If I had been forward thinking, I would have tried to be in the mood to listen to something from one of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. As it turns out, none of us had that kind of synergy or forethought going. Still, we have one of the more diverse collections of songs to grace this series since its inception and that doesn't suck.
These may not be the best songs ever, they may not even be our favorites, but they kept us entertained last week. You could do worse than to try a few of them out and see what they do for you.
DJRadiohead: “Black Water” from The Wheel Man by Watermelon Slim & The Workers
I told you in the Blues Round Up that Watermelon Slim's new disc, The Wheel Man, is in stores April 17. There is nothing about having connections that doesn't rule. I got an advance of Slim's new album and I listened to it from beginning to end three times within the first 12 hours of having it in my possession.
His current self-titled release leads all BMA's in nominations with six. The Wheel Man might actually be a stronger album! I don't want to tease too much of my upcoming review, but here is the quick skinny: the best songs from the self-titled record might be a bit better than what's on The Wheel Man, but this new album is a more consistent listen from beginning to end.
As I write this, I am listening to “Black Water.” There are some really cool songs with that title. Charlie Musselwhite's unbelievably good Delta Hardware has a great song by that name, Meat Puppets have a good one, and then there is the Doobie Brothers' classic. Add this cut by Watermelon Slim to that list by pre-ordering a copy of The Wheel Man. This is easily going to be one of the best blues releases of 2007.
Connie Phillips: "New Medication" from This is It by In Theory
I've been listening to In Theory's soon-to-be-released This is It in preparation to feature them as an upcoming Band of the Week. They have a modern rock and mainstream pop sound, and their first single, "New Medication" is extremely catchy.
Inspired by a friend's struggle with alcoholism, it's ambiguous enough to be open to interpretation and could be a wake-up call for anyone suffering a loss and trying to self-medicate. It's a polished and solid-rocking track, and just a slice of what promises to be a break-out record.
Mat Brewster: "Easy Plateau" from 06/03/05 by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
Sounding more electric, more rock, and more like the Grateful Dead than the countrified version on Cold Roses, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals kick out the jams to open this astounding show in Clifton Park, NY. Every instrument is crisp, and clear, and turning like a well oiled machine, which is pretty spectacular considering the the band has only been playing together for less than a year. People have killed for less magnanimous openings.
The rest of the show aint bad either.
Tom Johnson: "Hyperballad" from Trio by Wasilewski/Kurkiewicz/Miski
Having installed some new speakers in my truck, and having spent far too much time doing so, I needed to take a drive to both pick up dinner and test out the speakers. Frustrated and tired, I also just needed to get out and not think about anything for a little while.
Choosing just the right music with which to try out those new speakers isn't easy, but after a few songs, I settled on just the right one, a cover of Bjork's "Hyperballad" by this nearly unpronouncable Polish trio.
Freed of vocals, the tune here allows the band to emphasize the underlying melodic beauty while maintaining some room for them to explore. Of course, for my needs at the time, it sounded gorgeous, but most of all, it simply soothed my tool- and stress-weary nerves.
Ian Woolstencroft: "Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses)" from Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room by Dwight Yoakam
This is just about the perfect country song. It’s got all the right ingredients – love, betrayal and murder. A sparse production really shows off Dwight’s vocals and Pete Anderson’s guitar provides excellent accompaniment. Yoakam’s nasal twang may be an acquired taste but it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing this tale of a scorned husband’s revenge on his philandering wife. All very un-PC of course but then so many of the best country songs are.
Glen Boyd: "Untouchables" from Livin' Like Hustlers by Above The Law
Before gangsta rap became the commoditized, made for mass consumption product (and subsequent convoluted mess) that it is today, it's earliest records from the mid to late eighties could be great little lessons in musicology. On many of these original West Coast jams–especially those produced by Dr. Dre–you could find little snippets of everyone from Sly and The Family Stone to Ramsey Lewis, sandwiched in between all the rhymes about pimpin' hos and poppin' caps.
On this track from the Dre produced debut album from Above The Law, rapper Cold187um rhymes about his hustling skills comparing himself and his crew to the "Untouchables" of the original Chicago gangster era, backed by this great jazz version of "Light my Fire" by —? And that's the question. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out where this jazzy version of "Light My Fire" used by Dre and ATL came from ever since I pulled it out of the CD rack earlier this week. It's also been used as a music bed during bits on the Howard Stern Show.
So this is as much of a query as it is a recommendation. Can someone help me identify this? This one's for all you BC jazz buffs. Saleski?
Pico: “Strange Meadowlark” from Pink Elephant Magic by Joanne Brackeen
My ears perked up at the opening notes of this song: it's long been my favorite composition from the Dave Brubeck Quartet's all-world Time Out lp and it's probably the most overlooked. Brackeen goes solo piano on it (which is what Dave did for the first minute or so on the original, anyway) and gives the beautifully lilting waltz a heartfelt rendering.
Brackeen herself has been inexplicably unnoticed. Her note-perfect interpretation of “Strange Meadowlark” is the kind of reward awaiting the curious for digging just a little bit beyond the big names and the big songs in jazz.
Michael Jones: "Hourglass" from Internal Revolution by Diecast.
Until seeing them open for Sevendust last Friday I'd never heard of Diecast. After seeing them tear up the stage, though, I found myself rushing to the merchandise booth in order to pick up their cd. By the time it took me to work through the line, amazingly, Paul Stoddard (the lead singer) was there signing autographs. Very cool, right?
Even cooler is the fact that I've been spinning my autographed copy of Internal Revolution nearly non-stop since that night. For a band relatively new to the spotlight that opening for Sevendust will shine upon them, Diecast is an amazingly tight and talented band. Stoddard's voice screams and soars over the dual guitar attack of Jonathan Kita and Kirk Kolaitis while Dennis Pavla (drums) and Brad Horion (bass) hold down a fierce rhythm section.
Of all the songs on the album, however, "Hourglass" has become my favorite. Fueled by a chugging guitar attack, Stoddard's lyrical assault on the idea of how living forever and watching the world decay is not such a good thing, is flat-out wonderful rock and roll thriving out on the metal edge. Great song on a great album, period.