Bluebirds Over The Mountain - Robert Plant

from the album Carry Fire (2017)

One of the things I dig most about Robert Plant is the way he has managed to subtly recast himself throughout his post-Zeppelin career.  It started in the 80s with songs like Big Log and In The Mood. This is allowed by his collaborations with female Americana and Folk artist, with my favorites including his remake of Killing The Blues with Alison Krauss and Ohio with Patty Griffin.

His rendition of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down with his Band of Joy is the cherry on top.

On his latest album, it is a duet with a rock and roll lady that has caught my fancy.  On Bluebirds Over The Mountain, he sings with none other than Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, the smoky velvet and confidence of her voice casting a new angle on Robert Plant's master vocals.

I really dig how he hangs back in the song, never overshadowing the other singers or musicians, and then in the outro he lets loose with some Zeppelin-inspired moans.

I am also excited to hear a resurre…

Vacation - Dirty Heads

from the album Swim Team (2017)

What a better way to start your work week than with a tune that proclaims:

Eh eh aye
I'm on vacation
Every single day
'Cause I love my occupation

I dig Dirty Heads.  Their vibe is fresh and fun.  Their songs contain humor, wit, and substance.  Whenever I listen, the songs stick in my head all day.  It is uncommon for a songwriter to consistently achieve catchiness.

Vacation will be in my head all day.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Vacation.

Click Here to read my November 2013 post on the Dirty Heads song Crazy Bitches.

The Light Of Day - Kacy & Clayton

from the album The Siren's Song (2017)

I really dig the place on the musical spectrum that Kacy Anderson and Clayton Lithicum have carved out for themselves.  It is a stripped down, psychedelic folk music, full of tightly-balanced juxtaposition.  Vintage and fresh.  Macabre and uplifting.  Otherworldly and raw.  This brand of folk defies time and place.

Arriving at this delicious musical spot comes - in part - from their broad range of musical influences.  Leadbelly.  Bob Wills.  Shirley Collins.  Fairport Convention.  Mississippi John Hurt.  The Deep Dark Woods.

Another part likely comes from their upbringing in the relatively remote Wood Mountain Uplands of Saskatchewan.  I imagine that being raised there gives you an interesting perspective on music and how it relates to your immediate universe.  I also imagine it is a supportive community, perfect for learning a lexicon and honing your craft.

The first track on their latest album is called The Light Of Day.  It is a throwback …

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 8

This mixtape is a funky affair.

It represents the type of mix I would want to play at the perfect big city party.  Something that gets people loose and groovy.

I dig funk.  It sits at the intersection of R&B, Soul, Rock, Jazz, & Disco.  That lets the DJ vary the vibe, giving something to everyone.  Especially my funky friends.

So, grab a cocktail and give this mix a spin.  Hope it blows your head.

Here is the playlist:

Grits And Gravy by The Fame Gang

Ain't It Funky Now by James Brown

When Love Comes Home by Chet Ivey & His Fabulous Avengers

Blow Your Head by Fred Wesley & The J.B.'s

Gimme The Boots by Mo' Blow

Katchi by Nick Waterhouse

Outa-Space by Billy Preston

Sexy M.F. by Prince

What'd I Say - Parts I & II by Ray Charles

Don't Lay Your Funky Trip On Me by Señor Soul

Son Of Slide by Slave

Stripped by Soul Department

I'm Not Gonna Cry by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Take It As It Comes by Sugarman 3

Baby, I Don't Know You by Vicki Anderson


Frontine - The Selecter

from the album Daylight (2017)

The Selecter are one of the great ska bands that recorded for 2 Tone Records back in the 1970s.  Their only industrial name is actually the term used by Jamaicans to describe disc jockey.

The band has always been noted for their beat and groove, coupled with the vocals of Neol Davies and Pauline Black.  For me, Pauline Black has always been the critical member.  She is the original "rude girl," the prototype for all future female ska singers.  I dig her.

Nearly forty years later, they are still recording and releasing great music.  Their latest single - Frontline - has become one of my most listened to songs this year.  I dig the tight rhythm section, the dueling vocals, and the variations in the arrangement.  It is a modernized ska vibe with nods to other musical styles, all delivered with a bouncing beat.

I also dig the message to the song.  It stands as advise to millennial to get off the couch, put down the video games, and engage live head…

I Am A Slave - The Roots

from the television program Black-ish (2017)

For those old enough to remember, just the mention of Schoolhouse Rock puts a smile on your face.

Songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Three Is A Magic Number" appeared on the ABC network's Saturday morning cartoon programming as cute, little, animated educational segments.  They wound up becoming pop culture sensations, pillars of that generation's childhood experience.

The king daddy of all these songs was "I'm Just a Bill."

Fast forward forty-one years, and the legendary band The Roots have created their own rendition of the song - entitled "I Am A Slave" - detailing the experience of those who endured human bondage.

Dig the second verse;

I am a slave in the home of the brave
A product of the triangular trade
Please pardon my ways
If I'm nervous or the slightest bit skittish
In the presence of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, or British
They kept me in colonial chains
Tell me how to persu…

Town Called Malice - Rude Boy George

from the forthcoming album Gifted: A Tribute To The Jam (2017)

The Specialized Project is a group of UK-based music folk who raise money to help those stricken with teenage cancer, and other dreadful afflictions.  The fundraising largely focuses on the release of multi-CD tribute albums that feature dozens of great bands.  Their forthcoming release - Gifted: A Tribute To The Jam - is a four-CD affair containing 65 ska and reggae artists covering tunes by The Jam.

I can't wait to taste the whole enchilada.

The first track I have stumbled across for this record is by Rude Boy George (great band name) taking on the classic tune Town Called Malice.  They are an NYC band that specializes in ska remakes of 80s New Wave songs.  I dig it.

The primary differences between this version and the original are the ska backbeat, a slightly slower tempo, and the dual vocals of Megg Howe and Roger Apollon Jr.  The ska vibe and groove combine nicely with the sentiment of the original, making this a…

Over Everything - Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

from the album Lotta Sea Lice (2017)

Lotta Sea Lice, a forthcoming release by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

Individually, each represents the best that new music has to offer.  They are gifted songwriters, vocalists, and guitarists.  Triple threats.

Over Everything is a pre-released single from the album.  It succeeds in capturing the essential qualities of each artist.  Where it exceeds is in the interplay between them, both vocally and instrumentally.

I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song. I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
You get the point...
Click Here to watch the official video to Over Everything by Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile.

If All I Was Was Black - Mavis Staples

from the album If All I Was Was Black (2017)

If all I was was black
Don't you want to know me better than that?

Mavis Staples is an American treasure.

Combining incredible vocals with iconic songwriting, her music resonates like no other artist today.  There is no musician who speaks more elegantly on race, freedom, or individuality.

At age 78, she is in one of her most fertile and prolific periods of her career.  On this record, she is once again teamed with Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy.  The results are spectacular.

There is so much to admire in her.  Is there anyone I dig more?

Click Here to listen to If All I Was Was Black.

Isotype - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

from the album The Punishment Of Luxury (2017)

Back when I was younger, I always assumed that I would be famous one day.  I often daydreamed about stepping onto the set of a late-night talk show to the thunderous applause of an adoring public.

In these Walter Mitty moments, I could easily imagine the band playing the perfect theme song as I took the stage.  In my mind, it always alternated between the same two songs:  Meet Dr. Foo by Coleman Hawkins and Dreaming by Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark.  Both are fine selections.

These memories come flashing back at me as I listen to Isotype, a new song from my old aural companions, OMD.

The familiar vocals.  The stirring synthesizers.  The early electronic marching beat.  Collectively, this sound defines a very special place in a private corner of my soul, where we could be together.  Now and forever.

Join me there...

Click Here to watch the official music video to Isotype.

What Comes Back - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

original score to the soundtrack for The Vietnam War (2017)

What a challenge it must have been to compose the soundtrack for Ken Burn's extended documentary on The Vietnam War.  I am not sure that many artists would take on this project, let alone deliver such an outstanding product.  Hats off to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross !!!

For the past week, I have been playing this soundtrack in my headphones as I ride a crowded rail to work.  In this context, I become both detached - and highly tuned into - my surroundings.  I imagine this is what it must have felt like to be on patrol in a Vietnamese village.

The men I know who actually had that experience prefer not to talk about it.  As much as I respect their silence, I wish they would share their experiences.

My favorite song on the soundtrack is What Comes Back.  I really dig its craft.  The song has a menacing quality.  One part of it is the deliberate tempo and the dull thud of the snare.  The other part are the two guitar voices,…

Not Dark Yet - Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer

from the album Not Dark Yet (2017)

For me, listening to Bob Dylan is a little like a journey through the fun house. with mirrors distorting reality at every turn.  The genius of Dylan is that in these abstractions, the listener realizes truths and feelings that would not have otherwise synthesized.

Then in 1997, Dylan released Time Out Of Mind, an incredible album where he removes the mirrors and bares himself for a brief moment.  By his next record, Love & Theft, the distorting mirrors had returned.

Not Dark Yet is the centerpiece of Time Out Of Mind.  Here, Dylan looks at his life and acknowledges that he may not live long enough to experience all he desires.

Shadows are falling and I been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't let me heal
There's not enough room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but its getting there

Well my sense of humanity is going dow…

No. 5 Hurricane - Emily Barker

from the album Sweet Kind Of Blue (2017)

No. 5 Hurricane is a song that I intended to write about a few weeks ago.  However, in the build-up and wake of Harvey - and then Irma - it seemed obvious and inappropriate.  I try to avoid being obvious.

A lesson from these storms is just how beautiful my friends in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia are.  I've witnessed them offering their homes to neighbors, rescuing animals, keeping an eye on the elderly, and being warm, decent human beings.  Hooray !!!

No. 5 Hurricane is a song from Emily Barker, a singer-songwriter from Western Australia whose music blends Americana and Folk with a sixties pop sensibility.  The song is sparse and tender.  Its lyrics inform a former lover that - despite being in someone else's arms - their memory is on her mind.

The visual imagery of the opening line mesmerizes me:

I remember when the shadows moved across your skin

As the song evolves, other lyrical imagery strikes me, evoking beautiful memories. …

2017 In Aspic - Episode 4

Episode 4 chronicles some of the great new music I discovered over the Summer of 2017.  It is unlike any summer mix I have ever created.  In some ways, it doesn't sound summery at all.

But this is certainly the soundtrack of the last few months.  Indie, alternative, folk, rhythm & blues, experimental, soul, shoegaze.  Australia, New Zealand, South America, North America, Europe.  Eclectic particles from lesser known artists spanning the globe, all coming together, forming an unexpectedly cohesive vibe.

And there is even a new Cat Stevens song in the mix !!!

Hope you dig it.

Here is the playlist:

Puss by Party Dozen

Feeling Good About Feeling Good by Art Feynman

Drive by Mere Women

Forgot Myself by Jen Cloher

Silver by Waxahatchee

Believe by Benjamin Booker

Blackness Of The Night by Yusef / Cat Stevens

Let It Melt by Danxia

Tuyo (Tema De Narcos) by Bïa & Mamselle Ruiz

Kowabunga by Jono Das

Every Part (For Linda) by Moonchild

Indigo Children by Deafcult

Violet by See Through Dresses


Horizon - Aldous Harding

from the album Party (2017)

Regardless of whether it is a gift from God or a validation of Mendel, there is no musical instrument more stirring than a gifted human voice.  Think of a great Irish tenor or an operatic star, like Pavarotti.  Their voices can touch you at your core and inspire you like few others things I know.

In terms of popular music, great care needs to be given to the musical accompaniment of a gifted voice.  It must be complimentary, never stealing the spotlight.  This is certainly a situation where less is more.

Aldous Harding is an incredible vocalist from Lyttelton, New Zealand.  She considers her style of music to be gothic folk, a perfectly accurate and unique categorization.  I could hear her singing in either a grand European cathedral, or a Greenwich Village café.

On Horizon, one of many fantastic tunes on her sophomore release, the twenty-seven year old singer is accompanied by a simple piano playing whole-notes and an orchestration track of slowly drawn st…