Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Cody ChesnuTT - Landing On a Hundred

Helmet Heaven

He really does sound like Marvin Gaye. He really does sound like sixties soul. He really does wear that helmet.

This one is simple: listen to opener ‘Till I Met Thee and especially carefully to its solo closing, though by that stage you will have no aural choice in the matter, and you are already hooked, and then the funky second I’ve Been Life will bumpdancemove you out of your reverie into another. You’re wholly on the ride now. Enjoy the journey.

Last night’s Later.....With Jools Holland will have confirmed, and Friday’s edition [apologies for referring to ‘Saturday’ in previous posts] will consolidate. That’s if you haven’t already listened to the album and drooled. 

Our Halloween

Razorblades inside the popcorn balls, LSD secreted in the
candy – here was the horror story on Halloween
back in the 60s where kids in white sheets and carrying
brown paper sacks more safely walked their neighbourhoods
without parents and in the certain hope of bulging bags filled with
a different kind of deadly.
                                            So much older and not there now,
I wonder at those same streets: escorts with guns
who might shoot anyone who doesn’t give because this is our
ritual; checking for messages on the inside of wrappers [like
calls to worship another god than ours]; strange scared faces at
curtains ignorant about years of these festivities and the dangers
we can imagine but at least call our own, or subliminals unlike
ours about sugar and the other sweet certainties of who we are.

Joshua James - Build Me This [noisetrade free download]

 Mouth of the Gift Horse

The gospel stomp of Coal War that opens Joshua James’ second album Build Me This, released in 2009, is a strong start with its potent ensemble vocals. What follows is quite a mix of loud and soft, slow and fast, acoustic and electric eclecticism. His voice can be wispy in that way where affectation resides, but I think it is just how he sounds, so you’ll either like or wince at times. Third song Weeds, an acoustic folk number, has the Ray Lamontagne about it, at a higher register, the accompanying harmony vocal adding variation. Fifth Mother Mary, with its fuzzed guitar start, picks up the pace as it pounds out more of a rock stomp. It is an album, however, dominated by the vocal which is ultimately an acquired taste. This is, I know, a reserved review, but I do recommend as a free download from noisetrade, who I have promoted before. James is clearly keen to get his work out there again, and this album is quite listenable, with Coal War on its own worth the time to avail yourself of the free gesture. And that song/performance does indicate the promise there.

New England Patriots vs St Louis Rams, Wembley Stadium, London, 28th October, 2012

Boris Style

Great to be at the Wembley NFL game again, and for the Patriots to win - the especial thrill to see such a great quarterback like Tom Brady playing, as well as the partnership he has with Rob Gronkowski.

In the end, it wasn't much of a game with the Patriots so dominant, and it was a shame that the Rams' Danny Amendola wasn't playing. Still, his absence was mitigated by the appearance of Boris who increasingly needs to take credit for all that happens in London, especially when it has nothing to do with him, and I like this pic where he appears to have taken over the singing of the national anthem from, as the American announcer pronounced it, Catherine Jeeenkins!

Two games next year - will probably opt for the Steelers vs the Vikings: two teams with significant histories, and played in September when it might be a bit warmer!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Terry Callier - RIP 28th October, 2012

I thought the best tribute to Terry Callier in honour of his death on Sunday, but more importantly his musical legacy, is to repost the brief if key part of my review of one of his albums. Perhaps that very brevity, unusual for me, is also a fitting tribute to how easy he was to praise:

Lookin' Out is the essence of cool with its jazzsmooth and occasional soulfunk grooves caressing around short spoken poetic interludes [Truth in Tears]. It is the sweetest of sweet sounds, and Callier's voice is truly interpretive and soothingly soulful, as on Blues for Billie Holliday and the sensual Beatles cover And I Love Her that exudes the title's declarative with tenderness.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Simon McBride - Crossing The Line

Don't Mention Rock Royalty

The plentiful avowals for Simon McBride’s rights to various rock thrones – Rory Gallagher, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Rogers to name a few principalities – are as potentially sound as any other predictive plaudits out there. Indeed, with loads of fine retro-rock bands also offered up to usurp their precursors, the fact that Simon McBride as a solo artist can give so many a regal run for their arrogations adds armour to the king-in-waiting accolades.

It is first and foremost his guitar playing that places him so high in the critical if not yet widely public ascendency. Two solid previous albums, debut Rich Man Falling [2008] and Since Then [2010], proffer plenty of credence to his Heavy bloodline, and current release Crossing The Line turns this into a triumvirate’s play for power.

Leaving aside this monarchy metaphor – before I lose my head [sorry, just that last one....] – McBride’s current album displays all the requisites for positive recognition at the very least. His guitar work is varied in its excellence, but essentially blues-based, and there is that felicity of playing that comes with such natural talent. Whether shredding or riding rock riffs, he quite simply succeeds. This is complemented by a strong and maturing vocal that can growl as well as carry a ballad with emotional depth, for example on the bluesy Starve the Fever.

I’ll focus first on the one cover on this album: Blood, Sweat and Tears’ Go Down Gamblin’ gets a guitar and organ revamp from the horn-driven original, and McBride’s guitar solo is a jaunty interlude in a pounding whole. His vocal is fine enough too, and who would dream anyway of attempting to better Clayton-Thomas? Interestingly, the next track No Room To Breathe has McBride exercising his vocal range with considerable umph just to prove that this too is a full part of the package, here ably supported by Mia Simone in the chorus. I started with that one cover because on his debut album he did take the significant risk of giving versions of Free’s Be My Friend and Hendrix’s Power of Soul, both perilous challenges successfully met.

On this album, opener Lead Us Away sirens itself in with a guitar wail and then a thumping beat beneath harmonised vocals, and the guitar solo loops then dances around that chugging rhythm; sixth track Alcatraz has a Latin brass introduction before it moves into its funky chorus-driven rhythms, and the guitar solo here is tightly controlled. There is a melodic focus in many of these songs, as in seventh One More Try, and thus extended guitar rips are not on offer. Indeed, eighth A Rock and a Storm is an acoustic ballad, but the guitar plucking is an equal delight. Penultimate track Home To Me is another slow chugger where the vocal, organ, harmonica and harmonies matter as much as the sweet solo near its end. The album finishes on a reworking of Down to the Wire from McBride’s middle album.

In reality, the various crowns on offer are much too heavy for McBride to wear, especially just for the sake of it. As an Irish guitar maestro, it’s easy enough to understand why the robes of Gallagher and Moore are on offer, but in as much as I find myself complimenting rather than raving in the above paragraph, I don’t think he should be given a King’s spectre to haunt his career. And I apologise for returning to the allusions as well as delivering that smartass pun.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Greg Brown - Hymns To What Is Left

Baritone Brown

One of my all-time favourite song narratives is Greg Brown’s Ina Bell Sale from his 2000 Over and Under album. Its surreal and wickedly comic storyline is bolstered by the gravitas of Brown’s baritone and the disturbing Bo Ramsey guitar soundscapes. It is a lyric I have used to stimulate students’ creative writing, telling the reader Ina Bell’s side of her story. Just for the fun of it, here it is to read, and I do encourage an actual listen,

InaBell is dead, Savior, and we pray that Thou wouldst give us the strength
to lift her and carry her to her grave. InaBell is dead, and, Jesus, we'll
never again hear her gravel-on-the-window voice, her tail-in-the-door
voice. We'll never again see her goiter shake like an old apple in a
windstorm. InaBell is dead and gone home to Thee, oh Precious
Lord. Welcome her with open arms and spread 'em wide. She's dead, oh
Precious Lamb, we're sure of it this time. She went over in her kitchen
with a thud, scattering her Chicken Surprise for her ill-tempered, little,
pop-eyed, slobbering dog, who ate most of it. InaBell is dead and gone and
left us here to carry on and carry her big, fat, annoying ass out to the
grave and bury her deep so she won't get up even in dreams to HOLLER HER
INABELL!. I bet she was hard to lift, even for Thee.

InaBell is dead. She killed her husband, poor old Pete. She screamed and
hollered him to death with her helium woodpecker voice, pulled at him and
yelled at him and hit him and screamed at him until he had fits and slapped
his own face and talked in tongues (talks in tongues) at the dinner

There's a big sale on Tuesday. Big sale on Tuesday, who will buy her angry
purse, forty pounds of frozen pot pies? Who will buy her stiff hairnets
for failed perms, her fly-speckled glasses? Who will buy her girdle that
didn't? Who will buy her hippo bra, and her nylons that woulda fit
pylons? Hey!
who'll give me sumpin' for this SHIT?! Who'll buy the little plastic
church that used to light up, the busted pink hairdryer, and half a carton
of menthol cigarettes? Who will buy her cracked bowling ball and enough
knickknacks to sink the Titanic?! Who will buy her sidewalk made out of
storm doors and cardboard and a blown Pontiac full of sparrows and
saplings? Oh, who will buy? Who will buy? Step right up! Who will
buy? Who will buy? Who will buy?

Put a big ol' stone on top of her that says, "InaBell finally shutup and
kicked the bucket!" Big sale on Tuesday.

This is by way of a lengthy preamble for a quick reference to Brown’s latest release Hymns To What Is Left. The baritone is now at times more full of gravel than it ever was, and this won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes. But it is distinctive, and the Ramsey production continues to add able support and atmosphere, for example on the haunting slide of second track Besham’s Bokerie which startles – and I mean really startles – as Brown sings in a fulsome falsetto. Another great and beautiful track is All Of Those Things. Brown continues his knack of mixing the sublime with the ridiculous, and this lovely track is followed by the humorous Fatboy Blues, a poetic encapsulation of obesity: I looked down and I couldn’t even see my shoes - Houston we have a situation and I have got the fatboy blues; and later I am the Walrus.

The title track is another one graced by Brown’s baritone at its smoothest, talking best, with Ramsey supporting Greg’s simple acoustic guitar with his own slide and reverb. Moments like these will stop you in your tracks for a mesmerised listen. Indeed the clutch of four songs HTWIL, Good To You, On The Levee and Hanging Man are consummate in their measured, poetic storytelling with Brown’s wonderfully dominant vocal and Ramsey’s subtle guitar echoings.