She Knows How to Rock (in a Record Store) (January 3, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)


Though we had a blast the past two weeks in Dallas, Houston, Lafayette, New Orleans, Covington, St. John Parish, and Memphis, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could play the batch of new records and CDs I’d purchased along the way. Though I’m very down with digital (I’ve filled 1.1 T of a 2 T external drive), I like my physical media–and maybe the shaky fate of Net Neutrality gives new support for that fondness.

Funny thing, though: I suppose it’s a bad problem to have, but since I live in a library, I can walk into a record store and be somewhat paralyzed. I quickly become aware that I must completely comb the stacks to find items I really want badly and don’t already have(or would love if I knew they existed)–and I am just too impatient at this point, and too aware that my life is finite, to do that. So I have to stand there for about ten minutes and strategize just where I’m going to spend time…as you might be able to tell, this doesn’t sound like much fun.

It’s at the worst of these times when Nicole comes to the rescue. She can walk right in, sniff around quickly and randomly, and find items that end up being house favorites–and she doesn’t even do music nerd research! On this trip, twice, within minutes of walking into record stores, she snagged records I didn’t even know about that we played right when we got home and delivered the goods.

At Lagniappe Records in Lafayette (a must-visit if you buy music), she found Tsege Mariam Gebru’s Spielt Eigene Kompositionen–rolls off the tongue, don’t it? Now, I knew about Ms. Gebru: she’s a piano-playing Ethiopian nun who’s suffered exile at least twice and plays in a solo style that is hypnotic and calming. A BBC 4 documentary about her is titled The Honky Tonk Nun, and while I think that title is misleading, if you imagine Lefty Frissell’s old saloon-style piano player nearly knocked out on codeine and poking around the 88s, well, that about gets it. Thing is, we’d already gotten what I thought was Gebru’s only album (surely she wouldn’t have made another, given her idiosyncratic style, her path in life, and her forced peregrinations?) at Lagniappe last December. As if she had a divining rod, Nicole found the other Gebru record almost instantly; the cover art really does not make it stand out (see below), and I’d probably have missed it (big props for the unique folks at Mississippi Records in Portland, Oregon, for releasing both platters):

Two days later, we walked into Louisiana Music Factory, an outstanding store just southeast of The Quarter and up Frenchmen Street that is just packed with goodies–and, really, it lives up to its name by mostly featuring Louisiana music, of which there is plenty, in many styles. This place paralyzes me for a different reason: I know I will always find plenty of wonderful stuff, and I know where to look, but it would actually drain me emotionally to cover all the ground necessary, so I walk up and down the aisles like a zombie hoping to quickly and accidentally spot the records I need. Surprisingly, this tactic worked fairly well for me, but it took some wandering; Nicole, upon entering the store, took a left to the listening lounge the store’s set up for new and featured releases, saw a cover that looked striking, put on some cans, and just listened–old-style. The above picture was taken at the moment I had returned with my haul–you can see the emotional drain and crate-digger stress on my face–seconds before she would ask me, “Hey, have you heard of Sarayah?” Really, I had not. Nicole said, “She’s cute, and I really like her sound!” She was joyous, unstressed, and had made a true discovery, again without research!


Now this is not the Sa’Rayah of The Voice–no effin’ way. This young lady is a New Orleans local (on Basin Street Records, home of master clarinetist Dr. Michael White and Kermit Ruffins, the closest thing we have to Louis Armstrong today, at least on a musical ambassador level, even if it’s just for his city) who unpretentiously, and on a low budget, effortlessly blends Caribbean and American dancefloor rhythms, sings and slinks sexily, and sells some hooks. We played her debut record, Feel the Vibe, right after Gebru’s this evening, and I could have just repeat-played it. Dig:

My wife, I think I’ll keep her. Along with these records.

Short-shrift division:

Bobby Rush: Folkfunk (with Alvin Youngblood Hart on lead guitar–to my ear, it’s the most consistent studio recording the ageless Rush has ever released).

Another iPod mix that helped us on our travels, combining ’50s and ’60s electric blues classics with two essential collections you may never have heard of–but should want to: Scratchin’–The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story and Super Rare Electric Blues of the ’60s Era

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