardcore blasts and one epic 60-minute suite recorded in Europe in 2004/2005. Like other titles in the PainKiller discography, The Prophecy (released last month on Zorn’s Tzadik label) strikes an intriguing balance between the unlistenable and the serene.

Best Single - The Urban Voodoo Machine Featuring Wilko Johnson: "Help Me Jesus" / "Heroin (Put My Brothers In The Ground"

Diagnosed with terminal cancer this time last year and given mere months to live, Dr. Feelgood guitar legend Wilko Johnson spent 2013 rocking as hard as he could. This stellar collaboration with London ensemble The Urban Voodoo Machine offers two songs of pure Pub Rock perfection. Three cheers for Wilko, who is still going very strong at the time of this writing.

Best Physical Re-Release: Roky Erickson – The Evil One

With the amazing Seattle-based re-issue label Light In The Attic putting out so many great things this year, I had no choice but to become a pre-paid subscriber to their releases. One of the label’s greatest successes in 2013 was breathing new life into three albums by the great Roky Erickson (The Evil One, Don’t Slander Me and Gremlins Have Pictures). A man whose creative genius is often overshadowed by schizophrenic madness, Erickson shines brightest on The Evil One, which produced some of his most beloved songs (“I Walked With A Zombie,” Two Headed Dog,” “Bloody Hammer,” “Night Of The Vampire,” and the recent Ghost-covered “If You Have Ghosts”). Originally released in the UK in 1980 as the 10-song album Five Symbols and in the US as The Evil One in 1981 (with five songs replaced), this definitive version from Light In The Attic gathers all 15 songs from the album’s 1977-79 sessions. The Evil One is true Horror Rock delivered by a man with more than a few demons and monsters in his head. Expect a feature on Roky Erickson’s life and career on this website in 2014.

Best Digital Re-Release: Christian Death – Atrocities

Finally released digitally earlier this month, this 1986 album represents Christian Death’s first full-fledged step forward following the departure of founder/sole original member Rozz Williams. Judged on its own merits away from the controversy surrounding Williams’ split with the group, Atrocities still stands tall after all these years: Valor Kand’s haunting guitar work on "Silent Thunder" is without peer, while Gitane DeMone’s vocals on “Tales of Innocence” and a rendition of “Gloomy Sunday” are among her finest moments with the band. The Atrocities re-release is part of an extensive campaign that saw five other Christian Death albums hit digital retailers for the first time, with more to follow in 2014. More information on the series is available HERE.

Best Video: Killing Joke: "Corporate Elect"

Released in the spring of 2013 to promote last year’s MMXII, “Corporate Elect” brings the spirit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” into a modern context with dark, hard-hitting results. A dose of harsh reality from a band that is always ahead of the pack.

Best Unearthed Recording - Vicious Circle: S/T

Previously-unreleased rehearsal recordings of this infamous pre-TSOL band pressed on limited edition vinyl with an accompanying DVD of singer Jack Grisham telling the band’s violent and chaotic tale. Surprisingly melodic, Vicious Circle actually sound closer to where TSOL ended up on Beneath The Shadows than the fast rage of their late '70s peers. Proof that Grisham was a great performer right out of the gate.

Best Music Documentary – Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm 

After hitting some film festivals in 2010, Jacob Hatley’s brilliant film on the sorely missed Levon Helm finally saw a theatrical/DVD release in 2013. A film so raw, beautiful and devastating that it floored me to the point of tears. A necessary viewing experience for those who truly know and appreciate a musician's life. Just don't expect an easy ride.

Best Music-Related Book – For Facts Sake by Bob Daisley

In a career that has spanned five decades, Australian bassist extraordinaire Bob Daisley has worked with some of the most legendary names in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, The Hoochie Coochie Men and Chicken Shack are just some of the many artists who’ve benefited from Daisley’s playing and/or songwriting talents over the years. Fueled by an extensive diary that Daisley has kept since 1976, For Facts Sake presents some of the most in-depth stories about Metal’s greatest legends ever committed to paper. These remarkable tales are fleshed out by hundreds of rare photos and graphics from Daisley’s personal archives. Treasures displayed in the book include Daisley’s handwritten lyrics to the final verse of "Crazy Train" and never-before-seen shots of the late Randy Rhoads. (Read my feature on the book HERE.)

Artists to Watch in 2014:

Blues Pills

Photo Credit:

This stunning female-fronted American-Swedish-French band came out of nowhere in 2013 with the Devil Man EP, a slab of Big Brother-meets-Black Sabbath Blues/Doom highlighted by Elin Larsson’s Joplinesque voice. The band’s upcoming Live At Rockpalast EP (due in February 2014) will surely attract even more listeners. Killer stuff.

The Alcohollys

Photo credit:
Featuring Kittie drummer Mercedes Lander and original Kittie bassist Tanya Candler, The Alcohollys released two EPs of Zeppelin-meets-Runaways awesomeness in 2013 and are sure to keep the party going in 2014. More info HERE.

Anna Phoebe

Photo courtesy of Anna Phoebe

Amazing British violinist/keyboardist Anna Phoebe (Jethro Tull/Roxy Music/Trans-Siberian Orchestra) is set to release her next solo album, Between The Shadow & The Soul, in April 2014. Last month, fans got an early taste of the upcoming album’s direction with the release of the four-song Embrace EP. (Read my feature on Anna HERE.)

Ani Cordero

Photo credit:

Current Os Mutantes drummer Ani Cordero (Rasputina/Dean & Britta) is gearing up for the March 2014 release of Recordar, an album of reinterpretations of 11 classic Latin American songs from the 1930s to the 1970s. Guests include Os Mutantes leader Sérgio Dias, who co-produced the album with Cordero. More information on Ani is available HERE.

So there you have it. I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2014!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Throwing Muses: Purgatory/Paradise

Anyone who has followed Throwing Muses throughout their 30-year career knows that the band’s music has always been a step away from convention. Although the group’s (at times) deceptively Poppy music hinted at a mainstream breakthrough a couple of times over the years (most notably on 1991’s MTV-embraced The Real Ramona), successfully transforming a lyricist/performer like frontwoman Kristin Hersh (known to deliver lyrics like “I have a fish nailed to a cross on my apartment wall/ It sings to me with glassy eyes and quotes from Kafka” with a thousand-yard stare) into a Pop princess was never truly in the cards.

Ultimately, Throwing Muses are a band popular enough to find work on the road, but not successful enough to rise above sleeping on dirty couches. This truth is the backdrop of Purgatory/Paradise (It Books), a CD/book combo that serves as a road diary/soundtrack of the group’s experiences traveling in the Mid Leagues. Not surprisingly, most of it isn’t pretty at all: In Boston, Hersh and bassist Bernard Georges rush to the aid of a bouncer stabbed in the street, only to have a fearful Hersh later wonder if the glitter on the band shirts they used to stop the bleeding made the man’s injury worse. In Texas, a drugged and drunken crowd chants her name and rocks the band’s tour bus as she struggles to find comfort in the arms of her baby son. And of course, those dirty couches are everywhere. (As Hersh writes in the book: “‘I coulda sworn I saw that couch in Milwaukee,’ I thought, staring down at the stained hunting scene stretched over a seat cushion in Denver.”)

Every band touring at the Muses’ level has a million stories like these, but no group has turned them into a package quite like Purgatory/Paradise. Housing a disc with 32 songs in just 67 minutes, the book includes short essays and stories about each track and instructions on how to download goodies like an instrumental version of the album and a commentary track by Hersh and drummer David Narcizo. The crowdfunded recording finds the band unburdened with the restrictions of working under a company’s watch. In the Muses’ case, this means producing a series of musical fragments (some clocking in at under a minute) as opposed to a full-on album with a concrete beginning, middle and end. Naturally, Purgatory/Paradise’s strongest musical moments (“Sunray Venus,”  “Film,” “Opiates,” “Lazy Eye” and “Milan”) resemble complete songs. When the band hit their target with these tracks, they are absolutely exquisite: Hersh’s distinctive voice is in top form, while the criminally-underrated Narcizo drives the proceedings with his typical power and finesse.

Away from these instant highs, Purgatory/Paradise takes considerable study and patience to fully understand and appreciate. Without the structure of a music business machine at least trying to smooth over the band’s more self-indulgent tendencies, the listener/reader is left with songs that drift in and out, lyrics that sometimes seem to start mid-thought and (in the case of the audio commentary) in-jokes and stories that mean more to the creators than they ever could to the outside world. (Do we really need to hear Hersh talk on the phone with the guy who mastered the album about the brownies she’s going to send him?) While none of the Muses’ past work is what you’d categorize as easily digestible, Purgatory/Paradise is downright difficult. But it is also refreshingly daring and one of 2013’s best releases. The listener/reader getting lost from time to time is a very small price to pay to experience a band allowing themselves to fully exist and create in their own world. More artists should try it.

Go HERE to purchase Purgatory/Paradise


Monday, December 9, 2013

Wiggin Out: A Shaggs Songstress Goes Solo

A lifelong resident of New Hampshire, Dot Wiggin is the kind of person you see every day at the post office or supermarket. An unassuming, working class mom in her sixties getting through her day. Friendly, but far from gregarious. A family-oriented lady who enjoys a quiet life spending time with her loved ones – including her beloved pugs. Not someone to stand out in a crowd. But to her legion of hardcore fans around the world, Dot Wiggin is the most extraordinary musician of her generation. 

Forty-four years ago, Dot and her sisters Betty and Helen were known as The Shaggs, a girl group based in Fremont, NH that performed regular gigs at the Fremont Town Hall. According to legend, the girls’ father Austin - a strict disciplinarian with a penchant for homeschooling - had a revelation that his kids would someday be a world-famous band and promptly ordered them to write songs in the basement of the family home. But the problem, according to a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the group, was that the girls’ upbringing meant they had virtually no idea of what music actually was.   

This dilemma resulted in Philosophy Of The World, one of the most gloriously bizarre albums ever released. If you’ve heard the album, you know how impossible it is to describe; if you’re new to it, take the song that the kids on South Park came up with in the infamous “Succubus” episode and spread it over 32 minutes. You'll get the idea. 

Depending on your tastes, Philosophy Of The World is either a greater ’60s album than Sgt. Pepper or more unlistenable than anything produced by that other Granite State music star, GG Allin. Rolling Stone once said that Philosophy Of The World “may stand as the worst album ever recorded,” while the great Frank Zappa famously called The Shaggs “better than The Beatles.”  Of course, the girls were far too shut off in their own world up in Fremont to see their record slowly become a bonafide cult classic. And when Austin died of a heart attack in 1975, The Shaggs promptly disbanded and carried on with non-show biz lives, moving even further away from a legacy that was growing without their knowledge.

Although incredibly difficult to sit through, Philosophy tracks like “My Pal Foot Foot,” “Sweet Thing” and “It’s Halloween” reflect the truly endearing innocence of three young (and quite sheltered) girls playing and singing from the heart. While challenging to the ears, Philosophy Of The World may just be the most honest Rock album ever released.

In addition to Zappa, The Shaggs’ enthusiastic fanbase included Terry Adams of NRBQ, who spearheading a reissue of the album in 1980. The new pressing of the album was followed in 1982 by a collection of previously unreleased recordings called Shaggs’ Own Thing. But aside from a 1999 live reunion arranged by NRBQ in New York City, the Wiggin sisters’ public profile over the decades remained decidedly low. But like Terry Adams before him, New York-based musician Jesse Krakow was determined to keep The Shaggs in the public consciousness. Best known for his work with oddrockers Shudder to Think and the John Zorn-approved group Time Of Orchids, Krakow organized “Still Better Than The Beatles,” a special Shaggs tribute concert at The Bell House in Brooklyn, NY in April 2012. The event, created to raise funds for the Fremont Town Hall, featured dozens of musicians playing the girls’ offbeat back catalogue. The night also boasted a live q-and-a session with Dot, Betty and fourth sister Rachel (who played live bass with The Shaggs during the Fremont Hall days). It was during this q-and-a that a whole new musical chapter began for Dot.

“One of the fans asked if I still write music, and I said, ‘Well, I write lyrics, but I don’t write music,’” she recalls. “Jesse raised his hand and said, ‘I’m your man. You write the lyrics and send them to me, and I’ll write the music.’ I said, ‘Okay, that sounds like a good deal.’ I sent him a few songs, and he wrote the music. About a month later, he called and said, ‘There’s just one problem, Dot. Fans are going to want to hear Dot sing Dot’s songs.’ Well, that wasn’t my plan; I just wanted the royalties for writing the lyrics and getting lyrics [out] so the fans can hear them. He persuaded me to give it a shot.”

