Monthly Archives: February 2010

First Look: New Quasi Album

 

On American Gong, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss, abetted by
Joanna Bolme, channel their inner Who. The payoff, though, is all pop – with
power.

 

By Jennifer Kelly

 

Quasi isn’t exactly settling gracefully into an elder
statesman slot. The band – a partnership between Sam Coomes and
Sleater-Kinney/Jicks drummer Janet Weiss – has been going, intermittently, for
17 years now, with eight studio albums and a clutch of singles to show for it. Conflict
was always part of the band’s DNA,
on a personal level, one guesses, since the two principles are divorced former
partners, but also on a musical one. There’s a deep divide between Quasi’s
witheringly caustic lyrics and its buoyant sing-along melodies, between its
Beatles-pop rocksichord hooks and the surging maelstrom of its guitar freak-outs,
and this chasm has only grown deeper of late.

 

The addition of Joanna Bolme (also from the Jicks) at bass
has enabled a volume-blistered, thunderous rock sound, underlining the
M80-in-the-parking-lot explosiveness of Weiss’ drumming and bringing out
Coomes’ inner guitar hero. It’s no accident that new album American Gong (Kill Rock Stars) ends with a cover
of the Who’s “Heaven and Hell”. There’s a Live at Leeds-level rock
intensity to much of this album, married, as the Who’s songs often were, to
transcendent, melodic hooks.  Consider
“Repulsion,” which kicks off in a squeak of feedback, and half obliterates its
melodies under distorted thicknesses of guitar distortion. Its lyrical imagery
is harsh with whores and piss and angry bed-wars. Yet when the clangor breaks
for the chorus, the single word title dragged out over a series of shifting,
tightly harmonized intervals, the payoff is all pop.  

 

American Gong is an unusually guitar-centric Quasi album. Coomes’
keyboards take a leading role in only a couple of these songs, in the Beatles
psychedelic “Everything and Nothing at All” and the burned and busted piano
ballad “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez.” There’s some acoustic strumming in
bittersweet “The Jig Is Up” and a blues-rocking vamp in “Black Dog and
Bubbles,” but for the most part, the six-string is electrified, fuzzed and
turned way, way up.

 

Guitar rock tends naturally towards triumph, and perhaps
this is why American Gong is downbeat, but not actually depressing. Mortality,
setbacks, hard times all take a turn in Coomes’ lyrical scenarios, yet none are
allowed the final word. Watch how “Bye Bye Blackbird” (following the nursery
rhyme melody of “Baa Baa Blacksheep”) gets the financial crisis down in two
lines: “Bye bye blackbird/days are getting cold/snakes and lizards are sucking
up the gold/chrome-plated plastic they give you in return/teach you a lesson
you shouldn’t have to learn.” Or how “Laissez les Bon Temp Roulez” observes
that one person’s life is “just a piss in the ocean, a grain of sand.” And yet
there’s a sense of persistence and modest overcoming in these songs.  “Your sadness and sickness are nothing to
prize,” sings Coomes in “What Now”, “Leave them behind and rise.” After the
extremely downbeat, borderline whiny “Laissez,” the band slips in a bit of
self-mockery in “Howler,” a 41-second recording of a dog howling, possibly at
the moon.  

 

The best songs on American Gong are clustered toward
the front. Nothing in the latter half matches “Repulsion,” “Little White
Horse,” or “Bye Bye Blackbird.” “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez,” in particular, lasts
far too long and showcases far too well the shortcomings of Coomes reedy,
strangled voice. Still, hang on for the Who cover, with its gleeful guitar
vortex and chaos-flirting, beat-rupturing fills on drums. If the Who could turn
their views on the afterlife into one of the world’s great rock songs, then you
can’t blame Quasi for dipping pop into darkness as well.  

 

Report: Cayamo Cruise 2010 (Day 2)

 

For
Monday, Feb. 22,, we grill the musical luminaries and take in scintillating
sets from Buddy Miller, the WPA and Emmylou Harris.

 

By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Will Byington

 

Ed.
note: This week BLURT contributor Lee Zimmerman is on the annual Cayamo Cruise,
which as you’ll read below boasts a who’s-who of roots and Americana
artists playing for (and mingling with) fans traveling on a five-day cruise
through the Caribbean. Fittingly enough, the
event’s called Caribbean on Cayamo
2010: A Journey Through Song. Internet connection willing, Zimmerman will be
filing a report each day, so keep checking back to find out who was twanging
the loudest, who was singing the sweetest – and who Zimmerman was rubbing
shoulders with the hardest. Go here to read his report from Day 1. Incidentally,
you can also read his report from last year’s Cruise elsewhere at the BLURT
site
.

 

Okay, so I’m exhausted.

 

For good reason too. Day Two of Cayamo has consisted of both
a frantic afternoon and evening. Sure, this is a plum assignment, but being
onboard a luxury cruise liner, stuffing oneself in the buffet line and then
attempting to muster up the dexterity to dash back and forth between shows in
various venues can be demanding. For all Cayamo offers – and trust me, it
provides an abundance of riches for the true music enthusiast – it is not all
that relaxing.  Taking advantage of all
the music requires a great deal of planning and strategizing in order to catch
every performer that’s worth seeing – and frankly, that’s the great majority of
them. Consequently, the exertion in terms of sheer brainpower – something yours
truly isn’t always adept at – is enough to send one’s energy level into
overdrive.

 

Trust me on this too – providing these daily blogs means a
certain dedication to a strict work ethic, all in the name of reporting an
accurate assessment of the day’s activities. So the first order of business
this morning is meeting with our press rep/camp counselor/sometime baby sitter,
Becki Carr, who does a fantastic job of steering half a dozen befuddled
journalists through a course of action. For example, were it not for Becki and
my wife, Alisa, these blogs might not even get posted. There are technical
difficulties galore when it comes to trying to get an email connection from a
ship, including all kinds of limitations that I couldn’t begin to explain…
except to say one when one forgets his user name on his personal email account,
all the miracles of cyberspace suddenly fall by the wayside.

 

******************************************************************************

The first music of the day
comes courtesy of a special “alumni show” featuring a one-off duo acoustic
performance with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. While the two trade songs back and
forth, it’s their natural rapport that strikes the most distinctive chord. As
someone would say later, the two may have invented an entirely new
entertainment genre called “sit-down comedy.” 
It goes something like this:

 

Hiatt: “We don’t know what
we’re going to play.”
Lovett: “I was trying to guess what you were going to play. I’ve guessed, but I
won’t be able to tell you if I’m right until later.”

 

Okay, maybe you had to be
there.

 

Nevertheless, the patter isn’t
preplanned, although having just returned from a joint European tour the two
mean have apparently sharpened their skills when it comes to trading zingers…
and complements.

 

Hiatt: “Did you have a good
time?”
Lovett: “I had a good time because of you. You’re a very nice fellow!”

 

Suffice it to say, the deadpan
sentiment likens the duo to a kind of accidental Smothers Brothers.
Consequently, as the crowd files out of the theater, most declare it to be one
of the best showcases of the cruise thus far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The afternoon is dedicated to getting up close and personal with
several of the headliners via World Café sessions that are being taped for
replay in early April, followed by mini press conferences attended by the
artists and the small contingent of journalists onboard. They provide not only
an ideal opportunity to ask probing questions like “So, Emmylou Harris, what is
your favorite item in the buffet line?” or, “Hey, John Hiatt, did you ever get
so seasick you actually barfed from the pool deck?”  I’m joking of course… it was Hiatt who was
asked the first question and Emmylou the second…

 

Nah, fooled ya again!  Blurt would never give me this big-time
assignment if they had to worry about the kind of questions I was going to ask
the headliners. Then again, my editor probably figured I’d be able to remember
my user name too. 

 

Consequently, what follows are some of the more memorable
random comments of the afternoon:

 

 Alisa (Lee’s wife):
“I’m feeling woozy… I have to get some fresh air.”

Me: “Damn it… I could swear I knew my user name!”
Alisa: “Gurgle, blurp, garoosh, blech… I may be dying here, but you’re an
idiot!”

 

Oops, I guess I turned my digital recorder on too soon.

 

Fast forward to some of the observations of the artists
involved:

Robert Earl Keen: “Coming from Austin, I had a
fear of Nashville.
But what I am today is a direct result of the experience I gained there.”

John Hiatt: “I don’t write specifically for other people.  I don’t know how. When I’m asked, I always
end up doing poor imitations of other people’s songs.”

Emmylou Harris: “I love Cayamo.  It’s such
a great opportunity to sit in with friends. It’s kind of like a cross between a
festival and a prison break.”

 

Buddy Miller: “I met my wife Julie when I was auditioning
for a band in Austin.
She said, ‘Don’t hire that guy,’ but they hired me anyway.”

Keen: “I don’t mind doing other people’s songs. After all, I didn’t invent
songwriting.  And I’m sure not the only
guy that’s doing this thing.  I just want
to do material I feel really good about.”

Hiatt: “Bring The Family was a
turning point for me. I finally had begun to get sober. I stopped drinking, I
stopped doing drugs and all of a sudden I had a lot of time on my hands. I got
out of my own way. Before, I had zigged when I should have zagged. So I figured
I’d use all that extra time to create.”

 

Harris: “I finally gave myself a raise a few years. It meant
that I could work less and spend more time at home with my dogs.”

Keen: “My favorite writers? Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright, Nick Lowe… I’d
have to throw Norman Blake in there too. 
And there’s a new guy I think is really good named Adam Carroll.”

 

Hiatt: “It’s my nature to get restless. I have the
billy-goat syndrome. I always want to know what’s on the other side of the
fence.”

 

Miller: “What makes an album a Buddy record rather than a
Buddy and Julie or simply a Julie album? The fact is, Julie’s slow.  This last record started out as her record,
then it was my record, and then ultimately it became both of our record.”

 

Harris: It’s hard for me to write. I have a terrible fear of
the blank page, but I know I have to get past it.”

 

Keen: “I think it was Emerson who once said, ‘Imitation is
suicide, but self-imitation is worse.”

 

Harris: “When I write a song, it has to pass the truth test.
If I’m writing from personal experience, it has to encompass a situation that
everyone can relate to. The lyrics have to have that truth to it.”

 

Of course, insight is one thing, but the music also has to
speak for itself. 

 

The three shows we saw later that evening provided proof of
that point. Buddy Miller with Emmylou Harris as a special guest, proved that
the man had lost none of his instrumental dexterity despite being sidelined by
a heart attack and his subsequent triple bypass surgery. “I had no idea what it
involved,” Miller remarked at one point. “I told the doctors, ‘Fine, I’ll have
the surgery, but I have to be back on the bus when it leaves in the morning.'”
Clearly a crowd favorite, Miller swayed the audience’s emotions, not only
through a superb performance, but also in giving them the joy of welcoming him
back to Cayamo after last year’s unfortunate absence. The show was further
stoked by a surprise guest appearance from Shawn Colvin, a featured performer
from last year’s cruise who wasn’t booked for any appearances this year.
Nevertheless, by gracing the stage unexpectedly with Miller and Harris, the
Three Girls and Their Buddy amalgam came just short of a complete reunion.

 

WPA’s performance followed Miller and company in the
Spinnaker Lounge, and the sight of the seven members onstage, including the
Watkins duo, Sara and Sean, and steel guitar player Greg Leisz, elevated Glen
Phillips’ already amiable presence to new heights.  The band’s mix of pop, roots and bluegrass makes
for a remarkably seamless set and yields one sure standard – “Always Have My
Love.”  It’s already a song on which they
could rest their reputation.

