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Showing posts from June, 2013

66 Impala - Booker T

from the album Sound The Alarm (2013)

Booker T. Jones has laid down more classic Soul and R&B vibes than just about anybody I can think of.  From his days with The MG's, to backing artists like Otis Redding, thru his modern day classics - such as his 2009 album Potato Hole - the sound of his Hammond B-3 organ is one of the cornerstones of American music.

This week, he released Sound The Alarm, an album of both vocal and instrumental tracks that include a wide array of guest musical talents.  All the great Soul and R&B sounds are present, however, there is one song that contains a new vibe for Booker T. Jones, and I really dig that.

The song is 66 Impala.  This song has a latin vibe laid down brilliantly by a band that includes conga master Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E. on timbales.

This song gets right down to business with the percussion players laying down a groove that immediately hooks you.  For the next minute you are given peaks of the tones to come: the jazzy guitar,…

I Like The Things About Me - Mavis Staples

from the album One True Vine (2013)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is one of most special books I have ever read.  Most noted as the first novel by a great American writer who would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature, it is the story of a young black woman coming of age in the late 1930's with an inferiority complex about her race in a harsh world filled with racism, incest, and cruelty.  This book captures the misplaced yearning of the oppressed human spirit with greater clarity than any other book I have read.

I Like The Things About Me by Mavis Staples is a song that provides the perfect counterpoint to Toni Morrison's novel.  While acknowledging the same racial misgivings in the singer's youth, she has grown to hold her physical characteristics precious, even finding strength in them.  Dig these lyrics:

There was a time, I wished my hair was fine
And I can remember when, I wished my lips were thin
Oh, but now I wonder, why should I be surprised
I like the things abo…

Super 8 - Jason Isbell

from the album Southeastern (2013)

Many moons ago, I used to ramble around the southeastern states with a country-rockabilly band and their small - but faithful - bevy of devotees.  One weekend, we all convoyed down to Savannah, Georgia for a series of weekend shows at a joint called The Velvet Elvis, one of my favorite venues on the redneck underground circuit.

It had all the makings of being a great weekend.  Early June in Savannah ensured large crowds made up of SCAD students, tourists, and assorted local characters.  The tourists were key, because they would buy the band's CDs - and other swag - ensuring that there was drinking money and a little less financial strain.

When I reached town, I picked up the Savannah Daily News and saw that their weekend section printed a promo piece I wrote for the Velvet Elvis gigs verbatim.  It is always a high to see your words appear in print.  It also meant larger crowds.

But somehow the weekend went dastardly wrong.  Our world was typicall…

Акулы или Паука - Mumiy Troll

from the single Акулы или Паука (2013)

Mumiy Troll is a band originating from Vladivostoc, Russia.  Their on-again/off-again career is the result of frontman Ilya Lagutenko's eclectic career choices, which have included an extended stint in the Soviet Army.

Years later, he lived and worked in London as a translator.  It was here that he sharpened his Brit-Pop craftsmanship working with Chris Bandy, whose production credits include The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, and The Cure.  This British influence intertwines with visceral, Russian grit (and a little glam) making Muimy Troll more accessible (to me) than other Russian groups I stumble across.

I dig this song for it's vibe and groove, the guitar tone, and it's little synth fills. It creates a retro-90's alternative vibe made both exotic and campy by the Russian vocals.  I love hearing Ilya Lagutenko singing "Ay-Yae-Yae-Yae-Yae."  Just what I would sing if I were "Swimming With Sharks&qu…

So Good At Being In Trouble - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

from the album II (2013)

Listen to this song and dig its burnt, funky vibe.  Along the way, you might particularly groove on:

-->  The tone of the guitar as it runs down the signature riff.  The way it exudes funk while remaining understated makes me smile.

-->  The sound of the drum kit.  There is a dead thud to the drums that makes it sound like it was recorded in your hippie friend's living room.  I am so over the big bounce of rock drumming that sounds like it was recorded in a racquetball court.  The drummer also lays off the cymbals.  I dig that too.

-->  The bass player establishes and maintains the groove while remaining almost invisible.  Root, 5ths, and 8ths.  Keeps is simple and low-key.  But the way the octaves get used gives the song a loftiness that the vocals really float atop.

-->  The rasp of the singer's voice.  It's got a sun-drenched soul that makes me want to sing along.  Particularly the chorus.

-->  The total package.  When you check o…

Hey Love - Quadron

from the album Avalanche (2013)

Have you ever had day that started out great, only to have it spiral downward, deeper and deeper, until you are in a profoundly dark funk?

Welcome to June 11, 2013!  Hard to believe that this day started out with a swim at Manhattan Beach.

Fast forward to late night in Room 625 of a nondescript hotel room, somewhere in the Hilton Honors program.  I am trying everything to snap out of this.  Hours pass.  2AM.  I am spinning empty wine bottles, listening to dance tunes.

Hey Love by Quadron plays.  Each time the chorus kicks in, I zone into the piano track.  There is something special about it that I can't put my finger on.  I take another listen, turning up the volume, repeating the process several times.  I get hooked by the hooks. The beat, the melody, and that piano track.

I need to know more about this song.  Wikipedia tells me that "Quadron is a Danish duo consisting of Coco O. and Robin Hannibal.  The group calls itself and the music they pr…

Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols

from the album Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia (2013)

I must confess that I have a weak spot for songs about bohemians. It goes back to when I was a child and my mom would sing to me. A music lover, her songs spanned the Great American Songbook thru The Beatles.   One song in her regular rotation was the Cole Porter tune Which?, that contained the line "Which life is dreamier, Arcadia or Bohemia."  When I asked her which life was indeed dreamier, she said that - for me - it would likely be the bohemians. How a mother knows her child.

So when The Dandy Warhols released their new album this morning, I knew that I had to write about this song.  The song has more of a pop guitar feel than their usual fare, giving it joy and bounce.   I am sure it will find its way onto alternative radio.

One thing that I dig about the song is when it heads into the break, the rhythm guitar plays a chord progression inspired by the intro to Jumpin' Jack Flash.  It is really cool how the Keith…

You Belong To Me - The Boxer Rebellion

from the album Promises (2013)
This week, there was a mass shooting in and around Santa Monica College in Los Angeles.  Sadly about half a dozen people were killed.  When the gunman was in the midst of his campus rampage, The Boxer Rebellion were in the basement of the building for an interview and performance on KCRW, a radio station that I really dig.
Following the incident, the police locked down the building as a crime scene and the band's gear could not be liberated.  As a result, they had to cancel that evening's show at Avalon in Hollywood.  This morning, I was cruising in Santa Monica, listening to KCRW, and looking for a good place to get a torta asada.  The DJ announced that band was in the building retrieving their gear.  Good news.
Of course, this is a senseless tragedy with horrific loss of life that I do not want to trivialize.  However, this may be the craziest "you wouldn't believe what happened on the way to the gig" story I have ever heard.  I h…

To Leave Something Behind - Sean Rowe

from the single To Leave Something Behind (2013)

When I first came across Sean Rowe in late 2012, I was instantly attracted to his rich baritone voice and its ability to deliver a rock and roll song with a rockabilly sensibility  His song Downwind quickly found its way into my regular rotation.

This week, I saw that he released a new song - To Leave Something Behind - and was quick to give it a spin.  In the first listen, I gained a whole new appreciation for this artist.  His ability to sing a folk tune is phenomenal.

To Leave Something Behind is a passionate message to his son, attempting to share the wisdom he has collected in his own life.  I hang on every lyric:

I cannot say that I know you well
But you can't lie to me with all these books that you sell
I am not trying to follow you to the end of the world
And I'm just trying to leave something behind

Words have come from men and mouse
But I can't help thinking that I've heard the wrong crowd
When all the water is gone my…

Song For Zula - Phosphorescent

from the album Muchacho (2013)

Some say love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Oh, but I know love as a fading thing
Just as fickle as a feather in a stream

Whereas Johnny Cash fell into a burning ring of fire, Matthew Houck descends into a darker, more desolate space.  So opens Song For Zula, a six minute plus gem whose melody has haunted me over the past few months.

Several things come together on Song For Zula, making it a song that I keep coming back to.  It starts with how Matthew Houck delivers his beautiful lyrics with a voice that projects frailty and desperation coupled with confidence and determination.  You cannot write these qualities into a sheet of music, but having them there gives this song an authenticity that I really dig.

I also enjoy how the two keyboard tracks intertwine over the steady beat to create a swarming sensation that envelopes the vocals with great effect.  The first keyboard track is an ascending and descending orchestration track that flutters u…

Gallup, NM - The Shouting Matches

from the album Grownass Man (2013)

Once upon a time, I was a young lad living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Life was pretty binary back then, I was either working or partying.  There was no in between.  Over time, I migrated across town and settled in the fashionable east side, an old blue collar neighborhood filled with great bars and music.

I became friends with these two guys - John & Mike - who straddled the line between hippie and cheesehead.  They were awesome dudes.  Their living room was a practice space for their blues act.  Together they played guitar, harmonica, and sang harmonies in a way that might remind you of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (if Sonny & Brownie were white, hippie, cheeseheads).

Their living room was the site of a never ending party/jam session with local musicians regularly dropping in and out.  Fortunately, John & Mike never really had jobs, except for their ice cream truck.

As life chugs along, my mind often drifts back to those days, sitting o…

Prudence (E's E NYCTrust Mix) - Cheick Hamala Diabate

from the EP Prudence (Remixes) (2013)

I really dig the significance of Global Collaboration in music.  The internet and affordable recording software not only allows artists to overcome distance to extend their reach, it allows them to collaborate with other musicians, globally.

If you consider that most musical movements are created at the intersection of preceding genres, then you can rationalize that our whiz-bang technology will result in a greater number of new musical combinations.  I believe that this is leading us into a golden age of music.

A great example of this is the EP Prudence (Remixes) by Cheick Hamala Diabate.

Hailing from the West African nation of Mali, he became a world-class master of the n'goni, a small stringed instrument often made of wood and goat skin that has been a staple of african music for over 600 years.  Today, he lives in the Washington DC area, where he is focused on combining his traditional West African music with modern electronic styles.  Thi…