Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Shows of the Decade

What a silly exercise! For starters, I scarcely recall most of the live performances I took in the first half of this decade. And it would make a lot more sense if I made separate genre lists- classical, country, jazz, metal, etc. But I didn't. In order to lessen the absurdity by just a fraction, I didn't include any shows from 2009. That list is here. I've added representative (but not same show) video links for the uninitiated. Here goes:

1. The Hold Steady- Jackpot Saloon, 2006
2. Roy Harper- boat on Sacramento River, 2001
3. Maxwell- Uptown Theater, 2008
4. X- Madrid Theater, 2002
5. The Architects- innumerable times, innumerable places
6. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant- Starlight Theater, 2008
7. Ray Price- Knuckleheads, 2007
8. Roy Hargrove- Folly Theater, 2007
9. Ian McLagan- Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club, 2006
10. Jay McShann- Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival, 2004
11. Electric Wizard- SXSW, 2002
12. Dee Dee Bridgewater- Gem Theater, 2007
13. Ike Turner- Liberty Memorial, 2004
14. Guy Clark/Joe Ely/John Hiatt/Lyle Lovett- Uptown Theater, 2005
15. The Mars Volta- Beaumont, 2007
16. Trio Mediaeval- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 2006
17. U-Roy LIberty Memorial, 2000
18. Isaac Hayes- VooDoo Lounge, 2006
19. Motorhead- Community America Ballpark, 2006
20. Tool- Kemper Arena, 2006
21. Twista- seemingly random field in Jackson County, Missouri, 2005
22. The National- The Record Bar, 2005
23. Emmylou Harris- Yardley Hall, 2005
24. Tech N9ne- Beaumont Club, 2005
25. Stone Temple Pilots- Liberty Memorial, 2008

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Musical Passings of 2009

It's been a particularly challenging year.

This sad acknowledgement of the passing of Tim Hart marks the last of such dismal notices for the year here at There Stands the Glass. An incomplete listing of the musical passings of 2009 follows.

According to Maddy Prior's illuminating liner notes to this out-of-print live collection of Australian performances, that's Hart going nuts on the wah-wah pedal on this 1982 rendition of "Sligo Maid." Here's the official (and unfortunate) video of Steeleye Span's biggest hit. Hart's legacy is perhaps better served by this bit of magic.


1/05 Sam Taylor, 74, blues musician
1/06 Ron Asheton, 60, Stooges guitarist
1/06 Claude Jeter, 94, Swan Silvertones
1/11 Andrew Martinez, 26, Necromantix drummer
1/20 David "Fathead" Newman, 75, sideman extraordinaire
1/20 Mickey Gee, 64, Welsh rock guitarist
1/28 Billy Powell, 56, Lynyrd Skynyrd pianist
1/29 John Martyn, 60, British singer-songwriter
1/29 Hank Crawford, 74, jazz saxophonist
1/31 Dewey Martin, 68, drummer for Buffalo Springfield
2/04 Lux Interior, 60, The Cramps
2/04 Tom Brumley, 73, steel guitarist in Buck Owens' Buckaroos
2/07 Blossom Dearie, 82, jazz vocalist
2/09 Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, 75, bassist in Buena Vista Social Club
2/10 Kelly Groucutt, 63, former bassist for ELO
2/11 Estelle Bennett, 67, The Ronettes
2/12 Gerry Niewood and Coleman Mellett, members of Chuck Mangione's band
2/12 Mat Mathews, 84, Dutch jazz accorionist
2/14 Louie Bellson, 84, jazz drummer
2/15 Joe Cuba, 78, salsa's "Father of Boogaloo"
2/18 Snooks Eaglin, 73, blues artist
2/22 Paul Skelton, 55, Austin roots guitarist
2/23 Vince Bilardo, 80, Kansas City jazz drummer
2/25 Ian Carr, 75, Scottish jazz musician
3/01 Arch Martin, (?), Kansas City jazz trombonist
3/04 John Cephas, 78, Piedmont blues guitarist
3/08 Hank Locklin, 91, country star
3/18 Kent Henry, 60, guitarist with Steppenwolf and Blues Image
3/24 Uriel Jones, 74, Motown drummer
3/25 Dan Seals, 61, England Dan and John Ford Coley
3/25 Manny Oquendo, 78, Latin band leader
3/28 Maurice Jarre, 84, film composer
4/01 Duane Jarvis, 51, songwriter and guitarist
4/02 Bud Shank, 82, jazz saxophonist
4/03 Charlie Kennedy, 81, saxophonist for Gene Krupa and Louis Prima
4/05 Nancy Overton, 83, singer in The Chordettes
4/08 Pops Winans, 76, gospel patriarch
4/11 Randy Cain, 63, Delfonics vocalist
4/13 Ron Stallings, 62, saxophonist for Huey Lewis
4/17 Rubin "Zeke" Zarchy, 93, big band trumpeter
4/26 Tilahun Gessesse, 68, Ethiopian singer
4/28 Vern Gosdin, 74, country singer
5/06 Donald "Ean Evans, 48, Lynyrd Skynryd bassist
5/06 Viola Wills, 69, pop singer
5/09 Stephen Bruton, 60, Texas roots musician and producer
5/09 Travis Edmonson, 76, California folkie
5/15 Wayman Tisdale, 44, basketball star and jazz bassist
5/15 Buddy Montgomery, 79, jazz vibraphonist, Wes' brother
5/18 Dolla, 21, rapper
5/24 Jay Bennett, 45, Wilco, etc.
5/30 Richard Nadler, 60, local conservative pundit once in Pavlov's Dog
6/03 Koko Taylor, 80, blues giant
6/03 Sam Butera, 81, Louis Prima's saxophonist
6/05 Jeff Hanson, 31, singer-songwriter
6/07 Hugh Hopper, 64, bass player in Soft Machine
6/07 Kenny Rankin, 69, singer-songwriter
6/10 Jack Nimitz, 79, jazz saxophonist
6/10 Barry Beckett, 66, producer and keyboard player
6/10 Huey Long, 105, guitarist for the Ink Spots
6/14 Bob Bogle, 75, co-founder and guitarist of the Ventures
6/16 Charlie Mariano, 85, jazz saxophonist
6/18 Ali Akbar Khan, 87, Indian musician
6/24 Tim Krekel, 58, journeyman rock'n'roller
6/25 Michael Jackson, 50, King of Pop
6/25 Sky Saxon, 63, the Seeds
6/27 Fayette Pinkney, 61, original member of the Three Degrees
7/04 Drake Levin, 62, guitarist for Paul Revere & the Raiders
7/17 Gordon Wailer, 63, of Peter & Gordon
7/21 John Dawson, 64, New Riders of the Purple Sage
7/27 George Russell, 86, jazz theorist
8/02 Billy Lee Riley, 75, rockabilly star
8/06 Willy DeVille, 58, roots rock musician
8/07 Mike Seeger, 75, folk musician
8/12 Les Paul, 94, guitar legend
8/12 Rashied Ali, 74, jazz drummer
8/15 Jim Dickinson, 67, Memphis musician
8/20 Larry Knechtel, 69, session musician
8/21 John E. Carter, 75, vocalist in the Flamingos and the Dells
8/24 Joe Maneri, 82, jazz clarinetist
8/26 Ellie Greenwich, 68, songwriter
8/26 Bongo Berry, 55, Kansas City-area children's musician
8/28 DJ AM, 36, DJ
8/28 Jack Nead, (?), Kansas City saxophonist
8/29 Chris Connor, 81, jazz vocalist
8/31 Eddie Higgins, 77, jazz pianist
9/01 Wycliffe Johnson, a.k.a. "Steely", 47, reggae producer
9/01 Erich Kunzel, 74, conductor
9/11 Jim Carroll, 60, writer and rocker
9/14 Bobby Graham, 69, session drummer
9/16 Mary Travers, 72, of Peter, Paul and Mary
9/17 Leon Kirchner, 90, classical composer
9/19 Arthur Ferrante, 88, Ferrante & Teicher
9/19 Roc Raida, 37, DJ
9/29 Amy Farris, 40, Austin fiddler
9/21 Sam Carr, 83, blues drummer
10/02 Mr. Magic (John Rivas), 53, hip hop DJ/radio personality
10/03 Robert Kirby, 61, arranger for Nick Drake and others
10/04 Mercedes Sosa, 74, Argentine folk artist
10/07 Steve Ferguson, 60, co-founder of NRBQ
10/08 Rusty Wier, 65, Austin singer-songwriter
10/11 Al Martino, 82, romantic pop singer
10/17 Vic Mizzy, 93, composed Green Acres and Adams Family themes
10/22 Anne Winter, 45, beloved Kansas City retailer
10/27 Stacy Rowles, 54, jazz trumpeter
10/30 Norton Buffalo, 58, blues harmonica player
11/08 Jerry Fuchs, 34, drummer
11/18 Johnny Almond, 63, Marc-Almond band
12/01 Liam Clancy, 76, Clancy Brothers
12/01 Jack Cooke, 72, bassist and vocalist for the Clinch Mountain Boys
12/02 Eric Woolfson, 64, co-founder of the Alan Parsons Project
12/04 Liam Clancy, 74, Clancy Brothers
12/05 Jack Rose, 38, indie rock guitarist
12/20 James Gurley, 69, guitarist of Big Brother and the Holding Company
12/24 Tim Hart, 61, Steeleye Span guitarist
12/25 Vic Chesnutt, 45, singer-songwriter
12/28 James "The Rev" Sullivan, 28, Avenged Sevenfold drummer
12/30 Rowland Howard, 50, guitarist in the Birthday Party

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Solomon Burke- We're Almost Home

Safe at home.

Heads up, There Stands the Glass readers! I received an Ion turntable for Christmas. While I was in no danger of running out of fresh material on CD, this gift will allow me to dig into my long neglected cache of vinyl.

The first album I reached for was Solomon Burke's hopelessly out-of-print We're Almost Home. I hadn't heard it in twenty years. It's possible that no one else has, either. If it wasn't for Robert Christgau's rude dismissal of the title, I'd think I had obtained some sort of private pressing. The production is pure 1972, but I kind of like those dated flourishes. And hearing Burke suggest, "You're gonna love my sweet ol' mother... I love her chicken and gravy" is priceless.

This is going to be fun.

Anyone who has tips about improving the fidelity from my new Ion is more than welcome to contact me with their suggestions. I don't mind the crackles and pops; it's the distortion that really bugs me. (I'm using EZ Audio Converter software on a Mac.)

Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax named Hermon Mehari as its Person of the Year.

I want two things from a year-end 2009 music list. It must be free of Animal Collective and it must force me to reappraise my assumptions and biases. (I recognize the contradiction.) A list identical to mine would be useless to me. For those reasons, the intriguing selections by Joe Caramanica of the New York Times is my favorite effort of the season. And keep in mind that I absolutely loathe his top pick.

James Gurley of Big Brother and the Holding Company died December 20. He was 69.

Kansas City Click: AZ-One play reggae Tuesday at the Levee.

I intend to celebrate New Year's Eve a night early. Weather permitting, I'll be at Knuckleheads for Hot Club of Cowtown on Wednesday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vic Chesnutt, 1964-2009


I freaked out the last time I saw Vic Chesnutt perform. It wasn't Chesnutt who had me loopy. I'd seen him before and there was no reason to think I wouldn't see him again.

The reclusive Van Dyke Parks was sitting in with Chesnutt to promote Ghetto Bells. Few in the SXSW crowd at the Austin brewpub in 2005 shared my hopelessly geeky enthusiasm. I'm rarely inclined to shush people, but I couldn't help myself that night. "Hey!" I scolded jerks who were talking over the underground legend. "That's Van Dyke Parks! The Van Dyke Parks!" My mania was met with blank stares. I suppose fans of cult artists should be accustomed to that indifferent response.

The brief "Blanket Over the Head" is from The Salesman and Bernadette, Chesnutt's excellent 1998 collaboration with Lambchop.

Chesnutt died Christmas Day.

Tim Finn's year-end recap in the Star alerted me to the great deal being offered by The Record Machine. All five of the label's 2009 releases- Perhapsy, Max Justus, Capybara, Sam Billen and The Parade Schedule- are available as a $15 download.

Kansas City Click: The Elders, the most popular act in Kansas City not named Tech N9ne, perform at the Beaumont on Saturday.

Coyote Bill plays blues at Knuckleheads on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Twelve Best Kansas City Music Videos of 2009

1. Mac Lethal- Speak Low
The gorgeous cinematography makes familiar Kansas City landmarks seem startlingly foreign. Oh, and the song is pretty great too.

2. Nuthatch 47- Russian Gangster's Grandma
The low production value is perfect for this hilarious ditty.

3 Miles Bonny- On Impulse
This is some funny stuff. Westport, Loose Park and Liberty Memorial are among the attractions featured in the excellent video.

4 Ron Ron- Hey Honey/Throbacc
105,000 views! Don't let anyone tell you that Ron Ron isn't already a star.

5 Stik Figa- Starched Dickies
The amateurish, homespun feel of this video is ideally suited for the song's earnest content. Stik Figa is keeping it real.

6. The Architects- Bastards At the Gate
The amusing video for Kansas City's rock stalwarts was shot in the West Bottoms.

7. Tech N9ne- Leave Me Alone
Tech N9ne at his best- conflicted, confused and persecuted. And Kansas City's skyline has been viewed over 279,000 times in under two months. Tech should be on the payroll of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association.

8. SSion- Bullsh*t
Kansas City has no use for Lady Gaga.

9. Krizz Kaliko- Misunderstood
The best song out of Kansas City in 2009 gets a deluxe video treatment.

10. Greg Enemy- Fly A** Glasses
Low budget? No problem.

11. Big Scoob- Salue
I regret to inform the world that this is my town's anthem.

12. Making Movies- Libertad
This otherwise unremarkable video makes my list for three reasons. It features the obligatory shots of Kansas City's skyline, the song is memorable and I'm in one of the crowd shots. No wonder it has less than 500 views.

Just missing the cut:
Mac Lethal- Heart of a Pig
Steddy P- No Matter How
The Belated- Intelligent Redesign
Tech N9ne- Red Nose
Vedera- Satisfy
Irv da Phenom featuring Big Scoob- How I Feel
Rondoe- I Do That There
Nuthatch 47- D.U.I. Song

XV- Fall Out of the Sky is ineligible because of the Wichita problem.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Man Bites Dog: Jazz Trounces Hip Hop

I attended two shows at The Record Bar last week. The first was a Monday jazz matinee. The second was a hip hop blowout on Saturday night.

One of the shows felt stale and was poorly attended. The other crackled with the expectant energy that can only be attained with the presence of an enthusiastic crowd.

And it's not what you might think. The jazz gig crushed the hip hop show in both audience size and artistry.

Diverse may be the darlings of Plastic Sax and other observers of the Kansas City jazz scene, but a Monday show with a ten dollar cover at a rock-oriented club is not exactly a sure-fire recipe for success. A youthful crowd of about 100 showed up for Diverse's dynamic show. Joined by exciting saxophonist Logan Richardson, the band offered a riveting hard bop performance.

The two revelations of the night, at least for me, were the hip hop-informed drumming of Ryan Lee and the clever colorings added by keyboardist John Brewer. The perpetually surprised look Brewer favors reflects his startling improvisational approach. His concepts steer the group safely away from any hint of fogeyism. I had to leave during the second set. I trust the final thirty minutes were even better.

Fans of Soul Providers are also attractive. There just weren't very many of them on hand Saturday. Even though the hip hop collective is firmly established on the scene, only about 60 fans paid five dollars to see them.

Young Storm (pictured above), Reach, Dutch Newman and Hozey-T were among the night's featured entertainers. While none were less than good, only Les Izmore was great. He's not the best MC in the collective, but his artistic vision is more compelling than that of his colleagues. While others fall back on cliches, Izmore embraces his experimental streak.

The Soul Providers would benefit from mixing it up at their next event. May I suggest a collaboration with Diverse?

(Original images of Diverse with Logan Richardson and Young Storm of the Soul Providers by Plastic Sax. Cross-posted from Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best Albums, Songs and Shows of 2009

The 25 Best Shows of 2009
My goal had been to catch 365 live performances in 2009. I'm going to fall just short. That's still a lot of music. Here's the top seven percent.