 

Finally, we capped our evening with Emmylou Harris’
headlining gig in the Stardust Theater. The ever-faithful Buddy Miller provided
an ethereal ambiance, with songs such as “Pancho and Lefty,” “Red Dirt Girl,”
and “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” generally enhancing the sleepy
haze we were quickly falling victim to. 
Emmylou was superb, of course, but at the end of a hectic, action-packed
day, the mellow vibe was kind of akin to the evening’s last lullaby. Encore
over, we headed straight for bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CocoRosie Inks Sub Pop Deal

 

Don’t worry, the
facial hair ain’t real, folks…

 

By Fred Mills

 

Is May here yet? Mark your calendars for May 11: that’s when
the sibling indiepop chanteuses known as CocoRosie will issue their Sub Pop
debut. Titled Grey Oceans, it wil be
their fourth overall, following three acclaimed releases on Touch & Go,
2004’s La Maison de Mon Rêve,
2005’s Noah’s Ark, and 2007’s Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn.

 

Three
years between albums is an eternity in rock years, however, so here’s hoping
fans haven’t forgotten Sierra and Bianca’s lush-yet-edgy song stylings. Tracklisting to the new one is below.

 

According
to Sub Pop, “The nomadic duo (currently and
temporarily residing in New Mexico) spent much
of 2008 writing and recording in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Berlin, New York, and  Paris,
finding amazing and diverse musicians to collaborate along the way.”

 

As usual, the sisters have
something going on with the faux-facial hair thing – check the album art image
above, along with the alternative version below.

 

 

Track Listing:

 

Trinity’s
Crying

Smokey Taboo

Hopscotch

Undertaker

Grey Oceans

R.I.P. Burn Face

The Moon Asked the Crow

Lemonade

Gallows

Fairy Paradise

Here I Come

 

 

 

First Look: New Johnny Cash LP

 

Another brilliant
epitaph for the Man in Black.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

 

One would think that six volumes into Johnny Cash’s final
series of recordings and nearly six and a half years after his passing, the
well would have run dry on leftover output… at least in terms of quality
material. Happily, that’s not the case here, although like those efforts that
preceded it, there’s a veil of doubt and uncertainty – make that despair and
pessimism – that hang over these proceedings like a dark shroud. Cash’s
preoccupation with death and reflection continues to occupy every note and
nuance, his parched vocals informing each of these dark, dire laments. 

 

Of course, hearing American
VI: Ain’t No Grave
(American
Recordings/Lost Highway) in retrospect (even its
title proves haunting) following the loss of Johnny and his beloved June in
such close proximity proves but knowing and revelatory.  Indeed, that destiny patiently waited even as
he toiled towards the inevitable end. 

 

As a result, much could be made of the somber, sobering
traditional title track, the cover of Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day” and his
read of Tom Paxton’s “Where I’m Bound,” particularly as conveyed from the
viewpoint of one who knows he’s staring at death straight on.  Other songs veer only slightly (a lovely
version of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times” and his own “1
Corinthians” in particular), but still maintain that spectral aura in the
sparse settings dictated by producer Rick Rubin.

 

Likewise, a small contingent of craft-conscious musicians —
Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell and the Avett Brothers, among them – provides
supple support.  All told, Ain’t No Grave provides Cash with
another brilliant epitaph.

 

 

 

First Look: New Jack Rose (R.I.P.) Album

 

The prolific  finger-picking genius had just completed an
album for Thrill Jockey at the time of his death. See a pretty amazing video, below.

 

By Jennifer Kelly

 

Jack Rose, who died last December at the age of 38, was one
of America’s leading acoustic guitar players, an heir to the finger-picking
genius of John Fahey, the mystical orchestrations of Robbie Basho. His career,
though short, was far from unproductive. He released more than 20 full-length
albums over a two-decade period, both as a solo artist and in collaboration
with others. Luck in the Valley (Thrill
Jockey) is his last recording, recorded just months before his death.  

 

Rose was fascinated with the sounds of pre-war blues,
gospel, ragtime and folk. Alongside lyrical raga-blues-flamenco odes like his
lovely “Cathedral et Chartes” he would juxtapose jaunty old-time cake-walk
tunes. He could astonish you with the pure luminous beauty of a guitar flurry
left to hang in the air, but he could also make you tap your foot in time to a
strong but archaic sense of swing. On this album, the third in his self-deprecatingly
named Ditch Trilogy, recorded live
and quickly with friends, Rose drew upon his arcane knowledge of early 20th century blues. He resurrected classics like Dennis Crumpton and Robert Summers’
“Everybody Ought to Pray Sometimes” and W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”. He
composed new songs imbued with the rough country swagger, dedicating the
gorgeous opener to “bones” player Percy Danforth, and distilling the backwoods
like 40 proof liquor into “Lick Mountain Ramble.” He brought friends – Fahey scholar
and guitar player Glenn Jones, old-time picker Micah Blue Smalldone, Harmonica
Dan and his frequent abetters the Black Twig Pickers – in to supplement his
dazzling skill. As a result, Luck in the
Valley
has a lived-in, friendly feel, despite its considerable technical
accomplishments.   Whether coaxing
oil-slicked rainbows of ambiguous overtone, as on solo cuts like “Tree in the
Valley” and “Blues for Percy Danforth”, or bouncing along over all-hands
hoe-downs like “Lick Mountain Ramble”, Rose made the difficulty disappear into
a texture of transporting beauty.

 

Jack Rose died far too young, in the very midst of turning
into one of our best guitarists. His last record cannot help but be tinged by
melancholy. And yet there’s a joy here, too, that comes from hearing an
extraordinarily gifted musician working over his craft, surrounded by
well-loved fellow-travellers, and making the complex and difficult sound
casually, unpremeditatedly wonderful.

 

[Photo Credit: Tim Bugbee/Tinnitus Photography]

 

 

 

Dead Meadow Tour, Film Premiere

 

Full national tour with Imaad Wasif kicks off
in late March.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Psychedelic as fuck
combo Dead Meadown have just announced the details surrounding their
upcoming record release party / film premiere for their upcoming new album and original
film, The Three Kings, out on March 23rd.

 

Taking place at the historic location of Hollywood Forever
Cemetery on March 25th, the event will include
the premiere of the DM movie The Three Kings as well as a live
performance by the band. The night will include an open bar, free admission and
giveaways, special DJ appearances, and a yet to be determined opening band.

 

There will also be an art showing of low-brow art scene
artist Charles Wish. Charles has
been a major contributor to DEAD MEADOW
art including an animated sequence in The Three Kings and will be showing pieces from the movie.

 

In addition, Dead
Meadow have also announced that any fan who orders an advance copy of Three
Kings
will be guaranteed a spot on the list for the band’s film
premiere in Los Angeles. Just email the band at contact@deadmeadow.com and write “get into the gig” as the subject.

 

Incidentally, if you go to the band’s official website www.deadmeadow.com you can hear a pretty
smokin’ continuous music stream…

 

Tour Dates:

 

Premiere:

March 25 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Record
Release / Film Premiere

(w/ Imaad Wasif)
Fri Mar-26 Brookdale, CA Historic Brookdale Lodge
Sat Mar-27 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
Wed Mar-31 Eugene, OR Wow Hall
Thu Apr-01 Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge
Fri Apr-02 Vancouver, BC Biltmore Cabaret
Sat Apr-03 Seattle, WA Studio Seven
Wed Apr-07 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge w/
Pack AD
Thu Apr-08 Lawrence, KS Riot Room
Fri Apr-09 Omaha, NE Slowdown
Sat Apr-10 Sioux Falls, SD Nuttys North
Tue Apr-13 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Wed Apr-14 Madison, WI Annex
Thu Apr-15 Detroit, MI Magic Stick
Fri Apr-16 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
Sat Apr-17 Athens, OH The Union
Mon Apr-19 Columbus, OH The Basement
Wed Apr-21 Buffalo, NY Mohawk w/
Buffalo Killers
Thu Apr-22 Toronto, ONT Lee’s Palace
Fri Apr-23 Montreal, QUE Club Lampi
Sun Apr-25 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

 

 

Hold Steady LP for May; Tour April

 

Titled Heaven Is
Whenever, it’s out on Vagrant May 4. Tour dates below.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

The Hold Steady’s new album ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ will be released by Vagrant on May 4 in the U.S. and May 3 in the U.K. and E.U. The album was
produced by Dean Baltulonis, who engineered the band’s 2004 release ‘Almost Killed Me’ and produced the followup
‘Separation Sunday,’ and was recorded
at Dreamland Recording Studios in Upstate NY and Wild Arctic Studios in Queens,
NY, with mixing also happening at Wild Arctic.

 

In a statement, HS frontman Craig Finn said that ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ is about
“embracing suffering and understanding its place in a joyful life.  The lyrics speak a lot about struggle and
reward.”  Piano and keys take a
backseat to guitar on the new record, which also gets production help from
guitarist Tad Kubler.  “I really
believe the album exposes new elements of the band that we hinted at on other
records but weren’t able to fully realize until this one,” said
Kubler.  “Rather than just
concentrate on changes in the instrumentation, we made changes to the song
writing process.”

 

Recorded in several smaller sessions spread out over a long
period of time, the songs on ‘Heaven Is
Whenever’
received the benefit of being tested on the band’s recent
tours.  There was also a makeshift
recording booth set up on the back of their tour bus so songs and musical ideas
could be documented as they developed. 
Finn said this allowed them to “see what was working and what
wasn’t.  I believe this record benefits
from us working at a more deliberate pace.”

 

Following the release of 2008’s critically acclaimed ‘Stay Positive,’ which gave the band
it’s highest Billboard chart position to date, The Hold Steady toured
relentlessly, playing to some of their biggest audiences to date. The band will
kick off a string of tour dates in early April, followed by selected shows in
May (including the Sasquatch! festival) then it’s over to the UK and Europe
in June.

 

 

Tracklisting:

 

1. The Sweet Part of the City

2. Soft in the Center

3. The Weekenders

4. The Smidge

5. Rock Problems

6. We Can Get Together

7. Hurricane J

8. Barely Breathing

9. Our Whole Lives

10. A Slight Discomfort

 

 

Tour Dates:

 

Fri        April 2 Ardsley, NY   LIFE
the place to be

Sat       Apr 3   New
Haven, CT          Toad’s Place

Mon     Apr 5   Burlington,
VT            Higher Ground

Tue      Apr 6   Northampton,
MA      Pearl
Street

Wed    Apr 7   Albany,
NY    Linda Norris Auditorium

Thu      Apr 8   Woodstock,
NY          Bearsville Theater

Fri        Apr 9   Jermyn,
PA     Eleanor Rigby’s

Sat       Apr 10 Syracuse,
NY  The Westcott Theater

Mon     Apr 12 Rochester, NY            The
Club at Water Street Music Hall

Tue      Apr 13 Cleveland,
OH            Beachland Ballroom

Wed    Apr 14 Pittsburgh,
PA            Diesel Club Lounge

Thu      Apr 15 Morgantown,
WV       123 Pleasant St.

Fri        Apr 16 Harrisburg,
PA            Appalachian Brewing Company

Wed    May 5  Los
Angeles, CA        El Rey Theatre

Thu      May 6  San
Francisco, CA      The
Fillmore

Sat       May 29            George, WA    Sasquatch Festival

Sat       Jun 12  Newport,
UK  Isle of Wright Festival

Mon     Jun 14  Paris, FR                     Fleche
D’Or

Mon     Jun 21  Amsterdam,
NL          Melkeg

Tue      Jun 22  London,
UK   HMV Forum

Sat       Jun 26  Manchester,
UK          Academy 2

 

 

[Photo Credit: Judson Baker]

 

 

 

 

Report: Santana Live in Las Vegas

 

 

Abetted
by a tight band featuring alumni of P-Funk, Prince, Miles Davis and Dizzy
Gillespie, the guitar maestro polishes off an 11-night residency at The Joint
at the Hard Rock & Hotel & Casino on Feb. 20.

 

By Hal Bienstock

 

Santana’s 1999 comeback album, Supernatural, which has just been reissued in an expanded 20th anniversary edition, was a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, it
brought him to a larger audience than he’d had in decades. But it also
positioned him as a pop star, a role a person with his musical ambition would
never feel completely comfortable with.

 

Ever since then, Santana has tried to walk the line between giving
new fans hits like “Smooth” and “Maria Maria,” pleasing classic rock-heads with
“Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman” and giving himself the space to explore
jazz, Latin music, reggae, R&B and Sinatra-style standards. 

 

Even his current band reflects the dichotomy. A quick look
at their credits reveals people who’ve played alongside Miles Davis, Prince and
Dizzy Gillespie sharing the stage with others who point to working with Jon
Secada and Gloria Estefan as career highlights.

 

This can create a sense of dissonance. On this night, Santana
and his tight and versatile band, anchored by drummer Dennis Chambers (formerly
of Parliament/Funkadelic) and bassist Benny Rietveld, blazed through an array
of styles, at various times nodding to Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Bob Marley and John
Coltrane. But their impressive work was occasionally undone by a pair of
vocalists, who while technically proficient, have an almost complete lack of
soul or grit. At times, it was like watching one of the world’s best bands backing
up singers at a karaoke bar.

 

Fortunately, vocals never mattered much in Santana’s music.
And Carlos himself was on top of his game as he wrapped up an 11-night stand at
the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. (He returns for another run of eight shows
beginning on April 21). Just when a song like “Aye Aye Aye/Para Los Rumberos”
or “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” was about to dip into Vegas lounge
territory, he’d take over with a fiery solo, contorting his body and showing
why he’s earned his status as a living legend.

 

If Santana’s live show today lacks some of the raw power of
his late ‘60s/early ‘70s heyday, he makes up for it with pure mastery. The ten
minutes of “Soul Sacrifice” that kicked off the encore are practically worth
the price of admission alone, especially when you consider that you could lose
twice that much at the blackjack table in that amount of time. And it sure
beats the hell out of a night with Celine Dion or The Lion King.

 

 

 

 

First Look: New Joanna Newsom LP

 

 

Massive
triple-album collection comes awfully close to being perfect. We’re telling ya,
almost perfect. She’s a voodoo chile, baby, lord knows – she’s a goddam voodoo
chile.

 

By Meryl Trussler

 

If you want to know you know by now,
because the floodgates have burst, and you were all there waiting and bracing
yourselves for the deluge. Joanna Newsom is a happening. The initiated cannot
quite believe we have this happy little anachronism breathing the same
California air as, say, Real Housewives.
She is our unreal heavenwife and we will be as precious about her as we wish.
(Cynics, take this as a warning for what follows.)

 

So. The third album, itself three albums.
Of course it’s good, it wasn’t going to be anything else; this girl has been a
public prodigy since the tender age of 22 and a private prodigy for years
untold before that, with her reams of fervid poetry and, if my imagination is
configured correctly, probably a thousand cute precocious sayings a day. Joanna
Newsom is a state of mind. But I digress. Have
One On Me
(Drag City) is good
but thank the stars it isn’t punch-for-punch perfect every second because that
might have something of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest factor, or a very potent smack of Stendhal syndrome,
and would entertain us to death.

