Monthly Archives: May 2013

DRIVIN’ N’ CRYIN’ – Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock

Album: Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock

Artist: Drivin' N' Cryin'

Label: self-released

Release Date: April 16, 2013

DNC

www.drivinncryin.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

The third of four projected EPs, Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock explores a heretofore buried side of Atlanta rock icon Drivin’ N’ Cryin’: psychedelia. It probably goes without saying that none of these six songs sound likes the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” or Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” (to name a pair of psych rock classics off the top of our heads). But DNC does work up a certain acidic head of steam, adding electric sitar, horns and lush harmonies to the 12-string folky “Upside Down Round and Round,” mixing mind-expanding lyrics and acid-laced go-go in “Metamorphcycle” and giving Nuggets garage rock a nose-tweak with the wordless “The Psychedelic Time Clock” and “The Little Record Store Just Around the Corner.” But the plangently melodic “Sometimes the Rain (is Just the Rain)” and the hard-rocking “In the Sound Room” sound like the band’s usual M.O. Regardless of fidelity to a concept, songwriter Kevn Kinney works his mojo hard here, penning the EP series’ most consistent set of tunes yet. Effortlessly enjoyable, Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock may prove to be as essential as Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s classics.  

DOWNLOAD: “The Little Record Store Just Around the Corner,” “Sometimes the Rain (is Just the Rain),” “Upside Down Round and Round”

 

JOSH ROUSE – The Happiness Waltz

Album: The Happiness Waltz

Artist: Josh Rouse

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Josh Rouse

www.yeproc.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

To describe the aptly named The Happiness Waltz as one of Josh Rouse’s best efforts yet seems somewhat redundant. As anyone who’s followed his career over the course of the past 15 years would likely attest, Rouse seems to achieve that distinction every time out. To be sure, Rouse doesn’t rely on flash, frenzy or gimmicks to grab attention.  Yet, his easy, breezy songs offer a gentle lilt and an unassuming charm that make them memorable after barely one listen.

 Previously influenced by his move to Spain’s Mediterranean coast, he’s become known for his supple melodies, the cascade of acoustic guitars, understated arrangements and an effusive attitude that wraps each of these offering in a gentle embrace. Once again, Rouse shows himself adept at crafting songs that extol eternal optimism, even in the most trying circumstances. The seductive sweep of “Julie (Come Out of the Rain),” the bucolic and effervescent sound of “City People, City Things” and the billowing strains of “This Movie’s Way Too Long” all attest to Rouse’s ability to maintain a sound that’s both personal and appealing. The music appears deceptively simple and unabashedly blithe at times, but regardless, the emotional undercurrent clearly comes through.

DOWNLOAD: “Julie (Come Out of the Rain),” “City People, City Things,” “This Movie’s Way Too Long”

LUCY AND WAYNE – Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin Flames

Album: Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin Flames

Artist: Lucy and Wayne

Label: self-released

Release Date: March 22, 2013

Lucy and Wayne

www.hymnforher.com

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 Produced and presented by Hymn for Her, a duo that’s barely better known than their protégés, Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing make a peculiar kind of noise, a sound that’s weird, rabid and seemingly spontaneous all at the same time. Whereas their mentors specialise in a mostly folk derived motif, these two hipsters etch a broad palette, one that can accommodate the unassuming sounds of a banjo-based “Dark Deeds” and the delicate harmonies of “Burn This,” while veering mainly to manic, maniacal and unhinged entries like “Mojave,” “Chemicals,” “Trash the Sun,” “Landescape” and “Rosa Parks Blvd.”

 Indeed, the duo’s unpredictable, anything-goes approach encompasses rock, funk, folk and all matter of frenetic fare, with a Wolfman Jack-like rasp, extraneous instrumentation and plenty of delirium staking out areas in-between. Imagine Tom Waits experiencing his first acid trip, or Gram and Emmylou after someone spikes their cocktails with an ample dose of amphetamines. It’s a fine line between the brazen and the bizarre, and Lucy and Wayne have yet to decide on which side of that divide they intend to reside.

