A sad note to start today's column: Scott Bar Mortiz, of Scotland Barr and The Slow Drags, has died from complications of pancreatic cancer at the age of 44. I never met him, but when someone's music becomes a part of the soundtrack of your own life, you feel a connection; then when that person is gone — especially much too young — you feel the loss. We feel it here at the Indie Round-Up. Four songs from the band's upcoming CD have been released, with Scott's final recorded vocals, available for download at their website. Here's "Rasputin and Me":
Pere Ubu, Long Live Pere Ubu!
Pere Ubu's music has always been theatrical, so it's only fitting that Dave Thomas & Co. have finally created a score for the classic Absurdist play Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry, the play that gave the band its name. I hadn't seen a production of Ubu Roi since college, in the early '80s – the same time I discovered the band Pere Ubu. But despite all the time gone by, I decided to simply listen to the album without refreshing my memory of the play, to experience it the way most listeners would. And it's a blast.
There are several different voices, and a good bit of talking, amidst the garage-y noise and grainy serio-silliness. It is a play after all — one that inspired riots back in 1896. This music won't have you breaking store windows. But Pere Ubu's unique sonic sensibility might just inspire you to look at the world in a slightly different way, finding color, as they do, in infinite shades of grey. And because of the storyline, listening to this album feels as much like reading as it does hearing music. No Kindle required. Or eyes, for that matter.
Blue Mother Tupelo, Heaven & Earth
Blue Mother Tupelo is husband-and-wife team Ricky and Micol Davis, Nashville-based singer-songwriters who favor a slightly fuzzed-out sound and hypnotic, often dark guitar arrangements. Even more than Ricky's thick, Gregg Allman-ish vocal tone, that sonic sensibility places them in a half-retro, half-timeless place. Both are fine singers, but what they do with their voices in the studio is important as well; after the straight-ahead repetition of the country-rock opener, "Always Lookin'," Micol's distant-sounding voice on the grave title track recalls the effects Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac used to use to get that faraway, slightly scary sound. The duo's bluesy side comes to the fore on a medley of the original one-chord drone, "Give It Away," and an acoustic cover of Jessie Mae Hemphill's "Hard Times," where Micol sounds like a very early Janis Joplin, and Otha Turner and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band jump on for the ride.