Archive for April, 2009

and here’s some more: folk stax contd

Monday, April 6th, 2009

HAYES CARLL – TROUBLE IN MIND
newish (08) album from songwriter fella from TEXAS who wants you to know it
actively places himself within tradition of guy clark, townes can zandt, steve earle, et cetera
some have criticized his over-reliance on texas country cliches and his perhaps affected, intense texas drawl
his cute songs are maybe too cute and his angsty songs are absolutely too angsty but I think I prefer both of these to his middle of the road, low-key ballads
this is his polished label debut and the slick production give him a big boost as far as hooks go
“drunken poet’s dream” (as overblown as it sounds) was cowritten by ray wylie hubbard and is the best song on the album
also: “she left me for jesus”


SLIM CESSNA’S AUTO CLUB – S/T

greasy, smoky country gospel coming out of mid/late 90′s cowpunk alt bullshit, but clearly steeped in tradition
reverent, where any irony would have clouded their sometimes devotional bent
eery, riled-up yodely yelps can grate but definitely serve the spooky accordion/organ shuffle waltzes that fill the album
murder ballads
“I threw her in the river!”
surf/rockabilly licks and real simple dobro
I figure fans of that loud strummy acoustic guitar w/drum sound that’s so popular these days will dig this
and so do I


SPADE COOLEY & THE WESTERN SWING DANCE GANG – SHAME ON YOU

okay, spade cooley killed his wife in a very groteque way and there was a pretty famous subsequent celebrity trial
look it up if you want the juicy details (they include theme parks and gay sex cults)
as far as the music goes: spade dubbed himself the king of western swing at the height of that music’s popularity (although history has fortunately awarded mr. wills that title)
spade’s swing (as opposed to harder texas stuff like wills’) is a slick, schmaltzy hollywood swing
his swing band swelled into a near orchestra, with a full-time orchestral harp player swinging with the rest of them
the production might strike a lot of you folk as too syrupy, but I really love it for what it is
meticulously crafted dancey pop in the c&w mode
the title track (great fodder for cute news headlines, no doubt) is a good start and a standout


STEVE EARLE

80′s debut GUITAR TOWN rode the neo-traditionalist wave (think dwight yoakam, with whom he was often categorized at the time) into the charts
though he’s since been often grouped with fellow statemen guy clark, townes van zandt, et al. – that texas, earthy songWriter vibe
GT is all up in that big 80′s reverb with fwooshy hard rock deep snare hits w/heart-on-sleeve sentiments, rockabilly/Bakersfield clonky leads
whereas his most recent WASHINGTON SQUARE SERENADE finds earle, decades later, embracing self-consciously eclectic textured production and artsy, inventive arrangements, literate and socially conscious (ah, politics) lyrics
apparently a paean to his new adopted town of nyc + ode to its folk era greenwich village scene


CHARLIE FEATHERS – S/T

charlie is original sun gold
he shoulda coulda woulda been as big as elvis, big as cash, big as carl perkins at least
instead here (1990) on this wow exciting comeback album we find mr. Feathers vital and mean as ever, still raring to go
rockabilly before it needed that silly -billy distinction
charlie can growl in his resonant, bassy snarl one minute
and yelp or even squeeze out a convincing hoarse croon the next minute
this album is full of delicious, sloppy acoustic guitars and slap back delay effects
and clickety clack rimshots



Bands You Should Know: The Stone Roses

Monday, April 6th, 2009

One deep winter night in 2003, cold and stoned, everyone had returned home for the holidays, and my life was empty and sad. So I went to the only place I knew that could bring joy: KWUR 90.3 FM. Back then, KWUR didn’t look as it does now: particle-board CD stacks were rotting in what is now the lounge, but that didn’t really matter, it was time for random pulls. That night, I found The Stone Roses. And I’ve never lost them.

While we didn’t have the 1989 self-titled release, we had the Second Coming. The cover of this one is soaked in scathing review: the album apparently failed to live up to their first release, too much guitar wanking, etc. But whoa. The guitar work blew me away. Yes it was wanking, yes you could hear the cocaine, but wow this guy was fucking great. Though demeaningly branded “the John Squire blues explosion” whatever. John Squire was on point.

I immediately went home that night and acquired though the Gaian brain their first album. Allmusic will tell you 5 stars, but you must listen for yourself. I’m not the biggest fan of Ian Brown’s vocals, but they are by no means offputting. What the Stone Roses are marked for is a fusion of dance beat with guitar (I don’t want to call it pop because that word has been bastardized by, well, you know the yuck elsewhere). And it’s there, you can catch it, a very simple driving drum beat, a live drum machine. But its not overwhelming, it lets the groove coast through the entire album, take the ride.

Minus the only caveat (track 1, I dislike it), almost every track on this album radiates with an unbounded optimism. Everything will work out just fine, trust the Stone Roses. From the last 20 seconds of track two where you get to hear Squire’s guitar ring clear, to the little shimmy in the middle of track 3, to track 4 which sounds fascinatingly like track 3 in reverse, to the unexpected full out jam 1/3 through track 11, this album will set you right as rain.

The Stone Roses :D

(From inside KWUR: this album can be found (and played on the air!) in MP3 form in the Unsorted folder of the KWUR quasi stax: not the formal FLAC lossless archive, but the collection of digial music. Ask your friendly tech if you don’t know where to find it on the computers.)

pretty good… pretty good 1

Monday, April 6th, 2009

so way back in the fall in a bout of ambition I set out to write a comprehensive guide to the folk cd and vinyl stacks at the station. this was leading up to the “genre party” event in which privileged participants ate delicious food and listening to me talk for hours about country music history (yes it was actually hours). and you folks who missed out are definitely jealous I’m sure…

anyway, obviously I never finished this guide (never even got started on the vinyl– maybe this summer?) but I posted it in an unfinished version in the listening room by the cds. and now I guess I am going to post it here, for lack of time or ideas for new original content blah blah.

NB: these were my rough notes, which I intended to flesh out into paragraphs or something. as the sun rose and I realized how long it was taking I gave up and left as it. the short fragments read a little like oblique poetry written by retarded 15 year olds. which is always what I’m going for. anyway, here goes:

“PRETTY GOOD FOLKS CDS IN KWUR STAX [pt. 1]

HASIL ADKINS – POULTRY IN MOTION
hasil adkins was a one man band
he played country music fast and dirty like all the best rocknrollers
rockabilly psychobilly retro kids lionize him (the cramps covered him a bunch)
he shrieks and moans a lot
this album – mostly 1990s recordings, with some 1950s and 1960s tracks thrown in – is all about chicken, one of his primary muses
riyd chicken-themed swamp-thrash

RED ALLEN – THE FOLKWAYS YEARS
red allen was one of the very best bluegrass singers
which is kind of a funny distinction, given the sometimes overwhelming emphasis on instrumental technique and proficiency in bluegrass music
red sang in that typical nasal whine, but he did it way better than just about anyone else
when he sings it really does sound high and lonesome
(yeah yeah that bluegrass vocal style is what we call “the high lonesome sound” for those of you new to this)
this album collects some wonderful 60′s bluegrass, recorded when the style definitely wasn’t new anymore but hadn’t quite developed into the sort of institution you can choose to venerate, react to, or innovate within, blah blah
I hope some crisp bluegrass producer listens to these recordings and realizes how good bluegrass sounds when its given a little warmth
good stuff

NORMAN BLAKE – OLD TIES
norman’s one of the world’s leading experts on rag-picking, various blues fingerstyles (piedmont, esp.)
along with dave van ronk and a couple others, he’s probably one of the best guitarists to come out of that whole sixties folk thing
made his big success as a sideman to all the greats (bob dylan, johnny cash, et cetera)
this disc is a collection of cutsoff his solo albums from the past three or four decades
an excellent set with a good variety
his (sometimes unremarkable) singing graces some of the tracks but the showcase spotlight is pretty much on his technique and skill as an interpreter
a consummate musician (I have heard this term used and it sounds appropriate)

KATE CAMPBELL – TWANG ON A WIRE
kate’s a real nice folk songster
we have a couple good 90′s cd’s of hers – her gospel stuff is esp. good (as is her brand new one)
but this album is a little different – an ode to those “brash ‘n bold gals” – 70′s country icons like dolly and tammy
all covers save one (her specific ode, “twang on a wire,” which easily equals the power of some of these)
the songs she picks are frankly some of the best songs ever
and while her humble pipes don’t improve upon the famous performances necessarily
the love and joy in them really shines through
fuck this is one of the most rocking versions of “harper valley pta” I’ve ever heard

more to come ++++ hey kwur djs or former djs, what are your favorite folk/country albums in our collection? share plzzzzzz