Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Will Scott’s Keystone Crossing Mines Dark Americana

Best known as a mesmerizing Mississippi hill country-style blues guitarist, Will Scott is actually an eclectic master of all things Americana. His latest album Keystone Crossing is a characteristically dark, fearless, completely original mix of both acoustic and electric blues, oldtime country and gospel sounds. It’s the best thing he’s done, and it’s one of the best albums that’s come over the transom here this year. Right off the bat with the album’s first track, White River Rising, Scott sets a mood and just doesn’t let up – the brooding ambience is relentless. This particular number is a grim tale of hard times in the floodlands with layers of mandolin, dobro, organ and guitars. The second track, Derry Down starts out skeletal and ominously whispery and builds from there to illustrate a creepy nocturnal tableau. Just to Ferry Me Over has the feel of a chain gang song, defiant and resolute – Scott’s not ready to go before his time. The band builds almost imperceptibly to a hypnotic, haunting ambience, Dave Palmer’s organ and Ben Peeler’s steel guitar whining eerily over the rustic handclaps and Scott’s forceful delivery.

An outlaw country take on oldschool soul music, Right to Love is another number that builds slowly and methodically, terse, gospel-fueled piano leading the way. Ain’t Gonna Rain sets torrents of doomed imagery to an apprehensively swinging midtempo minor-key Texas shuffle: “Never known justice, but someday I’ll get mine,” Scott intones. He’s never sung more potently, or more subtly than he does here, particularly on the chilling, atmospheric badlands ballad Broken Arrow. An escape anthem, Last Rest Stop has a western swing-flavored bounce that contrasts with the bitterness of the lyric. The band maintains that vibe on the hard-rocking kiss-off anthem You Said You’d Take Me to Spain, the one place on the album where Scott’s guitar really takes off – he’s the rare guitarist you actually want to hear more of. The album winds up on an unexpectedly upbeat note with an organ-fueled, Sam Cooke style soul number. The instrumentation and the vernacular here may be completely retro, yet this album is solidly in the here and now: fans of Americana from delta blues, to Waylon and Willie, to Hayes Carll ought to check this out. Scott is currently on European tour; watch this space for NYC gigs toward the end of the summer.

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June 13, 2011 Posted by | blues music, country music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 6/13/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #596:

The Electric Prunes – Mass in F Minor

From 1968, this is one of the great stoner albums of all time, not bad considering that the band it’s credited to reputedly didn’t play on several of the tracks (history is fuzzy on this – a Canadian garage band, the Collectors, were reputedly brought in by composer David Axelrod to complete it when the Prunes basically broke up mid-session). It’s an attempt to make psychedelic rock out of imitation pre-baroque themes, and it’s successful beyond belief: with layers and layers of stinging reverb guitar, eerie organ and trebly, melodic bass, it’s a wild ride. The track everybody knows is Kyrie Eleison, which is on the Easy Rider soundtrack. All the song titles are in Latin, in the manner of a Catholic mass – Agnus Dei; Benedictus; Credo, Sanctus and Gloria – with occasional deadpan, monklike chanting amidst the chaos. Fuzz tones, feedback, all manner of cheap production tricks and some deliriously inspired (some would say sloppy) playing are everywhere. Here’s a random torrent.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soulful Late-Night Grooves from David Gibson

Out in the country, trombonist David Gibson’s new cd End of the Tunnel would be a late-night back porch album. Here in New York, it’s more of a fire-escape record, a gorgeously catchy mix of oldschool Memphis organ grooves along with some more straight-up jazz tracks which are just as tuneful if somewhat more tricky rhythmically. It’s party music, some of it with a slinky wee-hours feel, the rest somewhat more boisterous and adventurous. Along with Gibson, the band here is Julius Tolentino on alto sax, Jared Gold on organ and Quincy Davis on drums.

The opening track, Herbie Hancock’s Blind Man, Blind Man sets the stage with a sultry southern soul feel, Gibson playing it low and sweet, the organ stepping hard on the end of his solo to drive it home. Considerably harder-hitting, the aptly titled Wasabi is a classic Booker T. Jones style groove that makes a launching pad for three different personalities: sax soaring overhead, trombone down and dirty and the organ lighting it up at the end with some blissfully atmospheric layers. The monster hit here is Sunday Morning, a brilliantly simple ensemble piece – it’s the great lost theme to the Hairspray movie. The title track is the first of the jazz numbers, absolutely hypnotic with shapeshifting overlays of sax, organ and trombone, Gold moving methodically through an endless procession of chord changes, Gibson bringing it out of the maze and back to earth. Pensive and unresolved beneath its warmhearted hooks, A Place of Our Own never really finds itself because the drums keep it from setting down roots. Splat, by Gold, works a cool Memphis theme more expansively than any of the classic 60s soul bands did; by contrast, The In-Whim moves toward psychedelia, riding a series of rises and falls over a deceptively simple tune.

They go back to the soul music with Preachin’, Gibson slyly refusing to cede ground to anyone else until he’s almost invisible, Gold taking it up robust and warmly optimistic. The closing cut is Jackie McLean’s Blue Rondo, a good fit with its blend of jazz and soul, bustling sax and drum breaks. It’s one of the great party albums (or post-party albums) of the summer of 2011, out now on Posi-Tone.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album of the Day 6/12/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album was #597:

The Highwaymen’s first album

From 1985, this is the ultimate outlaw country summit: Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Sly, often surreal, it’s a party, the guys trading verses (although not everybody sings on every song) through a mix of smartly chosen covers and originals. The funniest one is Cash’s Committed to Parkview, part nuthouse, part rehab; likewise, Welfare Line, a Reagan-era souvenir, perfectly captures the angst of the times. There’s also the defiantly gloomy Desperados Waiting for a Train; Cindy Walker’s elegaic Jim, I Wore a Tie Today; the Jimmy Webb-penned title track; a plaintive version of Woody Guthrie’s Deportees; a singalong of Big River; and Steve Goodman’s not-so-optimistic The 20th Century Is Almost Over. The only dud here is Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, which the band has absolutely no clue how to play. If you like this, the other two Highwaymen albums from the 90s are also worth a spin. Caveat: purists may have a hard time with the synthesizers and chorus-box guitar here – it’s a period piece for sure. Here’s a random torrent.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment