[ Saturday, September 30, 2006 ]
As any regular SHOT OF RHYTHM reader knows, we here are particularly interested in the many manifestations of "country-soul," as genre, interchange and mindset. Two of this week's releases absolutely qualify to be included in the esteemed company of the country-soul catalog, each for different - though ultimately linked - reasons.
First is an obvious one, Solomon Burke's NASHVILLE, on which the self-proclaimed King of Rock And Soul dips back into his original musical love, with the help of Buddy Miller and a staff of crack country players and songwriters. Befitting Burke's royalty, the album has great gravity and dignity, but - unlike many recent soul comeback albums, including some of Burke's latest work - Miller's warm production style and the inclusion of collaborators from Dolly Parton to Paul Kennerley keeps the affair bright and spirited. I've chosen to spotlight three of the album's more serious moments, mostly because Burke's voice (which is overrated) is at its most powerful when focused to the dull-roar nuances of the slow song. On "Valley Of Tears," he's joined by the song's writers, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and the three of them - with Miller adding a fourth harmony part - makes for quite a heavenly choir."Valley Of Tears""Millionaire""Til I Get It Right"
The second release comes from Alan Jackson, who - on his newest, LIKE RED ON A ROSE - temporarily trades in his normal role as king of the honky-tonks for a set of subtle, nuanced songs that mines Charlie Rich's terrain of country/soul/pop/jazz melange to great success. Jackson's muse on this record is Alison Krauss, who produced and helped find the songs, and whose band - the mighty, mighty Union Station - gives Jackson suitable back-up on several tracks. Krauss' recent, welcome transition from ill-defined "trad bluegrass" star to maker of richly textured, genre-less recordings mirrors Jackson's journey, and the pairing works wonderfully. While there isn't anything on here that will challenge the best of Rich's work, LIKE RED ON A ROSE recalls the Silver Fox's kind of softly bluesy songcraft in a way that would surely make him proud. It remains to be seen if Jackson will continue in this direction, or set off for adventures elsewhere, but - for the moment - he might just be the king of country-soul."Like Red On A Rose""Nobody Said That It Would Be Easy""A Woman's Love"
On the box right now: Various Artists, ECCENTRIC SOUL: MIGHTY MIKE LENABURG. Another in the wondrous series of "Eccentric Soul" reissues, this time spotlighting the production work of Lenaburg, who tried (and failed) to make Phoenix into the new Hitsville, U.S.A.
Dove With Claws [6:11 PM]
[ Thursday, September 28, 2006 ]
No laughing matter
I've long been a fan of his, but I honestly never thought that Weird Al Yankovic would be the subject of a Shot Of Rhythm post. However, his newest record, STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD, has rendered him more than deserving. Apart from the fact that it's the best, funniest and most consistently interesting album he's made in...well, ever, it's also a surprisingly political
affair that contains a couple of the sharpest and most incisive political critiques that any satirist this side of Dave Chappelle has levelled at American politics in recent years. Yankovic has become a particularly biting critic of the politics surrounding downloading, file-sharing and the rhetoric of "theft" that, while complicated, has been inflated to such a degree that Yankovic need merely parrot the warnings and scoldings of the RIAA and their cronies to parody them. I would post Yankovic's sardonic pseudo-anthem "Don't Download This Song," but (as APS, from Holler If You Hear Me
cagily pointed out) the video, which is directed by Oscar winner Bill Plympton, is even more effective. Here's a link to the video: "Don't Download This Song" video
. (By the way, you can also download the song at Weird Al's official site
My other favorite political track on the record is "Canadian Idiot," a parody of Green Day's "American Idiot," that on first glance appears to be a rather clumsy series of cliches about Canadian people and culture, but - on closer listen - actually reveals itself to be a satire of ugly-American stereotyping that ridicules Canadians while, as Yankovic points out, conveniently ignoring their national health care, clean air and gun control. There's an agenda behind "Canadian Idiot," but the care and nuance with which Yankovic places the song within a parody raises the form to high art. Brilliantly engaged stuff."Canadian Idiot"
I also feel it's my duty to post Yankovic's parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," which - though originally scheduled to be on the STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD album - was nixed by Blunt's record company (though not Blunt himself) only weeks before the album's release. Thankfully, and bravely, Yankovic leaked the song to several websites, and it has now become a firm entry in the Internet's democratized jukebox. It's also hilarious, somehow making smart fun of an easy target."You're Pitiful"
There's a bunch of other good stuff on the record, including a wonderfully precise R. Kelly parody called "Trapped In The Drive-Thru," and a Beach Boys/SMILE-esque tune called "Pancreas," but y'all can get that elsewhere. I'll just leave you with five words I'd never thought I'd say: Weird Al Yankovic for President?
On the box right now: Ron Wood, ANTHOLOGY, Disc 1.
Dove With Claws [8:32 PM]
[ Tuesday, September 26, 2006 ]
Don't work too hard
Here's three songs to play when the heavy burdens of day-to-day drudgery get to feelin' a bit excessive. Two are from this year, one from two years ago, and all three have the distinct possibility of becoming my new national anthem.
Next time the boss gives you flack (and, for whatever reason, "Take This Job And Shove It" isn't available), just turn the speakers to "stun" let fly with these.Amos Lee - "Supply and Demand"Dan Reeder - "Work Song"Todd Snider - "Lookin' For A Job"
On the box right now: Solomon Burke, NASHVILLE.
Dove With Claws [4:44 PM]