MILAN : ITALY
it was maybe better, well in any case it was not worse.
the playlist of last year's show was more "political"... bush II was just beginning some war (iraq or afghanistan, i'm not sure and it's hard to keep the record with him). i felt that dylan's list was very influenced by that - some days before, 110 millions people had done demonstration, all around the world on the same day, to try and stop the attack. our man began with "the times they are a changin", played songs like "it's alright, ma", "blowin in the wind" and even "masters of war". the arrangements were partially displaying the sound that was the main essence of the previous dylan i saw live... think it was 2000. rather "country with style" (this is funny, a radio turned on by itself as i'm writing in the empty/closed office...).
this year's dylan sounded more "intimate" to me, at least if we consider the playlist. he opened with "to be alone with you", followed by "it's all over now, baby blue" and did songs like "every grain of sand", "spanish boots" etc. - only, the sound became very rocking during the second part of the show. and what a rock band... the "new" guitar player (sorry i don't remember the name) fits even better than charlie sexton. got a great hat, too. the rest of the band is just wonderful - they did a good deal of songs from "love and theft": "summer days", "cry a while", "tweedle dee".. and a couple more whose title i don't recall. not "mississippi". oh, they did a terrific version of "things have changed". another surprise, the first encore was "cat's in the well" (a so-called minor songs, but really fitting the rocking part of the list) which then became "like a rolling stone", which featured a torching solo by the guitar-player-with-no-name. finale with "all along the watchtower"...
the sad aspect of the show was dylan himself. well, he sang really good and his mood looked great, but he did not touch the guitar during the whole show. he did not even have a guitar onstage. he stood at the piano all the time, playing several harp parts and, only a couple of time, dared try to walk along the stage. but, bob looked like someone who can't walk anymore, and moved like a zombie. a smiling zombie, or a smiling big bear who just got shot in the back.-
are some possibilities:
in any case, it was a terrific show and, btw, i had never seen dylan from so close - just a dozen rows. the scenography simple and beautiful, the band perfect. he, in another dimension. his perfect nihilism above anything and anyone, a strange nihilism for which he cares so much about. a monument to the century that has just ended. "it's alright ma, i'm only bleedin'" has the sound of a world when ending, a sound that only very special artists, like dylan, cohen, or shaun belcher, can bring to us humble listeners.
gosh, i'd go see dylan even if he was singing from a hospital bed.
NO COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC
The Great Transatlantic Shift is a thing of beauty and strangeness. That most righteously Texan gentleman Doug Sahm pretended (with his band The Sir Douglas Quintet) to be British, to hitch a ride with the mid-60s Beatlemania bandwagon. Those Home Counties whitebread suburbanites The Rolling Stones pretended to be from the Deep South, in order to emulate their (mostly black) American heroes... then those deep-fried Southerners The Black Crowes pretended to be The Rolling Stones... Etcetera etcetera... I love this stuff. Anyway, back to the plot. If there is a Didcot Delta, Easy Tiger are from it. ("Didcot - Glimmer-Twinned with Rockville, USA"). Ady and Dann are the Mick and Keith of the group, singing songs of rock and roll euphoria over Dann's stinging slide riffs, ably assisted by bassist Jerry, keyboard wizard Nick and percussion supremo Tim Turan (also of tweedy psychedelicists The Relationships). "Get Back Down" kicks the album off with an organ and drum figure worthy of Messrs Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, before the guitars come rollicking in, and Ady gives it his best needle-sharp Rod vocal... Now let it just be said that the early 70s Faces were among the best exponents of The Great Transatlantic Shift, and Easy Tiger operate in the same general territory. They have that barrelhouse good-time feel, fuelled by booze, smoke and lairy comradeship; these guys are the last great gang in town. But, just in case you thought this means Uber-Lad overload, there are also moments of soulful Stones-y balladry, in the form of "Let the Music Play" (with its horn-driven gospel outro) and the album's magnificent closer "What You Want" - a dreamy trip down a moonlight mile, underscored by layered guitars and hazy Fender Rhodes. Meanwhile the party-down rockers here should find favour with young fans of the Kings of Leon and other such modern boogie-merchants, while the older listeners among us can smile at the artful references to some of our favourite 70s feather-cut heroes... Can't wait for that difficult Easy Tiger Second Album...
Byrd is a singer/songwriter who writes down what he does and shares
it with others, each recipe serves up something different but no less
tasty than the dish before. We happened upon him in Charlotte, North
Carolina during an open mike. Spanning the genres of blues, bluegrass
and country/folk, this guy quite simply made our mouths hang open.
We left our e-mail address with one of the bar staff asking Jonathan
to let us know how to buy one of his new cds (hot off the griddle).
Jonathan contacted us and just a few weeks ago we got his cd - well
worth the wait - perfect for hot, still summer days. You can just
hear the folks singing from their porches about love and loss and
need and want, redemption and revenge. All from this thin white guy
with a guitar. I say thin and white because at times I am certain
he is channelling the soul of a big ol' blues traveller, black as
coal and have been done all kinds of wrong. The cd features a few
other fine players - fiddle, accordian, bass and cello - but Jonathan
does fine on his own, too, singin' and pickin'. The Waitress by Jonathan
Byrd offers up a full menu - stark and straightforward yet delightful
and savory. From the first song, the title track, The Waitress, it's
all so good, however - could you pick just one thing? Jonathan has
a knack for being tongue-in-cheek and political and getting the balance
right. He tugs at things that make you go 'ow' or 'oh no!', but not
in an overactive preachy kind of way. He makes songs with things he's
got around the kitchen. Take, for instance, one of his originals (the
one that got us hooked) 'The Ballad of Larry'. Add one part great
story to one part great chorus laid out on a fine acoustic guitar
foundation and, well, there you go. With fork in hand, you are diggin'
in. I listened to every track again and again, singing along and feeling
like a friend was sittin' next to me tellin' me things I needed to
hear. As in 'The Snake Song', 'My Generation' and 'Small Town'. He
throws in a couple traditional songs - 'Stackalee' and 'Fiddle and
Bow'. I expected 'Rosie' to be a traditional song - full of betrayal
and secrets, a murder ballad as fine as I ever did hear - but it was
an original. A traditional song for a future generation. Jonathan
has a great voice - he's delicate and introspective at times, as in
'Being With You', and other times you could swear he was there when
Stackalee was being oh so bad. This fella' comes from musical roots,
studied guitar and jazz and went on to join the Navy for a few years.
Lets be glad he ended up writin' songs. His fusion of old and new,
clarity and thought, poetry and punch, and his fine pickin' makes
you feel you have finally HEARD something worth hearin'.
THE FRESH UP CLUB
If you're jones-ing for some of that late 50's jukebox ambience look no further--Elizabeth McQueen and the FireBrands are on the scene. They'd be right at home in any roadhouse from Baton Rouge to San Bernadino. Hell, it sounds like these folks get to the gig in an Olds Rocket 88. The Firebrands play this music about as well as anybody: the rhythm section "sounds like they're sleeping together" and the guitars hangout in that Duke Robillard/Amos Garrett territory. And while they can definitely make you shake your moneymaker they shine just as bright on those torchy love songs. This is where McQueen puts her best foot forward. She doesn't have the whispered intimacy of Peggy Lee or the smooth contralto of Patsy Cline. Her her voice sounds thin at times, not yet registering the requisite number of miles. But on self-penned ballads like The Oldest Story and I Don't Know Why, her unique phrasing and undercurrent of vulnerability hold your attention and draw you in. Too often people get this music right technically but don't 'get it'-all sauce, no ribs. Elizabeth McQueen and the Firebrands sound like they're playing this music for the same reason people did in 1959-it's just one hell of a lot of fun. They even stake a claim to their own musical identity-a neat trick when you're working in a genre that's half a century old. Right verve. Right vibe. Check it out.
|Gravitron! Records 2003 GT1001|
A LONG ROAD HOME
thought that when I heard last year's, Stories From the Silver
Que Paso? to the Hotel California.
one of the great songs of my 50 years on the planet, and I
review was written before Mickey Newbury passed away and is included
here as a tribute
A LET'S ACTIVE TRIBUTE : VARIOUS
Let's Active... Putting the "arcana" in "Americana". Brainchild of Mitch Easter (more famed for his cult production work, e.g. REM's first two albums), Let's Active created a handful of under-selling gems in the Parallel 80s, you know, the decade that lived next door to the Stupid 80s (synth-pop/stadium rock hell). Fragile vocals, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, girl rhythm section, jangly guitars, skinny jeans and hand-painted record sleeves... they hung out in the 'burbs of the Paisley Underground, but never quite settled there (or anywhere else). Mr Easter and his cohorts purveyed a kind of skewed power pop which skidded readily into the grass verges of psychedelia at the drop of a... well, who knows what. College radio loved them apparently... so did I, over in rainswept mid-80s England. And so, evidently, do a lot of the fine contributors to this tribute album - many of whom (from the CD booklet) seem to be personal friends of Mitch Easter, if not ex-members of Let's Active (bassist Faye Hunter) or indeed producer colleagues (Don Dixon). Putting aside the rather incestuous nature of the project, this is a Jolly Good Effort, and accomplishes what all proper tribute albums should aim at - it makes you want to dig out the original music. So, raise your glasses, please, to co-ordinator Michael Slawter and to all the princes and princesses of the US indie-ocracy present here... but, most of all, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to propose a toast to... Easter Everywhere!
HEARTWORN HIGHWAYS : DVD
I feel like I just seen Jesus.
For years Ive heard about a movie called Heartworn Highways. Id never seen it, but I wanted to. I just never seemed to be able to lay my hands on a copy. Recently a DVD of the movie with an hour of extra footage just magically showed up in my mailbox.
Heartworn Highways was a music documentary shot in 1975 featuring Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Steve Young, Rodney Crowell, David Alan Coe, John Hiatt, Charlie Daniels, Gamble Rogers, Larry Jon Wilson, and others. There is no narration; its just music and conversation.
We watch Guy Clark set up a guitar, carve a bone saddle & nut for the guitar and generally explain guitar construction, we get to see Townes drunk, goofing around. His personality is so strong it leaps off the screen. His frank discussion of his drinking, and his overdose on airplane glue would normally cause one to feel pity or to condemn, but this being Townes, you just realize that its part of what makes him Townes.
One think that struck me was how goddamned young everyone is. Ive interviewed Guy Clark and David Allen Coe in the last year. I ran into Steve Earle back in January. I saw Rodney Crowell (who never seems to age) not that long ago. These guys have all gotten old. Well, Guy has aged gracefully. Steve Young is still full of piss and vinegar. John Hiatt and Steve Earle have lost their hair. Coe and Daniels are just plain old. Townes and Gamble are both dead. When did this happen? I remember a lot of this music from the late 70s and early 80s. That was just a couple of weeks ago wasnt it? When did everybody get old?
The music here is incredible. Especially on DVD. Hearing Townes do Waiting Around to Die live with just an acoustic guitar while 79 year old blacksmith Seymour Washington quietly weeps in the background is a beautiful thing. Larry Jon Wilson is an incredible surprise with his groove-laden song "Ohoopee River Bottomland". Guy Clarks voice rings like a bell, and who knew he was such a good picker. Suzanna Clark is breathtakingly beautiful as are her harmony vocals. Rodney Crowell blazes forth like a supernova. He just crackles with energy. Coe was just as crazy in 1975 as he is now, a little more manic then, but just as crazy. Thats Tommy Crain playing guitar up there with Charlie Daniels on the song Texas. This was inarguably Charlies strongest band right smack dab in the prime of his musical career. The back stage warm up jam is impressive as is Tommys guitar playing on the song Texas.
I have a couple of complaints. Id love to see full credits. Who are all the other people? List the songs at the end like the do modern movies and list the players. Or do some fancy editing and overlay their names over the film in a small unobtrusive but readable type. Or do it with stills at the end of the movie, instead of just doing it with the main characters.
If I had a shitload of money, I would have a screening of this in Nashville at the Belcourt Theatre. I would show the film then I would try and recreate the cast. Assemble Steve Young, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Larry Jon Wilson, Rodney Crowell and the others and have them play their music, jam and discuss the movie, their careers, and those times. Then I would film that as well and make it a Heartworn Highways II. I would also screen this DVD at the Americana Music Association on a big screen with a decent sound system. I would strip the music off the DVD and make a companion soundtrack CD.
Doing some searching, I see that some of my ideas have occurred to other people. Guy Clark, Steve Young and film producer Graham Leader will participate in a question-and-answer session following the film's July 24 screening in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater. I really wish I could be there.
Anyway, this disc should be coming out soon. If you aint got it, you really, really, really need to go get it. Ill be watching it over and over and over for a long time to come.
LIVE IN ITALY 1 : Correggio (RE), july 22.
just think that she managed to do 2 hours of show with an unbelievable playlist, totally ignoring her last studio album, the very beautiful "Gung-Ho". her voice was not at the top yesterday, especially with the high tones, and of course trained ears do hear that... but it was the only little negative point. the playlist was great and the band is excellent - patti is still backed by his long-time guitarist lenny kaye, as well as by drummer jay dee daugherty. the whole of the band is great, especially when they rock. pure rock'n'roll poetic energy.
patti did a lot of songs from her first 2 albums, then all the hits. we heard a great version of "because the night", a terrific version of "25th floor", a heartbreaking rendition of "pissing in a river"... "rock'n'roll nigger" with Palestine flag on her head was maybe the top of the show, like the whole finale with a fantastic version of "gloria" and a cover of "jumpin' jack flash". some of the best rock guitars you can hear anywhere.
patti smith dedicated a song to the dalai lama and his people and china-invaded country, "1959". then she said and the band were impressed and inspired by the thousands of "rainbow" peace flags that are hanging from windows and balconies all over italy. one interesting thing she said, is that even american media were not able to hide the overwhelming opposition that italian people showed towards the recent usa attack on iraq. "they could not hide italian people takin' the streets" sounded good... then she did a terrific version of "people have the power".
there is a lot that a huge fan like me could say. sure, the most exciting moment is when barefoot patti takes the black stratocaster and pours out an overwhelming stream of pure rock'n'roll distortion, improvising poetry on endless feed-backs.
simply too beautiful to be true, but she is. i love patti, i think she is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rock'n'roll artist of our times...
may patti and her band rock forever more.
LIVE IN ITALY 2: Gardone Riviera (BS), july 23th.
so yesterday we drove to the Garda lake (it's big, y'll got it on your atlas) where she and the band were giving their second show. it was an amazing setting: the historical residence of the famous poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. it has a small open-air theatre overlooking Italy's biggest poll of sweet water. btw, D'Annunzio's sex mate was the famous actress Eleonora Duse... of course i'm talking about the first decades of the century that has just ended.
we were lucky, cause we had no ticket, took a couple of wrong turns and wasted much time, and only got there after 8 pm, with the show starting at 9,30. well, some gods must have helped us cause we found 2 seats in the third row :) ah, and after that i left the two 38-euro-each tickets on a bar deck, and went to the toilet.. when i got back, the barman had ripped them off to throw them in the garbage, and only at the last second realised it was 2 tickets... so he gave them back to me!
unlike the night before, there was no barrier bewtween stage and audience. right before the show, patti was quietly talking to the band, and looking at the lake, about 6 meters from us, with everyone very cool and relaxed.
then the show began, patti entering the stage with a rainbow peace flag in hand. another flag, the one of Palestine, was leaning on patti's amplifier. the show was memorable, an unforgettable gig. patti's voice was much better than the night before, when she probably was suffering from the journey from japan to italy. the playlist was considerably changed, and she played at least 5-6 different songs from the night before.
the sound was great, the speakers were about 3 meters from us... and the crowd was hot. like she did the night before, she took off her shoes during "dancing barefoot"... but this time her feet were not naked, since she was wearing rainbow colored "peace" socks... it is then that patti took a walk. she slowly walked away from the stage in the dark... to reappear downstage, bewtween the first row and the stage, where she was quickly, but mildly and lovingly surrounded by everyone who was previously sitting in the first rows. it is quite strange to see a rock'n'roll icon materialise beside you. patti has an uncomparable ability to do such angelic thing when she plays and sings... from that moment, we did not keep sitting anymore and enjoyed the show leaning onto the stage, like in the old times with unfamous punk bands...
the band is just unbeatable. the playlist was more "poetic" than the night before. she read/sang "holy" with allen ginsberg words (and slide show) on her and the bands's slow and torching rock sound. she read a bit more poetry, too. she read "birdland" from her first lp... again, she did not play a single song from "gung-ho", her most recent (4 stars and a half for Rolling Stone) studio album: they only did "boy cried wolf" as a soundcheck, before letting the crowd in. patti seemed more relaxed than the night before, and talked quite a lot more. she said she had a beautiful day, showed around by some fans and friends who took her to visit some beautiful and interesting places.
again, she did the song dedicated to Tibet and his people, and did a long introduction to "people have the power", talking about the non-ended war and recommending that we in italy keep waving our peace flags, even if mr. Bush or anyone else says that the war is over. no need to say, we sure will.
patti is breathtaking.
and may bless her,
|New West Records NW6044|
Dan Driscoll. A Tribute with Various Artists
RESCUE ROOMS Nottingham 3rd July 2003
She means it ..the air around was empty of sound apart from the infuriated main band fan in front of me who screamed back' You boring tart' . He screamed because she was so good, because she held people in a trance when he'd rehearsed every last drop of life out of some B list indie band set. Scout could just stand there and she'd destroy his future. She's like The Raincoats first gig, she's like Nirvana before dollars burnt their fingers down to the bone, she's like the girl next door burning all the furniture in the street and starting to paint Jackson Pollocks under your bedroom window. She's about female rock now.
Yeah you can recall K records and those Riot Grrls
but she's better. Huggy Bear never got this far out ( in) to the roots
of seminal viscous post blues moaning. She's released one brilliant
CD 'Sweet Heart Fever' which makes P.J. Harvey look mainstream, she's
just released a vinyl 10" on Too Pure/ Secretly Canadian of her
hollering along to that drumkit and she makes a hell of a noise and
a beautiful silence. This is art as in theatre as in beauty. In a
world of mediocre 'indie' music that just want to be mainstream and
Big Brother Xeroxes of the past she glitters like a mirror ball.
|Too Pure / Secretly Canadian 2003|
|Purple Girl Music 2003|
YELLOW MAIN SEQUENCE
Well here's a nice surprise. Straight out of that
well known capital of country music Nottingham, England, comes a leftfield
release that cajoles and caresses and then wraps you in its arms and
How do you follow a Classic Album? And twenty years
later, too? Where 1980's "Underwater Moonlight" cut directly to the
chase with the stridently melodic manifesto of "I Wanna Destroy You",
jumping out of the speakers on a wave of squealing guitars, 2002's
"Nextdoorland" takes a more oblique approach. Opener "I Love Lucy"
strolls in through the door in the guise of a jaunty instrumental,
before a muted choral exhortation floats in right near the end: "Carry
me back to Now". Aha! The reviewer adjusts his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker
- but no cartoon magnifying glass is necessary to detect what is soon
to become a major theme of the album... Time, my dear Watson, Time!
"You can set the clock back, so can I, I can tell the future from
the sky" sings Robyn Hitchcock on "Pulse of My Heart", continuing
in later songs with such sentiments as "I want you to remember everything"
and "Today is the same as tomorrow, But this time it's happened before",
not to mention "I wish I could be twenty-three, I could waste time"...
There's a ghost walking around the empty studio at
midnight on this record. It's the ghost of Morphine singer Mark Sandman
as he sits there alone listening to the last playback of the finished
tape of this cd. As the city of Boston's lights flicker under a black
sky he's smiling. The loft building where he lived and had a studio
is now passing on his magic via the Hi-N-Dry studio and ex-Morphine
cohorts Billy Conway and Dana Colley are keeping his memory alive
in the best possible way. They are making great music and running
the studio as well as helping with an educational music trust in his
name. The sense of loss his early death brought to the local music
scene can be sensed still two years on in this 2001 recording as Kris
Delmhorst emotes beautifully on 'Broken White Line'. Delmhorst had
been part of a local band called 'Toots Rambles' where she honed her
already considerable musical gifts before this her second proper CD
was finally released in 2002. First CD 'Appetite' may be about to
be re-released. This Cd was released in U.S. on her own Big Bean label
and she is now affiliated to Signature Sounds. She has a lovely voice
and it is well to the fore in the superb settings provided by Billy
Conway as producer and the host of local musicians who guested here.
These include Julia Kimball, Catie Curtis and Lori McKenna. A who's
who of Cambridge musicians.
Sometimes discs go astray especially when you been
moving around like a blue-arsed fly. So I'm thankful that whoever
took over that flat in Oxford was wise enough to post this on. A year
later and I'm listening to Magneto for the first time. Now for people
who ain't been subjected to the special magic of Mr. Elliott I'd suggest
this is as good a place to start as any. From the get go his dulcet
tone..kind of Jack Kerouac singing like Johny Cash in a beat cafe...stings
the eye like cold rain as he lays out a 'Loser's Lullaby'. We're talking
literary kicks and beatnik savvy as the tune spills out a list of
artists our Ronny can out-drink! No sooner is this sermon of art over
than we're assaulted by some gorgeous lap guitar prayer called 'Broke
Heart Blues',,yup Ronny's a romantic ..Next
up is 'Wrong Side' first co-write of five on disc with Reading's finest
Terry Clarke. This comes across like Lou Reed playing Gram Parsons.
The imagery is pure Clarke. In light of the recent tragic loss of
June Carter Cash 'Last One Standing' takes on new meaning as Ronny
muses on who were gods of rock n roll and who
just men....or women. The list of greats at the end..all gone.......and
how long before Johnny Cash..a prophetic track. Stunning.
LOVE AINT A CLICHE
||Dammit all but
three tracks in I was hooked on this record. It's the awesome echo of
The Smithereens at their best in opening crashing chords of 'Friend
in this Town' that did it and I ain't stopped playing it since. There
is light and shade here and later they move into acoustic strum and
Randy Newman meets The Band territory but it is the full on power pop
beauty of openers that sticks in the memory. The songwriting is top-notch
throughout. In fact this record along with Jim Roll and Richard Buckner
probably saved my life at a particularly nasty temp job last autumn.
Dan is the man and he knows his pop history and his way round a captivating
melody. Even on a slower number like 'Sandbags'he never loses his touch.
At times it feels like Elvis Costello sitting in with afore-said Smithereens
at others the howl of Petty and Dylan at most pop swirls around. In
my book it is Israel's most accomplished and beautiful statement so
far. File alongside 'Green Thoughts' and the Plimsouls albums .......hey
I can't give it any higher recommendation than that. Pure power pop
for now people...buy it and give him a holiday from his day job he's
working too hard....he deserves a month on the beach for this alone...and
that ain't no cliche.
||Well oh well.
Throwing a curve ball that god of alt-c raspiness ( he smokes to keep
it that way he claims) comes out fighting with a near punk rock offering
that has equal measure New Order and eighties indie in the mix as Roscoe
Holcomb and Hank Williams. So what went right or wrong. Rumours abounded
before his UK show that we'd be treated to a repeat show/no-show of
his tempestuous SXSW gig where his partner flailed at drums with drumsticks
taped together.Ever the awkward artist he confounded expectations then
by drilling the audience to silence with some wonderful back catalogue
trawling and accappella brilliance. So what ho Dick. Well it ain't as
simple as it looks and there's enough of the old brilliance shining
through on this disc to keep fans of old classics like 'rainsquall'
happy. However there is a real pushing of the boundaries of what is
Alt-Country acceptable here which is welcome as the old cowpunk bible
grew threadbare in the new millenium. Maybe was the partner, maybe was
the smoking , whatever he bangs out, somewhat literally, some pounding
rock n roll that is most effective on the classic 'hoping wishers never
lose' which is one of THE tracks of 2002. His lyrics remain inscrutably
artistic which gives rise to a lot of pretentious analysis but were
more likely not profound as simply stream of consciousness. If you ignore
their self-conscious artyness - he is not Robert Creeley -period -and
simply enjoy them for their real use -as sonic parts of the whole flow
then this is a tremendously enjoyable record. What does it all mean...who
the hell cares..when it rocks like a rowboat in a storm. My favourite
Buckner record so far. The Hill had a couple of humdingers - this hits
the target more times than it misses. The son of a gun been out shooting
at the tin cans in the musical yard and come up with some bullseyes.
|Overcoat recordings U.S./Fargo in Europe.|
THE MIRRORS AND UNCLE SAM
First off vocalist Andy Goldman has a distinctive
voice which was previously aired under another 'aka' name as 'Johnny
Fontaine' and an Ep as 'Maestro Echoplex'. So far so clear then. Well
what this new cd released in Europe before the home turf does have
is firstly a splendid production sound courtesy of one Chad Clark
of 'Beauty Pill' at Inner Ear studio. It is crystal clear and shows
attention to detail that brings out each snare rattle and bass vibration
The rythm-section shade toward a pavementy jazziness
and on second track 'Hell at the end of route 33' it all comes together
perfectly. Think Elliot Smith if younger being backed by Gang of Four
if they'd only listened to Television's first album. In fact it's
Verlaine's Little Johnny Jewel' that I think of as the track twists
and turns behind some stunning 'state of the nation' lyrical insights.
'Bombed out with no battle, Destroyed by no weapon, this is our legacy'.
The cd is worth it for this track alone and should be remixed as 12"
vinyl just like the original LJJ. Next track 'Howl' is almost as good
coming on like a slightly demented take on Werewolves of London complete
with choral howls...again the band rythms suggest early eighties post
punk. A folkier Malkmus?
|| First thing you
should know about the Letterpress Opry is that they don't hold anything
back. They get out there near the edge, they play their instruments
with abandon, and they make earthy, emotional roots-rock. The second
thing is that the best song on Americana Gothic is a cover of Neil Young's
"One of These Days". This is a young band and stronger songwriting could
just be a matter of getting a few more miles down the road and a little
further from their influences. Neil, the Doors, It's A beautiful Day,
Pogues, Waterboys-you can hear where they've been on the way to where
they are. The gothic is apt 'cause this ain't music that tiptoes-it's
dark and brooding like the weather that often rolls across the Iowa
flatlands they call home. A band that rocks this hard is worth catching
in concert, and the kind of extended songs they favor go over better
live than canned. That's why a group that's only been together since
2000 and are just releasing their first CD have already been on the
bill with people like Asleep At The Wheel, Greg Brown, and Alejandro
Escovedo. Patrick Brickel, main songwriter and bassplayer, Annie Savage,
Celt-tinged fiddle, Stacy Webster six string and lead vocals, James
Robinson, drums and percussion.
Recommended cut: "Branches of Willow"(6:10). JM
|2003 Feral Dachshund Records|
The Maze, Nottingham, 22.01.03
The Lullaby track kicked off proceedings at the Maze.
There was pin-drop silence as the pair seated themselves down Jesse
looking like a modern day Rita Coolidge with her blue Indian jewelry.
Phil W's twangy guitar complemented the dark textures of her voice
perfectly bringing to mind Mazzy Star covering Skip Spence's 'Oar'.
The atmosphere was set.
Such was the intensity that never faltered I don't
think I've ever seen the Maze so hushed. One song slipped into another
with the non album 'Winter Hunter' bringing a Breughal like stillness
to the room. The electric guitar was more laid back and the lines
'where was I, where was I' drifted across the room beautifully. Perfect
The highlight of the longish set for me was the afore-mentioned 'Doralee' which is a really intense evocation of a house affected by flood ..gravel in the bathtub..gorgeous writing...a real keeper.
Then there was the 'drunk boyfriend' song ''Don't let me go' which is just fabulous. Throughout the pacing stayed just this side of funereal and at points I did feel the guitar could have held back from dotting every I and crossing every t musically. This though probably a reaction to not having the full band. Take it from me most of the audience would probably have listened to Jesse read the phonebook by then.
Throughout there were affable asides and mentions of nerves but this just added to the charm and the audience was in the palm of her hand. By then I was slipping out to sea and sinking like the ship 'stuck in the mud on the Puget Sound' ( Lonely Still) hooked....
Critics throw words like stunning and poetic around like loose change at a wedding but for once the description is deserved. The recorded songs on the Reckless Burning Cd are if anything even better and as Jesse noted a lot of thanks to the production by one Tucker Martinez. Oh and always have a dog in the session she suggests ....whatever they caught some will-o-wisp magic...precious as firefly in a storm.Go buy it and sink into oblivion...
Jesse was very ably supported tonight by London five-piece band The Mariachis who delivered an assured set with the Australian singer's cracked vocals reminiscent of The Triffids at their country best. Its not often that an unknown support act deliver an unforgettable song but in 'My woman went home with the wrong guy last night' they came to delivering both song and title in one fell swoop. Set ended with a good version of Lucinda's 'Jackson' with the additional female vocals working well if just a tad too Texas and not Sarf Lundun which would be closer to the geographical truth. All in all they went down a storm and could be ones to watch for future.
FROM THE EARS DOWN
This release crosses over two worlds with comparative ease mixing the Texan school of songwriting with the more postmodern post-rock Nashville of Lambchop and co. The artist R.D.Roth ( he trained as a sculptor) brings a similar craftsmanship to this work. 'From the ears down' has been no rush job and from first track 'No help at all' the same care and detail shown on the sleeve art comes shining through. He has asssembled some pretty heavyweight support players in David Olney and Paul K ( see his thoughtful piece on Paul K in this webzine) but mostly its the strength of the songs that comes through. First track introduces an almost Costelloish use of trumpet as he intones like Michael Stipe trapped in Townes Van Zandt's body. There is an exotic imagery that swishes like velvet curtains then is gone. 3 seasons is more like U.S. rural poetry by Wendell Berry ...'stubborn plows' .. ..here piano and lap steel. 'Little knots' mixes colours with a palette of R.E.M. paint and 'Just north of Canada' is stunning as strummed guitar gives way to evocative travelogue to Dan Polonsky's accordion. A kind of Butch Hancock or deconstructed Bill Staines for the northern wastes. One of the best songs released last year....and a new artist really finding his feet. 'I need a guru' picks up the pace and spits like some berserk jug-band at conformity. Piano balladry and synth sounds weigh down the next track a little heavily before 'All the world requires' lightens with another tumbling rythm...and is St.Paul his friend..who knows..its stunning. Olney breathes life into the harmonica part and here he really dances with the ghost of Townes..something in the loping phrasing..the sentiment...'how many songs can the sky give away' he sings. Some of the more self-conscious' artiness' intrudes again with the radio sounds before next track 'Blues for Howard Hughes'which sounds great but almost fails by being too 'gothic'. Far better is next track 'Crutch' which succeeds through its very simplicity..'does your back get very sore'..tender and heartfelt and almost Elton John/ Bernie Taupin era in production feel and he has the voice to carry it. Finally there is a tribute to Paul K with a rendition of his 'Haunt me 'til I'm gone' which succeeds in pointing up what a great songwriter he is. Finally a 'hidden'last track that pulls off the trick of evoking a pre-digital bluesman in the way it recorded as well as I've heard..going for the feel with a loving attention to detail...lovely touch.
Roth is working on a new record with Deanna Varagonna
of Lambchop...could be more than interesting...meanwhile this well
worth tracking down and one of 2002's best discs.
|available from personal website and http://www.miles of music.com|
RAW SUGAR SHACK
||Shit kicking swamp rocking
gutbucket springsteen in a tin bathtub woohoo rock n roll and cool
cover - better than it should be from a mad Canadian.Starts like Tony
Joe White on acid playing what sounds like a tuba - buy it and let
Joe move into a bigger shack. Best track...all of them but could be
'My Baby Drives Fast' and anyone who calls a track 'Johnny Cash Plan'
is a guy I can buy a beer - even has a track called 'When I Quit my
Drinkin'!A Steve Forbert for the new millenium
|junkyard dog music 2002|
from this relocating musician. A veteran of the Boston music scene she
first went to Seattle and then to Nashville and this disc kinda takes
the same journeys. It starts off with some great playing and production
behind her fine voice but somehow the tip toward a nashville 'folkiness'
doesn't quite come off for me. There are fine moments 'California Browns'
rocks amidst the balladry which all too often is let down by sentimental
words. However the second half of the disc really starts to pick up
speed and just like her it keeps moving around. Once her foot firmly
on the gas then there are real keepers. 'Lonely like a train' and 'Shot
a man' rock out and dare I say it we've got a real rocker in lamb's
clothing here. Maybe not a sensitive singer/writer at all and all the
better for that. When on form I reckon she as good as any out there
- think Aimee Mann, Amy Rigby and Sheryl Crow with more balls if that
possible. Yup next disc gonna be a belter. Bonus points to the fine
artist/Brian Brown production and if you look hard enough you'll catch
Todd Thibaud lurking in the mix. One to watch coming up on the rails.
READ THE 2002 BBC R2 FOLK REVIEWS ARCHIVE
FLYIN SHOES REVIEW