Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Quick Music Update

Crawling out from under the mound of new music, I'm updating a post from a few days back.

6) Hank Williams III -- Straight to Hell -- Hank sounds more like his grandaddy than his pappy. That's a good thing. One of the two songs I listened to contained the immortal chorus, "I'm here to put the dick in Dixie/And the cunt back in country/'Cause the kind of country I'm hearin' nowadays/Is a bunch of fuckin' shit to me." Yee haw. Whatever happened to cheatin' hearts and pickup trucks?

I miss those pickup trucks, it turns out. Hank has plenty of attitude, but after about the seventh song about snortin' coke, smokin' dope, and general hippie hell raisin', I started to yawn. Didn't the New Riders of the Purple Sage do this thirty-five years ago, anyway? Somebody slap some sense into Hank and tell him that Neil Young did the "better to burn out than to fade away" routine a long time ago, and that Neil is still alive. Don't bet on the same for Hank. But then again, he's got those hellraisin' genes to live up to. Somebody should also tell him that some legacies are worth leaving in the dust.

11) Scott Miller and the Commonwealth -- Citation -- From the former leader of the V-Roys, I'm told. I remember the V-Roys. Great band. Legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson helps out. This could be very good.

And it is very good. Miller's a fine raspy vocalist, with a bit of John Mellencamp and Springsteen in him, and this is fine heartland roots rock. Bonus points for the great cover of Neil Young's "Hawks and Doves," one of Neil's lesser-known songs from one of his lesser-known albums, and a handful of smart, bittersweet songs about growing older but not growing up.

14) Sussan Deyhim -- Madman of God: Divine Love Songs of the Persian Sufi Masters -- What it says, with contributions from former John Coltrane bassist Reggie Workman. Could be bizarre and impenetrable, could be absolutely wonderful.

It's not impenetrable at all. It's frequently beautiful. And although Deyhim is clearly the star here, the ethereal accompaniment and amazing polyrhythms often recall Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. In other words, this is distinctly non-Western music, but with concessions thrown in to lure the rock 'n rollers. Like me.

19) Gus Black -- Autumn Days -- I listened to two of the songs. Gus sounds a bit like Cat Stevens, a bit like Sufjan Stevens. No evidence of Connie Stevens.

I missed the Donovan influence last time. But it's there; fortunately more in the vocals than in the trippy subject matter. Otherwise, these are primarily well written, highly melodic folk songs, with occasional forays into some noisier fare that recalls Pete Yorn.

23) Hillstomp -- The Woman That Ended the World -- One guy with a g uitar and a slide. One guy with a drum. See The White Stripes, above. Or The Black Keys. But supposedly more of a Mississippi Delta influence this time. I like it in theory. Again, we'll see.

The reality: much more Robert Johnson and Skip James than The White Stripes. And that's fine. But this is a blues record, not a rock 'n roll record, and it's about as raw and unpolished as they come. Why use three chords when two will do? That's not a criticism, by the way. Two chords, a bottleneck slide, and a growl can carry you a long way, and these guys take the tradition on down the line.


Jon said...

Aw, I was hoping to see what you thought about Sean Watkins' "Blinders On". I'm a big fan of his other two solo albums. This one - not so much.

teddy dellesky said...

why i ever got rid of new riders' first album is beyond me. its the ultimate alt-country album. i picked up that line immediately. "...forgettin' everything i know til the next line comes along..."