Giving quality listens the bump
Thursday 22 June @ 02:36:31
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Good place to wash your hair, Liverpool- nice soft water.”- George Harrison
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”- Electric Light Orchestra
Hidey-ho, gang ... hope this edition of the ‘Dial finds ya’ll happy, healthy and enjoying what looks to be a great summer for both new records and live gigs as well. More on that in the coming weeks, but rest assured there’s some tasty stuff comin’ our way as I pen this week’s speil. For now, though, I’m gonna throw out a couple of reviews of albums that you may or may not have heard me ranting endlessly about over the past few months. If so, you’ve hopefully already dashed out and picked ‘em up- if not, here’s another glimpse at some music I think deserves another bump, made by people who actually put their all into their art, have worked their way honestly through the mire we call today’s Music Biz and who actually provide a bit of solace and peace of mind to the average music nut (is there such a thing?) in an increasingly generic, repetitive, materially-obsessed and hopelessly overloaded society. What I’m sayin’ here, I guess, is that I really, really like these albums. A lot. And hopefully, you’ll dig ‘em as much as I do. Either way, I’m slappin’ it against the proverbial wall an’ hopin’ it sticks, so here goes ...
Blame The Vein
Yeah, he wears a hat, but you’d be a fool to lump country-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight Yoakam into the same category as Garth, Clint Black, or that wanker who sings “Honkytonk Badonkadonk.” Ack. Though he’s had an admirable number of hits on country radio over the years (particularly with his re-issued Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.. and his duet with Mr. Owens, “Streets Of Bakersfield”) his music is edgy and contemporary enough to ride comfortably next to his current labelmates, Chuck Prophet and Vic Chesnutt. (Yoakam and Chesnutt have crossed paths before, as actors in the Billy Bob Thornton epic “Slingblade”)
Blame The Vein, his first for New West, is hands-down his strongest effort since 2000's Tomorrow’s Sounds Today, as evidenced by the title track. The song fairly oozes out on an electronic whine reminiscent of The Electric Prunes’ “Too Much To Dream,” then slams into the heart-breaking, low-slung Telecaster growl (courtesy of hot-shit axe-man Keith Gattis) that’s become Yoakam’s trademark sound. An insta-classic, and one that, in a just world, would be topping country music charts across the country.
Sadly, Nashville continues plodding its way through a steaming pile of pop-y poo-poo that is nothing short of overwrought, insulting stage pomp and over-produced, uninspired studio circumstance- depriving the general country record-buying public the opportunity to be exposed to this brand of true-blue, from-the-gut, rocked-up, REAL country music. Yoakam may not be a fresh voice on the scene, but he’s making fresh music and growing in leaps and bounds artistically- and thanks to New West- we’ll be able to follow along.
Music For Clean-Up Men, Breakdown & In-Betweeners
Local faves Divorcee, a hook-savvy rock quartet ably led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan Seitz, deliver another scrumptious batch of pop nuggets with Music For Clean-Up Men ... Alternately offering up catchy, guitar-heavy riffers (“Brand New”), quiet, soulful sonic tonics (“Miracles”), and radio-ready romps (“Blow Me To Pieces”), this record is a great showcase for the band’s many and varied influences and styles. Backed by the note-perfect combo of Jon Herchert (guitars, vocals), Matt Novachis (skins), Schoen Oslund (bass) and Cory Eischen (keys), Seitz puts a fresh spin on the time-tested subject of love gone wrong. A powerful continuation of a grand musical experiment (that actually works!) and a great addition to the local Twin Cities canon. Dig deeper at http://www.princessrecords.com.
Big Apple-to-La La Land transplant Jim Bianco delivers his Tom Waits-influenced rock/pop/carny schtick with a, er, devilish flair, his bloody, battered heart in hand and tongue firmly in cheek. Handsome Devil (I’m no expert, but after a quick glance at the band’s photo on the CD jacket, I’m thinkin’ the title is a joke) is a surprisingly delicious potpourri of catchy, underdog anthems (“Best That You Can Do,” which brings to mind both the gruff, worried groove of Jon Dee Graham and the crackling, quirky beats of Chuck Prophet), bizarre, unsettling story-songs (the title cut), and dark, bouncy love-gone-wrong ditties (“I’m Sorry,” “More Hands”). Though he admits in the album’s press kit that he’s “vaguely aware” of Tom Waits (har, har, Jim- that’s a good ‘un!), the connection here is hard to miss. Sure, it’s nothing new as far as mod-pop music goes, but frankly, I feel that this record has more of those sly, dastardly, and totally enjoyable Waits-isms lurking in dusty corners and under bottle-filled tables than much of what the master himself has offered us in the past few years. Bianco’s a great songwriter, a consummate showman and a truly interesting vocalist. Well worth watching, and I for one can’t wait for his next release. Good shit.
That’s it for this week, kiddies ... tune in again, same time, same space on the ol’ ‘Dial, for more of the same. Until then- make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CDs you’d like to see mentioned in this column, or you’d just like to declare your undying love and loyalty for the quirky, whimsical and thoroughly enjoyable nonsense of Lee Hazlewood to a twisted fellow fan, send replies to: Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.