Tuesday, September 23, 2014

add 1125 moon & moon

On its 2008 debut, VII ACTS OF AN IRON KING, the Brooklyn-based indie ensemble Moon & Moon presents an avant-rock epic. Gilded by various horns, woodwinds, and strings, the album melds freak folk with Wagnerian opera, as best revealed on “Act IV: Come Down Like a Man,” which features oddball troubadour Devendra Banhart.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

1124 Steely Dan

Building from the jazz fusion foundation of Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan created an alluringly sophisticated album of jazzy pop with Katy Lied. With this record, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen began relying solely on studio musicians, which is evident from the immaculate sound of the album. Usually, such a studied recording method would drain the life out of each song, but that's not the case with Katy Lied, which actually benefits from the duo's perfectionist tendencies. Each song is given a glossy sheen, one that accentuates not only the stronger pop hooks, but also the precise technical skill of the professional musicians drafted to play the solos. Essentially, Katy Lied is a smoother version of Pretzel Logic, featuring the same cross-section of jazz-pop and blues-rock. The lack of innovations doesn't hurt the record, since the songs are uniformly brilliant. Less overtly cynical than previous Dan albums, the album still has its share of lyrical stingers, but what's really notable are the melodies, from the seductive jazzy soul of "Doctor Wu" and the lazy blues of "Chain Lightning" to the terse "Black Friday" and mock calypso of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies." It's another excellent record in one of the most distinguished rock & roll catalogs of the '70s.


add 1125 Steely Dan

Countdown to Ecstasy wasn't half the hit that Can't Buy a Thrill was, and Steely Dan responded by trimming the lengthy instrumental jams that were scattered across Countdown and concentrating on concise songs for Pretzel Logic. While the shorter songs usually indicate a tendency toward pop conventions, that's not the case with Pretzel Logic. Instead of relying on easy hooks, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen assembled their most complex and cynical set of songs to date. Dense with harmonics, countermelodies, and bop phrasing, Pretzel Logic is vibrant with unpredictable musical juxtapositions and snide, but very funny, wordplay. Listen to how the album's hit single, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," opens with a syncopated piano line that evolves into a graceful pop melody, or how the title track winds from a blues to a jazzy chorus -- Becker and Fagen's craft has become seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible. Since the songs are now paramount, it makes sense that Pretzel Logic is less of a band-oriented album than Countdown to Ecstasy, yet it is the richest album in their catalog, one where the backhanded Dylan tribute "Barrytown" can sit comfortably next to the gorgeous "Any Major Dude Will Tell You." Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

add 1123 bambi molesters

Not many acts that continue for a few albums get a chance to go back and take care of what they might see in retrospect as mistakes or tentative starts. But there are always glorious exceptions -- thus, the course of events that led to the Croatian surf-rock quartet the Bambi Molesters re-recording their 1997 debut, Dumb Loud Hollow Twang, in a "Deluxe" edition, with special guests, bonus tracks, and more besides. What might have seemed a quixotic exercise gets explained in the liner notes -- Dumb Loud Hollow Twang's original run, though popular in surf-rock obsessive circles, had not resulted in a reprint, while the group's growing popularity resulted in further demand and attention for the album. The bandmembers themselves felt the debut was far too rushed -- it was literally recorded in three hours as a one-take rip with instrument leakage and bad mixing ruining the impact -- so with more time to spare and a chance to flesh out the sound, the result was 2003's Deluxe. The quartet's command of the surf vernacular is unparalleled -- guitarists Dalibor Pavicic and Dinko Tomljanovic have the reverb down and rhythm section Lada and Hrvoje Zaborac shift between mania and mood-out with ease. The guest musicians add just the right touches -- keep an ear out for Neven Franges' piano on the late-night menace of "Pearl Divin'," as well as on the smoky Euro-spy vibe of "Sun Stroke" and a trumpet/sax duo on a variety of songs adding some further sting. If the overall effect is pleasantly reverential rather than a striking new reworking of surf and garage roots, it's still a solid result that works beyond being a mere genre exercise. The bonus tracks are all covers, and winners they are -- the Molesters' collaborator in the Strange project, Chris Eckman, adds whispering menace to "Restless," the album's sole vocal track. Best song title of the bunch -- "Beach Murder Mystery."


Saturday, September 13, 2014

add 1122 Jackson - Trane

Vibraphonist Milt Jackson and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane make for a surprisingly complementary team on this 1959 studio session, their only joint recording. With fine backup by pianist Hank Jones, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Connie Kay, Bags and Trane stretch out on two of Jackson's originals (including "The Late Late Blues") and three standards: a romping "Three Little Words," "The Night We Called It a Day," and the rapid "Be-Bop." This enjoyable music has been included as part of Rhino's Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings box.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

add 1120 Walking papers

Walking Papers is a bluesy post-grunge rock band formed by Jeff Angell and Barrett Martin, two long-serving veterans of the Seattle music scene. Jeff sang and played guitar for the bands Post Stardom Depression and The Missionary Position, and Barrett, a drummer and multi-instrumentalist, played for grunge pioneers Skin Yard and Screaming Trees, as well as the super groups Mad Season and Tuatara. This debut album features a stellar cast of musicians who have each added their unique musical voice to the album: The rumbling bass lines of Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver), the blistering guitar work of Mike McCready (Pearl Jam, Mad Season), the elegant keyboard stylings of Benjamin Anderson, and the soulful horn arrangements of Dave Carter, Dan Spalding, and Ed Ulman. The album was recorded by Catherine Ferrante at Avast Studios in Seattle, and mixed by Jack Endino at Soundhouse in Seattle. Album mastering was done by Chris Hanzsek at Hanzsek Audio.
Walking Papers show that a great song can be conveyed with thundering drums, rumbling bass, and a howling guitar just as easily as it can with percolating marimbas and shimmering vibraphone. The songs on this album can stand alone as individual stories, but taken together as a whole, they convey a much larger narrative with tales of wandering souls, the collisions of will, and the dark beauty of the American heart.

01 Already Dead  3:59 
02 The Whole World's Watching  3:50 
03 Your Secret's Safe With Me  4:13 
04 Red Envelopes  3:41 
05 Leave Me In The Dark  4:19 
06 The Butcher  2:51 
07 Two Tickets  5:05 
08 I'll Stick Around  4:41 
09 Capital T  4:55 
10 A Place Like This  4:29 
11 Independence Day  5:09 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

add 1120 Nels Cline

Nels Cline & Thurston Moore ‎– Pillow Wand

Skycap ‎– cap001, Little Brother Records ‎– LB011
CD, Album


1 Burnt Klubgirl Lid Tone 9:43
2 Blues For Helen Burns 15:46
3 Tommy Hall Dragnet 10:56
4 We Love Our Blood 13:30
5 I Inhale You 15:59

Companies etc



Recorded 12/30/96 at New Zone Studio.
Mastered at A&M.


add 1119 Nels Cline

Those who find avant-garde jazz and free improvisation to be too abrasive are advised to check out this album, on which guitarist Nels Cline is joined by bass wizard Mark Dresser, drummer Billy Mintz, and downtown legend Zeena Parkins on electric and acoustic harp. Make no mistake about it, this music (some of which is composed and some improvised) is definitely challenging: tonal centers, when they exist, shift unpredictably, and Dresser and Parkins in particular make almost constant use of extended techniques that allow them to pull otherworldly sounds from their instruments. But the musical textures are generally quite delicate, and even when the music is atonal it's often very beautiful, even by conventional measures. "Alstromeria," in particular, features some lovely passages on which interlocked harp and guitar arpeggios march gently beneath Dresser's quietly wailing line of artificial harmonics, and the startlingly tortured sounds that Parkins elicits from her electric harp on "Spider Wisdom" (one of the more difficult pieces on this album) are lots of fun. Melodically, Cline is clearly influenced by Derek Bailey, but his tone and execution are all his, and his compositions reward the effort it sometimes takes to follow them. Recommended.


Saturday, September 06, 2014

add 1118 John García


add 1117 Kyuss

With Josh Homme's guitar tuned down two whole steps to C, and plugged into a bass amp for maximum distortion, stoner metal pioneers Kyuss achieve a major milestone in heavy music with their second album, 1992's Blues for the Red Sun. Producer Chris Goss masterfully captures the band's unique heavy/light formula, which becomes apparent as soon as the gentle but sinister intro melody gives way to the chugging main riff in the opener, "Thumb." This segues immediately into the galloping "Green Machine," which pummels forward inexorably and even features that rarest rock & roll moment: a bass solo. "Thong Song" alternates rumbling guitar explosions with almost complete silence, and "Mondo Generator" plays like an extended acid trip. The slow build of the epic "Freedom Run" and the driving "Allen's Wrench" are also highlights, and though the album is heavy on instrumentals, these actually provide a seamless transition from song to song.


Friday, September 05, 2014

add 1116 Blackberry Smoke

Building on the Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern rock template, with a good dose of outlaw honky tonk country and a little bit of bluegrass, gospel, and R&B mixed in, Blackberry Smoke (singer/guitarist Charlie Starr, guitarist/singer Paul Jackson, bassist/singer Richard Turner, keyboardist Brandon Still, and drummer Brit Turner) formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2000 and quickly built a loyal fan base on the Southern tour circuit, opening for top-tier acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, the Zac Brown Band, George Jones, and others. The group released a debut album, Bad Luck Ain't No Crime, in 2004 on Cock of the Walk Records


add 1117 Blackberry Smoke

On their sophomore full-length CD, Little Piece of Dixie, the five members of Blackberry Smoke (singer/guitarist Charlie Starr, guitarist/singer Paul Jackson, bassist/singer Richard Turner, keyboardist Brandon Still, and drummer Brit Turner) play Southern rock in the Lynyrd Skynyrd tradition. Starr has a strong, twangy voice, and he and Jackson keep the heavy riffs coming in country-rock songs extolling the virtues of a Southern, blue-collar man's blowing off steam by drinking, driving around, and maybe enjoying a little female companionship. Typical of the material is "Bottom of This," in which a man gets home from work and asks to be allowed to at least have one beer before he has to engage domestic problems or talk politics. Although the band is much closer to rock than outlaw country, the album has a clear Nashville leaning, produced by Dann Huff and Justin Niebank, and featuring some formula Music City songwriting. At the end, Blackberry Smoke try for an anthem with "Freedom Song," another paean to hitting the road in the pickup truck and putting a cowboy boot to the gas pedal in search of escape from a workingman's troubles. But when Starr declares his desire to "sing along to my freedom song" on the radio as the guitars play a familiar twin-lead part, it seems likely that the song he really has in mind is Skynyrd's "Free Bird," not something by his own band.


Monday, September 01, 2014

add 1115 John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin toured the U.S. during the summer of 2013 with his multi-cultural band the 4th Dimension, which included Gary Husband on keyboards and drums, Etienne Mbappe on bass, and Ranjit Barot on drums. The final concert in Boston, held at the Berklee College of Music, was recorded for live release. This fiery set features pieces from McLaughlin's then-recent albums Now Here This and To the One, but also sees him revisiting one of his classic Mahavishnu Orchestra songs, "You Know, You Know."


add 1114 John Mclaughlin

For anyone who's paid attention to John McLaughlin's recorded output since the turn of the century, it's obvious that he's been on a creative streak unequaled since his days as a Miles Davis sideman and his early Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings. Whether it's his two Remember Shakti sets, or the guitar-and-strings offering that was Thieves and Poets, the Indian carnatic intensity of his Floating Point band, or his forays into fiery, improvisational jazz-rock terrain on Industrial Zen, the evidence is clear. With his latest band, the 4th Dimension, McLaughlin has been on a tear. The band's first offering, To the One, is a direct jazz-rock investigation of John Coltrane's influence on McLaughlin's musical thinking. Now Here This is a knottier jazz-rock fusion offering -- with all the positive connotations of that word and none of the negative. Keyboardist Gary Husband and Cameroonian über-bassist Etienne M'Bappé are holdovers from To the One, while drummer Mark Mondesir has been replaced by Ranjit Barot, who helmed the kit on Floating Point. McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension marry propulsive prog rock to Indian modalities to serious grooves (thanks in no small part to M'Bappé's wildly funky, virtuosic bass playing and Barot's triple-timed breaks and fills). Check opener "Trancefusion" for evidence of kinetic, infectious stop-and-start fusion that keeps rock and jazz in dynamic tension. "Riff Raff" careens with funky bass and keyboard interplay and massive guitar and drum kit grooves. "Echoes from Then" showcases McLaughlin's frenetically rhythmic rock soloing on an extended bass and keyboard vamp, while "Call and Answer" allows Husband to show off his post-bop chops in fluid right-hand flourishes. For balance, there are a couple of mellower cut such as "Wonderfall" (with lovely, languid bass work from M'Bappé) and "Not Here, Not There," a more R&B-oriented, midtempo, jazz-funk vamp that features lyric, emotive playing from McLaughlin. "Guitar Love" is a more rock-based jam, while closer "Take It or Leave It" mines Indian harmony, complex syncopation, and spacey funk with intuitive guitar and keyboard exchanges. Now Here This not only continues the excellent run of albums McLaughlin's amassed in the 21st century, it also displays the 4th Dimension not as a group of sidemen, but as an exciting working band which possesses depth, breadth, and imagination.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Add 1113 Tangerine Dream

Fans generally acknowledge the classic era of Tangerine Dream as coinciding with their Virgin years, which this collection rounds up nicely, opening with two landmarks, Phaedra and Rubycon, then including the group's broadening of scope and direction with the live Ricochet, Stratosfear, and Cyclone. This was directly after the early avant-garde years, consisting of experimental, arrhythmic work like Atem and Electronic Meditation, and before the Hollywood years, when Edgar Froese and co. began composing work for movie scores like Risky Business. Phaedra and Rubycon have not dated at all since their early-‘70s recording, despite Froese, Peter Baumann, and Chris Franke’s early adoption of Moog technology, along with Mellotron and other electric or electronic instruments. Along with the full LPs in their most recent remastering, the collection also rounds up single edits and 7” versions when they were originally available.


Friday, August 29, 2014

add 1112 Joni 1976

Joni Mitchell's Hejira is the last in an astonishingly long run of top-notch studio albums dating back to her debut. Some vestiges of her old style remain here; "Song for Sharon" utilizes the static, pithy vocal harmonies from Ladies of the Canyon's "Woodstock," "Refuge of the Roads" features woodwind touches reminiscent of those in "Barangrill" from For the Roses, and "Coyote" is a fast guitar-strummed number that has precedents as far back as Clouds' "Chelsea Morning." But by and large, this release is the most overtly jazz-oriented of her career up to this point -- hip and cool, but never smug or icy. "Blue Motel Room" in particular is a prototypic slow jazz-club combo number, appropriately smooth, smoky, and languorous. "Coyote," "Black Crow," and the title track are by contrast energetically restless fast-tempo selections. The rest of the songs here cleverly explore variants on mid- to slow-tempo approaches. None of these cuts are traditionally tuneful in the manner of Mitchell's older folk efforts; the effect here is one of subtle rolls and ridges on a green meadow rather than the outgoing beauty of a flower garden. Mitchell's verses, many concerned with character portraits, are among the most polished of her career; the most striking of these studies are that of the decrepit Delta crooner of "Furry Sings the Blues" and the ambivalent speaker of "Song to Sharon," who has difficulty choosing between commitment and freedom. Arrangements are sparse, yet surprisingly varied, the most striking of which is the kaleidoscopically pointillistic one used on "Amelia." Performances are excellent, with special kudos reserved for Jaco Pastorius' melodic bass playing on "Refuge of the Roads" and the title cut. This excellent album is a rewarding listen.


add 1111 Tribute Joni

Joni Mitchell covers dot the musical landscape the way Tim Hortons doughnut shacks line the highways of Ontario. It's a little surprising, then, that the first Mitchell tribute album to be released on a major U.S. label didn't emerge until 2007, which was coincidentally the same year Mitchell was scheduled to release Shine, her first studio effort to appear in some ten years. And as far as tribute albums go, A Tribute to Joni Mitchell isn't half bad. The compilation is split up between songs that were recorded specifically for the tribute album, such as Sufjan Stevens' "A Free Man in Paris," and those that were recorded and released previously, such as James Taylor's "River." The tracks that were recorded specifically for A Tribute are far and away the best. Stevens approaches "A Free Man in Paris" with his characteristic, and fitting, over-the-top irony and band geek sensibilities. Opening with a brass fanfare, the kind that wouldn't be out of place in the opening credits of a network news show, Stevens' cover tackles the original with an appropriate sense of theatricality and fun. Björk's lilting cover of "Boho Dance," lush with synthesized bells and whorls, arguably rivals the original. She does a very good job of allowing Mitchell's lyics to unfurl, even while she twists and transforms the song, fairy godmother-style, into something otherworldly. And Caetano Veloso's rendition of "Dreamland" is simply a revelation. It's not a huge stretch from the original, but Veloso's light, gentle vocals, augmented by the the warm, loose Brazilian instrumentation, somehow manages to grab Mitchell's narrative and bring it to life. Mitchell is a storyteller, and the best tracks on here are those that welcome and explore her narratives. The worst ignore or misinterpret them. Prince pays little attention to Mitchell's lyrics on "A Case of You," slashing the first two verses in order to cut right to the chase. This abridged version has a lot of soul, but it does little to pay tribute to Mitchell's original; Prince cut out the pathos and made the song sappy. To be fair, Mitchell's a difficult person to pay tribute to, let alone cover, seeing how she's one of those rare singer/songwriters whose abilities as a performer are equal to her compositions. This stands in stark contrast to someone like Bob Dylan, whose songs were often just as, if not more, enjoyable in their Jimi Hendrix or Joan Baez incarnations. But while she's ultimately the best performer of her own work, Mitchell, with her warbly soprano and idiosyncratic sense of composition, hasn't always lent herself to the unaccustomed ear. A Tribute to Joni Mitchell is thus a great listen for those who'd like to ease into the breadth and range of Mitchell's work by way of established, accessible artists like Prince, Sarah McLachlan and Taylor. Granted, fans will probably find themselves yearning for the original material after listening to this disc, but this is only another way in which A Tribute succeeds. These interpretations, imperfect as they can be, provide new vantage points from which Mitchell's original albums can be located, analyzed, and appreciated.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

add 1110 Maya Beiser

Artist: Maya Beiser
Title Of Album: Uncovered
Year Of Release: 2014
Genre: Classical/Rock
Label: Innova Records
Quality: MP3 320 kbps
Total Time: 50:51
Total Size: 119 Mb

1. Black Dog (4:55)
2. Moanin' At Midnight (2:59)
3. Little Wing (3:30)
4. Summertime (4:59)
5. Epitaph (8:33)
6. Wish You Were Here (6:59)
7. Louisiana Blues (2:51)
8. Lithium (4:12)
9. Back In Black (4:37)
10. Kashmir (7:12)

Cellist Maya Beiser’s latest, Uncovered, is an album of classic rock tunes re-imagined and re-contextualized in stunning and multi-layered performances. Consisting almost entirely of Beiser’s multi-tracked cello with drums and bass added by collaborators Glenn Kotche (Wilco) and Jherek Bischoff, these “uncovers” -- in new arrangements by Evan Ziporyn -- breathe new life into works by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Janis Joplin, Howlin’ Wolf, King Crimson, Muddy Waters and AC/DC.

“I approach every song like an open canvas,” says Beiser, “constructing each layer of sound, rhythm, harmony, color and melody -- building and experimenting until it feels right.” Raised in the Galilee Mountains in Israel and surrounded with the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims and Christians while immersed in the study of classical cello repertoire, Beiser has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the classical arena.

The results of her work on Uncovered are impressionistic, but not gauzy. Her performances here are incendiary, in line with New York magazine’s assessment that “Beiser is not the sort of musician who zigzags around the planet playing catalog music for polite and sleepy audiences. She throws down the gauntlet in every program.” With an arm’s length list of performances from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall to the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan, to the Royal Albert Hall (and the deep discography to go with it, including 2010’s Provenance on innova Recordings), Beiser is not so much ready to take the world by storm as already directing a creative whirlwind of a career in ever-widening circles. Spin her latest and hear for yourself.


Monday, August 25, 2014

add 1108 Nick Drake 1

It's little wonder why Drake felt frustrated at the lack of commercial success his music initially gathered, considering the help he had on his debut record. Besides fine production from Joe Boyd and assistance from folks like Fairport Convention's Richard Thompson and his unrelated bass counterpart from Pentangle, Danny Thompson, Drake also recruited school friend Robert Kirby to create most of the just-right string and wind arrangements. His own performance itself steered a careful balance between too-easy accessibility and maudlin self-reflection, combining the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls on either side. The result was a fantastic debut appearance, and if the cult of Drake consistently reads more into his work than is perhaps deserved, Five Leaves Left is still a most successful effort. Having grown out of the amiable but derivative styles captured on the long-circulating series of bootleg home recordings, Drake imbues his tunes with just enough drama -- world-weariness in the vocals, carefully paced playing, and more -- to make it all work. His lyrics capture a subtle poetry of emotion, as on the pastoral semi-fantasia of "The Thoughts of Mary Jane," which his soft, articulate singing brings even more to the full. Sometimes he projects a little more clearly, as on the astonishing voice-and-strings combination "Way to Blue," while elsewhere he's not so clear, suggesting rather than outlining the mood. Understatement is the key to his songs and performances' general success, which makes the combination of his vocals and Rocky Dzidzornu's congas on "Three Hours" and the lovely "'Cello Song," to name two instances, so effective. Danny Thompson is the most regular side performer on the album, his bass work providing subtle heft while never standing in the way of the song -- kudos well deserved for Boyd's production as well.

add 1111 Nick Drake 4

Hunger for "new" Nick Drake material had reached enough of a fever pitch by the 21st century for Island to try digging up enough for this odd patchwork collection, combining outtakes with remixes of tracks that had been previously issued on the Time of No Reply album. The result is a curious disc that's not quite an anthology of wholly previously unreleased material, and thus of somewhat limited value to Drake collectors, though it contains much good music. The only song here previously unavailable in any form is the 1974 outtake "Tow the Line," a melancholic solo acoustic performance (as are most of the tracks on the CD) that's well up to the standards of Pink Moon and the 1974 tracks that previously surfaced on Time of No Reply. Also new to official release are spring 1968 solo acoustic versions of "River Man" (later to appear on Five Leaves Left with orchestration) and "Mayfair" (a later recording of which was used on Time of No Reply), as well as a March 1969 version of "Three Hours" that's longer than the one later cut for Five Leaves Left. There's also a newly discovered take of "Hanging on a Star" (one of the 1974 outtakes used on Time of No Reply) with a different vocal. The differences between these and the familiar studio renditions aren't knock-your-socks-off different, but certainly good and well worth hearing by Drake cultists.
It's the rest of the material that might be the target of criticism from concerned consumers, whether for posthumous tampering or redundancy with previously available albums. Most controversially, two tracks from Time of No Reply -- "Time of No Reply" itself and "I Was Made to Love Magic" (the latter here, for some reason, retitled simply "Magic") -- have been altered to include Robert Kirby's original orchestral arrangements, recorded in 2003. Actually in both instances, the substituted orchestration is integrated very tastefully, but it can never be answered whether Drake himself would have approved or had it done the exact same way. The remaining cuts are simply remixes or remasterings of six songs that appeared on Time of No Reply, the remixes of the 1974 songs "Black Eyed Dog," "Rider on the Wheel," and "Voices" (originally titled "Voice from the Mountain" when it first appeared on Time of No Reply) being done by the original recording engineer, John Wood. Though those remixes of the 1974 tracks in particular are an improvement (the songs on the original release had been mixed onto a mono listening tape), again it's not the sort of thing that will generate revelations unless you're an audiophile. As everything Drake recorded was worth hearing, this CD too is quite worthy judged in isolation, and certainly full of the subdued mystery the singer/songwriter brought to his music. It's just not the gold mine of discoveries for which some might have hoped.


add 1110 Nick Drake 3

After two albums of tastefully orchestrated folk-pop, albeit some of the least demonstrative and most affecting around, Drake chose a radical change for what turned out to be his final album. Not even half-an-hour long, with 11 short songs and no more -- he famously remarked at the time that he simply had no more to record -- Pink Moon more than anything else is the record that made Drake the cult figure he remains. Specifically, Pink Moon is the bleakest of them all; that the likes of Belle and Sebastian are fans of Drake may be clear enough, but it's doubtful they could ever achieve the calm, focused anguish of this album, as harrowing as it is attractive. No side musicians or outside performers help this time around -- it's simply Drake and Drake alone on vocals, acoustic guitar, and a bit of piano, recorded by regular producer Joe Boyd but otherwise untouched by anyone else. The lead-off title track was eventually used in a Volkswagen commercial nearly 30 years later, giving him another renewed burst of appreciation -- one of life's many ironies, in that such an affecting song, Drake's softly keened singing and gentle strumming, could turn up in such a strange context. The remainder of the album follows the same general path, with Drake's elegant melancholia avoiding sounding pretentious in the least thanks to his continued embrace of simple, tender vocalizing. Meanwhile, the sheer majesty of his guitar playing -- consider the opening notes of "Road" or "Parasite" -- makes for a breathless wonder to behold.


add 1109 Nick Drake 2

With even more of the Fairport Convention crew helping him out -- including bassist Dave Pegg and drummer Dave Mattacks along with, again, a bit of help from Richard Thompson -- as well as John Cale and a variety of others, Drake tackled another excellent selection of songs on his second album. Demonstrating the abilities shown on Five Leaves Left didn't consist of a fluke, Bryter Layter featured another set of exquisitely arranged and performed tunes, with producer Joe Boyd and orchestrator Robert Kirby reprising their roles from the earlier release. Starting with the elegant instrumental "Introduction," as lovely a mood-setting piece as one would want, Bryter Layter indulges in a more playful sound at many points, showing that Drake was far from being a constant king of depression. While his performances remain generally low-key and his voice quietly passionate, the arrangements and surrounding musicians add a considerable amount of pep, as on the jazzy groove of the lengthy "Poor Boy." The argument could be made that this contravenes the spirit of Drake's work, but it feels more like a calmer equivalent to the genre-sliding experiments of Van Morrison at around the same time. Numbers that retain a softer approach, like "At the Chime of a City Clock," still possess a gentle drive to them. Cale's additions unsurprisingly favor the classically trained side of his personality, with particularly brilliant results on "Northern Sky." As his performances on keyboards and celeste help set the atmosphere, Drake reaches for a perfectly artful reflection on loss and loneliness and succeeds wonderfully.


add 1107 Spare Rib & The Bluegrass Sauce


add 1106 Latcho Drom


add 1105 Real Estate

Jersey-bred indie rock golden boys Real Estate arrived in the late 2000s with a subdued approach to guitar rock that stripped away all unnecessary clutter and presented their tuneful songs in a manner as attractive and steadfast as primary colors, spring days, comfort food, or any of life's basic staples. Free of gimmicks, pretense, and artifice, their tunes tapped into the insular, college-aged melancholia of the Clean or Yo La Tengo's soft summer-night pulsations, later moving into a markedly Go-Betweens-steeped phase on their more sophisticated 2011 album, Days. With third full-length Atlas, Real Estate grow even further into the sound they've been spinning for themselves, mellowing more while they become more nuanced in both playing and production. Beginning with "Had to Hear," the band's sound is decidedly signature, based on chiming chords and lilting vocals from songwriter Martin Courtney, lead guitar from Matt Mondanile that wanders between psychedelic curiosity and airy punctuation, and the surefooted rhythm section of drummer Jackson Pollis and bassist Alex Bleeker. All these elements feel increasingly familiar and confident. Their songs have always resided somewhere between head-in-the-clouds lightheartedness and day-dreamy nostalgia, but the ten songs that make up Atlas seem more mature, more deliberate, and lacking some of the carefree naiveté of earlier work. "Past Lives" ruminates on the strange feelings of returning to the neighborhood streets where the narrator spent his youth, while "Crime" relates a relationship in peril to something more harrowing and malicious. The upbeat "Talking Backwards" folds some of the nostalgic melancholia into a gorgeously produced pop song about long-distance communication breakdowns as bright and straightforward as Luna in their prime. The album was recorded in part at Wilco's Chicago studio the Loft, and the production is less hazy and more suited to the band's increasingly clear-headed melodies and expanded sounds, filled out with understated organ and keys from Matt Kallman this time around. Even seemingly buffering tracks like the Mondanile-penned instrumental "April's Song" (more in line with his solo compositions for Ducktails) and the Yo La Tengo/Galaxie 500-modeled "How Might I Live," sung by bassist Bleeker, seem to have a considered place in the album's flow. The songs float by quickly, not giving all of their secrets away at first listen. As Real Estate continue to grow into their own vision of pop, they take their place in a history of classic American indie bands, falling naturally in line behind the groups that influenced them as they add to the conversation with each subsequent album


add 1104 Rob McCoury


Thursday, August 21, 2014

1103 Paul Thorn

Prior to What the Hell Is Goin' On?, singer, songwriter and guitarist Paul Thorn issued six albums since 1997, all of them packed with (mostly) original material. His sensibility as a writer is informed by the wildly varied life he's lived (see bio). It was questionable, however, as to whether he could bring his qualities to bear on an album of covers. The 12 tunes Thorn's chosen here are rooted in classic forms -- barroom blues, roots rock, soul, gospel, country, etc. What's immediately apparent, whether you are familiar with the original tunes on this set or not, is just how Thorn has made them his own. The razor-wire electric funky blues of the title track (which features its author Elvin Bishop on guitar), the raw wail of desire in Free's "Walk in My Shadow," the slightly off-kilter rhythm 'n' soul in Allen Toussaint's "Wrong Number," or the scorching country-funk pried from bluegrass in Wild Bill and Martha Jo Emerson's "Bull Mountain Ridge" (with an excellent guest vocal by Delbert McClinton), all bear Thorn's indelible imprint. There are some excellent curveballs here, too: the set opener is a rumbling, martial read of Lindsey Buckingham's "Don't Let Me Down Again," from the 1973 Buckingham/Nicks LP. Bill Hinds' slide guitar shines, as does Michael Graham's skittering organ. Thorn's voice is much lower and rougher than Buckingham's and unique in its phrasing, but he captures the song's intent and turns it on its head, its meaning no longer ambivalent, but pronounced. Another highlight is Thorn's read of Buddy & Julie Miller's "Shelter Me Lord," as a ferocious, roiling gospel blues with backing chorus vocals by the incomparable McRary Sisters (they are present throughout the set; check them on the closer, a rave-up on Eli "Paperboy" Reed's "Take Me with You"; they almost steal it). While the song always felt like a prayer, Thorn sounds desperate, like a man going down for the last time. The only thing that isn't quite up to snuff here is this version of Ray Wylie Hubbard's anthem "Snake Farm." It doesn't contain the grimy, raw sensuality of the original, but that's a small complaint from What the Hell Is Goin' On? On it, Thorn proves his ability to interpret great songs as well as write them.


add 1102 Paul Thorn

Paul Thorn got started in show biz at the age of three when he got on-stage to perform with his father, a Pentecostal preacher. Since then he's been a furniture maker and boxer, which may explain his rough-hewn, hard-hitting style. His songwriting draws from that deep well of sanctified intensity, always delivering true-to-life vignettes that will make you laugh out loud even as they make your hair stand on end. His blend of gospel, R&B, rock, blues, and country is called Americana these days, but it's a throwback to the early days of rock when all Southern music, black and white, infused the songwriting of working-class guys and gals looking for a way out of their poverty with nothing but a guitar and a compelling story to tell. Thorn brings to mind a Southern-born Springsteen with his gruff, forceful delivery, but he also has a deadly sense of humor that's peculiarly Southern. Case in point: "I'm Still Here," a song about watching his neighbor getting run down by a car. Its combination of roadhouse grit and gospel exuberance looks death in the face with a wink and a "Glory hallelujah!" A funky snare and popping bass guitar introduce "Crutches," a song about drugs, booze, and rehab. The jaunty music belies the serious nature of the lyric as the singer dreams of freedom while still embracing his own personal hell. The rolling of distant thunder and a simple guitar figure open "Burnin' Blue," a dirge about lost love. A pedal steel adds its eerie accents to Thorn's desolate vocal. "What Have You Done to Lift Somebody Up" has a more straightforward message of hope -- part gospel rave-up, part blues shuffle, and downright uplifting. "Starvin for Your Kisses" is gloriously sensual, with Thorn's sneaky, seductive vocal testifying to the power of pure sex. "A Long Way from Tupelo" is a short story with a nasty twist at the end, a tale of flat tires and inflated desire sung with the deadpan humor that's Thorn's trademark. The bandmembers are tough and gritty throughout, and by blending their gospel-infused licks with Thorn's sweaty profane growl, they've come up with something oddly unique, a sound that's spiritual and carnal at the same time.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

add 1101 Bahamas

Bahamas' third studio album, 2014's Bahamas Is Afie, finds lead singer/songwriter Afie Jurvanen once again guiding his folk-inflected Canadian indie outfit through a handful of his own introspective yet melodically enticing songs. Produced by Jurvanen with help from Robbie Lackritz (who produced 2012's Barchords), Bahamas Is Afie is a measured, organic album largely centered around Jurvanen's burnished, laconically soulful voice. Jurvanen, with his penchant for yearning, rootsy songs full of twangy guitars and poignant lyrics, often brings to mind both Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith and American Blue Note artist Amos Lee. Which isn't to say that Jurvanen doesn't have his own, beautifully layered, longing pop sound. On the contrary, cuts like the opening "Waves," with its jazzy strummed guitar and languid, summer-sad melody, and "Stronger Than That," with its soulful guitar lines and gospel-tinged backing vocals, are immediately memorable songs that get to the root of what makes Bahamas' sound so engaging. Elsewhere, Jurvanen delves into several bittersweet acoustic numbers ("Can't Take You with Me," "Nothing to Me Now"), as well as a few '70s soft country-sounding songs ("Half Mine," "Little Record Girl"). Along with superbly crafted material, Jurvanen often dresses his songs with light horn and string adornments that complement his more direct country and rock sensibilities. There is a warmth, joyfulness, and sly humor to Bahamas' sound here that keeps you listening even when Jurvanen turns toward melancholy sentiments, as he often does. Ultimately, it's that juxtaposition of front-porch balladry, lyrical intimacy, and urbane studio savvy that makes Bahamas Is Afie so unforgettable. As Jurvanen opines on "All the Time," "I got all the time in the world/Don't you want some of that?"

add 1100 Impressive

Artist: Various Artists
Title Of Album: Look Again to the Wind - Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited 
Year Of Release: 2014 
Label: Masterworks 
Genre: Folk, Country 
Quality: Mp3, 320 kbps
Total Time: 00:52:21 
Total Size: 125 Mb


01. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - As Long As The Grass Shall Grow
02. Emmylou Harris & The Milk Carton Kids - Apache Tears
03. Steve Earle & The Milk Carton Kids - Custer
04. Nancy Blake, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch & The Milk Carton Kids - The Talking Leaves
05. Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - The Ballad Of Ira Hayes
06. Norman Blake, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Nancy Blake & Emmylou Harris - Drums
07. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - Apache Tears (Reprise)
08. The Milk Carton Kids - White Girl
09. Rhiannon Giddens, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - The Vanishing Race
10. Gillian Welch, Nancy Blake & David Rawlings - As Long As The Grass Shall Grow (Reprise)
11. Bill Miller - Look Again To The Wind

NEW YORK, July 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Of all the dozens of albums released by Johnny Cash during his nearly half-century career, 1964's Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian was among the closest to the artist's heart. A concept album focusing on the mistreatment and marginalization of the Native American people throughout the history of the United States, its eight songs—among them "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," a #3 hit single for Cash on the Billboard country chart—spoke in frank and poetic language of the hardships and intolerance they endured.

Now, 50 years after it was recorded, a collective of top Americana artists has come together to reimagine and update these songs that meant so much to Cash, who died in 2003. Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited (Sony Music Masterworks, August 19), produced by Joe Henry (Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville), features American music giants Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Bill Miller, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Norman and Nancy Blake, as well as up-and-comers the Milk Carton Kids and Rhiannon Giddens, interpreting the music of Bitter Tears for a new generation. As his project was for Cash, the new collection is a labor of love with a strong sense of purpose fueling its creation.

"Prior to Bitter Tears, the conversation about Native American rights had not really been had," says Henry, "and at a very significant moment in his trajectory, Johnny Cash was willing to draw a line and insist that this be considered a human rights issue, alongside the civil rights issue that was coming to fruition in 1964. But he also felt that the record had never been heard, so there's a real sense that we're being asked to carry it forward."

Bitter Tears, widely acknowledged for decades as one of Cash's greatest artistic achievements, did not realize its stature as a landmark recording easily and quickly. At the time that Cash proposed the album, he was met with a great deal of resistance from his record label. They felt that a song cycle revolving around the Native American struggle as perpetrated by the white man took him too far afield of the country mainstream and Cash's core audience. Cash still released the album and although it did not perform as well as he had hoped, he remained extremely proud of the album throughout his life.

Ironically, at the same time that his own label was balking because it felt he would alienate the country audience with his Native American tales, Cash was finding a new set of admirers among the burgeoning folk music crowd that had recently made stars of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Cash's debut performance of "Ira Hayes" at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival had earned him rave reviews. His appeal was undeniably expanding beyond the country audience, and for those who did connect with Bitter Tears, among them a 17-year-old aspiring singer-songwriter named Emmylou Harris, its music was revelatory and important. "The record was a seminal work for her as a teenager," says Henry. "She bought the album brand new and realized at that moment that Johnny Cash was a folk singer, not a country singer, and was involving himself politically and socially in a way that she had identified with the great folk singers at that moment."

Henry's awareness of Harris' affection for Bitter Tears led him to invite her to contribute to Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited. Following the epic, nine-minute album-opener "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow," written by Peter La Farge—a folk singer-songwriter with Native American bloodlines who Cash had befriended—and sung here by Welch and Rawlings, Harris takes the lead vocal on the Cash-penned "Apache Tears," which also features sweet, close harmonies by the Milk Carton Kids, the duo comprising Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan. For Henry, carefully matching artist to song was integral to the integrity of Look Again To The Wind. For some of the tracks, that process required a great deal of consideration. But when it came to deciding who would interpret "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," Henry quickly zeroed in on Kristofferson.

Another of five songs on the original album written by La Farge, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" is based on the true story of Ira Hamilton Hayes, a Pima Indian who was one of the six Marines seen raising the flag at Iwo Jima in an iconic World War II photograph. Hayes' moment of glory was followed upon his return to civilian life with prejudice and alcoholism—Cash, moved by Hayes' story and La Farge's recounting of it, vowed to record the song. When planning out Look Again To The Wind, Henry knew that only a few living singers could deliver the song the way he wanted to hear it. He called Kristofferson, utilizing Rawlings and Welch to sing background.

"I wanted somebody whose relationship with Johnny Cash was not only musical but personal," he says. "I'd worked with Kris on a couple of other things and I thought why not ask? Who else has a voice with that kind of power and authority?" That same sense of intuition guided Henry to choose the other participants and the material they would render. For La Farge's "Custer," the album's third song, the producer knew instinctively that Steve Earle was the right man for the job. "Steve is an upstart, and there are very few people I can imagine working right now who could deliver a song that is that pointed in that particular way and do it authentically without cowering from it or making it feel a little too arch," Henry says. "He really could embody the kind of swagger that that song insists upon." 

Similarly, Henry chose Nancy Blake (with Harris and Welch on backing vocals) for the Cash-written "The Talking Leaves," Norman Blake to sing "Drums," the Milk Carton Kids to lead "White Girl" (both of those authored by La Farge) and the powerhouse vocalist Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops for the original album's finale, "The Vanishing Race," written by Cash's good friend Johnny Horton. To bolster the album (the original, typical of mid-'60s vinyl LPs, ran just over a half hour), Henry fills out the track list of Look Again To The Wind with reprises of "Apache Tears" and "As Long As the Grass Shall Grow"—both sung by Welch and Rawlings—and ends the set with the title track, a La Farge tune that did not appear on the original Johnny Cash album but instead on the songwriter's own 1963 release As Long as the Grass Shall Grow: Peter La Farge Sings Of The Indians. Here it's sung by Bill Miller, with Sam Bush providing mandolin and Dennis Crouch upright bass, a fine and fitting coda to the collection.

From the start, Henry looked at the project as one that would require great personal commitment and responsibility on his own part. Approached as potential producer of the project by the man who first envisioned it, Sony Music Masterworks' Senior Vice President Chuck Mitchell (who'd been in conversations with Antonino D'Ambrosio, author of A Heartbeat and a Guitar, a book about the making of Bitter Tears), Henry immediately understood the importance of the assignment. "Johnny Cash was my first musical hero and I feel a profound debt to him as an artist, and as a courageous one," he says. "How could I say no to that?"

He also realized that the Bitter Tears album held a special place in Cash's canon, and that in many ways the issues it raised still resonate today—this had to be apparent in the new versions. "Mr. Cash knew that if he took this on, even if his point of view was not adopted, he had the power to be heard," Henry says.

The album was recorded in three sessions: the first two in Los Angeles and Nashville and, lastly, one at the Cash Cabin, in Cash's hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee, where Bill Miller cut his contribution. Providing the instrumental backing for most of the album are Greg Leisz (steel guitar, guitars), Keefus Ciancia (keyboards), Patrick Warren (keyboards for the L.A. sessions), Jay Bellerose (drums) and Dave Piltch (bass).