Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Bobtown at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 1/10/10

Sunday night at Spikehill is Americana night, with a rotating cast of frequently excellent roots bands from around the New York area. Last Sunday’s show opened with Rescue Bird, who’ve been on our shortlist to see for awhile, but that was not to be. The next band, Bobtown were even better than the few intriguing songs on their myspace indicated. There is no band in town who sound like them. Mixing elements of country gospel, bluegrass and field hollers with an often macabre Nashville gothic tinge and soaring four-part harmonies, they ran through a frequently riveting set of originals along with a plaintive, powerful cover of the old British folk ballad Short Life of Trouble sung with authority by guitarist Karen Dahlstrom.

They opened with three harmony-driven country gospel numbers, one an amusingly herky-jerky original by acoustic bass guitarist (and bass singer) Fred Stesney while lead player Gary Keenan played incisively and tersely as he moved from banjo, to resonator guitar, to mandolin, to what looked like a darkly twangy Turkish cumbus lute. Singer Jen McDearman appears to be the band’s main source of darkness, contributing both a blithe acoustic pop song, Black Dog, its casually menacing lyric making a striking contrast with its peppy tune, as well as the night’s best song, a big, ominous anthem titled We Will Bury You.

Accordionist Katherine Etzel, whose effortlessly high, twangy soprano reminds a lot of a young Dolly Parton, led the group through a series of stark, rhythmic, bluesy originals in the style of nineteenth century slaves’ field hollers. Then they picked up the pace with a rapidfire bluegrass tune, Hell and Gone (with a reference to smoking “all the tea in China”) delivered with a graceful intensity by Dahlstrom, and then reverted to country gospel to close the set. Bobtown have a new album coming out; ostensibly, all of these originals are on it. If they sound anything like how the band played them Sunday night, it should be killer. Watch this space for upcoming live dates.

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January 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: Gabriel Sullivan – By the Dirt

Gabriel Sullivan knows a lot of styles and he’s adept at them. More specifically, his new cd By the Dirt runs through a whole bunch of stylized genres, pretty successfully – the playing is generally good, he’s got a good sense of melody and a feel for vintage Americana styles. Mixed by Craig Schumacher of Calexico and Friends of Dean Martinez renown, Sullivan’s going for a dusky southwestern gothic feel (a concept made clear by the cd cover, the songwriter posed sullenly against a photoshopped backdrop of a battered piano in the sagebrush), although the sound is more straight-up southern in a lot of places.

The album’s opening number reminds of Reid Paley, kind of a stripped-down ghoulabilly blues with banjo and harp. The title track is a swinging, memorable, Waitsh-ish tune: “We all live and die by the dirt,” Sullivan reminds ominously. Track three, the snide, defiant Life Is Fine has Sullivan affirming that “You ain’t never gonna see me die.”

How to Treat a Man reminds of Steve Wynn’s legendary Dream Syndicate with its slide guitar-driven, bluesy stomp. By contrast, Me & the Dog is ghostly, lowlit by some sweetly phosphorescent singing saw work. Of the country songs here, by far the most interesting and original is the metaphor-laden, nocturnal ballad The Gardens, its protagonist aching for some peace. There’s also a clanking noir blues, a Waits-style outlaw ballad and then more and more Waits, it seems – by this point, Sullivan seems to have run out of ideas of his own, and the overlong, pointless guitar solo out of the last number does nothing to change that. In terms of the three stages of artistry – imitation, emulation and originality – Sullivan’s passed the first and has command of the second – and there’s nothing wrong with having the ability to synthesize or move smoothly from one oldtime style to another, as he does effortlessly here. It’ll be interesting to see how his writing develops as he grows as a songwriter. In the meantime, fans of dark Americana rock and all the other retro styles he tackles here will enjoy most of this. Keep your eye on this guy – he knows what he’s doing, even if he could be confused with a whole lot of other people on some of the tracks here.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/21/09

We’ve been doing this every Tuesday – to cut down on the workload here while we attend to some infrastructure things, we meant to suspend the feature for awhile. Before we do, here’s this week’s top ten. As always, you’ll see this week’s #1 song on our 100 Best 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. Every link here will take you to each individual song.

1. Bobby Vacant & the Weary – Never Looking Back

So far this is the best single song we’ve heard this year, a defiant look back on a checkered past. Suits us just fine. From the new cd.

2. The Joel Plaskett EmergencyDrunk Teenagers

We’re late in picking up on this snide classic by the Canadian powerpop rocker. He’s at  Union Hall on 10/15.

3. Karine Poghosyan with the Kokolo String Ensemble – Haydn F Maj. Piano Concerto

The fiery pianist with an equally inspired chamber orchestra behind her.

4. Sarah Lov – Tell Me How

“It is all I ever feel, like nothing good is ever real,” she laments over a catchy Aimee Mann-esque midtempo anthem. She’s at Union Hall on 10/16 at 8.

5. Izzy and the Kesstronics – Hanging Death Waves

Izzy from Uncle Fucker on guitar plus a sax and rhythm section playing weird funny surf/garage/roots stuff. They’re at Beauty Bar in Bushwick on 9/27 at 9ish.

6. String Driven Thing – Suicide

Every now and then we run across a classic like this. This is from a reunion concert by the 70s art-rock cult favorites sometime in the 90s, a bitter, somewhat brutal graveside scene for a dead rocker:

The T in contract

The I in empire

The M in muzak

The E in Ex-Lax

The S in suicide

7. Erin Hill – Girl Inventor

Classical harpist who sounds absolutely nothing like Joanna Newsom playing psychedelic pop.  More like Kate Bush actually.

8. The MK Groove Orchestra – MCP

Woozy, inventive groove-driven big band jazz. They’re at Spikehill on 9/26 at 10.

9. Kulu Kulu GardenTaking the Tray Away

Danceable Japanese noise-rock with a real screamer on vocals, cool stuff.

10. Don’t Give Small Money Chance Brass Band – It Is Raining

Brooklyn big band playing horn music from Ghana! Pretty wild.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/14/09

We do this every week, almost always on Tuesday – back on schedule again, yaaay! You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our 100 Best 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. Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. Jang Sa-Ik – This Is Not It

The Korean superstar is on the brink of going global: be the first to know who he is. This one’s a haunting carpe diem cautionary tale from his latest cd, impossible to find via English-language search, but watch this space.

2. The Bright Room – Amerigo

Slashing, brooding, smartly lyrical indie rock – a real original sound. They’re at Spikehill on 9/19 at 9.

3. Mark Sinnis – St. James Infirmary

A vintage New Orleans take of this standard by the ominous Ninth House frontman  – especially haunting.

4. Natalie John & the Fine Columbians – Song from a Greyhound Bus

Up-and-coming jazz trumpeter/chanteuse. Prediction: she’ll be headlining Dizzy’s Club in five years.

5. Roosevelt Dime – Rants & Raves

Funny smart original oldtimey country with a banjo – a lot like White Hassle. They’re at the Rockwood at midnight on 9/18.

6. The Sunday Blues – Tinted Windows

They call themselves the alt-country Wings but they’re way better – gorgeously anthemic songs and neat keyboards although the lyrics aren’t much. They’re at Spikehill on 9/27 at 7.

7. The Wandering Bards – Spam in a Can

An oldtimey bluesy tribute to the processed meat delicacy – hard to resist. They’re at Spikehill on 9/20 at 11.

8. Abby Payne – Bad One

She’s a bad girl…or she wishes she was. Catchy jazzy piano pop. She’s at Spikehill on 9/24 at 10.

9. Parias Ensemble – Nublando

Thoughtful pensive Sunday afternoon song without words from this Colombian-tinged groove jazz outfit. They’re at Spikehill on 9/26 at 9.

10. Amanda White – Monica’s Getting Her Tits Done

Generic but funny bar band rock.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment