Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hilton Ruiz- Mambo Inn


Whatever happened to Hilton Ruiz on May 19 was bad. Really bad. Initial reports out of New Orleans indicated that the Afro-Cuban pianist was brutally beaten after he was discovered on Bourbon Street around 4:30 a.m. "covered in blood." That story changed; police now believe that Ruiz simply fell or tripped and hit his head on a curb. Apparently, Ruiz is in a coma. An email is circulating in which well-wishers are encouraged to "wire transfer money to the below bank account." It may be entirely legitimate; the unverified email is certainly an odd appeal for donations. While you ruminate over these developments, consider Ruiz’s lively workout on "Mambo Inn," issued back when major labels still regularly released acoustic jazz albums.
Update: Ruiz died June 6. He was 54.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ian McLagan- She Stole It!

She even stole this song.

I keep thinking that I’m hallucinating on the handful of occasions I’ve seen Ian McLagan. How can it be that the Faces legend and sometime Rolling Stones sideman is performing for a hundred delirious people in a Texas or Missouri tavern? He seems to be having a good time, but regal rock stars usually don’t work these types of joints. And they don’t maintain their own happening My Space accounts, do they? McLagan is touring England with Billy Bragg at the moment, but he’ll be back in Austin for a weekly gig at Lucky Lounge in June and July. Bragg is featured on the first-rate 2000 release Best of British. "She Stole It!" concerns the worst nightmare of many guys who frequent sites like There Stands the Glass. Not only does his girl leave him, she takes his record collection with her. "Hey, where's my Brother Ray!"

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cheika Rimitti, 1923-2006; Hamza El Din, 1929-2006


Aside from their lives in music, homelands in northern Africa, and the proximity of their deaths, Hamza El Din and Cheika Rimitti had little in common. Rimitti was a wild, anti-authority figure. I became aware of her when she released this 1996 album, featuring guest artists as diverse as Robert Fripp and Flea. There was a bit of a "Rai scare" at the time; the music seemed poised to become the new reggae. It never happened, and Rimitti's May 15 death was reported in the New York Times only yesterday. She was 83. This song, from the absurdly rich Global Divas set, comes from her pre-Western catalog. Considered the "father of modern Nubian music," Hamza El Din brought an academic precision to his work. He died a week ago today in California. He was 76. On this beautiful selection from 1999's A Wish, he plays an Arabic classical piece on oud.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Desmond Dekker, 1941-2006

You'll be missed.

My world was filled with wonder in 1969. I recall a teacher fumbling with a television antenna so that the class could watch Neil Armstrong's mission to the moon. I witnessed slimy puppies squeezing out of my dog's hindquarters. And even with all the amazing music emitting from my transistor radio, a scratchy song about the Bible stood out. Who were these Israelites? Is this weird song holy or sacrilegious? And what kind of music is that, anyway? A few years later, Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" was such a big hit that it merited a newspaper story that I stumbled upon. The article linked Nash's smash to "Israelites." The story went on to mention a promising new Jamaican artist named Bob Marley. The man who puzzled me back in 1969 with "Israelites" was, of course, Desmond Dekker. After the Specials hit, I rediscovered Dekker and was thrilled to learn that he had created several other great hits, including "007." Dekker died in England yesterday at the age of 64.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The 100 Best Music Videos On YouTube

I want to ruin your weekend.

While YouTube may represent the ultimate extension of the internet's endless capacity, it's still a disorganized mess. YouTube holds treasures galore, but tracking down the rare gems can be a real bear.

I've put in hours of work compiling this list of the 100 best music videos at YouTube. Take a look for yourself at my YouTube profile page. The list represents my sensibilities, of course, but very few people won't find something to love here. I hope that you'll kill at least a couple hours using my list as a springboard for your own investigations. (How could that guy not list any James Brown!) There's plenty of jazz, soul, punk and blues. I've got prog-rock and hyphy. There's folk and there's noise, old stuff and recordings made just last month. And there's whatever you call Sun Ra.

I tried to select only live performances and I attempted to avoid obvious selections, although I did include revelatory clips from a few usual suspects, such as Thelonious Monk, Ike and Tina Turner, and Beck. And because they're readily available elsewhere, I ommited standard promotional videos. I made an exception for the best video of all time, Devo's "Jocko Homo." I guess the old reels of Fats Waller and Louis Jordan also fall into this category, but I just couldn't resist them. And I have no idea what's going on in the Los Hooligans feature; watching it fills me with rapturous joy.

The genius of YouTube is that anybody can upload anything, as long as it's not porn and the copyright holders don't object. Lots of people are sneaking cameras into clubs and concert venues these days. And while the sound is often atrocious, and the video is typically dark and grainy, my favorite videos here are for-fans-only peeks at live shows. These includeTaking Back Sunday, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Lady Sovereign, Art Brut, The Hold Steady, Lucero and E-40. What they lack in professional gloss is more than made up for in the way they capture the thrill of attending shows by these artists. Even Chuck Berry still smells like teen spirit.

Another set of videos on my list features musicians in unlikely settings. These include John Fahey on what looks like a public access show, Husker Du on Joan Rivers' program, Townes Van Zandt on a stuffy TNN variety show, and the Grateful Dead with Hugh Hefner and his bunnies. What?! I hope one of you explains to me exactly what those go-go dancers are doing as Roger Miller sings "England Swings." Interestingly, the world's greatest human fits in just fine on Captain Kangaroo.

I tossed in a few novelties just for grins. Lordi, the new Eurovision song contest winners, make Taylor Hicks seem pretty darn good. Bob Dylan looks extremely uncomfortable in his duet with Van Morrison. Keith Moon allegedly passes out before the climatic drum solo on "Won't Get Fooled Again." I could write a book about what may be the last three minutes of transcendence in the life of Elvis. And don't miss the adorable little kids in Smoosh.

Other top picks? Elis Regina sings my favorite song, "Judy Is a Punk" is brutalized by The Ramones, George and Tammy preen in their prime, Ray Barretto and the Fania All-Stars tear it up in the '70s, a freestyle battle gets personal, Pere Ubu shows how it's done, and Maria Callas thrills.

Caveats: Please realize that I didn't post any of these videos, nor did I label them. And lawyers may yank some of my selections at any moment. For example, I can't believe this set by The Replacements is still available.

So what are you waiting for? Go waste some time!

Clifford Antone, R.I.P.

Clifford and Jimmy are missed.

Blues lover Clifford Antone was found dead Tuesday in his Austin home. He was 56. Antone founded the celebrated nightclub and record label bearing his name. I was introduced to Antone a couple times; he was warm and friendly on both occasions. I first started going to Antone's when the club was on Guadalupe. My memory is foggy, but I recall that there was a great barbecue restaurant next door, and the Antone's record store was across the street. It was something special. This live Jimmy Rogers song opens with Antone pontificating about a number of things, as he often would. His generous spirit will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Jimmy Scott- Laughing On the Outside

No more tears for this MP3.

Few phrases are as tired as "wearing your heart on your sleeve." Still, it applies to Jimmy Scott, who has specialized in a naked outpouring of emotion for decades. I've been lucky to witness Shirley Horn, Abbey Lincoln and Tony Bennett emote. They're great torch singers, but only Jimmy Scott has kept me in tears throughout his performance. Scott's story has been well documented, but if you're not familiar with him, here's All Music's biography. This ballad is from the Mitchell Froom-produced Dream. (That's Junior Mance on piano.) I also recommend his recent recordings for the Milestone label. Here's another applicable cliche: Jimmy Scott is a treasure.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Dixie Chicks- Shouldn't a Told You That

You should a got here sooner.

The Dixie Chicks and I go way back. When I did a stint as a music vendor at bluegrass festivals in the late '80s and early '90s, the gals' presence was a welcome respite from the "real" pickers. It's not just that the Chicks were adorable; there's a limit to the number of flatpickin' breakdowns a man can endure in one day. By the time Shouldn't a Told You That was released in 1993, Chicks veteran Robin Macy was out and Laura Lynch would soon be booted as well. The Behind the Music episode about this drama is excellent. The Erwin sisters, along with belter Natalie Maine, release Taking the Long Way today, of course, and I'll continue to root for the most interesting act in "contemporary" country.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Corey Harris- Basehead

Those MP3 ways are over.

The essence of the blues is more readily found today on the new release by Juvenile than on the current roster of most traditional blues labels. A handful of artists like Corey Harris demonstrate that it doesn't have to be that way. His Greens From the Garden from 1999 blended African roots, New Orleans funk, country blues, and biting social commentary. It's brilliant. The Tarbox Ramblers , who I'll see tomorrow night, are, like Harris, uncommon bluesmen who are successfully attempting to move the music forward, if just a tiny bit.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Park Central Squares- Take My Overwhelming Love (And Cram It Up Your Heart)

Consider the MP3 crammed.

Whatever happened to fun? Outside of hip hop and TRL-style gloss, fun seems to have evaporated from most popular music. Springfield, MO, has produced plenty of good-time music over the last twenty-five years. The Park Central Squares, featuring Morells and Skeletons guitarist Donny Thompson, contined that tradition with this self-titled regional release in 1997. It's big dumb fun of the highest order.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Harmonica Frank Floyd- Swamp Root

The madness has ended.

Looking for the ultimate in wacked-out backwoods music? Harmonica Frank Floyd is your man. This profane song sounds like Mississippi John Hurt's worst nightmare. There's no telling how much of this rant is spontaneous, although it's important to note that Floyd cut a single for Sun in 1954. Floyd was 71 when this live recording was made in 1979. Nick Tosches' typically amusing liner notes are available
at the label's site.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's All David Ford's Fault

It's all David Ford's fault.

I have many self-imposed rules for this humble site. My two most restrictive guidelines are that I must physically own the music I feature and anything in Amazon's top 20,000 music sellers is disqualified. This may seem limiting, but even if I wasn't spending an inordinate amount of money on acquiring new music, I could keep There Stands the Glass supplied with stunning material for years.

I'll shatter my comfortable sensibilities for David Ford, who I saw open for Gomez on Monday night in Kansas City. I don't own Ford's new release, I Sincerely Apologize For All the Trouble I've Caused. And I couldn't feature it even if I did, as it's hovering around #1,500 at Amazon.

In many ways, Ford's performance bested Gomez's. Although they didn't exactly disappoint, Gomez was no better or worse than I expected. Ford, however, was a pleasant surprise. The former Easyworld frontman is an engaging, old-fashioned singer-songwriter equipped with a bag of modern tricks. A confident man, Ford suggested that he was out to prove himself to his "Show Me" state audience shortly before I took this picture.

So here goes my first unthinkable violation. I yanked this live song from Ford's MySpace account. He comes on like a sweeter-voiced Billy Bragg.

Time is up for the MP3.

And horror- oh, how it pains me to write these next words- here's a video! Ford introduced this protest song Monday by telling an amusing anecdote about a confrontation with a panhandler outside the nightclub. The video documents the way Ford builds songs, methodically looping patterns on each instrument until the song sounds like Phil Spector's prison cell. What could be a cheap gimmick is extraordinarily effective in Ford's hands.

Oh, I feel so dirty. David, I won't accept your apology just yet. Try sending flowers.

Charlie Musselwhite- Chicago Sunset

It's dark now.

Blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite has a new release today on an unlikely label, Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. Delta Hardware leans toward swampy rock and a few songs have political undercurrents. Here's a fine instrumental originally issued on Kicking Mule in 1978. Kansas City-area readers will recognize this as a theme song for Lindsay Shannon's longstanding blues radio program.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gomez- Bring Your Lovin' Back Here

The lovin' has ended.

I'm giddy about seeing one of my favorite bands on my home turf tonight. I've only caught up with Gomez when I've also been on the road. The psychedelic roots-rock of Bring It On and Liquid Skin floored me when they were released in the late '90s, but my interest waned as the band lost their way. With the new How We Operate the band seems to have found its second wind. Here's an early track that captures their initial energy. It's found on the seemingly out-of-print Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline compilation. My preview for tonight's show was published at Patchchord.

Friday, May 12, 2006

John Hicks, 1941-2006

Thanks for the music, John.

Jazz pianist John Hicks died Wednesday. He was 64. I was lucky enough to catch Hicks in a variety of settings, most memorably in a duet concert with Jay McShann. While he worked with the Jazz Messengers, Betty Carter and Woody Herman early in his career, Hicks came into his own while collaborating with left-of-center artists like Pharoah Sanders and David Murray. This gentle solo take on John Coltrane's "After the Rain" encapsulates Hicks' intelligent, gorgeous style, and is a great example of his unique ability to work both inside and outside the jazz tradition.

Charlie Parker- Laura

Laura left.

I've been writing about my renewed love for strings in jazz recently. It's time I finally addressed the big one, the recordings that continue to roil jazz fans over 55 years after the fact. Did Charlie Parker, arguably jazz's greatest improvisational genius, sell out? Or were these lush recordings an inevitable extension of his exploratory nature? This romantic 1950 reading of "Laura" answers those questions, at least for me. At the two minute mark I sense that Parker, surely distraught over that hideous oboe solo, is prepared to unleash a potentially revolutionary new idea, but he pulls up short. Oh well, there's nothing wrong with just being pretty.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

U-Roy- I Can't Love Another

U-Roy has floated away.

Dread In a Babylon has long been my favorite reggae album, and no, it's not because of the cover photo, smart aleck. U-Roy sounds like an utter lunatic throughout the 1976 release, whooping ecstatically, spouting Rastafarian doctrine and ranting incomprehensibly. Anchored by classic roots reggae, Dread manages to be both lighthearted and deep beyond measure.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Marta Sebestyen- Hegyen-Volgyon

The beautiful song has ended.

I'm eagerly anticipating the new Juana Molina album set for release May 23. I've been in thrall of the Argentinian's enchanting Tres Cosas since I stumbled upon it last year. It's absurdly beautiful. My first encounter with this fusion of gorgeous voice and gentle electronica was Marta Sebestyen's Apocrypha from 1992. Sebestyen is best known as the primary vocalist for the Hungarian folk group Muzsikas. This sublime, magical music is something far different, although it will sound eerily familiar to Molina's fans.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys- Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age

Swing time is over.

Willie Nelson covers this ditty on his new album, You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker. His version, along with the whole album, is plenty good, but as Willie's old pal Waylon insisted, "In Texas, Bob Wills is still the King." The song is a tribute to folks who have a little living under their belt. "Life ain't begun until you're fourty-some!" This is the 1947 original, taken from a 2001 Mercury compilation that's already out of print.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grant McLennan, 1958-2006

We'll miss you, Grant.

Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens died Saturday. He was 48. The music McLennan made with his primary songwriter partner, Robert Forster, has given sensitive folk-rock fans like me immeasurable happiness. I only saw them once, in a memorable late '80s show with the Mekons in Lawrence, Kansas. The songs on albums like 16 Lovers Lane and Tallulah are so smart and melodic that their failure to reach a larger audience has long been one of popular music's great mysteries. "Surround Me" is from McLennan's obscure 1994 solo release Watershed. I pulled it from a promotional compilation for his excellent Horsebreaker Star album.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Flaco Jimenez- Que Lo Sepa El Mundo

Flaco has moved on.

Flaco Jimenez will perform in my town Saturday night. I've seen the conjunto star in a variety of settings, but by far the most memorable was at Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas. The night I attended seemed to be as much a beer drinking contest as it was a polka party. The spilled beer was half an inch deep in sections of the cavernous hall. In the middle of his headlining set, "Polka King" Jimmy Sturr asked Jimenez to join him on stage. It was a challenge, because Flaco had seemingly been soaking in the atmosphere. Yet once the music started, Jimenez fell into his usual virtuosity. It was a brilliant collaboration between giants of European and Mexican polka.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Rosita Fernandez, 1918-2006

Thanks, Rosita, for your time with us.

The death of Rosita Fernandez, San Antonio's "first lady of song," is front page news in that Texas city. She was 88. This enchanting recording for the Conjunto Ideal label was made in 1950. It can be found on Tejano Roots: The Women, from the indispensible Arhoolie label. A very attractive woman, Fernandez later appeared in several Hollywood features.

Roy Hargrove- Always and Forever

No, it was just for a few days.

I finally saw Legends of Jazz, PBS's attempt to showcase the form. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it's going to win over many new fans. The episode I caught featured trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Clark Terry and Chris Botti. In spite of its genial host Ramsey Lewis, the show was painfully awkward. The best moment came when pretty boy Botti spoke about his seemingly perfect life. If looks could kill, Hargrove would be doing hard time. This gentle Pat Metheny melody from Hargrove's beautiful 2000 release Moment To Moment reflects my rekindled passion for jazz with strings.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Starkweathers- Danny Taylor

Danny Taylor is dead and gone.

The Starkweathers are more of a rumor than a memory in the Kansas City area. Only the most avid readers of No Depression might recollect that Mike Ireland and Holler evolved out of the Starkweathers. The rare 5-Song EP that contains this tough take on capital punishment was released in 1994. Don't miss the caustic Sly & the Family Stone reference at the song's conclusion.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Voice of the Beehive- Monsters and Angels

Monsters and Angels no longer exist.

"Monsters and Angels" is the greatest pop song you've never heard. It compares favorably to the biggest hits by its obvious inspirations, the B-52's and the Supremes. A cover of this forgotten ditty from 1991 would be a guaranteed hit by the likes of Kelly Clarkson or Hillary Duff. I expect credit in your liner notes, ladies.

I'm in a Napster-induced frenzy. The notorious company's brand new advertising-based model is very compelling. In the past 24 hours, I've listened to Steve Wonder's Hotter Than July (I never owned it and now I know I don't need it), all the bonus tracks from the new Mott the Hoople reissues (I probably won't replace my vinyl) and the new releases from Fort Minor, Built To Spill, Mobb Deep, Tom Ze and k.d. lang. And it was all free. Poor fidelity is the only downside. If I wasn't a compulsive collector, I'd sign up for the better-sounding pay version of the site immediately.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Carlene Carter- Come Here You

The song went away.

Here's a song from Carlene Carter's latest album. It was released eleven years ago. While Carlene has been dealing with personal issues, scores of contenders have vied to fill the void she left in Nashville. The most notable winners have been the Dixie Chicks and Carlene's doppelganger, Deana Carter. But Carlene's gritty smarts and musical foundation make her unique. The fun throwback of "Come Here You" is a great example of what we've been missing.