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

Beefstock 2010 Day One

Beefstock is sort of Bonnaroo for great obscure New York bands, an annual two or three-day spring music festival in the Catskills. We’ve covered the previous two – the backstory is here. In the beginning, it was skewed more toward jam bands, but in recent years it’s become more and more diverse. As with all festivals, it’s impossible to take everything in, and the quality of the bands at this one – arguably the best Beefstock ever – was frustratingly good. Standing around watching music for seven or eight hours at a clip gets exhausting, so, apologies in advance to the acts who played who aren’t covered here. With breaks for food, wine, more wine (Beefstock requires a lot of refueling!), checking email (there’s no cell service at the festival site, the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY) and general socializing, this is simply one perspective on this year’s festivities.

A later-than-expected departure from Manhattan meant missing the early Friday night performances. By eight in the evening, Fred Gillen Jr. was wrapping up a characteristically tuneful, invigorated set of socially aware acoustic rock with his new drummer. If memory serves right, this was their first show together, and they rocked, concluding with a spirited version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Liza Garelik Roure and her husband Ian Roure, who would play Saturday night in their band the Larch, followed with a duo set showcasing songs from the band she fronts, Liza and the WonderWheels, and these proved more richly tuneful and emotionally diverse than ever (their upcoming cd ought to be awfully good). “Trailer punk” band Mr. McGregor followed them, including in their set an inspired, rocking Joe Maynard cover and a resonant ode to grilled cheese.

Girl to Gorilla were good at last year’s Beefstock. This time around they absolutely and colossally kicked ass, with a clanging, careening set that was part southwestern gothic, part paisley underground psychedelia, all of it with a snotty punk sense of humor. The electric violin wailing over the din of the guitars is the icing on the cake with this band, the violinist contributing some intense harmony vocals on a couple of numbers as well. One song sounded like the Dream Syndicate. The catchy, minor-key Evil Man was like a cross between True West and Ninth House. The equally catchy Waste of My Time was followed by a new wave-flavored one, a ska-punk number, a Steve Wynn-style riff-rocker and more menacing, jangly stuff. They encored with an aptly wired cover of Koka Kola by the Clash.

The next band, Black Death also absolutely and colossally kicked ass. To say that they sounded like the UK Subs but with better lyrics doesn’t give them enough credit. They jokingly describe themselves as not stupid enough to be metal but not good enough to be punk while they combine the best elements of both styles, punk fearlessness and heavy metal fun. Their Les Paul player gave a free clinic in good bluesmetal solos while their frontguy roared his way through one ferocious, pounding number after another with both his voice and his guitar. Maybe appropriately, their biggest audience hit, I Like Pussy, had a death metal feel. They closed their set with a Balkan death metal waltz and encored with the blasting Live Free or Die (not the Bill Morrissey comedy-folk hit recently resurrected by Hayes Carll) with a deliciously long, bluesy guitar solo.

Following Black Death was a Plastic Beef spinoff, Live and Let Diane (an inside joke), with backbeat drum monster/Beefstock impresario Joe Filosa showing off the same kind of casual cool brilliance on the mic that characterizes his work behind the kit. By now, the wine had kicked in, the really nice guy behind the bar had given one of us a generous glass of Jameson’s on the house, and it was time to call it a night or miss out on a lot of the next day’s fun.

An account of Day Two continues here.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment