Monthly Archives: May 2012

Gravys Drop – For the Love of Gravy

January 01, 1970

(Burger Records)

 

www.burgerrecords.org/

 

 

“Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll,” so sang the great duck-walking
sage, which was appended 35 years later by Garland
Jeffreys
to include, “comes from R ‘n’ B and Soul,” to put a fine point on
it. Most would agree, though, that R ‘n’ R is the child of a shared heredity
between R ‘n’ B/Soul and Rockabilly/Western Swing/Country. It evolved from
those roots. Superior music makers dig for those roots. So it is with Gravys Drop, an Oakland, CA band that
digs the musical styles of previous Golden eras and wants to rattle your bones.
The band has become an almost instant hit in the East Bay and Bay area, and
their initial cassette release from cassette kings, Burger Records, sold out
the first day and has had to be replenished several times since. It’s also
available as a download from Bandcamp.com with a bonus song, “Pushin’ Too
Hard.”

 

I’ve often pontificated, the best music is found in the
underground, and the main reason that I subscribe to Rolling Stone is to remind
myself how much shit is being shoveled out to the public by the major music
industry of fluffed up, sugar-coated crap. Sports has now replaced religion as
the opiate of the masses, but commercial music, fabricated to make money, is
surely the mind-numbing lobotomiser (v. lobotomize, perform a lobotomy on a
person; cause a person to feel apathetic or mentally numb, deprive a person of
vitality)
of the masses. That’s why it’s critical that we constantly
remind ourselves why we love rock music in the first place, and reboot our
brains by listening to the old stuff or a current band that plays it.

 

Gravys Drop is the
project by recent East Bay transplant, Billy Grave. A half-dozen years ago he
was part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventure
Kids
, later becoming drummer in Nobunny’s band of misfits. Not long after, he got an urge to go out on his own, wrote
some songs and put together a group of like-minded players to hit the studio.
His band was made up of ace guitar whizzes Jay Rosen and David Fox, Michael
Loconto on bass and piano, Andrew Bianculli and Jake Gravy. Lending a hand in
the final mix was Greg Ashley, of Gris
Gris
fame. It’s a talented mix of like-minded souls. Grave cites such
varied influences as The Beach Boys,
Flying Burrito Bothers, Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings
and Creedence. Indeed, the three covers on
the album are “Made To Love,” by the
Everly Bros., Waylon’s
“Waymore’s Blues,” and a fine, souped-up version of
the oft-covered “Satisfied Mind.”

 

Their “Runaway” is an original, a bit of bubblegum mingling
with a Jan & Dean/ Beach Boys sound. Another original, “Happy Birthday,” has a lot of Dave Edmunds flavor going for it along with a ‘50’s tang. A lot of Nobunny emerges in “Trash Rock Groupie,”
which, no surprise here, IS trash rock in mid-tempo with distorted vocal and a
touch of xylophone. The “Love Me Do” intro of “Gravys Drop” quickly downshifts
into a rockabilly twang sound similar to The
Fenderman
on “Mule Skinner Blues.” Then there’s a slight turn into
country-billy with “Buddhist Guru,” that then rocks out totally like classic Flamin’ Groovies with some fancy
string-tickling. You get a mixed bag on “My Friend Dave,” which starts as a
slow ballad with slide guitar, later shifting into an upbeat country rocker.
“Secret Stash” is balls-to-wall, Fender-reverb rock and roll jam, influenced by
The Velvets. Billy is an admitted fan
of their Loaded album in particular.

 

The band will be dropping a 7″ single June 1st,
of “Buddhist Guru,” b/w “Happy Birthday.” This album will later on be released
on vinyl in November by Burger. The album has a lot going on for it, some
snazzy playing and certainly some impressive songwriting. I love a jumpin’ jolt
of good old Rock ‘n’ Roll, and was delighted to get turned on to these guys.
All I can say is, Good Gravy!

 

DOWNLOAD: “Secret Stash,” “Buddhist Guru,” “Trash Rock Groupie.” BARRY
ST. VITUS

 

 

Get an earful of hot gravy herehttp://gravysdrop.bandcamp.com/

 

Junior Electronics – Musostics

January 01, 1970

(Bureau B)

 

www.bureau-b.com

 

A mesostic is a form of wordplay where a vertical list of
words is aligned so that a word or phrase is formed horizontally. (The Mother’s
Day poem that starts “M is for the million things she gave me” is a crude form
of mesostic.)  Joe Watson, a sometime
Stereolab keyboardist and High Llamas producer, applies this principal to
music, building complex, interlocking bits of baroque pop that tick along like
clockwork, while producing bizarre, accidental bits of poetry in the way the
elements glance off of one another.

 

 

Watson puts a lush palette of instrumentation in service of his
abstract ideas, bringing together synthesizers, guitars, harpsichords, organs, pianos,
machine drums and fluttery vocals together in lavish yet cerebral combinations.
Overall, the sound falls somewhere between XTC’s most elaborate psych pop,
Stereolab’s intricately patterned drones and the warm, humane electronics of
the Morr Music stable.

 

 

There are bits for every kind of listener here. While
sensualists may prefer the thumping, whomping hedonism of “Zero Distress”‘s
cubist disco beat, romantics may cleave to the languid nostalgias of “Fire
Island Sand,” and intellectuals to the chilly, brainier staccato of “Faulty
Reasoning.” Watson’s fluid vocals, embellished sometimes with counterparts and
other times murmuring and whispering alone, provides a connective thread to
otherwise pointillist concoctions of hammering percussive sounds. In “One is
Conspiracy” for instance, the piano stutters and skitters over syncopated
rhythmic underpinnings, a rushing, repetitive spray of discrete notes tied
together by sung melody. “Else Queen Elsie” practices its verbal acrobatics
against a late-1970s pop funk bass-synthesizer riff, like Earth Wind and Fire
doing the Sunday crossword in ink.

 

 

All of these songs are precise, intellectually rigorous
constructions, draped with ephemeral, multicolored whimsies. Pop elements
ensure that Musostics works
pleasantly enough as background music, but it is also complicated enough to
reward more concentrated listening.  

 

DOWNLOAD: “Zero
Distress” “Else Queen Elsie” JENNIFER
KELLY

Curtis Salgado – Soul Shot

January 01, 1970

(Alligator)

 

www.alligator.com

 

 

Curtis Salgado might just be the real “soul man” and “Blues
Brother.” He has been playing professionally for 40 years and worked Robert
Cray for a decade and toured with Roomful of Blues. Soul Shot is his eighth solo album since 1991. But he might be just
as famous for who he influenced. In 1977, Salgado, 23, was performing in clubs in
his hometown of Eugene, Oregon, during the filming of a movie called “Animal
House” there. The lead was a comedian named John Belushi who used to catch
Salgado’s shows. They became fast friends and soon Belushi was getting a
private education from Salgado in blues and R&B. Soon thereafter, Belushi premiered
his own band–The Blues Brothers–first as a skit on “Saturday Night Live” and
then as a real recording and touring band, as well as the star of their own hit
movie.

 

It seems as ancient as the War of the Roses now, but back in
the day if you wanted to start a fight among blues fans all you had to do was
mention The Blues Brothers. Purists thought it was nothing more than a
disrespectful moneymaking comedy routine and perhaps borderline racist to boot,
with “Jake” and “Elwood” in their Ray Charles shades and black suits. But the
music was genuine and Belushi and his “brother”– Dan Aykroid– gave jobs to great
musicians, like “Guitar” Murphy and the late “Duck” Dunn. They always treated
the music with reverence and encouraged their fans to seek out the source
material. And a lot of rock fans first met Sam and Dave and John Lee Hooker
through The Blues Brothers.

 

Salgado was not in the band or the movie, although the still
great sounding album Suitcase Full of
Blues
was dedicated to him. But in listening to Salgado’s first album for
Alligator today, you can hear what influenced the Blues Brothers all those
decades ago. The album mixes soul and blues and funk and all of it is delivered
with total passion. The album consists of 11 cuts and seven are covers. The
covers include an eclectic soul mix of compositions by Johnny “Guitar” Watson,
Otis Redding, Bobby Womack and George Clinton of Parliament fame. You can hear
the 1960’s soul of Womack’s “What you Gonna Do.” Then there are the soaring
horns on Otis’s “Love Man” which is faithful to the original. And the album
rocks on the hard driving, serious funk of Parliament on Clinton’s “Gettin’ to
Know You.”

 

But on both covers and originals Salgado stands out with his
gospel influence vocals and fat tone harp playing. His harp work on the Clinton
song is reminiscent of the amazing harp playing of the legendary Sugar Blue.
And on the final cut–Salgado’s “A Woman or the Blues”-the song opens with a
soul/ gospel shout that might have channeled Sam Cooke.

 

Salgado has said that this CD is “the solid best thing I’ve
ever done.” And he may be right. Soul music, R&B, blues, gospel, country
were never just one thing and one thing alone. So the purists might just have
missed the point. All music builds off the shoulders of the giants who came before.
Salgado certainly does that here and gives us a lesson in old school soul that
you can move your butt to. And you have to think that that was exactly what
John Belushi was trying to do all those years ago while listening to Salgado’s
record collection and wondering how to use his fame to turn a new generation of
kids on to the blues during an age when Disco ruled supreme. Curtis Salgado is
the real blues brother and Soul Shot is
a great album.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “What
You Gonna Do,” “Getting’ to Know You,” “A Woman Or the Blues” TOM CALLAHAN 

 

Donavon Frankenreiter – Start Livin

January 01, 1970

(Liquid
Tambourine)

 

 

http://www.donavonf.com/

 

I have a good
friend who considers Donavon Frankenreiter to be the summation of all that is
wrong with music today. So adamant is she that I have a hard time admitting
Frankenreiter is, indeed, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. And then I
listen to his music and think for all in it that might be considered cheesy or clichéd
surfer soft-rock, or overdone Brushfire schmaltz (note: Frankenreiter is no
longer on Brushfire Records, and I happen to like that record label a lot), it
just feels good. Frankenreiter (a pro-surfer turned singer-songwriter) puts me
instantly on island time. He rocks, he sways, he strums a ukulele. He calls to
mind the ’70s and the beach and a cold Modelo Especial with a wedge of lime.

 

If that’s wrong,
I don’t want to be right.

 

Frankenreiter’s
latest, Start Livin, picks up where
his previous albums, Move By Yourself,
Pass It Around and Glow left off. Positive peace and love
messages, retro grooves, his dusky voice and a hint of salt spray in the
atmosphere. The thing about Frankenreiter is that he’s instantly recognizable
and he pretty much just does his thing. With a Donavon Frankenreiter album, you
know what you’re in for. Still, over the past several albums he’s been trying
to nail down something specific in his style, experimenting with organs and
disco-lite on Move; mariachi horns
and slack key guitar on Pass. Start parts ways from those albums,
trading polished production for a sound that’s stripped down and simple. It’s
Frankenreiter’s soft rasp, first and foremost, and then just a few instruments
selected, it seems, only to embellish the poignancy and raw emotion of the
songs.

 

According to
Frankenreiter’s Facebook page, he “holed up in a Southern California
studio for seven days with his longtime bassist Matt Grundy – and no one
else.” The album bio also says that this is a love letter to
Frankenreiter’s wife. Love has long been one of the musician’s favorite topics
(that, and the importance of being true to oneself), and that, combined with his
over-sized mustache, make him a standout. I mean, who loves their spouse these
days? And writes albums-full of songs to that affect? (The very best example of
this, on Start, is “I Can
Lose,” with its warbling strings, its ambling two step and its heart-on-sleeve
almost-whispered vocal. “is there a place that I can escape to that feels
like our first kiss? Oh, I just wish,” Frankenreiter sings. For fans of
his achingly sweet “Call Me Papa” from his 2004 debut; this is the
2012 equivalent.)

 

If all of this
makes Start out to be a sappy bummer
of a record, it’s not at all. The album launches with hand claps instead of
drums (hint: no drum kit was used in the making of this record) and the
fast-paced lyrics of the title track. It’s a jittery, upbeat track in which the
vocal asserts, “The difference between what you get is what you give, what
you get out of life depends on how you live.”

 

“Shine”
moves away from Frankenreiter’s life advice into the romantic stuff. “Just
tell me  ‘Yes, I do,’ cause I can’t go on
without you,” he sings between more hand claps, the plunking of strings
and a pretty female background vocal. It’s all simple, but in the best way.
Un-fussy, breezy, airy.

 

“You”
is more layered, more complex, but the complexity comes from steel guitar, hand
drums and some echoey effects that bring in a spaciousness. The songs opens in
sweeping soundscapes behind Frankenreiter’s warm vocal. “Same
Lullaby” has a cool J.J. Cale kind of amble to it – it’s somewhere between
country blues and funk, driven by a chopsticks-on-the-rim-of-a-margarita-glass
kind of percussion. (Okay, I made up the part about the chopsticks. But
apparently Frankenreiter and Grundy used pots and pans and jars of rice, so I
feel like I’m in the ballpark.)

 

With the lanky,
breezy opening of “West Coast Fool,” Frankenreiter proves that what
is always best about his albums is him. His voice, his laid-back sense of
rhythm, his effortless bell bottoms-and-fedora brand of cool. But, of course,
this is what Start is all about. The
nine tracks are all stylistically and thematically similar. They set a mood;
they remind us of some better part of ourselves – our vacation selves. The
selves that take time, enjoy the day, watch the sunset, treat those around us
with kindness.

 

The album wraps
with “Together Forever,” a slow dance where homesickness is
juxtaposed with joy. Palpable longing gives the song a substance that was
sometimes lacking from 2010’s fluffier, smoother, more
made-for-corporate-sponsorship Glow.
“It’s been ten years on the run. Two kids and an island in the sun,”
Frankenreiter sings, suggesting that the life of a touring musician takes away
from his other life, his real life as a husband and dad. But then again, he
keeps steadfastly making albums, and they’re always true to who Frankenreiter
is, both as a performer and as a person.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Shine,” “”Same
Lullaby” and “West Coast Fool.” ALLI MARSHALL

 

 

 

Marissa Nadler – The Sister

January 01, 1970

(Box of Cedar)

 

www.boxofcedar.tumblr.com

 

A younger sibling to last year’s self-titled album, this
eight-song EP has a more casual, less fussed over air. Its arrangements are noticeably
less dense, its lyrics more down-to-earth, its vocals unadorned. Yet this Sister is no one’s plain relative; its
simplicity has been polished to too mysterious a sheen. Personal,
introspective, yet shot through with an otherworldly melancholy, the EP filters
experience through an opalescent lens.

 

Where Marissa Nadler took a literary approach, revisiting old song characters like Mr. John Lee and
Daisy, The Sister seems to look
backwards towards actual memories and living (or once living) people. Mysterious
“Constantine,” lost, melancholy “Christine,” the unnamed “loves” addressed in
two different songs-all arise like ghosts out of precise, evocative lyrics, not
stories at all, but personalities dimly glimpsed. A simpler approach to
arrangement, leaning on intertwined vocals and delicate, regular picking, has
only highlighted how eccentrically beautiful Nadler’s art can be.

 

These songs are like pearls, lustrous, unknowable and happiest next to bare skin.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Christine,”
“Constantine” JENNIFER KELLY

Grass Widow – Internal Logic

January 01, 1970

(HLR)

 

www.hlr-recs.tumblr.com

 

Grass Widow’s third album balances the sharp and the smooth,
easing jittery obliqueness with the soft solace of vocal harmonies. Last
summer’s single, “Milo Minute” runs anxious Delta Five bass vamps (that’s
Hannah Lew)  into sawtoothed guitar lines
(Raven Mahon) and punchy, half-slanted drum beats (Lillian Maring). It would be
classic late-1980s post punk (the band has, after all, opened for the
Raincoats) except for the singing,
all three Grass Widows together, voices twining and soaring in well-manicured
harmonies. Check the new issue of BLURT (Spiritualized on the cover) for an
interview with the band, incidentally.

 

Female-fronted punk rock with really good vocals is, lately,
it’s own genre – witness Reading (now Bleeding) Rainbow, Dum Dum Girls and Veronica Falls – but Grass Widow is one of the
best at this game, their songs precise but unraveling at the seams, carefully
plotted but offhandedly delivered.  A
girls’ choir in torn fishnet tights, Grass Widow bashes and pops through sci-fi
spooky “Goldilocks Zone,” razor-guitared “Hanging Around,” and wonderful  “Spock on Muni,” where surf-crazed licks give
way to the giddiest kinds of la’s and ah’s. “Light in the Attic” demonstrates
Raven Mahon’s prowess at Spanish-style guitar, a skill not much exercised in
this jangly, jittery set of songs.   Internal Logic pits fractious churn and
friction against head-spinning harmonies, and here’s the surprise, everybody
wins.    

 

DOWNLOAD: “Milo Minute,” “Spock on Muni” JENNIFER KELLY

 

Sigur Ros – Valtari

January 01, 1970

(XL)

 

www.xlrecordings.com

 

Sigur Rós has, in the past, caught flack for valuing static
beauty over development, building icy, gorgeous landscapes that remain nearly
motionless over the course of a song. Here, however, momentum lurks in even the
prettiest tableaux.

 

Wispy delicacy – the birdlike tones of Jonsi, the ghostly
echoes of piano – builds into massive, swirling climaxes. Songs like “Varúð”
start in whispers and crescendo into thundering, overdriven frenzy. Valtari also benefits from the
experiences band members have accumulated during a four-year hiatus. The
playful, electronic dance aesthetic that Jonsi pursued in Go enlivens pop-tinged “Rembihnútur.” Keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson
returns from classical experiments with a bit of Arvo Pärt’s pure melancholy,
as in the lovely, piano-led “Varðeldur.” The concert film Inni may even have awakened Sigur Rós to the appeal of live
immediacy: amongst the Ligeti-esque choirs of angels, the tremulous strings, the
twinkling glockenspiel, the gleaming sheens of synthesizer, you can hear the hiss
of distortion and the rasp of metal on metal.

 

It’s a bit of necessary friction, the rasp that lets you
grasp these slippery, shimmery, beautiful songs.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Varúð,”
“Rembihnútur” JENNIFER KELLY

 

Red Jacket Mine – “Bellar & Bawl” b/w “Grow Your Own” 45

January 01, 1970

(Fin)

 

www.finrecords.com

 

Seattle’s Red Jacket Mine, whose Ken Stringfellow-produced Lovers Lookout (2009) generated
favorable comparisons from this very publication
to vintage psych, Big
Star-informed garage/pop and Memphis/Muscle Shoals soul, is in the middle of a
singles-issuing frenzy, of which the platter at hand is the followup to
February’s “Listen Up” 45. Another single is in the wings, with a full-length
scheduled for early 2013, so without further adieu:

 

The Faces-meets-Georgia Satellites “Bellar & Bawl”
marries choppy power pop guitars to insistent Memphian ivories, and all the
tuneful swagger implied by that description
should not be underestimated; this is a song destined, if musical justice
prevails, to be covered by bar bands across the land – at first, second, third
and last call. Meanwhile, the soulful, more pub-rocking “Grow Your Own” (as in,
“grow your own soul,” natch) takes things down a notch or two while providing
crucial sustenance for, as the saying goes, your rock ‘n’ roll…

 

Wait, did the man mention soul? Yeahhhh… FRED MILLS

Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves

January 01, 1970

(Caldo Verde)

 

www.caldoverderecords.com

 

Whatever the moniker – Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters or
simply his given name – Mark Kozelek seems to spend his time crafting sensitive
songs of a decidedly melancholic nature. That tack doesn’t change much here, but
framed by little more than a 12-string guitar, Kozelek’s doe-eyed sigh actually
allows a more substantive embrace.

 

While the overcast influence of Nick Drake still predominates,
other references are evident as well: early Paul Simon, mid-period Joni
Mitchell, and a hint of Crosby Stills and Nash harmonies. Both brittle and beautiful
– “Sunshine in Chicago” and “Lonely Mountain”
are two of the most tender songs in Kozelek’s canon – Among the Leaves also boasts unlikely hints of self-deprecating
humor. Check the titles “I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was The Greatest Night
Of My Life” and “The Moderately Talented Yet Attractive Young Woman vs. The
Exceptionally Talented Yet Not So
Attractive Middle Aged Man.”

 

So its songs aren’t exactly of the hum-along variety. No
matter. There’s no denying Sun Kil Moon’s luminous glow.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Sunshine In Chicago,”
“Lonely Mountain” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Mark Stewart – The Politics of Envy

January 01, 1970

(Mute)

www.mute.com

 

For his eighth solo effort, former Pop Group ranter Mark
Stewart offers an entirely professional art-punk album. Which is kind of odd,
since the Pop Group specialized in amateurism that went beyond inspired to
downright apocalyptic.

That fans of British post-punk will be intrigued, if not necessarily transported,
by The Politics of Envy is obvious
from its list of guest stars: Richard Hell, Gina Birch, Tessa Pollitt, Youth,
Daddy G and, of course, Bobby Gillespie. (Also Kenneth Anger, for what that’s
worth.) All these pals help Stewart range across dub, funk, goth and electro,
while spouting sloganistic denunciations of consumer culture and other dangers:
“If you’re not busy buying/You’re busy being sold,” warns the
throbbing “Gang War,” a collaboration with the ever-ominous Lee
“Scratch” Perry that includes shout-outs to Hamas and Hezbollah.
(Ironic? Maybe, but irony has never been a specialty of either man.)

Most of this sounds pretty good, if surprisingly conventional. “Gustav
Says” is basically a disco tune, complete with backup chicks. “Baby
Bourgeois” may denounce “corporate cocksuckers,” but its hook is
a cheery “na na na-na na.” “Letter to Hermione” is a Bowie cover that even Bowie might find too deferential. And at the
end of “Codex,” Stewart seems to be channeling Barry White.

Other songs are, thankfully, more unruly. That must be Levene playing guitar on
“Autonomia” and “Stereotype,” which surge like early Public
Image Limited, and “Want” growls and gnashes convincingly. But too
much of The Politics of Envy sounds
like the mid-’80s acts that glued British pop back together after bands like
the Pop Group smashed it to bits.

DOWNLOAD: “Autonomia,”
“Want” MARK JENKINS