Afternoon Freak (May 14th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Grab-bag Day, for various and sundry reasons. The post title refers to the name of the newest band to be highlighted in Joyful Noise’s White Label Series, to which I subscribe. One album a month, in a 500-copy vinyl run, chosen and annotated by an already-established artist who believes it’s worthy of broader and deeper exposure. Afternoon Freak’s “The Blind Strut” is in the May spotlight:

Odd thing: the curator here is in the band, so he’s got a vested interest. He’s also named Mike Watt, and he’s on bass here in an instro combo with Danny Frankel on drums and Matt Mottel on various keyboards. I will always extend Watt encouragement and critical latitude; The Minutemen have been and always will be a guiding light for me, musically and philosophically–plus, a better dude cannot be found. Trouble is, I’ve yet to truly get with any of his solo ventures, though this comes close. Mottel seems to be the lead voice among the three, Watt plays with restraint, finds the groove, and pitches his ear closely, Frankel rides the grooves ably. The tracks are catchy, a tad repetitious–this kind of date puts pressure on someone to be very imaginative–and evocative of multiple possible influences (remember the instros on Second Edition?), but they are not an irritant upon the ear. Four tracks A-side that get where they’re going; three on the B that stretch out, if a bit monotonously. All of Joyful Noise’s White Label releases have been interesting; one’s been terrific, and one great. This one wouldn’t do badly thrown on a venue PA before a cool band’s gig.

If you’re a Scratch Perry fan and haven’t heard his work with Jah Lion on Colombia Colly, you have your weekly grail hunt. The physical media’s a little scarce, but let the above track from the album be a motivator for you–one of the all-time greatest Perry sound effects leading into a ghostly voice reaching back to Peggy Lee.

 

Sometimes I get an irresistible hankering for the work of Gene Pitney. For some folks, I imagine he’s the opposite of cool: straight-looking, corny-sounding, a persistent profferer of melodramatic pop, caught in an unfashionable time capsule. For me, he’s a gone kind of cool: hitmaker deluxe (16 in the Top 40), studio tinkerer (multi-tracking his own vocals and instruments on “I’m Gonna Love My Life Away”), writer of “Hello Mary Lou” and “He’s a Rebel,” ace Spector avatar (“Every Little Breath I Take”), early coverer of and sideman for the Glimmer Twins (“That Girl Belongs to Yesterday”), hit duet singer with none other than George Jones (“I’ve Got Five Dollars and It’s Saturday night), master of geography songs (“Mecca,” “24 Hours from Tulsa,” “Last Exit to Brooklyn”), poet of teen you-and-me-against-the-world (“Town Without Pity”). As Jerry Lee might say, “Top that, motherfucker!” Pitney might have said it himself–in Italian.

Tempted? A brief Pitney Playlist for ya:

Persistent profferer of melodramatic pop–with a difference, huh?

Short-shrift Division:

I received my copy of Offbeat! yesterday and noted some interesting new records being reviewed. Sometimes I suspect I am critically soft-minded in that I will like anything if it’s in a New Orleans or south Louisianan tradition. Sampling these records with Apple Music, I was able to reassure myself that I can exercise critical discretion. I’m violating a blog rule by writing about lukewarm creations, but I suppose I need to show I can do it for the record:

Chas Justus & The Jury–Pale (really pale), characterless, zestless, sterilized Western swing. Merely skilled playing and boring vocals.

Cha Wa: Spyboy–To scope in further, I truly thought there was no such thing as an enervating Mardi Gras Indian record. I was wrong. This is record suffers from having a very finely-tuned funk-field.

Keith Frank & The Soileau Zydeco Band: Return of the King–I am nutso for Frank’s “Haterz.” But his recent insistence on walking his zydeco into urban musical neighborhoods makes it less tough and contagious.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk, Volume 1–I am always seeing Sam’s gigs touted in Offbeat! (and hearing them recommended on ‘OZ when in NOLA myself). First sentence of the current review of this album includes the phrase “[t]he heavyweight champion of rocking, brassy, NOLA funk.” This wouldn’t make it out of Golden Gloves.

Ok, never again…

Strictly Alphabetical (February 12, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

I was all over the map yesterday, and today’s action-packed, so am simply using a time-honored method to bring order to my musical wandering:

Ain’t That the Way / Gorbza – Hardcore holdouts wailing against the dying of the light. Like a cattle prod in these dead-meat times.

At the Finger Palace/ Evan Parker – Not your gramma’s “Fingerprints, Pt. 1 & 2.” Parker’s intense repetitions on this solo sax record can produce micromelodic hallucinations.

Bags and Trane / Milt Jackson & John Coltrane – Just discovered they teamed up; would seem oddly matched–but then there is the blues.

I Remember Harlem / Roy Eldridge – Absolutely poured-gold trumpeting from Little Jazz’s prime–and he wasn’t a bad singer, either.

“Kalenda” / Lost Bayou Ramblers (w / Spider Stacey and Dickie Landry) – The Ramblers proving once again that Cajun music is fairly adaptable, with a Pogue and an avant garde saxophonist not just present, but integrated.

Let It Bleed / The Rolling Stones – I say this for my pal Whitney Shroyer, who only needs to hear me say it (his mind and ears are right): aside from the performances being titanic, this record is a marvel of rock and roll sound engineering, crisp but full-bodied, clean but magnificently, malevolently dirty, balanced but highly defined in its finest parts. Damn.

“Needed Time” / Lightnin’ Hopkins – An addendum to the New York Times’ recent kumbaya story.

NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert / Hurray for the Riff Raff – This ain’t my meat and taters, but Alynda Segarra doesn’t take no for an answer, and that’s a stance I admire.

Top of the Mountain / Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers – It’s pronounced DOOP-see, baby, and it’s remarkable how durable the Creole take on r&b has proven to be. Inevitable: the above Hendrix cover.

Listening Journal, Southern Journey, March 27

Today our daytime adventure was taking the trolley to Canal and walking all the way to the Bywater neighborhood. Not much music was involved, but we were jump-started out of the hotel room by YouTube videos of James Brown’s Japanese miso commercials. I am not making this up.

On the way back from Bywater (by the way, I HIGHLY recommend Elizabeth’s on Chartres), we stopped in The Marigny and, of course, one more trip to Louisiana Music Factory. The owner must think I am insane–why not get everything in one trip?–but I have to let ideas marinate, plus it takes considerable mental discipline to liberate myself from penny-pinching web purchases and do the right thing: support brick and mortar record stores, especially in NOLA. Also, should the reader assume I am independently wealthy, I have no other spending habits. I’d be wearing a burlap sack if I could get away with it, and if it would add money to my music budget. Yes, I know about streaming and don’t care. Here’s the sum of my booty:

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In the evening, finally able to listen to Bo Dollis, Jr.’s new Mardi Gras Indian rekkid A NEW KIND OF FUNK (it jes grew outta the OLDEST), we drove out to the greatest music venue in America: The Rock ‘N’ Bowl on Carrollton. OK, that ain’t an exaggeration:

The music is always great–this night, new breed zydeco star Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie, so open and fun and rocking and sweet he had what I assume was a young mentally disabled relative playing washboard and singing along on stage all night.

The crowd? PACKED…with everyone from kids to octogenarians, every shade of pigmentation, across class lines–and almost EVERYONE dances (including us, and I am from the Tom T. Hall school). And most know HOW to dance; we even saw the hoofin’ star of Louisiana Swamp Stomp once again dancing with every free woman on the floor! And…lots of laughter. LOTS.

You can bowl AND listen to live music, and neither activity disrupts the other.

The bar food beats the typical!

The staff is great–a barmaid even tracked me down through the crowd to return a $20 that was “stuck to” the fiver I handed her.

Did I mention the music? It’s a steady diet of SUBSTANTIAL roots rock. Especially zydeco. Just have to mention that Geno zydeco-ized a Lionel Ritchie song–and made it work!

If you do meet friends down here, it is a guaranteed winner. We met two of my former students who happened to be on vacation, too (they are grown, and dating, so it was a pleasure to buy ’em beers and watch ’em dance). Let me let some pics do the rest:

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Mid-City Rock ‘N’ Bowl. 3000 South Carrollton, New Orleans. Before you die.

Listening Journal, Southern Journey, March 23, 2014

Struck out from Como and drove south on 55 to deep accompaniment of Alan Lomax’s late-Fifties/early-Sixties field recordings from the same area (McDowell, the Hemphills, Parchman Farm worksongs, a couple of Tyro church chants). SOUTHERN JOURNEY: 61 HIGHWAY, it’s called. You need to listen to it some day, though it should be called 51 HIGHWAY. As we drove down the pine-lined four-lane, the music threw us back into a crueler time–a wild goat perched under a bridge over the highway reinforced that feeling.

Then we visited that place where, as Sam Phillips once said, “the soul of man never dies”: the world of Chester Arthur Burnett, The Howlin’ Wolf, aided and abetted by Hubert Sumlin on wild guitar, Otis Spann on rolling 88s, and Willie Dixon, on bass and pen & paper. I sang along silently and mimed playing the solos the whole way. Top 10 record: the rockin’ chair cover/MOANIN’ AT MIDNIGHT twofer. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Wolf overload a mic or Sumlin cut the air with a note.

After we crossed over into Louisiana, it was time for ZYDECO STOMP DOWN (various live tracks, including Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas’ truth-telling “Everything on the Hog”) and ALLIGATOR STOMP, highlighted by Rockin’ Sidney’s paean to his daughter (not his lover) “My Toot-Toot,” Cleveland Crochet’s “Sugar Bee,” and a Cajun cover of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.” This was designed to get us primed for the wind-up of Thibodaux, Louisiana’s Swamp Stomp, which we thoroughly enjoyed over beer, jambalaya, fried pickles, and a shrimp po-boy. Saw Cameron DuPuy’s band, which was OK, but the Pine Leaf Boys, mixing some Jerry Lee and George Jones into their Cajun stylings, took the prize. A tall black man in a cowboy hat and shirt with cut-off sleeves danced his Cajun/r&b fusion style with at least 10 different women, including an energetic 70+-year-old white woman. I thought to myself, “Would she have been out there with him in ’64?” Maybe so, but it IS a new world.

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Zoomed on to New Orleans, listening to ‘OZ along the way (we pledged $10 a month), inched up Rampart Street, which was flooded with deliriously happy people leaving the high school brass band competition at Armstrong Park, parked on Treme (just around the corner from St. Augustine church, from SHAKE THE DEVIL OFF!), and walked against a chilly breeze up to Congo Square to watch The Hot Eight Brass Band, who were smokin’, and augmented by a Mardi Gras Indian.

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Both of us are a little ailing: Nicole’s got a sore throat, my back’s whacked. We are applying a dose of Sidney Bechet as we fade out in the hotel room….