Cut Me Down & Count My Rings is a collection of rarities, singles, and b-sides by indefatigable DIY pop musician John Ringhofer, AKA Half-handed Cloud, the first artist after Sufjan Stevens to release an album on Asthmatic Kitty Records. The title is a lyric from the yet-unreleased fifth Half-handed Cloud album, due out in 2010.
This disk collects 46 songs that don’t appear on Half-handed Cloud’s four Asthmatic Kitty Records/Sounds Familyre albums. They’re taken from seventeen different releases that came out between 2000 and 2009. Until now, these songs were only available on vinyl, as a cassingle, with a zine, as a couple limited-edition CDEPs, or among the tracks of a few compilation albums. The themes are accordingly diverse: they include sheep, Psalms, werewolves, list-making, bees, stories from scripture and Christmas. Some of the songs served as transitions between previous Half-handed Cloud releases or built upon themes from the full-lengths. Lending a helping hand on assorted tracks are Brandon Buckner, from Ringhofer's former band Wookieback, Sufjan Stevens, Yoni from WHY?, and Nedelle and Chris from Cryptacize.
Ringhofer began his singing and recording career at two, collaborating on cassette tape with his parents while in the bathtub. Early favorites included The United States Pledge of Allegiance, songs from Sgt. Pepper’s, Sunday school tunes, holiday melodies, nursery rhymes, and the themes from Star Wars, The Lone Ranger, and The Greatest American Hero. In fourth grade he began playing the trombone in a North Carolina elementary school band, and at 16, while recovering from toe surgery, learned to play guitar on a Korean-made acoustic from a company better known for its brass instruments. Writing and recording his own songs soon followed. From the start, Ringhofer’s songwriting philosophy included the idea of brevity as a virtue, or “If I can say it in ninety seconds, why take five minutes?”, thereby excluding drum and guitar solos and thirty-verse epics. He was encouraged in his short-song writing by the tiny chapters in Kurt Vonnegut’s The Cat’s Cradle and Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes.
Through his albums and unpredictable multi-media performances, Ringhofer has found his way into the hearts of multitudes with spirited humor, an anything-goes 1960s musical sensibility, and murmurs of divine redemption accompanied by stringed instruments, an air organ, trombone, or a variable-speed cassette player. Cut me Down gathers the scattered—and in some cases lost—chapters of the Half-handed Cloud canon into one efficient package, a small monument to genuine creativity and independence in pop music.
released November 3, 2009
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