Golden Musical Days – I’d Like to Share Them with You: Superior Slabs, January Through September 2021

Observations and Coat-Pulls:

The Ebony Hillbillies are an all-black string band from NYC that plays traditional, original, and surprising cover material (like “Sexual Healing”). Their several previous releases are all spirited and enjoyable, but their most recent release (at #12 below) is their very best. It’s technically at 2020 release, but it came out in November, I’m a fan, and I just found out about it. In terms of performance and material, they’ve never been sharper–and they always have an edge.

I am not the biggest fan of big ol’ pop releases, but Mickey Guyton’s FINALLY-released debut album (at #16)–it’s technically contemporary country, but it transcends that label–moved the hell out of my wife and me last Saturday night. “Black Like Me” won me over last year when I first heard it on Joe Levy’s “Uprising” playlist on Spotify, but the songs are consistently strong from top to bottom, I love the emotional flexibility of Guyton’s singing, and anyone who can induce me to love a song about relaxing with wine’s got something going for her (I just hear about that a lot because I run with a mostly-female teacher crowd).

Look out when old sage Pete Stampfel and (relatively) young sage Jeffrey Lewis join forces! At #13, they fit new, topical, and fairly hilarious lyrics to old tunes–but not always the usual old tunes you’d associate with Stampfel. It’s not just a novelty; the whole’s possibly better than the sum of its parts.

Swedish drummer/percussionist/composer Florian Arbenz is on a serious roll this year. If you foster an attraction for percussion-focused jazz, you owe to yourself to test-drive both of his Conversation albums; if you’re not sure what it means to foster such an attraction, take a chance it’ll happen to you and try them anyway. (Several folks make multiple appearances on this list: Arbenz, Stampfel, legendary and prolific bassist William Parker, and the late, great modern classical composer Julius Eastman.)

I am an unabashed fan of Little Simz, and I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for her follow-up to the still-sounding-amazing Grey Area. I’ve checked out the singles as they’ve come out, as well as an early video or two. I told myself not to overreact. Once Sometimes I Might Be Introverted came out (it’s at #11), I played it twice and whispered to myself, “I’m not that impressed.” Well…I am that impressed.

There’s some cool stuff on that new Dylan bootleg load…but not enough, and there’s enough back there for it to be enough. It’s also not as meh as some would think who aren’t already familiar with the highlights (many are, and that’s part of the problem with the load).

I arrived very late at an appreciation for electronic dance music, but, thanks to JLin’s Black Origami, I did arrive. I cannot keep up with it–frankly, I depend on Pitchfork, which is depending on it a bit–to keep me superficially informed, and one may have noticed it appearing more frequently on ye olde list. I like what I like, with absolutely no rubric to press down upon it, and maybe that’s a good thing. #s 35, 54, and 104, I salute you happily and mindlessly!

This is strange, but I would enjoy Kasey Musgraves’ current and previous albums joined as a kind of double-record concept album more than I enjoy them separately. That’s the kind of gestaltist I yam.

ZYDECO LIVES at #39, and I suspect it will always, alongside Keith, Willie, and cockroaches.

Happy listening!

BOLDED ITEMS are new to the list. #s indicate archival music.

