“It’s Old, But It’s Good”: 10 Hoary Music-Makers I’ve Been Bewitched by Lately

The faster the wheels of technology whirr, the more I fear (or resent?) that “old things” will be ground to dust in the gears. Perhaps I’m an ignatz, but I’ve always approached any awesome tunes I’ve heard as permanent fixtures in my life, and the makers of those tunes as people to stay connected with, to root for, and watch. “Because I Got High”? YES. Toussaint McCall? YES. I’m just not quick to discard (I feel the same way about humans I actually know). I tend to hold these things close for a good long while, aiming for forever, whatever that means. On my lips, at the end, my version of “Rosebud!,” even if I will be 40 years past the minting of this line: “I may not live past 21 / But ohhhhhhh–what a way to die!!!!”

Thus I’m dedicated to the old shit, as well as the new. It’s ritualistic. In any given week, I’ll have knelt at the altar of the verities many times. Just as a for-instance, here are the gods and goddesses that have compelled me over the past week, with a brief, I hope not too glib line of commentary:

Mary Lou Williams: from the late ’20s all the way through the ’70s, this Pittsburgh-born piano genius wrote, arranged, and rocked the keys across almost every jazz style–and vied in public with the fierce force known as Cecil Taylor.

Jimmy Rushing: like Williams a musician who came through and left his mark on Missouri, he was a singer for whom ebullience was a given. That’s no small compliment in my book; facing the apocalypse, I’d take him over Big Joe Turner.

Blood and Fire Records: I’m not sure of the label’s present state of fortitude, but Steve Barrow (and assorted others) gloriously succeeded in fully representing the full canon of Seventies reggae and dub–y’heard of Yabby You, Sylford Walker, Keith Hudson, or Niney? Or know the difference between the I-“boys”? I thought not.

Rosalia: Yeah, homey, I know she’s only 25, but she didn’t come out of know-where. She’s so bewitched me recently I’ve had to scour the past for her singles and collabs, and they are not temporary things.

Excello Records: Thought I’d heard what I needed to hear from this Nashville-fed-by-Louisiana blues-soul-gospel-r&b label, but dear lord I was mistaken. Read a book on the subject recently and was led to discover that all three of the label’s Heart of Southern Soul volumes are pretty essential. Humble, but transcendently so in many cases.

Joy Division: I will confess to having had quietly but deeply dark moods since my teenhood, and thus Ian Curtis always made sense to me. But Jon Savage’s recent oral history of his band revealed just how normal the whole enterprise actually was. Nonetheless, Curtis’ nakedness resounds, and will continue to.

Hank Thompson: One of the four great Fifties Hanks (Williams, Penny, and Snow being the others), Thompson was the most warmly fun-loving and regular-guy-ish–and the second-most fecund.

Cabaret Voltaire: I unfairly scoffed at many un-punk British bands of the ’80s, but I always wondered if their rousing Rough Trade Wanna Buy a Bridge? placing, “Nag Nag Nag,” augured other glories. Turns out, maybe-kinda.

Ice-T: The man’s moved on from hip-hop, but somehow, as much success as he found in its practice, I feel he has come to be underrated. Assured, inventive, astute, provocative, and in love with a story, he remains a master MC in the rap pantheon. I once used this song in a 10th grade English class and we talked about it for two periods.

Sir Shina Peters: I thought King Sunny Ade was the end-all in Nigeria juju. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong.

Why do I have to be tipsy in a hotel room to write?





Where (The) Future Unfolds: Five Months of Engaging Rekkids, Year 2019


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My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of June 3, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  5. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Senyawa: Sujud*
  9. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  10. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  11. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  12. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  13. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  14. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  15. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  16. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  17. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  19. Quelle Chris: Guns
  20. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  21. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  22. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  23. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  24. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  25. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  26. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  27. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  28. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  29. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  30. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  31. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  32. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  33. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  34. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  35. Youssou N’Dour: History
  36. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  37. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  38. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  39. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  40. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  41. Nots: 3
  42. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  43. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  44. Fennesz: Agora
  45. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  46. Robert Forster: Inferno
  47. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  48. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  49. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  50. Solange: When I Get Home
  51. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  52. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  53. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  54. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  55. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  56. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  57. slowthai: Great About Britain
  58. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  59. Mekons: Deserted
  60. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  61. Que Vola: Que Vola
  62. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  63. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  64. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  65. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  66. Hama: Houmeissa
  67. Steve Earle: Guy
  68. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  69. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  70. Ill Considered: 5
  71. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  72. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  73. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  74. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  75. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  76. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  77. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  78. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  79. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  80. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  81. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  82. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  83. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  84. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  85. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  2. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  3. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  4. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  5. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  6. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  7. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  8. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  9. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  10. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners