The Freelance Mentalists.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
  Top Tens and some that maybe shoulda been
   Don Allred's P&J 2011 plus:
1(various artists), Dirty Water 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude
Year Zero
Points: 10
2Lydia Loveless, Indestructible Machine
Bloodshot
Points: 10
3David Murray Cuban Ensemble, Play Nat King Cole en Espanol
Motéma
Points: 10
4(various artists), Live From the Old Town School
Old Town School Recordings
Points: 10
5Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Telesterion
Rodriguez Lopez Productions
Points: 10
6tUnE-yArDs, w h o k i l l
4AD
Points: 10
7(various artists), Golden Beirut: New Sounds From Lebanon
Out Here
Points: 10
8(various artists), Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie
429
Points: 10
9Emperor X, Western Teleport
Bar/None
Points: 10
10Jay-Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne
Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella/Roc Nation
Points: 10

Singles

1Sonny Rollins (ft Ornette Coleman), "Sonnymoon for Two"
Emarcy
2Buddy Miller (ft. Lee Ann Womack), "Meds"
New West
3John Doe, "Moonbeam"
Yep Roc
4DJ Shadow, "Give Back the Nights"
Roc-a-Fella
5Tom Waits, "Hell Broke Luce"
Anti
6Lady Gaga (ft. Clarence Clemons), "The Edge of Glory"
Interscope
7Wolves in the Throne Room, "Woodland Cathedral"
Southern Lord
8John Doe, "Peggy Sue Got Married"
Hear
9They Might Be Giants, "The Lady and the Tiger"
Idlewild
10Adele, "Rolling in the Deep"
Columbia/XL
main comments below, but almost listed Boston Spaceship's Let It Beard: shameless Midwestern Anglophilia from Bob Pollard & crew, frontloaded with a few throat-clearing gob-duds (get 'em out of the way, thanks Bob) and then steadily stirring up a trenchant tempest in ye beardmug, spinning me toward Mott The Hoople's Brain Capers (complement complement complement) Trombone Shorty has been known to imply or me to infer that jazz is just part of his job, and he can handle it, period. But the jazz on For True has more immediately gratifying  purple and gold candy skull brainiac head rush than the pop tracks, as nicely flashy and guest starry as those can be (big deal) Another killer EP in the guise of a good album (sure are a lot of those).
Hey why wasn't this on there? (more than a certain number of  well-known covers makes me uncertain)
 The Jolly Boys, Great Expectation The Jolly Boys are one of the first and last leading bands playing mento, the 50s style sometimes marketed as "Jamaican calypso", and while it does have the sassy, party hearty social commentary of calypso (not always to the liking of politicians, police and thieves), the Jolly Boys' mento rolls the chunky, butt-thumping agility of homely percussion, banjos and guitars (a rougher cousin of the pre-Beatles and their budding generation's early skiffle influences). The social commentary's mostly first person on this album, well-chosen covers provide,explicit and implied narrative, via Albert Minott's eloquent growl. Winehouse's "Rehab" is  the centerpiece, pumping into Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing","You Can't Always Get What You Want", and increasingly less obvious choices, as "Ring of Fire"," Hanging on the Telephone", "Blue Monday", " Perfect Day" and  "The Passenger" get swept and bounced along. They don't sound so old, but old enough to know themselves, their hopes, fears and appetites pretty well. Hell, even "Riders in the Storm" seems to fit, I think. Some good originals and Jamaican covers too.
 
  Dirty Water Sandwich: some P&J Comments and then some
Dirty Water 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude doesn't have the sometimes spectacular transitions of its recent forerunner*, and isn't quite as abrasive, but compiler Kris Needs sets the same pace and perspective right off, veering from  Captain Beefheart's lean and loping "Zig Zag Wanderer" to the cooler rifle range poise of The Human Expression's "Love At Psychedelic Velocity." Zig-zagging from familiar to emerging landmarks continues as Death's "Freaking Out" shrugs over over the cliff, with its stop-start momentum spun around some more by Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop", with the spiraling electric guitar of (I think) Charlie Christian (there's no "punk jazz" per se on here, but Diz and the live MC5 dig deep and deliver quickly, gratifying rock-head attention spans and appetites).   Yeah,doo-doo-wopping Silhouttes, strutting off to the poorhouse, smirking "Strange as it seems, all my money turned brown") Suicide suggestively crooning about a "Creature Feature", the Velvet Underground's Live in Texas 69 version of "I'm Waiting For My Man", with its sly classic spoken intro and brown narcotic boogiemorphic tendencies bleeding through the VU's better known distinguishing marks--yea, just when all those guys rushing to a peak of cool, we get the one-two punch of Patti Smith's "Piss Factory" and Wayne-to-Jayne County's "Man Enough To Be A Woman" Concise epics,bluntly bum-rushing the enemies of promise, and challenging themselves too. And just in case the Misunderstood's truly flower punk (acid in at least two senses) "Children of the Sun" seems a little too grand, the Unrelated Segments' "Story of my Life" immediately brings us back to itchy grievances, warty warning signs and the still-fresh zits of tombstone testimonials. Sometimes it seems like "right band, wrong track", but even then, context can fortify, as Blondie's (lyrically blurry but sonically tonic enough) late 70s "X-Offender" zigs back to the United States of America's "Hard-Coming Love", where chanteuse Dorothy Moskowitz and the USA's male geeks lure each other though  shuddering  psychotronic blossoms of (what turns out to be) foreplay, or at least something left gracefully for generations of imagination, in mid-air. Back to street level again, for the Godz' heartfelt, country-busking serenade, "C'mon little girl turn on" (that's the whole lyric, and all that's needed). These thrift store cowboys get washed through the Lower East Side by the alley waves of  Holy Modal Rounders' "Indian War Whoop." So it goes, jumping back to the late 70s for the rattling b-movie tumult ("I do this every night") of "Imagination" by the sic and aptly named Rudement. Contextual momentum or not Some of the daring juxtapositions just doesn't fit (Woody Guthrie, Big Star, the Flamin Groovies, --possibly more examples of right artist, wrong track). But squinting as sternly as possible (and okay, Faust and some others are growing on me) these two discs still seem to have at least 97:26 of keepers. (sorry this is so long, but it's an involving album)
I'm totally infatuated with David Murray Cuban Ensemble (important to credit the Ensemble, not only the maesto) Play Nat King Cole En Espanol(some of these songs are Portuguese too, maybe). According to the promo materials, Cole's original versions, replete with stiff phonetic phrasing of fluid melodies, were received with affectionate amusement by his Latin fans (re Airto Moreita on Brazilian response to Getz's bossa nova). But IKC and/or his producers chose songs of amazing potential--there's no sense of Murray imposing his own thing, and/or renovating from the ground up. Stuff, frequently new stuff, happens every second, with  zero hyperactivity or claustrophobia. He likes to feature different sections of his Ensemble on diff subsets and recurring approaches--the horns don't ride your ass into the ground, the accordion doesn't perk you into terminal Stsrbucks. A Yoda-like tango singer pops up at just the right moments. Murray's string arrangements alone are worth the price of admission.
Comments on Lydia Loveless and Live From The Old School: please see the Country Comments in previous post, Son of Deed Poll
Thought I had more about Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Telesterion, but it's sharp-edged, fluid (sawtooth waves employed?), analog musk, more astute than noodley, any purple more blended than The Mars Volta's reigning peacock screams. Latin rock with jazzy tendencies, rec to fans of early Santana, Rock En Espanol, whatever just went out of print on Shadoks. A personal Best-Of; you can stream it and a ton of his other albums here:
http://omardigital.rodriguezlopezproductions.com/

(Zechs Marquise,Omar's younger brothers' band, also has a 2011 album. Getting Paid. It's uneven, but worth checking out here: http://zechsmarquise.bandcamp.com )
Golden Beirut takes various routes, but the taut caution times boldness, straight ahead as far as possible and always ready to veer, evokes Wanna Buy A Bridge? at different points in every listen (so far).
Wondering about the sweetly unpretentious undercurrent of words in tuneyard's SXSW set ( spare, intimate, hopefully still archived on NPR) and greedy for more wonder< I dove through the rippling, gritty, snapping stripes of whokill to lyrics, and uh-oh. Something about a woman  confronting the male invader of her ghetto courtyard, with a naive indignation and other elements which seem unlikely, in a woman  who hasn't gotten killed yet. Kind of the wrong whiff of arty thing, combining badly with the tough textures. But tough cookies, listen to the music, try not to, Garbus and crew have got it (what does she do, construction-wise? George Clinton as Laurie Anderson as George Clinton?)
Western Teleport instantly evokes a post-budget, post-the-latest-Disaster Radiohead fan, sailing his flapping rig over the mountains like "Gyro Gearloose of the desert," as my  drive-in colleague described the helpful hermit in 60s (70s?) high speed b-movie classic Vanishing Point. But the movie's supporting character gives our rebel hero some means to go far beyond the sandy inventor's test drives, most likely. On Western Teleport, Son of Gyro has himself  become airborne, seeking his own fugitive muse babe in areas nailed by Robert Christgau: "where dystopian sci-fi is indistinguishable from democratic-socialist realism." Yep, he's kind of a Woody Partch Beefheart character as well, though no kind of musical geezer, necessarily traveling too light for that. Emperor X has also left another album's-worth of musical Easter eggs on both (or anyway two) sides of the screen: hidden all over the real-time USA, and as free downloads on his website.
Comments on Lydia Loveless and Live From The Old School: please see the Country Comments in previous post, Son of Deed Poll
.Can't find my notes on Note of Hope, but they (Ani Di Franco, Lou Reed, Studs Terkel, most others, incl connective bassist Rob Wasserman and Van Dyke Parks, who composed the opening instrumental) find the music in Guthrie's words and def vice versa. This time, the words aren't only unpublished lyrics, also diary entries, maybe letters, jottings on envelopes, whatever may have gone through the melodist's mind while browsing this stuff--maybe next time from his pictchas? (G. drew, in some periods earned more from signpainting etc than music etc)
Not too far from Scrooge McDuck or Shakespeare's royals, Watch The Throne  strives, jives, thrives and dives deeper into a vast vat of  illusions and realities, in a way I haven't witnessed since Brian Wilson Presents Smile. The  ultimate Bubble Boy-to-Man focus of which I'll take any day over The Smile Sessions' endlessly charming, endlessly endless blurfest (yeah, even the double-discs edition, much less the box)
Didn't quite make it, but worth checking out:
Erkin Koray, often billed as the father of Turkish rock, has a new self-selected release, Mechul: Singles & Rarities (Sublime Frequencies), just out (or should be; scheduled for Aug. 30). "This collection features tracks not found in the many unauthorized Erkin compilations and LP reissues that have emerged in the West over the years." Haven't seen any of these, just occasional others on various artists comps, so can't care this any previous all-Erkin albums. But, despite what sometimes sounds like straight-from-7"-vinyl transfers and a few melancholy melodies not reaching me through the language barrier, I got into most of this pretty quickly. The opening title track, a swirling ballad with surfy undertow, non-generically recalls Lebanese-American Dick Dale's proud use of his Middle Eastern inspirations. Others cut across suggestions of, I dunno, bootlegs young Neil Young jamming with Traffic, Deep Purple's "Highway Star", Jorge Ben's (possibly misspelled, sorry)"Umbabarumba (Porto Africano"), Talking Heads. My associative illusions as much as anything, certainly not any lifts or glosses (astute assimilation, maybe). It def isn't just a course in Western Civ Rock with a Turkish mustache. Seehttp://www. forcedexposure.com for more info.
PS:He started "Turkey's first-ever rock and roll group in 1957.." "Over time, he began to find inspiration in folk sounds from Turkey's Anatolian interior, and radio broadcasts received from Egypt and Lebanon. He looked to the East from his Westward-leaning Istanbul perch, and began incorporating these sounds into his own work." Hence these 1970-77 tracks, and much else. Hopefully he'll bring out some more albums over here, of vintage and new music.
The Raincoats' self-released Odyshape sounds fantastic. Don't know if they remastered it, don't have the original at hand, but jeez. Only thing (maybe irrevocable about the basic tracks, or deliberately, appropriately challenging) occasionally it seems like the words get obliterated by bold queries' naked light bulbs bouncing off naked (and this promo's case, nonexistent) vinyl. Could call it virtual vinyl, combining most of the best properties associated with analog and digital.  Groove's dubwise speedbumps are challenging and melodious too (one's from Portugal, the sound reminds me).
In ingratitude and fake closing:
I can't find any bad music inspiring/requiring me to write, much less listen. Once upon a time, the Four Seasons, Lou Christie, the Bee Gees faithfully delivered new, horrible harvests of glory--but no more! And, beyond the ever-budding catalogs of Bob Dylan and Neil Young,  where are the golden apples with worms and soft spots, so ripe for the plucking of tough love?  There are some happy exceptions. Bad metal vocals can be abrasively stimulating, handier than coffee for already multi-tasking drivers, especially those of us with (so far) non-metal bladders. But oops that's all I got to write about those.
*From late 2010 ( for Dec 7--why were DW and DW2 released so very close together?)
 Past several recent deadlines, I was all set for a  hazy shade of winterlude, but immediately started burning turkey calories with Dirty Water: The Birth of Punk Attitude (Dec 7), 23 cannily programmed known (at least to collectors) milestones and revelatory rarities.Starts with the title track, which doesn't sound that great now, then the Seeds--but instead of "Pushin' Too Hard", it'd "Evil Hoodoo", crackling with full-bodied fuzz, no thin garage bluster, but headed out in mirrorshades Milky Ways and leather ripples you can live in: your home away from home, turns out that's the first theme established, to be developed in all sorts of vivacious variations.
          The second theme comes from the next track, the Deviants' "Garbage." It's not as flashy, it's kinda dumptruck Bo Diddley and some spare air interspersed with gobs of reverb, but all shaped by characterization, as are the words. Mostly spoken: "Garbage! Get yours today. (sung) C'mon and feel it (speaker) IIt'll maek you feel good like it thinks you should. C'mon and feel it. It'l make you large, it'll put two cars in your garage. Garbage! c'mon and squeeze it. Garbage! c'mon and stroke it. Garbage! c'mon and suck it. Garbage!" No more instructions, too obvious to bother(this whole thing is also kind of asend up of drug commecials like the Standells "Try It" and of rock operas, reminding the Who they may have been better off with "A Quck One" mini-opera) time to just  "Do It!" as Deviants' offspring Pink Fairies instruct, streamlining toward spirit of '76--but instead of Pistols and Dammed, we get Gene Vincent! Well, he did make it into the UK's mid-60s, and even had Billy Zoom in his last American band, but also it's a floating oasis (like I said cannily programmed also includes timing, so we don't get burned out or expect the obvious), and set-up for the Flaming Groovies' "Teenage Head", which gallops along like Vincent's colleague Link Wray, calmly (home away from home) characterizing, in first person, a bit like the Stooges and also going back to high school, so it's okay that he brags about his jailbait girlfriend, even with grown-up proficiency, then calmly transferring, re-branding with a hot pokerface: "I'm you." Like if only! Then T.Rex's girl-happy "Elemental Child", with Bolan's new toy, his electric guitar, making its live and lengthy debut. (home away from home can also remind us a lot of these guys were ex hippies, still jamsters, although re-wired with newer self-tied leashes)
 Things get darker but back to Deviants' absurdism with lung-wounded march of the Monks" "I Hate You", then Jook's Slade-inspiring suedehead harmonies ( also harmonizing with Monks' high wild pitch and Deviants mock operatic tendencies, but Gene Vincent's sweetness too)"Oo oo Rudi", prob influenced the Clash's angels-with-dirty-faces moments too, But scarier characterization in Mott The Hoople's "The Moon Upstairs", where a lad damaged by head police "roams free as a bird with broken wings"  and "those who laugh let this be your epitaph, and you'll feel every blow" it's punk and metal vengence, but also the frustrated idealism of "rejected neglected" ex-hippies and their family members in home away from home:"not trying to bleed you just trying to feed you, but you're too fookin sloww!" Also, "for those who laugh", Ian Hunter's own mad laugh back in arc of triumph (say like Vincent Price. getting revenge on reviewers in
Theatre of Blood), then immediately to extremely rare Hollywood glamsters Zoltan X's z-movie celestial butt patrol: "Humans are fu-u-un! Ahhh hah hah!" Then Sun Ra's "Rocket Number Nine," MC5's Ra-inspired" Rocket Reducer No.62", live with their brothers and sisters of course, MC5 little sibs the Up's "Sisters Sisters", I  thought they were the set's only girls, but they just sing that way out of respect. Disc 2 takes us back to Earth, sort of with David Peel and the Lower East Side's wino park art, Silver Apples, streetwise Tom Sawyer philosophy, a bit like Rounders here, as they ease up on the home-grown electronics; Also  the New York Dolls' "Subway Train", Last Poets' "On The Subway", Suicide, Silhouttes, Sensational Alex Harvey Band Rocket From The Tombs, Red Krayola Dictators ("Teengenerate" 's self-mocking goon party sounds like a precursor  of "Jackass",etc) it all fits, even the lesser tracks (Can, Saints) and true dud (Peter Hammill), make it back to that home away from home.
 "Do You Love Me?", apparently no relation to  the one that goes "Do you love me, now that I can dance?", although might be an extremely mutational descendant, rhythmically--it's by the Stooges, when they had James Williamson and Ron Asheton both, with Asheton's  groove and Willamson's more impulsive approach to guitar-touching. Sort of a cyclonic, peyote boogaloo conga line, with no stress, and this is what I mean about a home away from home, or one thing it can mean: not only the overall stance, but an extended, hard-charging, skull-rattling, yet reassuringly, invigoratingly steady ride.   Don Allred
 
