Friday, April 28, 2006

Hillstomp- Jackson Parole Board Blues

The song has been freed.

Primitive blues acts are crawling into the light like a plague of boll weevils. Oregon's Hillstomp may end up being recognized as a leader of the infestation. They know their Burnside, Hopkins and McDowell, but they're also familiar with modern production tricks, as evidenced on "Jackson Parole Board Blues." Their migration pattern takes them across the United States this summer. Check out Hillstomp's site for more information.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Eddie Palmieri- Billie

The song is retired.

He's not a giant of Latin-American music. He's a giant of American music. On 2003's Ritmo Caliente, Palmieri touches on so many styles- from salsa to classical, and from jazz to son- that categories are meaningless. Palmieri still tours actively, including a date next week at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The River City Rebels- No Easy Way Out

The song found its way out the door.

Punks hate this band like hipsters hate James Blunt. The River City Rebels have changed styles more than once, they act like arrogant buffoons, and they clearly don’t belong at Hot Topic. I first encountered them at the 2004 Warped Tour, where they taunted the kids who wandered past their set on a crummy side stage. While most of the bands that afternoon wanted to be Taking Back Sunday, the River City Rebels aspired to be The New York Dolls. And I like that. "No Easy Way Out" is from their 2004 release on Victory. Another song from that album, along with two other solid offerings, are available at their MySpace account.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Southside Johnny- Love On the Wrong Side of Town

The song moved away.

Bruce, I’ll buy your jug band tribute to Pete Seeger today. But it’ll be a joyless transaction inspired by the years of service you provided back when I really needed you. The two new songs I’ve heard sound tedious and overwrought. Listening to this live 1978 recording from your old Jersey pals makes the prospect of dedicating time to your new project even less appealing. The Jukes just tear it up here. How about revisiting your blue-eyed soul years, back when you melded Dylan with Otis? Better still, why don’t you revisit Astral Weeks?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Luqman Hamza- My One and Only Love

The love has ended.

Because he's based in Kansas City, Luqman Hamza is categorized as a jazz musician. He's actually an old-fashioned entertainer, most comfortable when he's crooning standards to a suave dinner set. On his 2000 Groove Note release, Hamza is backed by local first-call drummer Tommy Ruskin and Kim Park on sax. Tyrone Clark plays bass. Hamza loves Nat King Cole, Charles Brown and Billy Eckstine, as evidenced by the elegant "My One and Only Love." His piano work is reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. I caught Hamza sitting in at a jam session Saturday afternoon, and while he's gracious and humble by nature, Hamza's overwhelming talent thoroughly dominated the proceedings.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lillian Boutte'- This Bitter Earth

It no longer bears fruit.

Lillian Boutte' performs today at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. She’s part of an extended musical family from Louisiana. This lush reading of the standard associated with Dinah Washington comes from her 1995 album But...Beautiful. That's Leroy Jones with the trumpet solo. The light synths are by new Kansas City transplant Loren Pickford. Lillian is the subject of a feature in the current issue of Offbeat magazine.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gerald Spaits- Seascape

It's now low tide.

Gerald Spaits is one of Kansas City’s top jazz bassists. That fact alone should provide him instant credibility. Fans yearning for the trad-leaning sensibility of Pat Metheny’s early work will love Danny Embrey’s guitar sound on this 1998 set. That’s Paul Smith on piano and Todd Strait on drums. It looks like three copies are available from secondary sellers at Amazon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spain- You Were Meant For Me

The love affair is over.

Bassist Charlie Haden's other musical kid, Josh, leads the little known but well-respected band Spain. I'd bet that if a happening label like Asthmatic Kitty were to reissue Spain's catalog with different packaging, a false bio and a new band name, indie rock fans would hail the music as a brilliant blend of Calexico and Jose Gonzalez. This song is from 2001's I Believe.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Famous Hokum Boys- Terrible Operation Blues

The terrible operation is over.

This is filthy! Hilarious and sexy, but remarkably vulgar. The studio aggregation was led by "Georgia Tom," who would become the Rev. Thomas Dorsey soon after this 1930 session. He's considered the founder of black gospel music. And that's Big Bill Broonzy on guitar. Because this Document-label CD is rather obscure and doesn't even feature an image at Amazon, I'll point you to its page there. If you dare to listen to snippets of every song, plan on dropping $13.98, because it's all just as memorable as this shocker.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Merle Haggard- More Than My Old Guitar

The guitar doesn't play any more.

Merle Haggard is opening for Bob Dylan tonight and tomorrow in my town. Yet I'm wary. I've seen Merle several times, but only once before as an opening act. It was an excruciatingly hot summer day in 1988 and Merle's set was disappointingly perfunctory. Still, it was far better than the train-wreck by the show's top-billed act. Hank Williams, Jr. lived up to an unfortunate "family tradition" that day. Here's Merle from his 2001's charming Roots, Volume 1, which is more or less a tribute to Lefty Frizzell. It contains three originals, including this laconic number. It's a great vocal, and I laugh every time I hear Merle sing, "I love my guitar like God loves the poor."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Salt the Earth- Lyra

The soundtrack is over.

Screamo, post-punk, math-metal, hopscotch-hiccup. Whatever you want to call their sound, this Lawrence, KS, band was primed to catapult itself onto the cover of AP magazine when Process of Breaking was issued in 2004. True to its title, the band disintegrated soon after. Salt the Earth's strong melodic sense and metallic flourishes are heard to good effect here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Annie Humphrey- Spirit Horses (with John Trudell)

The horse has escaped.

PBS aired a documentary about John Trudell on Tuesday. The Native American activist and spoken word artist is a very compelling figure. Anti-capitalism protesters, fans of Gil Scott-Heron, Bob Dylan or the Clash, as well as anyone interested in the exceedingly rare combination of protest music and first-rate rock'n'roll, would relish Trudell's AKA Grafitti Man. Trudell contributes to The Heron Smiles, Annie Humphrey's compelling release from 2000. Literary types should know that the album also contains a song co-written by Sherman Alexie. Here's more information about Humphrey and her music. Don't miss the beautiful video for this song while you're there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Liberty Horses- King of a Rainy Country

The king has been dethroned.

It's satisfying that Morrissey's Ringleader of the Tormentors debuted at the top chart position in the U.K this week. He's a worthy icon. It should come as no surprise to young indie rock devotees that bands like Voxtrot are just the latest crop of artists to be influenced by Morrissey and the Smiths. One of my favorite spawn of the mope-rockers is 1993's Joyland by Liberty Horses, which formed after the demise of The Bible. The forgotten band's roots run even deeper. Brother Neill and Calum MacColl are the sons of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. (Their late sister Kirsty sings on two songs.) Fans of Kings of Convenience, the Trashcan Sinatras, and, of course, Morrissey, will find a lot to like here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Peggy Lee- The Case of M.J.

Case closed.

One of my parents’ favorite songs was Peggy Lee’s "Is That All There Is?" Hearing my folks soulfully croon along with the desperately cynical anthem was troubling. Those over forty surely recall the tune. "If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing," Lee woozily sings. "Let’s break out the booze and have a ball." You may also recollect the song’s narrator rejecting suicide, only because she’s "not ready for that final disappointment." Not exactly a comforting cup of Tang.

It seemed the adults in my life subscribed to this jaded philosophy in the early ‘70s. Frequently awakened by maniacal laughter, I would blearily stumble onto the hallway’s shag carpet to witness the big people whooping it up in a blurry world of cocktails, cigarettes and dirty jokes. I get it now, of course, but at the time I was bewildered by this unsettling house of mirrors.

The infamous single was released in 1969 but it wasn’t issued on a proper album until 1975's unfathomably bizarre Mirrors. "The Case of M.J.", like the rest of the Leiber & Stoller project, is perversely upsetting. Still, deranged fans of Randy Newman, Magnetic Fields, and even the Dresden Dolls might find an affinity for this out-of-print record.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hubert Laws- Equinox

The sun has set for this song.

There are two types of jazz fans. I'm not referring to aficionados of free or traditional, vocal or instrumental, and electric or acoustic musics. No, the real division is with those who like strings recordings and those who detest them. I switched teams recently. Now I'm revisiting all the strings albums I initially dismissed- things by Bird, Billie, and this 1972 release by flautist Hubert "Hubie" Laws. Its stringed take on John Coltrane's "Equinox" straddles the line between brilliant tension and just plain silliness. I love it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Shellyan Orphan- Fishes

The fish have all been caught.

Shelleyan Orphan sound like a Birkenstock-clad version of the Cocteau Twins, or a marriage of goth and patchouli. Airy and lovely, this 1992 Rough Trade release has a certain naive charm.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sara Evans- I've Got a Tiger By the Tail

The tail broke off.

Missouri-bred country star Sara Evans sang the national anthem for The Kansas City Royals' opening day ceremonies. Even a B-2 flyover and Challenger the stunt eagle failed to overshadow her stellar unaccompanied performance. Because she's become progressively slicker- and more popular- with each new release, it's easy to forget that her first release is an outstanding traditional country effort. Produced by Pete Anderson, 1997's Three Chords and the Truth is almost gritty enough to be a Bloodshot release. Sara has great originals on the album, including a co-write with Al Anderson, but I couldn't resist her raw cover of this Buck Owens rocker.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gene Pitney, 1941-2006

The money ran out.

Man, I didn't even realize that Gene Pitney was still alive, let alone actively touring. Pitney was found dead today in his room at a Hilton hotel in Wales. He was 65. Oldies radio stations still play his two biggest hits, but I know his voice best through his duets with George Jones. Here a fun one from 1965.

The New Tragedies- Lipstick Kiss

Lipstick Kiss has been wiped clean.

Do you love the Jayhawks? Are you stuck on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours? If so, you must hear The New Tragedies, a married duo working out of Kansas City. I raved about their new release, VanityVanity, here. This song, along with three others, is also available at their MySpace page.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Barrington Levy- Murderer/Black Roses (Live)

Barrington melted the MP3.

I'm no hater. I think the Matisyahu phenomenon is fantastic. It should lead to new appreciation of Jamaican artists like Barrington Levy. Here's five minutes of live Levy from the early '90s. Be sure to keep listening after he concludes the big hit "Murderer." You have my permission to confuse neophytes by telling them this profane performance is an outtake from Matisyahu's Live At Stubbs.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jackie McLean- Monk's Dance

The dance is over.

Jackie McLean was the headliner the first time I made it to jazz mecca The Village Vanguard. I recall my shock at discovering that the famed institution was just a dingy basement, no better than the clubs back home. And frankly, McLean didn't strike me as remarkably more gifted than several Kansas City alto saxophonists. I realize that this is a poor way to eulogize McLean, who died Friday in Hartford at 74, but I never made a deep connection to the man's music. He knew Charlie Parker, played with Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis. He also was a pioneer jazz educator. He's heard here in a typical blowing session with Gary Bartz from 1973 for the SteepleChase label.