Monthly Archives: March 2010

George Jones – The Great Lost Hits

January 01, 1970

(Musicor/Time Life)


After time on the Starday, Mercury and United Artists
labels between 1957 and 1964  George
Jones settled in with the Musicor label from ’65 to ’71. Musicor was started by
Mercury’s co-founder Art Talmadge and Harold “Pappy Daily” who had worked with
Talmadge at UA. Along with the Platters, Gene Pitney and Melba Montgomery,
Jones was one of the first and most successful of the label’s artists. The
tunes collected here are some of the possum’s pre-Billy Sherrill, pre-Tammy
Wynette best, from before the kind of substance abuse that got the better of
him and led to stunts like drunken riding mower incidents that earned him the
nickname “No-Show Jones.” This stuff is oh so good. But make no mistake; it’s
not compromise, crossover good; it’s get-that-Shania-Flatts-junk-outta-here good. This is “just us”
country for “just us.”


Sure, there was great stuff before the Musicor
years (“She Thinks I Still Care”; “Window Up Above”)) and after (“The Grand
Tour”; “He Stopped Loving Her Today”) but there’s a particular swagger to the
Musicor output. By this time-a little before to be fair-Jones had stopped
trying to be Hank Williams and was confidently and gloriously George Jones,
still keeping his wild side somewhat under control. Whether his glorious pipes
were wrapped around the tenderly sentimental “Walk Through This World With Me”,
the tears in my beer lament “The Honky Tonk Downstairs” (ably covered by Poco)
or the flat out silliness of “Milwaukee Here I Come” and “Love Bug,” there’s no
dogging it for the Possum nor any skimping on the quality of the playing and


In fact, the biggest quibble with this set, the
only quibble, is the lack of player information. Is that Pete Drake or Buddy
Emmons, maybe, playing that magnificent steel guitar on “I Can’t Get There From
Here?” And who is doing that exquisite chicken picking on “Love Bug?” Could it
be Reggie Young? Who knows? Pappy Daily’s not around anymore but George is
still with us, thank goodness. Even if his memory might fail him (for whatever
reasons) he could probably come up with one or two names and a little detective
work might have had some results. Maybe the players included guitarist Bill
Aken (a member of the loose knit aggregation of studio players known as the
Wrecking Crew) who also recorded under the name Zane Ashton and worked
frequently with Daily. Some of the people involved are certainly still around.
Is a little detective work too much to ask of the folks behind these re-release
projects? Isn’t the information about players and technicians that was left off
of the packaging of most records until the late sixties or so (sometimes even
later, with country recordings) one of the most important and best features of
boxed sets and reissues? 


The people playing on this record are on the same
high level as Jones. He deserves every bit of the recognition he’s gotten over
the years; so do those un-credited players who helped make him a star and put a
whole lot of coin into the pockets of the labels that put out his records and
those who remix, repackage and re-release them.


“As Long As I Live”; “The Honky Tonk Downstairs” RICK ALLEN


Jonathan Mudd – Truth Lies

January 01, 1970

(Major Label Interest)


The North Carolina
powerpop tradition is a long and, by some estimations, noble tradition; or
maybe your memory doesn’t stretch back to the early/mid ‘80s when the likes of
Let’s Active, The dB’s and The Connells proudly waved the Tarheel banner and
spawned scores of like-minded outfits. Carolina
ex-pat Jonathan Mudd most certainly took notice of how pop is imbued with a
particular timelessness, and although he now calls D.C. his home, on the
evidence of these 11 songs, his heart’s permanently in Comboland.


Truth Lies, Mudd’s second solo
album (it follows 2005’s Any Good Heaven),
has all the requisite powerpop hallmarks: meaty guitar riffs atop propulsive
rhythms; instantly hummable melodies and a keen sense of dynamic; lyrics about
loving and losing and getting back together, all with an undercurrent of
reflection and redemption. Yet classic pop tunes don’t lend themselves easily
to sausage-factory analysis; too much dissection, in fact, and you lose sight
of the old Lovin’ Spoonful maxim about how the music can free ya whenever it
starts. On Truth Lies you can start
the music pretty much anywhere on the album and land on a gem.


“Round the Bend,” for example, a love song in which the two protagonists
discover how, indeed, they believe in magic, is a percolating rocker awash in
sinewy riffs and “ooh-la-la-la” harmony vocals, while another unabashed riffer,
“Breaking My Way,” celebrates the blossoming of a relationship in cinema-worthy
terms. The moody “Out of My Control,” with its lyric and melodic hat-tips to
Roxy Music’s “Flesh and Blood,” has a slow-burn intensity and a lingering grandeur.
“Somewhere In the Night,” part acoustic-tilting ballad, part cresting anthem,
deserves to be heard by anyone who’s committed the first two Big Star albums to
memory. And album standout “On Fire,” with its Springsteen-like imagery (“Baby,
everything is gonna be all right/ Down every dark street we’re gonna shine a light/
We’ll burn it up tonight”) and tension-building sonics (listen for the subtle “Don’t
Fear the Reaper” guitar nod), positively smolders – truth in titling – with


Bottom line: Truth
both holds its own against the classic powerpop archetypes while
delightfully advancing the game for the contemporary scene. It’ll make you a
believer all over again in the magic, and it just might free you, too.


Standout Tracks: “On
Fire,” “If You Ever Leave Me,” “Somewhere In the Night” FRED MILLS




Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs – Medicine County

January 01, 1970




If asked who my very favorite
female vocalists are, it would be a short list and easily rattled off without
hesitation: Neko Case, Jenny Lewis, Rachel Cox of Oakley Hall, Sarah Cronin of Drug
and Holly Golightly (Smith.) With their latest release, “Medicine
County”, Holly and her musical partner in crime, Lawyer Dave are back with a
twang and a bang.


This predominately upbeat
collection of twelve songs, including three covers, was recorded in a recently
abandoned and foreclosed-upon church (“recorded at Foreclosure Ministries”)
near her farm in rural Georgia near Athens. In fact, one ingenious highlight is
the church organ used in the funereal “Dearly Departed. ” It wafts in like the
reflective interlude music a church organist would play during a service. With
two full albums and last year’s EP behind them, Medicine County shines as their biggest and brightest
accomplishment. The press release sums it up well when it describes their sound
as “ghostly blues, gut-bucket slide guitar, with a smattering of ol’ time
country. ….just the disc for conjuring up the spirit of weird old
America.”  The delightful cover art was
done by none other than Holly’s mom, Carol Voss, and wholly inspired by Currier and Ives prints and the American
Primitive work of Grandma Moses.


Holly’s wry lyrics for “Eyes In The Back of My Head” recall the
funniest, tongue-in-cheek humor of a lot of country music songs. “There ain’t
no hidin’ from the eyes in the back of my head.” The slow, syrupy blues of
Wreckless Eric Goulden’s “Murder In My Mind”, does the boy-girl call and
response lyrics similar to a Nancy and Lee tune.  In the title tune, “Medicine County”, they
lament, “We’re a hundred miles from nowhere, everybody needs a drink. More
churches here than people… I’ve sometimes got the notion to drink until we’re
blind. Dream of smokin’ something good, Lord knows it’s hard to find.” (Google
Madison – Medicine – County and look at the pictures and you may find it seems like
a pretty nice place to settle, frankly.)


Holly appropriately shifts her vocal styles from smoky to sultry, to appreciatively
a down-home, back-woodsy drawl for the more front-porch style tunes included
here-in like the bluegrass-y “I Can’t Lose”, with its dandy fiddle-sawin’ and
banjo plunkin’. The song that blew me away the most though, was “Escalator.”
When she breezes in for the duet, it recalls those nature films they used to
show in grade school with the time-lapse of tree buds popping open, baby birds
hatching forth and flowers bursting open in Spring. A truly glorious number –
yet glowing superlatives can hardly express what a fine piece of work this
album is overall. I don’t know what they’re drinking down there in the Georgia
boonies, but it seems to be doing pretty well by them! (Now, would somebody
please tell me what the hell a “brokeoff” is?)


Standout Tracks: “Escalator”, “Eyes In The Back of My Head”,
“Don’t Fail Me Now” BARRY ST. VITUS


Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

January 01, 1970



On their debut, 2008’s The
Airing of Grievances
, this Jersey band showed off the best of high-brow and
low-brow culture, combining the sweaty drunken-rock of the Replacements and
Pogues with brainy lyrics that sounded like Craig Finn (from The Hold Steady,
who guest here) with a few extra post-grad degrees.  On this ambitious follow-up, built on a civil
war theme, they loose some of their energy and power – the closest they come to
an anthem this time is a song where they keep chanting “the enemy is
everywhere!”  Then again, that’s
preceded by line about flag-waving so that could just be a canny take on
patriotism, stuck alongside their humorous pokes at their home-state
(“Baby, we were born to die”). 
Plus, few bands take down-and-out as a badge of pride like these guys,
turning “you will always be a loser” into a triumphant refrain about
themselves (or at least their protagonists).


“Titus Andronicus Forever,” “Theme
From ‘Cheers'” JASON GROSS


Seabear – We Built A Fire

January 01, 1970

(Morr Music)


There must be
something in the frozen isolation of Iceland’s northern environs that stamps
such a cool melancholia into its homegrown music. Sigur Ros, Bjork – all seem
to shift parameters with a reliability that’s unexpectedly compelling.  Seabear follows suit, but its ethereal
trappings lull their listeners in ways that are truly beguiling.


Borne with hushed
vocals, subdued contemplation and the occasional trumpet or violin, We Built A Fire boasts a shimmering,
celestial feel – mellow enough to ensure seduction but with a sound that’s just
as likely to go askew.  Consequently,
songs like “Fire Dies Down,” “Cold Summer” and “Warm Blood” create inner conflict,
gentle in spirit but more kinetic in execution. 
That unlikely dichotomy takes these folk-like ruminations to another
level where simple shoegazing is no longer an option.  While the tone and temperament is generally
subdued, “Softship” and “I’ll Build You A Fire” soar above a tangled undertow
while “Wooden Teeth” almost seems perky by comparison.  Subtle but assured, it’s already destined for
consideration as one of the most intriguing albums of the year.


Standout Tracks: “Lion Face Boy,” “I’ll Build You a Fire,”


Black Francis – NonStopErotik

January 01, 1970

(Cooking Vinyl)

The dust from the mid-2000s Pixies reunion has long since settled, but Black
Francis/Frank Black/Charles Thompson keeps making records, deterred by neither
nostalgia nor cash flow. This is mostly a good thing, as he recently proved
with Grand Duchy, a dark, ‘80s-tinged project with his wife. NonStopErotik, however, while recorded
with the charming, no-frills, one-take urgency of much of his late-‘90s work,
pleasantly chugs along without gaining any real speed or traction.


Francis is joined by longtime collaborator Eric Drew
Feldman, who laces tracks like the softer “O My Tidy Sum” and the floating “Rabbits”
with a bed of ethereal keyboards that mark this is some of Francis’ lightest
work of the past few years. “Wild Son” is a straight-up Doors rip-off, an
interesting but distracting song that feels out of pace with the rest of the
album. But he flips the script in an unexpected and welcome move by infusing
the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels” with a driving rock beat and distorted
guitars, making it more Ramones than lazy country rock. “Dead Man’s Curve”
finds Francis releasing cathartic, throaty howls over a trad-rock chord
progression, further showcasing his love affair with the roots of rock and roll
and his faith in the ability of a couple of layered guitars a drum kit to move
the crowd. That’s when the album reaches its simple peaks of pleasure, when it
pogos minimally to power chords on songs like “Six Legged Man,” one of the best
tunes on the record.


Still, taken in the context of his lengthy and mostly
admirable catalogue, NonStopErotik doesn’t rank up there with Francis’ best. “When I Go Down On You” may tinker
with the cryptic Freudian psychosexual drama he repeatedly dealt with in the
Pixies, but the album’s visceral appeal lies in Stratocasters, not coitus. That
being said, Black Francis running on half a tank still sounds better than most
bands gunning at full throttle.


Standout Tracks: “Lake of Sin,” “Six Legged Man” JONAH FLICKER


Bettie Serveert – Pharmacy of Love

January 01, 1970

(Second Motion)


On album number nine, this Dutch indie band returns to its
roots, eschewing the tortured adult-rock of 2000’s Private Suit and the wonderful pop/dance fusion of 2002’s Log 22
As such, if you’re a fan of their more sophisticated side, you lose out
this time but for anyone who cherishes their simple rock rush, that’s a lot to
savor here.


Singer Carol Van Dyk still commands a suave-but-take-no-bullshit
voice in the mode of Chrissie Hynde, and her co-writing partner Peter Visser
juices things up nicely with stomping guitar riffs, especially buoying on
soaring songs like “Semaphore” and the title track.  Things don’t let up into ballad territory
until the fourth song (“Mossie”) and even that turns into crunching
rock soon.  Only the overly long droning
intro to the “Calling” breaks the mood of an otherwise solid album. 


Still, you have to wonder when Van Dyk and Visser will pursue
their adventurous spirit again in their music. When they do, they’ll surely
give Rilo Kiley a run for their money.


Standout Tracks: “The Pharmacy,” “Semaphore” JASON GROSS



Goldfrapp – Head First

January 01, 1970



After the diversion into Cocteau Twins ethereality for Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp returns to
reclaim her spot in the dance clubs with Head
(Mute). The fifth album from the titular Alison Goldfrapp, plus longtime
collaborator Will Gregory, falls into the tradition of second and third
records, 2003’s Black Cherry and
2005’s Supernature, rather than the
eerie trip hop of the first, Felt
(2000), or 2008’s lovely pastoral Seventh Tree. It’s back to club anthems, shiny choruses, and slick
synths – subtlety and depth be damned.


Goldfrapp gives good singles, and “Rocket,” “Believer” and
“Alive” will end up on the playlists of lovers of well-crafted dance-pop
(although one suspects that many Goldfrapp fans appreciate listening to
dance-pop more than dancing to it). Not coincidentally, those three tracks open
Head First, and its
hit-me-with-your-best-shot sequencing: the rest of the album turns more subdued
and indirect (and occasionally diffuse), as in the slinky strut of “Shiny and
Warm” or the slow-burn abstraction of “Voicething” (the grabby chorus of “I
Wanna Life” is the late-album exception).


Between the singer’s crystalline vocals and Gregory’s well-orchestrated
synths, Goldfrapp – the duo – is an ersatz Eurythmics for the not-so-new
millennium. That’s fine, but on Head
the not insubstantial pleasures are ephemeral ones.


Standout Tracks: “Rocket,” “Alive” STEVE KLINGE


Ashley Beedle & Darren Morris w/Various Artists – Mavis

January 01, 1970



Ashley Beedle and Darren
Morris’ inspiration for Mavis was Mavis Staples’ pop/soul cover of
Dionne Warwick’s version of Burt Bacharach’s “A House Is Not A Home.” Sound
somewhat removed? Wait – there’s more. The project’s conceit is this: Beedle
and Morris produced an instrumental track inspired by Staples’ version, then
offered it up to a number of vocalists – among them, Ed Harcourt, Lambchop’s
Kurt Wagner, Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, Cerys Matthew, Candi Staton and
Edwyn Collins – for their lyrical spin on it. But here’s the rub: “The
producers then subverted the backing track, suggesting a reggae riddim approach,
for a collection of unique tracks informed by the same chord structure and
points of influence.” Sounds interesting, right?


And it could’ve been, but
it’s not. The goal was for a “unique collection of tracks,” but we end up with
too much sameness. All but one of the eleven tunes are in the same key and
nearly the same medium-slow tempo, and many share much melodic and harmonic
material. In musical terms, the collections drags. Most of the eleven
different vocalists bring heartfelt ideas and performances to the project, but
it’s not enough to overcome the bland repetitiveness of the arrangements and instrumentation.
Apparently, a subverted backing track is not a home. At least not on Mavis.


Standout Tracks:
“Puzzles And Riddles,” “What You Looking For” JOHN DWORKIN



Bulletproof Vests – Attack!

January 01, 1970

(Electric Room Records)


Memphis upstarts the Bulletproof Vests were one of BLURT’s “Best
Kept Secret” picks last fall – you can read our profile and interview here
and at the time they’d recently done a limited-edition private run (like, 100
copies) of their debut album Attack! As noted in the story, however, local label Electric Room was planning on
repressing the record and distributing it nationally. Based on this humble
reporter’s impressions of the tunes both then and now, any self-respecting
aficionado of garage and power pop (and maybe a little bit o’ Memphis soul, too) should not be without this
in their collection.


It kicks off with the one-two groover punch of  “Magic Wand” (an anthemic bit of pop/soul that
could pass for classic-era J. Geils Band) and “Down In Yer Pocket” (sixties-flavored,
R&B-tinged psychedelia; listen for the backwards guitar solo!) effectively
establishing the quintet’s bonafides. From there the genre-hopping commences,
one moment touching down in twangy, Rockpile-styled pub-rock (“Darlin’ Wait”),
slinkysmokysexycool fifties pop with Latin flourishes (“Picture Show”), full-on
garage raveup (“Queenie In Trouble”), and slam-bam pop glam (“To The Moon” –
the song that initially hooked me on the band, it sounds like a cross between
Big Star and T. Rex).


At 10 songs clocking in just over a half-hour, Attack! gets in and gets out without
wasting a second of your time, and it’s testimony to the band’s songwriting
prowess that you want to spin the platter again the moment it’s finished – the
tunes are as addictive as they are varied, and they boast a full-bodied sound
that may have its origins in the garage but has clearly been honed with finesse
in the studio. Any number of these tracks would sound great blaring from the
car stereo. (I should know; I road tested the CD.)


Featuring brothers Jake and Toby Vest on guitars and vocals,
Greg Faison on drums, Dirk Kitterlin on keyboards and Brandon Robertson on
bass, the Bulletproof Vests slot together in classic Memphis tight-but-loose fashion, as a result
constituting one of the more exciting young bands to emerge from that city’s
always-bustling, ever-mutating music scene.


Standout Tracks: “To
The Moon,” “Down In Yer Pocket,” “Queenie In Trouble” FRED MILLS