Monday, October 29, 2007

RIP Porter

Unfortunately, we knew it was coming but that doesn't make it much easier to accept. As I was saying in a post a few weeks back, as sad as it is not to have Porter Wagoner around anymore, it was at least nice to have him around so he could have a last hurray. In a recent interview, he said that he was gratified that he had young fans come out to see him at the shows on his last tour. Not did he finally get to play in New York again but he also opened for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden, where he received a warm reception as part of that tour. That's a great way to go out. There's a nice obituary in the Tennessean to see also.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Iraqi metal under threat of death

A few weeks ago, stalwart Florida femme rap group Yo Majesty was doing a great show in Gotham. Near the end, they told the crowd that a band who was in contact with them was in trouble with their home country and their lives were in danger. To help them out, they were selling merchandise to raise money for them. They couldn't remember the band's name and someone in the crowd asked if it was a rap group. "No," one of the MCs replied "but they're still in music business and we gotta support them 'cause we're all brothers and sisters and in this together." I was moved by that gesture and wondered who they were talking about but found out soon enough.

While heavy metal makes for a convenient scapegoat for all that's wrong with teenagers today (as if they'd all be fine if we banned metal), it's an even more serious issue in a Muslim nation where metal is seen as a corrupt and unwanted influence by some there. It's doubly serious when that country happens to be a place where the U.S. govt replaced their dictator with a civil war full of old rivalries and ethnic cleansing.

In this Montreal Gazette article, we learn the story of Acrassicauda- Metallica fans who've had to hide away to Damascus for their safety. Unfortunately, their visas are about to run out which means that they'll have to find somewhere else to go or risk their lives getting shipped back to their own country. As such, they're looking for help in the form of donations. Like Yo Majesty said, that's something you can support whether you're a metal fan or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Allison Krauss/Robert Plant- Led what?

With his old band doing a once-in-a-blue-moon reunion and finally getting their songs into the land of legal downloads (as one of the last hold-outs along with the Beatles), any other news about Robert Plant is drown out now. That's too bad because he just put out Raising Sand (Rounder), a lovely album with bluegrass maven Alison Krauss. When it was first announced a few months back, it turned some heads as an interesting idea and curiosity but rest assured that this record is for real.

Plant's had a pretty strange solo career that obviously couldn't match Zep but was always at least pretty unique. While most people remember their rampaging metal anthems, once in a while, the boys did show some of their folkie roots early on- most of them backed up Donovan in the late 60's and Sandy Denny made a great cameo appearance on their fourth album ("The Battle of Evermore").

It's not like Plant needs the publicity and to his credit, he usually uses that as his m.o. in his work. Still, he deserves a nod not just 'cause of his past or this kind of gutsy detour (which is kind of admirable) but also because Sand is probably one of the best releases this week.

He gets top-billing for obvious reasons but on the record, he really is the primary voice. But it's also not just Krauss' sweet voice (which works as a nice Emmlyou-like counterpart) but also T-Bone Burnett's airy production that makes this a noteworthy roots move. It also helps that the song selection is prime and that in any mode, the guy's still got a great voice, which does make a big difference: listen to their gentle rockabilly take on the Everly Brothers' "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" or their Bo Diddley-goes-swamp take on "Fortune Teller" (by Benny Spillman, later remade by the Stones) for proof. My only complaint is that Krauss doesn't get enough of the lead vocals and she deserves it (just listen to the sweet "Through The Morning, Through The Night," originally by Dillard and Clark).

But in all, it's a really nice roots record that's not just for Zep nuts. I hope that Bobby does another record with Krauss or at least hits the road with her.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Village Voice- best of New York

Granted that we writers used to be a pair of initials after each entry but in the 2007 edition of the Village Voice's Best of New York issue, they've done away with byline entirely. Nowhere in the paper could I find any credits for the hundreds of entries there- not just me but also the many others who wrote there. I love writing for that issue (I collect items throughout the year for it) but I was kind of sad to see that we weren't getting any credit there in the paper.

As a way to correct, let me blow my horn for a moment and note the entries I did there. Maybe you can even enjoy some of these items.

Best Way To Honor Street Musicians - Buskers Hall of Fame

Best Transatlantic Reed Boat Dry-docked Near The Hudson - Abora III

Best Hardcore Band Led By Dogs - Caninus

Best Murder Mystery By Phone - Canal Street Station Installation

Best Place To Ogle Pregnant Women And Not Feel Bad About Yourself - Expecting Models

Best Martial-arts Comedian - Master Lee

Best Way To Impress Your Friends With Your Newfound Art Smarts - The Contemporaries

Best Multi-colored Tower That Isn't The Empire State Building - Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Clock Tower

Best Punk-comedy Cabaret Act - Puttin' on the Ritz

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Say a prayer for Porter Wagoner

Thanks to Jeff Economy for this photo of Porter and Dolly at his 50th anniversary show at the Grand Ole Opry this past spring and for the news below.

On the tour for his latest album (Wagonmaster, released earlier this year), I'd seen this country legend do a wonderful, small show at Joe's Pub with only Marty Stuart at his side. I'd also seen him open for the White Stripes earlier this year at Madison Square Garden where he received a warm welcome by the crowd.

And now, some sad news from his daughter.

I know if you clicked on messageboard,
then you have a fondness for our Wagonmaster.
For those that don't know who I am that are visiting here,
I'm Porter Wagoner's daughter.
Daddy loves his fans.
I learned at a young age how much you care about my Daddy.
With your support for over 60 years my Daddy has found friendships and love, and has been able to have a life full of sharing his love of music with you.
Thank you for making that possible.
Thank you from my Daddy and our entire family for all the prayers you've sent during the last year for Porter.
Porter was admitted to a local Nashville hospital monday morning.
Our family of Porter Cousins here have brought so much joy and love to me in getting to know each one of you.
I want to thank you for allowing me to be your lil sis and Cuz DJ to each of you.
God Bless you for loving my Daddy and me.

There'll always be music,
As long as there's a story to be told.
There'll always be music,
Cause music is the voice of the soul.

Music will live on when man and earth are gone,
there'll always be music

Thank you for your prayers for my Daddy

With love and respect,
Darlin Debra Jean

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lucinda Williams- live and out of print

Last Thursday, Ms. Williams (now engaged to her manager) did all of her self-titled album which is a great but out of print record. It was kind of sad that LW took a night out of her performances of full albums (she also did Car Wheels on A Grave Road, Essence on other nights) from her back catalog to chronicle a record that the crowd couldn't buy anymore, unless they shelled out about 4o dollars for a used copy or bought from her mersh booth a newly burned copy of the first set of this show where she recreated the record (which she'll hopefully sell at her site eventually).

This was her self-titled third album (from 1988), which finally got her recognized- she'd only recorded two other albums in the previous decade, being (in)famous for doing things her way. Speaking of which, I counted three times during the set that she would stop a song near the beginning to start over and get it right (even when it sounded great as it was). Those kind of blips didn't phase the audience who knew that it was part of who she was and that in the end, she'd deliver, which she did.

It wasn't just that each of the songs still sounded great but also that she could tick off a list of artists who helped to popularize the songs there including hits for Mary Chapin Carpenter and Patty Loveless and another cover by Tom Petty. Williams loved to point out how out of step she's been with industry, noting that she got her first Grammy for songwriting for "Passionate Kisses" even though MCC's label tried to dissuade her from covering it. Also, when it came time to put out her own album in the late 80's, she couldn't find a sympathetic home for it in Nashville, having instead turned to an English punk label (Rough Trade), which she recorded for a measly $17,000. It's an album that doesn't deserve to sit in limbo.

For the second half of the show, she brought out some heroes of hers to perform with her. After guitarist/songwriter Jim Lauderdale did "Lost in the Lonesome Pines" (one of his best songs), David Byrne came on and did Talking Heads favorites "Buck Naked" (which Terry Allen also did a great version of years ago) and "Heaven" (which Lucinda said was one of her favorite songs) with LW and her band and then a pretty duet with LW on her song "Over Time." Then, it was time for another LW hero as David Johansen came on and did another duet with her (a hilarious version of her "Jailhouse Tears") and then a hard-ass honky tonk version of the New York Dolls' "Looking for a Kiss." Memphis singer Susan Marshall (who's backed up Cat Power recently) had been singing on an off with the band during the show and then got a showcase of her own with a killer version of "Piece of My Heart" that I swear almost matched Janis and Big Brother. LW followed with a new punk-blues song called "Honey Bee" (which the White Stripes could have covered) which left her exhausted and a kick-ass version of "Joy" (featuring an Allmans-like guitar duel). For an encore, she came back with Byrne to do a emotion-paced version of Al Green's "Take Me To the River" (one of the Heads' most noted staples). It was one of the best sets I've seen in a while.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Richard and Linda Thompson- live again

It's not like we need a reminder of their special talents- RT's never gone away, just releasing yet another album while LT has also, having put aside her retirement from the music industry for a while now. But a new English import of two mid 70's shows (appropriately titled In Concert November 1975 on Island) shows off their chemistry that they once had as a combo (if not a married couple). Filled with RT's own songs, not to mention his astounding guitar breaks (which still sounded good when I saw him live a few months ago) and her lovely voice make, they made an incredible combination. By this time, he was half a decade gone from Fairport Convention (whose rhythm section backs them up here) and well into his own career with a solo album plus three albums with Linda (including the still-extraordinary I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight). Bits and pieces of this material have appeared as bonus tracks or got tacked onto the U.S. release of Bright Lights but here's the prime material finally out on its own. In addition to RT's alternately brooding, startling and fun-loving songs, they show off their country roots with covers of Hank Williams, Buck Owens and Jerry Lee Lewis. This also was the time just before they went into a semi-retirement for a few years (returning a few years later to make three more albums before the act and their marriage collapsed in the early 80's). So, yes it's history but you can also (morris) dance to it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Johnny Cash- '54 revisited for the first time

AOL Spinner has posted a never-before-heard (presumably except by Johnny and his wife) track from 1954 plus an audio excerpt where JC gets his love jones on.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kitten Forever- let the fur fly

Cute, ain't they? Maybe not ready to be adopted or taken out of a pet store but this Midwest trio is as riot grrl as they wanna be, sporting and large and in charge singer (like the Gossip, who they're fans of, along with Husker Du). Maybe you're skeptical of any band that's still trying to fly the RG banner now or revive it but these cats (sorry, couldn't resist) have the right sound and attitude that you long after if you miss Bikini Kill as much as I do. As always, don't take my word for it- check out their MySpace page.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Gram Parsons/Burritos- live again

Just like jazz fusion, country-rock fusion got a bad rep when it became watered down mush that didn't do any justice to either genre that fed into it. But early on, there were sincere practitioners and pioneers like a certain legendary deceased star who was briefly a Byrd and then a Burrito (and a Submarine commander before that). Like other long-gone legends, Gram Parsons' rep is built on a handful of albums so any archival release is usually big news. An upcoming live double CD of the Flying Burrito Brothers will get its ink and screen space by the time it comes out in November but in the meantime, the nice people at Amoeba are offering a free taste of the album- you can download "Long Black Limousine" from the above link now.