Music Review

Guy Clark, Master Craftsmen, 1941-2016

The year 2016 continues to take some of our best and brightest stars. We have lost Bowie, Prince, Merle, and a slew of others. I don’t have to go through all of the names. I generally put up a quick, "Well, we lost another great one" post on Facebook. This will not be one of those, because the latest loss -- Guy Clark, who passed away on May 17 at the age of 74 -- hits me hard.

Song of the Week: Nada Surf - "Rushing"

Damn, they've done it again! From their latest longplayer You Know Who You Are, my favorite NYC-folk-rock band deliver a perfectly executed subway love song called "Rushing". I've been a fan for years and this is one of the best songs they've ever executed. Two decades in and they are still bursting with smart lyrics and gorgeous sing-along melodies! 10 new tracks available on Barsuk Records. Don't delay, buy them all today!

A Prog-Rock Bonanza: Anthony Phillips Reissued

 
Anthony "Ant" Phillips, an original member of Genesis, left after their second album (Trespass, 1970) because of stage fright -- an especially problematic situation, one supposes, for the lead guitarist. He spent the ensuing years studying music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (which is to say classical music), along with occasionally recording demos of new material at home. It would be seven years before his first solo album would appear, but after that he would be fairly prolific. Though he never achieved mainstream success -- which sadly makes sense given that this progressive rock legend didn't issue anything in 1971-76, the peak prog years -- aficionados of the style have long admired his work. Cherry Red's Esoteric imprint is now in its third year of repackaging Phillips's work with his collaboration, and with the recent issuance of 1979's Sides meaning that all of his '70s albums are now available again as box sets, now seems like a good time to review the story so far.

Song of the Week: Gary Lucas & Jann Klose - "Fair Weather"

One may surmise that NYC-based guitar maestro Gary Lucas has the magic touch when it comes to collaborating with profound artists. He has found yet another formidable vocal foil in singer/songwriter Jann Klose. As you may or may not remember, Mr. Lucas was responsible for igniting Jeff Buckley's vocal prowess in their band Gods & Monsters and co-writing the two best tracks on Mr. Buckley's solo debut. It should come as no surprise that Mr. Klose handled vocals in the Buckley bio pic Greetings from Tim Buckley and has appeared at numerous Buckley tributes and multiple stage appearances with Mr. Lucas. "Fair Weather" is from their excellent stripped-down simple Americana-centric album Stereopticon (Cosmic Trigger Records). It's my favorite track from said album. Klose's smooth vocals perfectily compliment Mr. Lucas' acoustic guitar majesty. The video was directed by DeAngela Napier.

Getachew Mekurya R.I.P. (14 March 1935 - 4 April 2016)

Tenor saxophonist Getachew Mekurya, one of the greatest musicians in the long and proud history of Ethiopian music, passed away today. 

Boston-based bandleader Russ Gershon, with whose Either/Orchestra Mekurya played in the 21st century, wrote on Facebook, "By playing Shellella, an Ethiopian vocal war chant, on his tenor sax, he arrived at a sound that had something in common with Albert Ayler independently, half a world away, and several years earlier."

By age fourteen, Mekurya was already a professional musician, playing saxophone and clarinet in the Municipal Band of Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. At twenty, he was in the house band at the Haile Selassie I Theatre, and at thirty joined the prestigious Police Band.

Mike McGinnis - Art Lande - Steve Swallow at IBeam (Brooklyn, NY), March 27, 2016

Chances to hear pianist Art Lande in action in New York City are rare; with bassist Steve Swallow, even rarer (they had a band in the Bay Area in the '70s). Fortunately for New Yorkers, clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Mike McGinnis took it upon himself to bring them together for some trio concerts, and though snow in Colorado kept Lande from arriving for the originally scheduled Thursday and Friday shows, IBeam was able to accommodate them for the expected four sets by squeezing in a late set Saturday and then three sets Sunday night; I caught the first two on Sunday.

Charity Begins Alone

Adam Miller 
Who Would Give His Only Song Away
(Chelsea Records)

When Wes Farrell, the man who penned the perennial evergreen "Hang On Sloopy," and was overseer to the phenomenal chart successes of the Partridge Family and David Cassidy, set up his own record label in 1972, his maiden release wasn't a sure fire pop confection. He began proceedings with an exquisitely crafted collection of psych outsider introspection. Adam Miller, his new discovery and recipient of this gracious act of faith didn't set the world aflame, he didn't even darken it's edge, and today remains unknown, his album the victim of at best a misreading of the small print one is required to field when stumbling across an artist with no fame attached to the name above the title, more than four decades after the event. Chelsea Records became an outlet for pop and disco, especially the wonderfully camp and catchy Disco Tex and his Sexolettes, to name but one. It didn't suggest a testament of smouldering intensity and insight that would give the likes of Sixto Rodriguez, a man who knows a thing or four about waiting around in the doldrums of obscurity before recognition finally pays a much belated call. The albums enigmatic, cryptic name Who Would Give His Only Song Away is suitably intriguing and enigmatic, as is the young man looking downwards from the front cover. As of now there is precious more to add but the songs which are arranged with immense decorum and class by the respected jazz pianist Michael Melvin.

Song of the Week: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - "Astonished Man"

The alt folk-rock outfit Thao & The Get Down Stay Down have just released their fourth album, A Man Alive, and "Astonished Man" is the first single from said album. The record was produced by fellow Bay-area musician and tUnE-yArDs leader Merrill Garbus, and she produces the heck out of this single. In fact, their entire album. It's even quirkier than the Talking Heads and her own band, and that's in a grand way.