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Tag: "music"

More Wussy

[ 70 ] April 1, 2014 |

To build on Scott’s post about last night’s Wussy show in Albany, it was awesome. I think Wussy is now an official LGM-approved band, along with Drive-By Truckers, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and of course the late great Warren Zevon (anyone I’m missing here?). Since we have kind of a sizable readership, I see no reason not to use it for good. And the definition of good is promoting a band that sums up everything that is great about rock and roll. It’s been a long time since I was a big booster of a band that no one has heard of. There were maybe 40 people there last night and the band seemed genuinely surprised it was so many. A couple of clips. Probably the best material I’ve seen from Wussy online is this performance for KEXP at SXSW a couple of years ago. It’s promoting their last album, Strawberry, which you should buy. Sound is excellent, really gives you a sense of the band.

I listened to the new album today (I feel so hip having an album a month before it’s official release!). It is of course typically very good. They played about half of it last night. My favorite song so far is actually one they did not play, “Halloween.” However, a high quality YouTube clip exists of it so this is the kind of excellent material you are going to get when you buy the album next month.

That’s a quality song right there.

Really, for all this publicity, Scott and I should get to request some of our favorites next time they are around.

…Also, if you’ve never read the classic Christgau writeup of Wussy, and they are also his favorite band, do so.

Baseball Songs

[ 37 ] March 31, 2014 |

Happy Opening Day. For that, here’s two of the best songs ever written about an individual baseball player. First, there is Buddy Johnson’s “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?”

Count Basie had a hit with this the next year that I think is the most famous versions, but I’m going with the original here.

Second is Tom Russell’s “The Kid from Spavinaw,” about Mickey Mantle. Of course, it’s incredibly depressing like most of the rest of American folk music.

Not that this is any more depressing than the 2014 Mariners.

In related news, I’m not entirely sure we need a feature film based on the life of R.A. Dickey.

Obviously if a Black Man Raps Violent Lyrics, He Is Guilty of All the Crimes…

[ 122 ] March 28, 2014 |

But white country songs about killing women, well, that’s just sweet:

Prosecutors are treating the lyrics as persuasive evidence of guilt. “Just because you put your confession to music doesn’t give you a free pass,” former Los Angeles County prosecutor Alan Jackson tells the Times. In a court case, a confession is often the closest thing to ironclad proof.

Rap lyrics themselves may be viewed as criminal. Two Pittsburgh men made a rap video deemed so hostile to police that they were convicted of issuing terrorist threats.

I imagine prosecutors have more to go on than rap lyrics alone, but it’s easy to see how, in these cases, rap is the new hoodie—a symbol of black male aggression. Rap is frequently viewed as threatening; listening to it is taken as a form of misbehavior to be corrected. Witness the case of Michael Dunn, the Florida man who murdered seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis and shot at Davis’s friends after they refused to turn down the “rap crap” they were blasting in their car. Dunn believed the teens were a danger to him. Would he have felt the same way had they been listening to the Beach Boys?

Well of course not. The Beach Boys were white and thus good boys with some bad fantasies maybe. But the black men, they are a threat to white women.

Of course I have no way to know whether the individual at the heart of this case is guilty or not. But his rap lyrics are beyond irrelevant.

Still, someone get Tipper Gore on Line 1, there is a threat to our nation’s youth on the march.

English Oceans

[ 11 ] March 22, 2014 |

If you saw the Drive-by Truckers last night at the House of Blues in Boston, well, consider yourself unlucky enough to have been in my presence. It was a pretty great show as always, although the one downside of seeing a band touring to support a new album is that they play most of it, including the tunes that maybe aren’t as strong or that don’t translate as well live. As for the album, I’d say it’s decent. Like the last couple, it has a few really good songs. Cooley’s contributions are much stronger than the last two, but Hood’s aren’t quite his best work as a whole. One of the stronger cuts is “Made Up English Oceans,” which also led off last night’s show.

