Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Music Week

Updated May 23, 2024, 19:02 CDT

I slipped up and failed to include "unpacking" when I posted this. Added below.

One more thing I meant to write about is that my domain registration for terminalzone.com is up for auto-renewal on May 28. I won't bother giving you a link, as the page is currently blank. (I thought I had a stub page. It actually had some material years ago, but it got wiped up in a server disaster, and I never got it restored.) Once upon a time, I thought my music and politics posts have somewhat diverging audiences, so it might be better to promote them as two separate websites (possibly with different collaborators). My first step there was to register domain namess for Terminal Zone and Notes on Everyday Life.

Those domain names came from publications I was heavily involved with in the 1970s. Notes on Everyday Life was a left-political tabloid with broad cultural interests -- "everyday life" potentially covered everything -- started at Washington University (St. Louis) by Elias Vlanton, Kevin Dougherty, and Harold Karabell, and they roped me in early on. Over a couple years we published a dozen or so issues, with an ever-changing cast of contributors.

One of those was Don Malcolm, who initially wanted to write about the Beach Boys, and he's the main reason or at least the catalyst for getting me into writing about music. He wrote a column, "Mainline," later collected as Overdose -- a compilation that included my initial batches of CG-like record reviews. (Those writings are preserved here). He followed that up with Terminal Zone, which I did major work on, but we split after a single issue. (I think Malcolm published a second, and maybe a third, issue, before his interests moved onto baseball -- there's more shared publishing history there, but I lost my interest in baseball well before I started thinking about web publishing.)

Anyhow, the question now is whether I keep a domain name I'm not using, and haven't used for ages, or let it expire. The money isn't a big deal -- although the fewer domain names I host websites for, the less I need to lease a dedicated server, and that is a tad expensive, as well as no small amount of management headache. I've dropped or reassigned a couple domains in recent years, and I'm glad I did.

On the other hand, renewing the domain name keeps open the possibility of eventually using it for something worthwhile. I don't feel much (if any) desire to promote myself as a music writer these days, but I do still fantasize about reorganizing my fairly substantial stash of music writings into a website framework that other people can take over and build on -- in effect, the seed for an open source project. I've been kicking variants of that idea around for years, with no great urgency or commitment. At this stage, it's unlikely to happen, unless someone else steps forward and wants to make it happen. It's not necessary to keep my sentimental name, let alone the domain name, but that -- plus the server plus the writings plus the fact that I still have most of my wits and skills and am often willing to lend a helping hand -- makes it the prospect a bit more credible.

I would appreciate any thoughts here. The name itself is of sentimental value to me, but meaningless to almost everyone else, so dropping the domain name won't preclude future website development. (So if the name sucks, that would be a good reason not to invest further in it.) Offers of help are welcome, but I'm unlikely to be very proactive for a while. (I have lots of other things in flux, but I'm feeling less down on myself as a critic than I was back in January, when I was more optimistic about book writing.)

I'm guessing that the most likely scenario is I kill the week waiting for responses that never come, so the domain gets renewed but remains unused for another two years. But I thought I should at least post the thought. Use Contact or Q&A to respond. Notices will follow on Twitter and Facebook (which I'm old-fashioned enough to reserve for personal friends, although my posts there are usually public). If you run across this after the deadline, chances are the opportunity hasn't been permanently lost.

One more note: I've had a request to be able to link directly into my Greil Marcus commentary from the the May 20 Speaking of Which, so I've started to add a few anchors: the Marcus note is here, and you can also jump straight to the music links. No idea how often I'll do this in the future, but it will make it possible to call out particular sections in tweets and comments.

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42349 [42312] rated (+37), 27 [22] unrated (+5).

We had a friend from Boston visiting this weekend, Friday to Tuesday. Most of the original planning didn't pan out: people we wanted to invite over for dinner left town, museums and restaurants we expected to be open weren't. We took a day trip into the area in central Kansas my grandmother hailed from, but we were a couple weeks too early to see wheat ripen. I figured we could stop at a legendary Swedish restaurant in Lindsborg, only to find it "closed permanently," so we wound up at Applebee's. So in some ways it was a bust, but the company was much appreciated, and appreciative.

I had written a bit of Speaking of Which before our guest arrived, and added bits here and there when I had a spare moment. I figured there was enough to post Sunday night, but didn't get it done until late Monday (118 links, 7602 words). I added some more after our guest left today, as well as blocking out this Music Week post.

I suppose I should point out that I finally carved out a section there for links to pieces on music. Not much in it this week, but it should go into the template. I still haven't played the Taylor Swift album, or even the new Billie Eilish. Not much strikes me as a priority these days. Speaking of Which also has a long comment on a Greil Marcus "answer," but it has nothing to do with music.

I hadn't expected to get much music reviewed this week, but when you promise a weekly post, you're not promising any quantity (or quality, really). I'm surprised I came up with as much as I did. Not at all clear what to do next.

New records reviewed this week:

John Ambrosini: Songs for You (2024, self-released): Jazz singer, plays piano, seems to be his first album (only Discogs credit is for an eponymous 1997 group album, The Trees), wrote two songs, the rest coming from what we may dub the rock-standards era: Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Walter Becker with Donald Fagen or Rickie Lee Jones. Draws on Randy Breker, David Binney, and Joel Frahm for horn spots. Well done, but the familiar songs are not all old friends, and it still seems odd to standardize songs from such an auteurish era. B [cd] [06-01]

Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos 2 (2024, Psychic Hotline): Singer-songwriter, from Maceio, in northeast Brazil, fourth album since 2014, sequel to his 2022 release. Laid back and slightly off-kilter. B+(***) [sp]

The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (2014-19 [2024], Steele): Guitarist, pulled this together from two tours (the latter opening for Steely Dan), both trios with Ben Paterson (organ) and Kobie Watkins (drums), playing songs you know: "Superstition," "Layla," "Tennessee Waltz," "Jitterbug Waltz," "House of the Rising Sun," and a medley in 2019. B+(*) [cd] [05-24]

Carl Clements: A Different Light (2023 [2024], Greydisc): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here; also bansuri, from his interest in Hindustani classical music), has several albums since 2004 (nine per website). Quartet with piano (Chase Morrin), bass (Bruno Råberg), and drums (Gen Yoshimura). Original pieces, some quite impressive. B+(***) [cd] [05-23]

Amalie Dahl's Dafnie: Står Op Med Solen (2023 [2024], Sonic Transmissions/Aguirre): Saxophonist, has a previous group album, one more; group includes trumpet, trombone, bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (2023 [2024], Prophone): Swedish pianist, fourth album since 2005, quartet with guitar (Carl Mörner Ringström), bass (Niklas Fernqvist), and drums (Daniel Fredriksson). Original pieces, smart and steady. B+(***) [cd]

Mikko Innanen Autonomous: Hietsu (2021 [2024], Fiasko): Finnish saxophonist, in a live set named for the venue in Helsinki, with Håvard Wiik (piano), Ajntti Lötjönen (bass), and Peter Bruun (drums), with some extra strings (and contrabass guitar). B+(**) [bc]

Abbey Masonbrink: Rising (2024, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Kansas, first album, plays banjo but not bluegrass, with producer Rod Pope (Get Up Kids) going for a denser, more electronic mix. Returns to form with a somber, piquant "I Saw the Light." B+(**) [sp]

Modney: Ascending Primes (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic, 2CD): Violinist Josh Modney, based in New York, has a couple previous albums, most ambitiously the 3-CD Engage (2018). This one is pretty ambitious as well, starting solo and ascending to "undectet" (11-piece orchestra). Unfortunately, I played the second disc first, and didn't discover the first until I was more than done with the second. Not that I'm not impressed, but violin can rub me the wrong way, so there's a lot here I simply don't enjoy. But I still feel like its monumental-ness deserves some kind of credit. B+(*) [cd]

