This week’s big musical event was seeing Amyl and the Sniffers at Big Night in Boston on Sunday. This Aussie punk band really knows how to bring it. Amy Taylor likes to sing about how ugly and awful she is (though she is not) with angry lyrics and rocking sounds. Self-hatred is always a good root for a punk band. The sound could have been better I think–it wasn’t only her working class Australian accent that made her hard to understand when she was speaking, but the show was very rock and roll. I got into punk later in life, so I’ve only been going to these shows for the last five years or so. One thing I like about them is the sheer variety of person at the show. You have the 22 year olds who are dressing like it is 1981. You have the people in their 60s who have been going to these shows since 1981. You have the tattoos and the piercings and then you have normal looking schlubs like me and no one cares about any of it. It’s really a quite diverse show within the larger world of what are mostly white audiences. I mean, compare this to a DBT or Wilco or Neko Case show, where it is white white white of a very particular age and where the diversity is primarily reflected only in different flannel patterns.
The opening act was the British punk rapper Bob Vylan, who was great, both because of the awesome energy he brought and because he really hates the queen, who he called a cunt, among other things. He also said he wished he was in England during her death rather than on tour so he could dance on her grave. Friends, for all the weird respect for the queen that white Americans want to give, the colonized peoples of the British empire and their descendants, who are minority populations in the nation, uh, they don’t feel the same about the monarchy.
Another good thing about punk shows is that the opening acts are also loud and fun. One thing that sucks at most shows when you are interested in the opening act is that not only are they often performing music meant to be played as a band solo, but they often aren’t given the sound support as the headliner. This almost always leads to a forgettable performance. But not here–these opening acts were loud and proud and everyone wanted to see it.
Another best of music list with lots of flaws, this time the supposed Top 150 Albums of the 1990s. The best part of it is that our own Elizabeth Nelson got to write about a couple of the albums. The downside is that, like almost all of these lists, country and jazz are almost completely absent, each basically represented by one album. And look, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and Ask the Ages absolutely are two of the best records of the 90s, but there are lots of other good ones too and it would be nice if these lists took anything outside of rock/electronic/hip hop seriously.
We lost Ray Edenton this week, one of the guitarists of the Nashville A-Team. If anything, these people remain deeply underrated. I highly recommend the episode of Cocaine and Rhinestones about the A-Team. They played everywhere. Here’s a sample, just from this obituary of some of the work Edenton played on listed in the Times obit:
Ms. Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,” Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass,” Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough” were among the blockbuster country singles, many of them also pop crossover successes, that featured his guitar work.
On the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love,” both of which reached the pop, country and R&B Top 10 in 1957, Mr. Edenton played driving, syncopated acoustic guitar riffs alongside Don Everly.
Although primarily a rhythm guitarist, Mr. Edenton was occasionally featured on lead guitar, notably on Marty Robbins’s 1956 recording “Singing the Blues,” which was galvanized by his careening electric guitar solo. His lead work on 12-string acoustic guitar was heard on George Hamilton IV’s 1963 hit “Abilene” — a record that, like “Singing the Blues,” topped the country chart and also reached the pop Top 20.Mr. Edenton was also a songwriter. His chief credit was “You’re Running Wild,” a Top 10 country single for the Louvin Brothers, written with his brother-in-law at the time, Don Winters, in 1956. (He also played rhythm guitar on the recording.)
Mr. Edenton’s work as a session musician reached beyond country music, with singers like Julie Andrews, Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis Jr. as well as rock acts like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and the Sir Douglas Quintet. He played on Mr. Young’s acclaimed 1978 album, “Comes a Time.”
He also took part in the Nashville sessions that produced the album “Tennessee Firebird,” a pioneering fusion of country and jazz released by the vibraphonist Gary Burton in 1967.Mr. Edenton moved to Nashville in 1952 and became a guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry while also working in the touring bands of, among other luminaries, Hank Williams and Ray Price.
A notable early recording session was “One by One,” a honky-tonk weeper that was a No. 1 country hit for Red Foley and Kitty Wells in 1954.
Oh, is that all? Just those dozens of artists and huge hits? Amazing.
We also lost Pucho this week. Henry “Pucho” Brown was one of the kings of Latin jazz and had a long series of really first rate albums. He’s definitely worth checking out if you don’t know his work.
In fact, there were a lot of relatively minor but important losses this week in the music world. Others include Sue Mingus, Charles’ widow and keeper of his legacy; the famed cranky old timey record collector Joe Bussard; one hit wonder Jim Post; and then of course the other and much more famous one hit wonder Coolio. The thing about Coolio is why that one hit made him so famous and kept him famous for so long. When Tone Loc finally goes, will he be mourned for his one hit the way Coolio was? What about Young MC? Probably not. But man people loved Coolio.
The appreciations for Pharaoh Sanders rolled in this week. Here’s one from Chris Richards in the Post.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, not only alive at 91 but continuing to truck along, playing his tunes and being his crazy self. Saw him once in Santa Fe around 2004 or so. In the middle of the set, he started shouting about how terrible drivers were in New Mexico, which, I mean he’s not wrong.
I haven’t heard the new Beth Orton album yet, though I put it on my list. But here’s a nice profile of her.
This week’s playlist, a Laura Veirs kind of week because she rules:
- LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
- Laura Veirs, Warp & Weft
- Warren Zevon, self-titled
- Julia Jacklin, Crushing
- PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
- Doc Watson, Riding the Midnight Train
- Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!
- Drive By Truckers, The Dirty South
- Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra
- John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat
- Los Lobos, Just Another Band from East L.A., disc 1
- King Crimson, Red
- Tom T. Hall, In Search of a Song
- Tal National, Kaani
- Deadbeat Beat, How Far
- Johnny Cash, American Recordings
- Kris Kristofferson, Third World Warrior
- Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
- Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose
- Bonnie Prince Billy, I See a Darkness
- Richard Thompson, Hand of Kindness
- William Parker, Kalaprusha on the Edge of the Horizon
- Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die
- Lido Pimienta, Miss Colombia
- Laura Veirs, My Echo
- Gil Scott-Heron, Pieces of a Man
- James McMurtry, Just Us Kids
- Patterson Hood, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
- Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
- Ariana Grande, Sweetener
- Bill Callahan, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
- Colombia: The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes, 1960-1976
- The Decembrists, The Crane Wife
- Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
- Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
- Laura Veirs, The Lookout
Wax Chattels, Clot
Riffy New Zealand post-punk band, reminds me yet again that Australia and New Zealand have unjustly marginalized music scenes that are full of amazing bands. This trio describes their music as “guitarless guitar music” and that’s just what it is. It sounds like classy rock and roll, but with a bass/drum/piano trio. These are jazz trained musicians so they can play, but while you can hear a bit of the jazz, this is very rock and roll. Just a unique sound and worth your time.
Morgan Wade, Reckless
This is outstanding country music, the way it should be. By this I mean honest emotional songs, simply and straight-forwardly delivered, telling universal stories about alcoholism, depression, relationships, and all the other tough times that people have. Wade has a good accent (not necessary for country music but certainly fitting) and a great voice. But it’s really the songwriting that shines here. Very fine.
X Ambassadors, The Beautiful Liar
Some decent smooth vocal pop, but all the little vignettes add up to being pretty annoying, even the one making fun of how politicians go to war to distract from their own failures.
Katie Alice Greer, Barbarism
Even during her Priests albums, Greer’s vocals changed over time. That DC punk band started off very shrieky and by the time The Seduction of Kansas came out, it was doing sociology rock that wasn’t very punk at all. Priests fell apart after that and Greer launched her solo career. It’s fascinating to see her evolution. This is a lush vocal album from a woman confident in her artistic vision. I’m not sure that the album really holds together and some of the songs really do drag a bit. It’s almost an experimental vocal album in some places and the punk background is almost gone now. That’s fine, but I would say this album is more pretty good than great like the early Priests work. It is however very much worth a listen, even if it’s not my favorite album of the year.
Confidence Man, Tilt
Fun, if fairly rote, dance hall music with good vocals. In the end, all the beats end up sounding mostly the same to me because all the songs are intended to do the same thing, get your booty on the dance floor. My booty avoids dance floors at all costs, but within what I consider a limited genre, this is an enjoyable enough album.
Phoebe Bridgers, Copycat Killer
One of the many young women who had had success singing very sad songs in the modern indie-folk scene, along with Julien Baker and Sharon Van Etten and Lucy Dacus quite a few others. In the end, all of this music ends up sounding mostly the same to me. Some decent songwriting that definitely can hit home, some fine instrumentation, but not a lot of joy. Music as therapy has its place, lord knows. But an entire scene of music as therapy does begin to blend together. In a sense, this 4 song EP from 2020 is the perfect way to access this scene, before all the songs really do become impossible to tell apart.
La Luz, La Luz
Kinda boring band from LA that claims to be surf rock but while you can hear those influences, mostly I consider this pretty dull background music that reeks a bit too much of way too many chill days on a southern California beach. Adrian Younge, who is a really important figure in music right now, appears on a couple of tracks, but even he can’t move this out of tedium. They sing real nice together, but it’s just kinda boring.
Bonnie Prince Billy/Bill Callahan, Blind Date Party
It’s the pandemic. You are an artist and you are bored at home. You have to find something useful to do. So, if you are Will Oldham and Bill Callahan, you decide to do a gigantic two-disc cover album where you decide what songs you want to do, send them to friends to come up with the musical backing without any real instruction, and work from there. This is long…too long at 90 minutes. But Oldham has always been a unique and insightful cover artist (I saw him do a version of “Kokomo” once live that just left out the famed chorus and made it instrumental focusing our attention on the versus, his Haggard cover album is outstanding, and he’s completely rethought songs and rebuilt them from their base). Callahan’s never been quite as big of a cover guy, but he has a great version of Kath Bloom’s “The Breeze” and his reworking of the old traditional “In the Pines.” So this mostly works. Reduced to 60 minutes, it’d be an easy A. Among the highlights are Oldham and Matt Sweeney doing Hank Jr.’s “OD’d in Denver,” a cover of Billie Eilish’s “Wish You Were Gay,” Lou Reed’s “Rooftop Garden,” Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues,” Iggy Pop’s “I Want to Go to the Beach,” a really amazing cover of Silver Jews’ “The Wild Kindness,” and then the cover of Leonard Cohen’s “The Night of Santiago” linked below. Sometimes Callahan’s dry voice works better than Oldham’s yelp, but then sometimes that really works too. It’s fun stuff.
As always, this is an open thread of all things music and art and none things politics or other off topic bullshit.