David Bowie/HUNKY DORY – 9.5 – Bowie’s passing reminded me that I had never listened to this album beginning to end (oh YEAH! I miss a lot of stuff), and really only knew “Changes” well among the album’s cuts. Took immediate action to fix that–what an amazing first side, and the second side ain’t no slouch. We shall never see his like again. Played and played and played again: “Life On Mars?” Presto! New favorite Bowie album!
Childbirth/WOMEN’S RIGHTS – 8.5 – With titles like “More Fertile Than You,” “You’re Not My Real Dad,” “Since When Are You Gay?,” and “Breast Coast (Hangin’ Out),” the full song lyrics best be even funnier. These wiseacres deliver like a midwife.
JESSE MAE HEMPHILL – 9.0 – Some may complain that the North Mississippi Hill Country blues queen’s singing wasn’t distinctive enough, and that her guitar was pedestrian to the point of droning boredom. On the first point, maybe, but she has soul, as many who have distinctive voices don’t; on the second, um–trance is the trademark of her brand of blues. A criminally underrecognized regional master. Picks to really, really click: “She-Wolf” and “Go Back to Your Used-To-Be.”
Ross Johnson, “The Hot Monkey” (Scott Taylor), and Jim Dickinson/HAMBONE’S MEDITATIONS – 8.0 – Memphis weirdness: my favorite kind. Long-time local lunatic and librarian Johnson assaults a subtly titled “Oh, When the Saints Go Marchin’ in Dixie.” Cult muso Taylor takes a sideways run at Jerry Lee and doesn’t quite knock himself unconscious. “Pope of Memphis,” North Mississippi All-Stars dad, and extraordinarily effective producer Dickinson drifts bebop-Beat style through what sounds like a tour journal account of an extremely interesting patch of boredom (featuring Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ace Cannon, and Mick Jagger’s pimples), and demands to be cut at seven-and-a-half.
Ed Sanders/YIDDISH SPEAKING SOCIALISTS OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE – 9.0 – When I want lefty history, I often turn to The Fugs’ founder, Manson biographer, and fellow Missouri-born lover of life. He’s a generous, funny poet and plays a mean pulse lyre (an electronic tie, basically). This 10″ record documents an American period of “FOB”–fear of Bolsheviks.
Othar Turner’s Rising Star Fife and Drum Band/FIELD RECORDINGS FROM GRAVEL SPRINGS MISSISSIPPI – 10 – Every household needs a fife and drum recording, and this 45 by the first family of the style is as good as it gets. Sounds great played at the wrong speed, too. Available from Shangri-La Projects.