Lucid Culture


CD Review – Amy Allison – Everything and Nothing Too

Her best, strongest collection of songs. That’s quite an achievement for someone who already has a couple of genuine classic albums under her belt, The Maudlin Years and Sad Girl. Amy Allison is a master of the mot juste, the double or triple or quadruple entendre: no wonder Elvis Costello likes her so much. Until lately, she wrote country songs imbued with an inimitably droll wit and charm: it’s hard not to fall for the elegantly phrased klutz in all things romantic that she played to the hilt earlier in her career. But it’s never easy to tell whether she’s laying it on the line, messing with your head or doing both at the same time, and that’s the secret to her success. That, and that exquisite voice, which has taken on a darker tone recently, with a gravitas that didn’t used to creep into her often sidesplittingly funny lyrics. Technically speaking, she’s a terrific singer with soaring range and surprising power for someone whose twangy timbre falls thisclose to cartoonish. That she took that voice, ran with it and made it a thing of such strange, unique beauty testifies to her smarts as a musician (probably runs in the family: her dad is saloon jazz legend Mose Allison, without whom Tom Waits probably wouldn’t exist, or at the least wouldn’t be so popular).

Like her criminally underrated previous album No Frills Friend, this one is basically pop songs set to jangly, mostly midtempo guitar rock arrangements, a style Allison has mastered as she did country music, ten years ago. The cd kicks off with Don’t Go to Sleep, a jazzy pop gem that sounds like a dead ringer for something from mid-60s London. The next two tracks, Don’t You Know Anything and the album’s title track highlight Allison’s knowingly wise, terse lyricism. The fast, bouncy Out of Sight, Out of Mind wouldn’t be out of place on one of her country albums.

Right about here, it gets dark in a hurry. The next cut Troubled Boy, a snapshot of a (predictably) failed romance between a couple of troubled people, only hints at what’s to come. After that, Allison takes no prisoners on the what-on-earth-do-you-see-in-that-loser diatribe Have You No Pride? Then the sun sinks under the horizon, with Rose Red:

Snow White, Snow White
I’m Rose Red
Keep the wolf from my door
I will be a hothouse flower
And I’ll never go out anymore

It’s one of her most affecting and powerful songs, as is the album’s centerpiece, the depressive anthem Turn Out the Lights.

In my room
Far from the crowd
My bed’s a tomb
My quilt’s a shroud
I’ve had my fill
Of restless nights

I’d just as soon
Turn out the lights

It’s arguably her best song, an apt companion piece to the equally haunting title track from her previous album (sung from the point of view of a woman who’s so lonely that she’s willing to go out with a guy who literally won’t say a word to her). But just as everything seems to be ready to fall into the abyss, the album picks up with a rousingly guitarish cover of the Smiths’ vitriolic classic Every Day is Sunday, and concludes with a charming duet between Allison and her dad on his song Was – peep her myspace for the youtube video.

Allison is hilarious onstage: if you haven’t seen her you owe it to yourself, you are in for a treat. She plays Banjo Jim’s on Sat Apr 14 at 6 PM, then Mo Pitkins at 7:30 PM downstairs on Apr 19 and upstairs on Apr 26 at the same hour. Cds are available online and at shows.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

this week in NYC 4/11-18/07

Highlights of the week in live music around town:

Weds Apr 11 the Gotham 4 play Arlene’s, 7 PM. The sound is totally British, mid-90s: big, anthemic, guitar-centric, hook-driven. Imagine if Oasis weren’t a bunch of self-important yobs and stole from more diverse sources than the Beatles, or if Radiohead’s first three albums had melody.

Later Weds Apr 11, 9 PM Devi (Deb DeSalvo’s new power trio) plays Trash Bar at 9. One of the great guitar players of our time. If adrenaline, crescendos, and fiery, virtuosic, heartwrenchingly beautiful playing are something you would enjoy, get your ass down there.

Thurs Apr 12, a treat for your ears at Capone’s, 221 N 9th betw Driggs/Roebling in Williamsburg, 8 PM. Opener Erika Simonian, whose most recent album All the Plastic Animals remains the gold standard for quietly simmering, edgy, haunting acoustic rock plays incisive guitar with subtle humor, brilliant lyrics and nice vocals too. At 9 there’s Todd Satterfield –rare solo acoustic show by the once and future frontman of Your New Best Friend. He’s a rarity himself, an indie rocker who plays amazing guitar, also a damn good songwriter who has mastered many diverse styles. Imagine Elliott Smith without the drugs (I know that’s an oxymoron, but just try).

Also Thurs Apr 12 Palomar play the cd release for their new one at Mercury Lounge, 10 PM. They haven’t changed much: still sleek and melodic, pop song structures set to lo-fi indie rock arrangements with nice vocal harmonies.

Fri Apr 13 the Somebodies play Otto’s (the former Barmacy) at 9 PM. They have one of the best, most interesting and original bass players in town and a catchy two-guitar indie rock vibe.

Sat Apr 14 Amy Allison plays Banjo Jim’s, 2 sets starting early at 6 PM. She hasn’t changed much, either: she’s still one of the funniest people you will ever see live. Her songs have: she still plays the country stuff, but her most recent work is more rock and pop and far darker than anything she did back in the Maudlin Years. Her latest cd Everything and Nothing Too features her strongest songwriting ever.

A little later Sat Apr 14 Little Embers play the Underscore, 9PM $5 cover, 1733 1st Ave (between 89th & 90th, below Bar East). Gothic Americana with an unaffectedly haunting frontwoman: imagine the Cowboy Junkies without the trust fund.

Sat Apr 14, 10 PM Miss Elixir and the Mourning Glories play at 10 PM at
The Creek in the cave, 10-93 Jackson Ave. (Long Island City,
Queens), 7 to Vernon/Jackson -or- G to 21 St/Van Alst. Right off the Pulaski bridge.
Creepy, sometimes very beautiful computer-enhanced minor-key semi-goth female-fronted keyboard-driven artsy songs. Their sets are very short, get there on time, it will be worth your while. I am told that cover is in the $3-6 range, begging the question of how many people are going to volunteer to kick in the whole six bucks.

Later Sat Apr 14, 11 PMish the Coffin Daggers play Rock Star Bar (the former Ship’s Mast) Kent Ave and S 5th in Williamsburg, easiest to take the J/M/Z to Marcy and walk toward the water and then right. One of the half-dozen best live band in town, maybe anywhere in the world: they’ve gone back to the more traditional-style original surf music that they started with, but the sound remains the same, loud, uncompromising, reverbed-out and frequently haunting as hell.

Finally Sat Apr 14 at midnight, legendary
punkish cover band Rawles Balls – hilarious, Tenacious D-style unit. They’re adding to their record with this cd release show for their latest 6 (six, you read that right) albums: this makes a total of 60 if memory serves right. Not bad for a band that’s only been around for a couple of years. Little do the tourists realize that their cover versions of every kitschy hit ever written are a joke and the joke is on them.

Early Sunday evening Apr 15, Portland, Maine composer Harold Stover plays the magnificent, roaring front organ at St. Thomas Church, 53rd and 5th Ave., 5:15 PM sharp, free. He’s the rare contemporary composer who’s not out to try to be the next Elliott Carter, all fussy, deliberately atonal mannerisms and zero content. This guy can write, in a John Adams-meets-Cesar Franck kind of way, emotions running pretty high and taking off to some surprising places. He can play, too.

Later Sun Apr 15 Serena Jost and her band open for Amanda Thorpe. The former is mainly a cellist but also plays keys and guitar and writes gorgeously witty art-pop, sort of what Jeff Lynne might do were he a young cello-playing woman in today’s era. The latter is a darkly captivating singer who has a habit of joining bands and making them suddenly terrific: just look at how good the Bedsit Poets have become. Tonight she plays a rare solo show featuring her alternately lush and austere, Britfolk-inflected solo work.

Also Sun Apr 15, 11:30 PM and every Sunday Van Hayride plays Banjo Jim’s. This is one of the seemingly 26 bands that NYC axeman Steve Antonakis plays in: you have to wonder if or when the guy sleeps. This particular unit plays country versions of Van Halen songs, features Jack Grace on lead vocals and is something beyond hilarious.

Mon Apr 16 Jenifer Jackson plays Pete’s Candy Store with Roland Satterwhite on trumpet, 9:30 PM. Even without a full band behind her, she can still mesmerize which says a lot about her dazzlingly original, frequently psychedelic, jazz- and Brazilian-inflected art-pop.

Also Mon Apr 16. 9 PMish at Hank’s in Flatbush, either the mighty have fallen or there’s actually a very cool new trend, live band karaoke featuring brilliant and/or legendary musicians. I’ve belted out a few at the Lucky Cat backed by none other than ex-Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Joe McGinty, and you can sing country covers at this throwback, old-school style bar, with most of Demolition String Band playing behind you. Pretty cool, huh? I wonder if they know Psycho. I’ll bet they do.

Tues Apr 17 Maynard & the Musties play Lakeside, 10 PM. Frontman and ex-Nashville-ite Joe Jerry Maynard used to front a charming, old-school style country band called the Millerite Redeemers, and remains one of the funniest people in country: if you like Amy Allison, you should definitely check out these guys. And just when you’re expecting another side-splitter, they hit you upside the head with something unexpectedly haunting or unexpectedly rocking.

Weds Apr 18 System Noise play Lit on 2nd Ave., 9 PMish. Ferocious, female-fronted art-rockers who are arguably the best live band in town. Scorching, macabre lead guitar, a frontwoman with spectacular vocal range, a pummeling, melodic rhythm section and a shocking amount of catchy melody for such a loud band.

Also Weds Apr 18, panstylistic guitar monster Matt Munisteri plays legendary oldschool bar Sonny’s in Red Hook, 9ish, B61 bus to Beard St., last stop, follow Beard down to the crossstreet, make a right, then make a left on Conover, keep going and you’re there. Don’t let this guy’s urbane humor and debonair charm fool you: he’s evil. Raised on bluegrass, steeped in jazz and fueled by a skewed, lyrical undercurrent, he’s one of the great ones. Hell of a songwriter too.

Thurs Apr 19 another good reason to live in NYC: Munisteri plays with Jenifer Jackson accordionist Joey Barbato at Barbes, 9 PM. The guitarist you just read about and may very well know: he gets around. The keyboardist is one of the most original, melodic, interesting players you will ever hear, a master of saying much with little, a guy who is singlehandedly reinventing what the accordion can do.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | Live Events | Leave a comment