Back when I lived in Austin in the late 2000s, one of my favorite things to do was to see Alejandro Escovedo at the Continental Club. I probably saw him there 6 or 7 times in those three years. This was after his comeback after nearly dying of Hep C. The albums haven’t been that great since, but his early solo work is so good and he is such a great stage presence, especially on the small stage of the Continental, that even his lesser material has a place in my heart. I haven’t heard his new album that focuses on immigration, though I plan to take care of that. But either way, he is well-deserving of this New Yorker profile.
Speaking of The New Yorker, here’s a great little essay on Loretta’s legacy in country music.
The great Hamiet Bluiett, who was most known for his work in World Saxophone Quartet, has died. A titanic loss for music.
The great Latin jazz trumpeter Jerry González died as well, sadly in a house fire. So did Chicago bluesman Otis Rush, who was of course a legend, albeit of a type of music I don’t listen to a whole lot. And I guess I should mention Jefferson Airplane cofounder Marty Balin, although I confess to not being much of a fan of the band and certainly not its later projects.
A lot of racists who decided Taylor Swift is one of them are no doubt sad by her finally announcing her political beliefs.
Someone claims Janis Joplin didn’t die from a drug overdose. I don’t see how it really matters, but then Rolling Stone has to keep pumping the music made between 1967-75.
Rhianna is the best, turning down a Super Bowl halftime show appearance because of how the NFL treated Colin Kaepernick. Plus she’s great anyway.
Dilly Dally, Heaven
I absolutely loved Sore, the first album by these Canadian kids. Katie Monks didn’t so much sing as bring a guttural voice from some otherworldly place that does not suggest a long time of being able to sing. But she is going to be amazing as long as the pipes hold out. While the album did well, as has happened to so many bands over the years and especially bands of very young people, the experience of touring nearly tore them apart. One of the guys in the band was drinking way too much, Monks once walked out of a show in tears, etc. But, after awhile off, Dilly Dally is back and boy am I glad. This is another fine album of sex, booze, and drugs, all the good topics of punk rock, this time with the added maturity of writing about the need to take care of yourself. “Marijuana” is one of the best drug songs I’ve heard in a good while, while “Doom” and “I Feel Free” are pretty awesome too. The only thing I would say is that it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Sore, largely because that album had the astounding “The Touch” and there’s nothing that seems to come straight from the depths of Hell like that song on Heaven.
Ashley Monroe, Sparrow
Monroe is an excellent country ballads singer. But on her breakthrough release Like a Rose, she was much more than that. “Weed Instead of Roses” didn’t quite work, but it was fun and made the genuinely heartbreaking ballads the stronger. But since then, first on The Blade and now on Sparrow, she has turned into someone only singing ballads, with only the occasional mid-tempo song to vary it up. That’s too bad because the talent is still very much there, but there is too much sameness and probably a couple too many songs period on these two albums. “Orphan” is a great song to start this album and there are plenty of other good ones, but ultimately the sameness gets frustrating.
The latest album by this British album saw a shift from distorted guitars to a more electronic sound, which is where so much of pop music is going. It’s fine. I didn’t find any of this particularly memorable or interesting. I guess it fits the repetitive nature of the band’s music, and I don’t mind that. It might be worth a listen, but for me, it wasn’t much more than that.
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton, Music for David Mossman
A brilliant session from these great musicians. Mossman is the founder of the London club where this was recorded. Parker, Guy, and Lytton recorded their first of many collaborations there all the way back in 1980 and so they recorded this show as a homecoming of sorts. Typically great from these giants of the British improvisation scene.
As I’ve stated a couple of times, I enjoy the north African desert rock scene, but it does kind of blend together. But some of that is that most of the bands are from Mali, while Imarham is an Algerian band that brings those sounds into the mix as well. It feels a bit more European than the Malian stuff, which is like being in a desert trance. This is more rock and roll, but still within that tradition. Pretty good stuff.
Priests, Nothing Feel Natural
I had heard about this DC punk band for a year or so and I finally heard the album. Not sure what I was waiting on. Angry, political, and bringing in a wide variety of different musical styles, this is a fine piece of work. “No Big Bang” is an especially excellent cut, with the rhythmic talking, hardly a new concept in punk, used in an effective and catchy tune. And then there is “Pink White House,” which you need to listen to now.
Elizabeth Cook, Exodus of Venus
The last time I did one of these posts, I reviewed Cook’s 2010 album Welder. A lot of people said that if I liked Welder, I would love 2016’s Exodus of Venus. But I didn’t. Welder was a lot of fun and a lot of sadness at the same time. I can see why people would like this because it is more rocking, but I also felt there was a sameness to a lot of the material. It’s certainly solid, but the highs aren’t that high, even if there aren’t any lows. Maybe repeatedly listenings would open up the songs a bit more for me, but I was a bit disappointed.
Neko Case, Hell-On
I seem to be one of the only people who think Neko’s later work surpasses her early stuff where she was singing country songs. I like those albums too, but the last two have been really outstanding, with the songwriting taking another notch up, not that it was suffering earlier. I think the songs and the sounds are more interesting than the early stuff and especially the middle period, which I think lagged into some sometimes boring albums. I have tickets to see her in January and I can’t wait.
Screaming Females, All at Once
This New Jersey punk band (only one actually screaming female, singer and guitarist Marissa Pasternoster) has perhaps the best album of their career. Massive riffage combined with a move toward pop and good songwriting make for a really kick-ass release.
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and zero things politics.