musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Drive-By Truckers’

Living on Neil Young’s Earth

When I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months back, I packed up a trio of recently released Neil Young CDs, including The Monsanto Years and Earth. Both albums are highly recommended and feature Neil playing with his new band, Promise of the Real. That band, interestingly enough, features two of Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Mikah. And these guys rock as hard as Crazy Horse, the legendary outfit that played on so many of Neil’s best albums.

 

To my ears, Neil and Promise of the Real are a great fit, merging tight musicianship with Neil Young’s distinctive guitar playing and of course the equally distinctive vocals of the man himself. And, as you would expect, the lyrical content makes a statement too. Plus, on Earth, which is a live recording, the songs are supplemented by the sound of crows cawing, and a few other barnyard sound effects. If that sounds weird, well hey, it’s just Neil Young being Neil Young, and the crow stuff actually enhances the vibe and works pretty well. Thank heavens we have still have Neil Young out there and making vital music and caring about what happens to our environment. More people should listen to him and ignore all the bloated politicians spewing their dated rhetoric and other nonsense.

 

Speaking of Kuala Lumpur, I picked up the Neil Young CDs at the Victoria Music outlet in the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya. On weekends at Amcorp Mall you can also find many dealers selling vintage vinyl and used CDs at the indoor “flea market.” While in KL I also made my pilgrimage to a few of the Rock Corner branches, the number of which are sadly on the decline. After the closure of their branches in KLCC, the Mid-Valley Megamall, and 1 Uttama, the store at the Curve also closed, and now the ones in Bangsar Village and Subang Jaya are also slated to shut by the end of this month. After that retail decimation, the only branch open will be the one in the Gardens, the smaller shopping center adjacent to the Mid-Valley Megamall. Considering how difficult it is for retail music shops to operate in these downloading, streaming times, it’s not shocking to see those wonderful establishments shut their doors, but it really depresses me all the same. Meanwhile, here are the other albums that have me pumping my fists in the air and doing silly dances in the living room:

 

Patty Loveless – Sleepless Nights

The talented singer-songwriter turns the tables and does an album of classic country songs, covering tunes made popular by George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, and more. Delightful stuff.

Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen

BNQT – Volume One

The Velvet Crush – Heavy Changes

Nada Surf – Peaceful Ghosts

 

Billy Butler – The Right Tracks: The Complete Okeh Recordings 1963-1966

Jerry Butler’s brother shows that he was a fine singer in his own right on these vintage Okeh label songs. Plenty of great soul tunes, many of them written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, plus some groovy unreleased backing tracks.

Eugene Record – The Eugene Record/Trying To Get To You

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Vavoom!

Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep

The Primitives – Echoes and Rhymes

 

Drive By Truckers – It’s Great To Be Alive!

Can I call these guys the best band working in the USA? I’m gonna do it anyway. They’ve been through several lineup shuffles over the past decade or so, the band does indeed keep on truckin’, thanks to the outstanding songs of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. And some impressive guitar playing too. The live setting on this sprawling 3-CD set only makes their songs all the more powerful. Life affirming music.

Joe Haywood – Warm and Tender Love

Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of

Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Little Windows

Cait Brennan – Third

 

Khun Narin Electric Phin Band – Khun Narin Electric Phin Band

From Thailand’s Northeastern Isaan region, Khun Narin’s band is back with another intoxicating collection of instrumentals. They fuse traditional Thai morlam music with a propulsive, almost psychedelic groove. This album changes tempos more than their last one, but still plenty of tunes to get your booty shaking. Check out their videos of YouTube! Lively up yourself!

Kenny Burrell & Jimmy Smith – Blue Bash!

Natural Four – Heaven Right Here On Earth/Natural Four

Dexter Wansel – Stargazer: The Philadelphia International Records Anthology 1976-1980

Calexico – Edge of the Sun

 

Rozetta Johnson – A Woman’s Way: The Complete 1963-1975

Where did this lady come from? Listen to hear belt soulful song after soulful song and you wonder why she didn’t make bigger waves in the music industry. Great songs and a great voice. Dig in and love it!

Various Artists – One Track Mind: More Motown Guys

John Jarvis – Something Constructive

Walter Jackson – It’s All Over: the Okeh Recordings Vol. 1

Royksopp – In Inevitable End

 

Artful Dodger – The Complete Columbia Recordings

The underrated and now defunct power-pop group from the US get a justly deserved 2-CD retrospective of their 1970s recordings. Catchy as hell.

Over the Rhine – Discount Fireworks

Chuck Berry – Chuck

The Feelies – In Between

Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

 

Various Artists – Next Stop Soweto Vol. 4: 1975-1985

Subtitled “Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga, this is another impressive collection of vintage South African music, the fourth in this series from Strut Records.

Jimmy Castor Bunch – Butt Of Course/Supersound/E-Man Groovin’

Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Cotton Mather – Wild Kingdom

Shawn Colvin – All Fall Down

 

John Holt – 4000 Volts of Holt

This must have been where UB40 got the idea for their “Labour of Love” albums. Pop and Soul hits covered by the sweet-singing John Holt. It’s not all fabulous, but you’ll find plenty to like on this 2-CD set.

Gerry Beckley – Horizonal Fall

The Well Wishers – How I Won the War

Isaac Hayes – Out of the Ghetto: The Polydor Years

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy

 

Pat Thomas – Coming Home: Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1964-1981

Another underrated African musician, this time a guy from Ghana who played in several groups before going solo. Another fine 2-CD reissue from Strut Records.

Chet Ivey – A Dose of Soul: The Sylvia Fun Recordings 1972-75

Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny – Beyond the Missouri Sky

The Creation – Action Painting

Don Covay – The House of Blue Lights

 

Various Artists – Afrosound of Colombia: Volume 2

I loved this first volume of this series, highlighting the extensive catalog of Colombia’s Disco Fuentes label, and this one is equally as fun. A lively stew of Salsa, Boogaloo, Afro-Beat, Cumbia, Soul, and Funk.

The Fantastic Four – Alvin Stone/Night People

Link Wray – 3-Track Shack

Various Artists – Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian and Ghanaian Recordings 1954-1966

Dionne Warwick – The Essential Dionne Warwick

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Drive-By Trumpster: Fearing America

dbt_amband

No, I haven’t calmed down yet. If anything, I’ve become even angrier about Donald Trump being elected president of the United States of America. Or should we start calling it: the Irrevocably Broken States of America?

I’m a US citizen but I haven’t lived in the USA in over 20 years. In fact, the last time I even visited my homeland was 16 years ago, ironically in the days after that infamous 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. My family’s home was in Florida, and that of course became the pivotal state in that election, resulting in the recounting of votes and dealing with those tricky “hanging chads” and other creepy political shenanigans. So, I would wake up each morning, wondering if the election was truly over yet or not.

At least we had no such ballot counting drama in this election, although like Al Gore, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote yet lost the national election thanks to that antiquated Electoral College system that still governs the outcome (and actually the results won’t even become “official” until the EC meets on December 19) of the election.

In any case, I left the USA a long time ago, frustrated and annoyed even back in those days at not only the creepy political climate but the ignorant mindset of the general populace. Having to grin and bear the hateful utterances of racists, religious crackpots, misogynists, homophobes, and weekend rednecks was just becoming too much to bear.

If it sounds like I just described Donald Trump, there you go. He is all those horrid things and more; a grown man with the maturity level of a ten-year-old and the cruel mocking behavior of a habitual neighborhood bully. And American voters just elected this creep as their next president. She got criticized for her comments, but Hillary Clinton was spot-on in her assessment of the bulk of Trump supporters: they are indeed a “basket of deplorables.”

Even with his victory there is a strong chance that Trump will be impeached, have to resign, or suffer some sort of debilitating illness before his term is up, perhaps even before he has completed his first 100 days in office. But that could be a disaster in the making too. If Trump were not able to finish his term, the country would be left with Vice President Mike Pence to run things. Pence is more of your standard right-wing conservative religious nut. In other words; a dangerous person if given any power. I’m sure the Republican establishment would be overjoyed to have Pence running the country instead of Trump, but for any citizens possessing even a glimmer of intelligence, such a prospect would be just as bad or worse than if Trump were in charge.

I’ve read dozens of articles and analysis about the election in newspapers and online this past week, and listened to people’s comments and opinions in my shop every day. Of course people are shocked and scared. Electing Donald Trump to run the USA is frightening on so many different levels, and for so many different reasons. His decisions of course will affect life for those living in the United States, but the ripples will be felt by us in the rest of the world too.

I fear the dark days ahead.

Drive-By Truckers.

Ironically, I’ve been playing the new politically-charged album by Drive-By Truckers, American Band, a lot this past month. I think DBT are one of THE greatest bands working in the USA nowadays (or any day in the past two decades) but they’ve really outdone themselves with this new album. The band’s two main songwriters Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood have really elevated their craft with gripping new songs that describe the hopes and fears of living in the USA, as well as their disenchantment with the government. Listen to songs such as “Kinky Hypocrite” and the powerful “What It Means” and can hear — and feel — the simmering anger and frustration. After this hostile Trump campaign — and his shocking victory — I would imagine that Drive-By Truckers and other thoughtful recording artists will have more to say about the worrisome state of America.

 

William Bell’s Soulful Comeback

bell_thisiswhere

Some recording artists release new albums every year, while others take their time, spacing their new collections a few years apart. In William Bell’s case, it’s been a whopping ten years since his last studio album, and nearly forty years since his last major label release. Talking about taking your time! But in this case it was well worth the wait. His excellent new album, This is Where I Live, marks his return to Stax Records, the label where he penned the classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, as well as other 1960s hits such “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”, “Private Number”, “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and “You Don’t Miss Your Water”. But after his early success William Bell has been pretty much off the musical radar since his 1977 album Coming Back For More.

bell_soul

Bell wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on his new album, astutely selecting some talented writers to help him (producer John Leventhal, Rosanne Cash, and Marc Cohn), plus he does a fantastic cover of an old Jesse Winchester song. From start to finish, This is Where I Live is nothing but sheer listening pleasure, pure southern soul from one of the masters of the genre. Although Bell is now 77 years old, he sounds like a much younger man, although one whose long life and vast experiences has shaped these heartfelt songs. Even so many decades later, the power and soulful passion of his voice remain, the perfect garnish for these splendid songs.

Meanwhile, here are the other albums (all purchased on CD; you won’t get me paying those high prices for supposedly “superior” vinyl!) that have me humming and smiling and dancing while the rain continues to fall where I live in Thailand.

 

dbt_americanband

Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Barry White – Together Brothers

Teenage Fanclub – Here

Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band – Wede Harer Guzo

Blood Oranges – Freetown Sound

 

iketurner_kat

Ike Turner – That Kat Sure Could Play!

Gerry Beckley – Carousel

Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die

Look Park – Look Park

Turnpike Troubadours – Goodbye Normal Street

 

tempertrap

Temper Trap – Thick As Thieves

Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed

Jimmy Bo Horne – Best of the TK Years 1975-1985

Seth Swirsky – Circles and Squares

William Tyler – Modern Country

 

bluesin_roughntough

Various Artists – Bluesin’ by the Bayou: Rough ‘N’ Tough

Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok

The Main Ingredient – Tasteful Soul & Bitter Sweet

Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park

 

jjenkins

Johnny Jenkins – Ton-Ton Macoute!

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Senor Soul – What It Is Y’all: The Best of

Fats Domino – Greatest Hits: Walking To New Orleans

The Dells – Freedom Means …

 

reachingout_chess

Various Artists – Reaching Out: Chess Records at Fame Studios

Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers

Lucero – Live From Atlanta

Joe Ely – Live Chicago 1987

The Explorers Club – Together

 

thingsgonnagetbetter

Various Artists – Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977

Fanga/Maalem Abdallah Guinea – Fangnawa Experience

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Andrew Bird – Are You Serious

 

garifuna

The Garifuna Collective – Ayo

Various Artists – South Texas Rhythm ‘N’ Soul Revue 2

Van Morrison – Keep Me Singing

John Fahey – The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites

Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music

Songs for Slim

songsforslim

The new Songs For Slim compilation album is overflowing with great songs, plus it’s for a good cause, making it a very worthwhile purchase on all counts. Songs For Slim is a benefit album, proceeds of which will go to help pay the medical bills of Slim Dunlap, best known as a guitarist for the Replacements, the legendary Minneapolis band that made some wonderful albums in the 1980s and early 1990s. Dunlap also made two highly regarded solo albums (the first in 1993, the other in 1996), but a stroke in 2012 curtailed his music career and he now requires round-the-clock medical care. Fortunately, he has many friends in the music industry who have banded together to help him out.

So yeah, Songs For Slim has its heart in the right place, but on musical merits alone this 2-CD set is thoroughly enjoyable. If you cut your teeth on the alternative-pop guitar-propelled music of the 80s, particularly the rowdy rock of the Replacements, you’ll find a lot to like on this album. I’ve been a Replacements fan since the early days, but I’d never heard either of the solo albums that Slim Dunlap recorded, so the biggest surprise for me was the high quality of these songs, all of which Slim wrote himself. This tribute album features the likes of the Replacements, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Joe Henry, Tommy Keene, Jakob Dylan, Patterson Hood (from Drive-By Truckers), Soul Asylum, Peter Holsapple, Frank Black (from the Pixies), Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco), and many others, including a track by LP.Org, which features the radiant vocals of Gary Louris from the Jayhawks. Another of my favorite tracks is by a guy I’d never heard of before, Frankie Lee. Imagine if Ronnie Wood was a much better vocalist and that’s pretty close to what he sounds like.

Kudos to these artists, and to especially Slim’s friend and longtime Replacements manager Peter Jesperson, for putting this heartfelt and rockin’ tribute album together. Songs For Slim is available as a 2-CD set, or on good ole vinyl, including some 10-inch and 12-inch singles available, plus limited edition artwork by Replacements drummer Chris Mars.

www.songsforslim.com

In addition to Songs For Slim here are some of the other CDs that are making me sing and dance and cool down during the intense heat wave that we are having this month in Bangkok:

halloffame2 

Various Artists – Hall of Fame Volume 2: More Rare and Unissued Gems from the Fame Vaults

Eric Clapton – Give Me Strength: The ‘74/’75 Studio Recordings

Various Artists – The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles

Stanley Turrentine – That’s Where It’s At

George Jackson – All Because of Your Love

 leGrandeKalle

Le Grande Kalle – His Life, His Music

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Smart’s Palace

Ry Cooder – Get Rhythm

Doug Paisley – Strong Feelings

Al Green – Love Ritual: Rare and Unreleased 1968-76

 dbt_englishoceans

Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans

Allen Toussaint – The Complete ‘Tousan’ Sessions

Eddie Reader – Live in Japan

Flora Purim – Butterfly Dreams

Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz

worldneedschanging 

Various Artists – The World Needs Changing: Street Funk & Jazz Grooves 1967-1976

Television Personalities – Yes Darling, But is it Art?

Midlake – Antiphon

The New Mendicants – Into the Lime

Willie Mitchell – Poppa Willie: The Hi Years 1962-74

smokedsugar 

Smoked Sugar – Smoked Sugar

The Young Fresh Fellows – The Men Who Loved Music

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Songs from the Movie

X – Under the Big Black Sun

Patrick Cowley – School Daze

lowellgeorge 

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

Tommy Tate – I’m So Satisfied

Various Artists – Late Night Tales: Belle and Sebastian Vol. 2

Beth Orton – Pass in Time: The Definite Collection

Roy Harper – Man & Myth

larrysaunders 

Larry Saunders – Free Angela

Major Lance – The Very Best Of

Trombone Shorty – Say That To Say This

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

Chumbawamba – The Boy Bands Have Won

 

Jason Isbell’s Triumph

It’s not too soon to be talking about Best Albums of the Year, and one of the contenders for that claim is Jason Isbell’s new album, Southeastern. Isbell is a former member of the acclaimed band Drive-By Truckers, but he left to pursue a solo career about six years ago. On his previous three albums, including the excellent concert recording, Live From Alabama, Isbell shared billing with his band, the 400 Unit, but he is using only his name on this new album. Isbell is an articulate, passionate songwriter, who writes melodic songs that stick in the head. One review I read likened him to a cross between author Raymond Carver and music legend Neil Young. Hmm … not a bad comparison.

isbell_southeastern

The new album is a continuation of the “thinking man’s southern rock” style of music that he — and also the Drive-By Truckers, who have continued making excellent albums even without Isbell, thanks to having another great songwriter, Patterson Hood in the band— excels at making, but on Southeastern Isbell has sharpened and elevated his craft to an even higher level. The new songs take on a more personal and reflective tone, reflecting some of the changes in Isbell’s own life in the past year or so. I think this is clearly Isbell’s best album yet. There are fewer rockers on the new album, favoring slower songs and ballads, but that doesn’t make the new compositions any less potent. This is powerful, moving music. In addition to that excellent album, here are the other goodies — both old and classic and new and intriguing — that are making me smile lately.

terryedwards

Terry Edwards – Birth of the Scapegoats

John Fogerty – Wrote a Song For Everyone

Irma Thomas – A Woman’s Viewpoint: The Essential 1970s Recordings

Various – Yellow Pills: Prefill

The Rail Band – Bell Epoque 1: Soundiata

slaidcleaves

Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting the War

Passion Pit – Gossamer

Bobby Whitlock – Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Solomon Burke – Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions

World Party – Arkeology

guyclark_favpic

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards

The Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed

Johnny Marr – The Messenger

grandbahama

Various Artists – Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay

Bob Mould – Silver Age

Jules Shear – Sayin’ Hello to the Folks

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Prix Label

Talking Heads – The Name of This Band is Talking Heads

kenyaspecial

Various – Kenya Special

The Strokes – Comedown Machine

The Budos Band – The Budos Band

Jim Boggia – Fidelity is the Enemy

Etta James – Who’s Blue? Rare Chess Recordings

mavericks_intime

The Mavericks – In Time

George Jackson – What Would Your Mama Say?

