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

Posts tagged ‘Lucinda Williams’

Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band


The recently released debut album by the Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, 21st Century Molam, is a very interesting collection of instrumental music. “Molam” is a style of Thai folk music, extremely popular in the country’s Northeastern “Isaan” region. Unlike most styles of Molam that feature vocalists, this “International” band from Bangkok (comprised of mostly Thais, but also a Westerner on percussion) focuses on instrumentation. And they boast a lively mix of instruments, including the khaen (a bamboo type of harmonica), phin (a Thai lute, or stringed guitar-like instrument), along with more traditional sounds such as bass, drums, and percussion.

In the liner notes to this CD, the arrangers of the music, DJ’s Maft Sai and Chris Menist, explain that the concept for the band was “born out of looking for records” around Bangkok. At their inaugural Paradise Bangkok party a few years ago, the DJ’s spun a wild mix of music, tunes that they felt to be “natural musical links between sounds around the globe,” from artists such as Mulatu Astatke, Augustus Pablo, R.D. Burman, and Fela Kuti. The spirit of those musical influences can be heard in the songs on this CD, and there are even times when I detect a surf guitar vibe, reminiscent of the Ventures or the Raybeats, but when all is said and played the compositions exude the distinctive sounds of Thai Molam.

If I have one criticism it’s that there is a bit of same-iness to the arrangements of some tracks. Perhaps adding a vocalist on a few songs would have spiced things up a bit, but I can’t fault the concept of making an all-instrumental album either. All things considered, this is pretty darn cool music. The CD contains 12 tracks with a total of 46 minutes. I got my copy at the Zudmangra Record Store on Sukhumvit Soi 51.


Meanwhile, here are the other CDs — newer albums and vintage delights — that I’ve been playing and playing and playing lately:



Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Robert Plant – Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar

Syl Johnson – Twilight and Twinight Masters Collection

Rusty Bryant – Legends of Acid Jazz

Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker



Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (plus 10 for the Pot)

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Fly By Wire

Future Islands – Singles

James Mason – Rhythm of Life

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal



Jesse Winchester – Reasonable Amount of Trouble

Chumbawamba – Un

Ronnie Dyson – Lady in Red

Crown Heights Affair – The Very Best Of: Dreaming a Dream

Neil Young – A Letter Home



Various Artists – South Texas Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue

Mark-Almond – The Best Of Mark-Almond

Radney Foster – Everything I Should Have Said

Jim Lauderdale – I’m A Song

The Dream Academy – The Morning Lasted All Day: A Retrospective



Roger Nichols – Small Circle of Friends

Various Artists – Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Funk

Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together

Dorothy Ashby – In A Minor Groove

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence



Vic Godard & Subway Sect – 1979 Now!

The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River

Sali Sadibe – Wassoulou Foli

Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers



Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

The Miracles – Renaissance/Do It Baby

Reigning Sound – Shattered

Magnum – Fully Loaded

Laura Lee – The Chess Collection



Eddie Floyd – Rare Stamps

Dave Kusworth – In Some Life Let Gone: An Anthology 1977-2007

Various Artists – Living in the Streets: Vol. 2

The Abyssinians – Satta Massagana

Amos Lee – Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song



Various Artists – Royal Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from King Records

Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some

The Frank and Walters – Souvenirs

Stoney Edwards – The Best Of: Poor Folks Stick Together

J.J. Grey and Mofo – This River


Lost in the 1970s: Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

While they had a handful of very popular Top 40 Hits (“Treat Her Like A Lady”, “Too Late To Turn Back Now”, “Don’t Ever Be Lonely”), Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose don’t rank among the better known, or critically acclaimed, soul acts of the 1970s. And that’s a shame, because their songs were consistently very good, ranking as some of the most memorable soul gems of the decade.


I recently bought Classic Masters, a 12-song CD compilation by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose. The CD includes all of their singles plus a few choice album tracks. Except for one song on the compilation, a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” all the songs are originals written by the group’s lead singer Edward Cornelius. I love the description of “Treat Her Lady” in the liner notes, calling it a “bulls-eye blend of rock and soul elements … a driving biker beat that Steppenwolf would have crawled across steaming desert asphalt for, with raunchy rhythm guitar chords WAY up front in the mix.”


