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Music Notes


I saw my 13th Drive By Truckers show on Monday in State College, Pennsylvania. It was another very fine show. You’d think they would get tired as they age, but it was yet another high energy show, going 2 1/2 hours and covering a mere 27 songs. They played most of American Band, their lastest album, but a good smattering from across the career. They also played a couple of the Southern Rock Opera songs you don’t hear too often and that I had never seen– “72 (This Highway’s Mean)” and “Days of Graduation,” the latter of course before “Ronnie and Neil.” And while they play that latter song not infrequently, it’s always surprised me that they don’t play it nearly every show, like they did with “Zip City” (which they actually didn’t play at this one, maybe the first time I’ve not seen them play it), “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” or “Let There Be Rock.” It’s so anthemic and so awesome. The good thing as well about having seen them this often is that when Hood started introducing “Pauline Hawkins,” I knew it would last 5 minutes because I had heard that story before, so I knew it was bathroom break time. Played a couple covers as well–Petty’s “Southern Accents” before seguing into “Ever South” and Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” Said it before and will say it again, but what a great band. They started with “Gravity’s Gone,” an underrated song off their admittedly failed Blessing and a Curse album, so let’s embed that.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up some MP3 of a 2010 Newport Jazz Festival performance featuring Marshall Allen, Matthew Shipp, and Joe Morris. Holy hell this is incredible. And you don’t get too much Allen outside the Arkestra, so this is special. Worth your time–and it’s a lot of time!

I’ve never cared about The Cure at all, but here’s a ranking of their albums, which should give some of you something to argue about.

Here’s an interview with Stephen Malkmus.

I worry that people will be unfair with the new Courtney Barnett album because almost anything is going to pale in comparison to her last one, which is one of the best rock albums in history. But I have high hopes.

Still super bummed about Cecil Taylor’s death, so here’s some live clips of the great man in action.

The bassist Buell Neidlinger died, who not only played with Cecil Taylor on some of free jazz’s most pioneering albums, but then went on for a long career in contemporary classical music and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Hazel Smith died as well, a behind the scenes legend in Nashville, who, among many other things, coined the term “outlaw country.”

Album Reviews:

David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanack

The Rawlings/Gillian Welch pairing now more or less switches albums off. They do provide a different feel–Welch’s dirges contrast pretty significantly with Rawlings’ nasal voice and sometimes irreverent delivery and humorous lyrics. It’s interesting that they’ve never done a true duo album. But anyway, this is another solid entry into their catalog. It’s not a great album, but it’s perfectly pleasant. “Money is the Meat in the Coconut” is a fun song, “Airplane” is a very fine song, “Lindsay Button” is a song that should have been left off the album.


Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti

I couldn’t tell what the point of this album was. Playboi Carti, an Atlanta rapper, seems a lot more concerned with the soundscape of his music than whether anything is really happening here. Most of these tracks feel lost inside themselves, with PC not really doing anything to lead them anywhere. Things do pick up when his friends appear on tracks, since their raps are more concerned with words and song. A lot of reviewers have mentioned this; because he has the cool sound or whatever, Pitchfork salvages it by talking about his confidence, as if that was particularly important in evaluating an album. I can think of plenty of bad albums where the artist was confident. This isn’t quite a bad album, but it’s an overrated one.


Nona Hendryx & Gary Lucas, The World of Captain Beefheart

I really didn’t know what to expect here. Gary Lucas played with Beefheart toward the end of the latter’s odd career and has gone on to release many albums and do a lot of soundtracks. He’s a great guitarist. But as we’ve seen with former Frank Zappa musicians who can’t break away from just rehashing his tunes, this could have been a somewhat desperate move by someone who needs to cash in. Bringing Hendryx in certainly seemed odd. I just never thought of her soul singing as fitting to Beefheart’s tunes. But you know what? This is a lot of fun. Lucas is a tasteful yet innovative and creatigve player and Hendryx a great singer and they are both having a good time. I don’t know that Beefheart’s songs are substantial enough lyrically to really deserve a full cover album, but that doesn’t take anything away from this effort.


Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial

I need to hear this more to really evaluate it properly, but the good thing I want to hear this more. This is tremendously smart and perceptive indie rock, beloved by critics for its witty lyrics and quality sounds–big jaggy guitar, bits from other artists’ work, lots of songs about substance abuse, weirdly titled songs with weird lyrics. I don’t think that Will Toledo seems like a real happy guy, but he’s good at the rock and roll. The only caveat at all of this is that nothing came out and really grabbed me, but that’s OK, as lots of albums need to grow on you.


Chicago/London Underground, A Night Walking Through Mirrors

Chicago Underground is the band of the great drummer Chad Taylor and the cornetist Rob Mazurek. For this recording, they went to London to play with two of that city’s great experimental jazz musicians over–the pianist Alexander Hawkins and the bassist John Edwards. Together they make a very fine album of improvisational music. Mazurek calls this “protest music,” and from an individual perspective it certainly is, as it protests against the uniform music and culture of the present. Not sure if that is scalable protest, but hey, musical expression is about the individual anyway.


Tom Zé, Canções Eróticas de Ninar

Tom Zé is a Brazilian treasure. This aging weirdo was a big player in the tropicalia movement but then disappeared from music during the worst of the dictatorship. David Byrne discovered him in the 1990s and brought him back, having him record new albums on his label. Since then, Zé has flourished, putting out a number of innovative, sometimes bizarre, and almost always great albums. Estudando o Pagode is probably my favorite, a sort of Brazilian musical opera about women’s liberation that includes the sound of a horse orgasm, among other things. This 2016 album didn’t get a ton of attention in the U.S. and most of the information on the internet about it is in Portuguese, although here is a short New York Times article about him playing in the US shortly after the album was released. The album is mostly about sex, as you can probably tell from the title. I don’t understand Portuguese but I do understand awesome music. And this is awesome music.


Fabiano do Nascimento, Tempo Dos Mestres

Let’s stay in Brazil. This guy is one hell of a classical-style guitarist. His second album, released in February 2017, is well within the jazz and Brazilian traditions, but also attempts to integrate the Brazilian landscape into it. Percussive and flute sounds that seem straight from the jungle provide a solid background to this guitar, but not in some annoying new age way. I feel like I’m not describing this well, so how about you just listen to it.


Rae Morris, Someone Out There

This is a very fine pop albums from this young British singer and songwriter. Great hooks, but also interesting electronic sounds. Some have compared her to Bjork. I’m not sure that really fits as Morris is more accessible, at least to my ear. Highly enjoyable stuff.


Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society, Barbeque Dog

Jackson is a drummer whose work I respect a lot but who I have had some trouble really getting into when it comes to his solo albums. I came to know him through his work with Last Exit, which I think is one of the greatest jazz bands of all time. What Jackson brought to that was his hard blues background. And that’s what makes him pretty unique–I don’t know any free jazz musician who was so clearly rooted in the blues and brought that right to the forefront of the music. But I picked up Red Warrior and found it just OK, not something I listen to much at all. Then it was the same with Mandance. But I figured I would keep trying. This 1983 work is my favorite so far. I don’t think it’s a great album and the 80s weren’t a particularly fruitful era for a lot of jazz artists, but I do find it an entirely enjoyable and listenable album, equal parts of challenging and accessible. Good for fusion fans.


As always, this is a thread for all things music and none things politics.

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