Thursday, February 06, 2014

That's Not Jazz!

This will be an irregular section of the blog where I prattle on about some of the non-jazz music I have been listening to recently.

Lucinda Williams - self titled (Rough Trade 1988/2014) Singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams had two acoustic folk blues albums for Folkways Records under her belt when the staunchly indie rock label Rough Trade offered her a chance to record a full band album. The resulting self titled LP has been in and out of print over the years, finally getting the deluxe two-CD treatment which includes a remastered version of the original album and a disc of live material. The music on the original album is uniformly excellent, as she melds together roots rock, blues and country into a seamless gumbo, and has an excellent backing band to boot. “I Just Want to See You So Bad” sets the pace of the album with yearning country rocker that is miles away from the poseurs in today’s Nashville. A scalding spiteful rocker “Changed the Locks” sows her lyrics tumbling end over end in a thrilling fashion. There’s a nice cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked For Water” with Williams purring the lyrics in a menacing fashion. The flip-side is “Passionate Kisses” which is the poppiest and most radio-friendly track on the album. Years later she would win a Grammy for this album in the best country song category after Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded it in the mid-1990’s.The second disc is made up of live material from the period, consisting of a well recorded show from the Netherlands and some performances at radio stations. There’s nothing revelatory here, but the live tracks reinforce the power of Williams vocals and songwriting. There is an excellent booklet of liner notes included which talk about the making of the album and Williams’ career. Lucinda Williams - self titled - amazon.com

Uncle Tupelo - No Depression (Legacy 1990/2014) Of all the great rock bands that came blasting out of the midwest in the late 80’s/early 90’s very few can claim to have spearheaded a new musical genre. The idea of “alternative country” was born here and a magazine that would chronicle the movement would take it’s name from this very album. Uncle Tupelo consisted of Jay Farrar on guitar and vocals, Jeff Tweedy on bass and vocals and Mike Heidorn on drums. Combining roaring punk and garage rock with a country twang this is a powerful statement, and the original album is given the deluxe treatment with the inclusion of the group’s Not Forever, Just for Now EP as well as demo recordings. Disc one consists of the original album plus bonus tracks and powerhouse performances where the blasting “Graveyard Shift” and “Factory Belt” are balanced out by the gospel of “No Depression” and the folk/country of “Screen Door.” For a young band, their songwriting was unusually deep and haunting, investigating the themes of dead end jobs, alcoholism and broken hearts as reported from the front lines of playing every bar and dive from St. Louis to St. Paul. The second disc shows how it all came to be with demo recordings and EP material that show the band honing their edge into a powerful and unique sound. There is an very well done liner booklet included with this release also, discussing how the album came together with interviews and press clippings. No Depression (Legacy Edition) - amazon.com

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