 DOWNLOAD “Lucy Fur,” “Mojave”

THE NATIONAL – Trouble Will Find Me

Album: Trouble Will Find Me

Artist: The National

Label: 4AD

Release Date: May 21, 2013

National CD

www.4ad.com

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Trouble Will Find Me has a smooth, cool finish, polished like a stone in the bottom of a river until all the weird stuff has been worn away. Other people may throw around terms like “mature,” “assured” and “restrained,” but I’m leaning towards the idea of chamois-cloth erosion, a process of spitting and rubbing and polishing until you can see your reflection in the surface, until it’s hardly a rock at all anymore.

Not that this is necessarily a complaint. Trouble Will Find Me is a beautiful album, silky enough to wrap its fleeting complications (the 7/4 time signature of “Demons”, for instance) in an enveloping glow. Even Matt Berninger has tamed his baritone bellow to a croon. He has never sounded smoother or sung better, though he’s most compelling when he mumbles half-drunk koans like “I was a television version of a person with a broken heart.”

Trouble Will Find Me has a sleek, integrated air, with little white space and instruments blurred together. The intricate complications of the Dessner brothers have been subsumed into a lulling atmosphere. Can you even hear what the guitars are doing, as a separate distinct thing, anywhere but on “Fireproof”?  Only Brian Devendorf, the drummer, remains as irrepressible as ever, though his booming, very National-esque cadence on “Don’t Swallow the Cap” seems to have been doubled with drum machine.   There also are a lot of keyboards – piano mainly, but also synthethic tones which melt into a kind of foggy aura, perhaps the big white heaven Berninger continually evokes?  You keep thinking, as the phrase ends and some indeterminate guitar or synth sound blares, well, yes, this is where the horns would have come in, this is where the strings would have started, this is where the drum beat would have gotten into a grudge match with the guitar riff and close to blown the song apart. This is where Berninger would have muttered something that sounded like nonsense but stuck with you, late nights, for weeks. This is where things would have gotten too smart, too interesting for the National’s mope-y niche. This is where the itch would have started up that irritated you until it became your favorite part of the song. But it doesn’t happen here or anywhere. The National are wholly themselves with no strings hanging, no knots, no complications. They have gotten so good at hiding behind the ideal of themselves that it doesn’t seem like them anymore.

There’s a doppelganger quality to some of these songs, “Graceless” a replication of “Brainy”, “Fireproof” a dogged invocation of “Racing Like a Pro,” as if the band had settled into a groove so deep that they had to clutch old material to reach the surface. And yet there’s a lovely practiced, polished, certain grace in songs like “Sea of Love” and “Demons”,  a slippery, hard-to-quantify charm in the cuts that seem, on first hearing, slight (“Heavenfaced” “I Need My Girl”). This is a band who knows how to swathe its sharpest edges in velvet while still managing a scything cut once in a while.  It’s an album you can like quite a lot, even while wishing it were entirely different, and that, finally, is the dilemma I find myself in.

 I have made my peace, more or less, with the idea that the National will never make another ballsy, rowdy album like Alligator or another giant romantic, orchestrally ambitious reach of an album like Boxer. Trouble In Mind is way better than High Violet, an album that turned more mawkish and embarrassing every time it spun, but it shares HV’s single-minded pursuit of a particular indie rock aesthetic.  Sad, sardonic, mid-tempo, self-reflective, Trouble In Mind is another soundtrack for all of our laughably medium-sized American problems. I used to bristle when people called the National “dad rock,” but how else can you tag guitar-driven music about minor male mid-life crises?

  Maybe we should stop seeing it as a negative. Done this well, even dad rock has its charms.

DOWNLOAD: “Demons” “Sea of Love”

 

The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg – Dir. by Aviva Kempner

Title: The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg

Director: Aviva Kempner

January 01, 1970

Hank Greenberg

http://cieslafoundation.org/home.php

 BY MICHAEL BERICK

 The Jackie Robinson bio-movie 42 has been one of the spring’s bigger hits; however, it isn’t the only movie out now that explores baseball’s history within a larger societal context. The documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (originally released in 2000 and now out with a second disc of bonus material) is more than just a profile of the baseball great Hank Greenberg.