Indeed, there were few other songs as distinctive as “Treat Her Lady” blasting from the AM radio in 1971. In addition to that song and the other hits there are songs that should have been big hits, such as the gorgeous “Big Time Lover”, “Good Loving Don’t Come Easy”, and “Got To Testify (Love).” But after only three albums, Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose disappeared from both the charts and record stores. This 12-track compilation offers a good overview of this underrated soul group. The booklet that comes with the CD includes some cool old photos (love those matching suits!) and liner notes about the group written by A. Scott Galloway. A worthwhile purchase for fans of 1970s soul music.

Meanwhile, here are the other CDs, new stuff and older treats, that are keeping me company during this rainy season in Bangkok.


Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott – What Have We Become

John Dunbar – Adventures in Trevorland

James Govan – Wanted

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music


Mind & Matter – 1514 Oliver Avenue

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates

Neil Finn – One Nil

Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio – Smokin’ At the Half Note

Various Artists – Best of Perception & Today Records


Gladys Knight & the Pips – Claudine/Pipe Dreams

Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork

Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit

Various Artists – Getting’ It Off: Westbound Funk

NRBQ – Brass Tacks


Chrissie Hynde – Stockholm

Patty Griffin – American Kid

Broken Bells – After the Disco

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon

Sam Dees – The Show Must Go On



Various Artists – New Orleans Funk Experience

Lee Fields – Emma Jean

The BB&Q Band – Greatest Hits & Essential Tracks

The Millennium – Begin

William Onyeabor – World Psychedelic Classics: Who is William Onyeabor?


John Hiatt – Terms of My Surrender

Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything

Commodores – Machine Gun

Kenny Dorham – Una Mas

Ronnie Laws – Pressure Sensitive


Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams

The Turtles – Save the Turtles: Greatest Hits

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – Give the People What They Want

Aloe Blacc – Lift Your Spirit

Albert Lee – Speechless/Bound But Not Gagged


Chumbawamba – A Singsong and a Scrap

Ned Doheny – Hard Candy/Prone

The Dirtbombs – If You Don’t Already Have a Look

Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

Temples – Sun Structures


Jesse Winchester Tribute

One of the most gifted singer-songwriters in American music, yet one of the most unrecognized over the past several decades, is Jesse Winchester. His songs have been covered by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Wilson Pickett, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Ian Matthews, Nicolette Larsen, the Everly Brothers, and many others. Winchester is a talented performer in his own right and recorded several highly acclaimed solo albums. Back in the 1970s, a review in Rolling Stone magazine even called him “the voice of the decade.” Yes, he’s that good.  


Winchester has always comfortably straddled different musical styles, from folk and country to pop and R&B, but he never really broke out of the “critic’s favorite” corner and achieved mass success. One problem for him was the inability to play shows in his native United States during the prime of his career. For most of the 1970s, Winchester could not even set foot in the USA due to his status as a draft resister. In 1967 he had fled to Canada to avoid the US draft, and a subsequent stint in the Army, which at that time would have meant fighting in the Vietnam War. You have to admire someone like Jesse Winchester who stuck to his principles and refused to join the ranks of those fighting in yet another ill-thought US-led war. Even to this day, there are frightening numbers of misguided people who still believe they are “protecting people’s freedoms” by going off to war and fighting for their native country. The government, of course, loves subservient mindless patriots like that. I could go on and on about such patriotic nonsense, but I’ll save that diatribe for another day.


Winchester’s decision to move to Canada, naturally, was a big, big deal at the time. Being a notorious “draft evader” caused him no small amount of grief and verbal abuse and there were more than a few idiots who accused Winchester of not being patriotic, or worse. It wasn’t until 1976, after receiving amnesty from the government, that Winchester was able to return to the US and finally tour for the first time. But by that time, the golden era of the singer-songwriter had started to fade, and Winchester’s relatively gentle tunes were overpowered by the onslaught of the disco craze and the rise of pop-rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and Boston.


