Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week of 5/22 - Industrial, EBM, Downtempo, A Cappella

This week is coming around both sides of the spectrum - some very hard industrial and classic EBM sounds, and some very downtempo and A Cappella albums...

New & Recent Releases:

Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 5/22 2012
Genre: Industrial Rock, Industrial

Another year, another KMFDM remix single. This one, unlike some in the past, is closer to a single with only three remixes, an album track, and an unreleased track. Sascha himself takes a crack at the title track, rolling out the old "black man, white man, yellow man, rip the system" line from way way back in history. He does nothing for the track honestly, maybe makes it a little more old-school KMFDM if anything. Morlocks take a kick at Krank, putting their own unique twist on the track, making it a little bigger. And Rotersand takes Come On - Go Off and turn it into a massive monster of a club track. Those two mixes alone are worth the price of entry. The unreleased I (heart) You is, or I feel like it is, leftover from WTF?! that got cut from the album. A creepy little stalker song, honestly. Five tracks, a good size for KMFDM to work with, a good single that works well and KMFDM fans will be happy with it.

Sweet Chemical Boy
Label: self-released (
Released: May 2012
Genre: Industrial, Electro

The album version (not appearing here) of Defibrillator is an oddly cheery little piece of dark work from Angelspit - one of my favorite electro-industrial-punk bands. They put out a contest for remixes of the song and put this 11-track free download remix album out for fans. Now this is exactly what a remix album should be, some of these are completely reconstructed mixes. While not every mix that deviates too far from the original is good (actually, there's a good bet it isn't) anyone who can be really clever with it can go miles. Notably two mixes from Haru Yasumi go that extra mile to really make interesting break downs, one involves a piano. It gets turned into a bit-core song, a club hit, and some interesting takes on the song. As a band that prides itself on deconstructing, and then reconstructing into something new, they pulled out a collection of remixes that fit that ethos nicely. Eleven songs in a row is a bit tedious, so this is best tossed into a big play list.

Wind Down
Label: EMI Special Markets / Starbucks
Released: Spring 2012
Genre: Downtempo, Ambient, Trip-Hop

A mix the wife picked up somewhen along the way, a collection of light ambient and trip-hop songs from a fairly wide selection. Frou Frou, Alif Tree, Ennio Morricone, Groove Armada, Minus 8, Tosca, Slackwax, Thievery Corporation, Moby, Boozoo Bajou, Moodorama, Propellerheads. With the exception of the Moby track (Natural Blues), they went out of the way to go a little further and a little deeper into these artists. Coming out with, as the title and back blurb promise, a softer, slower, collection of songs that fit well together for an album to wind down to. There's nothing exclusive here though, so if you're into the style of music already, chances are you could put together something similar if not exactly this.

Adding To The Collection:
Nitzer Ebb
Industrial Complex
Label: Alpha Matrix
Released: 2010
Genre: EBM, Industrial

After fifteen years Nitzer Ebb put out a new studio album (Body Of Work, which I had picked up immediately was really a big best-of). I saw this come out, and skipped it for a while, finally I really did have to go and see if Nitzer Ebb had anything else to say. They do, Industrial Complex feels like it picks up right where Big Hit left off, actually it goes a little further and feels like it bridges the gap between Ebbhead and Big Hit. The more complex song writing with the occasional foray into that heavy-beat hard-rhythm from their very early stuff.

Pandora Celtica
Out Of The Box!
Label: self-released (
Released: 2010
Genre: A Cappella

Two versions of this album were actually loaded up this week. The normal and Special Edition. More tales of the wee folk and faerie and all that, some sea chanties, and tavern tunes. The regular album is good, keeps things moving, the group here has some amazing chemistry together. No one steps on each other, all five harmonize excellently. The special edition has a few extra tracks, and lots of banter, I think many of the tracks are either unmixed versions or outtakes. It's actually the less interesting of the two - get the regular edition unless you like recording room banter. I always like to see how an independent bands sounds on a recording, sometimes these things are done in a bedroom and you can hear traffic in the background. This wasn't, mixed clear, produced cleanly, and let's the bands voices come across beautifully. The only A Cappella group I follow with any seriousness.

Bonus Track:
Army Of The Universe
I (Heart) You (Remix)
Free from
Along with the five track single, one more remix was dropped. Don't know if it was intended for the album and missed a deadline, or if this was an after the fact remix, but it's officially endorsed by KMFDM and given away on their website. It's a nice big remix of the new I (heart) You song. Everything AOU does makes me fall in love with them more. Get the single, get the remix, and buy the studio album from both bands.

Next Week:
The Shins, I explore the other half of the Broken Bells duo and his rock band. The Rough guide to Celtic Women with a bonus album. The new issue of two previously Japanese only singles from Burial. And the soundtrack to Diablo 3. Listen Hard!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Bessie Smith, Huey "Piano" Smith, Frankie Lee Sims

Another Sunday, another two volumes from the ABC Of The Blues. Volumes 39 and 40.

Bessie Smith
Called The Empress Of The Blues, so it's no wonder she has an entire volume dedicated just to her voice. In 1912 her brother, who had left 8 years prior with a musical troupe, got her an audition to sing - she was hired as a dancer because the troupe had Ma Rainey. From there she moved to theater productions, and started her singing career. And by 1923 had signed to record her singing. Ma Rainey had helped Bessie with stage presence, but not her singing. She made well over a hundred recordings in the 1920s for Columbia and others, with many different bands backing her. By the 1930s, with the depression causing problems, the death of vaudville to talking-movies, Bessie moved to broadway. In the 1930s she switched again, coming up in the jazz era (reports of her being in obscurity by Okeh Record's John Hammond are completely false) and again becoming popular and swinging with many of the outfits of the 1930s. She died in a car accident in 1937 - again a completely false story by John Hammond spread rumors around her death (namely that a black ambulance took her to a white hospital where she was refused service).

Bessie had a big voice. A good number of these recordings were made before they properly mic'd a singer electrically, and even then her voice soars above the music. She's pure, loud, and very early blues at it's best from a female vocalist. Even if she is one of the best blues singers it would have been nice if they had narrowed her collection down to ten instead of giving her a full disc and added another artist. Especially given the general lack of female artists. On these recordings, they are all amazingly clean and clear of pop and hiss from the old records. Which is nice given that by the 1930s she'd switched completely over to jazz and they leave many of those out - only a few tracks I believe come from her post 1920s recordings.

Huey "Piano" Smith
While there's no doubt Huey Smith was an innovative and great piano player - he just barely skirts the idea of the blues. With several R&B Hits in the 1950s, bordering on straight Rock'N'Roll. The great tragedy of Smith's life is that his record company had started to overdub his music with other singers, creating hits for them as his career sank. By 1970 his many attempts at comebacks had taken their toll and he left the music industry permanently.

I almost want to question Huey's inclusion in this collection of Blues artists. Just listening to these ten tracks you can tell he's left a lot of the blues rhythms and styles behind in favor of pure Rhythm and Rock musics. It's all amazingly good, Smith has a way with the piano. A true Rock'N'Roll piano style, without the need to pound the keys he conveys a great deal of energy and danceable rhythm.

Frankie Lee Sims
Frankie was a cousin to Lightnin' Hopkins, and another Texas Blues guitarist. He started his music career in earnest after leaving the Marines post-WW2. He recorded a scant few singles - nine in total - during his 22 year career. While his recordings were few, he was a heavy influence on the electric blues scene in Texas, specifically his home base of Dallas. Posthumously one more single and two compilations of unreleased recordings were put out, more than doubling his recorded available repertoire. Due to the general lack of popularity in the blues in the 1950s he never became a big name in the music scene outside Texas.

He can hear Texas oozing out of his singing, and the guitar work is amazing. Nicely they pulled from both his compilations and singles - A and B-Sides both - to make the collection of ten tracks here. Some of the guitar work almost feels like it belongs in the walkin' blues style, and if you remove the amp there's a thick layer of the country under it. This is classic early blues plugged in, and excellent music.

Next Week: We continue onwards into the box set with Roosevelt Sykes, the massive Son House, Sunnyland Slim, and Johnny Shines.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week Of 5/15 - Rock, Glitch, and House

Alright, bit of a low mix this week, two double disc releases loaded up for my listening pleasure.

New And Recent Releases:
Label: Warp Records
Released: 5/15 2012
Genre: Glitch, Noise, Experimental

A combination of harmonies, tweaks, barely there and then gone again rhythms, and layered melodies usually describes Squarepusher. This release has less layers, a more stripped down approach to the sound-scape, rhythms stay longer and become more identifiable. Even if long and drawn out. It's an excellent piece of music, all the way through, the whole thing never really lets itself fade out. The glitches and tweaks never settle, even when they find a pattern there's the feeling they'll immediately snap out and do something weird. If you want a break from the standard musical concept, but don't want to stray too far off the beaten path, this is a good selection - a return to form for Squarepusher, without actually going backwards.

The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Africa
with Sir Victor Uwaifo
Label: World Music Network
Released: March 2012
Genre: Rock, Psychedelic

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, most of my exposure to anything psychedelic is 60s American Rock Which is mostly hit or miss. This, well, it's mostly funk influenced jazz than rock with too much guitar and a horn section. It's good, listenable and easy to dance to though. It's mostly music from the 60s and 70s from Africa, you can hear the imitation of culture going on, a decidedly not American approach to American funkadelic. It's also surprisingly mellow music. All in all, a good listen, something to put on at parties when you need dance music that isn't all bass rhythms and heavy beats.

I honestly I have no idea where to start with the bonus disc on one. From my understanding Victor Uwaifo was not only a huge influence on Nigerian music in the 60s, 70s, and beyond. As well as businessman, sculptor, and general artist. This is a re-issue of his Ekassa album, all thr tracks are titled with a number. Again, less psychedelic and more funkadelic. Some really smooth guitar rhythms, though.

Adding To The Collection:
David Guetta
One More Love
Label: EMI
Released: 2010
Genre: House

Yep, more house music from David Guetta. This time lots of mixes, remixes, and collaborations. It seems that's his general modus operandi - work with another musician who usually provides vocals. While Guetta is a near master at crafting catchy house-dance rhythms and beats, he's really only half the music here, a step between mix-DJ and actual composer. I can't say I don't like this, it's really catchy almost every song has a good hook. I'm just very unexcited by it in general. Still, if you good club music to round out your collection for a more thumping house party, David Guetta is a good choice, especially as this is a double disc set to keep the music going for a while without worry.

Hidden Track:
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
Do It With A Rockstar
Label: none - Kickstarter Page
Released: 5/16 2012
Genre: Rock, Punk

Not available to the public yet, a preview track from Amanda Palmer's latest project, which is (as of this writing) on Kickstarter with 8 days to go. It's a pretty good track, nothing like her work with Dresden Dolls though. Lots of 80s throwback. If you liked alt-rock from the 80s, and if this is an indication of the whole album, then any fan of that era will love this. Go back the project and get a hardcopy CD for your collection.

Next Week:
The Hard: KMFDM, Nitzer Ebb, Angelspit. The Soft: Pandora Celtica and a downtempo compilation. Listen Hard!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rushing, Tampa Red

Volumes 37 and 38 of the ABC Of The Blues ... onwards!

Jimmy Reed
Many early blues artists are either guitar or harmonica, Jimmy was both, and an early pioneer in electric blues. Moving to Chicago his near-rock rhythmic style of playing gave him a string of minor hits through the 1950s. Though his alcoholism kept him from taking any serious advantage of this and he languished just out of reach of major stardom. During the late 1960s, after his label Vee-Jay shut down, he made somewhat of a living touring the blues and folk festivals of Europe with other contemporaries. But he never did get another hit after the mid 1960s.

While his guitar sounds and feels a lot like rock and roll, and the Rolling Stones even sited him as an influence, it's Jimmy's harmonica and voice that keep his music firmly planted in the blues. A great early electric-blues sound, I like the slow rambling songs the best in this selection.

Otis Rush
Left handed guitarist Otis Rush moved to Chicago to begin playing in the late 1940s. His sound became locally known as 'West Side' Chicago Blues. He started to record in the mid 1950s but really didn't come up until the revival in the 1960s when he began touring the blues festivals. He stopped touring for a short period in the early 80s, made a come back, and toured through the 90s. He didn't release any new material intil 1997, and hasn't recorded or toured since 2004 due to a stroke.

A smooth Chicago style, the recordings here are mostly the early stuff. Several recordings from his days with Cobra Records. If there's a cross between the late Chicago style after Muddy Waters made the scene bigger and the other styles, Otis is it, his distinct guitar sound is long and drawn out, with bent notes. He stands out from a lot of Chicago Bluesmen due to his guitar style.

Jimmy Rushing
James Andrew Rushing was as much a jazz singer as he was a blues singer. In the blues his style was a shouting blues common in Jump Blues. His vocal range was wide, from tenor to baritone. He was able to shout over the horn section if needed. By the 1950s he was recording as much, or more, pure jazz than blues, changing with the times. While he definitely had influence in the blues scene, he's known mostly as a jazz singer, or at least I know him mostly as a jazz singer.

There's a lot of jazz in this section of recordings actually, not quite all his blues releases. A few of his bigger hits are missing, doing the artist justice by digging a little deeper into the back catalog and finding some of the gems.

Tampa Red
Hudson Woodbridge was another Chicago bluesman, with a 40 year career spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s. He started recording in 1928, and through the 1930s was a popular session musician, appearing a many recordings from the era. His loud slide guitar sound from pre-amp days was due to him playing a National resonator guitar, and a signature bottleneck slide style, a precursor to the modern rock guitar solo after a fashion. He had several hits in the 1940s, but between his wife's death (after which he fell into alcoholism) in 1953 and the decline of blues popularity he fell off the grid. He was briefly a part of the blues revival in the 1960s, though his last actual recoding was in 1960 he toured for a time. He finally passed away in 1981, destitute in Chicago, having never made a major comeback.

A slow moving guitar and harmonica blues set here, a very classic Chicago Blues sound. They did manage to find a bunch of his solo work, not just the several hundred recordings he sat in on as a session musician. Tampa Red can literally be found on almost every major artists recordings sometime in the 30s and 40s, getting his solo stuff is nice. His voice isn't rough, but it's not really the smoothness of Rushing or Rush here, very middle, very good blues.

Next week... Bessie Smith gets her own volume, Huey "Piano" Smith, and Frankie Lee Sims.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Week Of 5/9 - Folk, House, Industrial

This week is a bunch of David Guetta, Sara Watkins, and Unter Null....

New Releases:
Sara Watkins
Sun Midnight Sun
Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: 5/9 2012
Genre: Folk, Americana, Pop

There's something interesting happening when I listen to this album. First, I was hoping for more of the fiddle Watkins is known for, never had heard her before and being a fan of a good fiddle. Alas, there is very little here aside from the opening instrumental song. After that, the album is good. Very listenable, the whole thing is oddly familiar though. I spend a moment or two on each song thinking 'hey, I know that...' and of course it's just triggering the idea of a different song. Her voice is familiar in so many different ways, like a dozen different artists, without actually being derivative or copying them. It's a very odd feeling having that many "I know this artist, I just can't place them" moments. But it's good, because it's not copying, just... familiar. Weird. Honestly, very weird. But I like her, and will be finding more of her work in hopes of hearing that fiddle some more.

Adding To The Collection:
David Guetta 
Nothing But The Beat
Label: Capitol / Astralwerks
Released: 2011
Genre: House, Techno

Of the Guetta albums I picked up, this one is the best. It's a solid throwback to 90s House without sounding dated and repetitive. I think it's mostly due to the sheer number and talent of the collaborating artists here. There's a lot of good stuff going on here, lots of poppy and catchy tunes, solid dance floor bouncers. Could do with less autotuned and modified vocals though, drowning a good vocalist in electronic distortion is just annoying. If you want a harmless dance-techno album to have on hand, this is a good choice.

David Guetta
Just A Little More Love / Pop Life
Label: EMI
Released: 2010
Genre: House, Techno

This is a double album re-issue of two Guetta albums - his first and third (2002 and 2007) albums. An odd choice to skip the second studio album in a double re-issue like that. I never really got into Guetta before, and listening to both these albums in full I can say I'm still not into his early stuff. Taking each in turn quickly.

Just a Little More Love is a nearly completely unimaginative facsimile of mid 90s house music of the most generic type. It is pure pop-techno, radio friendly and while you can dance to it, the DJ probably puts a bigger bassline behind it.

Pop Life, bit comparison, is a definite progression in ideas, sound, and form. This time taking the better parts of 90s House, less pop-techno, and tossing a little more variety into the mix. Five years did wonders for the style and form of Guetta's music here. It's still kind of generic feeling, but has enough variety to make it a decent enough album.

Unter Null
Moving On
Label: Alfa Matrix
Released: 2010
Genre: Industrial

The third album release, and the second on Alfa-Matrix, thought lost in a fire. The music is dark, a little foreboding, heavy and, at times, liberating and uplifting. A general theme of moving past poisonous relationships and ideas permeates, even as some of the lyrics are full of invective statements they still convey a sense of relief. A kind of catharsis comes through the heavy, if mostly slow, music. And some of it kicks up a notch, like the Obligatory Club Hit To Appease The Masses. A kind of manifesto for the album on the idea of appeasing fans instead of playing for them. It's really a great album, and her voice is not the standard female vocals, even stripping the layers of effects her voice is a little deeper, darker, than most acts. There's an unkindness coming through that fits the Industrial genre so well, I highly recommend this album.

Bonus Track:
Army Of The Universe
Take Control
Genre: Industrial-Rock

Army Of The Universe is one of my favorite new bands to emerge in the last couple years with a full release. Their album is great stuff, and this track had to get left off originally. Luckily they released it free for fans, and it's just more of the same great industrial-rock their album is full of. Seriously, you need to check out this band, I think they'll just keep getting bigger and better in the next few years.

Next Week:
More David Guetta, a double remix album. The new KMFDM single, taking one of the stronger tracks from WTF?! And .... well, I'll leave the rest as a surprise (meaning I randomly choose from my pile of waiting music next week).

Listen Hard!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Charley Patton, Snooky Pryor, Professor Longhair, Junior Parker

This week on the ABC Of The Blues we go both way back into some old blues, and deep into the heart of R&B... Volumes 35 and 36.

Charley Patton
Charley was an early blues artist, from the turn of the century before there really was a formal blues movement. His would be considered in the Delta and Country blues genres today. He died in 1934 in Mississippi, where he lived all his live. He was considered a great showman playing his guitar on his knees, or behind his head. His big gravelly voice is a direct inspiration for Howlin' Wolf as well. His recording career last barely twenty years, but still produced well over a hundred recordings with him on it, many of them with groups as well as solo.

All his recordings existed on early 78s (the speed of which wasn't always 78RPM), and thus some of the songs here have a pretty high hiss presence on them. None so distracting you can't hear the music. Charley's early blues is part of the genesis of the genre, and some of it is most folksy than bluesy. All excellent guitar work though, all of it.

Snooky Pryor
A harmonica blues player from Mississippi, James Edward Pryor moved to Chicago in 1940. He didn't start recording until his discharge from the army in 1945. His claim is he started the trend of early amplified harmonicas by cupping a small mic in his hands while playing, though early recordings don't use this technique. He played continuously until his death in 2006.

The recordings here are all older ones, mostly from the 40s and 50s. They skip some of his later hits, and even a few of his early ones, in favor of digging a little deeper into the catalog to find some excellent examples of both late Delta and early Chicago Blues.

Professor Longhair
Henry Roeland Byrd is a Louisiana musician, known in his early days for the beginnings of R&B, and later on for a resurgence in Jazz in New Orleans. His early career lasted through the fifties, the early hey day of Rhythm and Blues music, but by the early 60s his career faltered. Like so many others he was pre-empted by a sharp rise in rock and roll and wasn't close enough to traditional blues to really get in on that revival. In the early 70s he started to work the Jazz Festival circuit and say a revival of his career in a different genre.

The music here focuses on his early R&B recordings. This is the early R&B which is much closer to jump and boogie blues than what later became R&B music. All good music here, including one of his major hits Go To The Mardi Gras. This is mostly what I think of when I think R&B music, a slightly faster pace, no forgetting the blues roots, but letting the Rhythm part really take over.

Junior Parker
There's conflicting information on where he was born, Junior Parker was a Blues and Gospel singer, another harmonica player. His career wasn't huge, especially since it was a short twenty years from 1951 to 1971. But he had minor success where others fell into complete obscurity, mostly on the southern blues circuit where his harmonica and gospel playing helped. He charted well with his music in the R&B charts through the mid 60s.

Like the previous Professor Longhair, a lot of the music here falls on the Rhythm side of R&B, even though Junior was considered more a straight blues musician that rhythm and blues artist. There's lots of boogie blues in his music here. Junior's voice is incredibly smooth, and just flows with the music. Like other artists in this collection, they moved past the big hits and provided some other gems from his catalog.

Next Week: Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rushing and Tampa Red.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Week Of 5/1 - Metal, Rock, Industrial, Pop

Bit of a mix this week, also, a number of singles instead of full albums added in, but pretty much the entire lot is new releases...

New Releases:
The Adventures Of
Adventures (Free Facebook Songs)
Label: Transmission Galactic
Released: 5/1 2012
Genre: Rock

The story here is Tori Amos started a new label to sign bands she likes and wants to expose to the world, and this is the first band she signed. The two tracks are free on Facebook, and the full album is available in the US right now. The two tracks are, well, different. It's definitely a flavor of rock, little blues, little punk, little everything else. I'm immediately reminded of the Dresden Dolls in style, thought not musical-style, but approach style. Very different kind of stuff here, and I think I'll be checking out the whole album in the near future.

Nora Jones
...Little Broken Hearts
Label: Blue Note
Released: 5/1 2012
Genre: Pop, Rock

Norah teamed up with Dangermouse on this album and came out with something very different, which is standard for her. Her voice is still the driving force behind it, a little jazzy, a little bluesy, a bit pop, all very smooth and seductive. Some of the songs sound a little bit like parts left over from Dangermouses Broken Bells effort, but only a little bit. The music itself is pretty stripped down, unintrusive to the vocal parts of the songs. It's a fantastic album all the way through, a kind of quiet subtle music that draws you in and makes you stop to just listen for a bit. A good album to sit back and relax to for a short while.

Broken Heroes Volume One
Label: Self-Released ( )
Released: 5/1 2012
Genre: Industrial

The first in a series of singles leading up to the next album release, this is a three track EP to kick it off. All instrumentals with some voice samples from movies. While it's noisy, it's not as crunchy and thumpy (totally technical terms) as Buglife (his previous full length album), more of a slower paced kind of grind to it. It feels like a more deliberate pace, making it a little daker, and possibly a little heavier. Sinsect is excellent at creating heavy ambient soundscapes.

Skip The Foreplay
Label: Epitaph Records
Released: 5/1 2012
Genre: Hardcore, Death Metal

I picked this up slightly on a whim, because the cover said "Metal + Screamo + Dubstep" on it with a sticker - and sometimes I just can resist the utterly stupid advertising gimmicks of music. It's basically death metal, possibly just growling hardcore punk. They add a twist with a DJ sliding in mostly well placed dubstep drops and wobbly bass. It turns out that pretty much any kind of metal and dubstep are a pretty good fit for each other (see Korn's latest album for more examples). It's not a terribly exciting album, taken as a whole, but it has its moments and a few tracks tossed into a playlist to keep a party (or club) moving are doable. I doubt I'll ever listen to this straight through again, still a good enough addition I'll cherry pick the tracks as needed. It doesn't ever slow down, or lighten up, which makes as pure a hardcore album as you can really get.

