Sunday, January 31, 2010
Pop singer Marti Jones first emerged as the frontwoman of the group Color Me Gone before issuing her solo debut Unsophisticated Time -- produced by future husband Don Dixon -- in 1985. Though the recepient of widespread critical acclaim, Jones found little commercial success with LPs like 1986's Match Game.Not as good as the debut, although this one also features husband Don Dixon, and members of the DB's and Bongos, as well as T-Bone Burnett, Paul Carrack, and Marshall Crenshaw. The best track of the album is a beautiful ballad "Soon I Will be Gone" (a cover of British blues-rock band Free).
Crazy Backwards Alphabet was a side project of Henry Kaiser. Others in the band were John French, Michael Maksymenko, and Andy West of the Dixie Dregs.Very great avant-rock songs in the vein of Vialka and Captain Beefheart and post-punk/new wave influences.Heavy chops and creativity from this expansive supergroup, included are some hilarious cover versions like a cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange" sung in Russian!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
One of the most audacious experiments of the Texan rock of years '80 was that one of the Glass Eye, group of Austin begun in 1985 with the autoproduced EP Marlo, a collection of arduous elettro-jazz songs with the bottom of Brian Beattie in beautiful sight, the crooked rhythms of Scott Marcus to impose impossible times, and the timbriche "acids" of the keyboardist Stella Weir to disfigure those little of melodies sung by Kathy McCarty. Beattie is responsible for the harmonies "fusion" and the difficult rhythms that graft jazz and avant-guard onto the ancient POP.
The first album, Huge (Wrestler), of 1986 widely maintained to those promises, while the successive Bent By Nature (Bar/None) of 1988, with Dave Cameron on drums and Sheri Wools to the keyboards, try one less extreme synthesis. The idea is however always that of one to make some rock a little bit askew, with the instrumental parts hiccupping, the irregular times, the song more jazz than folk, and a worthy composure of a chamber quartet (but Kicking The Dog stamps funky). Beattie raves with I take from saloon in Comeback, inserting the royal guitar of the southern school in more "open" harmonic outlines, from free improvisation, until to lick the first Soft Machine in Living With Reptiles. Of other songs the ballads of McCarty (like Whiskey and Oblivion) make one think of Joni Mitchell of average age or of Grace Slick of the Jefferson Starship (Christine). It is a sound perhaps too much cerebral, more from new wave than from college-POP.
Alt-country singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier exploded onto the scene in 1999 following her self-released sophomore effort, Drag Queens in Limousines. The album, which garnered her a Crossroads Silver Star and a four-star rating in Rolling Stone, had critics comparing her self-described "country noir" to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, John Prine, and, not surprisingly, Lucinda Williams.
Since her second offering, the self-issued Drag Queens in Limousines in 1999, and continuing through the stellar Filth & Fire in 2002, Texas singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier has quietly and consistently raised the aesthetic bar for herself. She has been favorably (and accurately) compared to Townes Van Zandt for her literate American gothic songs about wasted lives, desolate characters who roam the highways like ghosts, shattered dreams, and frustrated expectations. But Gauthier never exploits her characters; she views them with a piercing tenderness and empathy, painting them with dignity and humanity. On Mercy Now, Gauthier digs a little deeper; she comes down on the side of the song itself. The protagonists whose tales she relates are given rich musical voices, adding depth, dimension, and flesh and blood as related by her keen-eyed observations, unflinching poetic language, and willingness to be subtle and not intrude. Her razor-wire, weatherbeaten, loving kindness digs deep as it pleads for release on "Falling Out of Love," which opens the record. With her acoustic guitar in minor mode, a deep, lonesome harmonica, hollow, sparse percussion, and producer Gurf Morlix's trademark slow-wrangle slide, she sings and even becomes the voice of the broken-hearted blues. There is no sentimentality in her view, just the taut edginess that is so wearying and anxious about trying to get past the addiction to a memory seared with every breath. On the title track, Gauthier's guitar and voice offer a gritty, moving meditation on compassion, invoking mercy for all those who suffer, from family to church and country to those who are nameless and faceless. There is nothing facile in Gauthier's words, nothing remotely trite or ordinary about the weariness in the grain of her voice, as Brian Standefer's cello and Morlix's lap steel fill the center and carry the message to the heavens humbly, slowly, purposefully. "Wheel Inside the Wheel," written for the late Dave Carter, is a spooky rolling and choogling banjo/guitar extravaganza. It features characters from Gauthier's New Orleans Mardis Gras: Louis Armstrong, Marie Laveau, the Krewes, etc. -- all of them metaphors for the transmigration of souls. Her cover of Harlan Howard's "Just Say She's a Rhymer" is as back porch as it gets, dressed in fiddle, steel, strummed six-strings, and plodding bass. Her delivery comes out of time and space and rests fully in this moment. Gauthier inhabits the song as if it were her own. The set closes with the punchy, electric "It Ain't the Wind, It's the Rain." A Hammond B-3 carries the tune from underneath as stinging guitars, throbbing basslines, and Gauthier's clear, prophetic voice rings over it all. What a finish; what a record. Mercy Now cuts deep into the heart -- it showcases not only Gauthier's prowess with the poetry and craft of song, but her humility and wisdom as she digs further into its chamber of secrets.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Taking their name from a 19th century Russian anarchist, the Kropotkins were the avant-garage rock project of Soldier String Quartet composer and violinist Dave Soldier, a professor of psychology and neurology at Columbia University with an extensive and eclectic musical background: in addition to playing guitar with Bo Diddley and collaborating with John Cale and Elliott Sharp, he arranged the scores to the 1996 films I Shot Andy Warhol and Basquiat and produced "Ice-9 Ballade," an orchestral collaboration with Kurt Vonnegut. Also comprising Memphis-based vocalist Lorette Velvette, percussionist Samm Bennett (the frontman of History of the Last Five Minutes and Chunk), drummer Jonathan Kane (an alumnus of Swans, Sirens, Rhys Chatham and LaMonte Young's Forever Bad Blues Band), improvisational violinst Mark Feldman and bassist/guitarist Dog (born Mark Deffenbaugh), the Kropotkins issued their self-titled debut -- a synthesis of punk, Delta blues and avant-garde experimentation -- in 1996. 5 Point Crawl followed in spring 2001.
Declaring herself as Jewish, lesbian, folk singer-songwriter that teaches surf and swiming, Phranc shocks all those who have closed mind. To shock and to make people think is someting that is certainly a letfover from her punk-rock heritage.She is open to everything in her style, but she also knows how to be very critical. She just knows how to name right things with the right name. When she sings about fachism, she simply shouts "Take off that swastika!". A lot of so called feminists would be probably negatively surprised by her treatment of Gerthrude Stein for example. She just took an old Modern Lovers song and simply replaced Pablo Picasso with Gerthrude Stein.She keeps her link with her native punk scene all the time. She played live with Husker Du, X, Dead Kennedys, John Doe... Phranc is an excelent signer and an excellent songwritter. She writes uncompromised folk songs, with defiant lyrics. She is also very found of surfing and she likes to perform and wite surf music. On her records often a surf song replaces a folk song, and like that 'til the end of the record. Unique feeling.To hear her music was the hardest thing to do, and the first song I heard was an uncompromised folk anthem to body and self (and to lesbianism) entitled Dress Code. Slap in a face! Strenght of a song strikes me even now. She sings: "You don't have to prick me, I bleed anyway".
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The Resentments started out as a jam session among five fixtures on the roots rock and alternative country scene, but evolved into a real band. A regular member of Kris Kristofferson's band in the 1970s, Stephen Bruton was alt-country when it was called outlaw country and he was still called Turner Stephen Bruton. He worked with Rita Coolidge, Willie Nelson, T-Bone Burnett, and Billy Joe Shaver before starting his solo recording career and releasing four albums of his own in the 1990s. In 2002, he formed the Resentments with guitarists/singers Jon Dee Graham and Jud Newcomb, who have almost equally impressive resumés. Graham helped found roots rock pioneers the True Believers, recorded with John Doe and Kelly Willis, and released three critically acclaimed albums of his own. Newcomb's long been a fixture on the Austin music scene and has played with Ray Wylie Hubbard and Bob Schneider. Bassist Bruce Hughes and drummer John Chipman (who replaced John Treaner in 2003) both have sideman resumés too long to list here. The Resentments recorded their first album, Sunday Night Line Up, in 2002, and followed up with an eponymous self-titled release.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Dwelling on the glories of the past, whatever the decade currently in fashion, pales before the glories of the present with its paradigm shifts and all-access Internet. One thing I do miss in the recent and current decade is "characters": that is, people who don't fall into types; folks who by dint of intelligence, mixed with experience and a unique vision of the world, carve out a personal place in it--men like Jim Dickinson.
It would be easy to write him off as a mere roots-rock legend. The legend would start at the Sound of Memphis Studio in the late Sixties, where, with Charley Freeman, Tommy McClure, and Sammy Creason, he formed the rhythm section known as the "Dixie Flyers." The Flyers moved to Miami, Florida, as the Atlantic Records house band backing such artists as Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, and Jerry Jeff Walker. After leaving the Flyers, Dickinson returned to Memphis, and began a producing career, working with Ry Cooder and Big Star. His work with the latter no doubt appealed to later clients like Green On Red, and The Replacements. And, oh yeah, Dickinson recorded "Wild Horses" with the Rolling Stones.
In true "character" fashion, these facts don't begin to sum up the man. You might be surprised that he studied drama at Baylor University--unless you thought about it for a minute. He has released two solo records before this as James Luther Dickinson, thirty years apart (take that, T Bone). The more recent, 2002's Free Beer Tomorrow, contains a song, "Ballad of Billy and Oscar," about an imagined meeting between Billy the Kid and Oscar Wilde.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Lucy Kaplansky remains in high demand as a backup vocalist for fellow folkies on the road or in the studios; her pure voice and New York accent can be heard on almost every Shawn Colvin, Richard Shindell, Nancy Griffith, and John Gorka album. Her ear is incredible and she seems to be arranging her harmonies on the spot, making good songs great with a subtle yet powerful touch.But though in concert she tends to focus on her own stunning songwriting, Dr. Kaplansky’s cheerful delight at singing and arranging the tunes of others translates to her own recordings, too: her albums tend to come in at about one-third covers, and her taste is impeccable. Over the last thirteen years, she has come to be known as much for her sterling interpretations of the songs of others as she is for her own material.In fact, Lucy Kaplansky is such a prolific and powerful artist.
From CD called "The Songwriter's Exchange," recorded at the Cornelia Street Cafe in 1980 featuring Lucy as part of a duo called "Simon and Kaplanski" singing
"Say Goodbye Love," "Moon Song" and "Rooms."