1. Nas and Damian Marley- Beaumont Club (Same show footage.)

2. Leonard Cohen- Midland Theater (Same show footage.)

3. Esperanza Spalding- Folly Theater (Performance at The White House.)

4. Steve Coleman- Blue Room (Different show.)

5. AC/DC- Sprint Center (Same show footage.)

6. Solange- VooDoo Lounge (On Jools Holland's show.)

7. Mastodon- Uptown Theater (Same show footage.)

8. People's Liberation Big Band- Pistol Social Club (Different show.)

9. Fito Olivares- Crown Center (Different show.)

10. James Christos- Riot Room (Same show footage.)

11. Unearth- Beaumont Club (Different show.)

12. Kris Kristofferson- Uptown Theater (Different show.)

13. Mars Volta- Midland Theater (Same show footage.)

14. Tony Bennett- Midland Theater (Different show.)

15. Blind Pilot- Record Bar (Same show footage.)

16. Lil Wayne- Sprint Center (Same show footage.)

17. The Pogues- The Midland (Same show footage.)

18. Slipknot- Sprint Center (Same show footage.)

19. Cannibal Corpse- Sandstone (Same show footage.)

20. Afinidad- Folly Theater (Incredibly, no video of any kind exists.)

21. Karrin Allyson- Jardine's (Performance at Montreux.)

22. Katie Herzig- Crosstown Station (Different show.)

23. Tech N9ne- Independence Events Center (Same show footage.)

24. Aterciopelados- Beaumont Club (Different show.)

25. Hearts of Darkness- Crosstown Station (Different show.)

The 25 Best Albums of 2009
I also recommend taking a peak at the lists of dozens of Kansas City-area music fans that are compiled at Back To Rockville.

1. Maxwell- BLACKsummers'night
This is the album I hoped Michael would make.

2. P.O.S.- Never Better
A supremely intelligent genre-defying opus.

3. Ron Ron- Skitzofrinik
Kansas City's hip hop scene is on fire. This inventive concept album is simultaneously hilarious and harrowing.

4. Green Day- 21st Century Breakdown
The intersection of punk rock and classic rock.

5. Joe Lovano- Folk Art
Clever and soulful jazz.

6. Cecilia Bartoli- Sacrificium
Underneath the creepiest of concepts lies ravishing music.

7. Steddy P- Style Like Mind
As if Chuck D was born in Kansas City and raised on Tech N9ne.

8. Neko Case- Middle Cyclone
A rose with toxic thorns.

9. Graciela Beltran- La Reina de la Banda
I listened to this album more than any other in 2009. It makes me happy.

10. The Life and Times- Tragic Boogie
The Flaming Lips meet Sonic Youth.

11. Heartless Bastards- The Mountain
Industrial blues.

12. Diverse- Diverse
A throwback to a time when mainstream jazz wasn't self-conscious and insular.

13. Jay-Z- The Blueprint 3
Egotism is attractive.

14. Mac Lethal- Love Potion 5
My neighbor sure is cranky lately.

15. We Were Promised Jet Packs- We Were Promised Jet Packs
Like an agoraphobic Arctic Monkeys.

16. Sugarland- Live On the Inside
Captured in their native habitat.

17. Krizz Kaliko- Genius
Out of Tech N9ne's shadow.

18. XV- Everybody Is Nobody
May become the biggest thing out of Kansas since Dorothy.

19. Speech Debelle- Speech Therapy

20. Mike Farris- Shout!
I didn't see this one coming.

21. Lee Barber- Thief and Rescue
The Tom Waits of Texas.

22. Kid Cudi- Man On the Moon
Lonely loner.

23. Eilen Jewell- Sea of Tears
Woman out of time.

24. Sachal Vasandani- We Move
A crooner for the new millennium.

25. Jon Hassell- Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In the Street
And it looks good naked.

The 25 Best Songs of 2009
When it comes to singles, I'm truly a man of the people.

1. George Strait- Living For the Night (YouTube)
I've had better years.

2. Kid Cudi- Day 'n' Night (YouTube)
State of the art.

3. Miley Cyrus- Party in The U.S.A. (YouTube)
Like yeah.

4. Jay-Z- D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) (YouTube)
Moment of silence.

5. Soulja Boy- Turn My Swag On (YouTube)
What? Why are you looking at me like that?

6. Lily Allen- The Fear (YouTube)
The zeitgeist in 3:26.

7. The Lonely Island- I'm On a Boat (YouTube)
It never gets old.

8. Regina Spektor- Laughing With (YouTube)

9. Jamey Johnson- High Cost of Living (YouTube)
Waylon lives!

10. Rick Ross- Maybach Music 2 (YouTube)
Even funnier than "I'm On a Boat" and all the better for it.

11. Dirty Projectors- Stillness Is the Move (YouTube)
The cool kids got one right.

12. New Boyz- You're a Jerk (YouTube)
I know.

13. Major Lazer- Hold the Line (YouTube)

14. Anthony Hamilton- The Point of It All (YouTube)
Old school.

15. Noisettes- Never Forget You (YouTube)
I'm a sucker for this faux-soul formula.

16. Sick Puppies- You're Going Down (YouTube)
Bring the pain.

17. Dave Matthews Band- Why I Am (YouTube)
A surprising blast of soul.

18. Taking Back Sunday- Sink Into Me (YouTube)
Hey! Hey! Hey!

19. Beyonce- Halo (YouTube)
I surrender.

20. Manchester Orchestra- I've Got Friends (YouTube)
God is great, beer is good and people are crazy. Oh wait- wrong song.

