In the late 90s, Arkarna's debut album Fresh Meat was a dance club smash in the U.K. and made some alternative headway in the U.S., particularly with House on Fire. The followup, The Family Album, didn't get a proper release in America and it's kind of a cult collectible now. There are plenty of good songs on it but "Nomoni" just lends itself very well to a LNMC clip.
I had been hearing a lot of amazing things about Baltimore's Beach House over the last couple of years, so I recently decided that I would check out their widely acclaimed Teen Dream record. I'm glad I did, and have been enthralled with their 'dream pop' sound and singer Victoria Legrand's hypnotic vocals. What musical discoveries have you made lately?
I first heard this song as performed by the band The Titans, on a compilation of music from Specialty Records in New Orleans (Sonny Bono was a house producer). This version is by a different New Orleans artist, but the arrangement is pretty much unchanged. Released in 1958, this single was a million seller for Huey Smith, and proved to be his biggest hit.
Next Tuesday Buddy Guy will be releasing his new album, Skin Deep and if the title track and the tracks available on his website are any indication, this one's a winner. The album was produced by Tom Hambridge and includes guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Susan Tedeschi, Robert Randolph and Derek Trucks (featured on this song). This guy could sit back on his laurels, and enjoy his Grammy Awards and Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame status and being constantly referred to as an influence, and innovator and a pioneer. Instead, he's rockin' the house all over again, not because he needs the money but because he has something to share. Thank God! Although he's always associated with the West Side Chicago blues sound, he was raised in the South. "Skin Deep" deals with racism like few others songs have:
“I used to play with this boy, ride horses, down close to where I was born,” he says. “Then when we were 13, his parents made us stop. They used to say you had black blood or white blood, but we’d get a flashlight and hold it up to our skin and we’d just see red blood. That’s what I mean by ‘skin deep.’” (He and that childhood friend recently reunited, backstage at one of Buddy’s shows in Louisiana.)
Howie Klein and I had a nice chat some months ago about the kind of music I listen to, which sadly, is very rarely dictated by my own tastes in a house full of children. But when I get the chance, I tend to obsessively listen to a single CD over and over, trying to catch nuances and feel the intent of the artist. The CD on my playlist right now is Mule Variations by the singular Tom Waits. This cut is Hold On.
What CD can you listen to over and over and hear new things each time?
As a freshman in college, I was just starting to figure out music and the first time that I actually understood that music wasn't just a big ball of sound but the interplay between distinct musicians was when I first heard the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. I saw a lot of them; they were practically the house band at a club I worked at, the Cafe Au Go Go. Their style of Chicago blues was a strain that helped define rock'n'roll. Their debut, eponymous album was released in 1965 while I was seeing them almost every night. They did an Elmore James song, "Shake Your Moneymaker," which has been covered again and again. Butterfield's version will always be my favorite... yeah more than Ludacris', although the Fleetwood Mac version is pretty good.
Brendan Perry is the other half-- Lisa Gerrard is probably better known-- of Dead Can Dance. He started out, though, in his native New Zealand as the leader of a punk outfit called The Scavengers. In 1993 Brendan, already a 4AD artist as part of Dead Can Dance, contributed a cover of Tim Buckley's haunting "Happy Time" for an ultra-limited edition 4AD compilation The 13 Year Itch, which was sold only at a five night live festival in London, reportedly Brendan's first solo show. Several artists I worked with-- Lush, Kristin Hersh, Red House Painters, Wolfgang Press-- were also on the compilation so I wound up with a copy. I figured people here might enjoy it and find some relevance in Buckley's lyrics.
A few years ago a friend invited me to his house to meet Baba Ram Dass, someone whose book Be Here Now changed my life. I had actually met him before, in Amsterdam when I worked in the meditation center there in the 70s, but I was eager to meet him again. I was the first guest to arrive and soon after me Ram Das and his friends got there. One guy walked over to me and said, "You remember me?" He looked familiar, but I didn't. "I'm Jeff Kagel," he said and then I remembered. I remember that every girl I ever wanted to go out with in college was in love with him. He was a folk singer then; now he's Krishna Das, the master of kirtan, Hindu chants to the glory of God. I wound up going to see him do a live show and it was great and I've been listening to his uplifting music ever since. This track, "Namah Shivayah" (translated as Pilgrim Heart") I found on a 2004 release, Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga but it was originally released on one of his earliest albums, Pilgrim Heart in 1998.
John Gorka released his first album, I Know in 1987 on independent label Red House Records. Ten albums later he's still on the label. "What Was That," a typically introspective Gorka composition, was the lead track from his 2001 release, The Company You Keep. It features background harmonies from Ani DiFranco and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Everlast (aka Whitey Ford) was born in the Long Island town I grew up in, Valley Stream. Most people know him as the former frontman from House of Pain or for his track on Santana's Supernatural. His latest work, Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford will be released next month, but "Letters Home From the Garden of Stone" has been out of a while as a promotional advance. It's an apolitical look at war from the point of view of a soldier stuck in the middle of it. Doesn't relate much to the happy talk we get from the bipartisan McCain and Lieberman Show.