Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Coming back home to you

CLIFTON CHENIER "On My Way (Back Home to You)"

All our thoughts are of course with those in Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere that got messed up by this damn storm. Of the many, many cultural charms that area's given the world, Chenier's one of the best known, I know. But this song is the only one I have here on my computer with easy access right now. It's a single recorded in 1955 for Specialty, an especially R&B-ish track by the accordionist. Hope you like.

Friday, August 26, 2005

And I hope that your old lady got a hundred and fifty toes

CLARENCE 'GATEMOUTH' BROWN "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose"

This song, written by Neal Merritt and popularized by Little Jimmy Dickens, sums up what I want to say to anyone who crosses my path today.

My mom's little house in Kendall, FL got thrashed by this sneaky hurricane Katrina yesterday. I spoke with her last night as rain poured in through every room, trashing her rugs, computer, and damn I wish I'd been there to help. Looks like a trip to Miami is in short order. Showed up broke to my pal's show last night and was not on the list; didn't feel like pulling Baboon Dooley moves to get in either. Did some work for free for a friend and he's upset with how I did it.

Meanwhile, no freelance checks showed up today, I'm in lots of physical pain (more than usual by far) and I'm frustrated at my own work pace--seems like I'm working all the friggin' time but not getting anything done. Argggh. This tune is from the Charly collection of Brown's 1965 recordings, San Antonio Ballbuster, which may not be essential but it sure is making me feel better right now. Huzzahhhhhh.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

He will surely bring you out.

BLIND ROOSEVELT GRAVES "Take Your Burdens To The Lord"

A nice, downright jaunty version of this tune by one of the stars of all raw pre-war gospel blues collections. For me, Wash Phillips cut the definitive version (a close second to Blind Willie Johnson), but this one sure is nice. Like I said, it's jaunty!

PS: Who else would love to see the discourse on gospel rise above fucking Sesame Street level writing? Why didn't they have Opal Louis Nations write this piece? He's so totally the best writer on gospel it's not funny -- dude can write for a mass audience, too. And everyone acts like Anthony Heilbut is totally the shit when he's not that great a writer, he's just like the only gospel critic to/ for most people. Arggggggghhh. I'm not dissing Mr. Heilbut, really. I just wish this were a music that had more writing about it that was either not so jive-ass and hokey and always at the very same introductory level or else so damn scholarly it'll make you piss yourself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

All money will be useless

MARKOS VAMVAKARIS "Those Who Have Plenty of Money"

I'm really feeling the Greek music from the '30s lately, specifically Rembetica/ Rebetika/ howeverthfuckyouspellit stuff, the "greek underworld music" not so wrongly referred to as "Greek blues" rather often. This song is from the excellent 1998 Rounder collection Bouzouki Pioneer: 1932-1940, a record I got on a whim with trade-in money seven years ago in Tennessee and barely listened to until recently. (When you have too much stuff you don't really need to go shopping, you just look more closely at your own things...)

Vamvakaris was a self-described "hooked on hashish" dude who lived in the poorest section of the island of Syros. He hated working in the slaughter houses and by his own admission just plain didn't want to work at all. (We've all worked and we've all read Bob Black, so we can relate to that right?) When Markos heard someone play the bouzouki, he was transfixed, vowed to himself he'd "cut off his hand with a cleaver if he didn't play one within six months." In another six months he was a self-taught prodigy on the instrument, though he says he could not tune it himself for years. He instantly began writing his own songs, most within the Rebetika tradition, mournful tales of women and drinking and drugging and all that good stuff.

This song was cut in Athens in 1936. The lyrics go: Those who have a lot of money/ I wish they knew what to do with it/ Do they think that when they die/ It can be taken with them?/ In my pocket I never have/ Two coins to rub together/ And all my troubles go away/ Only when I'm really stoned/ Since there in that other world/ All money will be useless/ Why do they worship it so/ And why do they not spend it?/ Why do they worship it so/ and not have it just to blow it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Buoyed by a good-will cloud

MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL "I Wished I Were In Heaven Sitting Down"

From a session produced and recorded by Alan Bates in Como, Mississippi on December 1st, 1965 comes this nice version of this traditional song. All instrumental, just electric bottleneck slide and stomping foot. Taken from the album Mississippi Blues on Black Lion, a swell album notable for vocals by Fred's wife Annie on two tunes; a laudanum-paced "Train I Ride"; and a cracking, lengthy, down and dirty version of Big Bill Broozy's "Louise" that's easily one of this master's finest moments.

She said she was coming home

ELMORE JAMES "Sunnyland"

What to make of artists who basically create the same work over and over again, slight variations here and there? I live with this rad couple who have a three year-old and a newborn, and the three year-old loves repetition. My nephew's almost seven now and I'd almost forgotten the genius of Teletubbies, how they'll stop and rewind a full six minutes and show everything all over again. From a production standpoint it's a winner, of course, but I think the show's attention to the three R's was a large part of its appeal (eal rabbits cavorting across a fake set was genius, and that baby inside the sun was pretty damn cool too.)

This song was originally a single on the Fire label in 1961; no one's gonna pretend it's Elmore James' most riveting and original performance by any means but that is precisely why I like it so. When you've already got your recipe just right, why fuck around with it?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Swims in autumn


This is my favorite song today. Birdbrain should be on the cover of Wire, like, yesterday.

How's it going and stuff? I'm loving life despite the eerie and relentless heat-producing activity of the Portland summer sun; how did I ever live in Miami again? speaking of light, I can see the one at the end of the tunnel with the MBV book, YETI 3 (I know, I know...), and am really psyched about the new publishing imprint I'm starting with Verse Chorus Press, especially since the first title will be a collection of LUC SANTE's cultural criticism. Yeah, no shit! We're also doing books with Jana Martin, Michael Macioce, and Alan Greenberg. And me (best-of book/ CD of my old 'zine, all proceeds going to a rad local treatment center that specializes in treating "untreatables": repeat relapsing street-level addicts and alcoholics). I'm curating art shows again, am seeing a girl I really like a lot (naw, scratch that, I love and adore this girl I'm just trying to not sound too crazy or nothing), and I just found out that two of the YETI covers were included in this book, which is awesome. I often find out about things pretty late...

I hope to find every single thing that Tuli Kupferberg ever released on Birth Press, and do facsimile editions of them all (with Tuli's permission of course). Tuli was pumping out these amazing broadsides (weird thematical books that drew from a vast array of sources in some proto-Internet hoodoo-anarchist tip) on mimeograph machines with Ray Johnson and others doing art. The guy was always a bit of a clown, but I fear he's never gotten his due. (Remind me to watch WR: Mysteries of the Organism again soon to catch his genius appearance int hat OK?) I'd also love to do a lavish and perfectly-printed Unica Zurn book. Man, that would rule! Her work is so creepy, spiritual, visceral, sexual, compulsive and somehow undeniably beautiful--everything I like, all in one place! Yesss.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

And from her branches carelessly...

ANNE BRIGGS "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme"

This song is from the Decca Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 2 album. It can also be found on the Anne Briggs Collection CD on Topic, which I recommend strongly. There's a thoughtful review that comes from a very strange viewpoint (to me) of that comp. here (how can they think she's not a great singer?).

Briggs was an allegedly "wild" singer in the early '60s who primarily worked a capella and took some liberties with traditional songs. She didn't sing the way she was supposed to, didn't act the way she was supposed to, and she stopped singing at the age of 27 after only have recorded three LPs. She simply disliked the way she sounded on records, and in the early '70s she apparently fell prey to Bartleby Syndrome and moved to Scotland to raise her kid.

As a result, she wound up just being a huge influence on pretty much every single female British folksinger in the '60s (certainly any of them who went 'electric') but remains fairly unknown today... I started to say she's analogous to Karen Dalton in her own way, until I realized that's just wrong. Anyway, this review of her 1971 album The Time Has Come is pretty cool.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I am you and you are me

BIG BOYS "Sound on Sound"

Perhaps my favorite song by this Austin-based '80s band, offered up here in tribute to Randy 'Biscuit' Turner, who was found dead in his home yesterday, the week that there's a big cover story on him (centered mostly on his visual work) in the Chronicle . Damn.

I like this quote by Randy (from the above article) a lot: "I'm very saddened by the pain in the world and overjoyed at the mundane." The MP3 is linked to from our friends at Moistworks, where I'm a sometime contributor. I'm really sad about this. Don't know what else to say.

Of all the tributes to Biscuit, I'm most drawn right now to Ed Ward's, here. I like how Ed calls Biscuit a queer icon in punk rock at a time when that scene really needed one...

The viola thing is actually a strange descendednt of a Portugese guitar

JOSE DE LA LUZ "Samba (Moda de Viola)"

Whatever happened to the Endangered Music Project, the collaborative release project between Mickey Hart, Alan Jabbour, the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, and Rykodisc? Is it totally dead or what? (And on a related note, how come there are no more new Secret Museum of Mankind releases?! -- And will someone please make podcasts of their WFMU shows? That would rule.)

