Think Of What You’ve Done (August 7-12, Columbia, Missouri)

Dang! When I said several days ago that, from now on, I was gonna write only when I felt like it and had something pressing to say, I didn’t expect myself to actually heed my own proclamation! I never do in other areas of my life! Honestly, I am preparing for the school year. I did start a mini-project to catch up on some films I’d neglected (The Witch, Anti-Christ, The Holy Mountain, Spring Breakers, My Darling Clementine–which of those things is not like the others?). I was striving to keep up my reading pace (16 books ahead of my Goodreads Challenge–what is it with me and goals?). I do have a darlin’ wife and some good pals. So I need to get off my own goddam back!

However, some music did burst through those teeming waves of other things to really get my attention. Prime among them was Dust-to-Digital‘s truly amazing Goodbye, Babylon (from 2003), a six-disc compendium of approximately 50 years of intense American religious music and sacred disquisition. Rather than describe how it’s packaged, lemme just show you:


The raw cotton’s inside the box, and that baby at the upper right is a 200-page book that’s worth considerable just by itself. Five discs of tunes, one of sermons that can make a confirmed atheist cut his eyes at his speakers. Here’s the box’s Bandcamp link, through which you can investigate the contents more closely; along with some very famous names are others that wouldn’t be if not for this, the performances are not only well-selected but also surprising, and do they sound great for their vintage!

Anyway, I’d broken it out way more often than the average box (box consumers, you know it’s true), and loved it, but the power, commitment, and yearning in the performers’ voices and instruments just hypnotized me for the entirety of the three discs I loaded–so much so I actually felt the need to break the spell and fix that downstairs doorknob that had been waiting for attention since 1999. Bit of a story behind how I acquired the fruitful thing, by the way.

For the last 10 years of my public school career (2003-2013), I had studiously applied for and procured annual grants to create an American music library in Hickman High School‘s media center. With the dedicated help of the center’s staff (especially my fond friend James Kome), I was able to do a pretty decent job. You be the judge. Over the years, the collection consistently enjoyed the highest usage rate of anything else in the center–even after the downloading boom–and I (and a few passionate students) even wrote descriptions for each of the many, many items.

When I saw Goodbye, Babylon advertised, I thought to myself:

a) perfect for the collection in terms of its content;

b) ideal for visionary, creative English, social studies, and music instructors;

c) deliciously tempting for a quiet, idiosyncratic student to explode his brain with; and, of course

d) convenient for me, since at that time I could not afford it.

I included it among that year’s grant purchases, and after greedily unpacking it, James and I marveled at its design, and the serious TLC put into it by the label’s astounding husband-and-wife founders, Lance and April Ledbetter (no mere hipsters, they).

Of course, we were very interested in whether or not it would be checked out. Whenever our grant goodies came in, I would always send out an all-school email highlighting the new selections, and I bent over backwards to make sure everyone saw we offered Goodbye, Babylon. I am sure James may have monitored its usage; I chose not to check because I didn’t want to see corrected my possible delusion that it was being fully exploited for ultimate edumacational gain.

I retired in 2013, but continued teaching at Hickman part-time until the spring of 2015, when the need for old-fart hangers-on apparently evaporated. I’d packed up nearly everything that evidenced my 20 years of existence at the school, when a not entirely selfless idea occurred to me: you best go check if anyone ever checked out that box. It’s called accountability, folks.

I swung by the media center to have James do a records search. Turns out the set didn’t exactly fly out from behind the counter. We made a deal: we would share custody of the child, with me taking possession of the actual artifact with the understanding that, should a student or teacher request it–it’s still linked in the database and bar-coded–I would promptly fork it back over. Since my other retirement gift from the school system, back in 2013, was an analog clock that looked exactly like a tombstone–very thoughtful for a retiring teacher who spent much of his work life keeping one eye on a clock on the back wall, don’t you think?–I considered Goodbye, Babylon the real token of the district’s esteem for my 25 years of sweat. I know: you want to see the clock, right?


It really needed to be engraved, “It tolls for thee.”

Short-shrift Division:

I just can’t shake the reflex of needing to buy a CD. One reason is the rush of those glory days when you could pull off the highway into an outlet mall and find some last-legs record store that was overflowing with cut-outs–like these:


$5 each, sealed, not even a slice outta them–maybe they weren’t even really cut-outs. Most important, though, is: have you heard the Stanley Brothers’ Starday recordings? Your ears may be better than mine, but explosion of bluegrass classics that there issued forth (“Rank Strangers,” “How Mountain Girls Can Love,” “Stone Walls and Steel Bars,” “Shackles and Chains,” “My Main Trial is Yet to Come,” “The Darkest Hour is Just Before dawn,” “Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown”–that ain’t nearly all), plus the clarity and simplicity of the performances and production are stunning, silencing, and sublime. I listened to ’em lined up Saturday and was a changed man after. These four discs are probably running pretty cheap on Discogs right now, and they don’t even comprise the group’s complete Starday recordings. If you’ve heard George Jones’ Stardays, these easily rival those. And that, my friends, is no paltry statement, especially coming from me.

S’posed to be “short shrift,” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug Bloodshot’s brand-spanking-new duet album by Robbie Fulks and the great yet still unsung Linda Gail Lewis, Jerry Lee’s wildcat sis who though a septuagenarian still has plenty in her tank. The album isn’t quite as wild as the cover advertises, and a few ol’ country tropes aren’t twisted quite imaginatively enough for my liking, but Fulks delivers (as usual) some sharp ones, especially the very Fulksian “Till Death,” and Linda Gail really digs into two old-timers, her brother’s gospel fave “On the Jericho Road” and the timeless “Your Red Wagon.” Musically, it’s damned sharp, with the great Redd Volkeart on guitar and Alex Hall on crisp drums and twiddling knobs. Plus: didja know Ms. Lewis can roll those 88s? She had a good teacher. Further evidence of that is found in her raw and ribald memoir, Me, The Devil, and Jerry Lee. She was too much a Southern Christian to have sex before marriage, but she was too horny to wait to get married…and that’s just within the first 10-15 pages. Style: “Jerry Lee is not a candy-ass” is a typical sentence. Avoid candy-assness yourself and take a flyer on a very entertaining tome.

Let’s Not Be L7! (Fri-Sun, August 3-5, Columbia and Springfield, MO)

We’re living it up a bit before “summer” ends, so I’ve been quiet here. In sum:


Drove around Columbia Friday morning running errands and hanging out, and repeat-played this song that we both love as much as a song can be loved.

I have a story about it. I bought it as a cassingle prior to the album coming out, right at the point where I’d gotten dumped by a woman my relationship with whom I more or less willed into being, who I knew liked me but didn’t like me, who more or less humiliated me one evening over a wine error (I don’t even really like the shit), and who clearly wasn’t my type to begin with. BUT I was impatient with my relationship success as my thirties were approaching, and I was a touch desperate. She lowered the boom on me at a fuckin’ laundromat, then showed up the same night at the one party at which I was fairly sure she wouldn’t possibly appear on the arm of her boss (Gross! Dating your boss is for losers!). I drank myself into a stupor, then existed within a dark cloud of doom for a week or so. Even though I really knew she was no great loss.

OK, so for every one of those days, I kept the cassingle on repeat-play in my car. Every day, to and from work, the record store, and the bar (Holy Trinity at that point), this song was blasting. The music? RADICAL. Frightening, in its way–note how that main riff just won’t resolve. Surprising, too (was that a one-note sample from Stevie Ray Vaughan playing on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”? Flav merging Tattoo into Scarface?). ENERGIZING, for certain–it creates an aural scenario that seems to propel one into acting on some life-or-death imperative. And…the rapping? Chuck D climbed into my Top 5 MCs pantheon on the strength of this performance, and I already loved him. “I got so much trouble on my mind! / Refuse to lose!” he proclaims, and that by itself was a mantra that got me through many of those days and into a positive perspective in front of my classrooms (I was teaching five classes of ninth graders!). Not just any MC could ride those rhythms and disruptions! Yessireebob, he made some eye-raising statements in that song that I wasn’t comfortable with, but, hey, it’s a free country, he didn’t exempt much of anyone from responsibility for our (still intact) Terrordome, and his critics tended to overlook his moments of tenderness (yes) and compassion (yes). “….[N]othing worse / Than a mother’s pain for a son / Slain in Bensonhurst!”? “God bless your soul and keep livin’!“? Add on to all of that the thick, exciting scratches of Terminator X and the dense mix of samples that could not be recreated for sale today by Jeff Bezos, and, well, it’s no wonder I could (and still can) listen to it on a loop.

Funny thing is, the woman I was cruising around with listening to it repeatedly Friday morning was the one whose arms I ended up rebounding into–she loves the song almost as much as I do. Thanks to Chuck–still fightin’–and PE, and thanks to Nicole, my life-long soul mate.


Saturday we were stompin’ on our old grounds (the original “Terrordome” for me, now that I mention it) in Springfield, Missouri, on hand to meet up with fond ol’ friends and celebrate our great pal Jill’s birthday. She likes party buses, we like party buses, so we party-bused around The Queen City. We visited Tropical Liqueurs for some frozen dranks, we paused at her future gravesite (she and we are fans of perspective–it helps you get the most out of life), we put our heads together at a hidden lakeside, we sprawled out en masse at the Rail Haven Route 66 Motel, where Jill’d rented a room for her stay and where the young Elvis actually once slept (pause for a pic)–

Elvis 'Otel

–and we landed at The Dugout (formerly The Twilight), our favorite Springfield dive (where I used to meet a favorite English prof and my classmates for pitchers, lit discussion and wisdom dissemination when I was a mere undergrad).

But. But. One of my favorite moments of the whole evening was, well, breaking a rule. It was clearly posted up by the front of the bus: “No swinging on the poles.” Another rule that I didn’t make but which has often seemed to swirl around my brain since I became middle-aged is “Thou shalt not dance anymore.” Well, Jill–are you starting to see how heroic she is? I hope so–is an excellent DJ. She plugged her phone into the bus sound system and just You-Tubed up some tracks, which built us up to such a frenzy that, fueled by Budweiser and a Sex on The Beach snuck in there, I had to jump up, grip the pole two-handed and begin boogieing to her inspired choices. And yelling the lyrics (I’m sorry, Jill!)! Is it untoward for a 56-year-old man to be acting thus? It probably was, but it must be admitted I was joined on the pole by at least two other partygoers! If you find yourself turning away from this tableau, please first reckon with the trio of tracks that moved us off our duffs:

And the blower-off-the-topper…

You play those three in a row sober and see if you can stay put! I bet you’re UP right now if you played them! And wasn’t that last little tune prophetic? I can’t help celebrating it every time I hear it.


A somewhat bleary state of being met us as we arose Sunday morning. Even when we find ourselves up pushing the dawn, we usually awaken right on the other side of it. Nicole arose temporarily; I am seldom ever able to go back to sleep once I awaken. I sat down under a lamp in the corner of the room, cracked a book (Issac J. Bailey’s sad and revelatory My Brother Moochie, if you’re curious), and put in some headphones to listen to a new purchase. Simply put, it’s the best free jazz record I’ve heard this year, and there have been some gooduns (including one by the main man here). It’s out of Portugal, which has an amazing scene, and you should give it a whirl. It’s mos def not a dialogue of the deaf; this band listens and responds in sensitive and creative and sometimes visionary fashion. The driving force, that main man, is Rodrigo Amado–remember the name. He’s been around, but in another way, he’s just getting started:


What goes up must come down, but the comedown was euphonious–that should always be a Sunday goal, shouldn’t it? When we returned to Columbia, we had to scramble to an event we’d bought tickets for somewhat optimistically, but also under the influence of our wise and cosmopolitan friend Jackie. Columbia’s “We Always Swing” Jazz Series is a near quarter-century-old blessing on our town that, through the hard work of Jon Poses and his staff, brings some of the finest musicians to us to hear. Sunday night was the 2018-2019 kickoff event, a three-set performance by local heroes the Columbia Jazz Orchestra. Sounds very neat for a final night of the week, eh?

Well, a clear sky, a 101-degree early evening, and a bit-too-posh-for-us rooftop venue initially discouraged me. I muttered, “We could call it a donation.” However, Nicole rallied me and I’m glad she did. We got to hang out with Jackie, her mischievously-witted and historic husband John, our old friend Brent, and his wife, the drinks were nice, and the band played rowdily but splendidly, with selections from Thundercat (“Them Changes”) to Ellington (“Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” and they ain’t).

Columbia Jazz Orchestra

I’ve reached a conclusion. On New Year’s Day, I vowed to post an entry here every day. Not so difficult, because I listen to music every day. But, folks, when you’re really living it’s sometimes hard to squeeze in some huntin’ and peckin’–and, admittedly, some days I’ve somewhat forced these entries. So…if you’re keeping score at all…I’m going to post when I can. I will strive to every day. It’s not like millions are hanging on my every word, but I enjoy it, it’s good for me, I’m goal-oriented–and maybe a couple of you do look for me to chime in daily. But I’m gonna live first!

(Note: realize that final sentence is written as an urging to myself, not as a command to you. I’m sure you all are doing fine.)

A Book, A Movie, A Record, A Pal (August 2nd, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Finally finished Britt Hagarty’s Gene Vincent bio The Day the World Turned Blue. It is out of print, a tad scarce, and can be pricey, but on a friend’s enthusiastic recommendation I tracked it down. I don’t regret it. Hagarty’s strategy was to research, interview, and clip articles in order to construct a four-square chronology while tracking Vincent’s personal, professional and painfully physical rise and fall, and that strategy succeeds if you are after the facts. There’s little analysis here (though I’m not sure there is enough art to justify an extended theorizing), and the author is a dyed-in-the-wool Rocker–Mods, be warned. However, I was kept locked in by Vincent’s twin struggles to develop artistically out of his early rockabilly explosion–he needed guidance, a sounding-board, and some serious push-back (sound familiar?)–and simply to keep moving on a leg that probably should have been amputated in the Fifties. It is unlikely that any major American pop figure endured longer (for Vincent, about 15 years) on stage under such constant pain–which, of course, he killed with not only actual medicine but booze, which likely killed him. Also, I was moved to check Hagarty’s enthusiasm for Vincent’s later performances by heading to YouTube, and had to admit I had unwisely assumed he was washed up at the dawn of the Sixties:

If you’re inclined Vincent’s way (listen to Ian Dury’s “Sweet Gene Vincent for a boost), I recommend it.



I wanted to share Kenny “Klook” Clark’s Pieces of Time record here, as I used the classic drumming team-up with Andrew Cyrille, Don Moye, and Milford Graves to prepare Nicole a little for our venture to check out the Graves documentary Full Mantis. You can hear Pieces of Time on Apple Music. However, I was trying to find the above collaboration between Graves and the late, great Don Pullen as my favorite example for her to dig, but I forgot I didn’t own it and didn’t think to look on YouTube (???). Anyhow, most definitely check that out–if you wanna buy a copy you better take a hammer to the piggy bank.


As for the Graves film? If you either a) love freely improvised music, b) are hungry for a daring music documentary, or c) want your mind expanded, as my friend John, a man who’s heard seven decades of music, said to me after we finished watching it, it’s a must. Simple as that. It’s all Graves, all the time–he’s the only talker, and never only in head form–and if you’ve heard him drum, you’ll know that’s a good thing. It’s got plenty of amazing music, dance, horticulture, science (one of the highlights, for me), martial arts, sculpture, medicine, history, and a couple great stories (including one brief one that explains the film’s perfect title). It’s structured, paced, and cut as if to a Graves improv. I’ll stop there, and only add that you should try to be at your sharpest if you partake. It does make fair and bountiful demands of the viewer.


I’d be remiss if I left out of the day proceedings the hour I spent with my good friend Donnie Harden Jr., seen above jamming on a Terry Lewis bassline. I met Donnie when he was a student and I was a teacher at Hickman High School. We hit it off immediately and instantly go into music geek mode when we see each other. I hadn’t seen him for awhile, and I’d grabbed him some Prince guitar picks when we were at Paisley Park last week. Also, I was giving him my vinyl of The Time and Ice Cream Castles, plus a spare CD copy of Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages (Donnie’s a Hendrix and Mitchell nut, and he needs to meet Sharrock and Elvin!) and a loaner of the DVD for Standing in the Shadows of Motown–we talk about James Jamerson all the time. So I loaded all that up, grabbed us some KFC chicken tenders for lunch, and dropped by for a gab session. Sample topics: Does Terry Lewis rank? What’s the best Hendrix band? How can you tell who is playing what on P-Funk and Motown records? Why do I hate Jack White so much? Is all the vaulted Prince stuff that’s surely coming out going to be any good? How’d George Clinton get from doo-wop to Free Your Ass? Don’t your music friendships proceed the same way? I hope so. I’m going back over to continue our rap, because he always teaches me something!

What’s Within Arm’s Reach (August 1st, Columbia, MO)

You try to keep your eyes and ears off the news, but somehow it oozes out anyhow. I had to apply salve quickly, without much thinking. Lizard-brain motion.

The Best of The Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975

Could be the House favorite. I take meticulous care of CDs and this is scuffed in spite of that. Nutso yet deeply moving originals, often about dislocation and divided self (“Texas Me”). Norteño-flavored dance rave-ups (“Michoacan”). Flat-out rockers (“I’m Not That Kat Anymore”). Pleading, soulful ballads (“Be Real”). Texas blues shuffles–and I mean ace shuffles (“Papa Ain’t Salty”)–and even not-so-bad stabs at harnessing free jazz to psychedelia (“Song of Everything”). Is that all? Noop! Can you name someone else who could comfortably and solidly cover the ground of the following: Ink Spots, T-Bone Walker, Charley Pride, Freddie Fender, and Cajun swing? Maybe, but it’ll take awhile. Doug was a Swiss Army Knife American musician, and they don’t make that stuff no more.

Caetano Veloso: A Foreign Sound

Well, OK, it didn’t take me long. On this epic journey to wrestle every crease in the American songbook into some bossa nova or samba or (very gingerly) Tropicalia, the daring and heroic Brazilian icon visits not just Dylan and Talking Heads, but also Nirvana and DNA (talk about creases!). Also, and it’s not as sappy as you’d figure with the lilt Veloso applies to them, Paul Anka and Morris Albert and greeting-card Stevie Wonder. AND I can’t leave out a Murderer’s Row of Tin Pan Alley classics. Is the result anything more than being impressed by his flexibility and interpretive intelligence? You might get laid. How’s that grab ya?

Sabu Martinez: Afro-Temple

After the above calmed me down and graced me with a groove (about the news–8/1/18–remember), I needed to get fired up again, and what better than this fiery polemics-and-percussion assault by this great but somewhat forgotten Cuban musician? Cut in ’73, might just as well been yesterday. Bring on the day, darkly as it may sing…

Short-shrift Division:

I love Del. His classic “If You Must” has been on repeat play in Nicole’s jalopy, and I broke this out to revisit it after many years. His mind, his sense of humor, his sneakily sinuous flow, his way with subtly eccentric beats: he’s like the blerd in AP lit who knocked out the loudmouth jock with a sudden left-right combo. All of which led me to this exhilarating KEXP appearance with Dan the Automator on conducting wand and Kid Koala on instant-ID tables. Not something you’ll see every day:

Pop Music Pig-Out: My Favorite Listens of 2018, Seven Months In

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I was on the road half of July and not able to search the nooks and crannies of the many music scenes making life bearable in this world where humans are supposedly safer, better educated, and healthier than they’ve ever been–I’m a science advocate, but in this revelation I’m a bit insecure. Still, 15 new records added to my list of gooduns, and five records added to my list of stellar reissues. Making waves on my chart, which is a bit loosely ordered but starting to reflect my feelings about the quality and durability of its contents:

  • Kid Cudi and —–‘s project Kids See Ghosts, which excites me sonically almost every track–and very much against my will (my former Hickman High School Hip Hop Club members, should any of them read this, will be ROTFLOLing at this fact, as I scoffed at their Cudi-philism constantly–they would vaunt nothing else–during our single year of existence).
  • The great West Coast punk veteran Alice Bag, whose (relatively) old memoir may be adding value to her new record.
  • Subtle Degrees’ intense and madly repetitive A Dance That Empties, a jazz assault that has made my heart race pleasantly every listen.
  • The ageless diva Elza Soares–calling her a Brazilian Tina Turner doesn’t even do her justice, and the music behind her will challenge and delight your ear.
  • Freddie Gibbs’ Freddie. I’ve not been moved by Mr. Gibbs in the past–despite the hype and the decent beats, he’s a hip hop boor to the max–but his dedicated to keeping it brief and his flow makes me forgive the rip-off/homage to Teddy.
  • The Internet’s Hive Mind: If I weren’t feeling a bit emotionally naked at present, and trusted my instincts more, this subtle, grooveful, encouraging, and seductively muted gem may have already invaded my Top 5. Syd’s a persuasive and beguiling sprite, but Steve Lacy just might be a Curtis Mayfield for the 21st century. Just might.

Anyhow, here’s my update, with stuff having moved up and down in my esteem, such as that is. In bold are the records I’ve really, really tested and tried to order, but goddam it, Heraclitus is laughing at me as I struggle:

  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart
  3. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  4. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldier: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  5. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  6. Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer
  7. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  8. JD Allen: Love Stone
  9. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  10. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  11. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  12. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  13. The Internet: Hive Mind
  14. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  15. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
  16. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  17. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  18. Sidi Toure: Toubalbero
  19. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  20. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  21. Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz
  22. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher
  23. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  24. Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
  25. Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories
  26. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  27. Nidia: Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida
  28. Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties
  29. Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts
  30. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  31. Wynton Marsalis & Friends: United We Swing–Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas
  32. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  33. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs
  34. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  35. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  36. Bombino: Deran
  37. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: An Angel Fell
  38. Pusha T: Daytona
  39. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  40. Sarayah: Feel the Vibe
  41. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  42. Tierra Whack: Whack World
  43. Lori McKenna: The Tree
  44. Nas: Nasir
  45. Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse
  46. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
  47. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  48. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  49. Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited
  50. Angelika Niescier: The Berlin Concert
  51. Beats Antique: Shadowbox
  52. Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)
  53. Charge It to The Game: House with a Pool
  54. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  55. Anelis Assumpcão: Taurina
  56. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  57. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  58. Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar meets Elite Beat In a Budget Dancehall
  59. Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing
  60. Wussy: What Heaven is Like
  61. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  62. Freddie Gibbs: Freddie
  63. Kamasi Washington: Heaven & Earth
  64. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  65. Shopping: The Official Body
  66. Young Mothers: Morose
  67. The Thing: Again
  68. Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass
  69. Ebo Taylor: Yen Ara
  70. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  71. David Murray (featuring Saul Williams): Blues for Memo
  72. Shame: Songs of Praise
  73. Low Cut Connie: Dirty Pictures, Pt. 2
  74. Henry Threadgill: Dirt..and More Dirt
  75. Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens
  76. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  77. The Coup: Soundtrack to the Film Sorry to Bother You
  78. Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco: You’re Driving Me Crazy
  79. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  80. Marc Sinan & Oğuz Büyükberber: White
  81. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  82. Deaf Wish: Lithium Zion
  83. Jay Rock: Redemption
  84. MC Paul Barman: Echo Chamber
  85. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn: Octopus
  86. Tal National: Tantabara
  87. Wilko Johnson: Blow Your Mind
  88. Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): History of Nothing
  89. Tony Molina: Kill the Lights
  90. Rich Krueger: Life Ain’t That Long
  91. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  92. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  93. Silvana Estrada: Lo Sagrado
  94. Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil
  95. Big Freedia: Third Ward Bounce
  96. Tallawit Timbouctou: Takamba WhatsApp 2018
  97. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  98. Busdriver: Electricity Is On Our Side
  99. Daniel Carter: Seraphic Light
  100. Dr. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag
  101. Migos: Culture II
  102. 03 Greedo: God Level
  103. Angélique Kidjo: Remain in Light
  104. Parliament: Medicaid Fraud Dogg
  105. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  106. The Carters: Everything is Love
  107. The Del McCoury Band: Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass
  108. Superorganism: Superorganism
  109. Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet: Landfall
  110. Sleep: The Sciences
  111. Teyana Taylor: K.T.S.E.
  112. Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyio
  113. The English Beat: Here We Go Love
  114. Various Artists: I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats
  115. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  116. Santigold: I Don’t Want—The Gold Fire Sessions


  1. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  2. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  3. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  4. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  5. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  6. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  7. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  8. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  9. Various Artists: Outlaws and Armadilloes
  10. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  11. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  12. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  13. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  14. Kuniyuki Takahashi: Early Tape Works 1986 – 1993 Volume 1
  15. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie
  16. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  17. Wussy: Getting Better
  18. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  19. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  20. The Beginning of the End: Funky Nassau

What a Guy! (July 30, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Nicole and I simply celebrated the great Buddy Guy’s 82nd birthday by pulling three of his nicest CDs and grooving through the afternoon (she was working on school tasks-it’s in the offing-and I was working on a novel by the great Mississippi writer Larry Brown (Joe – I’m gonna have to check out the film adaptation). Buddy, by the way, is a Louisianan by birth.

Vanguard’s A Man and the Blues has an oddly quiet vibe. I’m not sure if it’s the mix or the playing, but the effect is actually pleasurable. Guy plays precisely and thoughtfully (head-down, locked-in style), and even the rock cover and the instros, never my favorite Buddy modes, are inspired. He’s also got the great Otis Spann riding shotgun and also playing with great subtlety. My faves are the title track, “One Room Country Shack,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Guy’s in wilder, faster gunslingin’ mode on Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues – might it be the presence of Slowhand on guit and behind the board (technically) on eight songs? It also helps that Wells, one of his favorite running buddies, is on hand, handling most of the vocals and harp, of course. Funny thing: maybe I don’t get out much, but I think Guy’s a very underappreciated vocalist, in fact, a better singer than Wells, who often sounds like he’s trying too hard to me. Patched together from two sessions (in ’70 and ’72), with Dr. John and The J. Geils Band also on hand but understanding their place.

Sweet Tea is kind of amusing: it’s catnip for the blues fan who wishes those Fat Possum records were more steady, as well as for those who wish Buddy would put a serrated edge on a record once in awhile. I’m in the latter category, and I also prefer Guy just cuttin’ the fuck loose – which is why I’m always quick to reach for it (the perfect other bookend, in this case). In case anyone hasn’t been convinced the man is a class act, he picks seven fine Fat Possum artist copyrights (courtesy Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, Robert Cage and Cedell Davis) and even employs Ford’s infamous drummer Spam for the session. It doesn’t replace the originals, folks–it’s a loving, respectful homage to that label’s aesthetic.

Short-shrift Division:

Erroll Garner: Nightconcert – Newly-unearthed mid-Sixties live recording with Garner jubilantly and mischievously dancing across 16 standards. Not as rapturous as Concert by The Sea – but, goddam, that’s a tall order. (I can’t confirm that the above clip is from the same show, but it’s the same vintage.)

Hermeto Pascoal: Cérebro Magnético – Who is this guy? I can’t quit listening long enough to do a little research beyond that he’s Brazilian and he’s a brave experimenter.

Back In The Game (July 25-29, Columbia, MO)

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After a half-month vacation and a little reorientation, I’ve been digging into records with a passion.

Mulatu Astatke and The Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1-2–Early Mulatu, minus misterioso sax and his mature stamp, but plus sharp Cuban-flavored attack (mid-Sixties vintage)

Balkan Beat Box: Nu-Med–I miss this band (are they disbanded, I wonder?) and their propulsive, eccentric, surprising rhythms (here, augmented in one case by Delta guitar).

Beats Antique: Shadowbox–This well-named band’s best album end to end, they are well-supported by guests like Preservation Hall, but don’t quite deliver a true banger quite as powerful as “Dope Crunk” (also, consistency be damned, it mighta been even better with about 20 minutes worth of editing).

David Bowie: Santa Monica ’72–After sampling a ’70s Bonnie Raitt radio show (the faucet’s all the way open on these), I jumped at this, and it’s raw and sloppy enough, and the playlist choice enough, to justify a recommendation, especially if you do find Dave’s early ’70s productions too skinny.

Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil–I tend to like my Brazilian music nuttier (see below), but this tribute to composer Egberto Gismonti’s music, described by jazz scribe Dan Bilawsky as “a sui generis form of fantasia that proves evocative in its blending of Brazilian forms,” is bright and effervescent enough to steamroller that prejudice (also, GO RESONANCE RECORDS!).

Booker Ervin: “Tex”book Tenor–Ervin’s a brawny and smart ’60s hornman you may have overlooked, and he’s on his game here, assisted ably by Billy Higgins, Woody Shaw, and Kenny Barron, the latter two of whom chip in great tunes. The Blue Note catalog is so dang deep that it’s full of minor classics like this that get a bit of shade.

Etoile de Dakar (featuring Youssou N’Dour): Once Upon a Time in Senegal–The Birth of Mbalax 1979-1981–Look at those dates. The greatest band on the planet? The Clash? The Talking Heads? Maybe–maybe not. This band jumped hella sturdy and cut like a straight razor, with a teenager who already was one of the most distinctive vocalists on the planet. All the great stuff from their early prime is here.

Monsieur Jeffrey Evans & Ross Johnson: “Caldonia” / “Cottonfields”–Evans, formerly of ’68 Comeback and The Gibson Brothers, and Johnson, formerly of Earth about, oh, 40 years ago, continue waging their war to keep Memphis weird. They go 1-for-2 here, with “Cottonfields” an embarrassment except for Johnson’s intro–he has a way of snatching entertainment from the jaws of a flop. Look for their previous full-length, which does work, and features this truly weird semi-classic.

Freddie Gibbs: Freddie–Dude’s done nothing to convince me until now–a decently skilled boor–and the rip-off/tribute to the album cover of one of my teen essentials didn’t do him any favors. Still–somehow he got me on this one. Nine of 10 tracks are under three minutes long–what is this, rap Ramones?–so maybe he’s figured out when to hit the door. And, honestly, seldom have such complete MCs skills been laid (!) upon that trap skitter.

The Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds from Rikers Island–Hope, with Sonny Clark, is one of those great hard bop (maybe?) pianists every jazz explorer needs to know but might not, due to their more illustrious peers (and due to their premature deaths at the hands of drugs). This one is special, not only because Hope had Arkestra stalwarts Ronnie Boykins and John Gilmore plus favorite drummer Philly Joe Jones (who really shines) on hand, but also? Any chance to hear Gilmore outside the Arkestra is worth a leaning forward.

Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller–And plays him into a Bosendorfer reproducing piano! That’s right! Supposedly this process results in recordings closer to the sound at the moment of playing than any other machine can manufacture. Whether that claim still holds true, Hyman is a wizard, Walleriana is one of his great loves, and both facts are luminously proven here.

Abdullah Ibrahim: Yarona and Abdullah Ibrahim and Johnny Dyani: Echoes from Africa–You can listen to these albums in the middle of the night, and they (especially the latter) will sound as if the sun is coming up on a long-awaited morning.

The Internet: Hive Mind–My favorite groove album of the year, a groove so seductive you might miss some very wise words. I love these kids–seems like so much young talent is flowing from the ground that they might indeed save us…

Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): This is Our Language and The Lisbon Improvisational Players: Spiritualized–Amado is perhaps the best known Portuguese free jazz player in the world, he’s got a great new record out, and when he’s paired with the Merlinesque McPhee or like-minded Lisbonites, the attentive listener is going to be taken somewhere worthy. My current obsession–if only I could hear this music live in mid-Misery!

Lori McKenna: The Tree–There’s so much music out there that this fine songwriter’s been around for over a decade and I’ve just recently heard of her–and I’m supposed to know something about this stuff. Thing is, I checked her new one out based on her writing rep (and she’s sharp), but I came away in love with her singing. The above song and “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone” you can play for your folks and put a hook in their lip.

Jay McShann (with Claude “Fiddler” Williams): The Man from Muskogee and Claude “Fiddler” Williams: Swingin’ the Blues–Reading around in some old reference books (it’s what I do for fun), I came to the realization that Nicole and I had in fact seen a member of the original Basie band play live! Fiddler Williams (he also guitar-slung) was only with Basie for a blink–he also was with Andy Kirk’s famous orchestra–but had a very quite career until a mid-’70s resurgence that lasted (as Williams did) another twenty years. His high, keening swing–he almost drawls across the strings–is irresistible, and if you just wanna sit back and be transported like they used to was, these records will do the trick. His accomplices, especially McShann and the late, great Henry Butler (on the latter record), are exquisitely skilled as well.

Leon Parker: Belief–The percussion textures on this album are mood-enhancing; it always clears and cleans my mind, somehow. Some great horn and sneaky blues on hand, too.

Hermeto Pascoal: Slaves Mass–Multi-instrumentalist Pascoal recorded this swirling, dizzying, often intimidating salvo of Brazilian sound in 1977–I don’t really know that it fits any genre, though imbibers of jazz, international, progressive, and outsider music are fairly sure to be held in thrall. Didn’t arrive on CD until 2005; I just heard of it three days courtesy of a New Orleans friend who Dropboxed it to me. Mad, magical music.

Esther Phillips: Jazz Moods–Hot–Dinah Washington’s greatest acolyte seldom (some would say never) made a great album, and this has its wince-inducing moments. I don’t think “What A Diff’rence a Day Makes” was meant to be discofied, at least not like it’s done here. But she always had a way of startlingly covering the unexpected, from the likes of The Beatles, Van Morrison, and Charlie Rich. On this comp, the above Gil Scott-Heron interpretation at least matches the original, she risks disaster in trying to convince us that someone other than Bill Withers needed to record “Use Me” and survives, and she blows Joe Cocker out of the water on “Black-Eyed Blues.” Someone needs to get motivated and give us the ultimate Phillips box…oh wait, you can just make your own.

Sam Rivers: Contrasts–Rivers, joined by bassist Dave Holland, trombonist George Lewis, and the very underrated percussionist Thurman Barker (the latter two AACM masters), plays seven original compositions that miraculously and vividly illustrate their single-word titles: “Circles,” “Zip,” “Solace,” “Verve,” “Dazzle,” “Images,” “Lines.” Aside from those variances, the band plays arrangements, near-total improvisations, hard-bop, tone-poetry–it’s really a stunning record that benefits from, as one reviewer noted, not being a stereotypically gauzy ECM release.

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: 1984/08/20–East Rutherford, New Jersey–I am not nearly enraptured by Springsteen as I was at 15, and at 22–he just tries too damn hard, and anymore his singing and material grinds me. But for some reason (I forget the trigger) I started scouting for a live ’84 show that might possibly improve on, or at least provide an interesting contrast to, Born in the USA, which I just can’t listen to sometimes because of the production. Went to the ol’ codger’s website and checked this out, which was, in fact, just what I was looking for: a good mix of new and old, some neat surprises (like the above Dobie Gray cover), and…I always listen for a stellar version of “Badlands,” which this has.

Clark Terry (with Thelonious Monk): In Orbit–Ordinarily, if on a record you heard that Monk mostly stayed out of the way, you might not want to listen to it. But in this case you’d be wrong. Monk comps respectfully around the winsome and witty flugeling of a musician I’m sure he already considered a master. And the winsomeness and the wit are probably the reason. Lest any Monkophile be disappointed, he breaks out, with Terry returning the favor of respect, on his own “Let’s Cool One.” A very warm (there’s another “w”) and swinging session.

Tom Waits: Round Midnight–The Minneapolis Broadcast 1975–Still sampling from this burgeoning stream of “bootleg” radio shows, I was bound to reel in a dog. While I am an admirer of Nighthawks at the Diner, this performance, especially the grating opener, a a big, fat, unfunny, bombing “Emotional Weather Report,” reminded me once again how much sheer bullshit has been part of Tom’s schtick. I’m sure my repulsion’s just a temporary thing, though.