Now I don’t know if this will be anywhere near as decent as the other stuff or if one would even care, but I enjoyed the story so I figured I’d share. Look at me, going all Doctor Seuss right there.
Recently I’ve been doing my best to avoid all outside news; if it doesn’t happen in my world, I do not know or wish to give it my time. Too much is happening today that has people up in arms while no one is living in the world they are sharing with their neighbor. That world ain’t so bad, and if we were all to slow down a second and focus on our own backyards, the big picture would fix itself… sorry, didn’t mean to get preachy there. So, this has meant a steady diet of CDs and commercial free independent radio stations, which kind of worked out because I had put together an Independent/College Local Radio Station Guide for the Uniting With Music. It has come in handy but it also means I only get my average radio station’s signal about as far as your one armed uncle could throw a ball with his “other” hand. I’m on an expedition for work and find myself to the furthest reaches of the northern-most part of Connecticut that somehow feels further north than the Yukon. When in a strange land, it’s good to remember to do as those Romans. I did the logical thing and asked one of the “Romans” of the land where one would procure good music that was independent or commercial free. They responded with the station of their people, WWUH 91.3 FM, so I tuned in. It was a solid little station with a rather solid signal. It carried me back to the boarder of my city, which was all I needed, and I was able to return to the music of classic on one of the largest independent classical radio station groups, (they play more than classical but it doesn’t hurt to be cultured, yeah, I’m talking to you) WMNR 88.1 FM in Monroe CT – check out their live stream. Before I changed the dial to WMNR, I locked in WWUH 91.3 to a button. I always hate when you find a great station on a trip and can’t remember it when you return, so knowing I would be that way someday soon, I locked it in.
Now let’s flash forward; it’s a week later. We’re in the future of then, but the past of now. I find myself south of the North of Nowhere, CT but I am still out of range of all my usual stations. I try WWUH and wouldn’t you know? It works. The station is playing everything from classic hits all the way down the charts to nowhere-near hits, but every song they played hit the mark. After a while, this song comes on; it’s like New Orleans bright jazz-style music, fused with a good blues band, all tied together with an accordion and some of the most upbeat, non-pandering lyrics I’ve heard in new music in quite a while. It’s just a guy and his band having a good time, playing a good tune, and you can hear the fun they’re having through the music they play. I grabbed a pen and an envelope I had in my truck and wrote down the chorus, “…I’m on a roll, can’t stop me now…” I had meant to search the lyrics to find the artist when I got home but forgot all about it by the time my day was over.
Let’s jump forward two days now; nothing’s changed as far as timeline goes. This is still just a story so it has happened in the past already. I’m still singing that song in my head; I can hear the accordion riff and I get to thinking I can’t remember the last time a new song got wedged between my ear holes for that long. I decide when I get home I’m finally going to look this band/guy up. (Now, spoiler alert – this is the most fantastical part of the whole story…) I actually freaking remember to look it up after I get home…I know, surprised even myself. Turns out, he’s Corey Ledet and the album’s name is called Zydeco. Knowing nothing more other than I really enjoyed the song, I decide to make a blind faith purchase. I say in my head, I’m going to support him and buy the album. I click the drop down tab and go to select CD when I realized he made a cassette available. Well, I recently got an old pickup with a tape-deck in it and also respected the fact he was still representing cassettes so I end up buying both of them. The only place the record is available is on a local Louisiana recording labels website called Nouveau Electric Records. While the situation may have been odd, the site looked clean enough and I’d heard the dude’s music on the radio so it must be legit, I thought, and went through with the purchase.
That was Sunday; as the week progressed, nothing turned up. I’m not the best at communicating with technology since my job has me outside all day every day. By Saturday, I’m at work and I think to myself, “Okay, if I don’t have an e-mail from them I have to reach out just to check and make sure everything’s good.” The next day is Easter Sunday, so I know I’m not getting a response until Monday, but like I said, I have too much stuff to do that I need do something before I forget. That, and I probably wouldn’t check my e-mail until next Sunday, so there really wasn’t a rush.