Adding To The Collection:
Primal Rock Rebellion
No Place Like Home
Label: Spinefarm Records
Released: February 2012
Genre: Heavy Metal

This is a 10" Single I digitized. The A-Side is taken from the album (Awoken Broken), reviewed a few weeks ago. And strangely, taken out of the context of the full album manages to become a straight forward rock song. The vocals don't seem too over reaching, or experimental at that. The full albums lack of vocal cohesiveness is not here in these two tracks - granted it's only two songs. But still, both of them come of consistently hard-rock. It's with these two songs I hope that these two guys settle down a put out some more music in this vein.

Next Week:
Lots of House and pop-techno from David Guetta, some heavy industrial from Unter Null to balance that, and a little bit of modern folk from Sara Watkins so I don't drown in synthesizers.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Otis

This week focuses a lot on older folk and early R&B blues sounds as I continue with Volumes 33 and 34 of the ABC Of The Blues...

Mississippi Fred McDowell
Tennessee born Fred McDowell was primarily known for his folk and country blues sound, often placed with the Delta Blues musicians of his era - from the early 1920s through the 1960s. He lived and working in Mississippi until late in life. He died in Memphis in 1972 from cancer. He went mostly unnoticed by the public eye until the late 1950s just as there was a revival in the American Folk and Blues artists that had seen decline in the previous decade. Fred is somewhat famous for the phrase (and later album) "I do not play no Rock and Roll" - he didn't even use an electric guitar until the 60s. He also tutored Bonnie Raitt in the slide guitar.

Despite his claims that he does not play no Rock'n'Roll, his style of folk is the seed that would later become Rock. Especially on some of his faster songs, indeed he took some interest in rock music later, praising a stones cover of You Gotta Move, the original is not here. His slower slide guitar is less rock, and very roots and folk influenced.

Mississippi John Hurt
John Hurt, another blues musician from Mississippi, was predominately a Delta blues artist, with some country blues influence as well. John made some recordings in 1928 that failed to become a success and disappeared until the early 1960s when his early Avalon Blues recording was found, that along with the folk revival of the 60s gave him another shot at a career. Cutting only 12 known sides in 1928 he may have fallen into complete obscurity were it not for that revival. While he did record several albums he died in 1966, still leaving behind a good sized repertoire.

John Hurt's style is a finger-picked blues guitar, his singing more of a loud whisper than actual singing. The ten songs here are a good mix of his first and second careers as a musician. A good example of very early Delta blues, his style is very low key, almost mellow, for the blues.

Robert Nighthawk
Robert Lee McCollum, or Robert Lee McCoy, was a rambling blues musician. He didn't even settle on a particular style of blues. His early career as Robert McCoy had him wandering from the 1930s through the 1960s all over the midwest and east, making only a few recordings, mostly with other groups. In the late 1960s he resurfaced as Robert Nighthawk in Chicago and started to record. His style was so similar to Muddy Waters that there was a bit of a marketing rivalry on the label, Waters winning out by being more reliable and some say a better stage man. Robert continued to roam about the US after that, making a few more recordings, until his death in 1967.

Most of the songs here are from his Chicago era recordings, the ones that lost out to Muddy Waters. And you can hear the similarity in the two men, definitely a very Chicago-Blues style. His voice isn't as big, but still a very strong presence. It would have been nice if they'd managed to find any of his very early recordings in the more folk and delta styles.

Johnny Otis
From California, Johnny is one of the earliest Rhythm & Blues musicians credited, sometimes consider the Godfather of R&B. He had an extremely long career from the 1930s until his very recent death in January of 2012. While he was a musician some of his most known work is as a producer, composer and band leader. Throughout his recordings he varied widely in his styles, from the classic R&B to Rock, Doo Wop, more classic Blues, Swing, Jazz and some Gospel.

The recordings here focus nearly completely on his Rhythm And Blues work, with some more traditional blues as well, and most older recordings at that. A good look way back into the very start of the R&B, Swing, and Rock music that would shape the 1950s and beyond.

Next Week; Charley Patton, Snooky Pryor, Professor Longhair, and Junior Parker. Several of these are new to me too.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Week Of 4/24 - Hip-Hop, Industrial, and some expostion

Late post today, this one contains more than music reviews - part of what I picked up was a 61-track compilation for backers of the CASH Music Kickstarter, since it's not an available-for-sale compilation I decided against a straight review of my thoughts on it, instead a little exposition on releasing music and why I backed the project... but first, some music:

New And Recent Releases:
Death Grips
The Money Store
Label: Epic
Released: 4/24 2012
Genre: Hip-Hop, Experimental, Synthpop

So, this is a strange little gem I picked up. Not quite at random, but it sounded interesting. Especially since the blurb I read had the words 'hardcore' in it and I found it under 'hip-hop' in the music store. I put it on and took a listen - it's difference. The lyrics are pure and straight hip-hop, a good at that. MC Stefan Burnett has a rhythm and delivery that reminds me a great deal of Del The Funky Homosapien without copying him. Sometimes hard, sometimes soft, sometimes smooth and occasionally staccato. But, behind that, what really sets this apart, is the music. Two musicians complete the outfit and they bring anything but standard hip-hop beats and rhythms to the party. In fact, at times it's down right industrial-ish, and on a few songs early 90s house, and many very synthpop-ish. It's really amazing how these elements work together, because it's not really in concert, it's kind of on top of each other. And, honestly, it's really good. Very different. They're releasing a second album in the fall that I will absolutely be getting.

Twist Your Blade EP
Released: 4/13 2012
Genre: Industrial

This was put out as a free EP on Friday the 13th, a quick little 4-track EP that's pretty good. Instrumental, and a kind of dark industrial sound to it. Not exactly dance-floor ready, but not overly harsh either. This is some pretty cool darker mood music. Even though I've said it's not dance-floor ready (mostly due to a lack of under riding heavy rhythmic bass) doesn't mean it couldn't slide itself into the middle of a set. Still, I like it better as background music, that seems a much better fit. If you need music that's a little harder, heavier and not thumpy-intrusive then check our P45K.

CASH Music

Alright so I contributed to a Kickstarter for a new open source musicisan and label resource website. Like places such as Bandcamp it's main purpose is to assist musicians and labels in presenting, distributing, and engaging the audience with their music. Only it's non-profit.

The Open source nature is that you aren't signing into a website and aren't beholden to another company that can be sold, exchanged, or disappear. If CASH Music ever goes under the underlying software they built will still exist (though without support). They claim that they will do for musicians what Wordpress did for Bloggers - which is decentralization of hosting, movement of the music to a Musician or Label owned site and not onto someone else's serves. (all this suddenly has me asking why I'm here on Blogger instead of using Wordpress....)

The idea is simple, they want to add the ability to share tour dates, sell music, provide artist information, connect to social networking, and I'd imagine a host of other things musicians need. All in a End User installed package running under PHP - a pretty good idea. I backed it because in this day and age of music I believe the more options open to the artist, the labels, and the fans, the better things will get. The first, and dying, method of centralized everything with major labels is proving to be a bad format once you can engage fans directly.

Given the huge number of small, medium, and large bands that came on the Compilation I think they've got an idea that many will explore and hopefully start to flourish under.

Not just tiny unsigned bands you've never heard of signed their names onto this; Amanda Plamer, Xiu Xiu, Throwing Muses, Jonathan Coulton and a host of bands in the Indie Rock Scene (which I follow very little) along with some of the smaller labels like SubPop, ANTI-, Mom+Pop and others (a full list here: )

So, it's not starting out in the cold, it looks like it could add a whole new layer of tools to the small and starting artist, and doesn't require a third party. All of which enticed me to help them finish out the full product (you can download early versions of the web-package now). I hope this becomes another tool in the music-label-listener connection.

Next Week:
The new Norah Jones, debut from Skip The Foreplay, and a bunch of EPs I picked up - Sinsect, Primal Rock Rebellion, and The Adventures Of (a new band on Tori Amos' new label).