Monthly Archives: September 2010

Tony Joe White – The Shine

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Swamp)

 

www.tonyjoewhite.com

 

Tony Joe White’s voice may have lost the very
slightest touch of the deep swamp rumble that made ‘em shiver and swoon when
“Polk Salad Annie” hit in 1969 but that’s no more than should be expected of someone
who has been at it for almost fifty years; it’s still a hell of a voice. He
still knows how and when to flick in just the right stroke of soulful harmonica,
too, and he remains one of few guitarists who can justify the indulgence of a
wah-wah pedal (“Paintings On The Mountain”). Moreover, the man who wrote “Rainy
Night In Georgia” and “High Sheriff Of Calhoun Parrish” can still paint those mystery
haunted Southern Gothic landscapes (“All”) that draw one into a world that
exists somewhere between William Faulkner and Elmore Leonard, and where low ‘n’
lazy gets the job done just fine every time.

 

DOWLOAD: “Roll Train Roll,” “All” RICK ALLEN

 

Bobby Bare Jr. – A Storm, A Tree, My Mother’s Head

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Thirty Tigers)

 

www.thirtytigers.com

 

Its unwieldy title
aside (it references a storm that felled a tree and mangled his mother’s home),
Bobby Bare Jr. tones down his tempestuous attitude, at least momentarily, for
an album that adheres to a less intimidating template. Nevertheless, while the
wildly irascible rebel that once helmed his namesake band Bare Jr. and the
ominous sounding Young Criminals’ Starvation League seems somewhat less irascible, he still weaves a weary
montage, from the gritty delivery of “Your Goat Is On Fire” and the ominous
acoustic drone of “One of Us Has Got to Go” to the forlorn milieu described in
the title track and the darkly sinister “Jesus Sandals.”

 

Bare Jr. doesn’t
switch his stance on a whim however. Nominated for a Grammy when he was only
five years old for a duet with his famous dad, and making an appearance at the
Ryman at the same tender age, he’s a seasoned musician with the skill and
credibility to escape from his father’s shadow. Yet considering his morose
demeanor up until now, it’s still odd to hear him exhorting so effusively on
“The Sky is the Ground” or offering such a sweet serenade on “Sad Smile.”  There’s even a hint of humor on “Rock and
Roll Halloween,” as Bare Jr. name-checks Cher, James Dean, Elvis and Madonna as
subjects of some costumed characters he encounters on the trick or treat trail.
Credit producer David Vandervelde and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel for the
extra textures and an album that bodes well for Bare Jr.’s naked ambitions.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Sky is the Ground,” “”Rock and Roll Halloween” LEE ZIMMERMAN

77 Boa Drum

January 01, 1970

 

(Thrill Jockey, 90 minutes)

 

 

www.thrilljockey.com

 

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

 

77 Boa Drum is a stunning, multi-camera visual
documentation of July 7, 2007 (7/7/07), when Japanese avant-garde noise rockers
the Boredoms rounded up 77 indie rock drummers (from Oneida, Burning Brides, M.
Ward, Come, Man Man and more), arranged them in a coil and performed the 77 Boa
Drum concert in NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. The coil, meant to signify a snake
(with the Boredoms at the center, as its head), might as well be a crop circle.

 

 

How does anyone get that many drummers
to show up on time? Perhaps it’s moot, and a better focus would be how so much
beating and pounding could be so appealing, or even musical. Even with the
Boredoms’ keyboards, hammered seven-neck guitar, screeching and ululations, the
percussion is overwhelming. Ultimately one realizes it’s about time we gave the
drummers some. They don’t provide just backbeat; they really do move the music,
and this concert moved them-and even if you persist in bashing drummers, you’ll
be moved too.

 

Mike Watt & Floored By Four – Floored By Four

January 01, 1970

 

(Chimera)

 

www.chimeramusic.com

On break from his near-now-permanent tenure with The Stooges, Pedro-punk’s most
steadfast soldier/bassist Mike Watt, along with guitarist Nels Cline (ditto in
regard to his stay in Wilco), keyboardist Yuka Honda (late of Cibo Matto) and drummer
Dougie Bowne (the ultimate Downtown avant-garde session rhythmatist) make with
the atonal jazz-soul noise and roll with furious funk.

 

Four songs singularly named and composed by the bassist for each
of the quartet’s members, the Floored By Four started as Watt’s “New York project,”
and wound up as a testament to their shared love of Krautrock, Captain Beefheart
and latter-day Miles Davis, with some Stax stuff thrown in as a good luck rabbit’s
(good) foot. Add to the grueling groove and the simmering avant-soul the
stop-and-start complexity of four improvisational-ists at the top of their games
and you get the stammer of “Yuka,” the cackle of “Watt” and the absolutely epic
skronk of “Dougie.” Ouch.

 

DOWNLOAD: All 4! A.D.
AMOROSI

 

[Check out an audio sample from
the album elsewhere on the BLURT site]

Devotionals – Devotionals

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Alive Natural Sound)

 

www.aliveenergy.com

 

Tyson Vogel’s finger-picking flows like beads of clear water
over pebbles in “Toil and Joy” before gently propelling the balance of this rather
subdued soundscape. The word “before” barely applies, as the first four pieces
are so similar to the ones fore and aft, one has to check track numbers to
distinguish one from another. Momentum picks up with the deft “Chest Like
Expansive Wings” before there’s a howl of agony (spoiler alert) in “Your Confused Beauty Upon My Cheek (Your Inhale
Among My Unwashed Hair).” Then Vogel near-mumbles the intro to “Swell to the
Invitations of the Sky,” a piece of muted beauty that morphs into a Progressive
collage with nearly the elan to follow King Crimson circa Starless and Bible Black.  Which
goes to some evocative solo piano, trickling into the wake-up call of “Heart:
The Inevitable Music Box.”

 

While one hopes these hands will never again type these
words, here they are: “Dear readers: Pity
the hapless journalist attempting to encapsulate (while doing justice) to Tyson
Vogel.”

 

A reviewer with a promotional bent might begin the first
paragraph with “Tyson Vogel of Two Gallants” has emerged from behind the drum kit
to share an album of (mostly) wordless poetry.” Or “Tyson Vogel has created an
intermittently intense, occasionally over-medicated soundtrack for a film that
doesn’t exist.” Of course, we get it that the film is Vogel’s life and/or
observations. And we sort of get it that something(s) bad have happened, which
would account for the howl of agony and the occasional Bill Bruford – if not
Robert Fripp – ferocity. Vogel weaves in enough interesting dynamics and effects
to steal some buzz from The Album Leaf’s latest. Indeed, the best of this could
stand with Grand Lake’s stunning debut.

 

Who can blame anyone for being depressed in 2010? When this
much of interest and beauty is salvaged from the emotional wreckage, no one in
this quarter’s raising their hand.  

 

DOWNLOAD: “Heart:
The Inevitable Music Box,”  “Your
Confused Beauty Upon My Cheek (Your Inhale Among My Unwashed Hair),” “Swell to
the Invitations of the Sky” MARY LEARY

Jeremy Messersmith – The Reluctant Graveyard

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Self-Released)

 

www.jeremymessersmith.com

 

Jeremy Messersmith’s self-released third album handily
outperforms a whole Grey’s Anatomy compilation’s worth of Beatles-esque
pretenders. From its earliest moments – say the moment that “Lazy Bones”‘s jaunty,
piano-pounding swells into multi-voiced pop hedonism – to its melancholy
conclusion that “This is how it has to end, so love somebody while you can” The
Reluctant Graveyard
flawlessly balances joy and melancholy, intelligence
and intuition. This is one of the best pop albums of the year, and next to no
one has heard it 

 

“Dillinger Eyes” is the best rock song on the disc, its
slanting guitars and rolling tambourines setting an early 1960s vibe. Though
undeniably celebratory, the song, like most of the others on the disc, has a
morbid undertone. Its protagonist is shot dead in a pool hall because of a
passing resemblance to the gangster. Yet, as with many of these songs, it’s the
details, not the conceptual scaffolding that make the magic. Here, the secret
ingredient is the bass line, a “Pretty-Woman”-ish riff that starts low, makes a
vertiginous seven-step jump, then cascades down again so quickly as to miss its
starting point and correct upward again. There’s a hint of chaos, or at least
the potential for chaos, in it, yet it is repeated so regularly, so
errorlessly, that you forget the difficulty.

 

A taste for the baroque starts in the lyrics, but also spreads
to the arrangements. Messersmith has Dan Lawonn, a cello player, in his band as
a full-time member, and you can hear the two of them facing off on cello and
guitar near the end of “The Organ Donor.” Their interlude sounds like a Bach
cantata gone surf rock, and makes you wonder why more people don’t try this.  Lawonn arranges a full string section for
“John the Determinist,” the rhythmic criss-cross of violins, viola, cello and
bass underlining the mechanistic theme of the lyrics. Messersmith’s words are
always worth considering, but there are none finer than the first verse of this
particular song:  “People made of springs
and sparks, humming with electric hearts, hoping for a ghost inside the shell,
but if it’s there, it’s hidden well, all we are as is ticks and tocks, seconds
in a pocket watch.”

 

Messersmith is best when he strays farthest from the “guy
with a guitar” formula, as on rocking “Dillenger Eyes”, tango-sinister “Organ
Donor” and string-pulsing “John the Determinist.” Conventionally strummy folk
songs like “Touissaint Grey, First in Life”, “A Girl, A Boy and a Graveyard”
and “Repo Man” are too eccentrically intelligent to be boring, but they’re not
as musically gripping as some of the other cuts. Still, if you’ve spent any
time listening to Paste samplers, you know how bland and unremarkable
this kind of music can be. Messersmith makes it not just pleasant but damned
near thrilling.

 

{You can download The Reluctant Graveyard on a “pay
what you want” basis from Messersmith’s website (www.jeremymessersmith), so why not
check it out for yourself? )

 

DOWNLOAD: “Dillenger Eyes” “John the Determinist” JENNIFER KELLY

 

 

Olof Arnalds – Innudir Skinni

January 01, 1970

 

 

(One
Little Indian)

 

www.onelittleindian-us.com

 

The
opening moments of Innudir Skinni,
Icelandic singer Olof Arnalds’ second U.S. release of 2010, whisper like
distant echoes from a long-lost Europe: delicate, a cappella warblings in a
language known to few. But this nine-song set drifts toward the Anglophone
mainstream, with three tunes in English and several duets (including one with Iceland’s
top musical export).

 

Much
of the album is similar to the Mum member’s Vid
Og Vid
, made in 2007 but not available Stateside till this year. While
plucking plangent motifs on guitar or the ukelele-like charango, Arnalds trills
folk-like melodies of commanding purity. Singing “Jonathan” in English,
Arnalds sounds as if she belongs on a collection of traditional Irish ballads.
But this isn’t some volcano-field recording. Reverb boosts the
“la-la-las” of “Svif Birki,” and other instruments and
voices sometimes gently intrude. Or not so gently-Bjork adds guttural
counterpoint to “Surrender,” rendering it the album’s most
experimental track while spotlighting the ethereality that characterizes the
entire project.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Jonathan,”
“Surrender” MARK JENKINS

 

Olafur Arnalds – …and they have escaped the weight of darkness

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Erased Tapes)

 

www.erasedtapes.com

 

Rock ‘n’ roll/contemporary pop has
made room for infusions of energy and creative musical ideas from many unexpected
quarters over the years – not just country and blues, as has been
well-documented, but jazz, Broadway, reggae, Moog synthesizers, rap, French
symbolist poetry, Tiny Tim…you name it. But it’s still unusual to see
avant-garde minimalist chamber music presented as pop, as the label Erased
Tapes is attempting with the young Icelandic composer/keyboardist Olafur
Arnalds’ new album, …and they have
escaped the weight of darkness. 

 

But maybe it shouldn’t be that
unusual – the repetitive, often-minor-key qualities of contemporary chamber
music (and contemporary classical, for that matter) flow from the same sources
as the Velvet Underground’s drone rock, only quieter and more
acoustic-oriented. And, for that matter, Blood, Sweat & Tears’ breakthrough
1969 album introduced a lot of young people to Erik Satie. So there’s a place
for Arnalds in the more adventurous parts of the rock world – he has toured
with the symphonic-like Sigur Ros and shared a concert bill with Jonny
Greenwood. But however his album is presented, this is beautiful music – spare
and sometimes solemn, introspectively serious yet with a melodic flow that ties
together the nine compositions into something expansive and open.

 

The overall work is said to be
inspired by the opening scenes of a very downbeat and difficult movie, Bela
Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, yet
the music is not dependent on knowing the film to have value. The compositions
also, sometimes, has a nice little rockin’ beat, courtesy of the drums (Kjartan
Bragason), bass (Tony Levin) and Arnalds’ keyboards – especially on the
compositions “Gleypa okkur” and “Haegi, kemur Ijosio.” The latter swells as the
strings build in power. The production by Arnalds and Bardi Johannsson is
pristine – apparently, different instruments were recorded at different
locales. Although this doesn’t have the prominent vocals, it has a kind of
severe but optimistic “there is light in darkness” tone reminiscent of Morton
Feldman’s minimalist classic “Rothko Chapel.” And it has just enough rhythmic
savvy to mark Arnalds as a crossover classical composer to watch. He might have
to work on those song titles, however, if he expects a larger American
audience.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Kjurrt,” “Undan hulu.” STEVEN ROSEN

 

Gov’t Mule – Mulennium

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Evil Teen)

 

www.evilteen.com

 

What, another live
Gov’t Mule album? Considering that for some time now the band has been making
many of its concerts available for purchase as high-quality downloads via their
Mule Tracks service, and that diligent Mule collectors can generally find
audience recordings of pretty much any show
they want via fan trading networks, one might be tempted to question the
reasoning behind this triple-CD set, recorded December 31, 1999 at the Roxy
Theatre in Atlanta.

 

Ah, but then, real fans
still want their physical artifacts –
and this one’s a pretty special one.

 

For starters, it features the original lineup of guitarist
Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts and bassist Allen Woody; sadly, Woody would
pass away the following August, so this CD release is timed to mark the 10th anniversary of that passing. Also, anyone who’s ever witnessed a Gov’t Mule New
Year’s Eve gig, whether during the Woody era or subsequently knows how this
band that typically pulls out all the stops in concert can really pull out those stops for a NYE show. A celebration, Mule
style, means elongating and extemporizing the setlist (this show runs more than
three hours); performing more than the usual number of intriguing and
deep-roots cover songs, all of which in some way highlight an aspect of
bandleader Haynes’ influences and inspirations (for example, not too many groups
would be able to pull off King Crimson’s “20th Century Schizoid
Man,” but here, the Mule does, in spades; it’s pretty likely that Haynes was
turned onto Crimson’s 1969 album of the same name back in the day by one of his
older brothers); and bringing out special guests to help the band mark the occasion
– this evening, it was Black Crowes’ guitarist Audley Freed, legendary blues
belter Little Milton, Robert Kearns (from Cry of Love) and several others.

 

Mulennium, then,
closely resembles in tone and spirit – not to mention geographical location –
1999’s Live… With A Little Help From Our
Friends
,
the acclaimed four-CD live set cut the previous New Year’s Eve in
Atlanta at the Roxy, which also boasted an array of guests and a plethora of
unexpected covers. Fans of that collection take note: Mulennium will punch your dance card with equal velocity ‘n’ verve.

