Odds and Ends 011
Been Through a Lot, These Guys
Otis Taylor: Otis Taylor's Contraband (Telarc)
Colorado bluesman finally figures out how to split the difference between gravity and taking yourself too seriously ("Yell Your Name," "Blind Piano Teacher") ***
Ahmad Zahir: Hip 70's Afghan Beats! (Guerssen)
Assassinated by the Russians in 1979, Afghan rocker was too gifted vocally and melodically to sink into schlock ("Dar Kunj Dilam Eshqi Kasi," "Uoba Darta Rawarem") ***
Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (Rounder)
The reason the only one he wrote is called "Just Another Rider" is that he's finally content to let better songs than his own carry him home ("Floating Bridge," "Devil Got My Woman") **
William Michael Dillon: Black Robes and Lawyers (Flying Free)
Learned a skill while doing 28 goddamn years for a murder he didn't commit ("Black Robes and Lawyers," "Chasing a Dream") **
Stephen David Austin: A Bakersfield Dozen (StephenDavidAustin.com)
The kind of writer who remembers the day Buck Owens died, the kind of singer who hopes someone covers his song about it ("Best Ex I Ever Had," "The Cage") **
Waco Brothers & Paul Burch: Great Chicago Fire (Bloodshot)
Ever collegial and craving new blood, Jon L. and the gang take in a fortysomething alt-Nashville lifer ("Great Chicago Fire," "Someone That You Know") *
Jimmie Vaughan: Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites (Shout! Factory)
He knows the tradition & also the difference between a traditionalist and a remaker ("The Pleasure's All Mine," "Wheel of Fortune") *
Jerry Lee Lewis: Mean Old Man (Verve)
The Killer's many wives etc. (those who are alive, anyway) will tell you he's not really mean‑-that's just Kristofferson kidding around ("Mean Old Man," "Sweet Virginia") *
Walter - that's it exactly.
It would be terrific if Otis Taylor had the larger audience and rep he deserves. But it would not shake pop (maybe the current status of the blues, lowly though that is).
There are certain eclipsed-stars, however, that would change the firmament if they emerged.
Insiders felt that way about VU/Lou Reed and Stooges/Iggy Pop -- they got there, eventually (not least by surviving). Others of us were as passionate advocates of Dr. Buzzard/Kid Creole/August Darnell -- and that never will happen.
Somewhere in between are acts like the Mekons. I would say stunted because vast socio-cultural tides were turning against them even as they were doing their finest work.
It is true, though, that indie rock types always act as though when our idols aren't big stars this is a matter of injustice in the world, to be ranked alongside the low calorie counts of half the world's population. Classic misplaced leftist energy. I'm the worst offender there is.
There's several pitches for review that are a certainty every year. Among them:
(a this deserves coverage because it ties in with a holiday/anniversary/bigtime special event
(b this deserves coverage because there's such a compelling backstory
My response is always
(a if it's a great record, it doesn't matter if it's pegged to anything
(b you don't listen to the backstory, you listen to the music. if the music is great, the backstory is a bonus.
Put in an immediate request for the Otis Taylor -- he's a guy who goes his own way as much as anybody out there. However -- I love this quote from his PR sheet:
"When I sing, I just do what I do," Taylor says. "Whatever comes out - that's the way I leave it. And if I make a mistake, I leave it in. I like to keep the emotion."
That is, "my albums tend to be crapshoots, folks." But I love the notion that, after years of half-assing it, he rouses himself and says "awright, time to make another small marvel so we can keep makin' records." Also, extra credit for fashion balls.
(And my initial excitement about Waco/Burch faded somewhat as, sure enough, songwriter Burch showed limits on repeated listens. Still a good album.)
That review of Black Robes immediately caught me eye and that record was the first I sampled from iTunes. Thanks Jim for the background, saved me the trouble of researching it.
Nice write up on the Wussy show Greg, In Seattle today for KEXP show and concert tonight. I just know the Seattle crowd will show them much love.
Next subject for research, Ahmad Zahir, "Assassinated by Russians" , great back stories to theses picks.
It is indeed a heck of a cut.
Best "albums" of 2012 so far from those dentally challenged Brits at THE GUARDIAN.
R.I.P. / Actress
The Bravest Man in the Universe / Bobby Womack
Something / Chairlift
The Money Store / Death Grips
Love Songs - A Time You May Embrace / Krystle Warren
One Day I'm Going To Soar / Dexys
Django Django / Django Django
Locked Down / Dr. John
Visions / Grimes
In Our Heads / Hot Chip
Blunderbuss / Jack White
Classical Curves / Jam City
fin / John Talabot
Born To Die / Lana Del Rey
Old Ideas / Leonard Cohen
Given To The Wild / The Maccabees
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded / Nicki Minai
Give You The Ghost / Polica
Yo / Roberto Fonesca
Sadly, it's not on the above album (you can find it on the Kite Runner soundtrack), but if the rest of his stuff is anywhere near that entertaining, then the album is party time!
Wow. Xgau reviewing Bill Dillon's album - never would've guessed. How'd you hear about it? Did he send you a copy?
Dillon is a local guy and the story of his release from prison was big news here a couple years back. Long story short, he was convicted of a murder based primarily on the "authority" of one John Preston, a dog-handler who duped the state of Florida into thinking his critter could sniff out the DNA of alleged perpetrators. Turns out the guy was a phony, but not before Dillon and several others nationwide were imprisoned due to his "evidence".
Another prominent local miscarriage of justice came to light shortly before that of Dillon's. An unlucky soul by the name of Wilton Dedge was convicted of sexual assault based on the testimony of Preston the fraud and that of an infamous local murderer/jailhouse snitch. Dedge served 22 years before modern tests cleared him. Fortunately, he and Dillon have been compensated for their time, but there are many others wrongly incarcerated who haven't. If you're interested, there's a group called the "Innocence Project" whose efforts have helped to exonerate many innocent men and women.
Enjoying the recent recommendations and most of the back and forth on various topics. Haven't felt the inspiration to add to the proceedings, but I stop by a couple times daily to read the latest.
Surprise: when listening to the first song on the Rough Guide to the music of Morocco I heard a piece of rap in Dutch (2.26-2.44), which in translation will go like this:
Learn from your mistakes
see different sides
but don't turn it into a disgrace
you know how we do it
hennep on your hand
instead of piles of money
Built up your land
so follow that way.
At least they are not singing about drinking tea in the casbah...
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.