VERY LATE NIGHT PARTY MUSIC FROM AN AMERICAN GENIUS, JUNIOR KIMBROUGH
EXCERPTED FROM THE ‘DEEP BLUES’ DOC FILM
JUNIOR’S BEST RECORDS AVAILABLE FROM FAT POSSUM
VERY LATE NIGHT PARTY MUSIC FROM AN AMERICAN GENIUS, JUNIOR KIMBROUGH
EXCERPTED FROM THE ‘DEEP BLUES’ DOC FILM
JUNIOR’S BEST RECORDS AVAILABLE FROM FAT POSSUM
Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (Nov. 2003)
REVIEWS BY C and D
The Hidden Hand
C: This is Wino’s new band…
D: From St. Vitus! And the mighty Spirit Caravan!
C: This is prime Wino. Very focused. Full-on Sabbath power trio. Political eco-stoner stuff. “I feel the sky cracking/I feel the ice melting/I feel the world dying.”
D: Track 8 is an unstoppable beast!
C: “The Hidden Hand [theme].” Yeah, this is solid shit. Kinda conspiracy-minded. I mean, just look at the name of the band—
D: As we said in the days of old, these guys can carpet a good chair!
C: He put a suggested reading list in the CD tray, you don‘t see that too often with metalish bands. Edmund O. Wilson, The Future of Life… Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy… Wait a sec. David Icke?!?
D: Who is this guy?
C: That’s the British dude who sez that the world’s political and economic leaders are not humans, they’re actually reptiles from outer space working in a conspiracy together. Very V. I think he’s saying that 9/11 and its consequences were predicted in the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Obviously he’s onto something.
C: I’m joking. But I wonder if Wino is in on the Icke joke. Seems like he’s taking it seriously…?
D: Wino is the best. But he looks totally different with a beard. I don’t know if I approve.
Chain Gang of Love
D: Is this the new Jesus and Mary Chain album?
C: No, it’s this Swedish band called the Raveonettes.
D: Why don’t they just call themselves the Raveisionists?
C: Who do you think you would win in a rumble between these guys and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club?
D: Agh! I hate those Black Rebel guys! So boring live.
C: Their second album is terrible. I think it could be the end of the road for them. But who cares. The Raveonettes have a six-foot chick singer, I think she could take them out.
D: Swedish precision! There’s a Spector back beat jangle here.
C: Melodies and distortion, it always sounds good. You gotta cop to it, there’s some good stuff on here.
D: Yes, this song [“That Great Love Sound”] is good. But it’s nothing that will make you spill your ice cream on the floor.
D: Incredible. Who is this?
D: Each song? No, it can’t be. They are all so different
C: Yes. That’s what they do! I’ve been trying to get you to listen to them for years—
D: Every song is a population of musical influences of the last 20 years. It all sounds familiar but beautifully deranged. You don’t know where the sound comes from, it’s written down in the backpages of your brain and heart but you can’t locate it.
C: This song “Zoloft” is fantastic.
D: Zoloft—that’s some good stuff there. The doctor’s medicine is working. I’m seeing different colors in a different way. Yellow even is starting to look good.
C: Listen to this one [“Transdermal Celebration”]: it’s like an Oasis song except it’s really good.
D: None of those Anglo-Saxons can rock like Americans! [Listening to “So Many People In the Nieghborhood”] These guys are like the Residents, some of this stuff. But it’s also very melancholic. This song [“Among His Tribe”] cuts straight to the bone.
C: This one “Captain” is my favorite. Very Pink Floyd. Listen to those drums. He’s stuck on a spaceship and they WON’T GO BACK!
D: “Tried and True”—this is middle American melancholy. Another weightless psychedelic Byrds song. Record store clerks rejoice. They’re the best. They’re too good for me. It’s like Ian Curtis said, I looked behind the doors of time, there was nothing there to see.
D: [still listening to “Tried and True”] …Is that a sitar?!? No.
C: Yes it is.
D: It cannot be.
C: They’re putting the India in Indiana.
D: Ween are a jukebox. One way not to disappear up your own ass is to disappear up others’.
C: Right… I guess that’s one way of looking at it.
Terry Hall & Mushtaq
The Hour of Two Lights
C: This should be the soundtrack for that hookah place on Sunset’s sound system.
D: Yes! Exactly!
C: It’s the Specials guy. They sound like melancholy gypsies.
D: Dignified, beautiful.
C: Class, yeah? Two cultures, maybe three.
D: I like it! Let me look at the box.
C: It’s like a new kind of traditional music.
D: Yes… [thoughtful] Can we order some Indian food now?
Keep Your Cool
C: Brant Bjork from Kyuss and Fu Manchu and Mondo Generator’s new record.
D: Is that him singing?
C: [Nods ‘Yes.’] He’s playing all of the instruments too.
D: [Thumbs up.] Vintage ‘70s rock! And Thin Lizzy too! Wow. The reggae bass on “Searchin’”… scary. Reminds me of David Bowie. Or Blondie.
C: This is kinda Foghat, yeah? Plus the Cars… Here he is in falsetto… “Sister’s got the inside infoooooh!” He should do that more. Michael Jackson, almost. Very cool. This is really good, such a good feel, laidback. Compare this to that new Nebula album, ech. This is the good shit here.
D: I always liked him, Brant Bjork! Thanks for the Red Sun, Mr. Bjork.
C: Check this out: dude is putting the album out only on 12-inch vinyl. No CDs!
United We Doth
C: Bad Ween.
C: I dunno, dude.
D: I love it. How did they get Snoop Dogg for this?
C: I think one of the PFFR guys is a South Park guy or something, that’s the word on the street. I don’t what street that is, but whatever, there you go. This sound like bad acid trip music. Very bad acid trip.
D: I love it.
D: I know this. This is the Moving Units.
C: No, this is the Rapture.
D: They do the same thing.
C: Yeah, well… The Rapture have been going for a while longer, but yep it’s the same influences… Gotta say this is kinda disappointing. That one single on here from two years ago [“House of Jealous Lovers”] is cool but after a while…
D: It’s good but COMPLETELY unoriginal. Birthday Party. Pop Group. Gang of Four. They love that music.
At Crystal Palace
D: Same thing! I’m already sick of this. All of these people love the Pop Group. They love this music to DEATH.
C: It does seem pretty little limited on record. But you gotta admit it’s well done. This reminds me a whole lot of that amazing band Lilliput, you remember them? From Switzerland. Some of this stuff seems almost directly ripped. Well maybe they’ll get more interesting on the next record…
D: Lilliput, call your Swiss lawyers!!!
Pretty Girls Make Graves
The New Romance
D: (sighs) More of this stuff? Everybody likes the Pop Group. They like them too much.
C: I dunno, I think this is pretty good. I’d be curious to hear the next record, to see where they go.
D: Whatever. Can we listen to the new Kraftwerk again?
Beet, Maize & Corn
C: [singing] “Orange crate art/is where it starts.” Oh wait, wrong album. This is pretty shameless Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, sheesh.
D: Take it off the CD player now.
C: All arrangement, no hooks… Beach Boys without harmonies or melodies–what’s the point? Nice wallpaper stuff, though. I think he could do good soundtrack music. Maybe with Alison Anders, this is her type of shit.
D: This guy should move to Nashville or go back in time to the Brill Building. ENOUGH! Turn it off NOW or I’m leaving.
Festival in the Desert
(World Village/Triban Union/Harmonia Mundi)
C: This is my favorite album out of the whole bunch.
D: This is Malian stuff, right?
C: Yes. This whole CD was recorded live at this festival in the desert, as you might’ve gathered from the title. Pretty amazing stuff.
D: [Listening to “Buri Baalal” by Afel Bocoum] So beautiful. Listen to how the women sing!
C: Yeah, see? This music has everything: melodies, chants…incredible rhythms… all those stringed instruments, I don’t even know what they are. Guitars, I guess.
C: They’re doing a DVD of this, that should be amazing. Sand and candles and this music: what a setting. Tinariwen are on here, they’re amazing.
D: Those are the guys who sound like Junior Kimbrough right?
C: Exactly—the electric guitars are just like his, but I bet they never heard each other’s music. Makes you wonder how far back Junior’s music really goes… Ali Farke Toure’s on here too. And this Native American rock group Blackfire, they have this old guy singing all through it. The Robert Plant song is great.
D: [Listening to Tartit’s “Tihar Bayatin”] So hypnotic… This is the deep stuff, man. The deepest stuff. I’m serious.
House of Low Culture
D: Dark night music.
C: Yeah, this is really good stuff. Desolate. Subtitled “An Account of Salvation and Redemption in 9 Movements.” So there you go.
D: No moon!
C: Just an electric hum.
D: And vampires!
C: It is pretty spooky. This first track reminds me a lot of Thomas Koner, in a bat sanctuary. The second reminds me of Begotten…
D: So good, so good.
C: This third, with the guitar? Very Gira. Also reminds me of that one vampire film, actually. The Addiction? The Abel Ferrara one. This whole album is soooo evocative. Dark, trippy, but not silly—there’s no stupid trance beats.
D: You better get the candles ready!
C: File next to Coil. I’m definitely gonna be spending some late winter nights listening to this…
D: Do you know that artist Ernst Ffolks? His sense of apocalypse I identified with totally. I have incredible books at my house.
Originally published in Arthur No. 15/March 2005
D: [to tape recorder] Hello. We are back!
C: [very formally] It is time to exchange views once again, after our brief vacation from these pages. A vacation, I might add, that was not entirely voluntary—
D: But we will speak of that some other time.
C: Everything was going well until they caught you putting the potato in that Hummer’s exhaust pipe in front of the military recruitment center.
D: I told them I was removing the potato that I had just witnessed some crazy anarchist put there. I was actually de-vandalizing their truck—
C: But, strangely, they were not convinced. Especially after they found the grater in your jacket.
D: Yes, well…
C: [Yawns.] Please remind me to forget to call you next time something is going down, because I can’t afford any more of these “vacations.”
D: Soooo, Nina Simone’s 1974 album Baltimore has been reissued.
C: Apparently she didn’t want to make this record. She didn’t like making the record. She didn’t like the finished record. And it’s such a good record!
D: The title track is the greatest Randy Newman cover of all time. I mean, Randy Newman done in a loping funk mode? If you’ve ridden the Amtrak through Baltimore, the route it takes gives you an unobstructed view of a horribly blighted ghetto, and her voice here really captures that sadness.
C: I’m guessing she thought the more pop-orientated /songs were beneath her, that it was somehow undignified for her to sing Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl,” and maybe she was right on that count. But this is really a unique Nina Simone album, and frequently magnificent.
Antony and the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now
D: Give me that. [looks at sleeve] I was happier when I didn’t know what he looks like.
C: Hey man, everyone looks like something.
D: It’s like if you heard Pavarotti singing and then turned out he looks like Pee-Wee Herman!
C: Well, how hard is it to just listen to the music? My goodness.
D: I’m just saying.
C: This guy’s voice is known to have moved Lou Reed to tears. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Lou Reed cries very often. The tracks of Lou’s tears…
D: …could not extinguish torch songs this strong. So very beautiful. [towards end of album] Yet here we have instance number eighty-seven-thousand-four-hundred-and-two of a greaseball, cheeseball Saturday Night Live style saxophone solo ruining another otherwise faultless song.
C: Clarence Clemmons, so much to answer for.
D: They still don’t have a drummer? Another incomplete band…
C: That means that each get an entire half of the proverbial pie! Great opening salvo, it’s the drum beat equivalent of a strobe light in the face. They have a song about asking if you got the real good cigarettes from the store like I asked.
D: A frequently posed question around my house.
C: There’s that chugalug thing they do so well, on the chorus of “I Hate the Way You Love.” You can ride that into the sunset. By taking instruments away, rock’n’roll has reminded us that at it’s core it’s dance music. Fewer instruments means the sound has room to breathe. And breath plus beat equals boogie. Even if the beat is that of a machine. See? Drum machines do have soul.
D: I am more enamored with their human qualities. Speaking of which, I’d like to give a hearty salute to VV for being that rarest of regional species: the untanned Floridian.
D: [end of “Rodeo Town”] That is so Velvets! She is fearsome yet vulnerable, a potent combination.
C: The fella in the group goes by the nom de rock Hotel. I think Motel would be more appropriate. Someplace where rooms can be rented by the hour.
D: [Listening to the three note piano riff on “Ticket Man”] They should use piano on more songs. And they should use more of the piano, period. I think there’s 85 more keys to be precise. It’s like the music has been shaved to an inch of its life.
C: I’ve always said there’s two types of people: the shaves and the shave-nots.
D: Not as catchy as the first album, but The Kills aren’t dead yet.
D: [listening to “One Life Away”] He actually says, “I’m visiting my fraulein”! An inspired approach to breaking into the hofbrau circuit. How sweet is this…you could whistle or hum along to this entire album without feeling stupid once.
C: This guy seems unassuming. I’d like to hang out with him in an Airsteam trailer crossing the country. Easygoing, but clever. He’s making lyrical origami out of the sad history of rock on “Fuel For Fire”: “I’ve dug beneath the wall of sound/the song is always the same/I’ve got lonesome fuel for fire/And so my heart is always on the line.” This album is genius. For fans of Dylan, Red House Painters/Sun Kill Moon, even Chris Isaak aficianados feeling frisky.
D: I have seen M. Ward. He has curly hair. And if the hair is curly outside your head, it means there is something curly going on inside too.
C: This song “Big Boat” is the dis track of the year! All about how this guy who says he’s got a big boat really only has a tiny dinghy! HAHA!
D: “I’ll Be Yr Bird” – a bird reference, just like Antony. The whole lot are ornithology-crazed.
C: What do you think the M in M. Ward stands for?
D: Megamensch. Obviously.
D: Ween covering Kraftwerk?
C: It’s like they’re playing the zaniest parts possible. Zappa plus Sandy Shaw plus Miami bass plus Peter Frampton talkbox plus “Da Funk”-era Daft Punk. [as song builds] You can hear why this band has such a good live rep. And there’s the Disneyland Electrical Parade. Geniuses, pushing it forward: a band mashing itself up. And dig those fistfulls of piano notes!
D: Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, I salute you. Or I would, except I am sitting on my hands in an effort to behave.
C: Somewhere, Neil Hagerty doesn’t feel so lonesome anymore.
D: Todd Rundgren looks up, with interest.
C: Friedberger & Frampton has a certain ring to it. The law firm that rocks!
D: That’s very similar to an Echo & Bunnymen song, “Killing Moon.” [tries singing along]
C: You can’t sing along with this record. How you going to do “fireman Frank friendly fed fee-free/daznk dusty doughnuts den da dribble drank”? Can you imagine Fiery Furnaces karaoke?
D: Only after multiple pitchers of margaritas.
C: Pace yourself, please.
D: You may call me Margarita Friedbergerhead from now on.
C: I may not.
Illegal Tender EP
C: More complex melodic pop, lotsa cool elements. One song goes into a violin and horn shuffle! Uptempo, Fall-Stones swagger.
D: “Are you ready Steve?”
C: Especially the garage-glam stomp here. I love the theatricality of these guys. Brian May type clipped, melodic, strutting guitar. What a tone.
D: You know, it cannot be coincidence that Brian May and Louis XIV, I mean the historical figure Louis XIV, have the exact same hairdo.
C: There may be something to your curly hair theory after all.
Download: “You Can’t Hurry God” — Rev. John Wilkins (mp3)
Stream: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-You-Cant-Hurry-God.mp3|titles=”You Can’t Hurry God” – Rev. John Wilkins]
Gorgeous title track off Reverend John Wilkins’ debut album You Can’t Hurry God—which is otherwise pretty foot-stompin’ and hand-clappin’—just out on CD for 13 bucks from Mississippi’s Big Legal Mess Records, a label all music fans should be keeping an eye on. Big Legal Mess is an offshoot of Fat Possum Records, more in line with their ’90s/early ’00s commitment to releasing new albums by underheard local blues musicians like Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside, Cedell Davis, T-Model Ford, and many others, that were free of the studio polish and cheesy showboating of most American blues recordings from the last three decades. This treasure of an album, produced by Amos Harvey and recorded by Fat Possum vet Bruce Watson, is very much in that ’90s Fat Possum vein.
There’s a lot to say about John Wilkins, and where this music comes from—go to the Big Legal Mess website (address below) for the full scoop—but real quick: Wilkins played guitar with O.V. Wright in the ’60s, as well as performing in local churches, parties and clubs, very much in the North Mississippi Hill Country country-blues style of his father Reverend Robert Wilkins, whose 1930s version of “That’s No Way To Get Along,” entitled “Prodigal Son,” was later covered by the Rolling Stones on Beggars Banquet. Since the early ’80s, Reverend John Wilkins has been pastor at Hunter’s Chapel Church in Tate County, Mississippi. Past members of this congregation include Fred McDowell and his wife Annie Mae, Other Turner and Napolian Strickland. Its singers recorded the album Amazing Grace: Mississippi Delta Spirituals By The Hunter’s Chapel Singers Of Como, Miss. for Testament Records in 1966.
You Can’t Hurry God sports a full bass-drums-guitar-Hammond lineup, with Reverend Wilkins’ daughters on backing vocals. Wonderful and hallelujah!
Tons more biographical, recording and ordering info: http://biglegalmessrecords.com/revwilkins.htm