Ry Cooder Preview That Got Lost in the Storm

This was such an insanely busy week that I managed not to link to this preview.

June 7 at 8 p.m.
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA

Ry Cooder’s new album, The Prodigal Son (Fantasy) is one of those works that tempt you to say it was inevitable because it’s so apt and timely. This is always an illusion – concept and execution have to fuse into a set that’s perfect for the moment and the future. Cooder’s basic insight was that traditional gospel songs often have potent morality, righteousness and even anger. They do mean to lift you higher. The Prodigal Son combines fairly well-remembered numbers like Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” with more-faded tunes like Blind Roosevelt Graves’s “I’ll Be Rested When the Roll Is Called.” Best of all, Cooder modifies Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload” so it chastises the faux-pious wealthy of our time and he enriches the program with acid observations on “Gentrification” (written with his son and the album’s drummer, Joachim). “Jesus and Woody” is even narrated by Christ himself. Can’t deny it – seeing this show will earn you a blessing.

What Century Am I Living In … ?

Czarface/MF Doom, Czarface Meets Metal Face — Sometimes astute and often very funny comic-book/superhero-movie trip out.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Sparkle Hard —  Bit low on the chewy combo of tunes and ‘tudes. Like the guitars, though.

Whi te De nim, P er for man ce — Enough pretty brains and unfatigued ideas to make me take the trouble to type out name and title the way they want it.

Oneohtrix Point Never, Age of ECCO — Damn. Almost certainly going to be one of the top two or three I reach for first.


For the Record: Denouncing a Boneheaded Idea About Pop Music

An unfortunate, lingering side-effect of the persistent remnants of high-culture arrogance 30 years ago was the following “reasoning”:

Theater and classical music were Serious Art best explained by serious writers for a serious, intelligent audience.

Films and jazz had earned a seat at the lower end of the Serious table, but they had a essential commercial streak that made denouncing big hits something to avoid.

Popular music was garbage and nothing but commerce. So a serious writer who took on pop was a fool. Writing for a tiny audience of other fools. The correct move was dumb writing for dumb people, which would attract a huge audience.

Of course this never worked in practice. (Pointing out that those who read about pop music were already the intellectual fans didn’t seem to make any difference.) So the nonsense has fallen out of favor.

What has replaced it is the notion that gossip and celebrity-drooling will make a lot more bucks than serious discussion. And that, sadly, is hard to deny.

My Altamount Snippet

I see there’s a new book about classic rock’s darkest day, Just a Shot Away. With what seems like a much-needed remedial main thread. (And I must say that the event is the one thing I utterly hate about the Grateful Dead.)

My most vivid encounter with Altamount horrors came when I mentioned the Gimme Shelter documentary to a music photographer (forgive me for not remembering his name) and he said he was at the show, taking photos. But it was such a drug-soaked and violently deranged scene — more like a riot than a concert — that after half an hour he put away the camera and volunteered to work in a First Aid tent.

It was the look on his face as he recounted this that froze me. This was someone who had witnessed an atrocity.

Memorial Mixdiscs, First Half 2018

This is a good time for a listen back. I don’t claim this is comprehensive by any means — just favorites and you have to stop digging through the stacks at some point if you want to finish the collection. As I noted just below, this is a strong year for vets and relative newbies and if those *@!!+% Parquet Courts had allowed their disc to be copied, they would also be included. (Yes, a couple tracks are longtime delights I rediscovered recently.)


Vol One

  1. Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, “Ladilikan”
  2. Gilberto Gil, “Refavela”
  3. Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, “Modul 36”
  4. Bettye LaVette, “Things Have Changed”
  5. Ry Cooder, “You Must Unload”
  6. Tracey Thorn, “Sister”
  7. Superchunk, “Break the Glass”
  8. Yo La Tengo, “Above the Sound”
  9. Lori McKenna, “You Can’t Break a Woman”
  10. Victoria, “C’Est Un Tombeur”




  1. Ben LaMar Gay, “Uvas”
  2. Ana Moura, “Fado Dancado”
  3. Superorganism, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous”
  4. Jon Hopkins, “Singularity”
  5. Laura Veirs, “Seven Falls”
  6. Mast/Monk, “Misterioso”
  7. Anita Harris, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
  8. Low Cut Connie, “Hey! Little Child”
  9. Grant Green, “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself)”
  10. Ana Moura, “No Expectations”
  11. John Prine, “When I Get To Heaven”