A Brand New Bag (March 28th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

I am pleased as punch to see the inspiring Alice Bag back on the scene with her new album, Blueprint. It’s her second solo album in three years (with a rare 45 squeezed in between), after beginning her trouble-making career with The Bags’ “Survive” 45 in 1979 and spending most of the ensuing four decades advocating for women, children (she’s a fellow teacher) and Latinx culture. She wrote a memoir I’ve heard from reliable sources is captivating, Violence Girl, that I just moved up on my massive stack after sampling her new record last night. I can’t write about Alice’s new record in great detail, as I was reading, but “77” (see above) and “Turn It Up” kicked my ass–I was needing a hardcore punk rock injection, and I have a soft spot for the West Coast variety. The rest of the album sounded fine–I’m going back to the well soon, and I suggest you drink from it yourself. A brave Chicana feminist school teacher and activist who’s about to turn 60 and hasn’t slowed down a millisecond is one of the many things we need right now.

Short-shrift Division:

Julien Baker came to my attention vaunted by humans far smarter than I, but my first impression was that she was hitting me squarely in one of my deafest spots: I am quite immune to heart-on-the sleeve outpourings, especially those sparely accompanied. I’m a bit stoic myself, and I don’t trust self-indulgence of any kind very much. However, I’d snagged Baker’s recent Turn Out the Lights in a moment of weakness (I was dying to burn up some trade credit, and someone had begged me to give her a listen), then I found it she was from Memphis (an entirely different weak spot I can never resist scratching), then my favorite writer of the moment, Hanif Abdurraqib, singled her out for powerful praise recently in The New York Times. So I listened–and she shook me by the lapels. Her writing and singing go uncomfortable places, and I don’t mean gushing emotionalism–I mean universally human struggle and pain. Reminded me of another Memphis thang: Big Star’s Third. It doesn’t sound like that dark musical night of the soul, though it often feels like it.

So…hmmm…not so short shrift. Take that as a recommendation.

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