Shot Of Rhythm

[ Friday, January 05, 2007 ]


2006 In Review, Part 4: Country-Soul

Another year, another group of notable journeys across the most malleable of all genre distinctions. Vince Gill triumphed, Amos Lee redefined himself, Kate Campbell and Spooner Oldham preached, James Hunter emerged, and Joan Osborne traveled to Nashville to record a veritable country-soul textbook. And, continuing a very welcome trend from recent years, more fine records emerged from Southern soul mainstays. The three I've spotlighted here - from Staton, Burke and Thomas - not only represent the best of the bunch, but also symbolize three different manifestations of this rich stylistic interchange. (Irma Thomas, for example, covers Arthur Alexander.) While there are a lot more records on both country and R&B sides that I could've included here, I figure that these Elite 8 should give you some sense of just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Sing it one time for the broken-hearted...

Solomon Burke - "Atta Way To Go"

Kate Campbell and Spooner Oldham - "If I Ever Get To Heaven"

Vince Gill - "Love's Standin'"

James Hunter - "Mollena"

Amos Lee - "Supply And Demand"

Joan Osborne - "What You Are"

Candi Staton - "When Will I"

Irma Thomas - "In The Middle Of It All"

On the box right now: Ice Cube, LETHAL INJECTION.


Dove With Claws [9:33 AM]

[ Tuesday, January 02, 2007 ]


2006 In Review, Pt. 3: Old dogs, new tricks

This year saw a whole bunch of stalwarts put out their freshest sounds in years, revitalized and refreshed works that proved that there isn't much use in either burning out or fading away. Energetic, compelling, and often political work emerged from sources both highly unsurprising (Bruce, Dylan, Prince) and (only slightly) more so (Knopfler/Harris, Ice Cube). Los Lobos gloriously completed their transformation into a full-fledged R&B band, Prince found the firm grooves he's only occasionally snagged in recent years, Ice Cube came out swinging, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris brought out the best in each other, Paul Simon rediscovered his mojo (with the help of Brian Eno, of all people), Bob Dylan continued journeying through the past to address the present and imagine the future, Bruce Springsteen dropped a Sun Sessions for the new century, and Tom Waits blessed us with the contents of his recorded treasure chest.

A bunch of others could be here as well, from Alejandro to Neil to the previously-honored Scarface. I'll tackle a few of the obvious omissions - in the country/soul vein - next time.

Bob Dylan - "Thunder On The Mountain"

Ice Cube - "The Nigga Trapp"

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - "All The Roadrunning"

Los Lobos - "Little Things"

Prince - "The Word"

Paul Simon - "Outrageous"

Bruce Springsteen - "O Mary, Don't You Weep"

Tom Waits - "Down There By The Train"

On the box right now: XTC, COMPACT.


Dove With Claws [10:55 AM]

[ Sunday, December 31, 2006 ]


2006 In Review, Part 2: The Kings Of The South

Sorry, T.I., you're cool and all, but the competition for the crown down in the Dirrty remains at a fever pitch. 2006 was, oh, the fifteenth or so great year for Southern hip-hop, marked by simultaneous creative exploration, crossover entrenchment, and powerful reassertions of the region's signature musical and lyrical contributions.

Cee-Lo and Timbaland, perhaps popular music's co-MVPs this year, each made their mark on a variety of forward-thinking projects. Cee-Lo finally had his break-out success, with Gnarls Barkley, but - as the Amerie track shows - he also should be honored for his many guest appearances as writer, producer and singer, which also included turns with Kelis, P. Diddy and the Pussycat Dolls' hit "Don't Cha." Speaking of PCD, Timbaland - who literally never left the charts this year - strikes yet again, with the Dolls' latest hit single, which features (for my money) Timbo's best vocal performance yet. Harkening back to his Otis-and-Carla-style duets with Missy Elliott, among others, "Wait A Minute" is pure juke joint.

Amerie (feat. Cee-Lo) - "Take Control"

Pussycat Dolls (feat. Timbaland) - "Wait A Minute"

Then there's OutKast, whose IDLEWILD took a bunch of risks, which didn't all pay off, but which provided the template for perhaps their most adventurous and soulful sounds yet. Tracks like Big Boi's aching "The Train" give me great hope for their continued output (whether solo or as a group), and 'Kast still deserves a place at the top of any musical hierarchy.

OutKast (feat. Scar and Sleepy Brown) - "The Train"

I almost put a track from Pharrell's here-and-there solo album on here, until I realized that I was much more taken by Skateboard P's production work (with fellow Neptune Chad Hugo) on The Clipse's HELL HATH NO FURY. Combining their blips and bleeps with some of the smarter "crack rap" on the radar was pure magic, and - on hit "Wamp Wamp" - Houston's Slim Thug comes by to make it a true Dirty South summit.

The Clipse (feat. Slim Thug & The Neptunes) - "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)"

Louisiana was due for a good year this year. Between Juvenile's post-Katrina, straight-up blues "Get Ya Hustle On," and the continued ascendance of Lil Wayne, who's here in partnership with Birdman (and a sample from forefathers UGK) on the gritty soul of "1st Key," N'awlins proved that - even if hurricanes and hypocrites do their best to destroy the Crescent City - hip-hop will be there to provide a fitting second line.

Juvenile - "Get Ya Hustle On"

Birdman and Lil Wayne - "1st Key"

Finally, the real king of the South, Scarface, put out two fine albums this year, both of which saw him sharing the spotlight with some of his proteges and friends. The better of the two, SCARFACE PRESENTS THE PRODUCT: ONE HUNID, stands with the better work of the Geto Boys, with tracks like "Dead Broke" at the forefront.

Scarface (feat. The Product) - "Dead Broke"

See y'all in two days, with part 3...

On the box right now: The Clipse, HELL HATH NO FURY.


Dove With Claws [9:46 AM]