While in the South on my music tour a couple of weeks ago, I ran into a bunch of random music museums that of course I had to stop at. While I first started the trip in Memphis, I didn’t go to Sun, Stax, or Graceland, outside of the DBT show located there. That wasn’t intentional per se. I just had other priorities. The first was to get to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksville, Mississippi. It may not surprise you that there was a few graves along the way, which helped me decide. I’ve wanted to visit this for a long time. There’s a number of blues museums in the Delta now, but that was the first and the most iconic. As a museum, it’s….OK. I don’t know to what extent funding is really a problem here. People do go there and it’s not as if a museum like this would have that hard of a time getting funding. But it’s mostly pretty basic. I mean, it’s cool to see John Lee Hooker’s guitar, but there’s not too much you can do with that, which is a frequent problem with music museums. One key is to make it interactive, but that costs money and takes vision. It was also weird in that there are three rooms and the first two are quite rudimentary and then you get to the last room and it has been recently redone in modern museum style with more striking visuals. That part was pretty good. The museum is worth a visit if you are in the area, but keep your expectations limited. The other thing I will note here is that for however mythic Highway 61 is in American culture, today it’s an incredibly boring two lane freeway running through corn and soy farms getting people to Tunica casinos and then whatever farther south. More on southern road building here shortly.
On the drive from Memphis to Huntsville, I just happened to drive past the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Well now, who wouldn’t stop at this. Plus it’s a big museum. Now, there are a lot of musicians from Alabama, so there’s plenty to work with. And there is some money behind the museum. But most of it was just really funny. First, they have portraits of at least some of the artists they have inducted into the Hall of Fame. But let’s just say that the artistic value of them, is, well……..let me just ask you this–would you want this painting of Vern Gosdin in your living room?
You might say, wow, that’s pretty classy! But it gets better. Who wants this portrait of Tommy Shaw!!
Now, if that’s not the goddamn definition of art, I do not know what is. Every single portrait is of this quality, if one can call it that.
But wait…there’s more! This museum is definitely the only one Ive’ been to that has papier mache versions of some musicians. I took a picture of this fine representation of Lionel Richie.
How many hall of fames have you been to with papier mache 80s pop stars? Huh, huh! Take that!
Then there are your various items belonging to musicians. From Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle outfit to one of Donna Jean Godchaux’s dresses, it’s all there for you. But the real highlight, the thing they advertise, is the first tour bus that Alabama owned. And here is a picture of me behind the wheel.
I totally am going to get a side gig driving the bus for shitty country bands.
Actually the bus was interesting. I had never been in a tour bus before. I’m not really sure how this one compares to your modern tour bus, other than better technology. But it was big enough to be a real bus. And this thing was cramped. Most of it was taken up by the bunks and they were three high with very little room between them. Tough for groupies. Are these things any more spacious today?
So that was pretty amusing. But I was driving from Huntsville to Oxford, Mississippi. As I said above, the thing about driving in the South these days is that the era of the two-lane highway is passing. The only social good southern politicians invest in is road building and boy do they. They are creating some I-22 ridiculousness between Birmingham and Memphis, in case the nation didn’t have enough interstate highways. In one of the sections not quite done yet, I drove across this glorious thing.
Oh my! Now, what this roadbuilding mania does is complete isolate places like this. The nation does actually have character but you would never know it on a four-lane superhighway. Why else would anyone ever stop in Tremont, Mississippi? There is no reason. Unfortunately, the power had just gone out inside for some reason and although the nice people inside let a very excited me go thorugh it with my phone flashlight, I couldn’t really take any pictures that are worthwhile. But the main thing here is the museum is staffed with people Tammy went to high school with. And they want you to know two things–first, Tammy wanted to get the hell out of there and, second, Tammy is not from the big city of Red Bay, Alabama across the state line like people believe. Those Red Bay bastards! They did have some pretty good swag there, but since the power was out, the credit card machine wasn’t working. However, I did get this beautiful fridge magnate for my wife:
The best part about this is that the woman who was selling it to me, who I again state went to high school with Tammy, was very concerned when I said I was getting this as a gift for my wife.
The whole trip was just outstanding.
In other news:
People still pay actual money to see Bright Eyes? Well, you get what you deserve.
Will Layman’s list of the best new jazz releases. I have work to do.
Ooooh, new Empress Of EP. She’s so awesome.
I’m personally excited to get a ticket to one day of Newport Jazz Festival this July. If you see an aging white guy there, it could be me or literally anyone else in the audience.
I suppose I should say a word about the death of Andy Fletcher. I really hate Depeche Mode and that entire 80s synth pop scene. Have since I first heard these albums. But you can’t overstate its importance to modern music and Fletcher was a huge piece of that.
This week’s playlist:
- Downtown Boys, Full Communism
- Sharon Van Etten, Are We There?
- Yo La Tengo, There’s a Riot Going On
- Yola, Walk Through Fire
- Laura Gibson, La Grande
- Poppy Ackroyd, Resolve
- Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One
- Andrew Norman, Play
- Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dancer with Bruised Knees
- Wussy, self-titled
- Bomba Estereo, Ayo
- Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart
- Empress Of, Me
- Rosalia, Motomami
- Hurray for the Riff Raff, Life on Earth
- Beverly, The Blue Swell
- Daddy Issues, Deep Dream
- Lilly Hiatt, Walking Proof
- Smog, Dongs of Sevotion
- Ralph Stanley, Classic Stanley, disc 2
- Old 97s, Most Messed Up
- Laura Veirs, Warp and Weft
- Richard Thompson, Watching the Dark, disc 3
- Miles Davis, At Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East, disc 2
- Billy Joe Shaver, Old Five and Dimers Like Me
- Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
- Muhal Richard Abrams, Lifea Blinec
- Arto Lindsay, Cuidado Madame
- Sunny Sweeney, Trophy
- Peter Gabriel, Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ
- Beck, Sea Change
- Palace, Viva Last Blues
- Sonic Youth, Dirty
- Buck Owens, Together Again
- Old 97s, Twelfth
- Freddie Hubbard, Red Clay
- Townes Van Zandt, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
- U2, War
- Merle Haggard, If I Could Only Fly
- John Coltrane, Coltrane
- Max Roach, Deeds, Not Words
- Torres, Silver Tongue
- Jane Weaver, Modern Kosmology (2x)
- Soccer Mommy, Color Theory
- Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue
- Bill Withers, Best of
- William Parker, Double Sunrise over Neptune
- Built to Spill, Untethered Moon
- Neil Young, Hitchhiker
- Phryme, Phryme 2
- Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express, Junun
- V/A, The Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack
- Mitski, Be the Cowboy
- Juana Molina, Halo
- Joseph Kabasele, Le Grand Kalle, disc 1
- Sons of the San Joaquin, From Whence Came the Cowboy
- The Head & the Heart, Let’s Be Still
- Mary Halvorson, Meltframe
- Bill Orcutt & Chris Corsano, Brace Up!
- Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life, disc 2
Album Reviews, in which my bad luck in choosing albums continues into a second week:
Prince, Welcome 2 America
Welcome 2 America is the first Prince posthumous release made up entirely of unreleased material. He recorded this in 2010 and then shelved it. This isn’t a bad album, but it is one that reminds me how Prince could both remain funky and also out-of-fashion by late in his life. This was his attempt to create a protest album, which was something he had at least partly attempted before, but Prince was not a good political songwriter. The politics either just feel obvious or it’s unclear just what he is talking about. This would be fine if it rocked or funked, but at this point, Prince was occupying this space where he wasn’t quite doing either and it just sounds dated.
Mess Esque, self-titled
Marginally interesting art-pop in the latest project by Dirty Three’s Mick Turner, this time working with the Australian singer Helen Franzmann. Like a lot of his work it floats in a morass of dreamy space notes. It’s fine if that’s your thing. I want to grab it by the throat and shake it into life.
Young Guv, GUV III
I had to get over the Bandcamp copy on this album, which talked about it was all produced in a communal setting in the desert outside of Taos, New Mexico, which as a former resident of the state will shrivel my heart and make me turn green. But hey, when the music is good it’s good and this is pretty good pop rock in its classic if retro form. I don’t see any influence from New Mexico in it. It might as well have been recorded within the Toronto pop scene that has been behind all his work. Well, whatever. Very much in the tradition of those stalwarts of Canadian pop, The New Pornographers, much of this will make you want to sing along. It’s not amazing, but it’s worthy.
Son Volt, Union
Having generally found Son Volt to be an extremely indifferent band and having also seen them perform one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen, I haven’t exactly sought out recent albums. But I thought I’d better check in on them and gave this 2019 release a try.
Well, I still can’t get over just how bad that live show was, but I was surprised to like this quite a bit. It’s a bit weird to hear Jay Farrar sing “The 99,” which is a political song about how horrible everything is today, largely because his singing is so laconic it’s hard to imagine him really giving a shit. But if he can reach Gen X alt-country fans still wearing flannel every day (which is in fact me) then great. Then there’s “Reality Winner,” of course about this unfortunately named person unfortunate enough to trust that scumbag Glenn Greenwald. Now, to be clear, not all these songs are good. “Lady Liberty” is so obvious and superficial to be eyerolling. But overall, this is a solid album.
Bernice, Eau de Bonjourno
I thought the latest from this Toronto band that goes a long time being releasing albums to be better than average. It’s also slower in places, with the kind of floating in space that makes me impatient. But the songs mostly if not entirely hold here. Big highlight is “Personal Bubble,” which is just a damned fine song.
Homeboy Sandman, Don’t Feed the Monster
Some real confessional stuff here, reminding us that hip hop is the folk music of the last 40 years (stick it those who still want to sing along to Pete Seeger, this is language of the modern underclass here). I wouldn’t say it really holds together that well over the entire album and a lot of it feels like filler. Like, at least half the album. “Trauma” is a powerful opener. That’s a very, very fine song. But as an album, this goes on forever.
Animal Collective, Time Skiffs
Now this is a band I hadn’t thought about in a long time. When Animal Collective hit the scene in the late 2000s, they were a sensation but one that I couldn’t really get into as I didn’t think they really wrote songs and their version of experimentation wasn’t my thing. But I figured I’d check this out. And….it’s still mediocre nonsense that doesn’t work in terms of real songs or interesting experimentation. It’s still just playing around with sounds backed with semi-singing. Never got this band, evidently never will.
La Santa Cecilia, Buenaventura
Having liked La Santa Cecilia’s 2017 album Amar y Vivir quite a bit, I thought I’d check out the one before it, from 2015. Plus I was getting frustrated with not liking these albums and wanted something of a sure thing. And sure thing, this is enjoyable Mexican-American music. It might be a bit easy for some tastes and they aren’t a band really breaking new ground. But if you want a solid piece of work by a band bringing together both American and Mexican traditions, you can do much, much worse.
V/A, Tetra Hysteria Manifesto
Chinabot is one of my favorite labels, doing the Lord’s work (or maybe Buddha’s work) in releasing experimental Asian albums. This is a compilation. As such, not every track works for me, but a lot of them do. Most of this consists of various forms of electronic music, some of which is quite out there. At the very least, this is worth all people listening to. What’s the worst that could happen, you expose yourself to something new?
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics.