Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mogrify Me

There was some delicious false hope in the air today. A taste of spring that was snatched back as soon as the sun went down. But while the fantasy lasted I got out with the kids (waddled in mud and slush), pretended it was warm, stood in the sun and walked around the block. Started reading the most recent Nick Hornby book -- a pleasant, sensitive plot-centric counterbalance to the awesome manly pressure-cooked rage and absurdist dissolution of the new book of Sam Shepard stories (like a tincture of Thomas McGuane and Cormac McCarthy served as a literary boiler-maker) that I just finished. Impending spring lights the fuse, March -- bathed to the root in liquor and all, and then when April rolls around it starts to feel cruel and impossible. Overripe. I'm just ready for the liquor-root-bath. Here's some music that's just out or is being released in the coming months. It may give you hope.

The Sam Amidon draws on folk material, taking spooky murder ballads, sibling death romps and religious passion (or an R Kelly track, which he does, too), and delivers the songs with a strange moving aloofness, and the string arrangements by Nico Muhly provide surprising movements and spikes, harmonic ripples and rhythmic snaps. It might bring to mind Gavin Bryar's "Chris Blood Never Failed Me Yet," or Harry Smith, or John Adams, or Steve Reich, or the band Midlake.

The Free Energy (pictured) sends you back to 2004, to 1994, and then back again to 1974, maybe. There are waxy gobs of Thin Lizzy, Pavement, Spoon, Weezer and the Hold Steady all mogrified and muddled. I was ready to love something. And I love this.

The Ravenna Colt is the new project by Johnny Quaid, the first guitarist from My Morning Jacket. You can hear many of the MMJ trademarks in this music. His somewhat pinched trebly tone is unmistakable, the hang-gliding vocals, the taste for epic riffage (with implied beards), and even the thinly masked Kentucky pride makes you want to get all windbaggy about limestone aquifers and the Ohio River.

I'm gonna go make some pizza.

"How Come That Blood" -- Sam Amidon

"Hope Child" - Free Energy

"South of Ohio" -- The Ravenna Colt

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Knights of Infinite Resignation

The Detroit Harmonettes pass the obscurity test. Can't find much of a trace on wikipedia or elsewhere on the web, and one has to bore down deep into rare European compilations to track down a trail. Their apparent vanishing act is probably complicated by the fact that their name is very much like a more well known gospel vocal group, the Harmonettes (out of Chicago, I think). I got this track off of a record called Detroit Gospel. It was on the Gospel Heritage label, a division of the British label Interstate Music. There are about six other groups on the record, with lineups and mini histories for each one, except the Detroit Harmonettes. I didnt' realize the extent of the data black hole until after transferring this one from vinyl. Detoit's gospel groups funneled right into the Motown machine, but who knows what became of the I don't know where the Detroit Harmonettes. I get the feeling that the two tracks of their featured on Detroit Gospel are maybe the only to recordings from a single 78 they cut. DeLuxe Records, 6039. The shuffle-swing on the drum kit pumps some secular muscle into things here. The voices sound like nothing quite so much as a shiny and bright horn section. And the sentiment, "I Gave Up Everything," well, it's something you either can relate to, or will be able to relate to.

"I Gave Up Everything" - the Detroit Harmonettes

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Found a beautiful compilation of early Charlie Rich in a junk shop in Red Hook today (Songs for Beautiful Girls, Pickwick/33). I'll forgo the overstatement: maybe the most soulful white man ever recorded. As Mr. Poncho put it: sounds like Elvis, only smarter. Britt Daniels of Spoon weeps into his pillow at night wishing his band could achieve the sound in these songs. The production is pure late 50s Sun Records [Ed.: Well, sorta; see comments], but even more subtle and sophisticated than usual, pushing more into black music than others were willing to go, more jazz and gospel bits brightening the corners. And Rich's blues vibrato is a lost treasure of 20th Century music history. No wonder Peter Guralnick, the Elvis biographer, dug him back up in the early 90s and produced his last album.


I Can't Go On - Charlie Rich

It Ain't Gonna Be That Way - Charlie Rich

A Field of Yellow Daisies - Charlie Rich