Friday, March 31, 2006
The MP3 is now out of the picture.
How about some frenzied hillbilly music? Back when it was still primarily a CD reissue label, Ryko issued this compilation of wacky singles from the Mar-Vel label. Utter obscurity and manic energy are the only unifying themes of its 27 songs. I'm guessing that Jack Bradshaw recorded this side in the late '50s. Be careful- it's disturbingly catchy.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
All that's left are ringing ears.
The men of Pendergast are true believers in the redemptive power of rock'n'roll. When they're not on stage delivering their hefty take on country-rock, they're often spotted seeking their salvation in Kansas City's midtown barrooms. While it was largely ignored upon its release in 2004, The Truth About Saturday Night is one of the truest explorations of the dichotomy between Saturday night and Sunday morning. It's highly recommended to fans of Steve Earle's Copperhead Road.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
It's closing time for the MP3.
In a post about Roy Harper in January, I suggested that fans of today's freak-folk movement might enjoy digging into earlier left-of-center folk artists. Among the best is Bert Jansch. This song is from 1971. Jansch continues to make interesting music today. Jansch rightly receives praise for his guitar work and songwriting. Even more remarkable, I think, is Jansch's remarkable ability to evoke a specific atmosphere and mood. His influence on Robyn Hitchcock is obvious, but the cool kids will also hear echoes of Sufjan and company.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
He got home.
I've probably listened to Easily Slip Into Another World more than any other jazz album. When I bought it as a new release in 1988, it served as an accessible introduction to experimental jazz. The Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton LPs I already owned were just too difficult. This opening Olu Dara dirge aside, the out-of-print major label release is funny and playful. The best efforts are simply too long to include here; try to scare up a copy in a used bin.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Doc's song has ended.
Doc Watson performed in my town Saturday night. It's astounding that this living link to Appalachian mountain music is still among us; the man is still vital at 83 years old. Earlier today, I wrote about musical coelacanths here. While Doc prefers his picking to his singing, I've selected a stark gospel song to showcase Doc's powerfully plain voice.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Buck's song is gone but not forgotten.
Buck Owens died today. He was 76. I always had a hard time reconciling the genius behind the mind-blowing country hits with the goofy guy on television's Hee Haw. The two personas seemed worlds apart. While Owens' patented Bakersfield sound will live forever, I fear that his musical contributions will be oversimplified in the days ahead. Owens kept mixing it up. Some of his songs, like the psychedelic "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass," would fit in nicely on the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday. And his songwriting could be as odd as Roger Miller's, as on the "The Kansas City Song." How hip is this keyboard intro?
Friday, March 24, 2006
You're especially blue now that the listening period is over.
I have a ready response for George Jones when I hear him mournfully croon, "Who's gonna fill their shoes?" The obvious answer is Marty Stuart. His bona fides are impeccable. His output remains adventurous and interesting. And not that it's admirable, but Stuart still walks on the wrong side of the law. Remarkably, Tempted, one of the greatest country albums of last 25 years, is out of print. The 1991 release seemlessly fuses the sounds of Roy Orbison, Bruce Springsteen and Rodney Crowell to the traditional country pantheon. Here's the first track.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The opportunity to listen is over.
Contemporary bluesman Willie Clayton is primed to inherit the legacy of Johnny Taylor and Bobby Bland. This excellent, if slightly eccentric, 1996 duet with Pat Brown is in the classic Stax tradition. And I'd be grateful if someone can confirm that Brown really sings "you don't want your underwear to touch me" on this cheating song.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The song flew away.
Remember "In My House," the hit by funk outfit the Mary Jane Girls? That was the jam! These Mary Janes have no connection to them, although the groove is still pretty solid. This Indiana folk-rock collective evokes an alternate universe in which the Feelies are a jam band. It's a great idea; more bands should explore this underdeveloped territory.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The report has ended.
