Wednesday, July 08, 2009


*Let's Lose It by Barrence Whitfield & The Savages. I actually was hoping to find Barrence's new one, Raw! Raw! Rough! on eMusic. It's not there, at least not yet, so this old one, from 1990, will have to do until I pick that one up.

And I hope the new one is anywhere close this fine. Boston-based Whitfield is simply one of the wildest R&B shouters in the business today.

Though nothing here is as wild as "Bloody Mary" or "Mama Get the Hammer," this album has its own crazed energy, as evidenced by the opening track "Method to My Madness." And "Calling All Beasts" is an electrifying jungle wail.

* Farm by Dinosaur Jr. These guys really shouldn't still be sounding this great.

But by golly, it looks like the reunion of J. Mascis and Lou Barlow a couple of years ago on Beyond was no fluke. (I should have known that was the case when I saw the reconstituted Dinosaur Jr, at The Pitchfork Festival last year. They were mighty and Mascis' gray hair notwithstanding, they blew most of the younger bands away.)

If anything, Farm is even better than Beyond. Not only are they sounding strong, Mascis and Barlow sound as if they are having a great time playing with each other.

Mascis remains the dominate frontman/songwriter, penning all but two of the tunes here. But the sound is clearly a group effort (and let's not forget drummer Murph whose enthusiastic bashing is an important element of Dinsoaur Jr.)

There's frantic joy in all the songs here. My favorites are the upbeat opening cut "Pieces" and the epic "Said the People," which starts out slow before building to a epic Dinosaur Jr. fury by the end of the near-eight-minute track.

* The Many Sounds of Steve Jordan. An old friend recently sent me a link to a very sad story on NPR about Jordan, the maestro of the Tex-Mex accordion.

I had no idea that he was so sick. Hell, I had no idea that he was 70 years old. But it's true.

After listening to that, I had to get some of his tunes on my computer. Luckily eMusic has a decent selection. I didn't know where to start, so I figured Arhoolie wouldn't disappoint.

I was right.

The best tunes here are the corridos such as "El Castgador" and -- my very favorite -- "El Corrido de Johnny Pachuco," an upbeat heroic tale of a bad ass.

Less successful are the two country songs at the end of the collection -- Buck Owens' "Together Again" and "There's More Pretty Girls Than One," a song done best by Doc Watson. Actually, Jordan's version of the latter, which he plays as a slow waltz, has its own peculiar charm.

* Rise Up by Dr. Lonnie Smith One my bad calls musicially this year was to not go see Dr. Smith when he played at Evangelos' in downtown Santa Fe.

Dr. Smith, not to be confused with Lonnie Liston Smith, is a jazz organist well versed in cool funk and even a little Dr. John-style Nightripper gris-gris. With a basic combo including guitarist Peter Bernstein, Donald Harrison on sax, and Herlin Riley on drums, Smith creates a unique, atmospheric sound.

He mostly does original material. The opening song "A Matterapat" has a subtle Latin infuence, "As the World Weeps" is a blues-soaked lamet, and the mysterioso "Voodoo Doll" actually is worthy of its name. I think I hear echoes of Bitches Brew here.

But his covers of rock songs are amazing -- and shaped into new creatures barely recognizable. The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" is a smokey invocation. And The Beatles' "Come Together," featuring Smith's mumbled but menacing vocals, basically translating the lyrics into some Hoodoo Esperanta, is such a radical reworking I had to check online to make sure it was really the Lennon-McCartney song.

* Kicksville: Raw Rockabilly Acetates Vol. 2
Raw is right with this collection -- even rawer than usual for a Norton compilation.

The album is full of lo-fi recordings by very obscure rockabillies. The only name I even recogozed here was Hasil Adkins, who does a tune called "Can't Help It Blues" with a band whose name was lost to time.

The sound quality is so wretched that only the most rabid fans would appreciate this record. The recording equipment used for The Jokers' "I Found My Baby" couldn't have cost more than $10!

But there's lots of spirit here. For instance, "Red Headed" Woman by Morty Shann & The Morticians is a blast of energy.

That's the case also with Tears Of Happiness by Jimmy Sysum & The Rockin' Three. Lots of bands these days strive for the primitive thud that seems to come so natural to The Rockin' Three's rhythm section. And lots of contemporary surf bands would give their left testicle to sound half as bitchen as the sax-driven "Fender Rock" by The Dynatones.

* The tracks from Cool Cats. (that I didn't get last month.) I actually like this collection of rockabilly obscurities more than Kicksville. (For one thing, he audio quality is far superior) The collection was compiled by a disc jockey from Belgium called Dr. Boogie. He's responsibile for another cool compilation I downloaded from eMusic a few months back, Rarities From The Bob Hite Vaults. My favorite so far out of the batch I nabbed this month is the frantic "Big Dog, Little Dog" by Harvey Hunt. Like Kicksville Vol. 2, Cool Cats ends with a strong instrumental. Here, it's "Sledgehammer" (Not the Peter Gabriel song) by The Trashers.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
* Five Tracks from How Big Can You Get?: The Music of Cab Calloway by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I enjoyed Voodoo Daddy's set so much at the Hootenanny Festival I knew I'd like their versions of these songs. They should have done "Reefer Man" at Hootenanny, though perhaps tehy figured that was too obvious.

* "El Capitan" and "Washington Post March" by John Phillip Sousa. I nabbed these for background music on my latest Big Enchilada podcast, An American is a Very Lucky Man. These two tracks are from an album called The March King - John Philip Sousa Conducts His Own Marches And Other Favorites - An Historical Recording. That's right, it's the Stars and Stripes Forever man himself on the baton here.

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