Jun 142012

Is this Townsman chergeuvara-submitted clip of legendary (in some circles, such as Irish rock/Thin Lizzy/hard rock circles) guitarist Gary Moore‘s original Skid Row the best white-blooz performance ever? And by “best white-blooz performance ever” I don’t mean “best,” necessarily. I don’t mean “best-worst” performance, as you might expect me to snarkily mean it. I mean best performance that exemplifies the best and worst aspects of white dudes playing da blooz.

Along these lines, for example, an argument could be made that Cream was a great white-blooz band. Their white, heavily amplified, possibly even non-American psychedelic rock approach to a musical form removed from the band members’ culture both added appealing new aspects to the genre while occasionally overstepping stylistic bounds of good taste. At their best, Cream was really easy to dig while also providing unintentional laughs. I think this Skid Row clip adds as many valuable new wrinkles to da blooz while simultaneously doing more in the name of whiteness. I think I now finally understand the cult appeal of Gary Moore.

Jun 032012

This is my inaugural essay post under this auspice, and an extension of what I was trying to do with a blog I was running for 2 years. (R.I.P. “What Do We Have For Entertainment?”)

My wish, is to come crashing into RTH’s bedroom, shouting “You have to listen to this!”

I’d like to introduce drummer Jonathan Kane by way of 3 interwoven genres that appear in his music. I’ve laid out some notes on paper, in which drone, the blues, and New York No Wave funnel into each other, kinda like an upside down delta, in fact.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-I-Looked-At-The-Sun.mp3|titles=Jonathan Kane: I Looked At The Sun]

Which is appropriate, since Kane’s music (and I prefer to think of him as a bandleader, rather than the mere and often derogatory the drummer. Same way I think of Charles Mingus) draws so much from the delta blues perpetual motion boogie of John Lee Hooker, and the minimal chord structures and hypnotic vamp of Mississippi Fred McDowell. The latter’s blues, from the north hill country of his name-state, is marked particularly for sticking to the I chord rather than making the change to the IV or the V. Sometimes this blues will stick to dwelling on the IV chord. The harmonic shift gives a suspended sound, a minimalist drone.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/1-09-Wandering-Blues.mp3|titles=John Lee Hooker: Wandering Blues] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/15-I-Looked-At-the-Sun.mp3|titles=Mississippi Fred McDowell: I Looked At the Sun]

Perhaps the blues could be considered a minimalist form. Regional, rustic, but with close ties to the minimalist compositions of the downtown New York scene of the ’60s: La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich (see also: John Cale). The constant harmonies, steady drone, lock-groove, and gradual transformation are not a million miles away from the boogie of ZZ Top’s La Grange. Continue reading »

Apr 242012

UPDATED…after the jump!

I was listening to American Routes on NPR last night while washing the dishes. Over the years, host Nick Spitzer has opened my ears to all kinds of American roots artists I’d previously found boring. Not everything he plays works for me (I still can’t stand most of that accordion-driven music from Louisiana), but as great DJs can do, there’s something about the way he sets up and frames the music he plays each week that often works wonders.

While I was scrubbing a roasting pan last night, Spitzer introduced Robert Johnson‘s original recording of “Crossroads.” Because there’s so little blues music I’ve liked over the years and because I’ve never previously found anything that interesting about Johnson, the most legendary bluesman ever and probably an inspiration for not only the movie Crossroads but my favorite blues-based movie, Black Snake Moan, I put down the scrubber and let the pan soak a few minutes longer, so I could pay full attention to what Spitzer announced was probably Johnson’s most influential recording.

Continue reading »

Oct 032011

Check out this video from Big Mama Thornton:

Now you show me a song/performance that oozes sex more than this one.

I don’t know much about Big Mama. I didn’t realize she was still performing in 1971. She would have been 45 years old then and looks a decade or two older. Looking at other videos—and you’d be wise to check more out, especially this one:

Continue reading »

Sep 272011

Somewhere on YouTube there’s a person who wrote the following comment following the posting of one of many Blood, Sweat & Tears‘ versions of my least favorite song in the world, Laura Nyro‘s composition “And When I Die”:

This is the song I told my family to play at my funeral—except my ‘One Child Born” is now “Four”

That’s kind of sweet that this person is thinking ahead. I have been too. Hear me out, Townspeople, and see that my family gets the word: This is the song I do NOT want played at my funeral!

Not this version:

Yeah, I’ll get in on the action, all right. It’s a shame the tuba player’s big moment had to appear between the hairy cheeks of David Clayton-Thomas.

Not this version:

Apr 112011

Each Sunday while preparing dinner I greatly enjoy listening to Nick Spitzer‘s American Routes show on NPR. He plays American roots music, much of which I would not listen to without Spitzer as my guide. I don’t know what it is about the guy, but he’s one of those DJs who just sounds so nice, knowledgeable, and inviting that I even find myself enjoying the occasional zydeco song. As if to prove how much of a non-American roots enthusiast I am, rarely does a week go by that he doesn’t throw in one Rolling Stones cover of a blues or Chuck Berry chestnut so I can think to myself, Man, young Mick Jagger was the best blues singer ever!

With Spitzer’s focus being on American roots music and the term “American roots music” usually excluding the “roots” music from my northeast city boy perspective, I’m bound to be faced with a challenging episode now and then. Yesterday’s episode, Living With the Blues, was probably the most challenging one to date. Here’s the description: Continue reading »


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