Love In Vain - Honeyfeet

from the album Orange Whip (2018)

For a songwriter, each composition is like a child; you give it life, socialize it a bit, and set it out in the world.  Most survive only briefly, never making it too far from home.  Other long endure, traveling the world, meeting exciting people, and maybe even making a difference in people's lives.

Robert Leroy Johnson was born on May 11, 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi.  A gifted musician, he travelled along the Mississippi Delta playing gigs, drinking whiskey, and womanizing.

In 1937, he had the opportunity to record some of his songs in San Antonio.  The following year, he recorded again in Dallas.  In those two sessions, he recorded 29 songs that are today recognized as the Rosetta Stone of American Blues.  These songs included Come On In My Kitchen, Sweet Home Chicago, and Crossroad Blues.

He died a few months after the second recording session.  He was twenty seven years old.

Love In Vain is, perhaps, my favorite of these songs.  It is a te…

The Day The Music Dies - Iceage

from the album Beyondless (2018)

This morning began with my recurring ritual of fixing an espresso, turning on the computer, and checking out what's new in the world.  By the third espresso, I was skimming my Facebook feed when, suddenly, I felt the urge to strum my Stratocaster.

Without any conscious thought, I began playing a song I wrote with my songwriting partner, Fred, decades ago.  This was a common occurrence after his premature death last fall, but in recent months I have not found myself playing our songs at all.

As I strummed, I glanced over at my computer and saw the little red circle at the top of the screen indicating that I had some Facebook activity.

It turned out to be a friend request from Fred's mother, Mimi.

Coincidence?  Anyhow, it got me thinking of Fred, the agony his mom must still be going through, and all the great songs we'll never write.

I proceeded to spend the next two-and-a-half hours listening to the tunes we once recorded.  It was good for …

Sex Crystals - Fascinator

from the album Water Signs (2018)

One of my favorite episodes in popular music was a brief moment in the early 1990s, when bands like The Farm, EMF, and Jesus Jones dominated alternative clubs and radio.

Their music approach took popular "new music" and added elements of electronica and dance together in a way that truly was unbelievable.  If you trace it back, there are hints of this style in the music of Thompson Twins and Echo & The Bunnymen; probably in New Order, as well.

Well, if you continued this line to the present day, it would run straight through the music of Fascinator.  A frontman in the Australian alternative band Children Collide, Johnny Mackay left it behind to move to NYC and embrace a life of electronica as Lord Fascinator.  As bold a move as it is to relocate to the other side of the planet, abandoning alternative music for electronica is seemingly bolder.

Check out his new song, Sex Crystals.  If you liked the aforementioned songs, you will love this…

Just Relax 2018 - Baby Beef

from the single Just Relax 2018 (2018)

Baby Beef are a groovy duo from Sydney consisting of Christian Valuez and Baby Beef.  On their Triple J Unearthed site, they list their influences as Talking Heads, Depression, Anxiety, Valium, Friendship, and Love.  Doesn't that sound like a formula for good music?

I recently started listening to their single Just Relax 2018, which is about the middle-aged doldrums, love, and the need for valium.  The more I listen, the more I realize that this might be a new anthem for winding down.

I dig the lounge-act campiness to the vocals.  I also dig how the vocals remind me of Philip Oakey songs, from way back when, particularly the opening verse:

Everything is wholesome
Everything is strange
Everything is amplified
In this middle age
Yes, I know I'm good looking
Just a little bit overweight
If its health that matters baby
We could focus on my mental state

But in the big picture, this song is all about the groove and vibe.  It keeps me coming back.

Click …

Pick Up - DJ Koze

from the album Knock Knock (2018)

As a Georgia boy, there is nothing I love more than Gladys Knight, her chicken, and her waffles.

So, of course I am going to dig Pick Up, a new piece of electronic house music by Germany's DJ Koze.  The song features a sampled vocal performance from Ms. Knight's 1972 deeper cut Neither One Of Us.

Listen to how simple the beat and groove are and how the touch of strings and guitar are the only real embellishments.  Hypnotically simple.  Tripping' at the disco.

Add the texture of Gladys Knight's voice and you have perfection.

Click Here to watch the official video for Pick Up by DJ Koze.

Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) - Double Exposure

from the EP The Late Nite Tuff Guy Reworks (2018)

For the past few months, I have had a smoldering debate between the virtues of professional ambition and personal happiness.  Well, it has finally caught fire and the results have Kerouacian implications.

I am taking today off of work in order to learn the bass lines for a few Velvet Underground songs.  The day started with two hours of perfecting the Sunday Morning line.  Next up, Stephanie Says.

There is something wildly liberating about letting your creative genie out of the bottle.

Join me in celebration by dancing to the triumphant disco stylings of Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) by Double Exposure.

Click Here to listen to Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) by Double Exposure.

Understand What Black Is - The Last Poets

from the album Understand What Black Is (2018)

It is a shame that more people do not know, and appreciate The Last Poets.

The group rose in the 1960s Harlem as part of the Black Nationalist movement, where their message and posture were aligned with leaders like Malcolm X.  Their style was a form of urban beat poetry that lent itself to both the Beat writers and African cadences.  And although they never achieved the notoriety they deserve, their influence is profound.

You can draw a direct line between Gil Scott Heron's classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and The Last Poets' When The Revolution Comes.  You also hear their influence in the early rap of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, and The Fat Boys.  I would argue that you also hear their influence in the music of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.

Fifty years after their first performances, The Last Poets are back with an album produced by London dub master, Prince Fatty.  I really dig the title track…

Middle America - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

from the album Sparkle Hard (2018)

At this stage in my life, I have honed my professional craft to a level of mastery that I could not have imagined twenty, or thirty,  years ago.  All of the hard work has paid off.  I am at my most potent, my most valuable.  I am at the pinnacle of my capability.

Yet the world does not recognize it.  It sees me as a middle aged sod, the type who needs to be shed as we transform from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.  People refer to you as overqualified, tell you that you are not "the right fit."  What they are telling you is that you are too old, that you are no longer relevant, that you are out of the picture.

You want to say "fuck off" and kick their asses.  You want to show them just how superior you are.  Yet you hold yourself back.  You fear the ticking clock, the fear that if you take risk - and fail - you will not have the time to financially recover and that the people who count on you will suffer.

So instead, yo…

Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium - The Claudettes

from the album Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! (2018)

My funky friend, Richie Beans, and I occasionally go into the local record store and buy a CD for the other guy.  It is very fun and I always get turned onto something I dig.

Well, if Mr. Beans and I went into Decatur CD tonight, I would by him Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! by The Claudettes.  It is my favorite record of the year.

The Claudettes' sound is driven by a rollicking Chicago blues piano sound, the type that Memphis Slim is famous for, coupled with a punk and rockabilly rhythm session, groin' female vocals, and some daring arrangements.

Sometimes, I listen through the entire album focusing on the drumming of Matthew Torre.  It is some of the finest drumming that I have heard in years.

My favorite tune is the title track, Dance Scandal At Th Gymnasium.  The pounding piano, swirling beat, and vocal stylings create vibe reminiscent of a runaway mystery train.  It is great American music.

Get ready to dig it, Mr. Be…

Make It Rain - Shoshana Bean

from the album Spectrum (2018)

For the past few months, my late night groove mix has featured Make It Rain by Shoshana Bean.  The song is a bluesy jazz composition featuring a high-wire vocal performance from the incredibly gifted Ms. Bean.

The song was originally written and recorded by Foy Vance in 2014.  It was subsequently covered by Ed Sheeran.

It is perfect for contemplative time spent alone.  The song is timeless in a way that frees your mind to wander.  I also find it to be uplifting; offering strength through blues.

I offer this song to you for times when clarity of thought is desired (or if you just want to hear a good tune).

Click Here to listen to the album version of Shoshana Bean's cover of Make It Rain.

Click Here to watch a live "acoustic" version of Make It Rain by Shoshana Bean performed at Past Studios in NYC earlier this year.  This rendition allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of the songwriting and the magnificence of the vocalist.

Me & My (To Bury Your Parents) - André 3000

from the social media release Me & My (To Bury Your Parents) (2018)

In the nearly seven years since my dad died, I have made it a priority to visit my mom almost every Sunday.  At first, the goal was to keep her from getting lonely.  Now, it is more about keeping an eye on her health and general well being.

So, for this Mother's Day, I decided to but all the annoying "stuff" behind and simply focus on having fun.  It worked.  We laughed and had a non-stop good time.  I will never forget it.

Driving home, I thought about the relationships I've had with each of my parents and just how fortunate I have been.

Once home, I began reading about - and subsequently listening to - an unexpected Mother's Day release from Outkast's André 3000.  It is a loving song about both his parents, titled Me & My (To Bury Your Parents).  The song features a truly beautiful piano track coupled with great woodwind and vocal performances. It has all the warmth and magic of a S…

Coolin' Out - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

from the album Tearing At The Seams (2018)

A funky friend shot me note from the Milwaukee airport a few days ago.  This thru me into a cavalcade of precious memories of my MKE days, rambling around the fashionable east side, listening to great music up and down Brady Street.

That great place on a great lake was the first stop on my dirty gondola's magical tour.  From there it has been zig zag wandering like a coked-up armadillo  From Moscow to Manila.  Sydney to SoHo.

All of those places are dear to my heart, but few more so than Denver.  From my graduation road trip to that last glass of red wine, I have some beautiful memories of that city.

I think of them as I listen to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats play Coolin' Out.  They are a Mile High City band with a kicking horn section and a strong sense of blue-eyed soul.  Their music makes me want to grab that girl with the sweetest smile, hold her tight, and dance 'till the end of time.

Click Here to listen to Cooli…

This Is America - Childish Gambino

from the single This Is America (2018)

If somebody held a gun to my head and asked me to name the most important song of the past fifty years, I would say The Message by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.

The reason is that the song not only depicted the state of things-as-they-are, it also provoked a meaningful conversation.  I believe that so much of my resistance to future hip-hop and rap songs is that they largely fail to provoke the conversation quite the same way.

This is America is the most consequential conversation starter that I can think of since The Message, particularly in the context of its music video.

Click Here to watch the music video to This Is America.  It will prepare you for the discussion that is surely to come.

City Looks Pretty - Courtney Barnett

from the album Tell Me How You Really Feel (2018)

I have been spending a lot of time listening to 70s and 80s rock bands with female singers.  Bands like The Pretenders, Blondie, and The Patti Smith Group.  It is amazing how much great material they put out, record after record.  Amazing.

When I look at current female artists, the one who continually impresses me is Courtney Barnett.  The hits just keep coming...

City Looks Pretty is the lead single on forthcoming album.  It rocks, it has her trademark vocals, and also closes with a cool downtempo breakdown.

For many artists, this would represent a high-water mark.  But for Courtney Barnett, it s just another day at the office.

She deserves to be in the same conversation as Chrissie, Deborah, and Patti.

Click Here to watch the official video for City Looks Pretty by Courtney Barnett.

Click Here to read my December 2013 blog post on History Erasure by Courtney Barnett.

Click Here to read my March 2015 blog post on Depreston by Courtney Bar…

Bad Dreams - Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson

from the EP Apart (2018)

I dig it when movie stars sing with rock bands.  Bridget Bardot, Catherine Denueve, even Gwyneth Paltrow.

On Bad Dreams, Pete Yorn sings with Scarlett Johansson.  This is not the actress' first foray into song.  In 2012, she sang a duet on the the delightful cover Bonnie & Clyde with Lulu Gainsbourg.

Bad Dreams is a cool tune with a 90's indie-alternative vibe.  I really like the way the vocals fit together.  Good stuff.

Click Here to watch the music video for Bad Dreams by Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson.

Click Here to read my November 2012 blog post on Bonnie & Clyde by Lulu Gainsbourg, featuring Scarlett Johansson.