Five Slow Burners

What these records have in common is that I checked them out more than twice during 2017 and they finally snapped into place as pretty damn good after the year was over. (I mean, Top 40 maybes.)

  1. Reina del Cid, Rerun City (self-released). Unadorned music and careful songwriting that works on all but a couple tracks. Observations about love and behavior as well as fantasy and portraits. This is one do-it-yourself I’m more than glad came to be. “Beverly” (which contains the title phrase) is the best song about the redemptive power of movies in quite a while.
  2. The Domestics, Little Darkness (tktktktktk). The vigorous two voices and scattered strong lines became a more solid program in the last few days. Informed by personal anguish and hard times, no question. Then I found out they were victims of one of the most unbelievable promotional muck-ups ever. When this finds a home, seek it out.
  3. Jolie Holland & Samathan Parton, Wildflower Blues (Cinquefoil). The only Be Good Tanyas album that got to me was the debut, which features contributions by Jolie Holland even though she had already left the group. This reunites her with another ex-Be Good. Let’s start with three brilliantly realized covers: Townes Van Zandt’s “You Are Not Needed Now,” Michael Hurley’s “Jocko’s Lament” and Boob Dylan’s “Minstrel Boy” (with added lyrics by Holland). Then add that while the Van Zandt leads off the program, the original title number makes a perfect pairing. And the new-song writing doesn’t let up. Damn, this might be a Top 20.
  4. Roscoe Mitchell, Before There Was Sound (Nessa, 2011). This just sat (idiotically) on a listen-to-again shelf for five years or so. Includes Fred Berry, trumpet and flugelhorn, Malachi Favors, bass and Alvin Fiedler, drums. Recorded in mid-’65 and of course the parts are not in place, but a rich pleasure for me over the years is to follow the growth and flowering of the Art-Ensemble related Chicago soniverse. A must for fans. And who wouldn’t want the earliest version (I think) of Favors’s “Akhenaten”?
  5. Nick Photinos, Petits Artefacts (New Amsterdam). Not surprised this took a while to come into focus. Pretty eccentric. This saves me an all-too-wordy explanation. Let’s just say that after enough exposure, all the little pieces fit together.



Get Off To a Heavy Start

I’ve been playing the collection I’m a Freak Baby … on and off this week and am now certain that all the selections of the bands I knew beforehand are outstanding cuts. But I would push this most as a starter set for the curious youngster. Hear something that blows your brain out the window — explore some more (you’re not in my running pack if you can resist “Do It” by the Pink Fairies). A surprise throwback to the days of meticulous anthology boxes. (And I’m going to check out the debut album by Stray (S/T), which I gather is their consensus masterpiece and certainly kicks off the program with a wowser.)

R.I.P.: John Perry Barlow

Complicated guy. I thought his politics were a mess, and that he got conned by Tricky Dick Cheney (real limits of libertarianism exposed) though he later denounced the heartless creep and others — but why is this system better than being a progressive, man? (I know, I know, the wide-open West, etc etc.) Bob Weird is my least-favorite Grateful Dead member, but I will say he and Barlow did a lot to undercut the hippie-doofus image of the band with frequent passages about guns and violence and murder. There’s some worthy links here. I intend to grab his book in June.

Expert Witness Comment for the Week

The Beefheart is on order and I can’t think of another player who has done so much to preserve and honor his former leader. Also just picked up the Cuneiform tribute Lucas did back in 2009 (thoughts not formed yet).

And I’m weirdly alienated from the Stones in a way I never thought would be possible. I was actually charmed by the 2016 blues album the first time through (hey, it had shape and tone and kidz had become overly resistant to the old ferts) but by the fourth listen knew it was an empty exploitation. I’m sure the grade is correct, but there’s too much out there to listen to to acquire any more Mick and Keef.

R.I.P.: Mark E. Smith

He had a great Fall and I think he’d appreciate this non-obit obit.

I tried to write an obit in the manner of his lyrics — “Now he’s dead. Can’t get him outta your head-uh.” — but even incorporating as many actual phrases from his songs as possible, I didn’t have the chops to pull it off. (Or it was a misguided project, period.) The key problem was that it could be read as a mockery of his mannerisms. You couldn’t stick in some dopey explanation that it was an homage, since that would ruin everything. But in this touchy age, it would certainly be read as a satiric attack on a guy who just died, you jerk.

First 2017 Year-End Disc — “Related Internationals”


  1. David Lopato, “Ladrang”
  2. Joyce/Dori Caymmi, “Joaozinho Boa Pinta”
  3. Hermeto Pascoal, “Mavumvavumpefoco”
  4. Pandang Food Tigers, “Barely a Breath In Your Parenthesis”
  5. Sabrina Malheiros, “Em Paz”
  6. Miguel Zenon, “Academia”
  7. Lila Downs, “Urge”
  8. Anat Cohen/Marcello Goncalves,“Otra Coisa”
  9. Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, “Alap”/”Snap”
  10. Amjad Ali Khan/Amaan Ali Bangash/AyaanAli Bangash/Elmira Darvarova, “Gentle Sunset” (Raga Marwa)