Another time jump; the time frame on this story is like a roller coaster. It’s midday Easter Sunday. I am just hanging around, not doing anything, and I recall the e-mail I sent the night before. I decide to poke in to check on my e-mail, not expecting anything, just looking to burn a few minutes of the day. To my surprise, I have a very nicely written e-mail from a man named Louis; he is from the recording studio Nouveau Electric Records, explaining the delay. I was more than fine with the delay with what went on; I just wanted to make sure it would eventually be getting on its way to me and I didn’t mess something up. Quite frankly, I was blown away that the guy would take time out of his Easter celebrations to respond to a random customer of two items. We proceed to have a short e-mail conversation back and forth on Easter, exchange goodbyes, or “Mercis,” as Louis called it, and he said keep an eye out for a shipping notification on Tuesday.
Time is traveling along so briskly at this point in the story that Tuesday flies by without even saying, “Hello,” and with that, I forget to look. However, after that exchange on Easter, I thought Louis was just a solid good guy and was confident it was coming. I was being optimistic on the situation.
The rest of the week moves by just as quick, and I keep telling myself, “I trust the guy, a person’s probably out with a bug or something.” However, when Friday night rolled along, I finally said I might want to check my e-mail since there was no package on the porch. I sat down at my desktop and not only did I have a confirmation number, but its status read, “Confirmed – Delivered – in my mailbox.” I spring up and head down the stairs like a kid on Christmas, if that kid was 100 years old and had three bad knees…don’t ask. So, I go to the mailbox. There is a package that looks like it was beaten in order to make it fit in my mailbox. I get the USPS is a thankless job, especially with how stingy people are at tipping today, but please stop taking it out on my packages. I only order like one thing every six months I’m not like the others….
Sorry…. got off track there for a second. Besides the clear physical assault the package had taken, it was in a weird shape for what should have been a CD and a cassette. As I return to the indoors, I squeeze the package like it’s a present on your birthday, wondering if through the course of the ass-whooping my mailman clearly laid upon my package upon delivery, did they actually crush the CD? I wondered, why else would the package be bulging round yet slightly disfigured? I get inside, now almost convinced they somehow bent the CD casing and it being wedged into my mailbox all day had it permanently warped. However, I hadn’t yet fully convinced myself because it didn’t feel right. Maybe it was something else? It didn’t feel like there was a CD or a cassette in the package I was holding. Maybe I just missed the actual package? Could’ve just fallen off my front porch, or got delivered to the neighbors.
Well, this story continues inside now. It’s late and I’m about to fall asleep, so, I have to find out. In the more quick than slower territory of speed, I tear open the package…pause for suspense…inside is not only an undamaged compact disc, an undamaged cassette, oh, and…exciting, isn’t it?…a spice blend by the musician of the one Corey Ledet – not bad flavor either.
Now, up until now that point, the whole time you have only been reading what they call in the biz “build up” or “backstory”. This is the reason I’m telling you this tale and it becomes a story. You take the exchange between strangers, on a holiday no less, that would’ve never otherwise met each other, that were lead to random encounter by way of a found radio station that I never would have found if a friend had not recommended the station all those moons ago, all while looking to support a musician and getting a really fun album in return for that support. It is, when you think about it, a special kind of power that music has and what truly makes music great. It really does feel like a bit of folks Uniting With Music, even if it’s just for a couple of small moments that don’t amount to much. I got it all, the story, a really fun album, and a tasty spice blend (Corey Ladet Zydeco’s Accordion Dragon Spices: “Taste the Dragon’s Fire”) I haven’t tried it enough to give it a final verdict, but so far we slapped it on some oven fries and it was pretty tasty. I’ll be keeping it in the cabinet for now. Moral of the story, be open to new music outside of what the computer picks for you based on thumbs ups. There is a whole world of music out there for you to discover. Jump around the dial a bit or see what others are listening to. Who knows? You might’ve been a classical geek this whole time. This guy made an album in 2020, what other artist did that? Corey’s doing it for the love of the game and I really do enjoy it.
If your interested in getting yourself a copy of the album or just checking out Corey Ledet you can check him out there –
P.S. – The seasoning blend is quickly becoming a regular addition to things in the kitchen here, here’s hoping it’s not that expensive.
Merry Christmas to Me (An unexpected trip to Algonquin Records)
So, I found myself on an unexpected, unplanned day trip to the Illinois area, so I ran around and got my stuff done and grabbed two deep dish pizzas before my flight, as I had never been in the area and figured if I was here, I had to try it. So, now I grabbed the quiche you mid-westicans call a pizza…I will hand it to you, I don’t know if I’d call deep dish pizza a pizza… but I would call it tasty, so like the Terminator I’ll be back, or at least ordering up some frozen ones long distance…okay, we got off track there for a second now back to the crux of the story. I’d done everything I needed to get done and had about an hour to kill. I was about two feet from the airport. I opened up GoogleMaps as I would have liked to see the Great Lake (literally just drive-over “see” it so I could say I saw it and run back) but that was a two and a half hour round trip. Trying to think of what could be done to kill some time, that’s when I remembered I had the record store directory I had been building for the unitingwithmusic.org site, and thought it would be cool to use a resource I have put a bit of time in to find/support a local record store. Wouldn’t you know it, the RSDirectory worked, and I had a store listed literally in the town I was in, located 9 minutes away. I called it fate and asked the lady in the box (my phone GPS) to direct me through the old neighborhoods to Algonquin Records.
After what felt like an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods of post-war America roads, I came to the intersection where the store was supposed to be located. Stuck at a red light, I began to survey the landscape. The “Gips” (what I call GPS) showed it right on the corner, and right on the corner was a recently built shopping center. There was no record store in it, though, and I began to think it was another casualty in the record store world. I noticed behind the shopping center a building that looked like a 1980s wood paneling construction. The light went green and I decided to check it out. Little did I know, the store I was searching for was an establishment of the community waiting for those searching for a diamond-in-the-rough, sitting frozen in a way like a time capsule as a staple of the community that was still standing but forgotten by the masses.
As I approached the old brown brick building with matching black wood shingles, the color long since fading on the shingles, the building appeared dead. At this point, I began to voice my disappointment that record stores are dying and soon it will be next to impossible to experience new music, when I noticed a wood paneling sign by the road. It had green shingles atop, the sign large with small white letters that I couldn’t read at a distance. I had it pegged for a park sign but said, “Let’s see what it says.” Sure enough, on the bottom line it said Algonquin Records in white letters, and there was an “Open” sign in the window. Now I was pepped up, and the chase was back on. It was no longer a funeral for an unmet friend but a continuing of a musical adventure.
My goal: to flip through the records until I find a sleeve cover that interests me, buy it, and find out what’s on it when I get home.
I parked out front. The building still looked dead, frozen in time while aging the whole time. However, the sign said “open” and there were cars out front. I’m not one to be shy so I decided to check it out. I sat parked out front for a minute, taking in the store (remember, like two lines ago I said I was debating if it was still a functioning store or not). The records hung on the back of the storefront display for decoration were sun-faded and severely warped from aging in the sun for so long, and the tube-era radios let you know the store has been here for a while. I proceeded to make my way inside, surveying the front of the store with my eyes as I approached the door, still unsure if I was about to yank on a locked door. The store looked like the kind of place that, sadly, most modern-day shoppers would probably rather run away from than go inside and flip through some sleeves. I pulled the handle, and to my surprise, the door opened, and, to everyone’s surprise in the store, I walked through.
As I walked through the door, my senses were punched by nostalgia, the smell that comes from the burning of the dust off of old electrical components mixing with the strong musk of decaying cardboard sleeves that house the records that have aged over time. The sound of an old tube TV playing reruns of (I think it was) The Beverly Hillbillies on VHS provided the store’s audio. As I walked through the door, my fellow patrons and the owner looked over as if to welcome a friend. I was greeted with some unsure looks by the patrons and a cautiously welcoming hello from the owner. I was unsure if this was because they don’t normally get new customers, the bug that’s going around (yeah, that not be named), my impending presence, or any other number of reasons for the owner/patrons alike to analyze why I was there. After exchanging, “Hellos,” I joined the other shoppers in perusing the record sections. I settled into a row of records and joined the hunt.
