Friday, June 23, 2006

***Joel Caithamer***

Why isn't this guy more famous? I mean, he's got the rockabilly sound down pat, he sings about big bad wolves and Evel Knievel, and he's incredibly busy in his own library ... check out Joel Caithamer's ACTIVATE! and get ready to rock the town!

The album opens with an upright bass-slappin' song where ol' wolfie admits that, yes, I am a "Big Bad Wolf", but I'm not that bad. Then we find out that "Bobby's Been Bad but Wanda's Been Worse", after an overdriven harmonica solo blasts out of the speakers and a babysitter's worst nighmare is described. Kitty's been out "Cattin' All Night", complete with a film noir soundtrack, including a finger-snapping 5/4 break. A spooky tune describes A Series of Unfortunate Events' "Master of Disguises", the evil Count Olaf ... but then Joel cranks up the volume again with a bio of Evel Knievel, a librarian's musical explanation of the Dewey Decimal System that would make Sun Records proud, and a rock and roll ode to a vine full of briars. The rock continues with a "Taxman"-like tune about Sunday morning pancakes; a jazzy story of the life of a sock monkey, featuring a very singalongable 5/4 chorus; and the album ending, organ-heavy tune dedicated to stubborn eaters.

Caithamer went all out for ACTIVATE!, from the cover's retro graphics, to the blue suede shoes inlay card, to the screen print image of a vinyl LP on the CD itself. But the album goes way beyond gimmicky kitsch: Caithamer's songwriting skills, his band's stellar musicianship, and the wholehearted effort he put into this project show that he's serious about the fun he's having. Besides being head of children's services at a branch of the Kenton County Library in Kentucky, Caithamer has developed, along with the Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and Success By Six, a series of multimedia materials available for use by teachers and librarians. Check out his work at Considering his impressive work across the Midwest, and the two CDs now under his belt, Joel is one of those guys we wish we had more of in our public libraries. Get ACTIVATE! and, as Joel himself said, "Play loud!". You'll find out why he should be more famous.