William S. Burroughs and I both resided in Lawrence, KS, in the mid '80s. I'd cross paths with him occasionally and I attended his infrequent readings. I even had him autograph a copy of Edwin Meese's Attorney General's Commission On Pornography, the subject of my 1986 thesis. But the Burroughs crowd spooked me, and I still have mixed feelings about turning down a couple of invitations to functions at his home. Even with the participation of talents like Hal Wilner and Charlie Hunter, I'm not a big fan of Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales; this track is atypical. Existing fans of the author won't need to be reminded that this brief scatological rant is highly offensive on many levels.
Monday, March 20, 2006
The leaf has been blown away.
My spring break travels took me through Seattle. Something about the great food, cold drizzle and hilly terrain altered my usual inclinations. Instead of being attracted to the jazz and roots music club listings, I caught myself studying the poster bills for punk and metal shows on streetlight poles. While it's a beautiful, friendly place, something about Seattle makes a person want to rock. Here's Tad, from the out-of-print Inhaler, combining punk and metal in what remains the city's signature sound.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Elvis Costello's latest effort has been out for ten days and I have yet to pick it up. That must be a record for me. Between his orginal LPs, CDs, countless reissues, and concert tickets, I'm sure I've dropped around a thousand dollars on the man's art. It's money well spent, of course. My Flame Burns Blue features Elvis with a Dutch orchestra offering torch-style arrangements of his catalog. My favorite recording of Europeans exploring this genre is Boulevard of Broken Dreams' It's the Talk of the Town and Other Sad Songs. The delightful document is out of print. "Travelin' Light" will be my theme song for a few days, as I'm taking a blogger's holiday.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
We're crying because the song is gone.
Yet another round of Roy Orbison reissues will be released in 2006. His timeless music, of course, will continue to find new fans in each new generation. An official set of four frequently bootlegged concerts was issued in 1999. It's available at Amazon. While the sound is rough in places, it's very instructive to hear how Orbison altered the arrangements of his classics over the years. This version of "Crying" is from a July 13, 1980, performance in Alabama. Ignore the synths, marvel at that spectacular voice, and don't be tricked by the false ending.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Toure and the MP3 are gone.
Much was made of Ali Farka Toure being a like a "missing link" between African music and American blues. And I suppose that's a good marketing angle. But anyone who's listened to the Malian's music knows that it isn't a mere musicologist's novelty. There's a deep beauty and truth in Toure's music that trancends genres. Ali Farka Toure died yesterday. He was 67.
The love has gone cold.
It's not difficult to envision Elvis Presley lounging in the Jungle Room listening to Arthur Alexander's "Burning Love" over and over. Alexander's version was issued in early 1972 on his Rainbow Road album, shortly before Elvis went into the studio to record his take on what would become his '70s signature song. This Warner Archives reissue is out of print.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Rosa's song is no more.
I didn't discover Brazilian singer Rosa Passos until Sony issued her North American major label debut in 2004. I'm enthralled with Passos' delicate but strong take on MPB. Chasing down her discography has been a a difficult but rewarding process. This revelatory 2000 Velos compilation is out of print, but a reissue of the original 1998 album is available.
Friday, March 03, 2006
The chains are gone.
It's funny how time erodes the taint of selling out. Ray Price began his career as a Hank Williams acolyte before finding stardom recording countrypolitan schmaltz. He found redemption at the end of his career thanks to the sponsorhip of Willie Nelson. But today, his entire catalog, including the big hits, sounds wonderful. This song from a radio-shot session catches him in full-on Hank mode. It's likely from 1958.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
It gave up.
Luther is gone. So is Curtis. The Wicked Pickett just left. But the Iceman is still among us, performing concerts at the age of 66. He sings in Gary and in Portland this month. Recordings like this from the late '60s are so great that they make all other music seem irrelevant.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
You'll have to seek beauty elsewhere.
One of the most extraordinary performances I've experienced was a recent recital by Trio Mediaeval. Their unamplified, unaccompanied voices transported over a 1,000 listeners through time and space. It's not surprising that the Scandinavians record for ECM; their cool, sophisticated style meshes with the label's stark sensibilities. Prepare yourself for the transcendent sound of peace.