John Moreland: Visitor (2024, Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter from Tulsa, debut 2008 but breakthrough was 2015's High on Tulsa Heat. Slows down here, and reflects. "We don't grieve, and we don't rest. We just choose the lie that feels the best." B+(***) [sp]

Bill Orcutt Guitar Quartet: Four Guitars Live (2023 [2024], Palilalia): Guitarist, from Florida, started in rock groups, notably one from 1992-96 he co-led with then-wife Adris Hoyos called Harry Pussy. He released a solo album in 1996, then many more after 2011, along with avant-jazz collaborations (especially with Chris Corsano). His largest project, Music for Four Guitars, appeared in 2022, with Wendy Eisenberg, Ava Mendoza, and Shane Parish. Here they take their 30:58 set on the road, stretching it to 58:14. A- [sp]

Katie Pruitt: Mantras (2024, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Georgia, filed her first record under country but that's less obvious here. B+(**) [sp]

Ren: Sick Boi (2023, The Other Songs): Welsh rapper/beatmaker Ren Gill, formerly of Trick the Fox and The Big Push, third album. Quick off the mark, but in for the long haul. A- [sp]

Maggie Rogers: Don't Forget Me (2024, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, the kind I have trouble with because I don't like having to pay close attention, but the music and voice are agreeable enough to lessen the chore, and the work pays off more often than not. Third major label album, after two self-released efforts that her discography makes an effort to distance from (although they seem to be available in a juvenilia compilation). Probably worth revisiting the earlier work. A- [sp]

Ann Savoy: Another Heart (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Originally Ann Allen, from St. Louis, married Cajun accordionist Marc Savoy and joined his Savoy Doucet Cajun Band, also appearing in Magnolia Sisters, and leading a couple albums with Her Sleepless Knights. This seems to be the first with just her name on the credit line. It is a modest endeavor. B+(*) [sp]

Serengeti: KDIV (2024, Othar): Chicago rapper David Cohn, many records since 2003, looks like he's released several since the last I noticed in 2021. KD is his recurring character (or alter-ego?) Kenny Davis (this 18-track album is also available on Bandcamp as Kenny Davis IV). A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Congo Funk: Sound Madness From the Shores of the Mighty Congo River: Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969-1982 (1969-82 [2024], Analog Africa): Some big names here, like Franco and Rochereau, as well a sampling from the north bank of the river, selected to emphasize the influence of James Brown. B+(***) [sp]

Grupo Irakere: Grupo Irakere (1976 [2024], Mr Bongo): Legendary Cuban jazz group, founded by pianist Chucho Valdés in 1973, second album, band toured Eastern Europe in 1977, and gained further international notice when Columbia released an album in 1978, followed by notable defections in 1980-81 (Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval). The band continued through 1997, when Valdés left, to be replaced by his son, Chuchito (to 1999). Excitement everywhere. A- [sp]

Todd Snider: Songs for the Daily Planet (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Pandemic project, possibly inspired by Taylor Swift's decision to re-record all of her old records, except that not being Taylor Swift, he decided to give them away as free downloads, and saved some money by just doing acoustic guitar solo versions, but they come out longer as he tells stories and talks around. The cover has some extra print: "Aimless Records Presents" above the cover image, and "Recorded at the Purple Building" below, but I think (Purple Version) suffices. This was his first album, from 1994. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Reminiscing his way through a remake of his second album. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Project continues through his third and final MCA album, Viva Satellite. Solo guitar and voice, with spoken intros stretching the original 14 songs out to 84 minutes. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Jackson Blues, 1928-1938 (1928-38 [1991], Yazoo): Original LP collected 14 tracks from 10 artists in 1968, the dupes three tracks each for Tommy Johnson and Ishman Bracey. B+(**) [sp]

