Friday, January 29, 2010

Swedish Invasion, Part 18: jj

Following a similar career trajectory to fellow Swede sensation Jens Lekman, Gothenburg's neo-balearic beat breakout stars jj, better known to Nordic sweater retailers as Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander, have made the jump from thriving Swedish indie label Sincerely Yours to tastemaking US indie powerhouse Secretly Canadian.

The demure duo's characteristically well-chilled new confection jj nº 3 – already leaked online – is being bumped up to a March 9th street date in North America to coincide with their coronation ceremony at SXSW '10 in Austin. A victory lap is already scheduled which will bring jj to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix with fellow double lower-character crew The xx on April 4. As the old folks in Gothenburg like to say "Det är klokt att skörda din hö medan solen skiner" which means "Earn as much money as you can quickly, while you have a large audience willing to pay big money to see you perform."
Based on the sweetly smooth sound of jj nº 3, which seems to be designed as a soothing sonic balm for anyone who felt Peter Bjorn and John were harshing their mellow, jj likely be around for a while. At the very least, this second album (jj nº 1 was a single) is destined to be a dorm-room study soundtrack for generations to come.
The first two tracks from the album in circulation, Let Go and My Way should give you a good idea of what's in store.  

The Secretly Canadian press release for jj nº 3 is particularly entertaining...

jj nº 3 CD / LP  (SC212, released: 03/09/10)
Last summer Gothenburg, Sweden's jj quietly released one of 2009's most critically-acclaimed albums. The album was named jj nº 2 and it was the group's debut full-length (their first single was jj nº 1). With the naive swagger of youth, jj have already completed their next full-length. We here at Secretly Canadian are incredibly proud to present jj nº 3 to you. If jj nº 2 was (as it was to many) the quintessential summer 2009 album, jj nº 3 is destined to be the quintessential winter 2010 album, a soft, red smear of blood on a field of fresh snow.

jj create R&B and balearic dub from the ghosts of lost lovers; pop as delicate as a fawn's nose across blades of frosted grass. It is the soundtrack for friends packed into the town square's tiniest tavern, their moontanned, apple-cheeked faces glowing, their dilated pupils filled with all the meaning and meaninglessness of a magic 8-ball. Their music is both carefree without carelessness, and self-aware without being self-conscious. With it, they build an ice bridge arching from Gothenburg into the heart of middle America, and everywhere in between.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roy Orbison Garage-style

Based on Roy Orbison's ill-fated big screen bid playing a post-Civil War singing Southern spy trying to steal back the Confederacy's gold with his ingenious guit-gun device in the nutty 1967 musical western The Fastest Guitar Alive, it's entirely understandable why Orbison never got a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame for his acting ability.

However, the fact that he hasn't already received the acknowledgment for his significant contribution to popular music is an enormous oversight which is finally being redressed. There's a sidewalk star with Roy Orbison's name on it being unveiled tomorrow (Friday, January 28) at a ceremony with his wife Barbara Orbison and their sons Alex and Roy Jr. expected to attend.
And just as though it was carefully planned, a suckerpunch of a Roy Orbison tribute collection Our Boy Roy has suddenly appeared out of nowhere – well, Toronto actually – assembled by Telephone Explosion Records. The 11-track set features covers of songs made popular by the Big O performed by the favourite garage rock, punk and psychobilly delinquents of label honchos Steve Sidoli and Jon Schouten and some other fuds they knew who could be roped into their high concept recording scheme.
Along with Telephone Explosion-associated artists Holy Cobras battering Domino completely unrecognizable, Teenanger tearing up the Johnny Cash-penned You're My Baby, Charlie & The Moonhearts blasting an oddly ferocious version of the goofy novelty tune Chicken Hearted and Demons Claws caterwauling through an appropriately weepy It's Over, Our Boy Roy has some other surprises in-store from out-of-towners.

 While the Cheater Slicks' dirgy demolishing of Crying is unexpectedly forgettable and ditto for the dead-ass take of Running Scared by Montreal's unholy Red Mass (who probably should've gone with Devil Doll instead), fast-rising garage star Ty Segall manages to knock out a nasty-but-nice Pretty Woman, New York no-count Camero Werewolf finds a perfect vehicle for his snotty charm in Problem Child and Florida's finest, the Jacuzzi Boys bust out the full-on backing vocals what sound like oil can drums for an entertaining crack at You Got It.

Somewhat sadly, no one took a shot at Roy's overlooked originals from The Fastest Guitar soundtrack but then, there's only so much you can do with an 11 track album. Consequently Rock House (belted out by Haunted George) is as far off the beaten path as anyone here dares venture. If there's a second volume, I'd bet The Sadies could go to town on Rollin' On and the song Best Friend seems custom made for Calexico. Just sayin'.
It should be noted that Telephone Explosion pressed up only 1,000 vinyl copies of the Our Boy Roy LP in the first run so they won't be around long at Rotate This or the Telephone Explosion site.

Telephone Explosion

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MF Doom Vs. Clutchy Hopkins

To deal with the disappointing news that the much anticipated MF Doom show with Mos Def and D-Sisive originally scheduled for the Kool Haus tonight has been postponed until February 25, I've been listening back to some of my favourite Doom recordings. One in particular that's quite enjoyable but largely overlooked is MF Doom Meets Clutchy Hopkins from 2006. It's actually a promo CD-R remix set given away free with initial copies of The Life Of Clutchy Hopkins (Crate Digler) album for which producer Rich Rok dropped a few choice Doom acapellas onto some blunted beats provided by the enigma that is "Clutchy Hopkins" and the Misled Children crew.

Initially the quasi mash-up project was no big deal but with the rise in Doom's popularity and the elaborate marketing campaign to manufacture a media buzz surrounding Clutchy Hopkins – rumoured to be either an alias for Madlib, Cut Chemist, Money Mark, "two chubby So. California art students" or a cave-dwelling hermit who fabricates his own instruments – the MF Doom Meets Clutchy Hopkins recording has become a sought-after item on the collectors market prompting a recent recirculation on vinyl. As well, a number of digital versions have appeared on bulletin boards and leak sites, serving to thwart the bootlegging process (see links).
Since the original release didn't come tagged with any titles, I've included a track listing below based on the source material.

MF Doom Meets Clutchy Hopkins
1 Change The Beat from Viktor Vaughn's album Vaudeville Villain
2 My Favorite Ladies from MF Doom's My Favourite Ladies / All Outta Ale 12"
3 Melody from Blendcrafters' Melody (Remix) 12"
4 Impending Doom from Daedelus' album Exquisite Corpse; mixed with track 9 from The Life of Clutchy Hopkins   
5 Vomitspit from MF Doom's album MM..Food
6 Air from Dabrye's album Two/Three; mixed with track 12 from The Life of Clutchy Hopkins

Who Is Clutchy Hopkins? Part I

Who Is Clutchy Hopkins? Part II

Clutchy Hopkins: Northwest Sigtings

MF Doom myspace
Clutchy Hopkins myspace
                              fan site
Ubiquity Records
MF Doom Meets Clutchy Hopkins

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jeffrey Lee Pierce Unearthed!

From the time Jeffrey Lee Pierce first hit the L.A. club scene – playing to tiny but appreciative audiences including Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, John Doe, Exene Cervenka and Dave Alvin –  his value as a uniquely gifted artist has always been better understood by his peers than the public at large.
So while none of the amazing records he made with the Gun Club ever sold well enough to pay his peroxide bills or keep a band together, Pierce did manage to inspire the White Stripes, Nick Cave, Jon Spencer, the Pixies, Beasts Of Bourbon, Alejandro Escovedo, 16 Horsepower, the Gories, Gallon Drunk and loads of booze-friendly European scuzz rockers to delve deeper into the darkside of Americana.

So when Pierce's British guitar-playing sidekick Cypress Grove came across a dusty old demo cassette labeled "JLP Songs" while rummaging through his attic, he remembered this was the rehearsal tape they'd made together while assembling material for the 1992 album Ramblin' Jeffrey Lee & Cypress Grove with Willie Love. The initial plan back then was to write both country and blues tunes but as work progressed, Pierce decided to focus on the blues leaving the remaining song fragments unheard and unknown.
Even though the songs were unfinished and the audio quality of the bedroom boombox recording was well below bootleg standards, Cypress Grove knew Pierce well enough to recognize Jeffrey Lee gold when he heard it. So he set about contacting some of Pierce's musician friends and fans with the idea of bringing the embryonic compositions into full bloom. Since Deborah Harry and Chris Stein were pals of Pierce way back to the 70s when he was the president of the Blondie fan club (true!), they signed on without hesitation, as did Nick Cave, Kid Congo Powers, Lydia Lunch, Mark Lanegan and others. Once word of Cypress Grove's scheme spread, other demo tapes magically appeared, including one containing the two previously unknown pre-Gun Club numbers My Cadillac and St. Mark's Place, turning the notion of salvaging a couple promising song ideas into the full-on Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project pieced together from parts recorded in various time-zones and different decades. 

You'd never know it from the seamless way in which the finished songs flow together on the resulting release We Are Only Riders (Glitterhouse). That's due in part from the co-operative interaction of the players like Barry Adamson playing bass on Cave's powerful rendition of Ramblin' Mind then doing the same for Lanegan's haunting howl through Constant Waiting. In turn, Cave adds perfectly poignant piano fills to Harry's reading of Lucky Jim, the only tune here that Pierce issued before passing away in 1996 at the age of 37 following a brain hemorrhage.
 At first glance at the tracklisting of We Are Only Riders, I thought it was crazy to have different artists interpret some of the same songs on a 15-track album. But now that I've had time to listen through the thing a few times, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea at all. The Raveonettes' fuzz-soaked version of Free To Walk is enough of a departure from the duet versions sung by Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell and Deborah Harry & Nick Cave to be a completely different tune. Likewise, hearing The Sadies rip through Constant Waiting and Johnny Dowd overhaul it Primus-style after Lanegan's chilling take offers radically different perspectives which, taken together, create an intriguing Roshomon effect. Knowing how much Pierce enjoyed reggae music – even reviewing reggae records for the Slash zine under the alias "Ranking Jeffrey Lee" – he likely would've loved the versioning practice applied to his music. Personally, I would've much rather heard Tex Perkins do Snow Country and Alejando Escovedo could've brought a lot to St. Mark's Place but maybe there'll be a volume 2.

1. Ramblin’ Mind –  Nick Cave
2. Constant Waiting – Mark Lanegan
3. Free To Walk – Raveonettes
4. Lucky Jim – Deborah Harry
5. My Cadillac – Lydia Lunch
6. Constant Waiting – The Sadies
7. Free To Walk – Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
8. St Marks Place – Lydia Lunch
9. Bells On The River – Crippled Black Phoenix
10. Ramblin’ Mind – Cypress Grove
11. Constant Waiting – Johnny Dowd
12. Free To Walk – Nick Cave & Deborah Harry
13. Snow Country – Mick Harvey
14. Just Like A Mexican Love – David Eugene Edwards & Crippled Black Phoenix
15. Walkin’ Down The Street (Doin’ My Thing) – Lydia Lunch & Dave Alvin with The JLP Sessions Project  

For those seeking further interpretations of the Jeffrey Lee Pierce song catalogue, check out the 2005 double LP tribute album, A Salvo of 24 Gunshots (Unrecording) which includes some righteously raucous covers courtesy of the Dirtbombs, Demolition Doll Rods, Andy G and the Roller Kings, DM Bob and the Deficits, the Cool Jerks, the Fatals, Come Ons, Speedball Baby and many more knuckleheads.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lickin' Good Fried Do The Dakota

photo by Beth Hamill

The next best thing to happen to Sundays since Brett Favre started playing like a 26-year-old again is Lickin' Good Fried's weekly honky-tonk hoedown at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington) from 7 till 9 pm.
Those lamenting the premature demise of The Backstabbers will be thrilled to find that frontman Col. Tom Parker has hit his stride as a singer, songwriter and guitar picker with the old-school country concept of Lickin' Good Fried with superb support from moonlighting Creaking Tree String Quartet members Andrew Collins on mandolin and fiddler John Showman along with upright bassist Sam Petite.
Of course, Lickin' Good Fried's not-so-secret ingredient is Parker's partner in rhyme, sensational singer Alex Pangman who has miraculously bounced back from her double lung transplant to croon dynamic duets and add gorgeous harmonies when not soaring solo.

As fantastic as Lickin' Good Fried certainly are on their recently released Say Uncle! (Rooster Sandwich), they're even better in the comfortably rustic setting of the Dakota where their sweet renditions of George Jones, Louvin Brothers, Roger Miller and Hank Snow favourites go down exceedingly well with some tasty Southern fried chicken and a cold brew.
Be fore warned, Lickin' Good Fried is habit forming – see them once and you may become a Dakota Sunday regular hollering requests for Red Headed Woman (in a Dirty Corvette) and two-stepping around Brian Connelly. PWYC

Lickin' Good Fried 
Alex Pangman
Andrew Collins
John Showman
Creaking Tree String Quartet
Dakota Tavern
Beth Hamill
Philip Curwen

Photo by Philip Curwen

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One For The Weekend: Breakout

Here's a classic 1969 clip of Polish heavy rock crew Breakout performing Poszlabym za toba featuring the bad girl of Bodzechow, Mira Kubasinska who co-founded the group with her guitar-playing partner Tadeusz Nalepa. Gotta love that dope jazz flute solo.

Poszlabym za toba by Breakout, 1969

Note to diggers: don't bother checking through your Polish grand parents' old Breakout LPs for this awesome head-nodder. Poszlabym za toba was only ever released on the 4-song Opole 69 (Muza N-0563) EP which incidentally also includes rare tracks by No To Co, Czerwone Gitary and Skaldowie.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Red Mass Appeal

Hell-raisin' Montreal rock 'n' roll congregation Red Mass welcome you to their nightmare with a live presentation of their devilishly demented new 7-song Red Mass (Semprini) disc at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina) tonight (Friday, January 22) with openers Action Makes, Danger! Danger! and Ostrich Tuning.
 You know what they say about "idle hands" so heathen high-priest Roy "Choyce" Vucino, when not gazing into mirrors to perfect his unblinking stare, has been keeping his Red Mass cult busy in the recording studio doing all sorts of unholy things with guitar distortion and sinful synthesizers.

Watch for the Life Is A Cabaret and Eternal Nature's Fountain Spring silkscreened 12" EPs on Montreal's New Romance For Kids label along with a split 10" EP with Strange Attractor on P.trash and the Split Brain Experiment 10" EP on Roccoco Records.
There's also a slew of seven-inch singles due including Too Many Parties (Wallride), To All The Good People (Dusty Medical), a split with Vicious/Delicious on Magnificent Sevens as well as-yet-unamed releases forthcoming from Hozac, Goodbye Boozy and Hobo Cult.

For those Red Mass converts planning a Montreal visit, there are a few Choyce-approved places which are certain to enhance your experience.

Montreal by Choyce

Best dining establishment at which to chow down
5000 Ans (3441 Saint-Denis) although any Korean BBQ on Saint-Denis will do.

Best bar to get loaded with pals
Escogriffe Café Bar (4467A rue Saint-Denis)
Bar Korova (3908 boulevard Saint-Laurent)
Bar Salon Midway (1219 St Laurent)

Best breakfast joints to hit when hungover from the night before
Green Spot Restaurant (3041 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest)
Dusty's (4510 avenue Du Parc)
Fruits en Folies (3817 rue Saint-Denis at Roy)

Top vinyl vendors
Cheap Thrills (2044 Metcalfe)
Musique-Disque Sonik (4050 Rue Berri)
Backroom Records & Pasteries (5912 St. Urbain, back alley entrance)

Best place to score cool clothes on the cheap
Just go over to Mont-Royal between St-Laurent and St-Denis.

Best place to find replacement instruments in a hurry when your gear gets swiped
Diplomate (311 rue Beaubien E)
Italmelodie (274 Jean-Talon E)

Three most exciting groups to see in Montreal right now
Jesus Les Filles, Black Feelings and Red Mass


Monday, January 18, 2010

Truckers' Big To-do

The Drive-By Truckers played their fifth annual Athens homecoming shows at the 40 Watt Club on January 14, 15 and 16 where they hauled out some old faves, previewed new tunes from their forthcoming 10th album, The Big To-Do (due from ATO on March 16).
Singer/songwriter Patterson Hood says the David Barbe-produced recording is "more rocking than anything we've done since disc 2 of Southern Rock Opera" which is saying a lot. During the three-night stand, the Truckers were joined by Barbe to pay tribute to their pal Vic Chesnutt as well as Eddie Hinton which also brought out Hood's father, legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section bassist David Hood for two songs.
Before the 40 Watt gigs, Patterson Hood promised that the shows would be uplifting, stating on the Truckers blog "I'm planning on kicking off our first show of the decade with the most life affirming songs I can find." And true to his word, the Truckers kicked out the jams in celebratory fashion for three nights straight. The shows were documented with the band's permission by Southern Shelter ( using a pair of Neumann KM-184 microphones and a Sony PCM-D50 recorder.

Drive-By Truckers @ 40 Watt, January 14, 2010

Track 1 – Used To Be A Cop
Track 2 – The Living Bubba
Track 3 – Women Without Whiskey
Track 4 – Sink Hole
Track 5 – Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
Track 6 – When I Ran Off And Left Her
Track 7 – Play It All Night Long
Track 8 – Birthday Boy
Track 9 – Girls Who Smoke
Track 10 – Dead Drunk And Naked
Track 11 – Guitar Man Upstairs
Track 12 – Home Field Advantage
Track 13 – This Fucking Job
Track 14 – Loaded Gun In The Closet
Track 15 – The Wig He Made Her Wear
Track 16 – Drag The Lake Charlie
Track 17 – 3 Dimes Down
Track 18 – Hell No I Ain’t Happy
Track 19 – The Flying Wallendas
Track 20 – E:) You Got Another [w/ David Barbe - bass]
Track 21 – Puttin’ People On The Moon
Track 22 – Zip City
Track 23 – Let There Be Rock[w/ David Barbe - guitar, Todd McBride  - vocal]
Track 24 – People Who Died

Download MP3

Drive-By Truckers @ 40 Watt, January 15, 2010
Track 1 – After The Scene Dies
Track 2 – The Fourth Night Of My Drinking
Track 3 – Birthday Boy
Track 4 – Girls Who Smoke
Track 5 – Home Field Advantage
Track 6 – Lookout Mountain
Track 7 – 3 Dimes Down
Track 8 – The Company I Keep
Track 9 – Where The Devil Don’t Stay
Track 10 – Play It All Night Long
Track 11 – Where’s Eddie [w/ David Hood - bass]
Track 12 – Everybody Needs Love [w/ David Hood - bass]
Track 13 – Santa Fe
Track 14 – Women Without Whiskey
Track 15 – Feb 14
Track 16 – Get Downtown
Track 17 – (It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So
Track 18 – The Flying Wallendas
Track 19 – E:) You Got Another [w/ David Barbe - bass]
Track 20 – Dancing Ricky [w/ David Barbe - bass]
Track 21 – A World Of Hurt
Track 22 – Zip City
Track 23 – Puttin’ People On The Moon
Track 24 – E2:) Rockin’ In The Free World [w/ David Barbe - guitar]
Track 25 – People Who Died [w/ David Barbe - guitar, Damon Scott - guitar]

Download MP3

Drive-By Truckers @ 40 Watt, January 16, 2010
Track 1 – The Fourth Night Of My Drinking
Track 2 – Daddy Learned To Fly
Track 3 – Birthday Boy
Track 4 – Girls Who Smoke
Track 5 – Home Field Advantage
Track 6 – Ronnie And Neil
Track 7 – Self Destructive Zones
Track 8 – Hell No I Ain’t Happy
Track 9 – Get Downtown
Track 10 – (It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So
Track 11 – After The Scene Dies
Track 12 – Loaded Gun In The Closet
Track 13 – The Wig He Made Her Wear
Track 14 -  Drag The Lake Charlie
Track 15 – Marry Me [w/ Clay Leverett - vocal]
Track 16 – Let There Be Rock [w/ Todd McBride - guitar, vocal]
Track 17 – Where’s Eddie [w/ David Hood - bass]
Track 18 – Everybody Needs Love [w/ David Hood - bass]
Track 19 – Keep On Smilin’ [w/ Mike Dillon - vocal, Kelvin Holly - guitar]
Track 20 – The Flying Wallendas
Track 21 – E:) You Got Another [w/ David Barbe - bass]
Track 22 – Puttin’ People On The Moon
Track 23 – Shut Up And Get On The Plane
Track 23 – People Who Died [w/ David Barbe - guitar]

Download MP3

Friday, January 15, 2010

catl calling

Too delta dirty for indie rock hipsters and too uproarious reckless for the "Sweet Home Chicago" blues crowd, catl were in for a struggle to find an audience in Toronto for their forceful bash 'n' twang. And even though the White Stripes and Black Keys had proven that two determined people were sufficient to rock arena-sized crowds, there are obvious limitations to the guitar and drums set-up which Jamie "catl" Fleming and Johnny LaRue realized when recording their stormin' ¿Adónde Vas? A Ningun Lado (Coletrain) debut from last year. So they wisely hired vivacious vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Kirkpatrick from Shitt Hottt which has significantly bolstered their attack and added some tambourine-slapping excitement to their relatively static performances. 

You can hear the benefits on catl's new album, With The Lord For Cowards You Will Find No Place (Folk Brand Records) which, like their first, is issued on vinyl with a free CD version thoughtfully included. Although there are once again a couple of blues classics added to the mix, this time it's Lightnin' Slim's Excello burner Goin' Home and Charley Patton's Oh Death, all the shouting and wailing sounds more like a party than a funeral.
Of course, having half of the album's songs recorded and mixed by Detroit garage kingmaker Jim Diamond also appears to have had a significant impact on catl's sonic enhancement – not to discount the fine work done by Jeff McMurrich and James Anderson on the remaining tracks.
The bottom line is that catl have taken a step in the right direction with their new release which you'll better appreciate when they hit the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina) stage tonight (Friday, January 15). Those who can't make it should note that catl are also doing an in-store at Sonic Boom (512 Bloor West) on Saturday at 5 pm where admission is free but they ask that you bring a non-perishable food donation for the Daily Bread Food Bank. catl will also be sharing a bill with Bradley Boy at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington) on Friday, January 22.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

R.I.P. Jay Reatard

Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr. aka Jay Reatard

1980 - 2010

Waiting For Something by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz

Jay Reatard | MySpace Music Videos

Jay Reatard's first cassette


Burnt Bridges Never Better

As much as I've enjoyed Jeff Bridges' work in the past, I really didn't have high expectations of Crazy Heart (opening Friday, January 15) knowing that the tough-luck troubador flick was being shot on a shoestring budget by first-time director/screenwriter Scott Cooper and that The Dude would be singing all of his own parts. But knowing that producers Robert Duvall and T Bone Burnett had both sunk their own loot into project (with Duvall also taking a bit part as a bartender) suggested it was worth checking.
Well it turns out that Cooper kiddo did his homework studying the 70s work of Hal Ashby and Terrance Mallick. Ditto for Bridges who not only put on enough extra poundage to pull off a reasonable facsimile of Billy Joe Shaver on a bender but also spent time developing his vocal chops to the point where his portrayal of Bad Blake becomes something more than just a decent characterization of a honky-tonk hasbeen – he's entirely believable in the role of a once great singer/songwriter.
It's certainly a good enough piece of work to make all the Oscar buzz seem well deserved and everybody knows how the Academy loves actors who ugly themselves up for roles so Bridges may finally get his long overdue first statue.    
Of course, even an exceptional singer ain't shit without solid material and Burnett knows it so he brought in the late great Stephen Bruton to co-write some original tunes along with Gary Nicholson, Bob Neuwirth and Austin upstart Ryan Bingham who came up with I Don't Know and the Weary Kind which doubles nicely as the film's theme. Hell, the compositions are so well crafted, even Colin Farrell – who plays the support role of the Keith Urban-style country star Tommy Sweet – couldn't ruin numbers like Fallin' & Flyin' and Gone, Gone, Gone.

Not only do the songs performed by Bridges and Farrell work well in the film, they also stand up remarkably well alongside tracks by the Louvin Brothers (My Baby's Gone), Buck Owens (Hello Trouble), Townes Van Zandt (If I Needed You) and Waylon Jennings (Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way) on the Crazy Heart (New West) soundtrack album due January 19 with a 23-song Deluxe Edition to follow on February 2, the day that the Academy Award nominations are announced.
While the Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart) may be in the running for Best Original Song, the Oscar buzz is on Bridges to take the Best Actor hardware. Considering that his formidable performance ranks amongst the finest of his career, he's way overdue for a win after four nominations and the Academy loves lead actors who ugly themselves up for roles, this could finally be Bridges' year. Here's hoping.   

Crazy Heart trailer

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Master Class In Earthology

As it turns out, the first great album release of 2010 is not Vampire Weekend's Contra after all, it's the Whitefield Brothers' Earthology (Now Again), the long overdue follow-up to 2002's In The Raw (Soul Fire).
Whereas the full-tilt garage funk of Germany's mysterious Jan and Max Weissenfeldt had been putting down under their Whitefield Brothers alias – they're also known as the Poets Of Rhythm, Pan-Atlantics, Soul-Saints Orchestra, Mighty Continentals, Bus People Express and the Malcouns – had already begun showing the hallmarks of a West African inspiration, they've worked through their Afrobeat jones in the years between Whitefield sessions. These hombres aren't your typical "world music" dabblers, they're more like dedicated cultural research scientists seeking alternative remedies for repetitive rhythm fatigue in hopes of ultimately finding a cure for indie-rock boredom. All of the time not spent collaborating with musicians from around the globe to glean their modes and moves (Max reportedly even took a fact-finding trip to Burma to pick up the finer points of Saing Waing music), they were piecing together the funky secrets from the ancient vinyl artifacts they'd excavated. 
That's not to suggest the resulting Earthology album sounds like it came out of a laboratory. On the contrary, the Whitefield Brothers pride themselves on their "raw soul" attack and although some of the grime has been removed to give clarity to the colouring of the gongs, flutes and various exotic string and percussion textures, the grooves are still built on a foundation of hard-pounding drums and bumpin' basslines which remain stone solid throughout. 
Since they've had the necessary time to absorb their influences, they're able to create exciting new compositions that are uniquely Whitefield Brothers which may recall something you've heard from Multatu Astatke, Salah Ragab or Mustafa Özkent without aping them. The addition of guest vocalists including the fantastic Bajka along with credible rappers Percee P, Mr. Lif, MED and Edan in addition to the stellar supporting cast of musicians from El Michels Affair, Antibalas as well as the mighty Dap Kings horn section ensures that there will be no mistaking Earthology for anything but a contemporary funk masterwork of devastating power.

Boston-raised MCs Mr. Lif and Edan throwdown on the album's lead single, The Gift which you can check out here.
Now Again has just released The Gift as part of a 12" EP featuring Oh No's Gifted remix and instrumental versions of each. It comes housed in a beautifully illustrated sleeve by Lewis Heritz who also designed the dope Earthology cover.

Obsessive collectors should note that there's also a super limited Whitefield Brothers seven-inch single which boasts the otherwise unavailable track Savannahstan (with Castor Pollux on drums). It's available exclusively with initial copies of Earthology purchased at the Stones Throw site. See link below.

web page
Stones Throw
Bajka myspace
Bajka's Lyrical Funk Podcast

Sahara Swing by Karl Hector and the Malcouns

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Flying Start

With the new Flying Lotus album Cosmogramma completed and ready for release by Warp on April 20,  producer and beatmaker deluxe Steven Ellison (the great-nephew of Alice Coltrane) decided it was time for a career retrospective. Gaslamp Killer delivered a dynamite mix which Lotus recently posted as a podcast. Check it out here.