This song is taken from a CD called The Discoteca Collection: Missão de Pesquisas Folclóricas. It collects Brazilian 78s made in 1938 in Brazil by a WPA-style folk/ ethnographic initiative there. Some of the digital transfers are a bit overzealous in the way they "clean up" the sound (while erasing some of the actual music) but that's something one has to deal with when listening to collections like this from the early to mid 1990s. When a technology is first introduced in the arts it often gets overused (i.e. Beatles-style stereo separation versus what people do now). Um, but you knew that already.

I am absolutely in love with these two short songs.

Music for sleeping and bathing


Last night I DJ'ed at the club Holocene, in-between, before and after sets by Samara Lubeski, Portland Vampires, Tara Jane O'Neill, and World. I love DJ'ing at a club where the sound system is really good; it makes such a huge difference when you can totally hear every little tweak of the EQ; it also means you can't be too sloppy, and I don't think I was. World is music people really need to hear: stellar floating freeform lovely space-out mostly-improvised "freedom music" made by Adam Forkner and Honey Owens -- who quickly became two of my favorite people in Portland after moving here last year. We'd not seen each other in a few weeks so it was rad to catch up, and Adam had finished copies of the new album by his solo project White Rainbow, the Zome CD on States Rights, on hand.

Adam, who used to be in Yume Bitsu and had his band (((VVRRSSNN))) or whatever the hell it was called for awhile and who currently is in Jackie-O some of the time and who has toured with Devendra Banhart and Landing and Surface of Eceon before will soon have a six disc box set on the Marriage label, one of the discs a DVD with a half hour video created by E*Rock based a little bit on stills Adam took of stuff by folks like Jordan Belson. I can't wait to see it. Next month Adam is gonna do an installation as part of PICA's Time Based Arts Festival where he Vito Acconcis your LaMonteYoung (translation: dreamy drone spiritual type music performed by dude who doesn't leave the space for the entire time).

Today's tune (from an out of print CD-R) is actually a stolen link so go gentle on Adam's server, please. The Zome disc, upon a cursory listen, appears to have lovely ambient pop tunes and slow drone jams and at least one of the songs is dedicated to Eugene Levy. It was made a few years ago but is definitely tasty lullabye music with a sense of humor and self-awareness (the Kluster/Neu!-ish jam is called "Germany.") Huzzah.

In more Portland-is-on-fucking-fire-and-please-don't-write-about-it-unless-it's-to-make-fun-of-it- in-VICE-'cause-we-really-don't-need-too-many-people-to-know-about-it-'cause-things-like
-this-tend-to-happen-much-more-interestingly-in-some-level-of-isolation-you-dig-? news, E*Rock and Eric Johnson's new vinyl-only label via Wieden & Kennedy, Fryk Beat, has launched and the first two releases are by Panther and Bobby Birdman, two of the suavest dudes to ever be suave. Charlie AKA Panther/ singer for Planet The makes radtacular music; the MP3 on their site of his song is like Prince stuck in a really bad K hole. And that "cardboard" video for the song? Sublime, motherfucker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's a game called Keep Away

GO TEAM "Archer Come Sparrow"
GO TEAM "Loneliness March"
GO TEAM "Wonderbirds"

This band was mentioned the other day in a mailing list I post to twice a year, and I obviously referenced 'em myself yesterday, then realized peeps have never heard them (which makes sense as they've never been reissued for some crazy reason) so here's a taste. A crummy sounding taste, but a taste nonetheless. Listening to these songs now, they make me think of a junior high garage band trying to sound like early Pell Mell, their vaguely creepy but lovable shop teacher occasionally singing on top of it all. Awesome!!!

Man I wish I still had these singles -- the packaging alone was gorgeous -- one-sided 7"s with a different month silscreened on the blank side of each, then packaged in a plastic bag like some fancy treat. There was supposed to be one a month, but you know how these things go... (I think I have some of the earlier cassette tapes somewhere too, gotta find those!) FYI, Mike Appelstein's great article remains the first and last word on the band.

