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It’s been freaking forever since I did one of these. They take a lot of work and at this point in the semester…..But I am pulling something together here.

I’ve seen a bunch of shows lately. Let’s get through them and get that caught up.

I recently saw Bob Mould for the first time at the Columbus Theater in Providence. I wonder why I hadn’t seen him before? In any case, it was good–a solo show and sure I’d love to see a band, but it was still just what you want from Bob. A few Husker Du numbers, a couple Sugar songs, a bunch of his solo stuff. He is still writing and it’s mostly still good. Plus you got Cranky Bob Mould. Someone in the audience shouted out for a song. He was nonplussed and also annoyed. He was like,” Husker Du stopped playing that in 1985″ and then said something like “Audience interactions, so great.” LOL, OK Bob. Good rock and roll from the crankiest man in the business. Here’s the setlist.

Then, when I was in Los Angeles late last month for a conference and of course all these graves, it so happened that there was a free jazz festival there that week. What? Oh my. Of course I couldn’t go to much given the conference, but I did have one night free and….oh my. It was a two act night. The first was the saxophonist Tim Berne, the cellist Hank Roberts (who I have seen in so many different formats, including playing the intro music for a friend’s wedding!), and Aurora Nealand on accordion, clarinet, and voice. I didn’t know Nealand at all, but she’s super talented. Berne I’ve listened to for years and had never seen so that was great to check him off the list. It was a very solid show. But then the second act…..OMG it was Harriet Tubman. This is the legendary jazz power trio that’s about as close to a rock/funk power trio as you can get and call it jazz. These guys are total legends and it was an absolute honor to be in the same room with them. That is J.T. Lewis on drums, Melvin Gibbs on bass, and Brandon Ross on guitar. If you are a rock person who wants to explore jazz, this is a great place to start. Lots of Black liberation songs that, OK, have to be explained since the songs have no lyrics, but still, to see them come from this place is really just so very powerful. Also, being LA where this sort of thing happens, they called up the hippie-soul singer Georgia Anne Muldrow to sing with them on a song! OMG! She’s so great. What a shock and a surprise that was!!! Dammmnnnnn, now that was a fucking show. Highlight of the conference, quite honestly.

I have another show to report on too, but I think I will save it for next week.

Obviously the big news of the week is the death of Shane MacGowan. Hey, he made it to 65! Who ever would have thought it! Look, the guy had his issues, lord knows, but a couple of things here. First, he was an absolutely brilliant writer and any decent songwriter and all the great songwriters will tell you the same thing. When I saw Steve Earle recently, he did a MacGowan song and talked about this, said it would help if anyone could understand anything MacGowan sang, which lol it’s true. Second, The Pogues were such a necessary correction to the overly slick music of the 80s, which he hated and most of which I don’t like either. I am not Irish-American, so the absolute adoration of the band is not quite my thing (my Irish-American wife’s dog as a child–yep, it was named Pogues), but obviously a hugely important figure.

We also lost the punk guitarist Scott Kempner. Jean Knight, one of the great one hit wonders of the early 80s, passed too.

Here’s a really cool article on Black musicians reclaiming American folk traditions long categorized as white.

A long lost Gram Parsons recording has been uncovered. Cool.

Jimbo Hart, Jason Isbell’s bass player from the moment he went solo, has left the band. It’s unclear whether this is on his own volition or not. I know there’s been substance issues. It’s a bummer though, not so much because Hart is some astounding bassist, but just because it’s a big break from the early years of Isbell’s career.

40 years of The Violent Femmes.

Playlist from the last month or so I guess, which is interesting for me to go back on and consider given the length of time. Over a month, all of eight albums got played twice and nothing was played three times.

  1. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
  2. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
  3. Wussy, Forever Sounds (x2)
  4. Amyl & the Sniffers, Comfort to Me
  5. Dilly Dally, Heaven
  6. William Parker & Raining on the Moon, Friday Afternoon (x2)
  7. Art Blakey, Hard Bop
  8. Tom T. Hall, ….The Storyteller
  9. Ray Wylie Hubbard, Crusades of the Restless Knights
  10. Johnny Paycheck, Someone to Give My Love To
  11. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues (x2)
  12. Bruce Cockburn, World of Wonders
  13. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra, Sno-Cheetah
  14. The Band, Stage Fright
  15. Richard Thompson, You? Me? Us? (Nude)
  16. Wussy, Funeral Dress
  17. Marianne Faithful, Broken English
  18. Noname, Room 25
  19. The Grateful Dead, August 6, 1971, Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, California, 1st set
  20. Chuck Prophet, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
  21. Henry Franklin, The Skipper
  22. The Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt
  23. John Coltrane, Africa/Brass
  24. Tammy Wynette, 20 Greatest Hits
  25. The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
  26. Buddy Tabor, Earth & the Sky
  27. David Budbill/William Parker/Hamid Drake, Songs for a Suffering World
  28. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
  29. Steve Coleman, Synovial Joints
  30. John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat
  31. Doug Kershaw, Spanish Moss
  32. Merle Haggard, It’s All in the Movies
  33. Drive By Truckers, Welcome 2 Club XIII
  34. Soccer Mommy, Color Theory
  35. Lilly Hiatt, Trinity Lane
  36. Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World
  37. Fairport Convention, Full House
  38. Sonic Youth, Dirty
  39. The Flatlanders, Live at the One Knite
  40. Tom T. Hall, Ballad of Forty Dollars
  41. Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid
  42. Grateful Dead, May 8, 1977: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  43. Johnny Horton & Billy Barton, Abbott Alternates
  44. Nitty Gritty Dirty Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, disc 2
  45. Torres, Silver Tongue
  46. Wadada Leo Smith, America’s National Parks, disc 1
  47. Keith Jarrett, Birth
  48. Wussy, Attica!
  49. Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel
  50. Amanda Shires, Take It Like a Man
  51. Angel Olsen, All Mirrors
  52. Bill Frisell, Nashville
  53. Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky
  54. Ann Peebles, I Can’t Stand the Rain
  55. Laura Veirs, The Lookout
  56. U.S. Girls, Bless This Mess
  57. Daddy Issues, Deep Dream (x2)
  58. Gram Parsons, G.P.
  59. Lori McKenna, The Balladeer
  60. Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in County and Western Music
  61. Loretta Lynn, The Definitive
  62. Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room
  63. Bob Dylan, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, acoustic set
  64. George Jones, Live Texas 1965
  65. Robert Earl Keen, Walking Distance
  66. Hard To Find 45’s On CD: Sweet Soul Sounds (this is actually a great collection of relatively obscure late 60s and early 70s tracks)
  67. Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
  68. George Jones, The Essential, disc 1
  69. Silver Jews, The Natural Bridge
  70. Ali Farka Touré, Savane
  71. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
  72. Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76
  73. Tracy Nelson, I Feel So Good
  74. Billy Bang, Outline No. 12
  75. Terry Allen, Juarez (x2)
  76. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal
  77. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life, disc 1
  78. The Flying Burrito Brothers, Farther Along: The Best Of The Flying Burrito Brothers
  79. The Who, Who’s Next
  80. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out
  81. Natalie Hemby, Pins and Needles
  82. Fontaines D.C., A Hero’s Death
  83. Tal National, Zoy Zoy
  84. The Regrettes, How Do You Love? (x2)
  85. Gregory Alan Isakov, Evening Machines
  86. Drive By Truckers, Live at Plan 9 Records, July 13, 2006
  87. Yola, Stand for Myself
  88. Chuck Cleaver, Send Aid
  89. The Beths, Expert in a Dying Field
  90. Hayes Carll, You Get It All
  91. Doc Watson, Southbound
  92. Johnny Paycheck, She’s All I Got
  93. Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud
  94. Old 97s, Too Far to Care
  95. Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
  96. Merle Haggard, Down Every Road, disc 1
  97. Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, Balance
  98. William Parker, Mayan Space Station
  99. Alejandro Escovedo, A Man Under the Influence
  100. Tanya Tucker, Delta Dawn
  101. Wussy, Rigor Mortis
  102. Tom T, Hall, The Rhymer and Old Five and Dimers
  103. Billy Joe Shaver, Old Five and Dimers (x2)
  104. Old & In the Way, That High Lonesome Sound
  105. Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Flatlanders, self-titled
  106. Johnny Paycheck, Slide Off Your Satin Sheets
  107. Drive By Truckers, Decoration Day
  108. Jerry Lee Lewis, Country Songs for City Folks
  109. Gene Clark, No Other
  110. Guided by Voices, Alien Lanes
  111. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours
  112. Doc Watson, Elementary Doctor Watson
  113. Jessi Colter, A Country Star is Born
  114. Jimmy Martin, 20 Greatest Hits
  115. Emmylou Harris, Luxury Liner
  116. Old 97s, Hitchhike to Rhome
  117. Richard Thompson, Amnesia
  118. Freddie Hubbard, Breaking Point!
  119. Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake/William Parker, Palm of Soul
  120. Elizabeth Cook, Aftermath
  121. Drive By Truckers, The Big To-Do
  122. Ian Tyson, Cowboyography
  123. Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
  124. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, disc 1
  125. The Osborne Brothers, From Rocky Top to Muddy Bottom
  126. Tom Russell, Indians, Cowboys, Horses, and Dogs
  127. James McMurtry, The Horses and the Hounds
  128. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  129. Rodney Crowell, Ain’t Living Long Like This
  130. Wussy, Getting Better
  131. Bonnie Prince Billy, Greatest Palace Music
  132. The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions
  133. Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math
  134. Billy Bang Sextet, Live at Carlos
  135. Bonnie Prince Billy, Ease Down the Road
  136. Bluegrass Alliance, Tall Grass
  137. Rodney Crowell, Texas
  138. Laura Veirs, My Echo
  139. Boygenius, the EP
  140. Caitlin Cary, While You Weren’t Looking
  141. The Coathangers, Nosebleed Weekend
  142. The Ramones, self-titled
  143. Neil Young, Tonight’s the Night
  144. Tammy Wynette, Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad
  145. Melissa Laveaux, Radyo Siwel
  146. Bobby Bare, The Winner and Other Losers
  147. Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken
  148. Steve Earle, Ghosts of West Virginia
  149. Drive By Truckers, The Dirty South
  150. The Paranoid Style, A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  151. Ennio Morricone, The Legendary Italian Westerns
  152. Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain (x2)
  153. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
  154. Indigo de Souza, All of This Will End
  155. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock and Roll
  156. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1960
  157. Doc Watson, self-titled
  158. Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, King & Queen
  159. The Louvin Brothers, When I Stop Dreaming
  160. Jason Isbell, Something More than Free
  161. Gary Stewart, The Essential
  162. Bradley Lubman: Steve Reich Ensemble, Reich: Proverb, Nagoya Marimbas, City Life
  163. Guided by Voices, Motivational Jumpsuit
  164. Chuck Prophet, The Land That Time Forgot
  165. Bill Callahan, Dream River
  166. Johnny Paycheck, Modern Times
  167. Bob Dylan, Desire
  168. Tom Russell, The Rose of the San Joaquin
  169. Marty Robbins, Saddle Tramp
  170. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
  171. Rusty & Doug Kershaw, Louisiana Man
  172. Terry Allen, Smokin’ the Dummy
  173. Matthew Shipp String Trio, Expansion, Power, Release
  174. Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain
  175. Tom T. Hall, In Search of a Song
  176. Noname, Sundial
  177. Bonnie Prince Billy, The Letting Go
  178. Jon Dee Graham, Full
  179. Hank Locklin, Please Help Me I’m Falling
  180. Jake Blount, The New Faith
  181. Alice Coltrane, World Galaxy
  182. Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes

Album Reviews:

Vince Gill & Paul Franklin, Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys

A solid effort by two veterans, and of course Gill has been a huge star in the past, to relive some of the great songs of Ray Price, who doesn’t get enough attention these days. Even among people who do listen to old country, Price is a decidedly secondary figure because he’s not Hank Williams or Johnny Cash and wasn’t considered part of “outlaw country.” He was a crooner and those guys are often not seen as “real country,” whatever that means and which has only been debated since The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers laid down their versions of old-time and train music in 1927. I don’t know that this is going to spur a big revival in Price’s music, but these are professionals laying down professional takes on a great one in a labor of love. So it’s cool and worthy.

B+

Henry Threadgill, The Other One

This is one of these jazz releases where this streaming-adverse genre only allows a couple of tracks to be streamed, but I will evaluate from that I guess, with the caveat that there’s much more to hear. Plus Threadgill is one of the featured artists at Big Ears 24, with 4 announced sets so far, so I need to engage more with his history and recent projects. This project is not one of those sets, but still. It is basically chamber music, which has long interested Threadgill, with a large band although not in fact an orchestra (is there actually a difference?). Again, not having heard the whole thing, I can’t totally say, but it sure sounded pretty sweet to me. Interestingly, Threadgill doesn’t play here at all. He conducts. There’s a few people I know here–Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon is great and I know her from her work with Wayne Horvitz, Jose Davila is on tuba, and David Virelles is on piano. But most of the musicians are new to me. That’s cool, expands my horizons. So yeah, this is at least worth buying for more listens.

A-

Typically, none of this is on YouTube, but here’s a different Threadgill project for your pleasure:

Eddie Vedder, Earthling

Huh, an Eddie Vedder solo album? I can’t think of the last time I even thought about Pearl Jam. But hell, let’s check it out….

And I dunno, it’s fine enough straight ahead rock and roll I guess. That’s about all one can say. I guess it’s fine? Why one would need to hear it repeatedly, that I am not sure.

B-

Car Seat Headrest, Making a Door Less Open

I always like this band more than I think I will. I always kind of remember liking them, but not so much that I listen to them more than once a year or so and then I do and am like, oh yeah, this is a pretty good band. Here I go again, with their 2020 album released at the beginning of the pandemic, which is 3 1/2 years ago but feels like 500. It’s a very strong set of indie tunes. I sometimes find them a bit too 2000s in terms of production for my preferences–maybe a bit too much Death Cab for Cutie or Vampire Weekend in there–but that’s fine. It’s solid work, another example of just a solid career.

B+

Elle King, Come Get Your Wife

So the first thing you have to get over here is that Elle King is the daughter of Rob Schenider. I am going to ignore this, but I really think Schneider is terrible, so there’s that. But you can’t help your family, that’s for sure. So let’s not hold this against her. And in truth, she is a completely functional country musician. She isn’t really moving the music anywhere, no, but it’s country music. It doesn’t move much. She has a great voice and a good sound, sometimes. Yeah, it can rest on the cliche from time to time. But this is fine, minus a few numbers where she overly leans into douche country-pop. Unfortunately, this includes the big hit from the album “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home), which is a very dumb duet with Miranda Lambert that sounds like something Journey would have done in 1982. On the other hand, I liked “Try Jesus” a lot, which is a song about how men suck so bad that she might as well try the last guy who hasn’t fucked her over. There is also a song with very bad advice. “Worth a Shot” is a duet with Dierks Bentley. It is an advice song–the relationship is struggling and communication is at a low point. So let’s get wasted and then talk about our problems. Sure, that’s likely to work. Nothing goes better with a declining relationship than massive alcohol consumption……..

The better tracks are worthy, but there are too many not better tracks here.

C+

Lydia Loveless, Nothing’s Gonna Stand in My Way Again

Having seen most of this album played live over a few nights when Loveless opened for Drive By Truckers this spring (Patterson Hood said he’s pretty sure she has opened for them more than anyone else ever), I was very excited to hear the album. I’ve between liked and loved all her previous projects. Not surprisingly then, the new album kicks a ton of ass. “Sex and Money” is one of my favorite songs of the year and is a pretty good encapsulation of her aesthetic. “Toothache” is another fantastic cut. I’ve really enjoyed Loveless’ transition from country-punk into an artist with a unique approach that keeps that brand but adds synth pop to the mix. Moreover, it’s the songs. That is what drives this. Great, great songs. Fantastic album.

A

Bethany Cosentino, Natural Disaster

Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast fits a type. She was the young, hard-partying woman of California who over time, as she entered her 30s, realized that this kind of life had its limitations. The drinking and the drugs and the parties seem fun as a kid but they are a very limited way to go about life, even when your day job is leading a popular band. That young fun LA life has been replaced by the reality of being in your mid-30s, now sobered up, not feeling old but not feeling young anymore either. Well, this is a smart set of grown up indie rock/pop songs. Catchy but also a reflection of real life experience, it’s still the sunny LA world, but one in which climate change and terrible people are a real thing, not something you can ignore when you are 25 on the beach. Some reviews of this album have been less positive. And I can see that if you are into someone who has a long history of one kind of positive music that a dour new reality is less appealing for you. I felt that way in the Trump years when Tacocat wrote an album that was about how life sucked and that aesthetic just didn’t work for them. So big Best Coast fans might not want to hear a bunch of songs about sobriety and climate change. But I thought that for a type of person in a particular moment of their lives, this was a reasonably powerful statement.

Thought this lengthy New Yorker review was pretty good too.

A-

Whitney Rose, Rosie

Rose is just a very solid country songwriter and singer. I’ve enjoyed her work in the past and she does a great of job of a roots country from a woman’s perspective, which is one of the things country music has always been good at, despite plenty of sexism in the industry. But more than almost any other genre, women’s voices singing songs about the struggles and joys of women have been centered, if for no other reason than they sell. Well, Rose is not exactly on the Opry, but she is a fun artist working in a classic genre effectively. I’m not sure I like anything here as much as the astoundingly good relationship/hook-up song “Home With You” on We Still Go to Rodeos from 2020. But I’d say this is a better album than that stem to stern. “My Own Jail” is a good song about screwing your life over. There are witty lines throughout. And that good ol’ steel guitar never disappoints on a country album.

A-

Angel Olsen, Forever Means

Quick little 4 song EP Olsen put out recently. Might not be the greatest release of her career, as EPs usually aren’t, but her evocative powerful voice is in full effect here and any fan will want to own it.

B+

Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (world war)

This posthumous release (fuck heroin) demonstrates just what we have lost when the great trumpeter overdosed last year. This is so good. In fact, it’s probably her greatest work. She always did combine her trumpet with not only jazz but rock and hip hop influences and she turned this project up a notch from the previous two albums. It’s funky and brilliant and beautiful and it rocks. She never did really learn to sing, but the lyrics work better here than on the previous album.

A

Neil Young, Somewhere Under the Rainbow, 1973

There’s most certainly nothing wrong with another Neil live release. But at some point, the performances just aren’t that different than the other performances. Tonight’s the Night era Neil has been covered pretty extensively in the archives and for good reason. Because of that though, I wasn’t able to get into yet another revisiting of the performances of that era like I might have if this was released a few years back. I guess it’s interesting to hear him talk about how “Albuquerque” is an especially meaningful song for him. But Neil is not the Grateful Dead. The songs don’t change much night to night. So great for the hardest core fans, totally fine for the casual fan.

B

DaShawn Hickman with Charlie Hunter, Drums, Roots, & Steel

A

Jerry Joseph, Tick

In 2020, Jerry Joseph released The Beautiful Madness, which is one of my favorite albums of the last decade. The man so channels the violence and horror of America, past and present, into his music. He’s got a rough voice sure, but any guy who does everything from parachute into Afghanistan to run underground rock camps for girls to writing songs about Confederate statues from the perspective of the statue is going to be interesting at the very least. I haven’t heard all his albums, but of the ones I know, this was my favorite.

Tick is an odds and sods follow up that includes some tracks that didn’t make the album and then part of his performance with Drive By Truckers backing him up in 2020 at the DBT homecoming shows in Athens. The songs I hadn’t heard before are more than good enough to be on any album of his, but my god the songs with DBT backing are fucking incredible.

A

Makaya McCraven, In These Times

Quite possibly my favorite McCraven album. Generally, I’ve liked all of them, but often found them just a bit wanting in terms of pushing the musical conservation forward. He’s a great percussionist, obviously. And he has a serious vision. I thought it came together really well here. This is just a huge step ahead. Now, I think he is really pushing it forward. Between his use of hip-hop ideas, the track at the beginning that pipes in Harry Belafonte talking about John Henry in a fascinating use of sampling, the big sound, and the great melodies, this is just very solid work. Huge band and the only one I really knew was the guitarist Jeff Parker. Just a fine meshing of a century of musical history into a forward-thinking production.

A

Jochen Rueckert, With Best Intentions

Very solid post-bop set here. Rueckert is a German drummer who has been based in New York for a good long time now. The band is himself, Doug Weiss on bass, Joris Roelofs on bass clarinet, Mark Turner on sax, and Nils Wogram on trombone. As is the theme with this post, I don’t know any of these guys. Clearly I need to know them. The two-rhythm, three-horn mix works well here. Roelofs and Weiss have excellent chemistry and they provide great propulsion for the horns, who each have their moments. Might not be my very favorite album of the year, but it is certainly one that bears multiple listens.

B+

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

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