The set list:
1. Made Up English Oceans
2. When He’s Gone
3. Marry Me
4. Do It Yourself
5. Pulaski, Tennessee
6. Sink Hole
7. Uncle Frank
8. Pauline Hawkins
9. Shit Shots Count
10. Lookout Mountain
11. Primer Coat
12. The Part Of Him
13. Til He’s Dead Or Rises
14. The Night G.G. Allin Came To Town
15. Where The Devil Don’t Stay
16. Puttin’ People On The Moon
17. Hearing Jimmy Loud
18. Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
19. Birthday Boy
20. Girls Who Smoke
21. Zip City
22. Ronnie and Neil
23. Shut Up and Get On The Plane
24. Grand Canyon

This was the 8th time I’ve seen them and Do It Yourself is an old song, but this was the first time I’d heard it live. So that takes one off that list, although I’ve still never managed to see a live version of 72 or Space City or Birmingham. This was also the first show that I didn’t get to hear Women Without Whiskey, but such things happen when touring behind a brand new album.

Wussy

[ 36 ] February 28, 2014 |

Been too busy to really post today, but I can at least say this. You should be listening to Wussy.

Also:

Looking Back at Conservative Reviews of Popular Culture

[ 196 ] February 9, 2014 |

Have you ever wondered what that inveterate old racist crank William F. Buckley thought about The Beatles? Luckily, now you can find out. From September 13, 1964:

The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as “anti-popes.”

I love the Avignon papacy more every day.

Lonnie Holley

[ 12 ] January 24, 2014 |

I saw Lonnie Holley open for Bill Callahan in October. I had never heard of him before. I looked him up and found out he was some kind of artist but that’s it. So I appreciated this long profile of him. He was great live. It’s pretty weird but totally mesmerizing. Cool stuff. This video includes a bunch of his art and his style of only playing the black keys.

And for good measure, the best song off the new Callahan album.

Rider on an Orphan Train

[ 31 ] January 15, 2014 |

For your Wednesday night, how about one of the saddest songs ever, about the orphan trains, which is a real black mark on our national past, even if the alternatives weren’t always great. Not to mention that a lot of the “orphans” actually had parents who made the mistake of being poor and unemployed and Irish. Terrible, terrible times.

Tom Russell does a good version of this on his epic album about the American immigrant experience, The Man From God Knows Where.

David Massengill, who wrote this song, seems to perform it pretty frequently. Which I think would be a very difficult thing to do if it was me. I rarely shy away from the dark side of the American past, but this one is pretty tough.

Roy Campbell, RIP

[ 5 ] January 13, 2014 |

The great jazz trumpeter has passed, way too young. I saw him play with Other Dimensions in Music (also featuring William Parker, Rashid Bakr, and Daniel Carter) in Atlanta in 1999. Here’s a piece from the band in 2009.

Ray Price, RIP

[ 34 ] December 16, 2013 |

Another of the great country legends has traveled to the great honky tonk in the sky. Today, Ray Price doesn’t have the cache of Cash, Nelson, Haggard, or Williams. But like George Jones, his influence within the genre of country music was titanic, even if it traveled less to the broader musical culture. Check this out from his obituary in the Times:

Over a career that began in the 1940s, Mr. Price placed more than 100 singles on the country charts, including Top 10 hits like “City Lights,” “Heartaches by the Number” and “Make the World Go Away.” He hired future country stars to play in his band, notably Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Paycheck. And Pamper Music, the publishing company that he owned with two partners, helped start the careers of hit songwriters like Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Mr. Nelson.

He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mr. Price first helped change country music in the mid-1950s, when, hoping to distinguish his sound from that of his former roommate Hank Williams, he and his band transformed the gutbucket country shuffle of the postwar era into sleek, propulsive honky-tonk.

That’s a pretty bloody impressive resume. Among the other people in the Cherokee Cowboys was a young fiddler named Mark Feldman, now a legend of his own on the avant-garde jazz scene in New York. I’ve always found this fascinating given how little his own music is influenced by his years in Nashville.

Part of the reason I suppose Price’s legend is less well known was his choice to keep selling records by transitioning into the countrypolitan sound in the late 60s. That smoothness doesn’t sing to modern hip audiences who like their country, which is defined against the garbage coming out of Nashville today, as something rough, manly, slightly violent. Lots of songs about prison, murder, drinking, etc. And that’s fine. But not only is not all of country music, it leaves out a lot of really talented people who get relegated to “the country music I don’t like even if I’ve never heard Ray Price/Faron Young/Jim Reeves/Hank Snow/Etc” category.

