Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grayson & Whitter- Ommie Wise


I'd always loved Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You." But when I heard it blaring through an upscale shopping center yesterday, I knew that its ubiquitous use as a Halloween novelty song had finally spoiled it for me. Here's something that continues to scare me- Grayson & Whitter's 1927 version of the ancient murder ballad "Ommie Wise." Its matter-of-fact telling and lack of a just resolution make it exceptionally chilling. Most of the songs on The Recordings of Grayson & Whitter: 1928-1930) are similarly spooky. It's the essence of OWA. If you can't get past the scratchy fidelity of the original recording, try Elvis Costello and the McGarrigle's version. Typically, Costello couldn't resist adding a coda. I can't really recommend it. Far more effective is this genuinely disturbing video set to Grayson & Whitter's original.

A friend asked me to download a song from Amazon and burn it to CD a couple days ago. Amazon's system was seamless. It's no different than an MP3 blog, except for the credit card thing.

Kansas City Click: My favorite night of music on Halloween was They Might Be Giants and Poi Dog Pondering at the Grand Emporium in 1988. It's not quite the same, but Shiny Toy Guns should make for a decent Halloween party tonight at America's Pub.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Porter Wagoner, 1927-2007


"My, we didn't know what lonesome was..." Porter Wagoner is in full Luke the Drifter mode on "Tomorrow We'll Retire," a song I interpret as a pathetic parental guilt trip. It's from A Rare Slice of Country, a collection of pre-fame radio shots. Sixteen months ago I wrote that "Wagoner gives me the creeps" and mentioned that I'd seen him at the Opry. Since I posted those unkind words I've invested more time in Wagoner classics like "Rubber Room" and "Sorrow On the Rocks." I have a new appreciation for Wagoner's musical contribution, even if, well, you know... Wagoner died yesterday.

Here are my notes and photos from Joshua Redman's show Friday night.

I don't know what to make of this odd clip of Elvis Costello singing "Happy Birthday" to Hilary Clinton. It came to my attention via C-SPAN, where I caught Hil waxing poetic over the friendship she and Bill enjoy with E.C. and Diana Krall. At this moment, the clip has only 530 YouTube views, but I expect that number will skyrocket as it becomes a controversial lightning rod for people of all political stripes.

Kansas City Click: It'll take a certain state of mind to get up for tonight's event at the Beaumont. It's a Halfway To Hazard concert hosted by Chiefs star Jared Allen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Joshua Redman- Count Me Out


I'm planning on catching Joshua Redman's show tonight. I pin a disproportionate amount of my hopes for the future of jazz on guys like Redman, Roy Hargrove and Christian McBride. If the music is to survive in a meaningful way, it's on the shoulders of open-minded musicians who know the tradition but who are also aware that hip hop exists. That sensibility is heard on Live At the Village Vanguard from 1995. I hear echoes of Coltrane, Jimmy Forrest and the Wu-Tang Clan in "Count Me Out."

I finally listened to Prog last night as I watched Schilling defeat Jimenez. The Bad Plus' latest manages a very rare feat- it successfully brings big rock attitude to trad jazz. I try hard not to impose my jazz inclinations on others, but now I know what I'm getting my rock-ist buddies for Christmas.

Kansas City Click: Joshua Redman walks a tight rope at the Folly tonight.

The Cult, Stone Sour and the mighty Drowning Pool join the freaks at the annual Freaker's Ball Saturday at the T-Bones stadium.

BB's Lawnside BBQ serves a double helping of the blues Sunday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Steve Wariner- A Six Pack Ago


When he ruled the country roost in the '80s, Steve Wariner wowed both country music diehards and unsuspecting pop music audiences with his strong vocals and prowess as a guitarist. Today, it's routine for country stars like Brad Paisley to play lead guitar while prancing about like Mick Jagger. It's a far cry from the statue-like stage personas of Haggard, Wiliams, Nelson and Jones. In this post-Garth Brooks era, of course, it's practically mandatory for Nashville cats to do it all. And Wariner did it all first. This mighty fine barroom weeper is from his 1998 Burnin' the Roadhouse Down comeback album.

While in a retail environment for a couple hours earlier this week, I heard the usual innocuous pop music pumped through the store's Muzak-supplied system- The Supremes, Huey Lewis, Lifehouse, Destiny's Child and the like. I didn't mind; I often catch myself singing along. Then something unexpected happened. Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" popped up in the mix. Even though I've heard the song hundreds of times, it completely devastated me in this unexpected context. As I teared up, I couldn't decide if the music programmer should be fired or given a raise.

Kansas City Click: Try The Kelihans at the Gaf tonight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lalo Schifrin-Magic Carousel

The ride is over.

Even at 75, the great film composer Lalo Schifrin continues to tour. He's responsible for dozens of melodies and musical gimmicks known to every Western consumer of movies and television over the age of thirty. The laughably groovy "Magic Carousel" is a crate digger's dream. It's from the outstanding score to Rollercoaster. Additional themes can be heard in this film clip from the 1977 thriller. Uh oh- I'm starting to get a little nostalgic for the '70s.

I offer a list of the Ten Best Kansas City Jazz Recordings on my jazz blog.

Kansas City Click: When checking ticket availability for tonight's Porcupine Tree show at the Uptown, Ticketmaster offered me a seat in the front row. It's $45, but I'm still tempted...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cornelius Brothers- I"m So Glad (To Be Loved By You)

Glad No More

"Treat Her Like a Lady" and "Too Late To Turn Back Now" are familiar relics of the early '70s for listeners of "dusty groove" radio programs. Like so much soul music of that era, it's aging beautifully. The original song "I'm So Glad (To Be Loved By You)" is not particularly ambitious, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable today. In fact, it speaks to the quality of the group's output that such a strong song was released as a b-side in 1972. It manages to draw on both Curtis Mayfield and James Taylor. The Florida group's sturdy Classic Masters collection is loaded with similar throwback jams.

As a music consumer hoping that the physical representation of music limps along for at least a couple more years, I'm mad at Coheed & Cambria today. The regular version of their new release is packaged in a cruddy paper sleeve- and it's a $13.98 list price! To acquire something that doesn't look like it was duped by your roommate, you have to pony up for a "Deluxe Edition". Jerks.

Kansas City Click: American Catastrophe, Olympic Size and new act The Caves form a fine triple bill at the Hurricane tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Noble Sissle's Swingsters- Characteristic Blues

No character.

Recorded in New York seventy years ago, "Characteristic Blues" is surely one of the oddest documents of the previous century. Between Sidney Bechet's showy introduction and manic closing solo three minutes later are unintelligible guttural shouting, weird vocal harmonies, apocalyptic lyrics about a bedbug and a bald head and- believe it or not- yodeling. The 1937 session is one of two dozen essential tracks on Bechet's Centenary Celebration. And if you're under the impression that jazz was never a cultural force, you simply must watch the bacchanalian freak show masquerading as his 1951 wedding party. I especially like the "long-haired existentialists from Paris" at the 25-second mark. I'd remark on the footage's elaborate romanticism, but this marriage didn't last long.

I actually watched much of Next Great American Band over the weekend. The premise is promising, but the show was foiled by a lack of talent. I presume that "real" bands simply refused to audition for the show. It's too bad. In my town alone there are several mainstream acts- bands like Pomeroy- that wouldn't have lost any of their fans by participating. And they probably would have won.

Paul Fox of the Ruts has died. Here's the video for "Babylon's Burning," their best known song. Paul Raven of Killing Joke also died.

Kansas City Click: Joel Kraft and Emily Tummons get caffeinated at the Roasterie in Brookside tonight.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lucky Dube, 1964-2007


I never saw Bob Marley perform, but I did catch Lucky Dube a couple times. The hard-touring South African was often compared to Marley. And he deserved it. His conscious roots-based music recalled Marley's positive spirit and his live shows were obvious tributes to Marley's legacy. Lucky Dube was murdered yesterday. "My Brother, My Enemy" is found on Trinity, a 1995 release issued in the United States by a Motown subsidiary.

Kansas City Click: It'd be a really weird to see scrappy post-punk kids Flee the Seen at the swanky VooDoo Lounge tonight.

Iron your fancy pants- Miguel DeLeon's excellent salsa band is at the Madrid on Saturday. I'm not sold on the Police cover, though.

Seventy-four-year-old Lazy Lester visits the retro lounge inside Knuckleheads on Sunday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jack Wilson- Autumn Sunset


It's not difficult to imagine nascent rock'n'rollers, R&B and honky tonk musicians becoming increasingly agitated as they viewed Teresa Brewer's television performance in 1950. Heck, fifty-seven years later, it makes me want to break something. It's probably horribly unfair to Brewer to characterize her as the antithesis of Little Richard, Etta James and Chuck Berry, but what else can one make of this or this? Brewer died yesterday.
Jack Wilson, a sophisticated pianist who frequently backed female vocalists including Little Esther and Dinah Washington, died earlier this month. While there's minimal information provided in this budget compilation, Wilson's "Autumn Sunset" seems to be the title track of a 1977 solo album. It's soulful, immediately accessible cocktail jazz, sort of the middle ground between George Shearing and Ramsey Lewis.

Deborah Kerr died Tuesday. In spite of my comments above about Brewer, I adore her in The King and I.

I thoroughly enjoyed last night's broadcast of the Hip Hop Awards on BET. Even though I'm a Common fan, BET's point of pushing him front and center at every opportunity seemed odd and forced. To his credit, Common looked uncomfortable in the designated role of "not T.I."

Kansas City Click: I associate the Static Bar with extreme metal, but Madina Lake and Powerspace are among the poppy bands performing there tonight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Don Reno- Lady Hamlet

She left.

Don Reno's "Lady Hamlet" is another strong contender for the theme song to my next imaginary podcast. In addition to being an astounding example of expert pickin' an' grinnin', it's loaded with a sense of joyful anticipation. The instrumental is from an unusual project in which Reno's sons added posthumous backing tracks to a 1972 session. Keep in mind that the guitar wasn't even Reno's primary instrument. This clip from a 1962 television program is just one of many priceless Reno videos on YouTube.

"Pound That Beer"! There's no doubt I'll loathe this new Mac Lethal song by the end of the year- it's an instant anthem here in KC- but right now I can't get enough. (Tip via JH.)

While it lacks the element of surprise that made their previous effort especially welcome, Grace Potter & the Nocturnal's This Is Somewhere is still a fine listen. I dig the Blonde On Blonde vibe captured in the video for "Ain't No Time." Potter and company are currently touring with Gov't Mule.

Kansas City Click: The benefit performance for Megan Birdsall's forthcoming medical procedure is tonight at Jardine's.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Close Lobsters- I Kiss the Flower In Bloom

Dried up.

I sometimes wear pink shirts. I also listen to Close Lobsters. So there. The Scottish band's jingle jangle speaks directly to the part of me that still remembers the thrill of holding hands with my first crush. "I Kiss the Flowers In Bloom" perfectly captures the wistful sense of romantic optimism that life stamps out of most people by the time they're 25. It's on their wondrous 1987 recording Foxheads Stalk This Land. Here's more twee goodness.

Even though I'm not really a fan of Thrice, I wanted to buy their new release today. The handsome packaging is irresistible.


Kansas City Click: Oh my dear Lord. Anything But Joey are back. I don't know if I should celebrate or cry. I'm seriously considering going to see their show at Spivey's in Lenexa tonight to do a little of both.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oumou Sangare- Nawo Nawo

No more.

Roy Hargrove, Charlie Louvin and Drowning Pool need to step aside. My new show of the year is Friday night's performance by Dee Dee Bridgewater and her group of jazz and traditional African musicians. I praise the show to the rafters in my review. Bridgewater is touring in support of the Malian-inspired Red Earth. It features Mali's star vocalist and songwriter Oumou Sangare. This song is from Sangare's 1993 recording Ko Sira. Bridgewater's new sound is more "Western" than Sangare's, but her performance still featured extended solos for the traditional instruments heard here. This rough fan footage from Europe more closely reflects Friday's concert than the polished footage available from her record label. Sangare joins Alicia Keys on "Fallin'" here, while this brief documentary clip offers insights into Sangare's connection to Malian culture.

I don't have Vic Chesnutt's latest release yet, but my latest song obsession is "Band Camp" from 2003.

Kansas City Click: Saxophonist Eric Person is at the Blue Room tonight.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Helen Merrill- Street of Dreams

Dead end.

I discovered Jazz Times's interactive "Before and After" page this week. My favorite feature of Downbeat magazine was their blindfold test, in which musicians were asked to identify and discuss music. Now the rest of us can play along with Jazz Times' version. Two things struck me in discovering that Karrin Allyson didn't recognize Helen Merrill- the 77-year-old jazz vocalist is far too obscure and that I'm also guilty of neglecting my stash of Merrill recordings. This wordly standard from 1996's You and the Night and the Music features Masabumi Kikuchi on piano, Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums. Caution- it's not recommended for listeners on the brink of depression.

I attended my second Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers' gig of the year last night. It's increasingly painful witnessing the charismatic star playing his incredible catalog to diminishing crowds. It wouldn't hurt so much if he wasn't so incredible.

The Alternate Routes opened. Their roots rock was quite good, although most of the Clyne clique seemed indifferent,

I also caught Lori McKenna's charming in-store at a local Borders store today. It was a real treat. Here's a fuzzy photo. Hardcore troubadour fans will recognize that she was accompanied Mark Erelli.

Kansas City Click: Friday: Davey's Uptown offers a solid triple bill of local acts tonight- Lights & Siren, It's Over (if you haven't downloaded "Hallelujah" yet, do so this very instant) and Whiskey Boots.

Saturday: "Hey kids, shake it loose together." Elton John breaks in the Sprint Center.

Sunday: The City Light Orchestra reunites for a jazz brunch.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Universal Congress Of- Stovetop


Universal Congress Of's limited sense of funk was part of their appeal. It's as if Bootsy Collins was given only a week to prepare a hardcore band for a showcase gig opening for James Brown. When vocals don't interfere with their stilted groove, they evoke the soundtrack of an imaginary punk rock murder mystery. Perhaps it's perverse, but I continue to appreciate UCO and many of their '80s No Wave, pseudo-jazz counterparts. "Stovetop" is from the out-of-print SST release Prosperous and Qualified.

Kristie Stremel finally has a song worthy of her sincere rock'n'roll heart. "Best Kiss" is posted here, as is a fine interview. Equal parts "Crimson and Clover" and "Even the Losers," "Best Kiss" is an immediately satisfying meat-and-potatoes gem.

Kansas City Click: It's no secret that I love Roger Clyne, although "D-Backs Swing," a new baseball song streaming at his MySpace page, is entirely unacceptable. Clyne and the Peacemakers are at Knuckleheads tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

McCoy Tyner- Darn That Dream


Because I'm so infatuated with Robert Glasper's In My Element, I've been listening to a great deal of piano trio recordings. I want to confirm that Glasper really is all that. McCoy Tyner is associated with a far more ferocious style than Glasper's. But his playing is achingly gorgeous on this solo showcase from the 1991 recording Solar: Live At Sweet Basil. Tyner, who turns 70 next year, has a new album out on his own label.

Unless you consider "stripper music" a category, this deeply disturbing promotional video for a local "gentleman's club" has nothing to do with music. But you have to see it. It's been years since I've been in one of these places; this video reminds me of what I've been missing. Ugh. (Link via Tony.)

Kansas City Click: Interpol and Liars visit the Uptown.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Joe Grushecky- Love To Blame


Of course I hold Bruce Springsteen to a higher standard. When a guy salvages your troubled teenage life with songs like "Adam Raised a Cain," you expect him to produce deeply meaningful music forever. Alas, that's just not the case with Magic. It's like a high school reunion afterparty with a few of your oldest friends. It's good to be with the guys again, but no matter how much you laugh that night you know that you'll never have as much fun with them as you did when you were seventeen. Here's the thing- if Magic was the new release by Bruce associates Gary U.S. Bonds, Southside Johnny, Garland Jeffreys or recent Bruce descendants Roger Clyne or Mike Ness, I'd reserve a place for it in my year-end top ten. After all, Magic sounds like the best record Joe Grushecky ever made. "Love To Blame is from 1992's End of the Century. Joe and Bruce team up here.

I failed to mention Garth Brooks' amazing achievement yesterday. He sold 140,000 tickets to nine Kansas City shows on Saturday. Furthermore, he made a strong effort to work around secondary ticket vendors.

Kansas City Click: I don't trust Nick Baker's list of influences, but the MP3s posted at his MySpace page exude a lovely Gary Burton-on-sedatives vibe. He's performing with the UMKC Wind Ensemble at White Recital Hall tonight.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tennessee Ernie Ford- Milk 'Em In the Mornin' Blues


Outsiders will no doubt find it hysterical that provincial in-fighting dominates the state of Kansas. Nearly every resident of the state identifies with either the University of Kansas or Kansas State University. KU is perceived as a snobbish home for the city folk of eastern Kansas, while K-State is derided as an agricultural school. Both generalizations are based in reality. I have KU blood in my veins, but I listened to the Jayhawk's heroic football upset on KSU's radio network Saturday. I can't bear the smug KU announcers, but I also laugh at KSU's cattle insemination and boll weevil pesticide sponsors. So here's a song my sad KSU friends can relate to- Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Milk 'Em In the Morning Blues." The 1949 recording is contained on Ford's excellent Vintage Collection. If Wildcat fans seek further consolation, they might try this Ford and Odetta duet.

Do I dare go on one of my periodic metal binges? If I discover more bands like High On Fire, the descent into darkness will be worth the pain.

Kansas City Click: Loren Pickford plays jazz at Jardine's tonight.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Whispers- Out the Box


I can't help feeling guilty every time I attend an oldies concert, especially knowing I just missed a vital Black Lips show. Reveling in nostalgia is for losers. Still, I really want to see The Whispers, Stephanie Mills and Take 7 this weekend. Songs like "Out the Box" are dated, but I'm showing a few wrinkles myself. When my peers were listening to Van Halen, Boston and Journey, stuff like "The Beat Goes On" really enhanced my dating experiences. Unaccountably, "Out the Box" is not included on the bestselling Whispers hit collection, and the disc pictured here is not longer available.

There's no better radio song at this moment than "Duffel Bag Boy".

It has no bearing on music, but outsiders looking for insights into the origin of my troubled psyche need to see this painfully hysterical video.

Kansas City Click: Get Low at the Record Bar tonight.

Oh, the memories! The Whispers, Stephanie Mills and After 7 are at the Music Hall on Saturday.

John Jorgenson & His Gypsy Quintet transform the Mountain Music Shoppe on Sunday.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Johnny Bush- Driving Nails (In My Coffin)


The day's big music story in my town is the old-school queue already forming for Garth Brooks tickets. I listened to my modest Brooks collection last night. I was struck by two things as I heard the material for the first time in years. Like Thriller, it's amazing the way hits outnumber album tracks. And with all due respect to acts like Brooks & Dunn, it became obvious to me that many acts have thrived by rushing to fill the void left by Brooks' "retirement." I then turned to a stack of nearby Johnny Bush discs to refresh my palate. Green Snakes doesn't contain any hits, of course, but its hardcore honky tonk sure hit the spot.

Rakim, Ghostface Killah and Brother Ali backed by a live band? Incredible!

Kansas City Click: The Abracadabras sound like Puddle of Mudd covering the Beatles. See for yourself at Jillys tonight.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ralph McTell- Nettle Wine


Spinner recently listed Sinead O'Connor's "top heartbreaking songs." Her compelling choices include Ralph McTell's wonderful "Streets of London." Along with John Prine's "Hello In There," The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," Bill Morrissey's "John Haber" and Britney's "Gimme More," it's one of pop music's starkest chronicles of loneliness. "Nettle Wine" is a much happier song lifted from McTell's out-of-print live '76 Ralph, Albert & Sydney. Fans of Nick Drake would do well to investigate McTell's catalog. Here's a video of Ralph lip-syncing "Streets of London."

I watched a few minutes of Sunday Best on BET last night. The premise- a gospel singing competition hosted by Kirk Franklin- is great. But the way the show copies American Idol is disappointing. I'd obsess over the program if it displayed just a little originality. I'll try it again in November after the Rockies win the World Series.

Kansas City Click: The Black Lips, a "real" rock band, stumble into the Grand Emporium tonight.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Terry Anderson- Beer Drankin' Woman

On a beer run.

I don't even know what I want out of Bruce Springsteen anymore, but it's probably not the new disc that I'm obligated to buy tomorrow. (I still owe Bruce for helping me through my teenage years.) I don't want an important statement from rock music right now- I just want big dumb fun. What I'm really in the mood for is something like Terry Anderson's Olympic Ass Kickin' Team. It's the current rendition of Anderson's Faces-influenced sound also featured on the out-of-print What Else Can Go Right from 1996.

Anyone curious about the local music scene that most interests me should take a look at this set of photos I took at a street festival a couple weeks ago.

My review of Saturday's RBD concert is here.

Kansas City Click: Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk join Do Make Say Think at the Record Bar tonight.