 Made with affection and intelligence, the documentary details Greenberg’s baseball prowess (he was a two-time American League MVP and an All-Star in five of his nine seasons: however, filmmaker Aviva Kempner also shows the bigger picture. Besides being a rare Jewish-American sports hero, he was career coincided with the rise of Hitler and World War II.

Throughout the film, prominent Jews (such as Alan Dershowitz, Walter Matthau and Sen. Carl Levin) talk about how Greenberg was a source of pride and inspiration for several generations of American Jews – many of whom were still assimilating into American culture. Although Greenberg didn’t play up his religion, he didn’t hide it either. One of the film’s key segments deals with his public dilemmas over whether to play on the Jewish High Holidays.

 The documentary doesn’t shy away from the anti-Semitism that Greenberg encountered. Some of it came in the form of just plain ignorance – his Detroit Tiger teammate Jo Jo White once asked Greenberg if he had horns. Greenberg also was the target of more intense anti-Semitism. Opposing teams (perhaps just wanting to rattle a star player) frequently hurled verbal abuse at him.

The actor Michael Moriarty (who coincidentally starred in the great baseball film Bang The Drum Slowly) shares a story about his grandfather, the longtime umpire, George Moriarty, who penalized the Chicago Cubs for shouting anti-Semitic slurs at Greenberg during the 1935 World Series. In an interesting anecdote found in the bonus material, Moriarty also reveals how Gilda Radnor once told him that her dad was among the Detroit area businessmen who offered to pay the fine that Major League Baseball leveled on Moriarty for his silencing the Cubs’ slurs.

 It is a particularly timely moment for this documentary to be reissued since Greenberg and Robinson’s stories intersect during Greenberg’s final season and Robinson’s first. In 1947, Greenberg was traded to Pittsburgh in the National League (Life and Times also reveals this interesting baseball trade tale). During a game with the Dodgers, Greenberg gave Robinson some encouraging words, which Robinson publicly mentioned as being very helpful to him. Greenberg also admitted that the prejudice he faced wasn’t as severe what Robinson’s, but it certainly made him empathetic to what Robinson had to go through.

 What director Aviva Kempner accomplishes here is quite wonderful. Not only has she celebrated Greenberg’s baseball stardom but she also places it in a larger societal context. While the footage shows some age, Kempner did a great job assembling an impressive lineup of interviewees, through both archival footage and her own interviewing. It is especially fortunate that she got to film so many of Greenberg’s teammates and peers when she did, since so have now passed away. Life and Times will obviously be a hit with baseball fans; however, this documentary should also interest the casual fans as it touches on larger issues within American culture. And how can you not resist a baseball film that includes the Marx Brothers’ singing “Take Me Out To The Baseball”?

LENA HUGHES – Queen of the Flat Top Guitar

Album: Queen of the Flat Top Guitar

Artist: Lena Hughes

Label: Tompkins Square

January 01, 1970

Lena Hughes

www.tompkinssquare.com

 BY JENNIFER KELLY

 Lena Hughes recorded Queen of the Flat Top Guitar in the early 1960s, but it harks back to a much earlier era, one before television, phonographs or radio, when an evening’s entertainment might consist of a succession of hymns, popular songs and fiddle tunes picked carefully out on a six-string guitar.  Hughes herself came of age in the years between the two World Wars in Ludlow, Mississippi. Her father taught her to play the guitar, then considered a lady’s instrument, and showed her the fingerings for the old songs. She played all her life, not just guitar but banjo and fiddle as well, touring the Ozark Mountain folk circuit with her husband for decades. She only recorded this single album, which had all but been forgotten by the time of her death in 1998.  

 Almost but not quite. John Renbourne, the Pentangle guitarist who wrote the liner notes for this lovely reissue, admits that he had been looking for the original for years, as a source feeder for the folk and blues music he loved. “Lena Hughes’ playing is beautiful and depicts a bygone age, the musical sentiment of 19th century America – as iconic as quilting, shape-note singing and Tiffany glass,” he writes. “The music now termed ‘parlor’ was essentially the popular music of the day. Often light and romantic, it has tended to be dismissed as time passes. But the approach to the guitar – tunings, techniques, harmony – fed directly into the rural styles, ragtime and blues, and laid the foundation for the music that has gone on to shape the listening of the modern world.”

 These are quiet, modest little tunes, the picking carefully precise, the crescendos modulated, even the ghostly blues slides reined in and civilized.  The melodies are familiar, though perhaps not as familiar as they once were when tunes like “Spanish Fandango” were sheet-music blockbusters in the 19th century. Hughes’ version is an intricate waltz, plain spoken and practical in its rhythms yet overlit with the glow of wonderfully rounded, sustained notes. The hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” even more effectively balances the earthy and the spiritual, its homely melody weaving through ethereal bends and flared notes.

 You can hear little elements of blues filtering into these songs, yet they remain even-tempered, proper and, in their way, serenely beautiful. Leadbelly may have done wilder, more emotionally wrenching versions of some of these songs, but there’s a certain satisfaction in the pretty, well-tended garden that Lena Hughes presided over.

 DOWNLOAD: “Spanish Fandango” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

GENE CLARK – Here Tonight/The White Light Demos

Album: Here Tonight/The White Light Demos

Artist: Gene Clark

Label: Omnivore

January 01, 1970

Gene Clark

www.omnivorerecordings.com

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 Gene Clark’s departure from the Byrds at the very height of their success didn’t seem like the most fortuitous move at the time, especially in light of the fact that as the band’s primary singer, songwriter, front man and unabashed heartthrob, he appeared to have the most to lose. Yet, it was a move he felt he had to make; paralysed by his fear of flying and his aversion to the Hollywood star-making machine, he had a desperate desire to escape the consequences of fame, and strike out on his own.

 Following a pair LPs with Bluegrass band The Dillards and an earlier outing with the Gosdin Brothers, he retreated up the California coast and wrote the songs that would form the essence of his first solo album, the ravishingly beautiful White Light. Here for the first time are those songs in primal form, Clark’s original demos as sketched on guitar, vocals and harmonica, free of any embellishment. In the interest of full disclosure it should be said that those familiar with the finished recordings will find little difference between these versions and what eventually emerged in the sessions helmed by producer Jesse Ed Davis. In fact, Davis wisely chose to keep the same stripped down feel Clark originally intentioned, making White Light the most emotionally honest entry of Clark’s entire canon.

 Nevertheless, hearing such heart-rending songs as “White Light,” “For a Spanish Guitar” and “Where My Love Lies Asleep” as they were first cast from the womb is as stirring now as it was when the album was originally unveiled some 40-plus years ago. Admittedly, it’s easy to see why a pair of these tracks — “Please Mr. Freud” and “Jimmy Christ” — didn’t make the cut, but as novelties they’re bound to appeal to Clark completists. Indeed, even in this formative state, White Light never shone brighter.

 DOWNLOAD: “White Light,” “For a Spanish Guitar,” “Where My Love Lies Asleep”

 

 

ELEVENTH DREAM DAY – New Moodio

Album: New Moodio

Artist: Eleventh Dream Day

Label: Comedy Minus One

January 01, 1970

Eleventh Dream Day

http://www.comedyminusone.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

The title of Eleventh Dream Day’s latest release should sound familiar. Recorded quickly in 1991 with producer Brad Wood, the songs contained herein were intended to generate label interest in a follow-up to the buzz-generating (but underperforming, at least in their Atlantic Records bosses’ eyes) Lived to Tell, a follow-up that eventually come out on the aforementioned major label as El Moodio. A mix of songs familiar to fans of that underrated album, tracks that eked out on compilations and tunes that have never seen sunlight before now, New Moodio boils over with the guitar rock goodness for which the Chicago band is justifiably infamous.

Recorded with minimum gloss but maximum clarity, “Making Like a Rug,” “That’s the Point” and the unreleased tune “Thinking Out Loud” rock like demons, while “Figure It Out,” “Sunflower” and the jangly “Where is My Saint” (another previously hidden tune) revel in the winsome, almost folky melodies often lurking behind the sound of frying amplifiers. “Raft Song” and “Honey Slide” work epic psychedelic grooves that simmer and shimmer, taking full advantage of the quartet’s facility for multiple guitar textures, while the third new/old song “Everywhere Down Here” goes for almost roots rock vibe. Diehards can argue over which versions of the Moodio songs are better, but given that the original languishes in OOP limbo and these takes sound fantastic, it doesn’t matter – New Moodio is another chance to enjoy some of EDD’s best work anew.

DOWNLOAD: “Thinking Out Loud,” “Figure It Out,” “Making Like a Rug”

 

DON NIX – Living By The Days

Album: Living By the Days

Artist: Don Nix

Label: Real Gone Music

January 01, 1970

Don Nix

www.realgonemusic.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Although given short thrift and frequently relegated to the role of a peripheral player, Don Nix gained fame as musical director for various communal ensembles involving Leon Russell, Delaney and Bonnie and the musicians that populated Muscle Shoals Studios. He boasted impressive credits – sax on the Mar-Keys’ hit “Last Night,” back-up vocals for George Harrison’s Concert for Bangla-Desh and the penning of at least one indelible standard in “Goin’ Down,” a song that became a staple for Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddy King, Albert King and a host of others with a similar blues bent.

Yet, for those who do recall his aforementioned activities in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he’s likely just as well remembered for the iconic Civil War garb he wore on the cover of Living By The Days  –his second album for Elektra Records, now offered for the first time on CD by collectors label Real Gone Music — as he is for his resume. So while the lack of bonus material may impede interest, this belated reissue makes for a worthy acquisition regardless. Backed mainly by the Muscle Shoals session crew, the music manages to hold up well 40 years on, and whether it’s the rowdy barroom romp “Olena,” the rugged Southern balladry of “She Don’t Want a Lover (She Just Needs a Friend)” and the title track or the celebratory sound of the Hank Williams gospel hymn “I Saw the Light,” Nix clearly takes his cues from heartland homilies and infuses them with knowing authenticity. It’s a powerful southern spirit that makes … Days worth revisiting.

DOWNLOAD: “Olena,” “I Saw the Light,” ““She Don’t Want a Lover (She Just Needs a Friend)”

THE INVISIBLE HANDS – The Invisible Hands

Album: The Invisible Hands

Artist: Invisible Hands

Label: Abduction

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Invisible Hands

(Abduction Records

 BY RON HART

 Sir Richard Bishop has already shown us his dexterity within the context of his first proper rock band since Sun City Girls as a member of Rangda. Now his brother Alan–or Alvarius B. if you will–translates his own brand of Arab-American Primitivism to a more amplified setting with the eponymous debut of his new band The Invisible Hands.

 The one-time voice of SCG traveled to Cairo, Egypt at the height of the fabled city’s season of civil unrest and governmental turmoil to find his main Hands, recruiting members of such popular local groups as Eskenderella and Land of Kush to help him lay down the album’s eleven tracks. What’s delivered is a more electrified, melody-friendly version of Bishop’s work as Alvarius B. as evidenced on such highlights as “Dream Machine”, “Dark Hall”, “My Skull” and “Black Blood”, a seething comment on the United States’ notorious interrogation techniques with lines like “Cuffed and blindfolded/beat senseless, waterboarded/But I’m still gonna lie/What’s the hurry if there is no jury their filthy cash won’t buy.”

 The Invisible Hands LP was recorded in both the English and Arabic languages. And in doing so, it offers its sentiments not only to Alan Bishop’s rabid cult fanbase in the Western World, but will hopefully open up a wider base of listeners across the Islamic landscape that has inspired the music he has created for over three decades.

 DOWNLOAD: “Dream Machine”, “Black Blood”