Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/6/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #846:

Steve Earle – The Revolution Starts…Now

Believe it or not, this ferocious, guitar-driven Americana rock record won a Grammy – for “best contemporary folk album,” of all things – in 2004. It’s as memorable and apt a response to the Bush regime’s reign of terror as anyone recorded during those years. Many of the songs are as funny as they are savage, from the rig rocking anthem Home to Houston – told from the point of view of a mercenary who went to Iraq for the money but quickly found he couldn’t hack it – to the hilariously sarcastic faux-calypso of Condi, Condi (a backhanded slap at ice queen Condoleeza Rice), to the freedom-of-speech anthem F the CC (as in, “Fuck the FCC, fuck the CIA, we’re living in the goddamn USA”). It’s also got the insightful, acoustic Rich Man’s War, the mysterious Gringo’s Tale (where a CIA black ops guy comes clean…sort of), the rousing title track, the Orbison-inspired I Thought You Should Know and the Byrdsy rocker The Seeker. Pretty much everything Earle ever did, from 1986’s Guitar Town through his most recent album of Townes Van Zandt covers, is worth owning, even including his crack period in the late 80s and early 90s. His short story collection, Doghouse Roses, is also excellent and just as vivid as his song lyrics. Not something you could say about many other songwriters. Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

October 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/27/10

This is sort of our weekly, Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast. Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (and you have headphones – your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Norden Bombsight – Raven

Macabre art-rock menace from the Brooklyn band’s brilliant album Pinto – the possibly only song ever to immortalize West Haven, Connecticut.

2. Ana Popovic – You Complete Me

Balkan blues guitar genius. Can’t believe she isn’t better known in the US – amazing stuff

3. Hot Rize – Diamond Joe

The bluegrass classic – the band are back together with a new guitarist after a ten year hiatus

4. The Thrift Store Cowboys – 7s and 9s

Southwestern gothic, Wilco meets the Walkabouts.

5. Open Ocean – Daydreaming

The Cocteau Twins visit Twin Peaks, Washington. They’re at the Convent of St. Cecilia’s, 21 Monitor St. in Greenpoint sometime on 10/23.

6. Jessica Pavone – I Must Have Done Something Karmically to Deserve This

Catchy/abrasive/ethereal violin rock groove – dynamics central.

7. Kyle Eastwood – Andalucia

Clint’s jazz bassist kid – music runs in the family. That’s Jim Rotondi on trumpet.

8. The Salesmen – She’s So Punctual

Funny retro new wave hit by these subversive, theatrical Pac NW rockers.

9. Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds – Just My Eyes

Country swing with a Memphis soul tinge. They’re at the big room at the Rockwood on 10/23.

10. Darker My Love – Backseat

Perfect Rutles-esque Beatles ripoff.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | blues music, country music, jazz, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Kasey Anderson – Nowhere Nights

By turns bitter, brutal and gorgeously anthemic, Kasey Anderson’s latest cd is a defiantly restless, kick-ass heartland rock record. It rips the heart out of the myth of idyllic smalltown life. Over and over again, the characters here make it clear that ultimately they want one thing and one thing alone: to get out. The onetime big fish in a little pond in the title track explains it with a casual grace: there was no epiphany, no paradigm shift, he just got sick of spinning his wheels. The other players in these Russell Banks-style narratives don’t get off nearly so easily.

Kasey Anderson comes across as something of the missing link between Steve Earle and Joe Pug: he’s got Earle’s breathy drawl and knack for a catchy hook and Pug’s uncanny sense of metaphor. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s production sets layers and layers of guitar tersely jangling, twanging and roaring beneath Anderson’s intense, impassioned vocals, occasionally fleshed out with keyboards or accordion. Drummer Julian MacDonough propels it along with some of the most hauntingly terse playing on a rock record in recent years. The opening track, Bellingham Blues sets the tone: “I kept walking down these streets, searching for someone I would never meet,” Anderson half-snarls, half-whispers, perfectly encapsulizing the frustration and also the fear that comes with knowing that you’ve been somewhere you never wanted to be for far too long.

The second cut sounds like a blend of Mellencamp and Everclear (Mellencamp on Everclear, maybe?), followed by the wry, cynical Sooner or Later, a road song that could be Springsteen but with better production values. Holed up in some seedy motel, “She lights roman candles while he bleeds out,” yet there’s a sad determinism at work here: no matter how much resolve she may pull together, sooner or later she’s going to be going back to him.

With simple guitar, cello and a slow, hypnotic rimshot beat, Home is a chilling if ultimately encouraging reminder to a once-promising friend to get out and stay out: “Where you hang your hat, that’s where you get caught,” Anderson reminds. The big blazing backbeat rocker Torn Apart offers the same advice to an ex-girlfriend in less than friendly terms:

You’ve been spitting out nails and knocking back whiskey
You’ve got a new tattoo that says you don’t miss me
That highwire act makes me so bored I choke
Everybody’s laughing at the joke…
Everybody wants to see you smile
Maybe you should shut your mouth for a little while
Get out before you get torn apart

Possibly the most vivid track here is the searing I Was a Photograph, which follows the wartime and post-discharge struggles of Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the “Marlboro Man” Iraq war veteran immortalized in the famous Luis Sinco photo.

The closest Anderson gets to optimism is on the final track, and the two halfhearted seduction ballads here. The narrator in The Leavin’ Kind ends up undone by his own decency, and he knows it:

The devil’s in the details
I ain’t so hard to find
Go on, disappear, Ill be standing right here
I’m not the leavin’ kind

“Some things you can bury, that don’t mean they’re dead,” he reminds in From Now On: “You always said you were a hopeless romantic, well here’s that hopeless romance you’ve been waiting for.”

The album closes with the death-obsessed, metaphor- and reverb-drenched, practically eight-minute epic Real Gone, Ambel’s offhandedly savage guitar pyrotechnics like high-beams throughout a long, unfulfilling, uneasy road trip that ends just as unresolved as it began. Hopefully there’ll be more coming soon. You’ll see this one high up on our 50 best albums of the year list in December. Kasey Anderson plays Lakeside on May 1 at around 10:30 on a killer bill with the Roscoe Trio and Chip Robinson.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Roscoe Trio at Lakeside, NYC 3/23/10

The big news is that Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s 80s band the Del Lords are back together, having just returned from a short Spanish tour, their first in practically twenty years. They were one of the best bands of the 80s – forget that silly synthesizer stuff, there were so many great guitar bands back then, it’s not funny – the Dream Syndicate, True West, the Long Ryders, the list goes on and on – and the Del Lords represented New York. So any Roscoe appearance at Lakeside these days could be a Del Lords show, considering that they’ve already done at least one unannounced gig there under a phony name. But it was not to be. “I saw an open date on the calendar. So I put my name on it,” said Ambel, and this time he brought his trio, Demolition String Band drummer Phil Cimino and Spanking Charlene bassist Alison Jones. It was like a casual night in the band’s rehearsal space – or a trip to the supermarket in a vintage Trans Am, laid back and comfortable in the bucket seat until you put the hammer down and then all of a sudden you’re burning rubber and your eyeballs are getting pushed way back into your brain.

Ambel had a couple of amps going at once, gleefully blending an eerie, watery chorus tone with distorted clang and roar. Since he’s a gearhead, any time he gets to experiment with textures is a treat for the crowd because that means he goes for the jugular. He’s a melody guy, but he’s just as good at evil noise and that was tonight’s special. It was obvious from the git-go, with a nasty little blaze of wailing bent notes on the stomping Song from the Walls, from his Loud and Lonesome album. Another snarling number from that uncharacteristically angry cd, Way Outside, blew the embers all over the place. A cover of Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio started out slow and soulful and then careened all the way into the outro from Hendrix’ Hey Joe, which the rhythm section had a ball with. They also did a plaintively jangly version of the Everly Brothers-ish Peter Holsapple tune Next to the Last Waltz, Dee Dee Ramone’s Chinese Rocks done Johnny Thunders Style (which gave Ambel a chance to relate his first encounter with Thunders, who’d been hogging the men’s room at the Mudd Club so he could shoot up), and a slinky, characteristically funny version of the Hank Williams Jr. sendup Monkey with a Gun. They wrapped up the show with a slow, surfy instrumental that Ambel suddenly attacked with a frenzy of tremolo-picking, only to gracefully bring it back around. And was that the Power Lounger Theme they closed with? That’s a blast from the past. Despite what the indie blogs will tell you, great lead guitar never went away – the great thing about living in New York is that you can see it for the price of a beer and a couple of bucks in the tip jar for the rhythm section.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tandy Live at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 2/22/08

Tonight was a triumph for Tandy. It always feels good to see a band take it to the next level. These guys have come a long ways since their days as densely wordy mid-period Wilco soundalikes in the late 90s. Despite having suddenly lost their (and everybody else’s) lead guitarist Drew Glackin at a young age last month, they’ve regrouped and played an absolutely killer set, one gorgeous song after another. Tandy’s most recent material is their best: slow-to-midtempo, contemplative, lyrically-driven, jangly and richly melodic Americana rock with tinges of southwestern gothic at times. Frontman Mike Ferrio began the set on mandolin and harmonica before switching to acoustic guitar. The new guy they had sitting in on Telecaster provided vividly melodic, tastefully terse fills, Skip Ward played a rare gig on electric bass, and drummer Bruce Martin added some very pretty accordion textures while keeping time on the kick on one song.

Ferrio is an excellent lyricist, writing memorable, understated, image-filled narratives of blue-collar life, his vocals casual and laid-back. One of the early songs, seemingly an antiwar number, morphed into a long, crescendoing vamp on the chorus of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer pop hit Lucky Man. Later they did a couple of long, slow, hypnotically summery numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Giant Sand album. The set was somewhat front-loaded – it seemed that they saved the older material for last for the sake of their fans. The Tandy website notes triumphantly that their latest cd is sold out: unsurprising for a band this good. They’re huge in Europe. If Americana or just plain thoughtful, smart, guitar-based rock is your thing, you owe it to yourself to discover Tandy.

February 25, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Demolition String Band CD Release Show at Rodeo Bar, NYC 11/16/07

If you want to buy something substantial, say, a car or a guitar, you want to take it for a spin. You want to hear what it sounds like. Likewise, it makes no sense to buy a cd sight unseen: no matter who’s putting it out, you need to know if it’s worth it. One surefire way is to hear the songs live: anybody can fix mistakes in the studio, overdub guitars or vocals til the cows come home, but how do the songs stand up without any added embellishments? If this show is any indication, Demolition String Band’s new one Different Kinds of Love completely and totally kicks ass.

X would be the closest comparison for this band. Although Demolition String Band aren’t punk by any stretch, they share the legendary LA band’s love for both American roots music and sheer guitar volume. In an age where rock has actually taken over country radio, this album is particularly well-timed. Tonight they mixed up a bunch of catchy, twangy country tunes with a couple of blazing straight-up rock songs and some dazzlingly played bluegrass.

They opened on the rock tip with Hurt So Bad, featuring a Stonesy Keith Richards-esque intro from Telecaster master Boo Reiners and followed that with the best song of the night. Written by frontwoman Elena Skye – who’s been on something of a tear lately coming up with new material – it rocked all the way through its ominous minor-key intro until they reprised it at the end. Then they invited their friend Rina (Did we spell it right?) to sub the backing vocal part that Mary from Southern Culture on the Skids did on the recorded version of the pretty, traditional country tune I Wanna Wear White.

The band blazed through their reliably crowd-pleasing cover of Madonna’s Like a Prayer – “See, Madonna can write a great country song, she just doesn’t know it,” Skye told the audience – and then returned to their originals with a fast, backbeat-driven song inspired by Skye’s daughter, and then the twangy, midtempo Baby Won’t You Come Home on which Skye switched to mandolin. Reiners took over lead vocals on another relatively new Skye song, the fast, electric bluegrass number Thinking About Drinking, then thry brought it down again with a slow ballad on which Reiners played his heart out with a long solo.

Their cover of the Ola Belle Reed classic Where the Wild Wild Flowers Grow rocked hard, crescendoing with a bluesy 70s rock guitar solo. On the tune after that, Reiners left his wah-wah pedal (or was it a flange?) wide open during another long solo, letting his tone phase in and out and the way he made the melody work with it was as impressive as it was amusing. After a fast bluegrass instrumental followed by their excellent new song Drinking Whiskey (a tribute to bootleggers, it seems, carefully explaining how “you got your selling, and your drinking whiskey”) they closed their long, exuberant first set with the old bluegrass standard True Love Never Dies. As if to check to see how hard the crowd was listening, Reiners threw in several sly Beatles quotes, then they sped it up almost doublespeed, finally wrapping it up as he played the big hook from Hendrix’ Little Wing. Party music doesn’t get much more clever or entertaining than this. Lookout Nashville, here they come. CDs are currently available online for pre-order or at shows (Demolition String Band usually play Rodeo Bar at least once a month when they’re not on the road playing with SCOTS or some other good country touring band).

November 19, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Concert Review: The Sloe Guns at Arlene Grocery, NYC 10/5/07

Bad segue city: the opening band was a heavy metal act straight out of Spinal Tap, carefully coiffed long hair obscuring their sweaty faces, all metal studs, skintight jeans and leather, preening and screeching. After they finished, the room emptied out completely, and as they left, it became obvious that most of the crowd was children. Not the trust fund children armed with cellphones and their parents’ credit cards clogging the streets outside. These were rugrats, ten-year-olds at best. Maybe somebody’s big brother is in the band and the whole fifth-grade class took a field trip up from Teaneck to see him. No wonder the door guy didn’t card me (although the girl inside taking money was tweaking hard – crystal meth? – and with shaking hands tried to stamp my shirtsleeve. Hands off, bitch, I wanted to tell her. That was a birthday present).

The Sloe Guns battled an awful sound mix for the better part of an hour, and though they ultimately lost, it was like watching the Yankees lose to the Red Sox in the fifth game of the 2004 playoffs. Everybody was firing on all cylinders for that one, remember? Even Esteban Loaiza was good that night. But there was a 500-pound gorilla in the room named David Ortiz, and tonight the gorilla was a sound guy who carries about as much weight as the Red Sox slugger, but on a frame half the size. When the direct input box on the bass amp broke, resulting in a couple of songs being played with little if any bottom end, the rotund little guy huffed and puffed his way onto the stage but didn’t do anything about it. Exasperated, the bass player plugged straight into the amp and turned his beautiful black Danelectro Lyre copy bass up really loud, just to be safe. So did the sound guy pay attention and bring up the vocals to compensate? Hell no.

But this lit a fire under the band. “Thanks for nothing, asshole,” muttered the frontman under his breath. A lot of bands sound best when they’re pissed off, and the Sloe Guns might be one of them. The remainder of the show was a blazing success, given the sonic limitations. The band had promoted the show as being all new material, and while they did a couple of older numbers, the time they’ve spent writing has not been wasted. A lot of the new songs are more straight-ahead, anthemic, meat-and-potatoes rock in a somewhat similar vein as Willie Nile, driven by riffs and hooks as opposed to the Sloe Guns’ usual twang. They even played a pop song with a surprisingly complex verse, complete with jazz chords, and pulled it off.

Then they took it to the next level. The frontguy switched guitars, running an acoustic into his Fender amp, and they launched into the most beautiful new song I’ve heard this year. It’s a gorgeously swaying, sad country song, melodically very similar to Son Volt’s Tearstained Eye. The Sloe Guns’ lead guitarist is a tremendous slide player, and the solo he played, all unexpected passing tones, was absolutely heartwrenching. And the band didn’t lose any steam afterward, following with their classic 2004 kiss-off anthem Guardian Angel, from their most recent full-length album, another slide guitar-driven number:

You’d never stab me in the back
Unless you thought that I deserved it
You’d always protect me if I was attacked
Unless you could avoid it
All the kindest of hearts you always had on display
That’s why every night I get down on my knees and pray
You’re not my guardian angel

They closed with a stomping, Stonesy new one on which they went round the horn with closing licks at the end, first the lead guitar, then the bass, then the drums, then back to the head and boom, it was over. As lousy as a lot of the experience was: why can’t this sometimes great-sounding club find a reliable sound engineer? – it was bracing to watch these guys fight and claw their way through the set. Take a chance on this band’s next gig Oct 27 at 10 PM at the Baggot Inn. The sound can’t be any worse than it was here.

October 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments