Monthly Archives: July 2011

Kasey Chambers – Little Bird

January 01, 1970

(Sugar Hill)

 

www.sugarhillrecords.com


Australia seems
an unlikely place to harbor Americana, given the
fact that it’s located in the middle of the Pacific, isolated from everything
save its South Seas environs. Never mind the
fact that native sons like the Greencards are turning the heads of the
Bluegrass elite, and the Dead Ringers, the family band that spawned Kasey
Chambers’ solo spin, helped narrow the divide between Americana and that, which
for lack of a better description, could aptly be labeled “Aussiecana.”

 

Little
Bird
,
Chambers’ latest effort and, quite possibility, her best yet, affirms the fact
that she’s well equipped to stand with Emmylou, Roseanne, Lucinda and all the
other alt-country queens. At age 35, she demonstrates a resolve and resilience
well beyond her years. Yet, while songs such as “This Story,” “Train Wreck” and
“Down Here on Earth” make an emphatic impression, most of the material is
breezy, easy and agreeable. That can be deceiving however; the beguiling appeal
of “Little Bird” becomes a defiant rebuke (“But I don’t want you that bad… “),
while the banjo ramble “Georgia Brown,” with its rapid-fire rhyme (think
Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with a down home twang), sings the
praises of a sly seductress who effectively manages her man.

 

Chambers’ sweet schoolgirl charms convey an air of innocence
— check out the child-like “Nullabar (The Biggest Backyard)” as one obvious
example — and her quiet charms result in a series of consistently flawless
performances. Simply said, this Little
Bird
soars.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“Georgia Brown,” “Little Bird,” “This Story” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Sufi Music (Volume 2)

January 01, 1970

(World Music Network)

www.worldmusic.net

There is no such thing as Sufi music. That is, Sufi musicians reflect the
styles of their native regions — and, these days, sometimes reach far beyond
them. This two-CD set begins with a plaintive solo on the ney (a sort of flute
that’s been played for nearly five millennia) by a member of Turkey’s Mevlevi Sufis (aka the
“whirling dervishes.”) But subsequent tracks travel beyond the Middle
East and South Asia, adding reggae,
electronica and West African elements. Women’s voices, banned by fundamentalist
mullahs, are heard on several selections.

Sufism is “the most accessible, liberal and pluralistic aspect of
Islam,” notes William Dalrymple, a New-Delhi-based British travel writer
and the compilation’s curator. Although some Sufi sects’ music is meditative,
much of it expresses sheer joy. Indo-Pakistani qawwali — represented here in
part by Sain Zahoor’s spirited “Allah Hoo” and Gaudi’s dubby remix of
a track by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — features love lyrics that can be
heard as either romantic or spiritual. So it’s not incongruous that Arif Lohar
and Meesha Shafi’s “Alif Allah Chambey Di Booty,” an exuberant
call-and-response number, sounds like something a troupe of male dancers might
sing to a lovestruck young couple in a Bollywood musical.

Other highlights include two songs from Senegal, Cheikh Lo’s keening
“Zikr” and Modou Gaye’s stark but propulsive “Sindidi,”
both of which meld African and Arab traditions. Of the ethno-techno stuff,
which includes relatively unmodernized mashups by Transglobal Underground and
DJ Cheb i Sabbah, the standout is Sanam Marvi’s “Manzil-E-Sufi,”
which slips from devotional chant into Cocteau-Twins-like glossolalia.

The set’s bonus disc, entirely performed by Sufi Fakirs of Bengal, is for
listeners who prefer their world music uncut and stylistically unified. These
nine tunes, none previously released outside India, features multiple voices,
accompanied by dancing drums, flute and dotara (a four-string lute). If the
music is less diverse than on the first CD, but no less intoxicating 

DOWNLOAD: “Alif Allah Chambey
Di Booty,” “Manzil-E-Sufi,” “Allah Hoo” MARK JENKINS

Leatherbag – Yellow Television + Patience

January 01, 1970

(Stuck)

 

www.leatherbagmusic.blogspot.com

 

Austin’s
Leatherbag has long flown the flag for simple rock & roll – not dumbed down
sounds, mind you, but rock stripped down to its essence. Hooks, melody,
percussive lyrics, direct emotion, direct action – these are things bandleader Randy Reynolds
treasures. The band’s latest LP Yellow
Television
makes the most of these basic virtues, relying on the quality of
the songs and the performances to push the band to the next level, rather than
gimmicks or fripperies (outside of guest Craig Johnson’s skronking sax). The
snarky fireball “Imitation Generation” and the folky ballad “Sparrow Blues”
represent the opposite extremes found here, but the heart of the album resides
in ridiculously catchy pop ‘n’ roll like “Falling Down Again,” “Waxing
Nostalgic” and the anthemic “Yanni.” Just try not to jump around playing air
guitar during the brisk “Modern World” – it’s two-and-a-half minutes of
everything good about rock & roll. It may not be meant that way, but the
final cut expresses the driving sentiment of Yellow Television: “Sincerity.”

 

In the time between the recording of Yellow Television and its release, Leatherbag pared down from a
quartet to a trio. The seven songs on Patience were recorded quickly and cheaply, with the lack of (relative) polish immediately
setting the tracks apart conceptually from those on the main album. Even with
the stark production veneer, however, these songs represent a departure. While the
brooding “So Misunderstood,” the singalong “Poor Misguided Boy” (sure to become
a new concert staple) and the gentle title tune are quintessential Leatherbag,
the more fractured song structures of the widescreen “No Future” and the
defiant “We’re Broke” represent more experimental urges. Perhaps indicative of
the trio’s wide open outlook is the EP’s lone cover tune – not only is it
highly unusual for Leatherbag to play someone else’s song, but it’s “Radiation
Squirm,” a gem in the catalog of the Judys, Houston’s long-gone masters of new
wave quirk. Not as masterful as Yellow
Television
, the fast ‘n’ loose Patience is a perfect compliment.

 

DOWNLOAD: Yellow Television (8 stars): “Falling
Down Again,” “Modern World,” “Yanni”; Patience (7 stars): “Poor Misguided Boy,” “No Future,” “Radiation Squirm,” MICHAEL
TOLAND

Locksley – Locksley

January 01, 1970

(Feature Records)

 

www.locksley.com

 

Locksley’s
irrepressible enthusiasm finds them trolling the same environs as the Strokes, the
Arctic Monkeys, the Kooks, and, yes, even the early Kinks. Little wonder then
that this bold, brash combo serves as Ray Davies’ back-up band for his solo
tours. Now based in New York,
these former school chums from Madison Wisconsin deliver a boisterous shout-out
that’s conveyed with a swagger, a swoon, and an unhinged exuberance that elevates
the proceedings well beyond any standard melodic constraints. Take, for
example, the riveting refrains of “Darling, It’s True,” the shout-out chorus of
“Love You Too,” the eager insistence of “All Over Again,” or, for that matter,
the Springsteen-like authority of “21st Century.” Each of these songs
affirm that celebratory style. 

 

It’s
rather ironic then that on “Oh, Wisconsin!,” one of the album’s most assertive
anthems, the band declares, “I like my music soft and sweet/Just like the girls
I like to meet…” Given their chugging rhythms, clap-along choruses and
all-around bravado, they hardly fit the mindset of your typical softy or slacker.
Ultimately, this self-titled disc provides
a terrific come-on, even if it leaves their listeners dizzy from its dynamic.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Darling, It’s
True,” “21st Century,” “Love You Too” LEE ZIMMERMAN

London Souls – The London Souls

January 01, 1970

(Soul On 10/DD172)

 

www.thelondonsouls.com

 

Despite the band’s name, the London Souls hail from New York City, a town
that, despite its hipster veneer, knows a thing or two about rock & roll.
As does this dynamic trio, which recycles/revivifies classic rock tropes with
enough skill and enthusiasm to wave off the stench of nostalgia.

 

Working similar territory to fellow travelers Earl
Greyhound, the Souls channel big rock riffage, R&B drive and classic pop
melody through a lens of energetic performance and try-anything-once variety.
Thus the band finds its groove as much in the R&B raveup of “She’s in
Control” and the Beatlesque balladry of “Dizzy” as in the heavy blues of “The
Sound” and the anthemic rock of “Stand Up.” Guitarist Kiyoshi’s vocal
resemblance to Lenny Kravitz may be off-putting at first, but his stronger
control and eager axe abuse make his work sound fresh, rather than familiar. The
reggae/rawk mashup of “She’s So Mad” indicates a willingness to fuck around
with tradition that should serve the band well in the future.

 

The London Souls is yet another riposte to the weak, tired cry of “Rock & roll is dead.”

 

DOWNLOAD: “Stand
Up,” “Dizzy,” “She’s So Mad” MICHAEL TOLAND

Bobb Trimble & The Crippled Dog Band – The Crippled Dog Band

January 01, 1970

(Yoga)

 

www.yogarecords.com

 

It takes some grapefruit-sized balls to kick off an album
with a radical reworking of a Beatles nugget; but then, cult artist Bobb
Trimble never seemed to worry too much about what the outside world thought of
him. The evidence here – a cover of “All Together Now,” guaranteed to leave Beatles
purists aghast, as it’s transmogrified into a loony garage romp, complete with
a new verse in which he and his combo chant/bark “it’s a Crippled dog anthem – ruf! ruf!” – is bolstered by the
record’s back story, and Trimble’s, too.

 

Pop/psych savant Trimble, for the uninitiated, operated in
and around Worcester, Mass., in decidedly below-the-radar fashion during the
post-punk early/mid ‘80s, with both Iron
Curtain Innocence
(1980) and Harvest
of Dreams
(1982) getting miniscule 500-copy pressings that, naturally, sold
zip but eventually fell into the hands of tastemaker fans such as Thurston
Moore. With the buzz building incrementally but steadily, both records saw
reissue on CD by Secretly Canadian in 2007 and were duly hailed by the press
(including yours truly) as true rock ‘n’ roll gems, part-outsider art and part
pure pop for zowie people. Over the years there have also been a couple of
compilations of material from the two albums which help further the Trimble
legend. Meanwhile, back in the ‘80s, Trimble continued writing and recording
and occasionally performing, in particular with a young high school outfit
called the Crippled Dog Band, who may have been low on chops but high in (on)
the kind of enthusiasm that could help bring Trimble’s twisted fever dreams to
fruition onstage.

 

The resulting The
Crippled Dog Band
album, however, released in ’83 in yet another 500-copy
custom pressing, was accompanied by the group’s splintering, and as legend has
it, a frustrated Trimble toted the whole lot off to an office park dumpster and
said adios. If this were a Hollywood
biopic, Trimble would have also thrown himself into the nearby river, but luckily
the indie rock world ain’t Hollywood, and Trimble remains active to this day –
you can check out his website and Facebook pages – albeit still in relatively
under the radar fashion.

 

The Crippled Dog Band isn’t
nearly as suffused with the sonic charm that marked his ’80 and ’82 albums, and
it’s somewhat lo-fi, sounding more like a live rehearsal session with a few
subsequent overdubs rather than a fully-fleshed-out studio project. Yet the
record’s own charms gradually begin to emerge from the haze after a couple of
spins, not the least of which is a kind of thematic teenage funhouse vibe
that’s framed by an “Intro” and “Outro” each comprising vintage video game
noises. Step into that funhouse – or ascend up the ladder into the treehouse,
take your pick – and be privy to such rough-hewn delights as the Hendrixian
aquatica of “Live Wire” and the lengthy (6 mins.) interstellar blooze (complete
with cosmic lyrics and a woozy harp) of “Armour Of The Shroud,” plus
absurdo-Prog love song titled “The Camel Song” and a Zappaesque slice of
fuzzarama, “Angel Eyes.”

 

Admittedly, the arrangements are all over the place; tempos
often waver over the course of a song; vocals veer from Trimble’s sensitive
warble to a mélange of voices that can only charitably be described as
“harmonies.” But there’s a quality to The
Crippled Dog Band
that’s hard to resist: it is the spontaneous sound of
kids unleashed with their instruments and a tape deck rolling, mindful of
nothing but the sheer visceral – and karmic – buzz of creating a righteous rock
‘n’ roll racket. Hey, if you think YOU can do better, pal, go make your OWN recording,
and then wait and see if people are interested in writing about it nearly three
decades later!

 

Hats off to the Yoga label, which specializes in unearthing
rare gems and private pressing obscurities and giving them a proper reissue
treatment, for rescuing this album from the musical dumpster of time.

 

DOWNLOAD: Armour
Of The Shroud,” “Angel Eyes,” “All Together Now” FRED MILLS

Bobb Trimble: You Should See My Girl, live, 1983 from Yoga Records on Vimeo.

Robert Ellis – Photographs

January 01, 1970

(New West)

 

www.newwestrecords.com

 

Houston songwriter Robert Ellis splits his sophomore album
right down the middle, with one half of Photographs dedicated to sensitive, enlightened, modern-day folk pop, the other to
straight-on, bootkicking and somewhat misogynist country. It’s a bit of a
Jeckyl and Hyde act, with Ellis happy to drive his ex to the airport for parts
unknown on  Jansch-like “Friends Like
That,” and even ready to chip in to redecorate in the mildly rollicking,
extremely domesticated “Two Cans of Paint.” 
Yet by side two, he’s put on a bad-ass country hat, dragging himself
home stinking drunk and belligerent in “What’s In It For Me?”  and threatening real harm if his girl steps
out on “No Fun.” 

 

Yes, oddly enough, traditional instrumentation – the aching,
pining pedal steel of “What’s In It For Me?” the banjo and one-two shuffling
acoustic bass of “No Fun” – seem to bring out the old-style, unevolved, he-man
in Ellis…a transformation which, even in fun (and let’s hope that “No Fun” is in fun), jars a little. Still Ellis
has some really lovely moments, especially in the first half, none more lovely
than the string-edges spare-ness of “Cemetary,” which evokes the devastating
simplicity of Willie Nelson.  Here his
effortless tenor sails out into near falsetto territory, taking on a brief
ghostly radiance as he wrings ineffable sadness out of loving and leaving and
remembering.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Cemetary,”
“What’s In It For Me” JENNIFER
KELLY

William Elliott Whitmore – Field Songs

January 01, 1970

(Anti-)

 

www.anti.com


His name sounds like that
of a 19th century poet, or more pointedly, a dusty, world weary
troubadour battling head-on against the fierce headwinds of modern day
travails. And indeed, with his appropriately titled Field Songs, William Elliott Whitmore imagines himself as a
reincarnation of Woody Guthrie or the early Bob Dylan, waxing on the fading
fortunes that’s befallen inhabitants of America’s heartland engulfed by the
tumult of today’s current economic upheaval.

 

Whitmore’s muse is hardly
unique; the troubles and travails of the past few years have formed the musical
fodder for many a blue collar rocker, be it Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp
or Billy Bragg. Regardless, Whitmore takes a humbler approach, one that sees
him eschewing any accompaniment save a sole guitar or banjo and the constant
chirping of frogs and insects recorded in the wild. Like a sepia tinged
collection of archival recordings foraged from the Smithsonian, stark, strained
homilies like “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground,” “Don’t Need It” and “Let’s Do
Something Impossible” emulate the homegrown blues, folk and gospel songs once
intoned by field workers in the rural south. “We’re here for just a little
while/Like a deathbed man who can’t hold on, everything gets gone” he moans on
“Everything Gets Gone,” echoing the despair that’s taken its toll on a bruised
psyche.

 

Even so, Whitmore reflects
the tireless resolve of a ragged warrior, and on “Not Feeling Any Pain” and
“Field Song,” he rails with the resilience found in some of The Boss’ best
anthems. Whitmore may not have the same potential to fill the nation’s arenas,
but his rugged determination finds him undeterred regardless.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Bury Your
Burdens in the Ground,” “Not Feeling Any Pain” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Singer – Mindreading

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

Three mainstays of Chicago’s
avant-garde offer another round of lavishly vocalized, synthetically
orchestrated almost-pop. Mindreading is considerably more lush and accessible than 2008’s Unhistories, though not exactly easy listening. Here listeners slip
down silky bolt-holes, sleek bits of melody slipping through fingers as they
seek some sort of grip on Singer’s intricacies.

 

Singer is down to three members, drone-ambient/noise artist
Robert A.A. Lowe, and Adam and Ben Vida. Todd Rittman (ex of US Maple), who
contributed to Unhistories, has
exited to pursue his D. Rider project, taking with him, perhaps, the noisier,
more unsettling elements of Singer’s sound. The remaining three musicians
muster a variety of synths, guitars, percussion and voices – the name is Singer, after all – to create cerebral,
faintly sensual landscapes that borrow from classic soul, prog, drone and pop. 