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
  Deed Poll, Deed Poll, Deed Poll It Again (Boys)
Nashville Scene Ballot 2011 (lists only, comments in Pt 2)

TOP TEN COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2011:

1.
This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark
2. Miranda Lambert:
Four The Record
3. Sunny Sweeney:
Concrete4. Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine
5. Wanda Jackson:
The Party Ain't Over
6. Middle Brother:
Middle Brother
7. John Doe:
Keeper
8.
The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
9.  Blind Boys of Alabama:
Take The High Road
10. Pistol Annies:
Hell on Heels


TOP TEN COUNTRY SINGLES OF 2011:

1. Jackson Browne: "You Know The Night (radio edit)"
2. John Doe: "Peggy Sue Got Married"
3. The Bangles: "I'll Never Be Through With You"
4. Buddy Miller featuring Lee Ann Womack: "Meds"
5. Steve Earle with Allison Moorer: "Heaven Or Hell"
6.  Matt King: "Cursing The Ohio"
7. The Band Perry: "If I Die Young"
8.  Toby Keith: "Red Solo Cup"
9. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: "Codeine"
10. Little Big Town: "Shut Up Train"


TOP FIVE COUNTRY REISSUES OF 2011:

1. Johnny Cash:
The Sun Years Vols. 1-4
2. Hank Williams: The Legend Begins
3.
Live From The Old Town School
4. Mickey Newbury:
An American Trilogy
5. Neil Young/International Harvesters:
A Treasure

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST MALE VOCALISTS OF 2011:

1. Willie Nelson
2.  Merle Haggard
3. Jamey Johnson

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST FEMALE VOCALISTS OF 2011:

1. Sunny Sweeney
2. Miranda Lambert
3. Lee Ann Womack

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST LIVE ACTS OF 2011:

1. Emmylou Harris & The Red Dirt Boys (Newport Folk Festival)
2. Jamie Johnson & band (Farm Aid)
3. Willie Nelson & band featuring Lukas Nelson (Farm Aid)

(if allowed a fourth, would be
Miranda Lambert & band with guests Pistol Annies, on Austin City Limits)

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST SONGWRITERS OF 2011:

1. Guy Clark
2. Miranda Lambert and various co-writers
3.

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST DUOS, TRIOS OR GROUPS OF 2011:

1. Middle Brother
2. Pistol Annies
3. Blind Boys of Alabama

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST NEW ACTS OF 2011:

1. Middle Brother
2. Pistol Annies
3. Alabama Shakes

COUNTRY MUSIC'S THREE BEST OVERALL ACTS OF 2011:

1.Miranda Lambert (and band)

2.Blind Boys of Alabama (and guests, incl Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack)
 
  Son of Deed Poll (insights/alibites)

COUNTRY BALLOT (re) 2011 (releases) COMMENTS:
(in response to the pollmeister's annual query,"What is Country?") I like to think of country as boxed in by hills, trees, traffic, relocation, paperless trails, and all the stuff on and in the rocks in your shotglass. Western would be those wide-open spaces, suitable for going off-road with Bob Wills or ZZ Top or Willie's gang for however many aeons, and then back onto the Interstate. Though you could just as be easily headed for the next roundup in a red solo cup, echoing Giant Sand's "Baby It's Cold Outside" and/or the local militia band, since the almighty Sun has finally gone down, or it hasn't but the AC's good for another midsummer's winterlude, between appointments. Also, as our professional photographer friend pointed out in passing, "There's wires everywhere." (For previous, perhaps overlapping ponderosas of country's nature, please visit the Mentalists archive for some earlier year-end scribbles, ditto "That Home Across The Road"--meanwhile back in 2012, CB2011's attempt continues), Oh yeah, and country has a tendency to want to blurt out some obsessively balanced summation.
Early rock critic Nik Cohn once referred in passing to country's "elaborate sentimentality", which is surely appropriate, but what I value most is the keep-a-goin'  aspect of the aforementioned obsessiveness, in some cases the morbid vitality, as obsession gives even fatalism a hard time. As I've said before, it also relates to the idea of beat (Paul Goodman said William Faulkner was beat, "in a complicated way" , a Faulkner way, like, "Now they could cross Grandlieu Street, there was traffic in it now; to clash and clang of light and bell trolley and automobile crashed and glared across the intersection, rushing to light curbchanneled spindrift of tortured and draggled serpentine and trodden confetti pending the dawn's whitewings----spent tinseldung of Momus' Nilebarge clatterfalque; ordered and marked by light and bell and carrying the two imitationleather bands and the drill mealsack they could now cross..." Mealsacks, though no hosses in that scene, but dig it) : Ginsberg said it came from beatitude, and also from Herbert Huncke saying, "Man, I'm beat", after digging holes for the pot crop all day. Coulda been picking cotton, working at Auto Zone, doing taxes, figuring out the best place to take her or him, making a point or a date too many times,  whatever. So, to the cases in point:

This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark
With a sharp, springy, never showy house band, led by a ditto vocalist always ready for non-pushy duet duty, and many guests whose distinctive phrasing and sheer lung power take these songs places their distinctive writer/co-writer’s wry, dusty, workingman’s storytelling minimalism implies (or not), this loving, lucid tribute mostly accentuates raging or talking back to  or riding out or getting the hell out of the way of  or otherwise dealing with the dying of the light, to the extent anyone can. All in the commons, sometimes stepping just far enough beyond the limits of  likely conversation to drive home the details of each lot, succinct and fluid. Clark’s people got business to ‘tend to. And no matter how picturesque and empathetic and mellow things may sometimes get,  “son of a bitch’s always bored me” is never too far away.
(Track Seven: Willie Nelson nicely deflates the excess melodrama usually found in covers of "Waiting For A Train" (yep, that moneyshot chorus), by taking the whole thing at a brisk, even business-like tempo, which actually makes it more affecting.)

Country can't just be conceptual of course, it's also the sound. Wanda Jackson's frayed, yet unstoppable munchkin splay brings the country out of The Party Ain't Over's bobbing New Orleans horns, its rockabilly, Latin, gospel and o yeah, its country songs too (don't ever take for granted that country always sounds like country).Producer  Jack White couldn't have pulled off  if Wanda flagged, but they got it. White's nervous Barney Fife bravura helps The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams to represent Hank's range, as does Hank's own The Legend Begins (speedy exuberance of very early tracks, and the finally unscrewed-with, appropriately edited Health and Happiness Show broadcasts).
Also soundwise, the penetrating clarity, so pure it courts distortion, sorta between Loretta Lynn and  prime Robert Plant soprano of  young Lydia Loveless perfectly suits the obsessive and even necessary truth-telling. She's a rebel against  social conventions, but she's also 21 now, and what is the deal with late adolescence, and principle vs. fear, with alcohol as the mirror? Her voice keeps it all spinning like a country hurricane, and a safe room too (its own sense of structure, wherever artist and listener are going). Obsession's  clarity and tumult  Keeps it more country than a show of somehow more fresh-than-vintage  folk-rock chops too, ditto Middle Brother.
Speaking of whom (another insert)
Middle Brother's s/t album is what I didn't get, at least so far, from latest Deer Tick, where McCauley seemed too assimilated, what w other songwriters' worthy contributions and a certain evenhanded approach within angsty considerations too, although the Gacy thing  does takes it beyondo. But Middle Brother's set is infused with the scratchy star power of first two DT albums (enhanced rather than blurred by  sometimes not knowing which of the triad is singing and/or writing lead). Even has the Dawes dude wanting muse to break his heart so he can sing "with blood and guts/but I can't do that, I'll just sing like myself." Not coping a plea, he makes his quieter approach work this time, then gets loud in a forthright, Deer Tick/McCauley-compatible way, without imitation.Third man Vasquez also fits, and like Will Hermes said of Monsters of Folk, sometimes we get group therapy when listening for group harmony (not too much of either in this case). And if soap opry too, it's all over the kind of country folk punk tombstone splattered with there-stands-the lass type testimony which is just a natural attraction for extreme housecleaning measures.
Singles again:
A Note To You definitely finds the music in the words of Woody Guthrie's diaries, letters, postcards, margins, grocery lists, whatever. Even Van Dyke Parks' opening instrumental seems like Woody's voice and perspective, def ditto "You Know The Night", in its epic minute original version, summoned by Jackson Browne from whole chorus lines 'n' clothes lines of pages, re the night Woody met his future wife Marjorie, and it works as well in the four-minute radio edit--Jackson Browne, people! Whether you're a JB fan or the opposite, this is one of the wonders of the world. You know the night when you hear it, pretty soon, and right along and in a good way.
I loved the meld of motive and emotive, measure and pleasure in Jason Isbell's debut album, Sirens of the Ditch, on which he was backed by the Drive-By Truckers (one of their most consistenly satisfying full-lengths, along 'companying Bettye Lavette and Booker T.--you listening, Doc Bob, Uncle. Paul, Mr.Willie, Rev. Al?).   The second album, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit was keyboadier, rumbling gravelly, smokey, speculative,  recalling at times Traffic's expanded touring line-ups, including the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (in terms of early 70s Angloid-Alabama atmospherics, if not MSRS standards of performance), and a bt of Randall Bramblett. Too lose, Isbell, may have thought, so 2011's Here We Rest is more song-centric, more thematic. Fine title: Alabama's state motto, and supposedly the meaning of its name (though state historians have long since debunked that--it's apparently somewhere in the vicinity of "Thicket Clearers", or something else not very close to "Here We Rest," which sounds more like generic epitaph. Fittingly enough, but that's where Isbell's once deftly sardonic touch rests here (amidst too stiff arrangements, bearing loads of literary yet overly literal details about alienation vis the Road, yes, speaking of the 70s--but also speaking of recent times, so no groupies 'n' blow, just being away, yet still in the budget-busted South), almost  But there are a few exceptions. "Codeine", which begins with a complaint about a lame bar band, soon surrounds an ambivalently separated husband with a tasteful, fireplace-flickering-though-watered-booze arrangement, the neo-rootsiness  perhaps reflecting the narrator's  retro, why-can't-she/we-be-like-was sentiment and reflexive, even a-hole tinge--but in any case leading him though the tremulous, sing-along (female voice coming in too) chorus," One of our friends/Has taken her in/And given her codeine"--leading him and her and everyone into that last, melismatic word, as it somehow tightens into renewed, barely emphasized focus at its very end--just a little hovering trap, snapping shut. Not necessarily the end, just the facts, ma'am and sir. Which calls for another round, another verse, another mood-shade, and fades eventually, with no OD of melodrama, no release. The live version of this on World Cafe's studio session with Isbell and the 400 Unit, was unplugged, I think, anyway unbuttoned, flabby, with no jams. But some other album tracks have been sounding better on the radio  than they did back to back on the CD player, so mebbe  another subject for further study.
The Bangles' Sweetheart of the Sun thrives in or near the L.A. smog, a whiff of acrid reality principle sweeping through the 60s as 80s as whatever decade this is and back again, flowers and weeds, rippling in the breeze of a hothouse with the roof rolled back, or  maybe Laurel Canyon? Someplace cozy and resonant and rocky, with walls inviting climbing. In "Never Be Through With You," with Greg Leisz on steel, Hoffs  calls like she's called, compelling and compelled: a standoff mebbe, strutting in need and testimony. (Also in cowgirl boots? Would that be so wrowwng?)
 Then there's the way young Alabama Shakes make a bottle tree of their downhome soul chops, messages tucked into said bottles: "One two three, won't you dance with me? By the bulllet holes in my sleeve. I could be your ticket home. (Clark's characters might perk up their ears here, certainly the ones on John Doe's Keeper, where love songs with teeth include "Little Tiger", which might be about one of Doe's daughters, prowling through discreetly observed private sorrows; a laidback motellude of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, though if that's what they are, she's the only one who does the time, h'mmm--but he's there when she gets off the bus, he's gon' help her do the parole; a fella who may be going back in time, or surely to some place where he and she paid their dues, and she should still be paying them, to keep her place in his sense of things (hey come to think of it, this might be a sequel to the parole song, I just thought of that--sounds like a grand quest, though); "Lucky Penny", duet with Patty Griffin; and the one where he and current squeeze are having fun with whacky neighbors in sweet home Oildale, suburb of Bakersfield. Then there's the transfigured (or at least much more intimate than the original) great lost r&b classic "Moonbeam" (the moon giveth, or bringeth into view, and taketh away).  Followed by the battered wife, flipping the finger to the bartender who can offer only pity (and another round of the same ol'), swaying on toward the Greyhound station, singing along, until she/Doe's rolling the notes, the breaks back and forth: "Roses are red/Violence is too/Everybody knows/I'm painting the town/Blue." A brighter blue than the X original, and maybe as lasting, judging by this almost upside the head sunlight bouncing off the traffic instead, it's alright (she knows when he'll get home too well, she's the one cleaning her clock this time).
The Blind Boys of Alabama have taken the gospel trail with a variety of companions, including the adapted chestnuts of Jagger-Richard, Dylan and Waits, not to mention a collaborative album with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. this time it's country, with co-production by Jamey Johnson, who also sounds very much at home singing on several tracks, without pushing the doctrine--it's all more poignant than that, including Lee Ann Womack's turn (also in the way she finds her way through the clutter of Buddy Miller's Majesty of Sliver Strings, for the non-campy "Meds", written by Marc Ribot! Yeah, Miller's men are trying to make more than a high-chopsy noodlefest, and it would be, if they'd written for and/or backed Womack and Griffin alll the way through). Not too long ago, when asked if he still believed in his religious songs, Dylan replied, " I do when I'm singing them." That's what it's all about.
Bonus section--like the drum solo, possibly time for your latest  bathroom break:
notebook scribbles re Miiranda's Four The Record--- Starts out like Coe, Mellow mischief, though eventually hey wouldn't this make a good sassy gal video, "Fine Tune" hot n bothered though also a just a bit Steve Milleresque, maybe for P&J Top Ten, the two [?] she wrote w out collabs are deepest? "Safe" seems magical thinking of material girl, but it's all subsumed in lyric and sonic imagery as salvation, comfort lovedrug etc, then "Dear Diamond", which is wrapped around my finger like him, seems like gonna be gloating but she feels guilty, burdened with the secret whose existence she can only confess to the dear diamond,glass-cutting, many-faceted and splendored diary thing, she can't quite unfold the secret--c'mon, roses won't tell, the diamond won't either--so magical images of power also cost, as she says, and she nails names her self in "Nobody's Fool"--but the music's always enjoyable at the very least, consolation prizes worth keeping always):(some are there to easily suggest how she'll do better, nay, slay, with 'em on stage)(also dig the jostling, minor key cabaret punk oompahpoid, begins with her cutting my bangs with rusty scissors, never mind the decorously painted lips bitten, "stoicism" is actually the "soft" way she won't be, won't fold away her sorrow like "My Mama's Broken Heart"--which is not a brash, rash or insensitive comparison, in this gathering of momentum and shadows, the pulsating hurt  just starting to surface would be good to have Gogol Bordello cover.Hey presto! More on "Safe"--As with " Eugene" (best track so far on H3's windy baggy Ghost To A Ghost/Guttertown, his track also a bit Gogolesque) providing misery with fast brooding company, rattling the candles like she say she'll rattle in your drink when you're thirsty (that's in "Safe") No kerosene ect here, we jumpcuts and arcing subsets of theme and style provide musical sublimation the tone of it just won't settle for anything less than  HELL YEAH (dito Sunny Sweeney, rolling blue but rolling)
Woulda Shoulda Coulda:
For all that, I feel kinda bad about ditching the sweet hoot of Merle's Working In Tennessee for Doe, but Merle seems a little too detached, relatively speaking
Still, if this were a Top Twelve, he'd be in there (with the somewhut random canon of Willie's Remember Me Vol. 1. Which might as well be Vol XXVIII,but/and its keepers include "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! That Cigarette." At least he's not mining coal [a pretty un-Texan practice, rat?] like on "Country Music," his 2010 T-Bone Burnett production). Original Rolling Country 2011 comments on Merle:
Working In Tennessee is a lot of fun, mostly barroom/boxcar/daydream sing-alongs, with a natcherly blooming windowbox of the fatalist, affirmative and absurd, especially on "Laugh It Off." Flexes some mellow heart muscle too (some, not a ton, which wouldn't suit him, nor me).
To this, xhuxx a.d. responded:
Favorite song is the homelessness one about Saginaw that shares its name with a much worse Red Hot Chili Peppers hit; "Laugh It Off" second place probably. Solid record, but there's a lot I could quibble about, if I had time to quibble these days.
And I then 'llowed:
Xxhux's aforementioned quibbles with Working In Tennessee might well incl use of sureshot themes, re aforementioned barroom/boxcar/daydream sing-alongs, but his whiff-of-bs-bearing paper airplanes are bullseye or close enough, often enough for lazier me to be impressed--he really is Working it, somewhut. Top Ten? We'll see.
Another close call: Steve Earle's I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, track by track pretty strong, but overall maybe a bit too repetitious point/effect/and/or approach-wise, still deserves some context, from my feature:
In 2009, eight years after beginning his debut novel, country singer-songwriter Steve Earle decided he really had to finish the thing. He also felt the need to make a new album. Earle had moved from his longtime Nashville home base to Greenwich Village at the age of 50, while remaining blessed  by his improbably durable seventh marriage, this one to chanteuse Allison Moorer, having a baby with her, and still keeping up with world news. Despite such inspirations, Earle was atypically short of original songs. So he came up with  "Townes," an  often astute tribute to his formidable mentor, the late great Townes Van Zandt.
Earle  leads off with Van Zandt's most famous song, "Pancho and Lefty." The doomed, defiant outlaw Pancho's possibly treacherous accomplice Lefty slips across the border, to linger in the cold shadows of Cleveland. "Townes was both characters," Earle declared of the mercurially standard-setting, substance-abusing Van Zandt. Nevertheless, Van Zandt's crucial advice went beyond reading and writing: "He told me to always use clean needles, " Earle said.
In Earle's novel, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive", Doc Ebersole, who once claimed he could treat Hank Williams' alcoholism and spinal bifida with drugs, has fled to San Antonio's backstreets,  after Williams' death. The self-medicating Ebersole is often accosted  by the novel's eerie, jaunty namesake, Williams' last hit released before he died. A decade later, it's an eternal jukebox favorite of rich men and poor, also sometimes a cue for Williams' ghost, which can be backed into at any minute, as it pleads for another shot. All of the novel's characters, while evoking the songs and  struggles of Earle and Van Zandt, morph into visions of  "how different people come to experience spirituality," as Earle put it. He defined spirituality  as "a one-to-one encounter with God, or whatever word you use."
Earle's new album, also  titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," distills his own brand of frankly 12-step-based, self-observant spirituality. We're greeted by some wry celebrations: despite the fatalistic underbelly, which incl the glum gratification of the pirate and li'l emperor, Earle's still  " walkin' on the water, 'cause I never learned to swim." He and wife Moorer sound  at home while gliding through the discreetly psychedelic aura of T-Bone Burnett's Americana production, as they sing, "I love you baby, but I just can't tell/This kinda love comes from Heaven or Hell." (Well, that one did make Singles.)
Not quite country enough for these lists, but
Also: Snow Shadows, a recent studio album by Alana Amram. Her voice reminds me of very early Dylan, but without imitating him--also without his very early hillbilly thing, not that there's anything wrong with that .Spare, expressive, interested in beats, a tad cautious, but looking for the right place to jump, then doing it-- early Dylan in that sense. Songs by Vince Martin, whom I only knew from his collaboration with Fred Neil (on an LP I never heard, blanking on the title). Vince seems like he might be the Ringo to Fred's John, Paul, and George.  He  provides ready, moody, vivid vehicles for Alana and the lads’ green rocky road flavor of  folk-country-pop. I might be prejudiced, because I used to jam with her dad Dave (who wrote “Pull My Daisy” with Kerouac and Ginsberg, also plays classical and jazz french horn, piano, flute etc). He used to lead jams at Birmingham’s nascent civic arts fests in the 70s. But  Alana’s def got her own thing--Van Dyke Parks' judiciously applied sweet-and sour strings on a few woodsy cuts, album produced by Mark Sebastian, who wrote gritty "Summer In The City" & whose brother John plays on here too-- yeah, and she wears it with just enough, casual enough flair.
Hon Mentions (close but not nec country enough, still some relevant appeal re sound and sensibility)
Tim Easton's simultaneous releases, one acoustic, one electric, and his live thang, worth checking out too:
http://uweekly.com/article/tim-easton-s-midwestern-global-strategy-2253/
And the Black Swans
http://uweekly.com/article/summer-of-the-black-swans-2094/
Subjects for further study (I should listen more) On High Atmosphere, Diana Jone's voice has sensuous austerity,  a winter tree just flexible enough for a shudder, a curl, a lasso, a noose, a glint passing through sparkle, a tear, possibly even a beer, but don't push it. Miranda Lambert should cover the intriguing "I Told The Man" (careful with your wicked mitts on her sister buddy, Jones is on to you, reallly on)
Reissues (see above for mention of Hank's; had a similar take on Cash's Sun set. He seemed much more at home there than I expected)
Drag City's Mickey Newbury box is a wildly uneven space cowboy extravaganza (in its basically spare, basement galaxy way). But overall, it leaves quite an afterglow (though I got it as a promo; dunno what I would have thought as a customer, or if I knew the original LPs--some darn good [and darn bad] prev. unreleased tracks, I know that much)
Newbury brings the rain, while he ponders, way after midnight. Grim hallways, railways, but incense too. Kind of a dustbowl Donovan, if Donovan had been through Texas cotton fields and the Army, before getting back to the rabbit tobacco. But more of a personal darkness, however filtered through Music Row plot twists. His original version of "American Trilogy" (his combination and setting, for those unfamiliar, of "Dixie", "All My Trials" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic") is even better than Elvis's, in terms of calm gravitas and lucid overview (of experience, vs. what Elvis makes into a grand vision/illusion, although both versions def signify). You can also get a free four-track box sampler here: http://anamericantrilogy.com/splash
Inserted later because I forgot; might look inserted:
Have a wild weekend anytime with Live From The Old Town School, going back and forth across the generations (1956 to the early 00s), via Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger (together and sep, much better than expected either way), Van Ronk, pungent as usual (rec for Beefheart vocal fans), Baez, John Hammond Jr., John Hartford (all three meh, but even they have some good effect in context), primo Dan Hicks & band (Hot Licks, Acoustic Warriors, or maybe in between?), Steve Goodman, Jon Langford, Martin Carthy ("Willie's Lady", awes), Malvina Reynolds, Odetta, Doc Watson (with Merle, I think), Oumou Sangare, John Renbourn & Jacqui McShee, Conjunto Cespedes. Mahalia Jackson ,Andrew Bird, Ramblin Jack, Joaquin Diaz, Hamza El Din, Merle Travis--well, you get the drift. Great sequences and subsets, for the most part, and lots of fun, if a bit near the knuckle, as old school Brits say.  Justification for inclusion on this ballot:  enough country and blues overall insofar as  a ricochet rainbow of mortality gets its licks in for sure, but so does the fried ice cream.. A bunch I'd never heard of as well, not just the folkie pantheon.
Neil Young's A Treasure turns out to be closer to Working In Tenn than I would have thought to expect, in terms of drollery, fecund foraging with Nashville cats (here touring as International Harvesters) and use of familiar elements. Only five prev unreleased titles, but the known ones haven't been redone on disc too often and everything's pretty sparky, except the first one, Amber Jean (and mebbe a couple others are too long). Several def (incl initial snoozes) def get better as they go along, which is not so common these days, much gracias. Fave: "Southern Pacific", where a forcibly retired railroad worker complains as the Harvesters klang and steam, way out on the redeye express. Kinda spooky--are they part of why he was retired? Note to self: This would have to be in Reissues, wouldn't it? Since Himes' Nashville Scene ballots have so far defined those as music rec. five or more years ago, and A Treasure's tracks, though just now released, are from mid-80s shows.
( Yep Roc's has or had a big sale on their 25th Anniversary series of Giant Sand deluxe and remastered reissues.A big sale in the sense you gotta buy all the albums to get a bargain, but still.. From 1985's Valley of Rain to 1994's Purge & Slouch.)
 ¶ 1/25/2012

 
Monday, January 23, 2012
  Citizen M's Bon Voyage
Darn it. Luc Sante had to go and write this splendid thing about Patti Smith (read it now, I'll be here when you get back)
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/feb/09/mother-courage-rock/?pagination=false
So I finally got around to tweaking my ancient review of Smith/Shields' The Coral Sea (go listen first). Just added a little bit in the middle (any visual oddities are Blogger's of course)

PATTI SMITH/KEVIN SHIELDS THE CORAL SEA (2008)
From the ambered memory and legacy of the artist-collector Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989), his friend and colleague Patti Smith has drawn "the passenger M," whose name appears thus in her 1996 prose poem The Coral Sea, now a performance piece, nailed in collaboration with elusive My Bloody Valentine guitar hero Kevin Shields. M's abbreviation mark washes away as he (dreams that he) sets sail to find the Southern Cross—or at least glimpses "wet crepe, a beloved port, or a loved one fading, a tiny dot dissolving, in the vast grainy sea." But he's on his own way now (this isn't a Mapplethorpe biography), and even if he's glimpsed death, his sudden "weightless" relief isn't about casting off earthly snares and cares; instead, it's filled with "the earth-rageous scent of his own volition: The air is sweet. . . . "

Smith says "earth-rageous" in the second of two presentations, from 2005 and 2006, which comprise this double-disc set. Like all of her wordplay—as written, sometimes spontaneously spoken, and occasionally sung—it fits. Which is surely nature's way, and after all, M's real-life original claimed that he never wanted his work to be outrageous. Even the photographer's Portfolio X, an eerie slow train of S&M-mad hopefuls, is fueled by the extended draining of pain (and shock, revulsion—all bad blood) from its sculpted wake. With the same intimate conviction, Smith rides and guides the diverging momentum of these two unstoppable shows, one 64 minutes long, the other 55. As M's visions and decisions ("He would dine on desire . . . ") keep zigzagging and spiraling through the last of his refiner's fire and oxygen, the tides of his veins, so Smith and M attune and recalibrate each other via the raised and extended twang bar of Kevin Shields' otherwise-unaccompanied guitar, with its metamorphic pedals. A wicked tableau of a tropical paradise, in which other travelers, all of pleasing aural color, come bearing gifts to the discerning infant phenomenon, eventually jolts into, "He couldn't--he couldn't remember what they were for." One performance also wobbles into a tremulous, superfluous fable for hoarders (okay, c'est moi). But soon enough, Shields' steely flutter brings another reminder: all moments are rungs bumping the voyager though his tilting passageway. Ultimately, Shields' celestial navigation is closer than it sometimes seems to his recurring role as My Bloody Valentine's blowtorch-breathed gator. Though a beast is waiting in and for M, so is something gorgeous. Don Allred

 

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