Thinking Young and Growing Older is No Sin (March 25th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Sad to say, but most of my friends who are within 10 years of my current age (56) or older are settled comfortably into their musical preferences. Most. This is not to say that the yout’ can’t be fixed in their earways; I teach 19-year-olds that will not venture out of Harry Styles’ circle. Nonetheless, I associate aural adventures with the 15-to-35 set (no science there). And it’s why I’m inspired by my best buddy Mike, who’ll join me at cincuenta e seis in a little bit.

We met at a house party in Springfield, Missouri, in the mid-Eighties and were talking Minutemenese within minutes. Later in the decade, we also shared a bachelor pad, a structure that was a church for beer and the guitar. He was a groomsman in our wedding, and we’ve continued to be Brothers of the Rock to this day.

BUT…Mike struck out earlier this decade into a full-on later-in-life Bob Marley walkabout. It was splendid to hear him enthuse over the phone about Nesta magic he was hearing with fresh ears that I’d not noticed in multiple listenings of the same piece. Marley led him to Fela–no surprise, and as deep, if not a deeper well–which led him one day to engage me in another exaltation-laced phone conversation (mid-February ’17, Trump taint in the air) that then led me, post-call, to drop a good chunk of cash through Bandcamp for new-to-me Kuti cuts. I thought I was on top of the man’s discog, but Mike’s research revealed I’d not fully or properly tapped the source. On top of it, my expense was donated to the ACLU. Here’s what I got, and I’ve worn ’em out:

Now Mike’s ranging further across and around Africa, and a few weekends ago he tipped me to the great Ghanaian musical master Ebo Taylor. He flat-out told me to listen to this album, which I did yesterday, and now I’m not just telling you to, I’m making it convenient:

Thanks, Mike, and, like Malcolm X strove to do, may you continue to refine your music magic detector and share the results with me, to keep me on the path!

Short-shrift Division:

Miguel: War & Leisure–Can’t believe this dude is already 33, but he’s got a big bag of tricks and–don’t take this too seriously, but I am serious–if you miss Prince, this might bring temporary surcease of sorrow. As will its predecessor, Wildheart. Also, he makes a little sumpin’ sumpin’ of the title pairing.

Willie King: Jukin’ at Bettie’s–I’m still raiding the appendix of Robert Gordon’s new essay collection Memphis Rent Party, and this Prairie Point, Mississippi, live recording by an Alabama boogie practitioner put me deep in a hypnotic blues mood. Not as eccentric as North Mississippi hill country trance music, but it finds the itch that just begs a half-hour scratch.

We Interrupt This Music Diary for a Promotional Announcement (March 19th. 2018, Columbia, Missouri–Memphis in spirit!)


If you don’t know who Robert Gordon is, he’s a fine documentary director (check out The Best of Enemies) and stellar chronicler of southern music: his Muddy Waters biography is currently the definitive one. It’s when he’s writing about his hometown, however, that Gordon is most smashing. I have read his It Came from Memphis at least three times and manically thumbed through it about 15 times more: it convincingly argues for that city as the hub of American cultural change through much more subterranean and esoteric means than just Elvis’ pelvis, and, in terms of spirit and tone, it rocks and rolls. It’s also the only book I know that has threeseparatecompanion CDs, all of them magic.

Gordon’s newest book, available preferably from Burke’s Book Store in Memphis but also from Fat Possum (still trying to do their best by offering a companion LP I’d recommend), gathers numerous fascinating shorter pieces and interviews from Gordon’s exciting career observing Bluff City weirdness. I’m not finished reading it yet, but on the basis of the Jim Dickinson and Tav Falco interviews and the appendix alone, it’s worth your ducats. One of my favorite of Gordon’s discoveries so far is the existence of a “Levitt Shell Archive” YouTube channel. The Levitt Shell (formerly the Overton Park Shell) in Memphis’ Overton Park was the location of Presley’s first paid appearance (opening for Slim Whitman), and has not only survived several attempts to raze or repurpose it but is currently a thriving rock and roll/blues/country venue. At its best, Memphis music always contains a dollop of all three of those flavors!

You can spend hours watching clips from this channel. Here are a few that I listened to and loved today:

The great Memphis blues pianist Mose Vinson:

Calvin Newborn, the guitar-playing member of the famous Newborn family:

Alvin Youngblood Hart covering Neil Young:

Also–and, now, you gotta promise to buy it if you like it!–here’s a handy YouTube playlist of the Memphis Rent Party companion.