Shot Of Rhythm

[ Thursday, April 12, 2007 ]


Southern comforts

2007 is proving to be about the fifteenth great year in a row for Southern hip-hop. Here are a few of my recent, bluesy-funky-soulful favorites from below the Mason-Dixon. Self-proclaimed king of Houston Lil Flip produces a cut, with guest Rick Ross, which is stupidly rockin', and actually makes the now-ubiquitous "I'm rich" imagery sound fresh, cocky, and vividly alive. The track from Baby Boy Da Prince, from New Orleans, is like lemonade spiked with tequila. Alabama's Rich Boy, with supple help from MVP John Legend, shows the soulful side of even the hardest gangsta-lean cuts. Returning to the Lone Star State, Devin The Dude - with help from Snoop Dogg and a never-better Andre 3000 (whose verse is seriously one of the better lyric sequences I've ever heard) - produces an instant classic, a bluesy meditation on the labors of art (and the art of labor) that raises the Dude's art/work to newly transcendent heights. Beautiful melody, too...

Lil Flip (feat. Rick Ross) - "I Get Money"

Baby Boy Da Prince (feat. Lil Boosie) - "The Way I Live"

Rich Boy (feat. John Legend) - "Ghetto Rich"

Devin The Dude (feat. Snoop Dogg and Andre 3000) - "What A Job"

On the box right now: Neil Young, LIVE AT MASSEY HALL.


Dove With Claws [8:55 PM]

[ Monday, April 09, 2007 ]


Missed it by that much

Oh, poor Taylor Hicks. Last year's AMERICAN IDOL winner has essentially disappeared from the national landscape, with relatively poor record sales (still trying to climb towards Platinum) and gigs that don't even come close to previous Idols. (For example, he's second on the bill - not even headlining - at a country-music festival in my neck of the woods this summer.) The reasons for this downward spiral are already being bandied about in the media, and - though factors like Hicks' stubborn individualism and Chris Daughtry's simultaneous smash success get brought up - the fact that the leader of the "Soul Patrol" suffered by releasing an album that, even in the terms of the post-IDOL debut, is pretty awful is pretty much consensus. Forgettable songs, scattered stylistic choices and the lack of a knockout lead single. I'm sorry, Mr. Hicks: even though I appreciated your gangly, passionate country-soul enough to actually cast a vote for you in the final week, I haven't listened to your weak-sauce effort in months.

What has been even more surprising to me, and in a very good way, has been the fact that several of the singers vanquished by Hicks have released shockingly accomplished and interesting music in the months since they too gained fame on the TV juggernaut. Not counting Daughtry, whose style I don't like but whose success I certainly appreciate, I've made room in my mix for four (count 'em) Idol also-rans. While I could've expected that several sparkling tracks by R&B princess Paris Bennett have caught my ear, it's more shocking to me that I'm digging cuts by Elliot Yamin, Kellie Pickler and - most of all - Katharine McPhee, the finalist whose bland histrionics seemed the obvious anti-Christ to Taylor's ragged glory. Still, I can't argue with several tracks off of McPhee's debut album: while I could've put the funky "Love Story" or almost-as-good-as-Beyonce "Not Ur Girl" up here, I thought I'd spotlight "Better Off Alone," on which McPhee finally finds a sound big enough to both contain and liberate her enormous voice. Elliot Yamin, whose duet with Mary J. Blige on the IDOL finale last season made me like him far more than anything he'd done previous to that, isn't quite up to the McPhee or Bennett level in the soul department, but his first single - "Movin' On" - is almost exactly the kind of tune that Hicks' debut so sorely misses. Finally, Kellie Pickler - whose aw-shucks persona masked a talent keen enough to perform Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" and Sara Evans' "Suds In The Bucket" on IDOL's country episode - absolutely blows me away with "I Wonder," a truly epic weeper that Pickler herself co-wrote. I also hear buzz that Bucky Covington's upcoming debut is pretty decent, news made less gonzo by the track record created by the above artists. As incredible as this seems, I can't say I'll be surprised if Bucky, for God's sake, also surpasses Taylor in the coming weeks. Wow.

One more thing, possibly leading to more things if folks are interested: I don't think Sanjaya Malakar is anywhere near as bad as most seem to think he is. If he stuck to quieter ballads, and didn't try to either rock out or overact, I think he'd be alright. He's still quite obviously less talented than almost anybody else on the show, but he's better than Haley, who's also still around. Simon Cowell said that he's done with the show if Sanjaya wins. I am too, but only because a Sanjaya victory means that Melinda Doolittle lost. And that, my friends, would be too much for me to take.

But all that worrying's for later. Right now, just sit back and bask in the most recent entries to the rapidly-expanding recorded legacy of AMERICAN IDOL, a far greater and more varied canon than we had any right to expect...

Paris Bennett - "Ordinary Love"

Katharine McPhee - "Better Off Alone"

Kellie Pickler - "I Wonder"

Elliot Yamin - "Movin' On"

On the box right now: Anthony Hamilton, SOUTHERN COMFORT.


Dove With Claws [8:31 PM]