Two Divergent Listening Tips (March 31st, 2018, Columbia, MO)

My favorite listening experience of March ’18’s final weekend was Zhang Jian’s Golden Horse Award-nominated score for Chinese director Zhang Chang’s “Yak Butter Western” Soul on a String. I loved the film, which is a metaphysical epic stretched across the Tibetan landscape. It’s so good it can be trance-inducing, which is where Jian comes in, fusing area folk music instrumention with Morricone-like stabs that jolt the viewer back to the concrete realities of the story. If there were a physical copy of the score, I’d buy it; however, to partake, you’ll need to watch the movie, an experience you’ll be better for having.

Some readers may be most familiar with Bukka White from his pre-WWII blues recordings for Victor and Columbia, where he established himself as a great hollering singer and stinging bottleneck player. My favorite White record, which I’ve been cranking in the truck for days, is Arhoolie’s Sky Songs (1963). Numbering seven songs that range in duration from 5:43 to 14:41, the session captures White in a very entertaining discursive mood, dipping into subjects like trains, cards, the single life, Jesus, sex, Harlem and Selma. He plays plenty of guitar as well as rough but lovable piano, and is accompanied by washboard on a couple songs. In many ways, it’s a weird blues album–weird and wooly, and I love it.

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