The Ten Days (June 25th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

On Facebook these days, a kind of game’s going around where you tag people who are insane and will take the time to share their 10 favorites movies or albums, once a day for ten days. On the face of it, it’d seem anyone who’d participate would only be doing so to show off their fabulous taste, and who needs that? It’s already been shown that the ‘book’s great at making folks feel like they’re not measuring up, and I must confess complicity in that process. But I’d like to think there is also an aspect of gifts being paid forward: I can’t really imagine what I’d be like if people hadn’t recommended particular artwerx to me that deflected me into betterment.

I’m plagiarizing myself yet again, but one of the better students I’ve taught who is a passionate fan of music asked me to play, and (as usual) I tweaked the task so I was striving to share albums I loved that few people I know know much about, and albums that spanned genres, just to encourage folks to by God open up a little bit. I thought I’d put ’em all in one place because, upon looking back, I think I met the challenge.

Day 1: Jean Grae–Jeanius

I have been a big rap fan since I heard “Rapper’s Delight” in Carthage, Missouri, in ’79–I had a friend who’d moved there from NYC and brought the single with her–and that condition shows no signs of changing. One of my favorite MCs is Jean Grae, and my favorite Jean release is JEANIUS. Great beats, amazing bars, and hilarious album art. She’s still in the game, and a more underrated female rapper there is not. Enjoy!

Day 2: Willie King–Jukin’ at Bettie’s

I dig juke joint blues as frequently captured by the Fat Possum label, but this ain’t exactly that. First, King’s from Alabama; second, his kit bag’s a bit bigger than the average North Mississippian’s. Not saying he’s better — saying he’s different. He can lock you into a boogie trance, but the occasional keyboards and steadier beat take nothing away from a sweaty good time.

Day 3: Horace Tapscott–The Giant Has Awakened

Horace Tapscott was a great Houston-born, L.A.-based bandleader, composer, pianist, teacher and community activist. Besides being staggeringly effective in all those roles, he planted a tree the branches of which stretch to Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and Kendrick Lamar. The album from which this, the title cut, comes should be in the jazz canon, and features a frighteningly talented and intense band.

Day 4: The Power of the Trinity–Great Moments in Reggae Harmony

Today’s choice is in the reggae field. Reggae’s produced some KILLER compilation albums: The Harder They Come, Rockers, Tougher Than Tough are just a few. This gem spotlights an era in the music’s development that in its way stands with the glory days of southern soul and the blossoming of doo wop. Great harmony singing, messages of inspiration (we need those now)…and the riddims! Informative notes from Randall Grass if you buy a physical.

Day 5: Johnny Gimble–Texas Dance Party

If you claim to be a country fan and you DON’T know the great fiddler Johnny Gimble (he played other instruments, too), I am sorry–you are not much of a country fan. Gimble played with everybody, from Bob Wills to George Jones to Merle Haggard to Guillermo Nelson. However, he also made his own LPs, and the one from which this track comes is a dandy that you will have no choice but to swing to. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find; I guess that’s what YouTube is for. Dedicated to all my Texas friends and family, and, as always, specifically, to Mr. Walter Daniels!

Day 6: Zeal & Ardor–Devil Is Fine

This act has a new album out, but for me the jury’s still out on it. THIS ONE, however, has rocked our house numerous times. Its combination of metal explosions, slave chant effects, and blues feeling speak to the times mighty well. Don’t be afraid of the devil.

Day 7: Dead Moon–Trash & Burn

It’s odd that it’s taken seven days for me to share my favorite record by Clackamas, Oregon’s greatest punk/garage/ROCK AND ROLL band! A stripped-down, three-piece, three-minutes-and-a-cloud-of-smoke attack that lives up to its title, once you sample this, you’ll want more. Also: to my mind, the most amazing husband and wife combo in American music history–hands down. This goes out to Weeden, Ingrid, Shane, Amanda, and Toody today–you continue to be an inspiration in our household!

Day 8: Bo Dollis Jr. and The Wild Magnolias–We Come to Rumble

New Orleans music is certainly in my wheelhouse. A great subgenre of the NOLA sound is Mardi Gras Indian funk–even when it is simply in chant form, it’s usually got the funk, and it can be argued that funk itself sprang from Indian ritual. Here, the son of a great chief, and now head of one of the most famous tribes, fuel-injects the tradition with a different kind of juice than it’s used to. The lead track, “We Come to Rumble,” serves notice. Mighty kootie fiyo, and get out the way!

Day 9: Lynn August–Sauce Piquante

When most folks think of zydeco, the infectious, accordion-driven dance music of Louisiana and Texas, they think of Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. Mr. Lynn August merits your attention for his love of articulating the r&b basics of the genre as well as reaching wayyyyyyyy back into its furthest past (here, to the juré). The resulting sauce IS piquant!

Day 10: Julius Eastman–Unjust Malaise

It is now in fashion to be singing the praises of classical composer, pianist, and singer Julius Eastman, and I just learned about him two years ago myself. But he worked largely out of the wider public view while he was alive, experienced a tragic and lonely final set of years on this turf, and those circumstances were certainly at least partly due to his being black, gay, and a challenging artistic creator. This collection of many of his best compositions is a powerful introduction. Think about giving it a shot.

Short-shrift Division:

Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)–Is anyone as effective in creating ambient music that is soothing yet disruptive, grooveful yet interruptive? I think not. Think for yourself:

The Beginning of the End: The Beginning of the End and Funky Nassau–Seventies fonk from the Bahamas, re-ished by Strut! Records, who still haven’t taken me off their exclusive subscription service, even though I ain’t paid. Vocals not the most inticing, but rhythms and guit might put a hook in yer ass.

Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse–No twerp.

The Carters: Everything is Love–Perhaps, but mountains of money helps maintain the illusion if it ain’t. In addition, this couple’s venture into trap soundz is extremely awkward, but they’re daring you not to say so. “No more kings,” saith Bob Dorough.

 

 

Good To My Earhole, June 17-July 3: “Masque of the Red Def”

Highlights of my last weeks’ listening, scored on a 10-point scale based on how hard it was for me to read while each record was playing (the harder the higher).

I’VE ALWAYS KEPT A UNICORN–THE ACOUSTIC SANDY DENNY – 8.5 – That title, plus the prospect of a folkie (albiet a rowdy one) knocking out mostly demos unadulterated by musical support that often enhanced, rather than limited, her performance, would seem a red flag. Not so. Across two discs, the too-soon-departed Ms. Denny demonstrates that her just-impure-enough timbre (gentle whiskey smoke), her way of thinking through phrasing based on a line’s meaning, and her attraction to the theme of mortality are enough to keep one’s attention rapt. A great complement to her performances with Fairport Convention and an insightful look into her development as a singer and writer–I eagerly await the book this accompanies.

Diamanda Galas/MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH TRILOGY – 8.4 – Based on one observation of her live performance (on NBC’s much-missed Night Music) and a few listens to a comp prepared by a friend, I, at 25 or so, judged Ms. Galas hilariously and unbearably pretentious–but I was so much older then. My ear has since become less guarded; my musical desires more extreme in this time of relative artistic timidity. A Kyle Gann review piqued my curiosity about this haunted, spell-casting, spirit-calling item, and damned if it didn’t kick my ass this morning (as they say). The frightening intensity I was prepared for; the dynamics and wit and conceptual skill, not so much. I even laughed when (I think) she was wanting me to. If you’re familiar with the wicked Poe story and love it madly (as you should, students), you’re going to want to hear it. I am saving my second exploration of it for ballast against an appropriate time I’d prefer does not come. A voice for the ages, if not all ages.

JD Allen/AMERICANA–MUSINGS ON JAZZ AND BLUES – 9.3 – Imagine a classic Rollins trio crossed with the dark, earthy intensity of a deep pre-Meditations Coltrane session, and you’ve got this. Yep, it’s that good. Detroit native Allen has honed this group (Gregg August on bass, Rudy Royston on drums) across several excellent albums, resulting in one I’d definitely recommend to anyone missing the days when those two forebears ruled the tenor world. That’s not to say it’s a throwback. Hard to believe, but, as Allen argues, there’s a need for those musings in 2016. A nice musical way to, say, treat that reeling feeling you may have had after watching the Roots remake or the O. J. 30 for 30.

**JOHNNY BURNETTE’S ROCK AND ROLL TRIO AND THEIR ROCKIN’ FRIENDS FROM MEMPHIS – 8.8 – Well, since both Burnettes had gone to meet Elvis by the time of this 1980 release on Rock-A-Billy Records, the billing’s confusing: the rhythm section is the one which backed the original slashing unit on its best recordings, the guitarist is indeed fellow original Paul Burlison, who still strikes lightning, but the vocalists are the deceased brothers’ pals, most notably the unflappable Charlie Feathers. Against the odds (have you heard of Robert Geisley, Glenn Honeycutt, or Marcus Van Story, three of the other lead vocalists?), the project works. There’s something about Memphis, about rockabilly, and about locals who don’t stop believing. Secret weapon: Jim Dickinson on piano and vocals.

EARL HINES PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON – 9.5 – Hines recorded these between his 68th and 72nd birthday, and that fact plus a peek at the man’s toup and glasses on the cover might warn you away. But one of jazz’s first pianistic avant-gardists–maybe the first instrumental match for Armstrong, as he proved in their recordings together–still had plenty tricks up his sleeve. My favorites are sly runs where he takes off with the rhythm and/or melody like a cat burglar clambering up a roof or rappelling down a wall; even recording in the wake of Cecil Taylor, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell (who’d all have been lesser without his influence), he’s flat-out exciting. The Ellington selections mix time-honored classics with forgotten gems. Note: look for Hines’ equally dazzling tributes to Louis and W. C. Handy, from the same period.

**JOHNNY GIMBLE’S TEXAS DANCE PARTY – 9.0 – “PRODUCED IN TEXAS BY TEXANS,” the credits boast; master fiddler Gimble’s bandmates–The Bosque Bandits!– are listed by their Texas homes (Waco, Dallas, Austin–and Gimble’s been everywhere, man). And the music, recorded live on August 29, 1975 at Austin’s Chaparral Club, is indeed pure, lively Texas dance hall swing–but don’t think you’ll be treated by old warhorse tunes. When’s the last time you heard “La Zinda Waltz,” “Under the ‘X’ in Texas,” “Bosque Bandit,” or “Blues for Joe Tee”? An irresistibly warm and surprising half-hour, and like I said but don’t trust me, Gimble is a flat-out master.

**I recently scored both of these from European sellers, and, as a result, I have no more musical grails to seek. I guess that means I can sit back and just wait for new stuff….