The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
  So: 2005.
supposed to be in bed right now but I can't sleep
supposed to have something profound to say about 2005 but I don't
it's like high school graduation, I was class president and was supposed to make some big welcoming funny speech but I punted and said "I just wanna sit with my class and graduate with all these wonderful people"
anyway I'm bad at wrapups and larger statements, I think 2005 was a fine year for music and all the trends have been written about so much that they're not interesting anymore anyway, plus I hated just about all of them, whatever they were
if any of my comments were any good you'll see them in the Voice

also, I didn't save my yearend P & J list, nor my comments
I know I had Superaquello's Bien Gorgeous at #2, probably also should have had their La Emergencia but only had one spot for that great band from Puerto Rico
Shakira's second album was #4, I think, and probably the Kahil El'Zabar at #3, that was a last-second change I'm really happy about
Mannie Fresh at #5, maybe, or maybe that was Missy Elliott, these were the two most anarchic hip-hop records of the year, I'm all about the unpredictable beats and lines now, too many straight lines will ruin yr day
also top ten: Brooke Valentine, Natalia y la Forquetina, Marty Stuart's gospel record, Curumin too.

runners-up this year were many, here they are: Cuizinier, the other Shakira, the other Superaquello, Stevie Wonder, A.R. Rahman's score for Bose, the Forgotten Hero, Tony Touch, Cuong Vu, Heloisa Fernandes, Ezequiel Pena, a bunch more, sorry, I'm exhausted.
also would have included Bersuit Vergabarat's Testosterona and Vladimir Vaclavek's Ingwe if I'd heard them in time, but sadly no

for real though my favorite album of the year was P.Funk All-Stars' How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent?. nothing else that happened this year was huger than George Clinton busting out with one of the ten best records he ever made, and you KNOW I'm serious about that comment because I'm serious about my P.Funk. all them old dudes cold nailed it, everything from spacey doo-wop to...y'know what, I'll do this in another post, need more time and more of a brain

good night you wonderful people, all four of you or whatever
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
  Country Ballot 2005

Don Allred
1. Shelly Fairchild Ride (Sony)*
2. Freakwater: Thinking Of You (Thrill Jockey)**
3.. Miranda Lambert: Kerosene (Sony)
4. Codetalkers Featuring Col. Bruce Hampton:
Deluxe Edition (Pesky Pole)
5. The Waifs: A Brief History (Compass)
6. Gary Allan: Tough All Over (MCA)
7. James McMurtry: Childish Things (Compadre)
8. Jon Nicholson: A Lil Sump'm Sump'm (Warner Bros.) *
9. Nickel Creek: Why Must The Fire Die?(Sugar Hill)**
10. Big & Rich: Comin' To Your City (Warner Bros.)
1. Dixie Chicks with Robert Randolph: "I Hope"
(Sony/Monument/Open Wide)
2. Alan Jackson: "Talkin' Song Repair Blues" (Arista)
3. Miranda Lambert: "Kerosene" (Sony)
4. Billy Joe Shaver with Big & Rich: "Live Forever" (Compadre)
5. Cowboy Troy: "I Played Chicken With The Train" (Warner Bros.) **
6. Jo Dee Messina: "Delicious Surprise (I Believe It)" (Curb)
7. George Jones and Dolly Parton: "The Bluesman"
8. Brad Paisley: "Alcohol"(Arista)
9. Audioslave: "Doesn't Remind Me"(Interscope)
10. Hot Apple Pie: "Easy Does It" (MCA) **
TOP FIVE (actually just three)COUNTRY REISSUES OF 2005
1. David Allan Coe: Penitentiary Blues (Shout Factory/Hacktone)
2. Blind Arvella Gray: The Singing Drifter (Conjuroo) *
3. Big Kenny: Live A Little (Hollywood) *
1. George Jones
2. Gary Allan
3. David Allan Coe
1. Dolly Parton
2. Shelly Fairchild
3. Miranda Lambert


1. Dolly Parton
2. Campbell Brothers with Mavis Staples
3. Alvin Youngblood Hart


1. Cathy Irwin (Freakwater)
2. Miranda Lambert
3. Waifs

1. Freakwater
2. Codetalkers feat. Col. Bruce Hampton
3. Dixie Chicks
1. Robert Randolph
2. Steve Nathan
3. Stuart Duncan
1. Shelly Fairchild
2. Miranda Lambert
3. Hope Partlow (great crossover potential so far; hope Nashville notes she needs a new label)
1. Dolly Parton
2. Shelly Fairchild
3. Gary Allan

Hon Mentions: Marty Stuart, Deana Carter, Dierks Bentley, Beth Nielsen
Chapman, Hot Apple Pie, Patricia Vonne, many others.

* see reviews of these , archived at

**discussed in some of my previous (relatively recent, for Mentalizm) posts on this site: See "Howdy, Ma'am" for Hot Apple Pie; "Louisville Lip" for Freakwater; "Gone With The Vroom" for Cowboy Troy," etc. David Allan Coe and the Codetalkers will get their own piece soon, but meanwhile see Codetalkers as one of the bonus tracks in these Comments:

Country comments so far (a few more tweaks recently):
I like the way Audioslave likes some stuff because it "Doesn't re, mind me,
of any, thing": we should let all associative piles, like autumn leaves, be gone
(rather than get real gone) some time. Although it does remind me of John
Contemporary Country Mellentemplate showing Pat Green and many others how to do it
y'all. Otherwise, blues rock guitar has become Bluespolitan Country, allowing me
to waltz right through the triumphant pile of ironies from which Brad Paisley
makes "Alcohol." Triumphantly, because this substance goes James Brown's "King
Heroin" one better: listing the good as well as bad thangs it will do to you.
Or that's the way I hear it, in my ol' white blues bliss. Of course, irony
will only get you so far, so I also like to raise that Paisley placebo one
better, by slipping through Hot Apple Pie's "Hillbillies." "Hey!
Hillbill-ies!" As in "Hey! Bo Diddley!" Has its own associative placebo, which locates my
recessive 'billy gene, so I can go whoopin' round the mountain with Bugs
Bunny and Dolly Parton. Beats the generic drugs, where I stop listening soon's I
recognize the pattern. "Country music station plays soft, but there's really
nothing to turn off." He didn't mean it like that; it's just my 'ssociation.

More shades of bluescountrypolitan: Frank Kogan has compared Keith Urban to Lindsay Buckingham, but I think Lindsay's a lot more obsesso. Keith has his concerns, but his presentation is more basic: the reassuring whitebread balancing a wailin' axe,though not enough of it, on most of the Keith tracks I've heard.(Which might be mainstream smoothie John Mayer's thought too, thus his own recently beefed up whitebread.). Keith's playing, when I can hear it, does suit me better than Harry Connick Jr.'s, Peter Cincotti's, or John Pizzarelli's (although John can be good when picking with dad Bucky), but not so well as Chet Baker's. (Baker sounded even better after dealer's goons tried to ruin his embouchure, literally bust his chops, but succeeded only in putting, or accentuating, a gentle simpleton's lisp in his croon. Dues paid.) Meanwhile, back in Nashville, another dead Chet's fingers might be getting itchy about now, to chicken-pick along with the jazzbluespolitan which has recently started popping like corn, if not quite Hot Buttered Soul, from my local "Smooth Jazz and Mellow Vocals" station. (What's going on?) Also, I guess Hot Apple Pie, and even the discreetly grooveriding Billy Currington, are on the streetier side of bluescountrypolitan., these days--and nights. (See previous post, "Howdy, Ma'am.")

Childish Things: James McMurtry's bent, scorched, barb-wire guitar, especially on "We Can't Make It Any More," isn't charred, done, reduced, like a truly crispy critter. It pulls the shrinking, reductively raging range of the lyrics (which don't include the *mixture* of America, the good and bad stuff tangled up) through the fire. And then their pulled-forward rage pushes the rest of the music past (or much further into) the expected display of countryoid boogiestentialism. (With a Reedy harmonic wrinkle or two.) I associate this grim lil pill's process with the way the bad, reduced/reductive American stuff can work with the good, for the better. Not that this happens very often, so when it does , it's Top Ten! (Especially for those of missing our Drive-By Truckers fix this year.)
The Waifs' A Brief History: bass, rubbing all up under the shivery: "You see
mee, all of the toiyiiime."(Of Oz they are.) So time to demand: "And I say, hey.
Hey! Throw me a line!" Waify, but not wispy.And despite the title (one of the
few sung by the good male guitarist, rather than the two good female
guitarists),not a reissue, but a live overview, a good intro for Americans. "A Brief History" is a hip hop generation band memoir, an updated "Creeque Alley."
(Remember that, Mama and Papa? "John and Mitchy, were getting' kinda itchy, to leave
folk music behind.")This is itchy enough to get around Australia and Memphis,
but also relaxed, enough flexible, slippery, juicy, husky, a little hoarse,
that tight Aussie jaw in there too, like old country music (without either's
expected nasality, though). The album's not brief, but the songs are succinct,
the picking too, over that aforementioned bass, and some drums, some harmonica,
like on the bluesy stomp of their (not Ozzy's) "Crazy Train." And some more
harp when they remind "Papa" that Granpa cried, but now he's "bone," so better
come see her 'fore you're bone too. Two girls, women really: not so very waify
in the feckless girly sense, though they like sounding young and oh wow,
despite the (good) Ani-ish newsflash of "Haircut". They got trouble too, on "The
River," but being a country girl in the city is not a calamity, nor is being a
waitress, but look out, city guys. Yet they must remain travellers, aye, and
might be found under a "Willow Tree, " expecting your return, despite the big
fight. As well they might, if I were you, ooh ooh. Does this (and the summons
to Papa) make them Princessy? "My head was heavy and my clothes was tore, I
never felt like a princess before" that "Sunflower Man" dropped his big sunflower
in the busking cup, and brought them into the sunshine of yon "Spotlight."
"I'll come home when I die," they promise, but also confess to a "Shiny Apple,"
"I feel so helpless standing here, watching you decay." It's alright Babes,
you "just need a little company."(I'll stop it now, cept to say Disc 2 is more
serious, with further outbreaks of busky hip hop.)Takes the Deana slot, cause
better dynamics overall, and more variety, while being waify enough,
oowee.(Also as folkie related as can please those who like the Beatley/Everlysish aspect
of Deana's better songs.) (She good, don't get me wrong, but her waifiness can be worked a little too consistently, like a morning-associated mist that clings to you all day long.)

As for La Womack's hallowed There's More Where That
Came From, there isn't that much more, beyond the title track, which I wrote
about LAST YEAR; oh Music Row, movin' kinda slow, and slower. Yes, I have
heard that most men live lives of quiet desperation, and I guess it's rubbed off
on women, but here the desperation get so faux retro (no sick strings, sure no
Outlaw daring not too have those; no daring, period), so carefully refined and
sealed over, it's hard to hear it as "anything but mined," as Professor
Chesney might almost put it.(Yet some of the songs are underexploited, so maybe
smart cookie will bite them right someday, after a decent interval, once this
album has become the kind of Classic nobody takes off the shelf
anymore.(Shouldn't take much longer.)

The Codetalkers: Bobby Lee Roberts' desperate characters aren't quiet, but they are carefully composed, and his dark humor is deadpan. And his bluegrass-related cadence, even or especially on rocktop electric guitar, flows so steady, he could lack impact, possibly. He could be taken for granted, and so could the rhythm section, despite their intensity, because they all fit together so well. But Col. Bruce's fuzzy sustain keeps nosing around, grazing in the steely ripples and tiny bubbles, and he rolls out Skip James' "I'm So Glad," like a cannonball coming downstairs, and his own patented holey yarns splatter the windshield, and he and Bobby get some sustained guitar searchlights, or anyway flashlights, to track "your Saturn 'round the bend."

PS: Gary Allan can even redeem Vertical Horizon's "Best I Ever Had": "It's not so b-a-a-ad," he's just being so brave that he's gotten a little green around the gills.. Multitracked Garys waft over the waves behind solitary Gary; he's his own Greek chorus, whoopee. (Sounds great, Gary, if that's any consolation. Of course it is, that's how we're keeping him going, thorugh yet another bright, bright, bright morning of recuperation.) Good (favorable, well-written) Edd S.Hurt review of Gary's album Tough All Over, in the Village Voice.


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