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The musical highlight of my last two weeks was seeing Mike Cooley from Drive-By Truckers do a solo show at City Winery in Boston. An unfortunately low-attendance show I should say, which reminds me that I’ve heard a lot of rumors that people aren’t really going back out to clubs in the numbers they did before the pandemic and your mid-range musical acts like this are really struggling. Well, I’m doing my part. In any case, the great thing about a show like this is getting a bunch of great songs that you know like the back of your hand in an acoustic format that allow you to really listen to the lyrics. He played a good combination of the big rock songs he plays a lot live–“Where The Devil Don’t Stay,” “Women Without Whiskey,” “Zip City,” etc., with a bunch of the slow songs or other songs that hardly ever get played or effectively never ever get played–“Perfect Timing,” “Loaded Gun in the Closet,” “Pulaski.” City Winery does a great job of providing a first rate venue for acts like this and being right under him as he sings them is just amazing. Also, he really really really really hated staying at home during the pandemic, as he told us straight out. It sucked for musicians. Go support them now that they are back on the road.

Long interview with Brian Eno on the nature of art. He even talks about pissing on a Duchamp, though I personally would choose to piss on a Jeff Koons if I was so inclined to such actions.

Great discussion of the power and importance of Living Colour’s 1988 debut album Vivid. I personally like Stain better, but that takes nothing away from Vivid .

Terrible news about Roberta Flack having ALS. A horrible no good disease.

Great discussion of the somewhat forgotten Americana women of the early 2000s. I don’t know that Beth Orton or Laura Veirs are forgotten, as they are both still active and in the case of Orton, loved by many. But Caitlin Cary, now she is forgotten. She was, looking back, clearly the more talented member of Whiskeytown, as Ryan Adams sucked in an addition to being a sexual predator and general douchebag. While You Weren’t Looking is a superb album and I recommend finding a copy.

Not totally convinced by this list of Top 50 Protest Songs of all time but you can have some fun with it.

Encores are super dumb. I have noticed a lot of bands ending that ridiculous tradition, including my beloved Drive By Truckers. Here’s a deeper dive on the decline of that foolishness.

On Sun Ra’s great Jazz in Silhouette album.

Recovering the original score from Anthony Braxton’s great 3 Compositions of New Jazz album.

We lost the Cuban singer Pablo Milanés.

I was reading the obituary of Danny Kalb with some amazement because all these many many years of listening to music, I can say with certainty I have never heard of The Blues Project. I guess the lesson is that there’s always more to hear.

This week’s playlist:

  1. John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
  2. Mitski, Be the Cowboy
  3. Tangerine, Behemoth!
  4. Jerry Lee Lewis, Country Songs for City Folks
  5. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life, disc 2
  6. Patterson Hood, Murdering Oscar
  7. Drive By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera, disc 2
  8. Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
  9. Sly and the Family Stone, Stand!
  10. Drive By Truckers, Decoration Day
  11. Buddy Tabor, Hope: The First Step Toward Disillusionment
  12. Bill Callahan, Rough Travel for a Rare Thing
  13. Hank Williams, Jr., After You Pride’s Not Hard to Swallow
  14. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left
  15. Shovels & Rope, Little Seeds
  16. William Parker, Mayan Space Station
  17. Joanna Gruesome, Peanut Butter
  18. Tom Zé, Canções Eróticas de Ninar
  19. Chouk Bwa & The Angostromers, Vodou Ale
  20. The Flatlanders, self-titled
  21. Wussy, Attica
  22. Lindi Ortega, Liberty
  23. Tom Russell, Rose of the San Joaquin
  24. Sonny Rollins, Live at the Village Vanguard, Volume 1
  25. Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing
  26. Leon Bridges, Good Thing
  27. Dua Saleh, Nur
  28. Hurray for the Riff Raff, Life of Earth
  29. Built to Spill, Nothing Wrong With Love
  30. Leroy Jenkins, Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America
  31. The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers
  32. Neil Young, Hitchhiker
  33. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
  34. Colombia: The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes, 1960-76
  35. Marty Robbins, Saddle Tramp
  36. Doug Sahm and Band, self-titled
  37. Terry Allen, Lubbock (On Everything)
  38. Van Morrison, Saint Dominic’s Preview
  39. Tom T. Hall, The Rhymer and Old Five and Dimers
  40. The Meat Purveyors, Pain by Numbers
  41. Empress Of, Me
  42. Jade Jackson, Gilded
  43. U.S. Girls, Heavy Light
  44. Cat Power, Sun
  45. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  46. Wayne Shorter, Adam’s Apple
  47. John Moreland, LP5
  48. Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express
  49. Dave Burrell Full-Blown Trio, Expansion
  50. Wussy, Rigor Mortis
  51. Tony Williams, Life Time
  52. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew Live
  53. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  54. Albert Ayler, Stockholm Berlin 1966
  55. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
  56. Jessi Colter, A Country Star is Born
  57. Iron & Wine/Calexico, In the Reins
  58. The National, Cherry Tree
  59. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
  60. John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat
  61. Sonic Youth, Dirty
  62. Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch, Live in Melbourne
  63. Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart
  64. Chuck Fuller, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins

Dragonette, Twennies

Pretty fun electropop, so long as you don’t want to think too much. And there’s no problem in not wanting to think a lot.

B

Throwing Muses, Sun Racket

Very solid 2020 album from this now venerable band. Not sure why it took me so long to get to an album I’d obviously enjoy. Kristin Hersh still sounds great. Not sure that this is their best album, but it’s certainly a worthy one.

A-

Miranda Lambert, Palomino

I feel like I respect every Miranda Lambert album without really loving them. Same with the new one. These are good songs, well-delivered, especially for the more popular type of country that Lambert represents. Generally good songwriting, usually with her collaboration with Natalie Hemby and other leading songwriters. LOVE the B-52s appearance on “Music City Queen,” which just makes a damn fun song. I can’t say I love this though like an Elizabeth Cook or Angaleena Presley album. It’s good, not great.

B+

Special Interest, Endure

Intense political electronic post-punk from this New Orleans band. Tons of house and electronic influences, lots of emotions worn squarely on the sleeve. Cool project.

A-

Federico Aubele, Amatoria

Another albums from the deep archives, this time this 2009 release by the Argentine trip hop artist. I was a big fan of his 2004 debut Gran Hotel Buenos Aires and then his 2007 follow-up Panamericana, but had lost track of him since. I guess he just put out an album for the first time since 2016, so I’ll check that out, but this is his third album. It’s a more chill affair than the first two.

B

Aimee Mann, Queens of the Summer Hotel

Written for a musical that was cancelled by the pandemic, definitely sounds like it. Good, as per always, with Mann, but without the pop sensibilities that serve Mann so well. If you ever wanted to hear Aimee Mann score a musical, this is your chance.

B

Blunt Bangs, Proper Smoker

Kind of whatever power-pop with a lot of lyrics about some pretty cliched teenager stuff. Rocks up to a certain point, but then nothing here is anything beyond a certain point.

B-

Mark Dresser Seven, Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You

Beautiful in parts but also a little slow in a few too many other parts. Dresser comes out of the side of modern jazz that has moved toward the chamber quarter and he has played on a lot of the Zorn Masada stuff that represent that side of the world. There’s some really interesting compositions and the playing is always first rate. I don’t think this is a great album–again, it drags a bit at times. But it’s certainly a worthy one. Of course the band itself is great–Mark Dresser, bass, McLagan Tines; Nicole Mitchell, flute, alto flute, piccolo; Marty Ehrlich, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Keir Gogwilt, violin; Michael Dessen, trombone; Joshua White, piano; Jim Black, drums, percussion. Not surprisingly, Erhlich has also long been associated with this side of jazz too.

B

Bala Desejo, Sim Sim Sim

Some pretty funky though I don’t think overly substantial new Brazilian music. Some say this is a major updating of Brazilian tropicalia. I find it more to be pretty fair tropicalia, but whether it is a major update or not, I’m less clear. It’s fine genre music. Cool enough.

B

Tallies, Patina

Pretty good if not great indie pop album from this Canadian band. Infectious is the right word. Wears its influences on its sleeve, which is good and less good, depending on the moment.

B

Prince, Piano and a Microphone 1983

Some of this is pretty great, some of it wanders a good bit. For an archival release, this is a necessary release. At its best, solo Prince on a piano just kills it, bringing an incredible amount of funk. But of course Prince was not a solo piano artist for a reason. That’s OK–again, as an archival release this is exactly what you hope gets released. It’s just Prince hanging out and kicking ass at home.

B

The Go! Team, Get Up Sequences Part One

The typical fun indie pop by this collective that always seems to find a way to throw together a fun album, even if it feels a little bit like a glass of champagne that fizzs away fairly quickly. The female vocalists come in and out and the pop sensibilities remain strong and fun.

B+

Patricia Kopatchinskaja: Francisco Coll Collected Works

I don’t really review a lot of classical albums. But I do love hearing modernist composers that I don’t know well and that includes Coll, a young Spanish composer. I can’t really speak as to Kopatchinskaja’s conducting here–this isn’t really a world I understand. So let me just say this–I think the emotions expressed here are fantastic. If you want to say I am out of my element writing about this–I agree with you. But that’s OK because I liked this and I want you to like it too.

A-

Sierra Ferrell, Long Time Coming

I saw Ferrell open for Old Crow Medicine Show earlier this year and thought she was a lot of fun. So I figured I’d check out her album. It’s fine basically, but unexceptional Americana. She claims all these various influences and she’s lived a pretty intense life including many years bumming around on trains and playing little impromptu festivals and the like. But in the end, this sounds a lot like a whole lot of early to mid-century influenced Americana with a lot of slightly swinging numbers, some OK writing, and some fine singing. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing really exciting about it either.

B

Calvin Keys, Shawn-Neeq

Going extra deep into the archives for this 1971 album. A fine if not amazing funky soul jazz album. It should remind us all that there’s these incredibly deep worlds of genres and subgenres of 60s and 70s jazz that are far too often forgotten. One of the great things about the Jazz is Dead project by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad is finding these old dudes and getting them to make new music. They haven’t gotten to Keys yet–he’s 80 and still teaching I guess at the very least–but he would be a worthy inclusion in the series. As to this album, it’s just solid soul jazz from a time when this was just being created. Heck, you might think it is an all-time classic.

B+

Diggy D, Noughty by Nature

Fair hip hop album if not my favorite thing ever from this British artist. Do you ever listen to an album once or twice though and feel like you really aren’t getting it? That maybe it’s not the album but it’s you and the particular things you are thinking about at a given time? That happens to me quite a bit. I bet that if I listened to this at a different moment–maybe in the car–that I would very quickly realize this is better than I thought it was. In other words, this isn’t so much a review as an invitation to listen to this album and tell me why I’m wrong.

B

79rs Gang, Expect the Unexpected

The Mardi Gras Indians is a unique part of the Black American experience. But you tend to think of them as a niche thing that is not just a New Orleans thing but one that is so idiosyncratic as to be meaningless outside the context of the streets of that city. But this project suggests that this is an incorrect view (which to be fair, might have just been mine). This is a combination of a couple of the tribes and they creating a musically relevant experience that combines these New Orleans traditions with contemporary musical stylings and modern politics. Really, this is worth your time. Cool album.

A-

As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics.

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