Four out of five Rolling Stones who appeared on the band’s first album are still alive. Half of The Beatles, half of The Who, and half of The Velvet Underground are still with us. All of the Sex Pistols except Sid Vicious still walk the earth. And yet all four of the original Ramones have died.
Since today’s the Fourth of July — or Independence Day, as the cool people call it — I thought it would be appropriate to salute Norton Records, a truly independent American record company and a firecracker of a label, which recently released three bitchen albums that will make you feel patriotic just listening to them. I know, I know. I’ll stop.
If Alan Lomax made field recordings on another planet, it might sound something like the new Clothesline Revival album, The Greatest Show on Mars.
Chances are, unless you religiously listen to my radio show, Terrell’s Sound World (which, by the way, you should), you haven’t heard of The Electric Mess.
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, the second solo album by eastern Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson, is surely one of the strangest country-music albums I’ve heard in a long time.
Usually in this column I write about new or at least recent albums. But this week I’m going to try something different and write about a bunch of new — or at least recent — songs.
I hate when the jackals of criticdom close in on musicians I love. But I must admit that many of the points expressed above are good ones. It’s true that even the best songs on Indie Cindy aren’t up to the ridiculously high standards The Pixies set for themselves in the late ’80s.
And as with those venerated duos of old, virtually all of their songs are full of heartache, humor, and spunk. Though the music honors the time-honored form of the country lovebird duet, the songs — all original and most written by Leigh and McKay — are fresh.
Deal the cards, roll the dice, if it ain’t that old Chuck E. Weiss. That’s right, the craggy-faced, mop-topped hierophant of the hipster underground (and yes, kids, I’m using the original connotation of “hipster” and not the pathetic thing it’s turned into) is back with a new album called Red Beans and Weiss.
You might think that the name of the band John the Conqueror, whose new album The Good Life I’ve been enjoying lately, sounds familiar. As a matter of fact, anyone who has ever heard Muddy Waters or the endless supply of lesser mortals sing “Hoochie Coochie Man” has heard the phrase “High John the Conquerer” (or, sometimes, “Conqueroo”). But unless you’re somewhat acquainted with the ways of the hoodoo, you might not realize what exactly that is.
Here’s a look at some albums by local, or pretty-close-to-local musicians I’ve been enjoying in recent weeks (and some I’ve gotten my hands on only in recent days).
The Dex Romweber Duo — singer/guitarist Dex and his sister Sara on drums — are back with another rocking album, blending all the musical elements that make up Dex Romweber’s vision — rockabilly, country, surf music, blues, avant-garde spook-show soundtracks, jazz, and show-stopping sleazo-profundo ballads.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that “Drive-By Buddy,” the first song on Underneath the Rainbow, the new album by The Black Lips, has a hint of country twang. After all, the Lips, garage-punks or “flower-punks” (their own label) that they are, covered Willie & Waylon’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” a few years ago.
There were a couple of singers I hadn’t planned on seeing who I saw at my very first SXSW in 1995. One was Lucinda Williams, who played a brief set at the Austin Music Awards and played old songs like “Passionate Kisses” and “Drunken Angel.” She was wonderful.
For the past several years, London-born singer Holly Golightly and her partner, “Lawyer Dave” Drake, have quietly cranked out some of the most enjoyable country-soaked, devil-fearing, blues-inspired rock ‘n’ roll records you’ll find anywhere.
Having an adventurous spirit, when I get promo CDs from artists I’ve never heard of at KSFR-FM, if it looks interesting, I’ll consider playing a track on my radio show without listening to it first. But before I do this, I always check the credits to make sure there are no cellos. Seriously, for the most part, few instruments sap the rock ’n’ roll out of a song faster than a dreary cello.
I’m far from the first to observe this, but it’s true that The Beatles arrived at a perfect time for America — less than three months after the assassination of President Kennedy. In a spiritual sense, the moment Paul McCartney opened his mouth to sing “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you” was the moment the national mourning for JFK ended. And a new era began.
Has Les Claypool “gone country”? Not exactly. His new album, Four Foot Shack, credited to Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, could almost be mistaken for “Primus Unplugged,” except for the fact that Claypool’s usual sidemen have been replaced here by guitarist Bryan Kehoe. The group even plays a couple of acoustic takes on Primus classics: “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” and “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver.”
Here are a couple of younger singer-songwriters from the Lone Star State whose music is definitely informed by all those greats, even though they don’t sound much like your typical Texas troubadours. They both started out as “one-man bands” and are in their late 30s, and I suspect they share a lot of the same fans. But they don’t sound much like your typical one-man bands, and, come to think of it, they don’t sound much like each other.
Every year about this time I like to look back at some of the albums that I meant to review in this column over the past year but somehow never got around to it. There’s some good stuff here that doesn’t deserve to get left behind.
And this month marks the 25th anniversary of this column, first published in these pages on Jan. 6, 1989. OK, I normally hate first-person music articles in which a writer regales readers with fabulous tales of ME. But this is my 25th anniversary, so indulge me a little, and I promise not to do this again until my 50th.
I recently read a funny article on Cracked.com titled “4 Common Music Arguments and What They Really Mean.” The very first argument struck me as I was compiling my annual best-albums list: “There Is No Good Music Anymore.” According to Cracked, what people who say this are really saying is “I don’t know how to use a computer.” So get yourself to a computer and check out any of my selections that sound interesting.
Two recent compilations from Norton Records hit close to home. Well, two or three hundred miles or so from home. El Vampiro, which is all instrumental surf rock from 1963 and 1964, and Sand Surfin’, which includes surf music as well as garage-band snot-rock from the mid-1960s, are the latest entries in Norton’s El Paso Rock series (Volumes 8 and 9, respectively).
As terrible as the Civil War was, it was a very musical war. Producer Randall Poster has collected 32 Civil War-era songs from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line and rounded up a bunch of country, bluegrass, blues, and folk musicians for an impressive two-disc compilation.
When listening to Ready! Get! Go! by The Dot Wiggin Band, it might be helpful to realize that it all started with a palm reading. The Gypsy woman — actually, it was his mom — told Austin Wiggin of Fremont, New Hampshire, that one day he would have daughters who would be in a famous band. And verily, he had daughters, four of them.