Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Will Scott – Gnawbone

This is a roughhewn, somewhat menacing album. Vocally, Will Scott is a casual, soulful presence. He’s got a big voice that fills the space here comfortably – he knows he doesn’t have to work too hard to make his point, and he doesn’t. Likewise, his guitar playing is terse, with a bite. Scott comes out of the Mississippi hill country school of blues playing, continuing the tradition that Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford and R.L. Burnside kept alive for so long. It’s a literally mesmerizing style, with long, improvisational songs that go on for minutes on end, frequently without a single chord change. Scott puts his own individual stamp on it, along with several considerably successful ventures into country. Christopher “Preacher Boy” Watkins’ production is marvelously oldschool, vocals up front, guitars and then the rest of the band a little further back in the mix like an old vinyl record. With sparse, tasteful cameos from the Be Good Tanyas’ Samantha Parton, Jolie Holland and Jan Bell along with Preacher Boy on a multitude of instruments, this was made for late-night listening.

The cd opens with the growling psychedelic Americana of Jack’s Defeat Creek, a murky, genre-blending success. The title track, a sarcastic chronicle about several big bullshitters bears Scott’s signature hill country stamp: it could go on for twice as long as it does and that wouldn’t hurt a bit. Make Her Love Me layers acoustic and electric guitars eerily in the background, with a wild, screaming, all-too-brief noise guitar solo making a particularly imaginative crescendo.

Lazy Summertime blends slow swinging 70s style outlaw country with a more rustic Tom Waits vibe. Country Soil reverts to hypnotic blues, like Wayfaring Stranger as Country Joe & the Fish might have done it if they’d been able to handle their drugs a little better With its subtle gospel inflections, Louisiana Lullaby would be perfectly at home on a vintage Waylon Jennings lp.The defiant Paper Match has some neatly intricate bluegrass-inflected twelve string work coming out of the chorus along with some fluidly potent upright bass from Jim Whitney. Of the rest of the tracks, there’s a swing blues, a fast Waits-ish number, a dark, rustic spiritual and the absolutely fascinating Long Time Since, almost a dub reggae production with its haunting and hypnotic repeater-box guitar popping in and out of the mix as the rhythm section careens along. If there’s anything to criticize here, it’s that like so many other studio albums by bluesmen, it would be awfully nice to hear [fill in the blank: B.B. King, Albert Collins…Will Scott] get a chance to cut loose more here – Scott plays a mean solo. Maybe next time. In the meantime, this will help put him on the map. He just got back from UK tour, back to his more-or-less weekly Wednesday 8:30 PM gig at 68 Jay St. Bar, something you ought to see if Americana is your thing.

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July 7, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Lenny Molotov and the Oxygen Ponies at the Saltmines, Brooklyn NY 7/3/09

Three hundred years ago, most low-key musical performances took place in private homes rather than on any kind of public stage. In yet another indication of how the future is reprising the past, there’s been a new and somewhat welcome trend in New York music circles, taking the old loft show idea to the next level: friends and fans of the band only, no advertising, strictly word of mouth. This was one of those shows. Opening act Lenny Molotov has gotten a tremendous amount of ink here, by virtue of his own oldtimey Americana songwriting as well as his longtime association with Randi Russo, whether playing bass or guitar in her band. Suffice it to say that Friday’s show with Ray Sapirstein on trumpet was as richly virtuosic as always. On the newer songs, it was like an oldschool jazz or blues session: Molotov would call out the key and Sapirstein would invariably find something interesting or appropriate to add. They did two songs about boxing (Randi Russo deviously adding synth flourishes to one of them), a rousing hobo song, a Lightning Hopkins blues and a couple of ragtime-inflected numbers.

The Oxygen Ponies followed with a characteristically brilliant, lyrical show, this time around just frontman/guitarist Paul Megna on a beautiful Danelectro hollowbody and Russo alternating between keys, percussion and backing vocals. The band’s latest cd Harmony Handgrenade (very favorably reviewed here) has been blowing up recently, and they’re capitalizing with a UK tour toward the end of the month. This set mixed new material with older and unreleased stuff plus a couple of devious covers: the Cars’ It’s All I Can Do was given the total noir treatment, while New Order’s Love Vigilantes became a stark antiwar dirge remarkably similar to the Laura Cantrell cover. The defiant soul-inflected anthem Grab Yr Gun was as sarcastic as the recorded version, with Russo’s deadpan harmonies; The War Is Over, a fiery, 60s-ish garage rock stomp on the album, was recast as ominous folk-rock. A new song, The Saddest Thing I’ve Ever Seen maintained the defiant feel: “When the angels come for me/I will not go comfortably,” Megna intoned. Another new number, said Megna was directed at someone “who won’t talk to me anymore since they became a movie star.” “I can’t save you…I always listened when you talked about yourself,” he railed. They closed with a couple of numbers from their first album, notably the hypnotic, antagonistic, Velvets-inflected Brooklyn Bridge. The UK is definitely in for a treat here.

The Oxygen Ponies play two other secret shows in the next couple of weeks, email for password/location/time.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/6/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. Marty Willson-Piper – Sniper

The Church guitarist has a career-best solo album just out (very favorably reviewed here) and this is its centerpiece, a towering anthem about the ethics of assassinations. Not what you might think. The Church are at Irving Plaza on 7/8, tix still available.

 

2. Moist Paula – Your Singlet

Haunting and hypnotic, something probably from the great underground composer/baritone saxist’s cinematic Secretary project.

 

3. Painted on Water – 1000 Faced Man

Eerie Doorsy art-rock by this innovative Turkish-American group.

 

4. Dagmar – Secret Agent Men

Harmony-driven dark pop with a noir cabaret feel. They’re playing the cd release show for their new one at Caffe Vivaldi on 7/15 at 8.

 

5. Heather & the Barbarians – Kiss Me or Kill Me

Slow snarling country song. They’re at Spikehill on 7/8 at 9.

 

6. Kendra Smith – Heart & Soul

Joy Division cover by the legendary ex-Dream Syndicate bassist. Most Joy Division covers suck. This one doesn’t.  

 

7. Dan Berg & the Gestalt – Minty Bembe

Real cool song – part latin jazz, a little gypsy feel over a hypnotic African groove.

 

8. Reverb Galaxy – Balkan Stomp

Self-explanatory surf rock madness. They’re playing on the Coney Island boardwalk at 4 PM on 8/15.

 

9. Lorrie Doriza – Elle, en Nuit

Magnificent piano-based art-rock. Wow – check out those high notes.

 

10. Mustard Plug – Waiting Room

Very much better-than average ska punk with horns with a little Hawaii 5-0 feel

July 7, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/7/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #386:

The Reducers – Fistfight

New London, Connecticut’s finest export is this fiery, long-running quartet whose 80s heyday saw them as a sort of a cross between the Jam and 70s British pub rock bands like Ducks Deluxe, putting out several generally excellent albums. Fueled by the twin guitars of Hugh Birdsall and Peter Detmold and Steve Kaika’s busy, melodic, Bruce Foxton-esque bass, this is their greatest shining moment, a blisteringly catchy look at smalltown anomie and its consequences. From Cruise to Nowhere, 1985. The band still performs frequently in southern New England.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment