Saturday, October 13, 2007


*Rise Above by The Dirty Projectors. This is not your typical tribute. True, it's a remake of songs from Black Flag's first album Damaged. But instead of a slavishly reverent recreations of this 1981 L.A. punk-rock classic , Dave Longstreth (the main force behind the DPs) filters Black Flag tunes through the Bizarro World. The first song "What I See" sounds like Morrisey fronting Ween -- except where did those African guitars come from? No, it doesn't sound much at all like Black Flag, but it's a dangerously addictive sonic treat. One complaint: No "T.V. Party."

*Damaged by Black Flag. I downloaded the tunes I didn't already have on Flag's Wasted retrospective. (And for reasons best known to music biz attorneys, the song "Rise Above" isn't available for download on eMusic. I had to resort to iTunes to get this.)

Funny, this doesn't sound at all like The Dirty Projectors.

*Now's the Time by Rosie Ledet. The biggest disappointment of this year's Thirsty Ear Festival was that Zydeco princess Rosie Ledet's set was cut short by the rain.

This album, released in 2003, is good, but it doesn't quite match the energy of Ledet's live performance -- judging from the short sample I saw.

Recommended cuts here include "Biker Boys," "Little Rosie," and a classy cover of Leo Sayer's "More Than I Can Say."

*Armchair Boogie by Michael Hurley. The recent release of Hurley's The Ancestral Swamp inspired me to get this.

Armchair goes back to 1971. It originally was released on The Youngbloods' Racoon records. Apparently Hurley is a boyhood chum Youngbloods frontman Jesse Colin Young, who produced and played on this record. Unfortunately eMusic doesn't have Hurley's other Racoon album, Hi-Fi Snock Uptown.

There's yet another version of perhaps Hurley's most recorded tune "The Werewolf" here. But my favorite song on this album is "English Nobleman," which Hurley sings in a strange British accent to poke fun at the Ruling Class. "My dignity would be besmirched if you hit me in the face with a pie," There's something so American about this. I can imagine Mark Twain singing it. But there's a universal democratic spirit at work here too. I also can imagine Benny Hill singing it.

* The Unfortunate Rake by Various Artists. Hurley's The Ancestral Swamp has versions of "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" and "Streets of Laredo," both of which spring from a British ballad of debauchery, death, regret and pride called "The Unfortunate Rake." In researching the history of these tunes I stumbled across this article by Rob Walker, which mentions this album and talks about several songs on it. Then, lo and behold, I find it waiting for me on e-Music.

However, I actually wish I wouldn't have downloaded the entire album. I enjoy some of ye olde versions of Crapshooter/Laredo/St. James Infirmary/Rake tunes, especially the title song by A.L. Lloyd. (Did you realize that unlike Little Jessie or the Laredo cowboy, the original rake was killed by VD, not a gun!) And Dave Van Ronk's "Gambler's Blues" is classic Van Ronk. However, there are just too many lame parodies of "Streets of Laredo" that wouldn't make it in Mad magazine somehow are deemed authentic folk music by the same uppity crowd that booed Bob Dylan at Newport. And guess what -- there's no actual "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" here at all. That hoodoo wagon left this station.

*St. James by Snakefarm. Actually, eMusic mislabeled this one. It's actually an album called Songs for My Funeral. St. James is an EP with only three songs. (Sometimes eMusic is downright sloppy about these things.) Whatever it's called, Walker's essay also led me here, to this 1999 album of high-tech, Soul Coughing-like trip-hoppy renditions of traditional American murder ballads and bucket-of-blood laments like "House of the Rising Sun," "Frankie & Johnny," "Black Girl" (think "Where Did You Sleep Last Night"), "Tom Dooley" -- and, yes, "St. James Infimary" and "Streets of Laredo." (But no "Dying Crapshooter's Blues." I guess that tune is considered a "modern" creation, although author Blind Willie McTell admitted he used elements from various "folk" sources to write the tune.) Singer Anna Domino sounds like a yearning ghost on these songs. I'm a sucker for these ancient/space-age, banjos 'n' samplers musical concocations. I'd put this up there with Moby's Play and the lesser-known but just as wonderful works by Clothesline Revival.

* I've Known Rivers And Other Bodies by Gary Bartz. The title song of this album is based on a poem by Langston Hughes, "A Negro Looks at Rivers." I remember loving the song back in the mid '70s when KUNM used to play it frequently -- but I never knew who did it until now. It reminded me a lot of Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan," though Bartz's vocals don't have Leon Thomas' yodel. Bartz is an alto sax man (and singer) who has played with some of the giants. He was on the first Miles Davis album I ever owned, Live Evil. This album, released in 1973, was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

* After all these I had one track left over. (On eMusic, you can't carry over your tracks to the next month. It's use 'em or lose 'em.)

So I decided to get a little jump on a new album, 100 Days, 100 Nights by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. I downloaded the title track and will pick up the rest next week when my account refreshes. I'll say more about the album then. Right now, let's just say I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the album

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