21. Ghostface Killah- Baby (YouTube)
One of the weirdest songs ever.

22. Slaughterhouse- The One (YouTube)
Supergroup sleaze.

23. Melanie Fiona- It Kills Me (YouTube)

24. Darius Rucker- Alright (YouTube)
Making the best of it.

25. GS Boyz- Stanky Legg (YouTube)
I can't do it.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best Albums and Songs of the Decade

In order to keep Kanye West from dominating this inherently absurd endeavor, I imposed a couple of rules on myself. I could list nothing from 2009 and no artist could appear more than once. Radiohead's not here. That's on purpose. I shudder to think, however, of the unintentional omissions that are bound to keep me up at night.

The 25 Best Albums

1. Johnny Cash- My Mother's Hymn Book 2004
Redemption songs.

2. Kanye West- Graduation 2007
There's a lot to loathe about Kanye. There's even more to love.

3. Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 2002
C'mon- break my heart again.

4. The Hold Steady- Separation Sunday 2005
A mash up of "Janie Jones" and "Thunder Road"? I'm in heaven.

5. Super Furry Animals- Rings Around the World 2002
The DVD version changed the way I experience recorded music.

6. Robert Glasper- In My Element 2007
Breaking rules and dissolving divisions.

7. The Streets- A Grand Don't Come For Free 2004
My personal soundtrack from a parallel universe.

8. Gillian Welch- Time (The Revelator) 2001

9. D'Angelo- Voodoo 2000
A long and loopy groove.

10. Ralph Stanley- Ralph Stanley 2002
America doesn't get much older or weirder than this.

11. The White Stripes- White Blood Cells 2001
The decade wouldn't have been nearly as good without Jack White.

12. Rodney Crowell- The Houston Kid 2001
The living and breathing successor to Johnny and Townes.

13. Jay-Z- American Gangster 2007
I hear your gasps. Yes, I prefer this homage to Marvin, Isaac and Curtis to The Blueprint.

14. Solomon Burke- Don't Give Up On Me 2002
I love the new school, but Solomon's still out there.

15.. Chris Whitley- Rocket House 2001
Unless you count Jack White, Whitley was the last great blues artist.

16. Bob Dylan- Love and Theft 2001
My man had his best decade since the '70s. Imagine that.

17. Arvo Part- Alina 2000
Even better than silence.

18. Cat Power- The Greatest 2006
I know these places well.

19. Jimmy Scott- Mood Indigo 2000
Ignore the jazz hands on the cover. This stuff is no joke.

20. Tool- Lateralus 2001
And I don't even smoke.

21. Brad Mehldau- Live 2008
There's hope yet.

22. Los Hombres Calientes- New Congo Square 2001
Of all the Marsalis brothers, it's Jason who makes my list. Go figure.

23. Juana Molina- Son 2006
Crazy pretty.

24. Joe Strummer- Streetcore 2003
I miss him so much.

25. Gregory Hickman-Williams- Passages 2006
My status as the most visible of the late vocalist's advocates saddens me. Please join me.

The 25 Best Songs

1. Mystikal- Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against the Wall) (YouTube) 2001
Ferocious post-9/11 defiance from New Orleans.

2. M.I.A.- Paper Planes (YouTube) 2008
I've impatiently waited for the pop music of the future to arrive. It's finally here.

3. The Hidden Cameras- AWOO (YouTube) 2006
Liberation and relief.

4. The Thrills- One Horse Town (YouTube) 2003
No comment.

5. Brother Ali- Forest Whitiker (YouTube) 2003
Keeping it real.

6. E-40- Tell Me When To Go (YouTube) 2006
Hip hop now provides most of my rock'n'roll kicks.

7. Nas- Be a... Too (YouTube) 2008
Nas airs it out.

8. Public Enemy- Harder Than You Think (YouTube) 2007
Just like that.

9. Metric- Monster Hospital (YouTube) 2005
Bobby Fuller meets Saddam Hussein.

10. Dizzee Rascal- Sirens (YouTube) 2007
A convincing foretelling of doomsday.

11. Marvin Sapp- Never Would Have Made It (YouTube) 2007
Gospel's popularity is a contrary indicator.

12. The Flaming Lips- Do You Realize? (YouTube) 2002
Right back at you, Wayne.

13. Macy Gray- I Try (YouTube) 2000
I can't play it off.

14. Lil Wayne- Shooter (YouTube) 2006
Weezy whispers.

15. Young Jeezy- Go Crazy (YouTube) 2005
Thug motivation, indeed.

16. Mary J. Blige- Family Affair (YouTube) 2001
I've heard this more often than any other song this decade. And that's alright with me.

17. TechN9ne- Einstein (YouTube) 2001
Leiber & Stoller's song has been replaced.

18. Drowning Pool- Bodies (YouTube) 2001
Nothing wrong with me.

19. Amy Winehouse- Rehab (YouTube) 2006
I'm pulling for you, Amy.

20. Outkast- Hey Ya (YouTube) 2003
Ice cold.

21. Missy Elliott- Get Ur Freak On (YouTube) 2001

22. Taking Back Sunday- Cute Without The 'E' (Cut from the Team) (YouTube) 2002
Timeless teen angst.

23. T.I.- Be Easy (YouTube) 2003
The South rose again.

24. Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell- Drop It Like It's Hot (YouTube) 2004
I'm not convinced that Pharrell isn't from another planet.

25. Brakes- Heard About Your Band (YouTube) 2005
My life is laughable.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mouth with Reach- Prisoner Transport


One of the biggest compliments I can pay musicians is suggesting that I don't know what to make of them. That's certainly the case with Mouth. My first inclination was to dismiss them as a just another jam band. But Mouth deserves better.

The free Escape From the North Pole mix tape (download it here) contains dub, weedy reggae, jazz fusion and yes, jam band noodling. There are also a couple of hip hop collaborations. The obvious delight Reach takes in working with an energetic live band is infectious. Reach is also heard to great effect in this new video.

I've only seen Mouth perform once, but it's not as if they're hard to find. They play the Jazzhaus in Lawrence Saturday and the Beaumont in KC on December 18.

I love the new Stika Figa video. No glamor. Just Topeka. Talk about keeping in real.

Mary J. Blige! Sugarland! Tegan and Sara! Emmylou Harris! Brandi Carlile! Erykah Badu! I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm excited about the 2010 edition of Lilith Fair.

My friend Chris remembers the ill-fated career of Kansas City band The Front.

Marva Whitney was the guest on The Walt Bodine Show yesterday. Here's the podcast.

I'm working as hard as I can at Plastic Sax to make everyone angry.

Kansas City Click: Friday's Murder Ballad Ball at Crosstown Station is billed as "a night honoring the folk tradition of storytelling and murder ballads through song." Many of Kansas City's premier singer-songwriters, country-rockers and folkies are on the bill.

An ambitious one-off tribute to Tommy Bolin goes down Saturday at Crosstown Station. Surviving members of Energy and Zephyr will pay homage to the guitarist best known for his work with Deep Purple and the James Gang. (This vintage footage of Zephyr is worth a peek, if only to make you feel better about not being on the scene in 1970.)

It seems really improbable, but Italian jazz pianist Roberto Magris is scheduled to perform with Tootie Heath and Logan Richardson Sunday at the Phoenix.

Diverse will team up with Logan Richardson Monday at The Record Bar.

(Image of Reach with Mouth from the MySpace account of Janel.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Rough Shop- Just Because It Was Christmas

Boxing Day.

Had the MP3 of "Just Because It Was Christmas" not been emailed to me directly by a member of the band, I would have sworn that the new seasonal song was created by the celebrated likes of Ian McLagan, Amy Rigby, The dB's or The Rumour. It's rooted in precisely the type of British pub rock that hits me like a mug of spiked eggnog.

The instant classic served as my introduction to the Rough Shop collective but the St. Louis band is a known commodity in their hometown. They performed at the Riverfront Times's awards showcase earlier this year. And my friend Steve Pick wrote the liner notes for their new release. Here's an excerpt:

On Just Because It Was Christmas there's no hint of ironic distance from the act of celebrating Christmas. Nor is it a leaden, overly-reverent, uncritical recitation of what everybody has heard before. It is a collection of beautiful, emotionally truthful, sometimes funny, sometimes sad songs, and it deserves to be added to the list of exceptional Christmas albums.

The eleven-song Just Because It Was Christmas album is available here.

If I end up compiling a "video of the year" list, Young Dro's "I Don't Know Y'All might be my top pick.

Kansas City Click: Jimmy Wayne and Chris Young are among the country stars crooning Wednesday at the Midland.

Ampichino appears at America's Pub on Thursday.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Liam Clancy, 1935-2009


I'm crying again.

It's not as if I knew Liam Clancy. I never even saw him perform. But listening to his exquisite 1965 solo album is almost too much to bear. The disaster depicted in "Anach Cuain" is devastating. Clancy's rendition of "Dirty Old Town" is reserved while "Home Boys Home," ostensibly a jaunty sailor's song, emphasizes the damage done by wayfaring strangers. "The Water Is Wide" reduces me to a puddle of tears. It's all great.

So is this more recent live performance of "Red Is the Rose."

It's not for the parting with my sister Kate/ It's not for the grief of my mother/It's all for the loss of my bonny Irish lass/That my heart is breaking forever.

Clancy died last week.

I truly enjoyed Darius Rucker's concert a couple days ago. Here's my review.

Kansas City Click: Brian Martin headlines a hootenanny Tuesday at the Record Bar.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thunder Eagle- Classical Decomposer


Heavy metal is hilarious.

It can be the most liberating and cathartic of musical forms. It's also inherently ludicrous. The head-banging? Hysterical! The guitar solos? Absurd! The song titles? Laughable! The band logos? Preposterous!

Thunder Eagle understands this. Their implicit acknowledgment of metal's contextual silliness allows them to rock even more convincingly. Songs like "Classical Decomposer" and "Alcoholocaust" (grab the MP3 at PureVolume) demonstrate that humor and head-banging go together like vodka and tonic.

As displayed in this year-old video, Thunder Eagle masterfully fuse post-AC/DC blues with Southern rock and contemporary thrash. They've since released the five-song Ride The Timberwolf (another local gag) and are working on their first full-length album.

They hit the Riot Room on Monday.

I happily downloaded two free mixtapes by regional artists this week. There Stands the Glass-favorite Stik Figa has a new project with D/Will. It's here. And the download from Mouth, a jazz-funk-reggae-hip hop jam band, is a shockingly diverse project.

Kansas City Click: Spoon, The Bravery, Metric and Hockey play for fans of a radio station Thursday at the Midland Theater.

Angela Hagenbach croons Friday at Jardine's.

Megadeth touches down at the Beaumont Club on Saturday.

I wouldn't mind hearing Darius Rucker sing "Alright" at the Midland Theater on Sunday.

Thunder Eagle rocks the Riot Room on Monday.

(Image of Thunder Eagle pilfered from Pure Volume.)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Review: Sugarland's Gold and Green

If ever a pop act was suited to the unique sensibility of Christmas, it's Sugarland. The folksy and sincere voice of Jennifer Nettles is tailor-made for the season. Not only is her voice more expansive than Santa's belly, she and her partner Kristian Bush demonstrated that they're masters at interpreting familiar material on this year's impressive Live On the Inside album. (Here's my review.)

Besides, the unapologetically cornpone component of the band's sound gave Gold and Green, the band's first Christmas album, the potential to be a fully realized holiday classic.

Alas, they don't quite get there. Split between original and classic material as well as the sacred and the secular, the album is too disjointed to become a holiday staple. Still, a handful of individual tracks are excellent. The Leon Russell-style gospel-blues of "Comin' Home" works, as does "Maybe Baby (New Year's Day)." And I don't know why Nettles breaks into Spanish on "Silent Night" but I like it a lot.

It's not perfect. "Nuttin' For Christmas" is the sort of condescending hillbilly tripe that represents Sugarland at their worst. I'm not suggesting that Sugarland forsake its country roots, but the song doesn't ring true to my ears. Their ill-advised satirical advertisement for the project isn't funny either.

I remain convinced that Sugarland has a classic Christmas album in them. It'd be just fine with me if Sugarland put out a Christmas album every year until they get it right.

I compile a list of The Ten Most Important Jazz-Related Events and Stories of 2009 at Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax.

Jazz musician Jason Parker blogs about his experiment with "free." (Tip via AZ.)

I had occasion to interact with Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records a few times. He died November 28. (Tip via BGO.)

Folk music historian Bess Hawes has died. (Tip via BGO.)

Kansas City Click: Rex Hobart plays an early show at The Record Bar on Tuesday.

Jerry Hahn plays Jardine's on Wednesday.