Another key point to Price’s legacy was the release of his Night Life album in 1963. We’ve talked before here about the failure of the country music establishment to understand the potential of the album format, and thus you’d have all these people releasing 4 albums a year, each consisting of 2 good songs, a bunch of lame covers of current pop hits, and some real dreck. Night Life was one of the first real thought out albums in country music history. It’s also a masterpiece of the genre. The great Austin musician Dale Watson calls Night Life his all-time favorite album, and it certainly deserves consideration for the honor. Here’s a couple key tracks off the album. First, we have the title track, “Night Life.”

And then we have “Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Women”

But of course his legacy includes dozens of other hits. One is “City Lights.” This is a live performance from 1962.

And finally an example from his countrypolitan period, doing a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,” which Price has called his favorite recording of his career.

McMurtry

[ 22 ] November 23, 2013 |

If you were at the James McMurtry show last night in Fall River, Massachusetts, your least favorite intellectually dishonest blogger was there with you. I had forgotten how utterly compelling McMurtry could be live. He doesn’t exactly scream charisma, either on his albums or in his bearing or in his limited singing voice. He’s extremely socially awkward and only interacts with the crowd to the extent that he wants to tell them things. But in this solo acoustic show (the first time I’ve seen him in this format, though this is probably the 7th or so time I’ve seen him), I don’t know that I have ever seen an audience as singularly focused on the performer. Usually there’s some jerks talking, people milling about, whatever. Not last night. It was almost total attention. I guess it’s a combination of his unusual personal intensity (he really seems to start right through you when performing) and the amazing quality of the songs.

True story. In 2005, I was driving back from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. And I was getting really sick. By the hour, I was feeling worse and worse. I suppose I should have had my friend drive, but he hated driving and didn’t own a car. Anyway, by the time we got to Flagstaff I was really struggling and thinking about pulling over for a nap or to have him take over. But he had just purchased McMurtry’s Live in Aught-Three album. The only of his albums I think I had at that point was Where’d You Hide the Body, so I wasn’t all that knowledgeable of his catalog. Anyway, listening to this, struggling to go on, was the first time I ever heard “Choctaw Bingo.” I was so blown away and so amused by this comedic tour de force of a meth family that it picked me right up and I slammed through the rest of that drive and got home OK. I credit it with helping to save my life that night. This is a song that works best electric, but it was highly enjoyable to see last night in any form.

The Cry of Jazz

[ 121 ] November 1, 2013 |

Edward Bland’s 1959 documentary The Cry of Jazz is one of the most remarkable films I’ve ever seen. An early statement of the black nationalism that would become famous in the late 60s, Bland argues in this 30 minute film that only African-Americans have the soul and history to play jazz and that whites need to understand their inferiority in the genre is precisely because of their racist history. It’s an amazing film.

Shot for nearly nothing, The Cry for Jazz has bad acting, cheesy dialogue, and an awesome political point. There’s some sort of jazz club meeting. Whites and blacks are both there. They start arguing about race and jazz. The whites typically eschew any sense that blacks are better at jazz or that they have any responsibility for racial inequality or the legacy of slavery and racism. And for Bland, those two things are inseparable. The rest of the film switches from a narrator explaining the relationship between race and music (along with some quite technical information about the music, not every casual fan would get all the references) and the conversation continuing onto new points. The black characters in the room utter such lines as “The Negro is the only Human American” and “If whites had souls, they wouldn’t have tried to steal the Negro’s.” The legacy of racism creates the suffering that allows jazz to exist, thus “Jazz is the one element in American life where whites must be humble to Negroes.”

At the point of maybe convincing the whites, the lead narrator makes an even more shocking statement–Jazz is dying. Why? Because it can’t contain the black experience. New forms of music are needed, a clear reference to rock and roll. One assumes Bland saw hip hop as the extension of this late in life, but I wonder. And let’s face it, jazz is pretty white in 2013. Not exclusively so. But pretty white.

Who thus was Bland’s choice as the vanguard of the African nationalist music at the time? Why Sun Ra and his Arkestra! First, it’s of course the appropriate choice but who knows how obvious that was in 1959? Second, this is the first known footage of the Arkestra! It’s shot very darkly so most of it is of John Gilmore and you only see Ra’s back. But wow.

The film was quite controversial within the African-American intellectual community. Ralph Ellison hated it. LeRoi Jones, later known as Amiri Baraka, loved it. For a period where assimilationism dominated the civil rights movement, this is quite the forward thinking statement.

Certainly not the best movie I’ve ever seen but judged for its jaw-dropping message and audacity, it’s a must see.

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