One last point about the Newport Folk Festival, which is its forward looking vision of younger artists. When Randy Newman played, he got great amusement about being old. He played “I’m Dead (And I Don’t Know It), which is about old musicians who refuse to retire. He prefaced the song by saying that the olds like him so refuse to move on that he’s noticed that musicians who were big in the 90s and 00s can’t get festival slots like he and fellow olds can. There’s a line in the song where the audience shouts at him “You’re Dead!” It’s kind of great. Of course, Newman is not taking those festival slots much because he hardly ever plays live anymore. This was his first show since August 2018 after all. But he’s right about the point. I am going to another festival in September that’s certainly less big than Newport, but a respectable one. And it’s completely dominated by the olds. There are some people I want to see there, so that’s fine. But there’s a venue in Fall River, Massachusetts, the Narrows Center. It’s a cool transformed industrial space. But with a few exceptions, all they bring in are old (and I mean olde) acts and charge $70 for them. Tom Rush? You bet! Peter Wolf? You know it! Leo Kottke? Of course. Donna the Buffalo? Do you have to even ask. Jonathan Edwards may actually be older than the minister. At least Los Lobos is still a good act, but those dudes are ancient.
The real height of this though is this present offer for a Rick Wakeman solo show (oh good grief). The regular price is a mere $68, which I think is a dollar for every minute of one of his solos on Tales from Topograhic Oceans. But wait, there’s more! For a mere $218, you can have a meet and greet with Wakeman! And you know damn well this is going to sell out.
The point is not just to make fun of these old acts, though I am certainly happy to do so. The point is that these dudes are older than God. These are almost all people who have been working these same circuits for decades. So what happens in ten years when these people finally get too old to tour and the fans finally get too old to go to shows? Where are festivals and clubs like this building for the next generation of artists? They are mostly not. And it’s too bad.
One of the great thing about Newport is that 15 years ago or so it stopped doing this. It made what was a controversial decision at the time to modernize. They could keep bringing in Joan Baez and the like. But they did not. Instead, they bring in Yola and Margo Price. And the popularity of the festival exploded after this. It’s not as if the festival lost its vision. It’s that it transformed its vision of what folk music by blowing up the form but also revolving around some great artists.
Anyway, more old people should step aside for younger artists.
This is a quite interesting essay on Jack White’s storytelling for women, replete with academic citations!
I haven’t heard the new Los Lobos album yet, where they cover L.A. based songs, but here’s an interview with Steve Berlin about it.
Given hip-hop’s long tolerance of homophobia, it’s good to see real consequences for DaBaby’s grotestque comments, including getting pulled from Lollapalooza.
Speaking of Lollapalooza, although I thought the lineup wasn’t very good, there were all sorts of tweets out there about how this was a COVID festival. My friends, they had a strict vaccine/rapid test requirement. Yes, there were 100,000 people there or whatever (which does not sound fun to me), but let’s stop pretending like the vaccine doesn’t work or that we can’t have music festivals if you enforce vaccine/testing requirements. Not helpful!
I’m not sure I really noticed Billie Eilish’s vocabulary when listening to her stellar debut album, but it’s evidently quite large!
In case you really want to feel old, Coolio turned 58 this week. Not sure if he’s still in that Gangsta’ Paradise at this age.
A long essay on Max Roach and Abby Lincoln’s superb We Insist! album on its 60th anniversary, the greatest of the civil rights movement jazz albums.
While I am extremely dubious about the later years of Miles Davis, his 1991 star-studded concert reviewing his past with his old buddies is being released as an album.
Listsicles are the worst kind of posting, but I guess I will link to Rolling Stone’s recent list of greatest videos of all time. It’s a better list than I expected. I guess Jann Wenner didn’t demand to have all his buds on the top.
ZZ Top will press on without Dusty Hill. Billy Gibbons notes that Hill picked his own replacement, which is a lot less offensive than when The Who pressed on a couple of days after John Entwistle snorted himself to death. So that’s cool.
Recent album acquisitions:
- Mitski, Bury Me at Makeout Creek
- Juliana Hatfield, Blood
- The Waco Brothers, Resist!
- Hawkshaw Hawkins, self-titled
- African Scream Contest, Volume 2
- The War on Drugs, Live Drugs
Shabaka and the Ancestors, We Are Sent Here by History
Don’t I have to listen to any album with this title?
Shabaka Hutchings is a British saxophonist of Barbadian descent. The Ancestors are a South African band who Hutchings has worked with before. This is an Afro-futurist project largely based around the work of the South African poet Siyabonga Mthembu and with a strong focus on human rights and dignity. Recorded in South Africa, this album is an exercise in solidarity with the oppressed of Africa and through the African diaspora, as well as an statement of concern that the human species is on its way to extinction. Not every track is brilliant, but the playing works very well and this is mostly a very good album.
John Luther Adams, Lines Made by Walking
Another beautiful album of compositions based on the natural world by Adams. Performed by the JACK Quartet, there are two compositions, each with three movements. The first, “Lines Made by Walking” is actually a composition based around hiking up and down a mountain. The second, the rare string quartet by the great composer and titled “Untouched,” comes out of him being on the tundra and thinking about the landscape around him. This kind of thing could verge into New Age junk in the hands of a lesser composer. But this is a beautiful album of harmonic modern orchestral music worth anyone’s time.
Julia Holter, Aviary
As a general rule, I find Holter’s work quite interesting, if somewhat hard to listen to very often. Her off-kilter use of voice with sophisticated musical arrangements is attention-grabbing if nothing else. This album adheres quite well conceptually–a series of songs about the chaos of the modern world and the need for love and forgiveness. But it’s also 90 minutes long and certainly doesn’t tone down the difficulty to get to that spot. This is the kind of album I respect more than I love.
Meridian Brothers, Salvadora Robot
If you like weirdo Colombian music, do I have the album for you! There are no brothers here. This is the project of Elbis Alvarrez, who I know from his other weird Latin bands, Ondatropic and Frente Cumbeiro. He does take this out on the road with a band, but almost everything on the album is Alvarrez. This is the kind of demented music you get when you listen to a lot of Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Pavement, Roky Erickson, Alice Coltrane, and other weirdos of modern music. It has those great Colombian rhythms, but they are mashed and chopped and recirculated in a way that makes you move but not exactly dancing. Lots of effects and even strange laughing (which is mercifully short). But mostly this is the mind of a really great and creative composer and arranger downloading his oddball brain onto album, not worrying about fitting into any genre of music at all. Cool stuff.
Sindy, Horror Head
It case it wasn’t obvious enough from listening to this album that this guy really likes Sonic Youth, the first song is titled “Experimental Jet Set,” which is of course part of the album title for SY’s 1994 album. Overall though, this is a slight little album by the Swedish singer Tom Serner, under the name Sindy. Mostly, this is dominated by the “breathy” vocals of Serner as the label description puts it, a la Elliott Smith. That’s fine, but that kind of singing really requires urgency in the lyrics to hold my attention and even though this is a short piece, it didn’t really do that.
The Chills, Scatterbrain
The Chills were a New Zealand indie rock band of the 80s that has gotten back together in recent years and released a couple of albums. This is their perfectly acceptable new release that works their pop and post-punk ways through some kind of depressing songs (the lead singer had a Hepatitis C scare, which no one wants). Not sure I thought this is something I need to get, but it’s fine.
Joel Harrison, America at War
Expressing politics in jazz always has its difficulties, simply because you usually aren’t using a lot of words. There are lots of political song titles out there, but it’s not always clear how the music fits in. There are exceptions to this–Darcy James Argue’s astounding album Real Enemies is a great look into the paranoia of American life, even only using a few archival audio clips of politicians for words. Joel Harrison is a guitarist who decided to take on the forever wars in his album from last year. Like Argue, he uses a big band format, mostly musicians who I don’t know, except for Jon Irabagon on tenor and flute and Ned Rothenberg, who appears only on one track. At its best, this does represent a feel of outrage at America’s wars, particularly the first track, “March on Washington.” It doesn’t quite hold this feeling consistently through the album and some of the tracks don’t grip like you’d want. You certainly can’t complain about the song titles–“Yellowcake,” “The Vultures of Afghanistan,” Stupid, Pointless, Heartless Drug Wars.” Mostly it is a solid and interesting release.
Jeremy Ivey, Waiting Out the Storm
Ivey is best known as Mr. Margo Price. They collaborate on songwriting quite a bit, but she’s obviously the big star, whereas he is more the Nashville songwriter. Usually, he is at home taking care of the kids when she’s on tour as well, for which she has faced a good bit of misogynistic snark. But taken on his own, Ivey is a very fine songwriter, even if not a great singer (which describes lots and lots of songwriters). He is however a good enough singer. And there are some cool songs here. The opener, “Tomorrow People” wonders if people will still be racist, getting high, or having mental health problems in the future. “Someone Else’s Problem,” which he and Price played when I saw them at Newport, is a long song about how everything in the world is horrible. “Hands Down in Your Pockets” is the one that is going to get you moving.
I liked this album a lot. It hits my country/rock singer-songwriter buttons just the right way.
McPhee/Edwards/Kugel, A Night in Alchemia
….Realized I forgot to review this album. Well, it’s really good and Joe McPhee is a legend who other legends think is a legend. So listen to it.
Angelique Kidjo, Mother Nature
The problem with this album is that it feels like a cliche of African music. Kidjo’s lyrics are so basic–lots of chanting about Africa, how we need peace, etc., that these almost feel more like archetypes than song lyrics. Of course Kidjo has first-rate musicians around her, but there’s not really that much interesting happening here. In short, it reminds me of the type of “world music” designed for Global North liberals who want a nice message to put on in the background during dinner parties.
Well, I hope there was enough variety in these albums for you….
As always, this is a post for all things music and art and none things disease or politics.