Halfway to Listville: Slabs from 2019 That Have Been Consistently Good To Me (and Some Music Moments That’ve Been Good For Me)

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We’re halfway through 2019 and the tanks are rolling into DC! Nice! Anyway, I’ve heard almost 100 new records that are damn good, as well as 20 issuances of older music that might cause you to get revelated. They’re further down the page. But first

Top 10 Music-Related Moments of My Month:

ONE: I was out of town running sound for a wedding, and went for two early morning walks with headbuds in, not my usual mode of listening (I don’t like being aurally cut off from my immediate environment). On the first, 84-year-old Abdullah Ibrahim’s new album The Balance (with an impressive front line of tenor, flute, and baritone) dovetailed harmoniously with a southwest Missouri sunrise.

On the second–here I was listening out of obligation, because my expectations were low for the release but it was “required listening”–I surrendered to Freddie Gibbs, thanks to an uptick in the MC’s wit and Madlib’s subtle facilitation. The name of the album, easily one of the year’s best, is Bandana.

TWO: Speaking of that wedding, the bride had originally chosen Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” as the pick to click right after she and her hubby kissed and were presented–then she changed it, much to my initial dismary, to Toby Keith’s “God Love Her.” Besides being less than moved by Mr. Keith, I thought the sentiment left out the poor groom. When Apple Music suddenly dropped the original single (fortunately, I had been testing the playlist daily and noticed), I thought that was a sign–but it turned out the video of the song was still available, so out of obligation (notice I take those seriously?) I plugged it in. Pretty good song, and the young lady’s gum-popping coincided with the couple hitting the “red carpet” after descending the altar steps. Perfectly irreverent!

THREE: I stumbled onto a neat new French label, Dark Tree. Along with a ton of other items, Dark Tree is offering two rare recordings from master pianist, composer, bandleader, and arranger Horace Tapscott’s “Watts school”: an inspiring Tapscott live show (his discography is so small and scarce every new addition is an event–to my ear and mind, anyway) and a wild and woolly concert by a quartet fronted by clarinetist John Carter and Ornette-connected trumpeter Bobby Bradford.

FOUR: Peter Perrett should never have survived the Eighties, but lo and behold the old reprobate has checked in with his second strong album in a row, Humanworld. It could use one more uptempo tune, but his sardonic lyricism and daring phrasing sound undimmed by forty years’ passage. There may be hope for the rest of us.

FIVE: Listen, I am not a fan of Iran’s fundamentalist leadership, but it’s not like every Iranian should be tarred with that brush, especially its youth and its uneasy artists. Out of solidarity with the hopeful people of that country against our stupidly-start-a-fire-then-heroically-put-it-out president, I’ve been getting deeply into the work of Sote. Subversive electronica twining traditional sounds with near-futuristic ones–you should give it a try yourself.

SIX: I don’t get out to much live music here in Columbia, Missouri. I will freely admit why: the offerings seldom interest and almost never excite me. However, I am still needing five cups of coffee in order to sleep after learning that the upcoming Dismal Niche Experimental Music Festival (October 3-6) will spotlight Agadez guitar lightning-forker Mdou Moctar [his new album Ilana (The Creator)–see below–is one of the year’s best], Chicago mix-Mesmer Makaya McCraven, soundscape weaver Julianna Barwick, and hypnotic finger-picker Yasmin Williams.

SEVEN: I received a new James Booker find and a Professor Longhair reissue in the mail on the same day, though I ordered them on different days from different outlets. The Fess record has worse sound than the original LP, but because I am a well-known nut about Booker, I am frequently asked which Booker album it should be bought if only one were to be. It might very well be the title bolded in the second list below.

EIGHT: John Corbett is one of the more enthusiastic music writers I know of. His style isn’t snazzy–in fact, it’s frequently a bit awkward and corny–but the power of his love has persuaded me on numerous occasions and I’ve seldom been disappointed. His new listening memoir, Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, is a fun read (it was worth it to me just to be directed to The Fall’s Dragnet!), and his record label, Corbett Vs. Dempsey, specializes in reissuing free jazz and experimental records that have long been out of print. A new C vs. D release I purchased made the second list below (Sounds of Liberation–Byard Lancaster’s sax backing a Black Power singing group!), and another, Tetterettet, by the wacky, sly, and skilled Instant Composers Pool Tentet, sent me on an a deeper ICP (nope–not Insane Clown Posse!) dig that netted me not quite half-a-hundred albums. Yes, I just typed that.

NINE: The first blues album I ever bought with my own money was Fenton Robinson’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime (White Dog Records, Fayetteville, AR, 1981). In the ensuing years, I was finally able to buy Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson records (and plenty other masters’, as well), and I forgot about ol’ Fenton. I broke it out one afternoon out of the clear blue sky, and realized it was, in Christgauvian terms, an A+. Nicole, a blues hardliner, turned to me and said, “Why haven’t we been playing this five times a year every year since we met?” That’s a twenty-nine-year expanse, and she’s correct.

TEN: A very young septuagenarian friend of mine who lives in Austin and has very high standards recently told me, “Dylan hasn’t cut shit since Blonde on Blonde.” OK. No.I was obliged to shatter his misconceptions. Being as chronologically gifted as he is, he still buys and listens to CDs–giving me the perfect excuse to do something I live to do but never get the chance to: MAKE SOME MIX DISCS! He asked for one, and in characteristic overkill I sent him four–and I didn’t even allow myself songs Dylan waxed prior to 1980.

I haven’t heard back from him. Maybe he’s still working through the discs. But unsurprisingly as I compiled the playlist, I ran across a track even I had overlooked. It stunned me in its humility, sorrow, and depth of understanding–I’d link it, but it ain’t available. Next time you pull out World Gone Wrong, give your full attention to “Lone Pilgrim.”

BONUS TRACK: I was fortunate to attend one of only twenty nationwide theatrical screenings of Martin Scorsese’s new Rolling Thunder Tour movie. In it, he mixes fascinating footage from the tour with recently filmed interviews with participants. The house was packed–at 57, I was probably in the youngest quartile of the attendees–and we were virtually sitting on top of each other. Two elderly female friends–slightly more elderly than I, at least–were kibbitzing a bit in the aisle in front of me, and upon Dylan’s first talking head appearance (likely filmed in 2018), one turned to the other and, in complete seriousness, asked:

“Who’s that?”

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of July 3rd, 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. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  6. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  7. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  8. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  13. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  14. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  15. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  16. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  17. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  18. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  19. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  20. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  21. Senyawa: Sujud*
  22. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  23. Sote: Parallel Persia
  24. Quelle Chris: Guns
  25. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  26. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  27. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  28. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  29. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  30. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  31. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  32. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  33. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  34. GoldLink: Diaspora
  35. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  36. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  37. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  38. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  39. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  40. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  41. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  42. Youssou N’Dour: History
  43. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  44. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  45. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  46. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  47. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  48. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  49. Nots: 3
  50. Santana: Africa Speaks
  51. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  52. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  53. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  54. Fennesz: Agora
  55. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  56. Robert Forster: Inferno
  57. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  58. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  59. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  60. Solange: When I Get Home
  61. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  62. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  63. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  64. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  65. Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal
  66. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  67. slowthai: Great About Britain
  68. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  69. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  70. Mekons: Deserted
  71. Zeal & Ardor: Live in London
  72. Que Vola: Que Vola
  73. Miguel: Te Lo Dije EP
  74. Mary Faust: Farm Fresh
  75. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  76. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  77. Hama: Houmeissa
  78. Steve Earle: Guy
  79. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  80. Beth Gibbons with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki): Henryk Gorecki—Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrow Songs)
  81. Ill Considered: 5
  82. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  83. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  84. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  85. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  86. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
  87. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  88. The King Khan Experience: Turkey Ride
  89. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  90. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
  91. Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Duologue
  92. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  93. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  94. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  95. CZARFACE & Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface
  96. 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. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  4. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  5. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  6. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  7. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  8. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  9. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  10. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  11. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  12. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  13. Prince: Originals
  14. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  15. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  16. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  17. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  18. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  19. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  20. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

2 thoughts on “Halfway to Listville: Slabs from 2019 That Have Been Consistently Good To Me (and Some Music Moments That’ve Been Good For Me)

  1. Oh, wow, when you first posted about Rolling Thunder screening I thought the woman in front of you didn’t recognize Ginsburg! I agree that Bob looks a bit different than the last time she might have seen him on the Grammy’s but…

  2. Picked up “Humanworld” yesterday and I’m loving it. Might be even better than Perrett’s albums with The Only Ones. Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Mindif” and “Water From An Ancient Well” are two of my all time favorite albums and what I’ve heard of “The Balance” so far sounds like more gold from that same vein so I’m looking forward to picking it up soon. I read “Pick Up the Pieces” a few weeks ago and I feel the same way about it – some of the writing was almost cringe worthy but Corbett’s enthusiasm is contagious and his taste is excellent. I’m not familiar with Fenton Robinson at all but the track you posted is great. Haven’t seen “Rolling Thunder Revue” yet but I hope to see it soon. Thanks for a great post!

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