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Snake Hip Waltz - Episode 1

Welcome, everybody, to Snake Hip Waltz, a mixtape series that chronicles the best new music of 2019.  Over the coming year, I plan to release ten episodes of eclectic music ranging from indie and alternative to americana and folk to R&B and soul.

This first episode offers all of the above.  It is mellower than many of my mixes but that should not deter you.  These songs are incredible.  I dare you to listen to Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson's cover of Kris Kristofferson's classic For The Good Times without getting chills.  Same for Jessica Pratt's throwback pop stylings on Poly Blue.

The mix also marks the return of Joe Jackson, covers of songs by Velvet Underground and Dolly Parton, and the incomparable soul of Lee Fields.

It is hard to believe that, six weeks into this new year, there are so many fabulous tunes.

I hope you dig my mix and stay tuned for more...


Here is the playlist:

Woman by Karen O & Danger Mouse

Wherever You Go by Dee White

Poly Blue by Jessi…

Failure - Frances Cone

from the album Late Riser (2019)

Frances Cone started out as an indie band from Brooklyn, until their principles - Christina Cone and Andrew Doherty - relocated to Nashville.

Their music is rooted in an indie-alternative sensibility, with pulsing bass lines, driving drum beats, and crunchy guitar tones.  However, there are other tones that run their music that make them a bit more unique, many of them coming from Christina Cone's magnificent vocals, which run the game between hushed alternative folk to soaring ethereal riffing.

Off their latest album, I've been digging the song Failure.  I love how the simple bass groove and beat propels the song through a wash of sonic ambiguity.  It forms a cool vibe that would be enough for most bands.  Yet this song then adds synthesizer-driven diversions into dream pop that is juxtaposed by largely abrasive guitar tones.

The full scope of this song plays well to Christina Cone's voice.  It is well crafted tune with great individual pe…

Jesus And Elvis - Hayes Carll

from the album What It Is (2019)

When I was a boy, my parents had a turntable atop a small entertainment center in our living room.  Below the turntable, were about two dozen records, with the first album facing outward through a glass door.

I used to like flipping through the records, opening them up, reading the liner notes, studying the photos.  There were early Beatles records, some Bossa Nova, Frank Sinatra, and - of course - Bing Crosby's Christmas Album.

Invariably, whichever record I was last looking at wound up in the front position, visible to anyone walking into the room.  However, my mother would always rearrange the records placing the same record in the front position.  That record was a recording of John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration, with a handsome photo of the thirty-fifth president proudly surveying our home.

This made sense.  As a young Irish-Catholic couple, my parents naturally identified with this accomplished and charismatic man.  His image hel…

Psychedelic Country Soul - The Long Ryders

from the album Psychedelic Country Soul (2019)

Friday mornings are always an exciting time at Casa del Gigolo.  These are the mornings when I open my computer to find all new music releases for the week.  I never quite know what is going to catch my eye and strike my fancy.

This morning, I woke a little hazy from too much wine at one of my funky friend's dinner party.  Booting up, I was immediately drawn to a new album by The Long Ryders.  Once upon a time, when I was devouring records by Paisley Underground bands, The Long Ryders were my favorite band of the lot.  I did not see this record coming and my heart began to flutter with delight.

Better yet, the name of the album was Psychedelic Country Soul.  I could not think of three better words to describe place my musical happy space thee days.  I listened to the entire record, delighting in the familiar tones, grooves, and melodies.  But it was not until I hit the final track - the title track - that the stars aligned and the ang…

Cosmic Cave - Ex Hex

from the album It's Real (2019)

What better place to spend Valentine's Day than in a Cosmic Cave with you?

Getting down to groovy tunes.  Dancing around the stalactites (or are they stalagmites?).  Just digging being together, happy and free.

Wanna go spelunking?

Click Here to listen to Cosmic Cave by Ex Hex.

Poly Blue - Jessica Pratt

from the album Quiet Signs (2019)

Jessica Pratt is a Los Angeles-based singer songwriter whose songs stand out for their craftsmanship and sense of style.

Take a listen to her new song Poly Blue. were she creates a beautiful soundscape that evokes a 60s Brazilian, or French, pop-folk vibe.  With her elfin voice and exquisite production, the listener is taken to a tender destination and lulled into a soft, plush dream.

The production value of this song cannot go unmentioned.  The vocals and finger-picked guitar are captured with magnificent fidelity.  I also dig the flute track, whose warmth stealthily adds texture and ambiance to the record.

This song is perfect for rainy days and romantic nights.

Click Here to listen to Poly Blue by Jessica Pratt.

Prayer For Another Day - Cass McCombs

from the album Tip Of The Sphere (2019)

On the song Prayer For Another Day, Cass McCombs infuses a 70s California dream vibe with modern swagger to create an acoustidellic swirl of hazy beauty.

The opening fifty seconds of this song are as magical as an introduction can get.  The opening guitar chords offer flashbacks to a vibe recalling bands like Firefall, yet just before you get hooked in, higher volume, higher fidelity tracks sharply punch through the mix, firmly nudging the listener into the present.

Of these instrumental tracks, the bass really stands out.  There is a hollowness to the tone that contrasts with the bright bounce of the groove to create a softer, more melancholy underpinning that takes the listener to a foreign, more psychedelic place.  The bass patterns offer runs that play off the color of the guitar chords magnificently.  The voicing on each note approaches perfection.

The lyrics then enter, offering a dreamscape where the singer imagines a future day as splend…

For The Good Times - Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson

from the album Amour (2019)

You know that a song must be stellar when the list of artists who have recorded it include Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and even Englebert Humperdink.  Such is the case with For The Good Times, a song written in 1968 by Kris Kristofferson and best remembered for Ray Price's classic rendition from 1970.

This slow-burning song is one of the saddest in country music, articulately recounting the end of a relationship with a sense of detached acceptance, longing, and love.  It stands as a testament to the songwriting brilliance of Kristofferson.

The latest version of this masterpiece comes from Canadian fingerpicker Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson, guitarist for The North Mississippi All-Stars.  The recording is precisely crafted, with classic tones that recall the records that Etta James recorded in Muscle Shoals.

But the highlight of this recording is the vocal performance by Ruby Ananfu.  This singer comes to Nashville from G…

Stranger - Jess Ribeiro

from the single Stranger (2019)

Jess Ribeiro is the latest in a ever-lengthening line of Australian female artists that I totally dig.

Her latest single, titled Stranger, has been at the top of my new music playlist for the past week.  It is straight-forward, alternative songwriter fare that has an intangible quality that I can't seem to get out of my head.  Perhaps it is the way the bouncing bass groove fits so easily with the incredible snare drum track?  Or, maybe it is the tone of the tasty lead guitar segments?  Or, could it be the combination of confidence and restraint in Jess Ribeiro's vocal delivery?

Truth is, I am not certain what it is about this song that has got me feeling twitterpated.  But who cares?  I am grooving out to something fresh.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Stranger by Jess Ribeiro.

Snake Hip Waltz - The Branford Marsalis Quartet

from the album The Secret Between The Shadow And The Soul (2019)

In some ways, I am quite comfortable with jazz music not being as "popular" as many other musical genres.  After all, jazz is - in my opinion - the most important of all musical genres.  As such, I feel that it is for the best that it not be subject to intense commercial and mass market pressures.

This allows jazz to explore and innovate.  It allows jazz to focus on substance over style, producing records of unsurpassed quality and dimension.  It also allows jazz to celebrate its heritage through perpetual reimagining of outstanding musical compositions, creating an enduring legacy and vocabulary for future music lovers.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet - with Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Joey Calderazzo in piano, Eric Reeves on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums - celebrate the past on their forthcoming album with a mellifluous and truthful version of the Snake Hip Waltz, a 1975 work by pianist Andrew Hill'…

Dave - Joe Jackson

from the album Fool (2019)

A few weeks ago, a funky friend sent me a social media post from one of the This Date In Music History websites that proclaimed it to be the fortieth anniversary of both Joe Jackson's Look Sharp and Elvis Costello's Armed Forces album releases.

In many ways, these two artists - along with Graham Parker, Squeeze, and Nick Lowe - helped to shape my musical identity as I stepped into adulthood.  They were witty and Britty.  They were outsiders who preferred to be on the outside.  They were angry, but not "punch you in the face" angry; rather they might cut you up with an intelligent or sarcastic quip.

They also made better music than anyone else.  Beyond the verbal gymnastics, they had an unequalled sense of melody and an appreciation of classical pop that shined through the speakers of my boombox.

I believe that they also shared a love for the craft of writing, recording, and performing music that connected with their music loving audience.  …

Pale Blue Eyes - Deer Tick

from the album Mayonnaise (2019)

In recent years, I have developed a romantic vision of a twenty-two year-old Lou Reed, leaving his Long Island home to pursue a songwriting career in NYC.  I imagine his first apartment, somewhere in the East Village or Lower East Side.  I imagine how mighty the shadow of Bob Dylan must have hung over that that music scene in 1964.

I imagine him working at Pickwick Records, trying to write a hit song.  I imagine him meeting John Cale, who would soon become his roommate, and how that introduced him to experimental musical theatre.  Ultimately, they would form the Velvet Underground.

I imagine him walking the city streets.  I imagine the sights and people he met.  I imagine how that helped him evolve his non-judgmental, nearly existential perspective that would one day encourage legions of social outcasts and misfits to form rock and roll bands.

It must have been magical.

Pale Blue Eyes is a song that Lou Reed wrote in the latter stages of his Velvet Unde…

When She's Feeling Blue - Mandolin Orange

from the album Tides Of A Teardrop (2019)

Mandolin Orange is an Americana folk duo whose music connects with me at a deeper level than nearly any other musical act of this decade.  Their 2013 song, Waltz About Whiskey, is one of the most touching songs I have ever heard.  Once, watching them perform it live at Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia, I left the room in tears.  Not many songs can have that effect on me.

On their latest record, my favorite song is When She's Feeling Blue, a sad tale of a man's lingering affection for a lover who - despite having moved on - returns to his arms when times get tough.

She only holds me in her arms when she's feeling blue
My baby only holds me in her arms when she's feeling blue

There is a dark beauty in the spaces of this song.  In these spaces, the heart easily weeps, particularly for those who mourn past lovers.

Love is a very complex and nuanced thing.  When we write about it in bubble gum fashion, rhyming it with above, we d…

The Pain Of Loving You - Lula Wiles

from the album What Will We Do (2019)

One of the hackneyed classifications spilled about to describe a young crop of folk acts is "folk revivalists."  Taken literally, it conjures the image of hillbilly medics taking the paddles to the chest of Pete Seeger and The Carter Family.

And that is the disagreeable thing of it all.  It implies that folk music is a dying art form, which is really the furthest thing from the truth.  If you take a good look around, you will see folk music flourishing around the world.

Lula Wiles are a trio of ladies who met at the Berklee College of Music.  They began singing and playing music together, ultimately becoming darlings of Boston's music scene.  I find their music to represent a modernization of the traditional folk form.  The instruments and arrangements are familiar; yet, there is something intangibly alive in the performance and production that grabs the listener in a way that old records do not.

Take a listen to The Pain Of Loving Y…

MAH - The Chemical Brothers

from the single MAH (2019)

MAH is the latest single by big beat electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers.  The song is everything you should expect to hear playing when your next rave is at full throttle.  Hard, grinding, machine works.  A gigantic bounce to the beat.  An arrangement that optimizes both expansion and compression.

The title is an acronym for Mad As Hell, that iconic line from the 1976 film Network, when a crazed Peter Finch proclaims, "I'm mad as hell, and I am not going to take it any more."

This song resonates with me, as I imagine it resonates with thousands of others, both for the music and the message.  We all seem to be carrying around a bit of anger these days.  So, what are you angry about?

Ageism has me angry.  It starts all of the middle aged people I know who can't seem to find employment in a bustling economy because they are "over qualified."  As if that is a bad thing?  "I am sorry Mr Turntable, we would like to offer you …