Live at the storied Variety Playhouse, natch.
Live at the storied Variety Playhouse, natch.
Release Date: November 22, 2019
BY JOHN B. MOORE
It’s sometimes taken for granted just how brilliant a songwriter Tom Waits is. The sky is blue, water is wet, and Waits can write a truly heartbreaking song. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s been making music for more than four decades; Maybe it’s that some just can’t get past his graveled vocals, but sometime all it takes is listening to a fresh take on his songs to realize just how exceptional Waits is as a songwriter.
Come On Up To The House is hardly the first Waits tribute record, but it is easily one of the best. Boasting an all-female cast that includes Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, sisters Shelby Lynn and Allison Moorer and Rosanne Cash, among others, the lyrics are given a fresh perspective in this mostly stripped-down affair. More often than not, the result is stunning. The opening track, Mann’s take on “Hold On,” and the stark “Come On Up To The House,” flawlessly covered by Josephine are simply sublime. While not ever song hits its mark, (Iris Dement’s “House Where Nobody Lives” is a pretty uninspired effort), there are more than enough brilliant covers here to keep you coming back to this record for years to come.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: Aimee Mann “Hold On,” Josephine “Come On Up To The House,” Rosanne Cash “Time”
Release Date: May 05, 2019
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
Never bring a knife to a gun fight! With all chambers loaded this Texas band is coming to clean your clock, so prepare to say hello to the big adios by the end of it. Punishing and completely bitchin’ this album is filled with molten tunes that provide the cathartic release many of us need to deal with the onslaught unleased by the Cheeto Overlord. If Randy the Ram had survived and his musical taste had evolved away from 80’s metal he most certainly would’ve had Speedealer on constant repeat. From punk to speed metal this album has it all. Produced for maximum torque-age the music on this record will have you dusting off your air guitar/drums. The playing here is out of sight and not for the faint of heart so best to check with your doctor prior to administering this to your cranium. Welcome back gents!
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: Never New, Rheumatism, War Nicht Genug, Sold Out
Release Date: September 06, 2019
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
To put it simply, NRBQ are the Everyman band… and the everybody band as well. Over the course of more than five decades and countless continuing releases, they’ve proven their ability to transcend musical genres while reflecting certain essential tenants of popular music, be it rock or blues, soul or swing. Their dexterity is far greater than most any other outfit one might ever imagine, and that includes combos both past and present. Indeed, their essential greatness lies in the fact that they simply defy definition but yet, at the same time, transcend any signature style, making any attempt to confine them to a category silly and superfluous.
These days, only multi-instrumentalist Terry Adams remains of the original ensemble, but those that share his efforts and enthusiasm continue to make NRBQ as effusive and enthusiastic as they were back in the day. There could be no greater evidence of that fact than this new expansive 21 song double disc consisting of two concerts recorded live on both CD and DVD. Their astonishing skill and spontaneity are evidenced throughout, and even when the band make an unlikely segue way from an earnest take on the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” — the upper register vocals intact — to a giddy instrumental cover of “Red River Valley” — renamed here, “Red River Rock” — their verve and versatility are delivered hand in hand. Likewise, it’s no small wonder that they can start the set with a reprise of the Goffin-King classic “Don’t Ever Change” while coming across like Merseyside merrymakers, and then end things on an equally upbeat note in the form of Adams’ “RC Cola and a Moon Pie.”
Needless to say, long-time admirers may be amazed that the band continue to ply their collective craft in such effective yet irreverent ways. Yet at the same time, there’s no better point of entrance for newcomers as well. Consequently, Turn On, Tune In is as convincing an entreaty as anyone might ever imagine.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Don’t Ever Change,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Red River Rock”
Release Date: November 08, 2019
Get spun or be glum: This is not a record review, but a freakin’ imprimatur to one day retire to the desert. Wash your hair and comb your face.
BY FRED MILLS
In 1992 a coupla East Coasters – that would be me, and my beautiful wife, from North Carolina – took a chance on the Old Pueblo (that’s “Tucson” to my fellow non-natives). Among other things, the move would eventually spawn a young Mills in the early days of ’01 precisely because our desert sojourn had bestowed upon us the courage to simply follow our instincts, rather than our random, often misguided, impulses. Said young Mills is now a college student here in NC, although let the record show that he was also accepted to the University of Arizona and, for a spell, he seriously entertained the idea, at least until the nuances of the term “in-state tuition” became clearer. But I digress…
For my part, I attribute much of my courage to being privy to, often on a firsthand basis (such as the courage of @Allison Mills, duh), that of other residents and transplants, who no doubt had to learn how to navigate the arc of the bad crazy sun during the day while sidestepping random cholla cactus spines that, as best I could tell, were being shot out, with maximum perversity, of aliens’ teeshirt cannons from myriad directions. Well, I learned how to hike in Arizona eventually.
Among those transplants was Mr. Howe Gelb, whose band Giant Sand had already caught my attention prior to my arrival. “Desert rock,” yo. And then came 1994, and “Glum,” on the brutally short-lived (and, let’s face it, somewhat inept during those grungy alt-rock-in-ascendance days) Imago label. All respect to my old friends at Imago – y’all did the best with with what ya wuz dealt. And new respect to Howe’s current supporters at Britain’s Fire Records, with the new 2LP version of “Glum,” which features an extra live disc and all the CD edition’s bonus tracks on the digital download.
The album is as much a revelation in 2019 as it was on “repeat” back when I was manning the trade counter and store stereo at the Zia Records location in 1994. Sean Murphy (of the River Roses), Mike Bollman (record collector extraordinaire), Maggie Golston (also a musician, and a local poet of considerable note), and all the rest of us played it over and over, no doubt aggravating the younger crew that came in later in the day to relieve us of our duties (the store was open until midnight). I suspect we converted more than a few of them to the cause, however, because an album this magical, this so purely Tucson, only happens once in awhile. It was recorded in New Orleans for the most part, but with folks like Rainer Ptacek and Chris Cacavas clocking in alongside Howe, Joey, John, and Paula Jean (let’s not forget Patsy of Patsy’s Rats either) among the many guest players (there is a gentleman named Peter Holsapple among the credits, fellow current North Carolinians), it’s all Old Pueblo.
It’s sublime and serene, chaotic and profane, sexily discombobulated, and both unearthly and familar all at the same time. In short, it was then, and to this day it remains, the sound of Tucson circa ’94. I know, because I was there.
Which is, I suspect, the way Howe intended it. Goddam, this record sounds good. Listen to him croak ‘n’ croon. I just may wash my hair, comb my face, and then go find a random record store where I can stand behind the counter for a few minutes as I savor the memories prior to being ejected from the premises for “activities inscrutable.” So be it. R.I.P. Pappy Allen.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Yer Ropes,” “Spun,” “Helvakowboysong,” “World Stands Still” (KCRW live), “Water Fuels the Fire” (bonus, w/download)