I was on a sort of time crunch, so I kept reminding myself to stay focused on getting what I was there to find: an interesting album cover to take home and hope whatever music that went along with that cover wasn’t awful. As I flipped through the record sleeves, the sound of shifting plastic and the slapping of said plastic into each other from around the store stopped time and relaxed the soul; I was no longer in a rush, I had all the time in the world. I no longer needed to get to the airport, I was just listening to some good old Beverley Hillbillies programming, partaking in the hunt with my fellow patrons to find the next great thing that’s been missing all this time from our respective musical catalogs.
I had been shuffling through the seemingly endless supply of records for a while, at this point without any results. I stepped back and looked around toward the back of the store. It caught my eye. There it was, sitting in the front and center, in front of me no less, as if it had been waiting there since the store’s hay day for me to come in and pick it up. The stained glass motif on the cover of an album was what caught my eye; it seemed out of place amongst the records it was placed with. I walked over, picked up and begun my inspection of the record as if I was a guy buying a horse in the 1700s (just no using the internet, that’s like checking the teeth and that’s a no-no). It turned out to be a double album of a concert that took place, I believe, in ’57, which is more information than I usually look for when picking up an album. I decided this was the one and picked up Kingston Trio’s ‘Once Upon A Time’, and with that find the rush of the world and the reality of the moment returned to me; I had a flight to catch.
As I turned to head to the register, I was met with the surprise of a section of CDs in front of me that I had overlooked in the haze of the record hunt. In front of one of the rows was Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, an album I had long ago lost to time. At $3, I decided I needed to take it home and that I should look a bit deeper. I flipped through the CDs with the haste of the fact that I needed to get my back-side to the airport quick and I had just found another treasure trove to flip through. As I was getting ready to call it quits, I came across the Blues Brothers ‘Briefcase Full of Blues’ album. Finding it only fitting being in the Chicago area and discovering something more Chicago than deep dish pizza or the wind, I decided to take the album and to call it quits as I had to get a move on it.
With the three albums in hand, I headed to check out. The owner was extremely pleasant as…well, I don’t know… maybe while he was still trying to figure me out, but he was a good guy. By that point he had to’ve figured I wasn’t going to rob him or cause trouble and that was enough for him, which makes him my kind of people. The three albums in total cost me eleven bucks, which I felt was nearly stealing them [so maybe he wasn’t on point with me not robbing him]. Every album in the store was fairly priced, unlike some places that can price gouge or beat you over the head on each individual album, and the store’s records are filed by cost of the album making for some good diving. We concluded our transaction and exchanged our pleasantries, and I hastily made my way out of the store. Pausing for a moment, I had the door open, I turned around to take in the store one last time before exiting, even taking a couple seconds of the ancient TV programming. With that, I exited Algonquin Records joyful that my hunt triumphantly bore fruit, and feeling as refreshed as a Baptist after church.
I returned to the car with my musical trophies in hand, happy I had found this time capsule of a store and happy I didn’t give up at any part of any strange travels that could’ve kept me from this. I jumped in the rental, ready to go to the airport, and that was when I was reminded, I didn’t bring any bags for travel… now how are we supposed to get that on the plane? That in itself is a story, but not the one you’re here for and I’ve taken up enough of your time. Now, get on out there and discover some new music of your own at your own record store. Get out of the norm and have an adventure.
Until next time.
P.S. It sits aside a very picturesque park. I would have strolled though had I had more time. So, if you’re in the area and happen to walk Prairie Lakes Park, then next time you’re hitting the southwest corner, take a stroll off the path most traveled and check out the selection. You won’t regret it.
Digital Music Links –
UWM always encourages supporting of local music shops, though we understand that you need to “keep with the times”. To reflect that we are providing Sotify links for anyone that isn’t into the physical media but still want to hear some of the music mentioned.