 

The three sing in falsetto much of the time, evoking the
spacier kinds of R&B, funk and disco. There are touches, elsewhere, of
folktronic simplicity (“Voices from the Tapes”)  and synth pop (“Imagined Spaces”)  even Afro-beat (“New Bad Teeth”)  Still, at their most tuneful, Singer’s melodies
fail to proceed as you expect, eschewing the obvious hook for serpentine,
half-stepping meanders that sound as much like 20th century
classical music as folk or soul. Synthesizers co-exist uneasily within these
tracks, straightforward boogie rhythms interlocking with brainy interpositions.
Untangle the multiple synthesizer ideas snarled and tangled into “Wi(s)tsches”
and you should win some sort of prize, 
the cut’s steady beat jacked by careening space noises, hiss, scratch
and luminous tonal washes.  Add to this a
chopped up, stop-start approach to percussion, not so much a beat as a running
commentary, and you start to get to the disorienting elements, even in this
smoother, more pop-oriented iteration of Singer. Lyrics, too, evoke rather than
narrate, strings of words hanging disembodied, discontinuous, over polyrhythmic
beats.

 

Mindreading is a
puzzlebox of an album, its rhythms and riffs interlaced like Escher staircases.
Yet its smoothness, its luxury, its abundance of sensual rhythms and engaging
musical elements, often obscures the difficulty. It’s all too easy to skate
over the complexities, sliding effortlessly over glossy landscapes. Unhistories‘ harsher moments stopped you
cold and forced you to re-think your whole listening experience. Mindreading does less of this. If you
want to get to the bottom of it, you’ll have to scratch your way through its
surfaces.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Imagined
Spaces” “New Bad Teeth” JENNIFER
KELLY

 

Stephen Warwick – Talking Machine

January 01, 1970

 (self-released)

 

www.stephenwarwickmusic.com

 

Some might say that taking five years to record an album is
folly. Of course, if you’re a perfectionist, five years might seem an
uncommonly generous work schedule. And anyway, perfectionism bows to no
calendar save that of budget constraints; the indie milieu, thanks to
GarageBand and the like, has largely freed itself from such niggling financial
issues. Meet Stephen Warwick, a Charlotte, NC, musician – let’s don’t use the
clichéd “singer-songwriter” tag, because this guy’s light years beyond the
cream-in-my-coffee brand of tunesmithery – who diligently goes about the
process of making music, then revising it, then revising it a little more, and
then still some more, until he is absolutely, positively, 100% certain he’ll
still be proud of it 10, 20, 30 years from now.

 

Methinks he will. By way of general description, Warwick marries lo-fi alterna-folk
to expansive, subtly orchestral pop, minus the rustic elements of the former
and the gilded edges of the latter, in a manner not unlike classic Beck. He’s
as likely to slip into an off-the-cuff bluesy moment as casting elegant melodic
hooks to the wind, and for my money the naturalness with which he does so additionally
puts him on a contemporary footing comparable to Bon Iver. For those with even
longer memories, what really catches you offguard is the way he recalls the
late, great Skip Spence both vocally and musically; play a track like “Talking
Machine,” a strummy, midtempo number with doubletracked vocals, or the low-key
slide-guit boogie of “Unmade Bed” and be transported to the land of Spence and
echoes of such shambling classics as “Little Hands” and “All Come to Meet Her.”
Talking Machine carries that same
sense of unearthing an out-of-the-blue gem that Spence’s Oar did that all those years ago.

 

But even though Warwick seems to have feet planted in
several eras all at once – literally, as a good deal of his subject matter
details in both veiled and direct manner his appreciation for/obsession with
images from the Depression period – he’s also intensely focused in his manner
of presentation. That’s a by-product of his above-mentioned perfectionist
streak, no doubt, although it’s remarkable that a product so fussed-over comes
across so spontaneous and organic. The 11 songs here flow naturally from one
mood to the next, like when the lush, mandolin/guitars climax of “Evening”
dissolves into amp hum and cricket noises only to shift suddenly into the
strummy syncopation of “Marlena,” a joyous slice of twangy power pop whose own
climax soon beckons by way of trumpet (which, it should be noted, is featured
prominently throughout the album), whistles and jews-harp. Or the way raspy,
raveup rocker “Tents” hands directly off to the good-timey “Plans” and dares
you not to get your ass up and dance.
One moment a jarring juxtaposition; the next, a hearty slap on the back; the
point is to get the listener’s attention and hold it, and that’s exactly what Talking Machine does. You needn’t press
the “shuffle” button.

 

What can Warwick
possibly do to follow up a success as musically vibrant as this? Check back in
five years, perhaps – but hopefully, we’ll find out sooner than that.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Talking
Machine,” “Marlena,” “Keep On” FRED MILLS