PS: Someone explain to me why George Kuchar's beyond-classic Hold Me While I'm Naked is not on DVD. I know it's a short, but sheesh!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

This song has no lyrics or nothing

MAD SCENE "Instrumental Song #1"

About two years ago, I got this rad disc of unreleased and in-progress songs from Hamish Kilgour by the band he and his wife Lisa Siegel have had for some time now, the Mad Scene. When my then-label-partner was not at all interested, I knew for certain we had to part ways. Yes, you could call it a moment of clarity...

So this song is a perfect hot sidewalk, running to the store for a Strawberry Shortcake popsicle kind of a song. It reminds me a bit of the Go Team, the original Olympia supergroup and the only band edging out the Alpaca Brothers and World of Pooh for desperate-need-of-reissue-hood. Hamish, his brother David, and Robert Scott comprise The Clean, but you already knew that seeing as they're the best band ever. That's right -- I said ever.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Snatch my spirits back

GHOST "Guru in the Echo"

In 1990, my friends and I (Fabio Roberti and William Berger in particular, one of whom --I forget which-- was the first to turn me on to the thing when it was first released in Japan on PSF) couldn't believe a band in Japan had so wonderfully distilled the "free folk" and druggy German psych-rock we were digging a lot then. Not that we thought we were the only ones listening to this stuff or anything -- any look at a Bananafish or Forced Exposure from that era showed that this stuff was already pretty big (amongst a certain scene anyway) before Other Music opened up or the first Stereolab 10"s came out.

These records weren't yet insanely expensive, that's for sure -- I was in Germany in 1990 and never paid more than $8 for anything on Brain -- including four different versions of the first Neu! album, brought back for friends... Apologies for slipping into record geekageness. My point is that it was a total shock to hear someone make their own, awesome sound based more than a little bit on the propulsive freakouts of Amon Duul One.

The first Ghost album was/ is just so fucking good, and so unlike anything else being made at the time (that we knew of anyway). Drag City once again showed total acumen in releasing it over here... I like Dungen and Comets on Fire as much as anyone -- in fact I kind of love those bands -- but I've never felt that they totally shook out the past and reconnected it to the present in as weird, and weirdly spiritual, a way as Ghost did. That was lazily written but I have to get back to my real work and stop procrastinating, so it shall have to remain in such a half-assed form as that. The word "procrastinate" reminds me -- I have a copy of the Ghost DVD that I've never watched. I know what I'm doing later on!

NOTE: I've decided to post only decent quality MP3s from here on out. As I only have 20 megs of free online storage these days, that means at most about three songs will be available at a time.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Everybody gathers 'round and they eat it by the pound

MARIKA PAPAGIKA "I'll Smash the Glasses"
MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL "Going Away, Won't Be Gone Long"

Ohh, that's right -- I have an MP3 blog don't I? And people expect me to update it sometimes? Well, OK. Really digging this Rounder comp. from five years ago called Women of Rembetica -- Greek women singing these amazing songs that were part of the "Greek underworld tradition." Apparently, these women were allowed far greater freedom within the world of the Greek mafia than outside of it; a "Rembetisse" was a free spirit. This song was recorded in New York in 1928. The first line is "I'll get drunk and smash the glasses for what you said to me." It's almost like a Greek Geechie Wiley tune or something! (Sample song titles from this collection: "Widow I'm Wild About You," "The Herb that Heals the Heart," "Good Time Girl," Don't Play the Heavy with Me," "The Dervish's Broad.")

There are not many musicians that I want to own everything by anymore -- that I need to own everything by, I should say. Fred McDowell is one of them, though. This song was recorded "one evening in March of 1968 at Chris Strachwitz's house with John Francis on drums." Got nothing but love for Chris Strachwitz and his Arhoolie label. This tune appears on the CD version of This Ain't No Rock N Roll, which you'd best not confuse with I Do Not Play No Rock N Roll.

"Slurf" reminds me of something Peter Orlovsky (probably the best writer from the first wave of Beats -- and if you don't agree with me let's meet at the schoolyard Monday in the parking lot at 3PM okay?) might write. It's fucking awesome. This era of the Rounders -- mid '70s -- is pretty amazing to me; 1976's Have Moicy! is a flawed but fascinating album, the kind of record you can never listen to just once. Yo La Tengo's lovely cover of the record's 'hit' "Griselda" on 1990's Fakebook might have hipped a few kids to this here record -- not sure how that stuff really works, though. I left the excellent new Jarmusch film thinking it must turn thousands of folks into instant Mulatu/ Ethiopiques fans. (Um, right!) One hopes if this does happen that at least they will not be as annoying as the Instant Folk Experts engendered by Oh Brother!-ism /the Anthology reissue...