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 at Pete’s Candy Store, Brooklyn NY 4/17/09

Recently we tagged Will Scott’s Wednesday residency at 68 Jay St. Bar in Dumbo as the best weekly blues show in town, but there’s another player that blues fans should keep their eye on and that’s Lenny Molotov. While Scott is taking Mississippi hill country blues (think R.L. Burnside or T-Model Ford) to new and interesting places, Molotov is doing the same with delta blues and the kind of sophisticated, jazzy stuff Josh White or Charles Brown were doing in the 40s and early 50s. Friday night with his quartet he unveiled a whole slew of new material edging closer and closer toward jazz as so many virtuoso guitarists do once they’ve mastered blues as Molotov has. Playing acoustic and backed by JD Wood on standup bass, Jake Engel on chromatic harp and Ray Sapirstein on trumpet, Molotov’s virtuosic playing and imaginative melodies vividly evoked a raucous speakeasy milieu, with lyrics exploring eras from Prohibition to the here-and-now.

 

“Where’s my capo?” Molotov wondered aloud.

 

“It’s on your headstock,” an audience member reminded him.

 

“I like to use two. It never hurts to be too careful,” Molotov slyly explained as he and the band launched into a snazzy, updated version of Brother Can You Spare a Dime:

 

I used to work at Goldman Sachs

And drank the finest wine

Now I sit around smoking crack

Brother can you spare a dime?

 

Molotov is a boxing fan, and a couple of the newer, more polished numbers worked that territory. The most recent one, he said, was inspired by a Sonny Liston suggestion that the ideal boxing song would feature “soul guitar, harmonica and trumpet,” and this one snidely addressed mob corruption in the sweet science, trumpet and harp indulging in a playful call-and-response that built as it went along. The last number built to dixieland pandemonium with the harp and the trumpet going full-tilt. Molotov’s gotten plenty of ink here, because he’s good, and because his new material is so strong, you’ll no doubt be hearing more about him here in the future. Watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review – Will Scott and Wylie Wirth at 68 Jay St. Bar, Brooklyn NY 4/15/09

The best blues show of the week in New York is typically not found at one of the city’s two remaining blues bars, Terra Blues and Lucille’s. It’s pretty much every Wednesday at 68 Jay St. Bar in Dumbo, just down the hill from the York St. F train. Starting around 8, Will Scott and inventive former Sweet Lizard Illtet drummer Wylie Wirth put their own spin on Mississippi hill country blues, and to their credit, it’s pretty much impossible to tell the originals from the covers (bet on the originals – Scott is taking the style to new and exciting places without taking the soul out of it). For the uninitiated, the hill country style differentiates itself from the more laid-back Delta style in that it’s both dance music and trance music. In the work of the best-known hill country players like T-Model Ford, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, there aren’t a lot of chord changes, the songs often going on for seven or eight minutes, rising and falling with remarkable subtlety for music this raw and primitive-sounding.

 

Last night at the bar an older couple was celebrating their anniversary. Scott told the crowd that he’d known them since he “wasn’t old enough to drink, but drunk enough to raise a glass and say ‘l’chaim.'” Silence. “OK, I see what kind of demographic we have here,” Scott acknowledged, and he and his drummer launched into a haunting, relentless, hypnotic number with a plaintive Kimbrough feel. They’d opened with a swaying stomp with imaginative flourishes from Wirth, who turns his counterintuitive thumps and cymbal washes into a swipe upside your head that’ll bring you out of your reverie. Scott also added a melodic, upbeat rock feel to one of the livelier numbers, stomped his way through a dark, pounding one with a Mississippi Fred McDowell flavor as well as a few with a slide. The most ferocious of these, he said, was inspired by a dream where his grandfather admonished him to get out of the pumpkin patch.

 

In May, Scott is back at his home base on Wednesdays, with additional gigs at LIC Bar on May 11 and May 16 at Two Boots Brooklyn. In mid-June, he’s off on UK tour with the equally captivating Jan Bell. Watch this space for additional New York dates.

April 16, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment