Early in the Morning (May 6th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Recently, I began plotting a scheme by which we could get music into the air earlier in the morning. We keep farmer’s hours–up usually at 4:45ish–and come into consciousness by reading the news or whatever books we have going. It’s not the hour for Captain Beefheart or Charles Gayle, and I prefer not to get up, start picking through the crates and shelves, and fuss with the turntable or changer until after about 8–but some music would be nice. My brother’d given me a neat little Bluetooth speaker for Christmas, I’d snagged a cheap 16g mp3 player after an iPod died, so why not load some dawn-appropriate tunes onto the dang thing? I asked Nicole what she might like to hear, and with stunning quickness and specificity she replied, “Blues-oriented stuff, nothin’ past ’45.” Well, OK then!

It occurred to me instantly what to do. Do you know Allen Lowe? Besides being a terrific saxophonist, guitarist, and composer, Mr. Lowe is a tireless thinker about American music, a man averse to easy truths about its history and determined to constantly revise his own understanding, which is considerable. His book American Pop: From Minstrels to Mojos (1893-1946) is required (and cantankerous) reading for music buffs, and after its publication, Lowe released an equally essential nine-CD companion volume to the book in 1998. The set begins with 1893’s “Mama’s Black Baby Boy” by the Unique Quartette and closes 214 tracks later with Lennie Tristano’s 1946 take on “What is This Thing Called Love?” It’s a great way to hear our music’s beginnings, with blues, pop, jazz, gospel, country, and their variants and hybrids proceeding chronologically but lying side by side. The juxtapositions can be revelatory.

14 years later, Lowe released another musical companion to one of his publications, the perfectly-titled “Really The Blues? (1893-1959); this time, the set stretched across 36 CDs, with little overlap of the previous set and many inclusions that took even aficionados by surprise. Upon having received this treasure chest in the mail, I played all the 36 discs consecutively, across several days, with consistent delight. I remember Nicole hollering from the living room, “Hey, this stuff is fantastic–I haven’t heard very much of it! What is it?”

Wait, you are saying, did you do what I think you did?

Yeah.

I transferred all 45 discs to the mp3 player, set the fucker on “shuffle”…and that oughtta get us to 2019, doncha think? This morning brought us, oh, Charles Ives, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Stan Kenton, Jelly Roll Morton, Mary Ann McCall, Maynard Ferguson (yeah, that’s right!), James P. Johnson, Eddie Jefferson, and Mel Brown. A great start to the day, one must admit. Lowe’s curatorial imagination and dedication deserves a channel into all our homes.

Short-shrift Division:

Return road-trip selections.

Good to My Earhole, February 5 – February 14:Walking the Negro Streets at Dawn

Highlights of my last week’s listenin’, in the truck cab and elsewhere, rated on a spin-the-bottle 10-point scale (w/a special touch). Also, I am deliberately diggin’ out dustbin doozies; please recall the Roger Price maxim, “If everyone doesn’t want it, nobody gets it!”:

ARE YOU FROM DIXIE: GREAT COUNTRY BROTHER TEAMS OF THE 1930S – 15 – Having trouble finding your way into old-timey music, seekers? Do it like I accidentally did 28 years ago, and dig up this can’t-stop-won’t-stop RCA comp. Across a single disc, the choices meet Harry Smith’s ANTHOLOGY even-up: you jake-walk on bad whiskey, chuckle along with your salty dog, get a line and go fer crawdads, stomp away an intoxicated rat, shoulder a nine-pound hammer, try to get your baby out of jail, and cozy up to someone ELSE from Dixie. It’s magic. Also: it needs a reissue. Extra bait: the Monroe Brothers, playing at punk tempos, inventing bluegrass as they go.

Catheters/STATIC DELUSIONS AND STONE-STILL DAYS – 9 – Best Stooges album since RAW POWER, not sure it’s been topped since its ’02 release, probably because these kids weren’t trying. Critically, only Greil Marcus gave a shit, and he was correct.

Julius Hemphill/JULIUS HEMPHILL PLAYS THE MUSIC OF ALLEN LOWE – 8.8 – I have sung the praises of Allen Lowe here multiple times, and if I ain’t convinced you yet, let the long-gone-but-not-forgotten sax master and arranging ace Mr. Hemphill do the honors. The record saunters through more rhythmic moves than has a cat on an easy chair (stole that from Roy Blount, Jr.), and closes up shop with the funky, greasy “Sleepless,” which justifies its title. (Note: there’s no tracks available via YouTube, so enjoy Hemphill’s amazing DOGON A. D. as a teaser. AND: grab the release from Bandcamp here, cheap!)

Mudboy and the Neutrons/NEGRO STREETS AT DAWN – 8.7 – Few but the likes of ‪#‎JimDickinson‬ (“The Pope of ‪#‎Memphis‬ Music”) could get away with the title reference/conceit, because he could put together the players. Chuck Berry-nugget opener, Sid Selvidge-crooned Southern stroke, surrender to capitalism loaded with subversive sermon lead off–sometimes I think they coulda topped ZZ Top if they’d cared.

Shaver/TRAMP ON YOUR STREET – 8.5 – Natural-born honky-tonk chronicler with hot-shit guitarist son as sidekick–some might call it schtick, but it’s by-God real. “Old Chunk of Coal,” “The Hottest Thing In Town,” and “Georgia on a Fast Train” are already playing a floor below Leonard Cohen’s in The Tower of Song. And closer to the ground floor is better.

Sun Ra/LANQUIDITY – 9 – Already in possession of 20+ “Sun One” records, I thought I’d heard all I needed. This late ’70s release almost goes disco–almost–without compromising the vision that kept a team of jazz aces together through five decades. Blaxploitation music with a more exalted vision–I dunno: YOU listen and YOU describe it. You will be better for it, whatever the outcome.

Allen Lowe’s New Adventures In the Diaspora of the Diaspora

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This post is dedicated to the very recent work of Allen Lowe, not only one of the most ambitious, prolific, and interesting jazz composers alive but also a talented saxophonist, an essential author for anyone wanting to deeply understand this country’s music, and a musicologist who can compile a 36-disc about the flexibility and mischievousness of the blues that, at this late date, is full of surprises, no matter how well-versed the listener is. Among musicians, only Swamp Dogg, Charles Mingus, and early Bob Dylan are his peers in piquantly and entertainingly writing one’s own liner notes. He toils away in the state of Maine, pursuing the “everlasting beauty of monotony” (Benjamin Britten) and–successfully, I would argue–pushing his work to speak in new ways about who we are. If that sounds complicated, it is, a little, but it doesn’t violate the law of diminishing returns, I assure you. He has recently released five new records that deserve praise; since, according to Roger Price’s Law, “if everyone doesn’t want it, nobody gets it,” the best way to grab ’em is to contact Allen directly at allenlowe5@gmail.com about the ones you’re interested in, or browse to http://www.allenlowe.com/for-sale/  Keep your eyes peeled for his upcoming Mary Lou Williams Suite, portions of which appear herein. Now, to the reviews, w/accompanying unscientific but deeply-felt ratings out of 10…

Shipp

MATTHEW SHIPP PLAYS THE MUSIC OF ALLEN LOWE – 8.8 – Shipp, who’s made his pianistic bones in more abstract settings (notably with David S. Ware), is movingly earthbound here, often striking veins of dark, complicated romanticism that are, I think, at the heart of Lowe’s work. The composer’s alto will remind you of Dolphy’s angularity and Parker’s headlong expressionism–a pleasingly drier-toned version–and bassist Kevin Ray, who plays on most of these recordings, is a wonder: I seemed to learned more about Lowe’s writing following Ray on my third and fourth listen than from focusing on any other musician.
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From the IN THE DIASPORA OF THE DIASPORA* series :

Bluiett

WE WILL GATHER WHEN WE GATHER – 10 – One of the very best jazz albums of the year, with the baritone of Master Hamiet Bluiett shooting worship and subversion through Lowe’s blues- and gospel-colored compositions. Ava Mendoza’s guitar-skronks, Matt Lavelle‘s skittery trumpet (makes me miss Don Cherry even more–and you should mos def try his Monk record!), and Jake Millet’s turntable scrubs and scratches combine with Bluiett’s inventions to do the most justice to Lowe’s vision of any in the series. Pick to click: the first serious composition–to my knowledge–to honor and mourn the murdered Charleston churchgoers, “Theme for the Nine,” maybe my favorite and definitely my most-played track so far. I wish I could share a track with the ‪#‎CharlestonSyllabus‬ project. There is a way….

Johnson

MAN WITH THE GUITAR: WHERE’S ROBERT JOHNSON? – 9.3 – Electronics and turntables are frequent voices in Lowe’s work, and here DJ Logic and Millett answer the title question: Johnson’s ghost haunts the spaces in our best music, as it certainly does on this record (though you won’t hear Robert sampled, you’ll be excitingly jolted out of your contemplation by flickers of Charley Patton’s rasp). Lowe plays tenor and operates electronics on this recording along with playing alto, and Gary Bartz sounds more alive than he has in years, testifying on alto on “Slave Rebellion,” “Delta Sunset,” and “Blues Forever After.”

Cigarette

WHEN A CIGARETTE IS SMOKED BY TEN MEN – 9 – A showcase for an exciting young clarinetist, Zoe Christiansen, with a nod to Pee Wee Russell, a wry jab at Howard Hunt, and two joyful tracks with desolate titles.

Albert

BALLAD FOR ALBERT – 8.5 – This is essentially a trio record, with Millet’s almost-subliminal murmurings of current providing some disruptive texture. I am not sure which Albert the record’s named for (could be Ayler, but, being a longtime fan, I don’t quite hear it), but I am sure that the ballads are lovely and deep–in fact, Lowe’s ballad playing is a shining thread that runs through all five records. Special shout-out to “Maui Shuffle,” which, like many of Allen’s compositions, can make you think the record’s advanced a track if you leave the room, which I adamantly advise you not to do on these records. Hit the WC ahead of time, grab a drink, get comfortable, and lock in–you will be rewarded.

If you are looking to get more deeply into Lowe’s work, advance directly to his masterpiece, MULATTO RADIO: FIELD RECORDINGS 1-4, one of my very favorite records of 2014–so good I couldn’t write about it, if that makes sense. And explore his earlier work, which, unsurprisingly–ranges across the diaspora of the diaspora.

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*Allen considers all of his work as fitting under this umbrella, which refers to the diaspora cascading out from the original music of the African diaspora–where, in Lowe’s own words (words, I suspect, that have gotten him in Dutch), “tradition becomes both a means of respectful worship and a matter of subversion…”–but these four records are specifically designated as such.

100+ Strong–2015 Fave Raves

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UPDATED December 18

Overeem’s End-of-Year Best-of-2015 

“Guaranteed Interesting” (at least)

Not all of the below are 2015 releases–some were released earlier but are just now breaking the cyber-surface. But the thing is, for those who argue good music is dead (ho-fucking-hum), here’s 121 slabs that have given me pleasure this year. Not all are perfect, but I stand behind this statement: it’s all good. Also, if you’ve looked at the list and are thinking, “Where’s x? What about y?” and it’s not Taylor Swift, I probably haven’t listened to it yet–like you, probably, I follow my nose, and it’s attuned to certain, um, scents. Note: These are in alphabetical order, obviously. The grading scheme is borrowed from master critics Bob Christgau and Tom Hull. The asterisks next to each B+ indicate how close that record is to excellent. Fascinating, isn’t it?  Note 2: See my official Top 20 in meaningful order, plus a list of great reissues, also in order, here.

Rock and Roll and Such

  1. Laurie Anderson: Heart of a Dog (Nonesuch) A-
  2. Aram Bajakian: There Were Flowers Also in Hell(Dalava) A-
  3. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit(Mom & Pop) A
  4. Alex Chilton: Ocean Club ’77(Norton)  B+ (***)
  5. The Close Readers: The Lines Are Open(Austin)  A-
  6. Coneheads:  aka “14 Year Old High School PC–Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $$$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P.”(Erste Theke Tontraeger) A-
  7. Continental Drifters: Drifting—In the Beginning and Beyond(Omnivore) B+
  8. Dead Moon: Live at Satyricon (Voodoo Doughnut) A
  9. Dead Weather: Dodge and Burn(Third Man)  B+ (*)
  10. Drive-By Truckers: It’s Great to Be Alive! (ATO) A
  11. Bob Dylan: 1965-1966–The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series, Volume 12(Sony)  B+ (*)
  12. Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night(Sony)  B+ (***)
  13. Robert Forster: Songs to Play(Tapete)  B+**
  14. Girlpool: Girlpool(Wichita)  A-
  15. Hop Along: Painted Shut(Saddle Creek)  A-
  16. The Horribly Wrong: C’Mon and Bleed…with The Horribly Wrong(Shitcan)  A-
  17. John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life—The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic(Smiling Fez)  A-
  18. John Kruth: Splitsville(Gern Blandsten)  B+ (***)
  19. Jinx Lennon: 30 BEACONS OF LIGHT FOR A LAND FULL OF SPITE THUGS DRUG SLUGS AND ENERGY VAMPIRES(Septic Tiger) B+ (**)
  20. Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts: Manhattan(Rough Trade)  A
  21. Los Lobos: Gates of Gold(429)  A-
  22. Low-Cut Connie: Hi Honey (Ardent) B+ (***)
  23. Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ(Merge) B+ (***)
  24. Natural Child: Live at The End—Freakin’ Weekend V(self-released cassette) B+ (**)
  25. Nots: We Are Nots(Goner)  A-
  26. Obnox: Boogalou Reed(12XU)  B+ (**)
  27. Obnox: Know America(Ever/Never)  B+ (***)
  28. Obnox: Wiglet(Ever/Never)  A-
  29. The Paranoid Style: Rock and Roll Just Can’t Recall (self-released) B+ (***)
  30. Public Image Limited: What the World Needs Now Is… (PiL Official) B+ (**)
  31. Pussy Riot: Kill the Sexist(self-released)  B+ (***)
  32. Reactionaries: 1979(Water Under the Bridge)  B+ (*)
  33. Rocket From the Tombs: Black Record(Fire)  B+ (**)
  34. Boz Scaggs: I’m a Fool to Care(429)  B+ (*)
  35. Ty Segall: Ty Rex(Goner)  B+ (***)
  36. Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love(Sub Pop)  B+ (***)
  37. The Sonics: This is The Sonics(Revox)  B+ (**)
  38. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell(Asthmatic Kitty)  (A-)
  39. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada) (A-)
  40. Richard Thompson: Still(Fantasy)  B+ (*)
  41. Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy(Merge) B+ (*)
  42. Various Artists: Burn, Rubber City, Burn(Soul Jazz)  A-
  43. Various Artists: Ork Records–New York, New York(Numero)  A-
  44. Various Artists: Oxford American Georgia Music Issue CD Companion (OxfordAmerican.org) A-
  45. Various Artists: The Red Line Comp(self-released)  B+ (*)
  46. The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes(Polygram)  A
  47. Viet Cong: Viet Cong(Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar)  B+ (*)
  48. Wreckless Eric: amERICa(Fire)  A-
  49. x_x: Albert Ayler’s Ghosts Live at The Yellow Ghetto(Smog Veil)  A-
  50. Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There(Matador)  B+ (**)

R&B, Soul, and Blues

  1. 79rs Gang: Fire on the Bayou(Sinking City)  A
  2. Erykah Badu: But You Cain’t Use My Phone(self-released)  A-
  3. The Falcons:The World’s First Soul Group—The Complete Recordings (History of Soul) B+ (***)
  4. Kelela: Hallucinogen(Cherry Coffee)  A-
  5. J. D. McPherson: Let the Good Times Roll(Rounder)  B+ (**)
  6. Big Chief Juan Pardo and Golden Comanche: Spirit Food(self-released) B+ (*)
  7. Shamir: Rachet (XL) A-
  8. J. B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World For Me(Dust-To-Digital)  B+ (**)
  9. Pop Staples: Don’t Lose This(Anti-)  B+ (***)
  10. Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It(S.D.E.G.)  B+ (**)
  11. Various Artists: Beale Street Saturday Night(Omnivore)  A-
  12. Various Artists: Blues Images Presents 20 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920s, Volume 13 (BluesImages.com) A-
  13. Leo Welch: I Don’t Prefer No Blues(Fat Possum)  B+ (*)

Rap

  1. Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice(Stones Throw)  A-
  2. Donnie Trumpet & Chance the Rapper: Surf(self-released) B+ (***)
  3. Doomtree: All Hands(Doomtree)  B+ (***)
  4. Future: Monster(self-released)  B+ (***)
  5. Heems: Eat Pray Thug(Megaforce)  A-
  6. Kendrick Lamar: to pimp a butterfly(Aftermath)  A
  7. Lyrics Born: Real People(Mobile Home)  B+ (*)
  8. Paris: Pistol Politics (Guerilla Funk) B+ (***)
  9. Public Enemy: Man Plans, God Laughs(Spitdigital)  B+ (*)
  10. Bobby Rush: Chicken Heads—50 Years (Omnivore) A-
  11. Scarface: Deeply Rooted(Facemob)  B+ (**)
  12. Vince Staples: Summertime ’06(Def Jam)  B+ (***)
  13. Various Artists: Khat Thaleth–Third Line: Initiative for the Elevation of Public Awareness(Stronghold Sound)  A-
  14. Young Fathers: White Men are Black Men Too(Ninja Tune)  B+ (**)
  15. Young Thug: Slime Season 1(self-released)  B+ (*)
  16. Young Thug: Slime Season 2(self-released)  B+ (***)

 Country and Folk

  1. Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods(Flariella)  A-
  2. Kinky Friedman: The Loneliest Man I Ever Met(Avenue A)  B+ (**)
  3. Brian Harnetty: Rawhead and Bloodybones(Dust-To-Digital)  B+ (**)
  4. Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free(Southeastern) B+ (**)
  5. Jerry McGill: AKA Jerry McGill(Fat Possum) A-
  6. James McMurtry: Complicated Game(Complicated Game) B+ (***)
  7. Kasey Musgraves: Pageant Material(Mercury) (A-)
  8. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard: Django & Jimmy(Legacy) B+ (***)
  9. Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day(Legacy) A
  10. Mark Rubin: Southern Discomfort(CDBaby) A-
  11. Various Artists: Have Moicy 2–The Hoodoo Bash(Red Newt) A-
  12. Various Artists: The Year of Jubilo(Old Hat) A-
  13. Wussy: Public Domain, Volume 1(Shake It) B+ (***)
  14. Dwight Yoakam: Second Hand Heart(Warner Brothers) B+ (**)

International

  1. Africa Express: Terry Riley’s “In C”—Mali(Transgressive) A
  2. Ata Kak: Obaa Sima(Awesome Tapes from Africa) B+ (***)
  3. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni: Ba Power(Glitterbeat) A-
  4. Bob Marley & The Wailers: Easy Skankin’ in Boston, 1978(Tuff Gong) A-
  5. Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa(World Circuit) A-
  6. Mdou Moctar: Soundtrack to the film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai(Sahel Sounds) A-
  7. Mammane Sani et son Orgue:La Musique Electronique du Niger(Sahel Sounds)  B+ (***)
  8. Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile(Atlantic) A-
  9. Omar Souleyman: Bahdeni Nami(Monkeytown) A-
  10. Tal National: Kaani(Fat Cat) A-
  11. Tal National: Zoy Zoy(Fat Cat) A-
  12. Tamikrest: Taksera (Glitterbeat) B+ (**)

Jazz

  1. J. D. Allen: Graffiti (Savant) A-
  2. Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM) A
  3. Vijay Iyer: Break Stuff (ECM) B+ (***)
  4. Oliver Lake and William Parker:For Roy (Intakt)  A-
  5. Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro: Harmolodic Monk (CDBaby) A-
  6. James Brandon Lewis: Days of FreeMan(Okeh) B+ (*)
  7. Allen Lowe: Where’s Robert Johnson?—The Man with the Guitar (Constant Sorrow) B+ (***)
  8. Allen Lowe with Hamiet Bluiett: We Will Gather When We Gather (Constant Sorrow) A-
  9. Makaya McCraven: In the Moment (International Anthem) B+ (***)
  10. Joe McPhee:  Solos–The Lost Tapes 1981-1984 (Roaratorio) B+ (**)
  11. Charles McPherson: The Journey (Capri) A-
  12. Irene Schweizer, and Han Bennink: Welcome Back(Intakt) A
  13. Sonny Simmons and Moksha Samnyasin: Nomadic (Svart) B+ (***)
  14. Sun Ra: To Those of Earth…and Other Worlds–Gilles Peterson Presents Sun Ra And His Arkestra(Strut) A-
  15. Henry Threadgill & Zooid: In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi) A-
  16. Kamasi Washington: The Epic(Brainfeeder) B+ (**)

The Very Best Music and Music-Related Stuff I Enjoyed in 2014

I know D’Angelo’s new record is coming out Tuesday, but–I’ve waited for him long enough already.

easycov

(Above: The sleeper of the bunch….)

Top 10 Rekkids

  1. Wussy: Attica! (Shake It!)
  2. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio–Field Recordings 1-4 (allenlowe.com)
  3. D’Angelo and The Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA)
  4. Chris Butler: Easy Life (Future Fossil)
  5. Run The Jewels: 2 (Mass Appeal)
  6. Ty Segall: Manipulator (Drag City)
  7. Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenna (Glitterbeat)
  8. Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (Stones Throw)
  9. Ross Johnson and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans: Vanity Sessions (Spacecase)
  10. Jemeel Moondoc: The Zookeeper’s House (Relative Pitch)

Top 10 Songs

  1. Wussy: “Teenage Wasteland”
  2. Wussy: “To the Lightning”
  3. Natural Child: “Don’t the Time Pass Quickly (When You’re Making Love)”
  4. Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias: “We Come to Rumble”
  5. Angaleena Presley: “Pain Pills”
  6. Young Thug and Bloody Jay: “No F—s”
  7. Chris Butler: “Easy Life”
  8. D’Angelo and The Vanguard: “The Door”
  9. Ross Johnson and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans: “Three-Beer Queer”
  10. Withered Hand: “Horseshoe”

Top 10 Reissues/New Issues of Older Music

Ra

  1. Sun Ra: Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra & His Arkestra (Strut)
  2. Various Artists: Haiti Direct! (Strut)
  3. John Coltrane: Offering—Live at Temple University (Resonance)
  4. Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions (Saguaro Road)
  5. Bob Dylan & The Band: The Complete Basement Tapes (Columbia/Sony)
  6. The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground—45th Anniversary Edition (Universal/Polydor)
  7. Sid Selvidge: The Cold of the Morning (Omnivore)
  8. Various Artists: Dylan’s Gospel—Brothers & Sisters (Light in the Attic)
  9. Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys: Riding Your Way–The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-7 (Real Gone Music)
  10. TIE: Charlie Burton: Rock and Roll Behavior (Sound Asleep)/Horace Tapscott: The Giant Awakens (Flying Dutchman)

Top 10 Old Records I Bought for the First Time

  1. Rats: Intermittent Signals (Whizz Eagle)
  2. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Feelin’ Good (Shout Factory)
  3. Lazy Lester: I’m a Lover Not a Fighter (Ace/Excello)
  4. Khaira Arby: Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont)
  5. Yoko Ono: Plastic Ono Band (Capitol)
  6. New Jazz Poets (Folkways)
  7. Allen Lowe: Blues & The Empirical Truth (Music & Arts Programs)
  8. Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform)
  9. Quintron and Miss Pussycat/Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys: “Haterz”/”Chatterbox” (Rhinestone Records 45)
  10. Melvin Peebles: X-Rated by an All-White Jury (A&M)

Top 5 New Books with Pop Music Connections

  1. Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings (Penguin)
  2. Todd Snider: I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like—Mostly True Tall Tales (Da Capo)
  3. Carl Wilson: Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (Bloomsbury Academic)
  4. Greil Marcus: The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press)
  5. John Waters: : John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) 

Top 5 New (or newly available) (or not available—so DO something!) Music Documentaries

Werner Herzog testifies to the genius of Les Blank

  1. Always for Pleasure: The Films of Les Blank (Criterion)
  2. AKA Doc Pomus (dir. William Hechter and Peter Miller) (Clear Lake Historical Productions)
  3. Rahsaan Roland Kirk—The Case of the Three-Sided Dream (dir. Adam Kahan) (http://www.rahsaanfilm.com/)
  4. Bayou Maharajah (dir. Lily Kleber) (http://www.bayoumaharajah.com/) CLEARANCE ISSUES!
  5. This Ain’t No Mouse Music! The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records (dir. Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon)

Top 5 Favorite Concerts of 2014

  1. Billy Joe Shaver
  2. Natural Child/Pujols/Planchette/Heavy Lids
  3. Chucho Valdez/Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side (w/Joe Lovano)
  4. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages
  5. Pine Leaf Boys

Overeem’s 2014 Picks to Click–75% of the Way Through this Bloody Calendar

I am not listing labels, since you can copy and paste the titles into a browser and find ’em in a few seconds. I haven’t written about all of them: for example, Ty Segall’s Manipulator is growing on me day by day–surprisingly, since I thought he and I were through–but I don’t yet know what to say other than he’s gotten all of his predilections embraced securely and has put together a tour de force that might be the best thing he’s ever done. Maybe that’s enough. Anyway, here’s what’s been repeatedly ringing my bell:

Long Players:

mulatto-radio-front-coverty-segall-manipulator

1. Wussy: Attica!
2. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio–Field Recordings 1-4
3. Chris Butler: Easy Life
4. Ty Segall: Manipulator
5. Bo Dollis, Jr. and The Wild Magnolias: A New Kind of Funk
6. Obnox: Louder Space
7. Latyryx: The Second Album
8. Ross Johnson and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans: Vanity Sessions
9. Neneh Cherry: The Blank Project
10. Phil and Dave Alvin: Common Ground–The Songs of Big Bill Broonzy
11. Marc Ribot Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard
12. Orlando Julius with The Heliocentrics: Jaiyede Afro
13. Natural Child: Dancin’ with Wolves
14. John Schooley: The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World
15. Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices
16. Tinariwen: Emmaar
17. Big Freedia: Just Be Free
18. Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth
19. The Stooges Brass Band: Street Music
20. Mr. and The Mrs.: Radiation Street Blues

Singles:

1. Bobby Rush: Upstairs at United
2. Marc Ribot w/Deerhoof: Who Sleeps, Only Dreams
3. Heavy Lids: “Gravity Reverse” b/w “This Horse”

Old Stuff/Reissues:

1. John Coltrane: Offering—Live at Temple University
2. Various Artists: Haiti Direct!
3. John Schooley One-Man Band: Schooley’s Greatest Hits
4. Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys: Riding Your Way–The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-7
5. Various Artists: Angola 2
6. Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali, Volume 2
7. D’Angelo: Live at the Jazz Café, London
8. Sid Selvidge: The Cold of the Morning
9. Gories: The Shaw Tapes—Live in Detroit 1988
10. Charlie Burton: Rock & Roll Behavior
11. Various Artists: Dylan’s Gospel—Brothers & Sisters
12. Various Artists: Go, Devil, Go—Raw, Rare, Otherwordly Gospel

Music Docs:

1. AKA Doc Pomus
2. The Case of the Three-Sided Dream

Good to My Earhole (and Other Music-Related Phenomena): Last Half of July–and I got my month right!

Feet in Street

“I bet I know how many kids your dad had…”

For those few of you who may have wondered where I’ve been, it’s been to the Land of the Uninspired as well as to the opposite–the American South, specifically New Orleans (again!). I am trying to get the hang of regular blogging; my life-energy is too variously diffused, I think, to write every day, but I am a creature of routine. If I am IN a routine–I mean IN–you can count on me like the sunrise. But if what I am involved in has an irregular pulse, I am likely to fade. So I am fighting this. I would also like to clarify that this is a music blog that, really, is aimed at people like me (life-energy variously diffused) who don’t have time to be music-obsessed (though I find time because I am helpless). So, for example, if I mention Mr. Quintron, to whom many would now react with a gargantu-yawn…well, I am not writing at you. OK, enough. My life does revolve around music, so here’s what has happened since I last made contact.

1. I saw Johnny Winter with a colleague whose mother taught him English in high school in Beaumont, Texas, and who had Johnny’s brother Edgar (I am sure you have heard of him) as a–wait for it!–but it should not be a surprise!–Sunday school teacher. My buddy got to say hi at an otherwise depressing meet-and-greet (where to hold one these days? in a store specializing in video games!), then we went to the show, where either the sound guys at the venue-that-shall-not-be-named fucked up the mix, or the mix was designed to disguise Johnny’s age-and-illness-related struggles. It was not a bad show, but you couldn’t tell what Johnny was singing (“Bill Haley preaching Armageddon,” Lester Bangs once wrote of his performance on 1969’s Second Winter), and you had to watch his fingers (we were in the balcony) to tell if he was soloing. Barely a week later, he was a gone dead (silver) train. Did he matter? Listen to this:

Also, below, is a great picture of my friend, looking perfectly Sunday-school-defiant, standing in front of the teenaged Edgar “Frankenstein” Winter:

Sunday school

2. I adore Western Swing–Bob Wills’ 1946-7 version of the Texas Playboys is as close as I think that products of Western civilization have ever gotten to fully realized–and, if you don’t count the late, ineffably great Canuck Ray Condo and his Ricochets, I had never seen or danced to such a band live. It materialized that I got a chance to see Asleep at the Wheel, to my mind the world’s best and maybe last Western Swing band. Well, they only had one fiddle, they didn’t play a song from their great early records The Wheel and Comin’ At Ya, and they didn’t play either of their classic Kinky Friedman covers, which are important since a) Kinky cannot sing, and b) he is a cowboy-hatted Jewish Texas country-singer, crime fictionalist, animal-lover and channeler of Mark Twain. ASSIGNMENT: look up Asleep at the Wheel’s beautiful run at “Before All Hell Breaks Loose,” in which Kinky advises resigning from the human race, and “Homo Erectus,” in which Kinky gets wood for a teacher. They played OK, but we didn’t dance. That’s the measure.

3. We did not make a second visit to Fred and Annie Mae McDowell’s grave on Tate-Panola County Road between Senatobia and Como in Mississippi. We had hoped to make a practice of keeping them clean–on our first visit, Annie Mae’s grave was littered with butts and other detritus–but we realized only three months had transpired since our first visit. We are going to make it practice, but instead we went to the Como, Mississippi, library and saw some great North Mississippi Hill Country photos on the wall. If you’re ever in Como, stay in the Como Inn and go to their library.

4. Nicole, my wife, who is gamely, heroically, and intelligently struggling with the recent passing of her mother (and, really, she has no other) from brain cancer, loves New Orleans even more than I do–and people, I was born to love it–so we booked about a week at the highly recommended Frenchmen Hotel in the heart of the Marigny on Frenchmen Street, which, if you don’t know, is where you end up if you keep walking east past the French Market and out of the Quarter. I had a nice conversation with Jan Ramsey, the editor of Off Beat!, the guide to avoiding tourist shit and having fun local-style (it’s free in NOLA, but we pay to subscribe here in Misery), whose office is above the great Louisiana Music Factory, which was right next door to our hotel, and she was concerned with our experience on Frenchmen Street: “Was it just a touristy extension of the Quarter?” is what her concern was. Yeah, tourists find their way there, BUT, first, Frenchmen Street and the Marigny is the bohemian version of the Quarter (think about that), and it is virtually all music venues that are devoted to local acts, which, in New Orleans, deliver.

5. When in New Orleans, you must see and hear music. Every genre is represented, and not as a passing-through thing. We had a series of literally (in other words, I am not writing figuratively) mesmerizing live experiences:

Ellis Marsalis, one of the city’s first modernists, slyly guiding us through a mixture of Tin Pan Alley, bebop, post-bop, and modernistic pieces at Snug Harbor (go! go!), with his youngest Jason drumming and exchanging wry looks and strangely autistic rhythmic responses throughout.

Heavy Lids

Heavy Lids (above)

Siberia, an old-school punk dive that we revelled in–no summer scarves, no beards, no preciousness, lots of smoking!–featured an amazing four-band bill: Planchettes and Heavy Lids, who must be among the best punk bands in New Orleans, the  former anorexic teenage sex-god trash, the latter a casually fierce, “I don’t give a shit” unit with a great Mr. Quintron-produced 45 which we found at the stern but awesome Domino Sound, supporting the Nashville duo of Pujol, who must be the shortest band in rock and roll history but whose guitar tone drilled a hole through my brain, and–honestly, we didn’t know they were going to be in NOLA–Natural Child, whose new album Dancin’ with Wolves is their worst (they’re tryin’ to go country–why?) but who remain totally unpretentious, fun, and offer the best t-shirts in indie-dom. I count myself as easily in their Top 10 biggest fans, but they don’t give a shit–as it should be! We went in dreading enduring the huge bill, and left elated at how consistently exciting and fun the band–and, largely, the crowd–was. Props to a dude I met there named Ronin, who immediately made us feel welcome (my ancient Husker Du shirt helped).

John Boutte plays almost every Saturday night at dba’s on Frenchmen. The lay(wo)men would know him as the singer of the theme to HBO’s Treme. While not quite Sam Cooke risen to walk amongst us (as some claim), the little sprite has a very similar, though drier, delivery, and–honestly–better taste. We had suffered through douchebags standing directly behind us talking about their BMWs and cocktails when we’d seen him at Tipitina’s in NOLA in March, but dba’s insists on decorum during Boutte’s sets, and it made all the difference. He swung smoothly from anti-war song to Tin Pan Alley standard to trad-jazz NOLA to Iris DeMent’s “My Life” and Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” backed by acoustic guitar, piano, trombone, sax, and his own tambos. The man really would be a star if he chose to step out of the Crescent City, which he has no plans of doing. Respek.

We were, unaccountably, on a Marsalis kick. I find Wynton’s musical politics a sad and misguided distraction, but the family can play, and we bought tickets to see the trumpeter lead the Lincoln Center jazz orchestra at the beautiful Saenger Theater in a benefit for the Tipitina’s Foundation, which gets instruments in the hands of NOLA youth. I expected a dry performance, but the set list was inspired (nice onscure Brubeck and Silver, plus some Marsalis originals), and Wynton, really getting off on his mute and vocalizations, came off as a true and proud and funky son of the city. Two nights later, we found ourselves at the Royal Sonesta, watching Jason Marsalis’ vibes group nail a bunch of Monk tunes and being blown away by Justin Faulkner, one of the best young jazz drummers (along with New Orleans’ own Joe Dyson) that I’ve seen–look for him in the upcoming film about Buddy Bolden. He is the son of Art Blakey and Roy Haynes, if that means anything to you.

Records: four blew me away. Two 45s: a limited edition split-single where local boho-community booster-weirdo-organist Quintron does nouveaux-zydeco Keith Frank’s awesome and inspirational “Haterz” on the “B,” and Cajun heroes Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys do Quintron’s addictive “Chatterbox” on the “A”; and a great 1971 single by eccentric Lousiana bluesman/ex-con Robert Pete Williams, where, on the “A,” he says goodbye to Slim Harpo with stinging and unusual slide-playing, and, on the “B,” addresses our involvement in “Viet Nam.” I casually snapped it up for $10, only to find it was going for $30-40 in the collectors’ market. That shit makes no difference unless the music wails–which, here, it does. One LP I scarfed up collected the great NOLA trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen’s accompaniments of ’30s blues singers. Allen wasn’t Satchmo, but he had plenty of subtle and ecstatic moves. Finally, I got a 300-copies-only cassette comp of the best of the aforementioned Mr. Quintron, which, to my ears, is a) perfectly selected, and b) perfectly timed, since I just bought a new Denon dual cassette deck for $25 on eBay.

Finally, I met a small passel of locals at the Envie Cafe on Decatur–one of which had previosuly just been a cyberfriend, but who, in physical space, was even more interesting: a former stud wrestler, a master geneologist, and stellar record collector (I suspect him of being former CIA). He introduced me to his morning band of caffeinated reprobates, and I learned very, very much–about James Booker, Wynton Marsalis, Algiers Point, 504 Records, much, much more.

If you ain’t been, you really ought to go.

6. There are only two records that matter this year: Wussy’s Attica!, which is passionate and mysterious as rock and roll has not been for a long time, and Allen Lowe’s Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings 1-4. I’d like to say one thing about the latter (well, maybe more than one): read Lowe’s great book American Pop: From Minstrels to Mojos, which explains better than anything our tangled musical legacy, listen to the nine-disc audio companion, then load up his new four-disc set, lean forward, and revel in how he and his mutating jazz units (featuring players like Matthew Shipp, J. D. Allen, Lewis Porter, and the raw, ebullient-toned Lowe himself, on alto sax) try with all their might to live up to that legacy. All that’s missing, Allen, is a fiddle. Props are also extended to Bo Dollis, Jr’s A New Kind of Funk and the Jenny Lewis single “Just One of the Guys,” which transcends the too-polished album it’s attached to with real live commentary about being a rock and roll woman.

Phil’s Faves: A Mid-Year Report

 

These are the “new” recordings that I’ve enjoyed the most in 2014.

1. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio–Field Recordings 1-4, or: A Jew At Large in the Minstrel Diaspora – This is the most ambitious recording of 2014–if not the decade, or the century. That difficult-to-love high school principal of jazz, Wynton Marsalis, pissed off Lowe, as ardent a student of our country’s musical history as you can find, in a conversation about jazz that, of course, ventured into areas of race, appropriation, and creative rights. Lowe responded with a four-disc (five, if you ordered it early!) tour de force that’s more alive and interesting than anything Marsalis has recorded in years, if ever. You don’t have to love jazz to be fascinated with the result, which easily lives up to its provocative title and tours every nook and cranny of the genre. And, in this listener and thinker’s view, it wins the argument. Check out my buddy Ken Shimamoto’s much-more-wise commentary at his Stash Dauber blog (he’s a writer/muso like Lowe).

2. Bo Dollis, Jr. and The Wild Magnolias: A New Kind of Funk – What happens when you run a line of serious wattage into a Mardi Gras Indian practice.

3. Obnox: Louder Space – Continuing the fine Cleveland/Columbus tradition of ugly noise and urban protest. Lamont Thomas, with a serious punk pedigree to deepen his geographical birthright, makes a racket to light a fire under Mick Collins’ ass. Euphonious racket!

4. Latyrx: The Second Album Who cares if their first album dropped 17 years ago? Lateef and Lyrics Born are still two of the most unique rappers spittin’.There ain’t no “Balcony Beach”–how could there be?–but there is “Deliberate Gibberish”!

5. Ross Johnson and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans: Vanity Sessions – Out to prove the Memphis rock and roll underground is still nuts now that the Oblivians have grown up, they win, four falls out of six. The title of the opener–“Three-Beer Queer”–says more than any review can.

6. Wussy: Attica! – Robert Christgau calls them a blending of VU and the Flying Burrito Brothers, which is absurd. What they are, with the star- and shock-power of rock and roll browning out, is the voice of far less polymorphously perverse and doomed adults than Reed and Parsons ever were, negotiating the 21st century into a draw and constructing a passionate but unflashy soundtrack to back their bargain. That’s probably absurd, too, but if you are a rock and roll fan of a certain age (say, if you actually walked the Seventies teenage wasteland), and are feeling just a little embattled, this Ohio band is for you.

7. Marc Ribot Trio: Live at Village Vanguard 2012 – Two Aylers, two Tranes, and two sentimental faves, socked home by, arguably, the country’s most daring guitarist.

8. Neneh Cherry: The Blank ProjectStill in a buffalo stance. This mid-forties mama can roll with the zeitgeist–just ask Robyn, who spices up one of the best tracks here.

9. Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Volume 3 – Old Man River just keeps rolling out the cadenzas. All three volumes are musts.

10. Tinariwen: Emmaar – How many Tinariwen albums does one need? Well, remember what they have always said about ol’ Hank and the Ramones, and ask yourself how many notes it takes you to recognize “Ramblin’ Man” or “Beat on the Brat.” This band has a sound, a groove, and a brood in their wake, not to mention that, politically and aesthetically, Saharan blues is good for what ails ye.

11. The Stooges Brass Band: Street Music – I believe New Orleans music gets short critical shrift because the city’s always been teeming with such traditional music that it’s assumed its innovations are long past. I won’t argue that this band of Stooges is all that innovative, but brass-band toons with the lyrics and cultural weight of “Why They Had to Kill Him” and “We Gotta Eat” aren’t everyday creations. And these guys work in a damned HOT crucible of competition.

12. Natural Child: Dancin’ with Wolves – I admit it: I am a sucker for these Nashville no ‘counts, and even I regard their countryward turn with a tinge of dubiosity. But they are so fun-loving, so unselfconscious, so unambitious, so charming that if I didn’t laud them I would have to turn in my Sir Doug Fan Club badge. Face it: unselfconscious men are hard to find these days.

13. Roscoe Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey (with Hugh Ragin): Duets – Mitchell’s 73, Sorey’s 33, they both know their Cage and Feldman, and, if you’re not into the sound of becoming–the sound of sound–you best shop elsewhere. But this hands-across-the-generations team-up is relentlessly interesting. All I’d ask is that Sorey played more drums.

14. Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal – See Pitchfork. But it’s even better than they say. You gotta watch that groupthink.

Singles (Record Store Day double-header):

Bobby Rush: Upstairs at United – 81 years young this coming November, the inventor of folkfunk and seriously randy grandy is still one of our country’s underappreciated masters, and with the blues influence in our music trickling down to drops, you best get out to see him if he shows up in your ‘hood. But fathers, watch your daughters. Note: he also put out a full-length this year, and we’re only halfway through!

Marc Ribot w/Deerhoof: Who Sleeps, Only Dreams – When our age’s heir to Sonny Sharrock appears, attendez-vous!

Old Stuff/Reissues:

Various Artists: Haiti Direct! – Rhythm nation. And, oh, those guitars and horns.

John Schooley One-Man Band: Schooley’s Greatest Hits – The instrumental fulcrum of two-count-’em-two great lost garage punk bands, The Revelators and the Hard Feelings, Schooley will deliver all of the excitement and relentless rock of Bob Log and his ilk with none of their bullshit. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand — it’s free!

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys: Riding Your Way–The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-7 – The best band in the USA, circa 1946-7. Camaraderie, versatility, chopsmanship, rhythm, and high times–plus, of course, you can dance. Aaaaaaaaah-HA!

Various Artists: Angola 2

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali, Volume 2

D’Angelo: Live at the Jazz Café, London – His band and back- up singers work harder than he does, and it’s still a great show.

Gories: The Shaw Tapes—Live in Detroit 1988

Sid Selvidge: The Cold of the Morning – A Memphis cult hero, his voice was silenced by cancer on May 2, 2013. This reissue of a ’70s Peabody Records release captures him in his prime, comfortable with everything from Furry Lewis to Jimmie Rodgers to Fred Neil and boasting a very flexible, very American voice that gives off not a whiff of minstrelsy or strain.