“I Need Fuel!” (May 4th, 2018, MO 63, 54, 5, 44)

I road-tripped to my parents’ home in Monett, Missouri, to celebrate my brother’s birthday–he was home from Dickinson, Texas. Unfortunately, my ace-boon pavement podnah Nicole was under the weather, so I was driving solo.

Also, my vehicle is a ’93 Ford Splash with 88,000 miles on it–I don’t entirely trust it, but it does have a nice stereo that masks those worrisome noises. So I selected some special, time-tested records to keep me fully engaged, and to “study” in “The Lab”–my nickname for the truck cab.

Neckbones: Souls on Fire

If the Rolling Stones were from Oxford, Mississippi, fronted by Richard Hell, and drunk on LAMF. Oh yeah: and cut loose with a week’s pay in a casino. But let me pull your coat on lead singer Tyler Keith. I hate to keep making comparisons, but this is true: if you, like me, are a fan of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club, there’s no reason for you to miss Tyler’s work with The Neckbones, The Preacher’s Kids, and The Apostles. It’s got the same fire, the same sense of spiritual hauntedness, the same immersion in the blues-based rock roll verities with a cerrated edge. What it doesn’t have, I think, is Pierce’s doomed aura–and that’s a good thing. Not something you wanna root for, you know?

I’m getting off topic, but proceed thusly through Mr. Keith’s oeuvre:

1) The Neckbones: Souls on Fire

2) Tyler Keith & The Preachers’ Kids: Romeo Hood

3) Tyler Keith & The Preachers ‘ Kids: Wild Emotions

4) The Neckbones: The Lights are Getting Dim

5) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Do It for Johnny

6) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Black Highway

7) The Neckbones: Gentlemen

To prove I’m somewhat objective, I’ve never warmed up to The Preachers’ Kids’ The Devil’s Hitlist or Keith’s kinda-solo Alias Kid Twist, though the cassette-only The Apostle is worth the search. To recap, and I will not have stuttered:  Tyler Keith and his projects equal to, if not better, than Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s.

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls and Tattoo You

A few weeks ago, I was having fun making fun of Mick Jagger’s garb and minstrelsy as modeled in videos from these records. Since then, I’ve come back to the videos, then to the records, to just joy in Charlie’s cracking drumming and Keith’s lewd, thick, buzzing guitar lines–sounds of the gods! Played both albums all the way through, loud, with nothing but a smile–and re-re-replays of “Lies,” “Respectable,” “Hang Fire,” “Start Me Up,” and “Neighbors.”

The Go-Betweens: 1978-1990

Yeah, I only listened to this comp THREE TIMES this week. Simply, the cats from Brisbane are my uncontested favorite romantic pop group–the music can rock or be sensuous and luxurious, with constant surprises: spring rain, pool draining, men o’ sand v. girls o’ sea, white witchery + poetry that’s Irish and so black, getting back up on the pony, period blood, cattle and cane. If this album ended after its first 11 tracks, it’d be an A+; as it is, it’s a solid A. Note: I love Grant, but I’m a Robert guy.

Oh, yes, I did. I needed to feel the breeze blowin’ up me, and be reminded what a moon can do (though I was driving into Monett in broad daylight). I also needed to get in touch with the real me before coming all the way home, and the china pig snuffles? They center me.

Short-shrift Division:

I am strange. I grade research papers at midnight to these sounds.

Dennis Gonzales and his New Dallas Sextet: Namesake–Fabulous, passionate, energetic, long-form jazz, from the genre’s most underrated living composer (and one hell of a trumpeter). Secret weapon: on horns and flute, Douglas Ewart!

Roscoe Mitchell: Discussions–The septuagenarian jazz sensei shows no signs of slowing. Playing puts me in a focused, contemplative, unsentimental mood–perfect for scoring freshman essays.

Like Spring Rain (May 1st, 2018, Columbia, MO)

The nice thing about having the memory of so many songs in your head is that, so often, a pebble of a thought–a word or a phrase–rolls to the fore, settles defiantly, and won’t budge until you seek out a related line of a song you just have to hear. For me, on this day, a weather app on my phone set the process in motion: it’s just recently become spring-like in Missouri, blossoms are busting out all over, and I was checking just to make sure we weren’t going to get boomeranged by a cold front (again). The mid-evening forecast. Rain. Spring rain. Is change actually coming? Coming down like sheets? Wait–what’s that itch?

I tried to suppress it, but fragments of those phrases kept buzzing my brain. When I returned home from work, I headed for the living room stacks (there’s one in almost every room of our house) and just randomly (I thought) chose three CDs for the changer: Glasvegas’ eponymous 2008 debut, The Go-Betweens’ so-stellar-it’s-almost-toxic 1978-1990, and Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway. You will, I hope, notice that the alphabetical progress of those titles does indeed support my theory of (attempted?) random choice.

I loaded ’em up, flopped onto the couch with the Sister Rosetta Tharpe bio I am trudging through, and promptly read two pages, dozed, read three pages, dozed–then was brought bolt-upright by a chorus that came hurtling from the speakers:

Dressed in a white shirt with my hair combed straight
Here in my black shoes and me without a date
Me without hindsight, me without
When will change come, Just like Spring Rain
Falling down like sheets
(falling down like sheets)
Coming down like love
(coming down like love)
Falling at my feet
(falling just like)
Spring Rain

The itch that will be scratched. The thought-pebble grown to a boulder that will roll away at the proper command:

Of course, I repeat-played the song! A wonderful guitar jangle of an opener, Robert Forster’s aching, utterly convincing lead vocal (haven’t we been there? yes, we have), and Lindy Morrison’s military snaps leading into and out of those words that were born today out of a weather forecast. (Don’t get me started on this compilation’s other treasures; better to get yourself started if you’ve yet to, and it’ll be a friend for life).

Quick observations about my other “random” choices: I really need to listen to Glasvegas’ other music, but I’ve been hooked on the Scots’ fledging effort since I first played it a decade ago. It’s not my usual cuppa–the attack is unabashedly romantic and straightforwardly pop–but there is something about the bits and pieces of rock and roll history from which  James Allen and his band construct songs, and about Allen and Rich Costey’s Phil Spector-cum-Steve Lillywhite production, that makes my knees weak. The tunes are memorable wall-to-wall, and Allen’s yearning tenor crying out from inside the grand sound-chamber is consistently affecting. As for Giddens, her past work has struck me as a bit too prim, pure, and proper–a mite flu-la-lute, as my old friend Cassandra would say–to sell her material and concept (whether solo or with the Carolina Chocolate Drops). However, I bought her 2017 record because, in that moment (January, I think), I felt like I was going to support anything defiant, and a glance at the song titles suggested that maybe, just maybe, Rhiannon would be angry enough to cut through her…I’m not sure it’s composure, but something like that. And she does, though I kept being bugged by how much it reminded me of a ’60s folk album (ultra-righteous in tone, very correct in selections) and figured I would return to rationality and dismiss it. HOWEVER, that’s yet to happen. I’ve played this sucker at least 15 times and it keeps getting stronger; the songs aren’t just correctly chosen, they’re audaciously chosen, and Giddens doesn’t trip on them). Believe me, I wasn’t sure anyone needed to be, for example, covering The Staples’ “Freedom Highway”–no point, you will not improve that any which way, young lady. But I’ve come to even admire that, on which she’s ably aided by another young, righteous, and talented artist, Bhi Bhiman. The damn thing’s won me over, and that’s that.

Short-shrift Division:

I am on a 33 1/3rd Series reading kick, and guess what book I’m picking up next?