After his impressive run of studio albums in the 70s, and the solid Talk Memphis in 1981, Winchester lost his major label recording contract and has only recorded a handful of albums since then. Last year Winchester was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and the outlook looked grim indeed, but after undergoing radiation treatments and surgery he has been given a clean bill of health by doctors and is once again playing live club dates. Excellent news!


To help pay for Winchester’s medical care, his buddies Jimmy Buffett and Elvis Costello came up with the idea of doing a tribute album. The result is Quiet About It: A Tribute to Jesse Winchester, an excellent 11-song collection of tunes from James Taylor, Rosanne Cash, Buffett, Allen Toussaint, Vince Gill, Mac McAnally, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Little Feat, Costello, and a duet from Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris. That’s as stunning a collection of living musicians as it gets, and if that doesn’t get you excited, you just don’t recognize good music. But due to changes in the music industry, not to mention the aging of the music-buying population, the release of an album chock-full of big names like this has barely made a ripple. I only found out about it while surfing online late one night. Whoa … what’s this!? The fact that the CD was released on a small label, Mailboat Records, doesn’t help matters either.

If you’ve heard Jesse Winchester’s music in the past, it should come as no surprise that his songs positively shine in the hands of the gifted artists on this collection, all of whom are devoted fans of Winchester. In Bill Flanagan’s excellent liner notes for the album he writes: “Elvis Costello points out that it is quite remarkable how every song on this collection fits the style of each singer so well that you could swear he or she wrote it.”

And that’s definitely the case. These artists take Winchester’s songs and put a distinctive personal stamp on them. Listen to Rosanne Cash easing into “Biloxi”, Lyle Lovett’s distinctive take on “Brand New Tennessee Waltz”, or Lucinda Williams putting everything she has into “Mississippi You’re On My Mind.” This is beautiful, emotionally powerful music. My favorite cut on the album is Mac McAnally’s tender cover of “Defying Gravity,” a song that Jimmy Buffett also recorded many years ago on his wonderful Havana Daydreamin’ album.

Tribute albums can often be hit and miss affairs, but each and every song on Quiet About It is a winner. Track this one down and buy it … and enjoy it!


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.

Tony Joe White

On the Sweet Inspiration: The Songs of Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham album that I wrote about recently, one of my favorite tracks is Tony Joe White’s powerful cover of “Watching the Trains Go By.” Tony Joe White, is one of those singer-songwriters who is revered by his peers (no doubt there will be, or should be, a Tony Joe White tribute album someday), but woefully neglected by the listening public.

Listening to Tony Joe White’s songs, you can’t help but think of the swamps and bayous of his native Louisiana: muddy blues and funky country soul that are practically oozing with thick backwoods muck. White has been compared to the guitar troubadour J.J. Cale, and while that’s not a bad comparison, it doesn’t begin to adequately describe what White is all about either. For that, you really just have to listen to the songs, and let those swampy grooves sink into your brain.

Tony Joe White gained fame as the writer of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” which was a big hit for Brook Benton way back in 1970. White himself had a minor hit with “Polk Salad Annie” the previous year, but he never capitalized on that early success and pretty much evaporated from the music industry a few short years later. I have a Best of Tony Joe White CD, containing 20 songs from 1969-1973, that I found a few years ago at a shop here in Bangkok. After recording those early albums, he virtually disappeared from the music industry for many years until resurfacing in the early 1990s. In the past decade he has been especially active, releasing several critically acclaimed albums. When I was in Kuala Lumpur last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find one of his recent albums, The Heroines at the Rock Corner shop in Mid-Valley MegaMall. Released in 2004, it’s a very solid batch of songs, many of them duets with female singers such as Emmylou Harris, Shelby Lynne, Jessi Colter, Lucinda Williams, and his daughter Michelle White. Listening to these songs, it’s clear that White has lost none of his verve and vigor.

A live recording he did in 1980 for the Austin City Limits TV show was released on CD in 2006 as Live from Austin, TX. This album includes favorites such as “Rainy Night in Georgia” and “Polk Salad Annie,” along with cleverly titled tunes like “Mama Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to be Babies.” In 2010, White released a new album, The Shine, on the appropriately named Swamp Records label. I haven’t heard this one yet, but it’s getting good reviews. If I don’t find a copy during my next trip to KL, I may end up ordering it online.

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