 

Tellingly, the show opens with the stage manager reprising a
portion of the MC5’s classic “are you part of the problem or part of the solution?”
screed from ’68. Battle cry in place, the trio then plows into a six-song
mini-set dominated by cuts from the then-forthcoming Life Before Insanity (released in February of 2000), notably the
kinetic “Bad Little Doggie” and the eerie-yet-elegant title track. Following a
countdown to welcome in the first moments of the new millennium, the Mule
commences with the initial round of covers: the aforementioned “21st Century…” Crimson classic (appropriately chosen, and appropriately brutal,
featuring the tune’s signature distorted vocals and Haynes expertly reproducing
the original’s squawling, anarchic sax/guitar duel); the “listening to you…”
section from the Who’s Tommy closer
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” (exultant, anthemic, dynamic); and a positively
jaw-dropping “Dazed and Confused” that seems to take even the band by surprise
(once again, Haynes channeling the spirit of the original when he recreates the
psychedelic-freakout midsection of Led Zep’s own live version as seen/heard in The Song Remains the Same).

 

Disc 2’s showcase segment is a six-song set with Little
Milton, who swaps vocals with Haynes on a sizzling “When the Blues Comes
Knockin'” and also gets his just props when Haynes introduces another song
identified with Led Zeppelin, “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” Though made famous by
Page, Plant & Co., the tune had been cut years earlier by Milton, and here the singer unleashes a primal
howl and a feral growl that could straighten the curls in Percy’s golden-god
locks. Audley Freed comes out next to assist Haynes on guitar chores, and
pretty much the rest of the concert is given over to choice covers. A
garage-punk take on Alice Cooper’s “Is It My Body?” contrasts with a sinewy,
psychedelic, wah-wah powered “Power of Soul” (Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsys, natch, which Haynes notes was a song unveiled some
30 years earlier also at a New Year’s
Eve show). The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” (kicking off Disc 3) is appropriately
demonic, heavy metal for thinking punters; Humble Pie’s “30 Days In The Hole,”
featuring Robert Kearns on backing vox, gets slowed down and turned into a
nasty blues workout; perennial Mule (by way of Dylan) singalong “I Shall Be
Released” is sweetly rendered, gospellish and soulful; and, per the earlier
suggestion about Mule concerts reflecting Haynes’ musical inspirations, in a
telling affirmation of his southern origins Lynyrd Skynyrd’s deceptively
elegiac “Simple Man” closes out the concert.

 

The latter, in fact, makes for a pretty effective psychic
manifesto for the Mule that still holds true today, 10 years on. Sings Haynes,
with conviction, “Forget your lust, for the rich man’s gold/ All that you need,
is in your soul… Be a simple kind of man/ Be something you love and
understand.” Haynes and his Mule are rock stars famous many times over and of
international stature, yet folks who’ve met Haynes and spent time with him will
consistently affirm that he’s managed to remain grounded, relatively unaffected
by fame, and in still touch with his roots.

 

Mark this live release “essential” – and on more than just
musical grounds. With the tapes remixed to yield astonishingly potent sound
quality, it puts front and center the original lineup’s sheer brawny prowess as
a singular American ensemble. In that, it also serves as an apt 10-year
memorial to the late Woody. Here’s hoping the dude was somewhere up there on
the CD release date, smiling and singing along.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Bad
Little Doggie,” “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “I Can’t Quit You
Baby,” “Simple Man” FRED MILLS

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Playing the Piano/Out of Noise

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Decca)

 

www.decca.com

 

The
titles of these two discs suggest a stronger contrast than their music actually
provides. Both CDs collect spare, hushed etudes by Ryuichi Sakamoto, a veteran
Japanese art-rocker best known in the West as a film composer; the distinction
is that Playing the Piano is all
keyboards, while bonus disc Out of Noise adds a few other instruments and some moderately rowdy drones and samples.

 

Each
set reveals the influence of American minimalism, French impressionism and
piano-bar jazz; the slower, hazier Noise sometimes burbles toward Eno’s ambient music. Piano features reworkings of Sakamoto’s themes from such movies as The Last Emperor, as well as the vivid,
insistent “Thousand Knives.” The more adventuresome Noise includes the lovely, strings-only
“Hwit” and the sweetly spooky “In the Red,” which resembles
a blissed-out take on Steve Reich’s apocalyptic “It’s Gonna Rain.”

 

Film-score
buffs may gravitate to the first disc, but this is one instance where the bonus
CD is the main attraction.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Thousand Knives,”
“In the Red” MARK JENKINS