That “shot” would later become Ready! Get! Go! (Alternative Tentacles), Dot’s first full-length album since 1969. Released on October 29, Ready! Get Go! is a mix of never-recorded Shaggs songs and new classics written by Dot and members of “The Dot Wiggin Band” - Krakow, guitarist Mike Fornatale (The Left Banke, The Monks, Moby Grape), drummer Laura Cromwell (The Vivian Sisters, Queen Moonracer), keyboardist/xylophonist Brittany Anjou (Elysian Fields) guitarist/banjo player Nick Oddy (Zammuto) and Adam Minkoff (The Machine) on guitars, theremin and mandolin. Dot’s still-childlike sprit shines through on inescapably catchy tunes like “Banana Bike” (see video below), “If I Could Be Your Hero,” “Speed Limit” and “Boo Hoo.” Other highlights include “Love At First Sight” (featuring Dot’s son Matthew on co-lead vocals) and a cover of Skeeter Davis’ “End Of the World.” Despite the presence of skilled musicians, the album retains plenty of The Shaggs’ shambolic charm.

For Dot, recording for the first time with people other than her siblings presented some challenges, particularly on the songs used on the album that were originally written for The Shaggs.

“It was kind of difficult because when [The Shaggs] played, I always played the melody and then we sang the melody, so I’d know when to come in and when not to because I sang when I played,” she explains. “It was little difficult getting used to knowing when to come in [with the new players] because I wasn’t playing and didn’t always hear the melody. That was the most difficult part. [With] some of the [Shaggs] songs that they re-did that were already recorded, and even the ones I didn’t [record previously], they played them a little bit different than the way I wrote them. When I would perform with them, I would sing them the way I remembered writing them, and it was different. I had to re-program myself, basically.”

In addition to unveiling the new album, Dot is planning the hit the road in January for a nine-date east coast tour, with a southwest jaunt slated for March. These live events are sure to draw scores of avid Shaggs fans.

“When we played in New York for NRBQ’s 30th anniversary [in 1999], we had fans there from Japan, the UK and California who we didn’t even realize were out there,” she says. “They were also there to see NRBQ, but a lot of them were there to see us, too. I was very surprised to know that [an audience] was even in existence.”

While the upcoming shows represent Dot’s most active performance schedule yet, fans shouldn’t expect much beyond these two tours.  

“Performing on tour, especially so many days at a time, is hard for me to fit into my everyday life schedule,” she admits. “I’m still working, so I have to arrange time off from work. I have a dog that’s diabetic and gets three insulin shots a day, and basically I’m the one who gives them to him, so it’s hard to make sure he’s all set while I’m not there. I have an adult son who lives with me; I’m his guardian. I have to find a friend for my son and a place for the dog and another dog we have, so it’s very difficult to re-arrange my life.”

Jesse Krakow and Dot Wiggin at the Fremont Town Hall (Courtesy of

Of course, supporting a new album has led this reluctant Rock star to do things like phone interviews with yours truly. With so much hullabaloo still surrounding The Shaggs and Philosophy Of The World – as well as the strange rumors and tales that surround the creation of both – is Dot satisfied with how her life and musical history have been portrayed by the media?

“I don’t know if ‘satisfied’ is the right word,” she replies. “For the most part, it’s okay. Some of the negative stuff I don’t agree with. But like I tell everyone, everybody has the choice to make their own opinion and [has] freedom of speech, so you take the good with the bad. Also, I was told once that even bad publicity is still publicity.”

Based on the recent publicity for Ready! Get! Go!, it appears that the world is genuinely pleased to see a Shagg returning to the studio and the stage. It also appears that Dot will be the only performer from Philosophy Of The World who will be making music for the foreseeable future.

“Betty’s recuperating from having rotator cuff surgery on her shoulder,” she says. “She’s getting ready to start back to work, and she just decided that she didn’t want to get involved with the music and wants to spend time at home with her sons and grandchildren.” 

Sadly, Helen – the keeper of The Shaggs’ unconventional beat – passed away in 2006.

Nearly 50 years since her father first made her strum a guitar, New England’s unlikeliest music legend is happy – if a bit bemused – to see a world so eager to embrace her songs. 

“I sometimes think I should just write and put my lyrics into poems and forget about the music part,” she shares. “But I know there are a lot of people who aren’t going to agree with that! (laughs)”

Go HERE for more information on Dot Wiggin and to order your copy of Ready! Get! Go!