[ Friday, January 20, 2006 ]
I'd basically given up on BR5-49. Their first album was bracing, a nice return to the Johnny Horton/Webb Pierce school of honky-tonk boogie. The follow-up was spotty, but with its moments. With their third album, and the subsequent E.P., they seemed to be stuck in a monster-size rut. When it wasn't too cute, it was too slick, and it wasn't too slick, it was too self-consciously retro. I was through.
Then, two things happened. First, my friend Kevin McCool - a true BR5-49 believer - told me to reconsider their newest album, TANGLED IN THE PINES, which I hadn't even thought to purchase. He described it as "garage country," and he was right. They were rocking, they were serious without being self-conscious, and they were cranking out songs that were as memorable and catchy as any they'd ever done. It was more than a return to form; it was their first unassailably valuable album. Second, I saw them live. They really are a live experience, and they were fantastic.
So, their new album, DOG DAYS, was released a couple weeks ago. I was saddened to hear that Chris Scruggs, the supremely talented songwriter and guitar player who joined the group before TANGLED, had left. Yet and still, bolstered by the quality of the last album and the show, I picked it up. And how glad I am that I did. It is easily their most mature effort, nuanced and graceful with no attempt made to two-step anybody into submission, and a seeming desire to craft songs and performances that transcend any of the pitfalls of "alt-country" rigidity.
The best tracks are semi-acoustic, nearly gospel: "After The Hurricane" is the best, particularly after Katrina; lead singer Chuck Mead has never sounded better, and it may be the first BR5-49 track that can reduce you to tears. (It did me.) "The Devil In Me" is pure Elvis-in-church, with the Jordanaires there to make it obvious. "I'm Goin' Down" moans the blues, and "A-1 On The Jukebox" - that rarest of treasures, a Dave Edmunds cover - establishes their thesis better than any words could. (I don't even miss Scruggs, which suggests more about how good this album is than anything about his previous involvement, which was invaluable.)
It's the first good album I've heard in this young 2006. It's so nice to see a band mature like this, making records that display increasing craft, effectiveness tenderness of approach. (Marty Stuart's doing the same thing, by the way.) I'm so happy to hear this; the good guys win one every once in awhile, you know?
On the box right now: BR5-49, DOG DAYS.
Dove With Claws [5:49 PM]
[ Thursday, January 19, 2006 ]
Man...first Lou Rawls, and now Wilson Pickett...helluva way to start the year.
I saw the "Wicked Pickett" live a couple years ago, and - even though he moved a little slower - he was still cookin'. Never did any soulman sing with as much oomph as Mr. Pickett, and his run of hits is as impressive as any in '60s R&B. Sad...
On the box right now: Wilson Pickett, A MAN AND A HALF: ANTHOLOGY, Disc 1.
Dove With Claws [3:15 PM]
[ Wednesday, January 18, 2006 ]
Why I'm getting my work done before 7 PM
7 PM=American Idol
-They're still trying out, and most of them are proving as delusional as ever. (Did anybody catch the guy last night with the sweaty armpits who sang that bizarre Isley Brothers/XTC medley?)
8 PM=Skating With Celebrities
-Dave Coulier and Todd Bridges fall down. Hard. Need I say more?
On the box right now: BR5-49, DOG DAYS. I've been promising myself for four days that my next blog entry would be on this fine album, but this time I mean it. More on it soon...
Dove With Claws [3:44 PM]
[ Tuesday, January 17, 2006 ]
New pick to click
I've added Danny Alexander's blog to the links on the left. Danny's a supremely thoughtful and talented writer, so he should have some very interesting things to say about music, politics et cetera.http://www.takeemastheycome.blogspot.com/
On the box right now: Various Artists, GROWIN' UP TOO FAST, Disc 1. Back to the girl groups...
Dove With Claws [3:33 PM]
[ Sunday, January 15, 2006 ]
Queued and cued
I'm currently in the middle of a good spate of downloading/mixing, and here's some that never leave the playlist:
-"Soul Feud"/"Grits and Gravy"-Fame Gang
-Rare recordings from the third house band at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, as loose and funky as the scene itself. (Find these tracks over at www.soul-sides.com
-"Ace Of Spades" and "Eat The Rich"-Motorhead
-Because, sometimes, nothing sounds better than this stuff. Lemmy rules, and you don't.
-"Poppin' My Collar" - Three 6 Mafia
-Between this and the superior "Stay Fly," Memphis' finest are actually living up to the title.
-"Baby Mama" - Fantasia/"Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
-Thus far, these are easily the two finest moments from the AMERICAN IDOL juggernaut.
-"Don't It Make You Want To Go Home" - Joe South
-Pure country-soul, from one of the truly great singers/songwriters/guitarists from the universe. Anybody who hears this and doesn't feel anything needs to check their pulse.
On the box right now: Lulu, NEW ROUTES.
Dove With Claws [7:43 AM]