Thursday, September 5, 2013


YEAR:  2010
LABEL:  Nonesuch
TRACK LISTING:  Peace Behind the Bridge,  Trouble In Your Mind,  Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine,  Hit 'Em Up Style,  Cornbread and Butterbeans,  Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),  Why Don't You Do Right?,  Cindy Gal,  Kissin' and Cussin',  Sandy Boys,  Reynadine,  Trampled Rose
BONUS TRACKS:  Memphis Shakedown,  City of Refuge
IMPRESSIONS:  I've always been a fan of folk music and old 78 recordings such as those featured in Harry Smith's "ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC" etc.  That's probably why this album was such a joy to me.  Oftentimes, when modern performers attempt to do old blues songs or jug band stomps or country blues, the results can sound dead or academic; but here, the Carolina Chocolate Drops recordings sound alive and authentic as this music should.  After all, this music shouldn't be considered a museum piece (as often happens) but instead should be just as enjoyable as any other music one listens to today.  And that's where the Carolina Chocolate Drops triumph over their competitors; the music sounds fresh and vital and not at all like some dusty music archeologist's attempts to catalogue lost folk tunes.  This album is just a solidly great listen; an almost perfect album in every way.  The song selections are pretty flawless; country blues and jug band hootenannies ("Trouble In Your Mind", "Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine") with new compositions "Kissin' and Cussin'"), modern covers, instrumentals and even British folk music.  We're used to hearing Peggy Lee's big band version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" but here the exquisite voice of Rhiannon Giddens renders it into a melancholy blues.  There is murder ballad-stuff here as well as a hilariously incongruous but still tasty cover of Blu Cantrell's hit from about a decade ago "Hit 'Em Up Style" which somehow works.  Rhiannon also provides us with an a cappella rendition of the Brit-folk standard "Reynadine" which I'm familiar with in versions by Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch all the way through to the Folktellers' version "Mr. Fox" on their "CHILLERS" album.  A superb collection of country blues.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Peace Behind the Bridge,  Trouble In Your Mind,  Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine,  Hit 'Em Up Style,  Cornbread and Butterbeans,  Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),  Why Don't You Do Right?,  Kissin' and Cussin',  Reynadine,  Trampled Rose
FACT SHEET:  GENUINE NEGRO JIG is the Carolina Chocolate Drops' fourth album.  The group at this time consisted of the trio of vocalist Rhiannon Giddens, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dom Flemons and percussionist/banjoist Sule Greg Wilson with occasional guest appearances by Justin Robinson.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops are one of the few existing African-American string bands whose stated purpose is to celebrate and bring attention to the history of string band music from the North and South Carolina Piedmont region which they learned at the feet of respected old-time fiddler Joe Thompson.  In Giddens' words:  "it seems that two things get left out of the history books. One, that there was string band music in the Piedmont, period. (And that) black folk was such a huge part of string tradition."  Critically acclaimed, (The 9513 described the album as "an album of feistily complex, yet endearingly soulful songs that have ages of history behind them and a bright future as well.") the album was number 9 on Roots magazine's "Top 10 Albums of the Year" and was the first all-black group to appear at the Grand Ole Opry.  "Peace Behind the Bridge" is an Etta Baker song.  "Trouble In Your Mind" is a cover of a song originally done by Frank Blevins and the Tar Heel Rattlers.  "Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine" is a Papa Charlie Jackson song.  "Hit 'Em Up Style" is a cover of a Blu Cantrell song.  "Cornbread and Butterbeans" was originally recorded by the Carolina Sunshine Trio.  "Why Don't You Do Right?" was recorded by multiple artists including most famously Peggy Lee.  "Reynadine" is a traditional folk ballad; the version here was learned from a recording by Annie Briggs.  "Trampled Rose" is a Tom Waits cover.  In 2010, GENUINE NEGRO JIG won the Grammy Award for "Best Traditional Folk Album" and the Penguin Award for "Album of the Year".

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


YEAR:  1971
LABEL:  Warner Bros.
TRACK LISTING:  Wild Night,  (Straight To Your Heart) Like a Cannonball,  Old Old Woodstock,  Starting A New Life,  You're My Woman,  Tupelo Honey,  I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative),  When That Evening Sun Goes Down,  Moonshine Whiskey
IMPRESSIONS:  This album is the musical equivalent of kicking off your shoes and sprawling out in a hammock during a pleasant summer day.  Much more laid back and less experimental than some of Van's other albums (and some people downgrade this album on that account), TUPELO HONEY finds the artist pausing to take stock of himself and his career.  Originally conceived as a country album, Morrison eventually changed his mind and ditched half the songs which were very country and added some older songs he had "lying around".  However, the album still sounds very, very country and is especially indicative of the era when everyone seemed to be enamored of making albums which sounded like The Band.  TUPELO HONEY is a nostalgic, sepia-tinted evocation of Morrison's home in Woodstock, New York which he viewed as an idyllic refuge until the 1969 concert and 1970 concert film turned it into a tourist mecca and he decided he needed to move out.  He relocated to California (where his then-wife Janet Planet had relatives) and it is there he recorded this album.  The song "Old Old Woodstock" immediately followed with "Starting a New Life" lays out this scenario quite clearly.  Besides being a paean to relaxing country home life and the sound of the Band, the album is also an extremely romantic one with Van providing loving tributes to his wife:  the impossibly perfect love song embodied in the title track as well as such romantic longings as "You're My Woman" (which Van wrote sitting at the piano in the recording studio) and "I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative)" ("roo" means "to woo").  However, this is not completely a quiet album; the lead-off track is the seminal rocker "Wild Night" featuring Ronnie Montrose on guitar and there is the honky tonk, rolling piano tune of "When the Evening Sun Goes Down" as well as the final track "Moonshine Whiskey" (which Morrison has said was written for "Janis Joplin or something") which alternates between a slow 6/8 time as a fast 4/4.  Morrison himself has expressed some disappointment with the album stating that it doesn't feel fresh owing to his use of a lot of older songs he hadn't yet recorded.  As if songs had a sell-by date.  Whether a song is good or bad has no relation to when it was written and, while Van may have had the songs laying around for a while, they were brand new to everyone else.  TUPELO HONEY may not be groundbreaking stuff but it obviously wasn't intended to be; the album succeeds in its intentions.  My acquisition of this album goes back to the late 80s-early 90s camping trips we all went on with my late friend Cindy and her husband Rob; this and Van Morrison's greatest hits were recurring soundtracks and always remind me of those times.  It is, indeed, the perfect album for reminiscing.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Wild Night,  Old Old Woodstock,  You're My Woman,  Tupelo Honey,  I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative),  When That Evening Sun Goes Down
GUEST ARTISTS:  Ronnie Montrose (guitar)
FACT SHEET:  TUPELO HONEY is Van Morrison's fifth album.  It went to #27 on the Billboard album charts and has been certified gold.   

Sunday, September 1, 2013


YEAR:  1976
LABEL:  Epic
TRACK LISTING:  More Than a Feeling,  Peace of Mind,  Foreplay/Long Time,  Rock & Roll Band,  Smokin',  Hitch a Ride,  Something About You,  Let Me Take You Home Tonight
IMPRESSIONS:  Surely one of the most quintessential albums of the 1970s!  As Wikipedia so aptly says, the album "sold mightily" and became one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time and almost the entire thing plays constantly on classic rock radio to this day.  Something of a surprise to the record label as well as the band members themselves, the phenomenal success led to record labels trying to copy Boston's sound in order to make the cash registers ring.  Somewhat unfairly, the resulting "corporate rock" genre was laid at the band's door but they were only ever interested in making their music.  Subsequent knock-down, drag-out tussles with their record company over control of their future led to the band's stagnation as it was unable to release more albums for years.  But one of classic rock's bedrock albums still stands as something of a monument of the 1970s and something of a comet flashing across the sky of those UFOs on the cover.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  More Than a Feeling,  Peace of Mind,  Foreplay/Long Time,  Rock & Roll Band,  Smokin,  Hitch a Ride,  Let Me Take You Home Tonight
FACT SHEET:  BOSTON is Boston's first album and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and has been certified diamond.  It is the second highest-selling debut album of all-time behind Guns N Roses' "APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION".  Boston consisted of Tom Scholz (guitars, bass, songwriting), Brad Delp (vocals, acoustic guitar), Sib Hashian (drums), Jim Masdea (drums on "Rock & Roll Band"), Barry Goudreau (rhythm guitars), Fran Sheehan (bass guitar on "Foreplay" and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight").  Scholz wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album years before and plays most of the instruments as well as recording and engineering all the tracks.  Album opener "More Than A Feeling" is about daydreaming and was inspired by the break-up of a school-time romance.  The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" was popular at the time and inspired Scholz in his misery; in fact, unconsciously the chord progression from "Walk Away Renee" appears in the song right after the line "I see my Mary Ann walking away".  Famously, Nirvana would appropriate the main riff of the song for their own "Smells Like Teen Spirit" years later.