Babyface Willette – Stop & Listen

Canned Heat – The Very Best of

Gene Clark – No Other

twincitiesfunk

Various Artists – Twin Cities Funk & Soul

The Primitives – The Best of

Kelly Hogan & the Pine Vally Cosmonauts – Beneath the Country Underdog

Dean & Britta – L’Avventura

Robert Cray – Live at the BBC

headeastlive

Head East – Live

Andy Kim – How’d We Ever Get This Way/Rainbow Ride

Bobby Bland – Greatest Hits Vol. Two: The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings

Donny Hathaway – Live

Owsley – The Hard Way

 

Soul Survivors

It’s not unusual for a veteran recording act to make a comeback after a long spell of not recording any new music, but recently several soul music vets have make stunning returns to form with impressive new albums.

Betty Wright had a monster hit with “Cleanup Woman” back in 1971. “Where is the Love” and “Shoorah! Shoorah!” were two more of several hit singles she had that same decade, and she released the enormously popular Live album in 1978. Recalling all those “oldies”, one would assume Betty Wright is now a gray-haired granny living comfortably in retirement, but she was only 17 years old when she recorded “Cleanup Woman”, and at the relatively young age of 58 she is still going strong. She continued to record albums in the 80s and 90s, many of them critically acclaimed, but due to label issues and the always turbulent changing trends in the music business, Betty Wright pretty much disappeared from the radar of most listeners. I admit to being one of those oblivious listeners — in my case, caught up in the world of “alternative music” — who didn’t realize that she was still recording albums during that period.

Until she resurfaced with a new solo album in late 2011, Betty Wright: The Movie, she had not released any new music in a full decade. But Betty Wright kept busy writing songs, contributing background vocals for other artists, and even doing some production work. With her new album, recorded with The Roots, Betty Wright has reclaimed her position as one of the most dynamic soul divas around. Not having heard any of her 80s or 90s albums, I can’t compare those recordings to this new one, but Betty Wright: The Movie is simply an outstanding album. If I were still compiling Top 10 lists, this album would have easily made my “Best Of” for 2011. Her multi-year absence from recording solo albums has obviously not eroded any of her vocal ability; she still sounds like a house on fire: raw, spunky, vivacious, and most of all … vital. Co-producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots has incorporated some contemporary hip-hop elements into the mix, but it doesn’t dilute the soulfulness and power of these very strong songs. In addition to members of the Roots, other guests popping up during this sprawling collection of songs (78 minutes of music on a single disc) include Lenny Williams, Lil Wayne, Joss Stone, and Snoop Dogg.

Booker T. Jones, the keyboard whiz of Booker T. & the MGs fame, also released a new album, The Road from Memphis, in 2011. Once again, members of the Roots can be found contributing to the musical vibe on the recording. Busy guys! This wasn’t really a comeback album for Booker, though; that distinction goes to Potato Hole, an album he released the previous year. Nominated for a Grammy award, Potato Hole was a rough and funky collection of instrumentals, featuring members of the Drive-By Truckers, and a wayward guitarist by the name of Neil Young. Not the classic Booker T. & the MGs sound, but still mighty fine listening. The Road from Memphis, however, does indeed have more of that classic 60s soul vibe, Booker’s distinctive organ playing propelling the songs to dizzying heights. It’s a scintillating album of strong material, featuring both instrumental and vocal numbers. In addition to those workaholic Roots fellows, Lou Reed, Yim Yames (from My Morning Jacket), and Sharon Jones join the party. Obviously, the musicians here are top notch, but the songs themselves are also a cut above the rest. When Booker himself sings “Down in Memphis” you can close your eyes and picture the streets of the city. It’s such a joy to listen to music this well performed, and so heartfelt.

Speaking of Booker T. & the MGs, the guitarist from that band, Steve Cropper, also released a new album last year, Dedicated. Like Booker’s The Road from Memphis, Cropper’s album is a mix of both instrumental and vocal numbers, and features an array of special guest vocalists. Croppers cast includes Steve Winwood, Lucinda Williams, Delbert McClinton, B.B. King, Bettye LaVette, Dan Penn, and Sharon Jones. What? Nobody from the Roots is on here? They must have been resting that week! If you are wondering about the album title, it is indeed a dedication of sorts; a tribute to the music of the 5 Royales, an influential Memphis band from the 1950s. Cropper was influenced by the band’s guitarist, Lowman Pauling, and the songs on Dedicated are all ones originally performed by the 5 Royales. Once again, an awesome bunch of musicians are gathered for a funky musical feast. It SOUNDS like they are all having a blast, and that’s always a big plus.

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