 

As is only natural with an album spanning
two hours, not every song is the sort of distilled bliss that each fifth of Ys provided. Newsom marks a few returns
to the 3-minute pop-song, to the shipmatey sass with which The Milk-Eyed Mender was dotted, and to the occasional bouncing
piano. Good. Good. But it’s a combination of the two previous albums’
characteristics which really grabs the heart with two hands and shakes.
Harp-led epics with excruciatingly turns of phrase and melody, but with less of
a wildhorse quality about the structure than Ys. These songs are both instantly hummable and enduring. ‘’81’ does so in 4 minutes of high notes spilling
down to low in a traditional, majestic time signature as she trills: “meet me in the garden of Eden, bring a
friend, we are gonna have ourselves a time
.” It’s in this moment that that
cool floodwater of expectation is really felt. ‘Baby Birch’, at 9 minutes,
builds more slowly, prettiness repeating, repeating, little scuzzy gasps of
guitar behind, until a sudden leap upwards, an offbeat drum, vocal harmonies,
and a burst of oriental flowers for the finale.

 

I first encountered Joanna Newsom in 2005
at Patti Smith’s Meltdown festival, for which Smith had chosen to arrange a
homage to Jimi Hendrix. Thusly Newsom came onstage, a speck from the
nosebleeds, ears and eyes reporting a twelve-year-old. And she sat and played
‘Angel (Sweet Angel)’ and ‘Little Wing’ on her harp. It seemed an inventive and
difficult translation then. Five years later I see how fluid it was. Something
about Newsom’s compositions proves her a Hendrix child: something about the
bluesy warmth, the climbs towards transcendence. Try ‘In California’. It seems
to reduce all the lat- and longitude of the state, and all the flavours of Axis: Bold as Love into one anthem.
Mountains and deserts and prairies and beaches and Native Americana, a broader
scope than most CA songs can manage. Cawing and big bass drums. Joanna Newsom
is a miniaturist.

 

But music criticism must be metonymist. So
here. The third disc summarises its partners. Joanna Newsom, it states simply,
is the kind of composer who kind of redeems the world in which she lives.
‘Esme’ breaks and breaks and breaks; it smashes a galaxy against the rocks to
fall in fragments in the river; it reassures its newborn subject that “kindness prevails“.  If these 124 minutes can be reduced to one
sentiment, which they ostensibly cannot, really – let that be it. That’s the
feeling you can’t deny when you’re bonechilled and gasping after the wave.

 

UPDATE Ansari + Sitek = Raaaaaaaandy

 

Comedy-rap is normally a
tool for clueless tools and that’s what makes Raaaaaaaandy’s mission of a
mixtape so righteous.

 

By
Blurt Staff

 

It’s
the alter-ego of Aziz Ansari’s complex mind-first seen in Judd Apatow’s Funny
People
-is hosting a hip-hop mixtape of epically-funny proportions. Produced
by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, with help from Baltimore’s DJ Granwizerd and
LA’s The Have…the beats are as good as the jokes. It’s no longer funny when
the music is this good.

The mixtape’s first leak-“Aaaaaaaangry”-puts every rapper in the game
on blast for making Raaaaaaaandy & Sitek await their contributions.
Bottling every rap fans’ angst over Detox‘s delays, no emcee is safe
from Raaaaaaaandy’s scathing disses. Whether they laugh or not…it’s up to
them. But the Internet is fueled behind the comedy/production duo.

A preliminary version leaked onto the web yesterday, so the duo’s handlers are
sending out “official” versions to the media, complete with new lyrics and
quality mastering. According to those in the know, “It doesn’t change RZA’s outro
though…because no stamp of approval is more official than the Wu’s.”

 

We’ll
have the track for ya soon as we’re allowed to share it with you, but trust us,
it smokes.

 

 UPDATE: A snippet of the track’s on YouTube now.