Ville Lähteenmäki Trio: Introducing (2022, Ultraääni): Leader plays bass clarinet, claims the compositions, titled "side A" and "side B," with Nicolas Leirtrø (contrabass) and Trym Saugstad Karlsen (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Ville Lähteenmäki Utopia: Russian Body Language (2020, Art First): Also found this earlier album, probably the bass clarinetist's first, a cassette release recorded and mixed by guitarist Lauri Kallio, with bass, drums, vibes (Mikko Antila), and extra alto sax on one track (Johannes Sarjasto). Most free, some heavy, some light. B+(***) [sp]

Mississippi Moaners: 1927-1942 (1927-42 [1991], Yazoo): Isaiah Nettles, of Carlisle, Mississippi, recorded four songs in 1935, two released as The Mississippi Moaner, one here along with 13 more songs, one per artist, in this interesting compilation of Delta blues obscurities. B+(**) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-40 [2016], World Music Network): Generous (25-track) sampler from the northwest corner of Mississippi, noting legends like Son House, Charley Patton, and Skip James, but quickly moving on to the lesser-knowns that make anthologies like this necessary. Starts with the last-recorded piece, Bukka White's "Special Streamline," because even archivalists like to open with a bang. A- [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues (Vol. 2) (1928-40 [2022], World Music Network): Plenty more where the previous volume came from, giving 22 first-volume artists a second song (opening again with 1940 Bukka White), adding four more (Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Matilda, Louise Johnson, Mississippi Mud Steppers). Some finds here, like "It's Killin' Me" (Willie Lofton), but overall it loses a step. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Ragtime Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1925-38 [2017], World Music Network): Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Willie McTell anchor this collection, where "rag" can mean any number of things. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-48 [2018], World Music Network): Piano players, a nice selection, with boogie woogie specials like Jimmy Yancey, Pete Johnson, and Albert Ammons pushing into the 1940s. B+(***) [sp]

Serengeti: The Glennon EP (2020, self-released, EP): With nothing in my database since the disappointing 2021 Have a Summer, I'm playing catch up. Five tracks here, 11:46, produced by Glennon Curran. Still, not much here. B- [sp]

Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (2022, Audio Recon, EP): Nine tracks, 16:01, produced by Rob Kleiner. B [sp]

Serengeti: We Saw Mad Turtles (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 10:12, produced by Arborist. Getting a bit denser. B [sp]

Serengeti: Ajai II (2023, self-released): Short album (10 tracks, 28:37), follows his 2020 release Ajai, produced by Child Actor. B+(*) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (1996, MCA): Second album, following his 1994 debut Songs for the Daily Planet, some folk, some country, some flat out rock, can amuse but that's not yet a big part of his repertoire. At least until "Tension" appears, one of his greatest songs (I probably know it from one of the Storyteller live albums). That's where he's found his calling. B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (1998, MCA): Third album, last for MCA, reportedly got him fired, probably for following their advice and rocking harder -- not something I object to on any sort of principle, but I find the deviant "Guaranteed" much more interesting than the powerhouse "Out All Night". Still, I can't say that his unplugged remake is any better, so maybe not one of his better batches of songs (although "Double Wide Blues" is a keeper). B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Happy to Be Here (2000, Oh Boy): After MCA, Snider landed on John Prine's Oh Boy label. First (well, only) time I heard him was as a solo act opening for Prine, but that was around the time of his third Oh Boy album, Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms, so I'm catching up with its predecessors. This was recorded solo, then extra bits were dubbed in (including some awkward horns). B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: New Connection (2002, Oh Boy): Some more songs I recognize, like "Statistician's Blues" and "Beer Run," no doubt from elsewhere. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Altus: Mythos (Biophilia) * [06-07]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (Culture Shock) [06-14]
  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released) * [06-12]
  • Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (ArtistShare) [05-03]
  • Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Flavio Silva: Eko (Break Free) [06-07]
  • Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (ArtistShare) [0l6-21]
  • Juanma Trujillo: Howl (Endectomorph Music) * [07-12]

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