  1. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 1–Femenine
  2. Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim 
  3. James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon 
  4. East Axis: Cool With That 
  5. Ka: Martyr’s Victory
  6. Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman 
  7. Bob Dylan: Soundtrack to the film Shadow Kingdom (currently unavailable)
  8. Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja
  9. No-No Boy: 1975 
  10. The Halluci Nation: One More Saturday Night
  11. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introverted
  12. The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (released 11/9/20)
  13. Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Both Ways
  14. Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son 
  15. Mauricio Tagliari: Maô_Danças Típicas de Cidades Imaginárias
  16. Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name
  17. William Parker: Painter’s Winter 
  18. Penelope Scott: Public Void  
  19. Paris: Safe Space Invader 
  20. Dave: We’re All Alone in This Together 
  21. Orquestra Brasileira: 80 Anos
  22. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 
  23. Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa 
  24. Dawn Richard: Second Line  
  25. Lady Gaga and Friends: Dawn of Chromatica
  26. R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son  
  27. Jupiter and Okwess: Na Kozonga 
  28. Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident
  29. Florian Arbenz: Conversations 2 & 3
  30. Ensemble 0: Julius Eastman’s Femenine 
  31. Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors 
  32. Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange 
  33. William Parker: Mayan Space Station
  34. Pink Siifu: Gumbo’!
  35. Park Hye Jin: Before I Die
  36. Graham Haynes vs. Submerged: Echolocation 
  37. Tim Berne: Broken Shadows 
  38. Ashnikko: Demidevil  
  39. Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free
  40. Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air
  41. Slaughterhouse: Fun Factory
  42. The Goon Sax: Mirror II 
  43. Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty 
  44. Low-Cut Connie: Tough Cookies 
  45. Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious) 
  46. Czarface & MF DOOM: Super What? 
  47. BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU 
  48. SAULT: Nine 
  49. McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her 
  50. Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir 
  51. Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You 
  52. Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction) 
  53. L’Rain: Fatigue 
  54. Native Soul: Teenage Dreams
  55. Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile
  56. Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let’s Get Happy Together 
  57. Ran Cap Duoi: Ngù Ngay Ngày Tân Thê
  58. Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature 
  59. ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper 
  60. Body Metta: The Work is Slow 
  61. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW 
  62. Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough 
  63. Carly Pearce: 29—Written in Stone
  64. Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives 
  65. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
  66. Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears 
  67. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine 
  68. JD Allen: Queen City 
  69. Florian Arbenz: Conversation # 1 Condensed
  70. Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  71. Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley  
  72. Kasey Musgraves: starcrossed
  73. The Boys with The Perpetual Nervousness: Songs from Another Life
  74. Vince Staples: Vince Staples
  75. Various Artists: Indaba Is 
  76. Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom 
  77. Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay
  78. Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States
  79. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom 
  80. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs 
  81. Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses 
  82. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever
  83. Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland 
  84. Los Lobos: Native Sons
  85. Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan 
  86. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales 
  87. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America 
  88. Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth 
  89. Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Works 
  90. Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP) 
  91. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi 
  92. Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg 
  93. AZ: Do or Die
  94. Madlib: Sound Ancestors 
  95. Julien Baker: Little Oblivions 
  96. Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying 
  97. Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go 
  98. Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine  
  99. girl in red: if I could make it go quiet 
  100. Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club 
  101. Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine 
  102. Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy 
  103. Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR 
  104. RP Boo: Established 
  105. The Bug: Fire
  106. Steve Earle: JT 
  107. Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever 
  108. Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  109. Benny The Butcher: Pyrex Picasso
  110. Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos
  111. The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy  
  112. Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days 
  113. Alder Ego: III 
  114. Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
  115. Alton Gün: Yol 
  116. Meet Me @ The Altar: Model Citizen (EP) 
  117. Penelope Scott: Hazards (EP)
  118. Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises 
  119. Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans 
  120. serpentwithfeet: DEACON 
  121. Aluna: Higher Ground—Testaments

Archaeological Digs

  1. Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony  
  2. JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street
  3. Kiko Kids Jazz: Tanganyika Na Uhuru
  4. Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York
  5. Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 
  6. Plastic People of The Universe: Apokalyptickej pták  
  7. Roy Brooks: Understanding
  8. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket
  9. Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977
  10. Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975
  11. Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame
  12. Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy
  13. Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein! 
  14. Various Artists: The Smithsonian Anthology of Rap and Hip Hop 
  15. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall # 
  16. Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 # 
  17. The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A
  18. Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album
  19. Alice Coltrane: Kirtan–Turiya Sings 
  20. Mistreater: Hell’s Fire 
  21. Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found
  22. Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork
  23. Pure Hell: Noise Addiction
  24. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th AnniversaryMixtapes/Groiddest Schizznits Vols. 1-3
  25. Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay
  26. Joe Strummer: Assembly
  27. Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing # 
  28. Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1
  29. Joseph Spence: Encore
  30. Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1
  31. Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York 1980-1985 (2CD version)

90 Degrees of Freedom Found: My Favorite Rekkid Releases of 2021, and We’re Only Halfway There

Random observations on the recent explosion of excellent recordings I always should expect but never do and grouse about the paucity of then look dim-witted as a result of my shitty memory:

  1. You may think I’m a little nuts by including so many box sets, but they really are that good and I have been listening to them. Is sitting around listening to box set really a pop thang? Should I even care? Somebody’s gotta do it.
  2. The Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon is having a great year. He’s on two records here (Law Years and Path of Seven Colors) and his duet album of boleros with Luis Perdomo is stunning but I need to listen to it one more time.
  3. I have moved many items around, but I finally hooked right into AUM Grand Ensemble & Ensemble O’s interpretation of Julius Eastman’s Femenine. Eastman’s having a MUCH-deserved revisiting and several interpretations of this piece are out there, but none this hypnotic and beautiful.
  4. How much mileage does SAULT get out of mystique?
  5. I’ll have some of what Loretty’s having, please.
  6. I’m sorry, I just don’t fucking trust Lana Del Rey and I really despise Olivia Rodrigo’s single, but the sonics and words of the former’s album (I’m just blocking out her persona) and the rest of the latter’s songs (for the most part) have broken my resistance. For now.
  7. That Screamers excavation is the first new record I have surprised my wife Nicole with that we both instantly jumped up and down joyfully to. Myself, I’d really mostly only read about them in West Coast punk tomes, but after a 40-year-burial this item really explodes out of the vault.
  8. Is it fair to list Record Store Day releases on these lists? I admit I just lie in wait with my bobber floating in eBay Lake, and I assume anyone else can as well.
  9. If you’re needing a guitar-helping and moping ’cause you can locate one, I urge you to dip into the Moctar, Arby, and Young items in the Top 10. Seriously.
  10. SUPPORT FIRE IN LITTLE AFRICA’S PROJECT. It’s worthy.

BOLDED ITEMS ARE NEW TO THE LIST.

Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victim

JuJu: Live at 131 Prince Street #

Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multinational Crusade for Harmony 

James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon

Miguel Zenon: Law Years—The Music of Ornette Coleman

Khaira Arby: Khaira Arby in New York #

Fire in Little Africa: Fire in Little Africa

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Down in the Rust Bucket #

R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob’s Son 

AUM Grand Ensemble x Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine

Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 #

No-No Boy: 1975

Robert Finley: Sharecropper’s Son

Gimenez Lopez: Reunion en la granja

Penelope Scott: Public Void 

Paris: Safe Space Invader

Various Artists: A Stranger I May Be—Savoy Gospel 1954-1966 #

Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 #

Hamiet Blueitt: Bearer of the Holy Flame #

Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy #

Ashnikko: Demidevil 

Dax Pierson: Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Satisfaction)

Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway—Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan

Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall #

Various Artists: Chicago / The Blues / Today, Volumes 1-3 #

Dry Cleaning: Sweet Princess (EP)

Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future

Dawn Richard: Second Line 

Brockhampton: Roadrunner—New Light, New Machine

Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors

Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics—The Lost Atlantic Album #

Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange

Genesis Owusu: Smiling with No Teeth

Marianne Faithfull (with Warren Ellis): She Walks in Beauty

Jaubi: Nafs at Peace (featuring Latamik and Tenderlonious)

SAULT: Nine

Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir

Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You

Angelique Kidjo: Mother Nature

ICP Orchestra & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: 062 / De Hondemepper

Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: NOW

Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough

Anthony Joseph: The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives

Jason Moran & Milford Graves: Live at Big Ears

Mistreater: Hell’s Fire #

Blue Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found #

Various Artists: He’s Bad!—11 Bands Decimate the Beat of Bo Diddley 

Various Artists: Wallahi Le Zein!

Various Artists: Indaba Is

Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom

Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom

Various Artists: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork #

Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs

Backxwash: I Lie Here with My Rings and Dresses

Various Artists: Doomed & Stoned in Scotland

Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes / Groiddest Schizznits, Volumes 1-3#

Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute

Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (EP)

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street, Sekondi

Various Artists: Rare.wavs, Volume 1

Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg

Nermin Niazi: Disco Se Aagay #

Madlib: Sound Ancestors

Joe Strummer: Assembly #

Julien Baker: Little Oblivions

Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying

Archie Shepp and Jason Moran: Let My People Go

Roisin Murphy: Crooked Machine 

girl in red: if I could make it go quiet

Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club

Robert Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble: Live at The Bing #

Vijay Iyer, Linda Han Oh, and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy

Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR

Steve Earle: JT

Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever

Tony Allen (and friends): There is No End

Jinx Lennon: Liferafts for Latchicos

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy 

Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls: Living in the Last Days

Alder Ego: III

Garbage: No Gods No Masters

Shem Tube, Justo Osala, Enos Okola: Guitar Music of Western Kenya

Contour: Love Suite

Alton Gün: Yol

Various Artists: Edo Funk Explosion, Volume 1 #

Hearth: Melt

Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: Promises

Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans

serpentwithfeet: DEACON

AFTERNOTE (is that a word?):

Top 10 Artists I’ve Been Listening to Over the Last 72 hours / A Nod to Will Friedwald

Carmen McRae (I’m pretty much always listening to–at the very least hearing in my head–Lady McRae)

Anita O’Day (I’m pretty much always listening to–at the very least hearing in my head–Lady O’Day)

Moody Marilyn Moore

Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards

Herb Jeffries

Jackie Paris

Carol Sloane

Earl Coleman–LOTS of Earl Coleman

Al Hibbler

Jeanne Lee

STREAM ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM….

January 1 – February 10: Slim Pickings

Most record-grubbin’ folks I know are still catching up to 2020’s explosion–our cohort are still learning about the previous year’s bounty right now and likely will be til the Ides of March. In the past, I’ve usually been able to muster 10 new releases by the end of January to post as a list, but this year I was only halfway there by February’s dawning. Plus, I was flat worn out–not just from all those varied and vital slabs from the worst year in modern history, but from the worst year in modern history. Maybe we’ll look back (and the music will be able to help us do listen back) and be able to say, “We needed those tragedies, large and small, to finally motivate us to clean house”; I’m not holding my breath.

However, simply from really needed to do something to get my mind off of a layer cake of frustrations, I’ve cobbled together a Top 10 for 2021. Will any of these still be in my Top 100 on December 31? I’m less confident than ever, but could our world of musicians suffer from “striver’s fatigue”? We shall see. The simple presence of Messiaen in the list is a sign of struggle (one of my very favorite classic composers, and interpreted quite thrillingly by the group responsible–but come on!).

  1. Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs
  2. Various Artists: Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall of America–A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute
  3. Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom
  4. Various Artists: Indaba Is
  5. Madlib: Sound Ancestors
  6. Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales
  7. Founders: Songs for the End of Time
  8. Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, and Carmen Castaldi: Garden of Expression
  9. Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood
  10. Ensemble 0: Performs Julius Eastman’s Femenine

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, May 12-19: “OK Men Now Let’s Get in Formation”

Highlights of my last week’s worth of listening (and I WAS listening), scored on a 10-point scale, with 7-and-(rounded) up qualifying for my huntin’ and peckin’:

Beyonce/LEMONADE (DVD) – 9.7 – Never much a fan–she seemed too bland outside of Destiny’s Child, and that ad she made while writhing in bills (as well as other shilling) kept plenty white capitalists laughing all the way to the bank–I had my ass royally kicked by “Formation” and moved it right into my class’ curriculum. Regardless of academic parsing to the contrary, though, the video’s THE thing. Besides imagery and scenarios and words that should rightly scare the shit out of men of all stripes who grip the methods of the past with white knuckles–and empower the heck out of women of all stripes–there’s more music in the visual version, too, as well as side talk, back talk, and clipped talk, which I should remind you is also music. Her canny spoken and hoarse patches signify, too, and make up for the (very minimal) sappy stuff.  Bonus: a Second Amendment-touting, cherchez l’homme country song with funky baritone blats!

Aretha Franklin/LADY SOUL – 9.5 – I feel moved to comment on this seeming no-brainer, as I imagine many of our passionate youth may be settling for comps and single downloads. The Queen’s first three on Atlantic are boss, and having re-attended to them while reading David Ritz’s scintillating bio RESPECT, this has become my favorite, end-to-end. Of course, there’s Ree’s voice and piano. But check the guitarists, too: Jimmy Johnson, Joe South, Eric Clapton, and a dude named Bobby Womack.

Jace Clayton/THE JULIUS EASTMAN MEMORY DEPOT – 9.0 – Jace may be known to you as djRupture; Julius Eastman may well be unknown to you, but I’d argue he was one of the greats of the Morton Feldman school of classical composition. I’m sure his lack of recognition has nothing to do with his being black and gay, but forget about that and enjoy two of his greatest compositions (“Crazy Nigger” and “Gay Guerilla”), played by virtuoso pianists, fed through Clayton’s computer, and lovingly and intriguingly effed with. Beauty in repetition–in this case, artfully disrupted by digital genius.

Peter Maxwell Davies (composer)/MISS DONNITHORNE’S MAGGOT b/w EIGHT SONGS FOR A MAD KING – 10.0 – I have to admit: I’m obsessed with Julius Eastman. How did I not read/hear about him ’til a quarter-century after he passed? Here, in the role of the deteriorating George III, he delivers a groundbreaking vocal performance that conveys the reality of mental illness while remaining, well, ART. That is not an easy trick. If you’re tired of clearing the room of unwelcome guests with Captain Beefheart or Peter Brotzmann records, check into this, friends. It holds up absorbed in tranquility, as well.

Tacocat/LOST TIME – 8.8 – These wisecrackers from Seattle realize the potential of lost garage rockers The Pleasure Seekers’ “What a Way to Die” (see also Suzi Quatro, Pinky Tuscadero), and, somewhat less impressively, bottle up the last 35 years of Lady Rock, shake it up, and let it fizz! Recommended to Beyonce in about two months: “Men Explain Things to Me.”

Jack DeJohnette/IN MOVEMENT – 8.8 – The auteur convenes the Coltrane Quartet Legacy–Ravi Coltrane on saxes, Matthew Garrison on bass and electronics–and lays down some tracks that tactfully and punctually rip through the gauze of Manfred Eicher’s trademark ECM production. They take on Ravi’s dad’s seemingly sacrosanct “Alabama” and survive by loosening it up. They crick your double-taking neck on Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” where Ravi conjures Dave Liebman (remember him?) and Matthew conjures Michael Henderson (remember him?). They go out on a “Soulful Ballad” that really is.

Various Artists/LETRA & MUSICA–A TRIBUTE TO BOB DYLAN – 6.95 – Tribute albums do usually suck, and this one outta Brazil usually does. The vocalists slavishly follow Dylan’s original melodies and intonations, and whoever told the artists that guitars are only to be acoustically strummed needs to find a new profession. BUT–it’s worth a mention for two songs that belong to the sub-canon of classic Dylan covers, as a result of the interpreters taking risks. Caetano Veloso, who knows from tear gas, water cannons, Molotov cocktails and rocks, turns “Jokerman” into an incantation, almost falling into ritual ululations at several points; Renato Russo switches up the pronouns and turns “If You See H[im], Say Hello” into a landmark of broken gay love.

Good to My Earhole, April 30-May 5: “I’ll Start”

Highlights of my last seven days’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale that correlates (+0.999999) with increases in my heart rate:

ANGRY ANGLES – 9.3 – Along with the lesser (but still excellent) River City Tan-Lines, a great Memphis-area band I somehow missed. It’s Jay Reatard before his final burst, abetted only by Alix Smith on bass and pen, and it’s fer damn sure a punk rawk blast. Originals like “You Lied,” “The 15th,” and “She’s Dead” hold their own with killer covers of Wire, Devo, The Oblivians, and The Urinals. Talk about your increases in heart rate….

Julius Eastman/UNJUST MALAISE – 10 – A fitting title for this collection (look him up). Eastman was a minimalist/hypnotist in the classical field, and while that ain’t normally my bag, the opener on this three-disker hooked me post-haste: “Stay On It” is Morton Feldman gone…Caribbean?! Yeah. Elsewhere, Eastman’s booming vocals on “Prelude to ‘The Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc'” will force you to wonder what the saints did say, and “Gay Guerilla,” “Evil Nigger,” and “Crazy Nigger” are more than just attention-getting titles. Three discs I’d turn around and play all over again with pleasure and concentration.I just might, as soon as I post this.

Bryan Ferry/OLYMPIA – 9.3 – A very beautiful–and lush–recording. Ferry is in great voice and, as always, there’s a tricky mind fully engaged behind it. Featuring old pals named Eno, Mackay, and Manzanera in supporting roles, and a dude named Nile Rodgers on rhythm guitar. What amazes me about the record is how deftly certain elements are integrated: a cast of a thousand players into a singular sound; nice new Ferry originals with his usual sharp interpretative choice; flesh and blood noises with electronic ones; passionate swell with technological precision. In case you’d lost track of him, like I had (it’s a 2010 release), attend to it.

(the above ain’t me, but I couldn’t resist….)

Dinah Washington/DRINKING AGAIN – 9.0 – Spotted in the stacks at Vintage Vinyl by my eagle-eyed better half, we have played the heck out of this vinyl slab–and it had been played a lot before it was sold. It is worth a decent price for the desolate title track (no one’s done it better), but she’s in very fine form on the other standards Don Costa conducted and arranged for her. A fantastic late-night choice, and an even better one if you haven’t gotten beyond Washington’s classics.

GAL COSTA – 9.0 – I will never stop pushing the music of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, a not-quite-two-year-long explosion of weirdly catchy and politically complicated art that was garroted by a dictatorship. Costa was, maybe, “The First Lady of Tropicalia,” and her debut record is a wonderful way in for those a mite skeptical of descriptors like “weirdly catchy.” In her singing and rhythms, you can clearly hear the subgenre’s direct line back to samba and bossa nova. In that, you will be easefully rocked into a buzz–Rogerio Duprat’s arrangements and tunes by Veloso/Gil, though, will JUST nudge you out of that area where pure enjoyment is, um, counterrevolutionary, Or something like that. Pick to click: “Vou Recomecar” (or, translated, “I’ll Start”–a fetching title, that).

Robbie Fulks/UPLAND STORIES – 9.3 – The SOUTHEASTERN sequel/step-further that SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE wasn’t. Jason Isbell, you’ve been served, buddy. (I only say this because I want more great music from both guys.) Oh-so-sensitively produced (I’m not kidding) by Steve Albini, and, if it means anything, I didn’t plan on reviewing this–Fulks is very hit-or-miss with me, and I am wearying of so-called Americana. But playing it while I was writing was a beautiful mistake; on “America is a Hard Religion,” Fulks does the seemingly impossible by updating the Stanley Brothers (if not Tom Ashley!) to this precise moment in time. Guitar Gable and King Karl, Linda Gail Lewis, Sid Selvidge–you Southerners will have to wait another week.