Friday, June 27, 2008

Only As the Day Is Long will we Plunder Beg & Curse the Cloud Tail

Rabo de Nube – Charles Lloyd Quartet (ECM, 15 Mar 08)
Charles Lloyd has been around the musical block, so to speak. Born & raised in post-Depression era (not to mention musically rich) Memphis, Lloyd began blowing saxophone at the tender age of nine. By his mid-teens he was working sideman gigs with Blues royalty (e.g., B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Bland.) He moved to Los Angeles in the mid-50s to attend USC and that’s where he jumped into Jazz with both feet. He recorded regularly, releasing an average of one LP per year, until the early 70s. At that time he took a detour into teaching Transcendental Meditation. He recorded sporadically for next decade or so, moving away from Jazz to work regularly with The Beach Boys.
Rabo de Nubo (Cloud Tail) is a solid piece of work. It was recorded live in Switzerland in 2007. Prometheus and Le Colline de Monk, are the only free form leaning jaunts (revealing his early influences from Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy) on the disc. The rest of the album is more melodic and accessible to the occasional Jazz fan.
The standouts: In spite of a rambling 4 minute intro Migration of Spirit is a great cut. The beginning of Booker’s Garden, a tribute to Lloyd’s childhood friend Booker Little, has a Keith Jarrett feel to it with Lloyd on flute (Jarrett worked with Floyd for a time in the 60s.). And the title track Rabo de Nube is outstanding! It’s the only non-Lloyd composition on the disc (composed by Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez.)

Plunder, Beg and Curse – Colour Revolt (Fat Possum Records, 1 Apr 08)
In spite of the bands name they are not from the UK. They hail from Mississippi. Maybe that’s how they spell color down there, who knows. What I do know is that these guys rock! They’ve been playing together since high school in one form or another and it shows. Plunder, Beg and Curse has a sound that is noticeably absent from today’s airwaves (unless you listen to KEXP or something of that ilk) the sound of voices full of angst & dissatisfaction with the status quo baying at the moon. Voices propelled by a driving drum and bass and lifted heavenward on the notes of searing guitars.
Colour Revolt has put together a great CD of tunes. Tasty licks over thick beats, thoughtful melodic lyrics expressed through gritty vocals and it’s all arranged & played tighter than dick’s hat band. Your mom and dad could have danced to this kind of music at their high school prom, if the band had prepared for the gig by swigging post-coital Michelobs between bong hits while discussing what a shitty job our leaders have done over the past few decades (the past eight years in particular) and how hard it’s going to be to get the rig back on the rails. Or maybe I’m dreaming. Either way listen to this band!

Only As the Day Is Long - Sera Cahoone (Sub Pop Records 18 Mar 08)
Sera Cahone started out as a drummer for the Seattle band Carissa’s Wierd. When they broke up some went on to form Band of Horses and Grand Archives and, thank the gods, Sera set out on her own. She’s put together a nice little snap-shot of American Roots music. I like to call it Alt Country*. The ten tracks are stripped down, mostly country sounding, minimal arrangements with sweet vocal harmonies. Sera has hit one out of the park on her first pitch. I love this sound! If Neil Young had been born a double x instead of an xy, he would have released something like this in his post-Buffalo Springfield days.
The highlights for me: You Might As Well, Runnin’ Your Way and Seven Hours Later.

*For those who care, Alt Country is not a term I coined. I first remember seeing it on a music magazine called No Depression . “Alt Country, whatever that is” is a tag line for them, and a damned good one I might add. Anyway, some would say Alt Country comes from Rockers like Gram Parsons & Neil Young embracing a Country sound and adopting it for their own compositions way back in the 60s. Others would argue that Alt Country was born later, in the post-Punk era when the harder leaning artists discovered Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon & Willie. Most will agree that the first true Alt Country band was Uncle Tupelo. In a nut shell, they melded Punk with Country for a new sound. The founding members of Uncle Tupelo went on to form Wilco and Son Volt.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sundirtwater, Sun Kil Moon and One of C&W’s Favorite Sons.

Hey Folks,
My last few weeks have been filled with soccer and baseball. Very busy! The soccer was exciting. The girls played well and finished better than expected. Sadly I watched the Sox drop two in a row to the worst team in MLB (and, as luck would have it, my local team.)
Some selections are beginning to roll in and I'm looking forward to a big batch of new releases. Hopefully they will be blogworthy. As some of you may have guessed I prefer not to publish reviews for CDs that I don't like. There's enough negativity in the ether without me adding to it.
Now that the concert season is upon us I have lots of shows to attend. Emmylou, a Long Winters reunion, the Foo Fighters and Yes to name a few. And I nearly forgot, the demolition derbies, complete with rollover shows, started a few weeks ago. They're celebrating the Solstice with mini-car football. It's tough being a Renaissance man.

Merle Haggard - The Bluegrass Sessions (McCoury Music, 2 Oct 07)
Merle Haggard has been one of my favorites since I first heard “Mama Tried” on WPOR while riding to the dump with my dad. We loved riding to the dump because he’d stop at Dick McDougal’s store and buy us kids a birch beer and himself a Black Label or PBR. Then he’d drink his wrapped in a small paper bag, like no one would suspect anything. I never got that part. Any way I digress…
On this latest effort Merle and his all-star backing band, led by Marty Stuart, recorded a dozen tracks of old and new in living room style (live set approach) at Ricky Skaggs’ studio. Sure it’s called The Bluegrass Sessions and there’s a mandolin lead break on almost every track, but in truth it’s classic country, unplugged, Grand Ole Opry style. If you’re tired of all the Skynyrd and Eagles wanna-bes that clog country radio today, pop open a 16 oz. PBR and check out Jimmy Rogers Blues Medley, Blues Stay Away From Me and Merle’s different arrangement of his old hit, Big City. You’ll be glad you did.

The Waifs – Sundirtwater (Compass Records, 4 Mar 08)
In my humble opinion the best harmonies come from siblings; Anne & Nancy Wilson (Heart), the Robinson brothers (Black Crowes) and the Beach Boys, to name a few. Vikki Thorn and Dona Simpson are no exception. The girls from down under, supported by the phenomenal guitar work of Josh Cunningham, have put together an excellent assortment of songs. It’s a little more “built-up” than their previous releases. The trio is fast becoming a band and thickening up their sound by layering electric over acoustic. The arrangements are solid and I like the addition of instruments.
The bluesy lick of the opening track Pony will start you tapping your feet and you’ll continue right into the Fever-like title track (think Peggy Lee.) The mid-tempo country rockers How Many Miles and Goodbye are reminiscent of the Eagles (in their prime.)
Sundirtwater is my favorite release of 2008. It’s so good it inspired me to have another listen to their back catalog. The Waifs songwriting and performance remind me a lot of the Indigo Girls. Buy this disc now!

Sun Kil Moon – April (Caldo Verde, 1 Apr 08)
Mark Kozelek writes and performs some great music, but the guy is definitely not a cheery man. Having said that, I really like this album. It’s melodic, although a bit reserved, somber and to some extent, repetitive. He reminds me of Neil Young before his Keep on Rockin’ In the Free World period. For April Kozelek returns to his roots. He’s back to his Red House Painters sound; a stripped down, solid, slower-tempo approach to rock and best of all the songs are original compositions. There’s no re-working of other people’s songs on this disc. Included in the package is a four song disc of different arrangements.
Don't look for any rockers or dance tracks. This CD is better suited for relaxing on the porch with friends. And I apologize for not singling out a track or two as my favorite, but this whole album is good.

More to follow...