gifted: my country top ten for 2017. i've been doing this with occasinal gaps since 1982: a few years for the military mag off duty, for one. one thing about country music, i say, is that you can't be a charlatan; you've pretty much got to be able to sit there with a guitar and kill. some demonstrations of that by people in the top ten:
janson comes in at #2.
about as good a pure singer as you will ever hear:
there are a bunch of good songs on her album, which pops in at 5. i like "sway" and "potential," e.g.
a thousand horses deserves more play than they're getting (#7):
and i'm recommending everyone to check out song suffragettes for stuff like this (#10):
some of my music writing this year for #splicetoday:
it was a utopian era in some ways. in part it's what happens when you don't police racial borders in art; the playlist (which i really think rocks) is about a third white a third black a third latino and all hybrid.
watcha listenin to, crispy? zz ward's new album the storm. she will sell millions, or at any rate she ought to.
(that fantastic negrito is fantastic.) alright, first off, i love the genre location: i'd call it roots pop. there are all sorts of trad elements, including soul, blues, early hip hop, perhaps just a touch of country here and there. this is how i think popular music should develop, venerating the tradition and using it, but also pushing it forward, so it sounds like now. i'd compare zz's approach to, say, robert cray in the '80s: oh that is definitely the soul blues, and that is definitely right now too, and it sounds great on the radio. there are all kinds of contemporary production touches on the album, and they are not at all in tension with the songs or the voice: the stuff sounds great.
zz is about the singingest motherfucker you ever heard, and to some extent she emulates adele's approach: big love and heartbreak songs, showstopping voice. i love the timbre, which can be rough or smooth, flying or growling. her first album when the casket drops, is also wonderful.
i'd say the new album is a bit more commercial, and also the lyrics are less interesting (here we've got 'you better do it like it's 25 to life'), which is part of the headed-to-platinum approach. i've got no objection to commercial, however, and i say she should just go right on and you should buy her albums. that makes sense, because she has yet to record a clunker.
no one who listens to country music can have missed brad paisley, but i'm afraid i didn't focus adequately. i'm just now listening through the whole body of work: ten albums or so, of remarkably consistent excellence. what a fine singer and what a great songwriter: he has added wonderful and hilarious and traditional and moving songs to the permanent country repertoire, if you ask me. i swear if you were making your list - hank, george, johnny, conway, alan jackson, randy travis, etc - and you fetched up on paisley (going on to stapleton, maybe), that would be perfectly sensible. and you can believe me or not, but he is one of the most wildly excellent guitar players who has ever played in any genre. almost uniquely among actual country stars, he did an album of instrumentals ("play," 2008). he can play anything, and even on a hit country song he might roll through some jazz riffs, or hit the blues nice and hard and juicy, as it were. right he can play unbelievably fast, but it's always coherent, smart as shit too. i mean try a low-key apparent throwaway like this:
on the other hand try this tribute to dick dale:
here are a couple of favorites, drawn from this great big songbag.
this is from his fine recent album love and war.
there are really very many classic original traditional country songs.
then there's this. he's definitely a performer and a charmer, and very hilarious on gender ("you need a man around here"). enjoy that, but don't let it distract you from the surpassing musical excellence.
J. Geils is gone. When I tell people that the J. Geils band was my favorite rock act of the '70s, they are somewhat puzzled. And every obit describes them as the band who did 'Centerfold,' indeed their biggest hit by a way. But by the time they got there, in the '80s, they were a pretty different act than 10 years before. I do think of that song as a novelty thing, and like a lot of what they did a lot better. When they started out, they were a great blues and basic rock/soul band.
I was already working on blues harp around when their first album came out ('70; I was 12), and Magic Dick blew me away, let's say. And also he was the featured instrumentalist an an arena-filling rock band. I remember I auditioned later for a band that was doing Kiss covers and suchlike, and Magic Dick was the only possible reason they could even conceive having a harmonica in a group like that. On the other hand, rock harp didn't get that far, and there is no harmonica on 'Centerfold.' This is insane:
They were kind of tasteless at many times - intentionally - in their stage personae and repertoire: Peter Wolf would wear that tux with a dollar sign, and roll through sort of Wolfman-Jack raps on stage which at times...weren't that great. 'First I Look at the Purse' became their theme song, more or less. They presented themselves as a crass American rock band. But I am telling you they could handle blues and soul-type styles as well as any white people ever, and pushed the boundaries of those forms a bit too.
Few bands have ever poured out more energy onstage. I did think of them as America's Rolling Stones. Every album after the first four (J. Geils Band, Morning After, Live: Full House, and Bloodshot) was a very mixed bag, but with really good moments. Dick continued to innovate: over and over he brought sounds out of the harmonica that had never been heard, playing with wah-wah pedals and phase shifters, among other things. They struggled financially through the whole decade, and I think made a conscious decision finally to see how many records they could sell. Can't really blame a band for that.
The UK is at least as diverse a nation as we are, with many similar problems, and we share a surprising number of anal-retentive characteristics. The Brits voted for BREXIT with less than half the electorate showing up and a lot of votes in favor of it just because they were pissed off at the seeming inability of government to cope and rather than blame it on themselves for electing the Tory wankers, they decided to blame the EU as the representative of all their woes.
The message of protest is often intrinsic or hidden. It has to be quietly subversive because our enemies are among us: our rulers and bosses
We, of course, had less than half the electorate show up and of that, less than half voted for Donald Trump. Our food, beer and dental work is superior; they have better schools for the most part and a functioning national health service, except they've shown in it and the other aspects of community life that if you want to have nice things as a nation, you need to spend the necessary money. Trump shares little with Margaret Thatcher except greed and basic deep-seated meanness.
This was in the LATimes circa 2003, also did some kind of bit on it on NPR.
By Crispin Sartwell
The other day my fifteen-year-old son needed to complete a homework assignment at the very last minute for his Spanish class. From a list of topics he chose to write a biography of Tito Puente. I asked what he knew about Tito Puente, and he told me that he'd googled and found that Tito Puente was a musician and also the leader of a European nation. It came to me that he'd confounded the King of Mambo with the Chair for Life of Yugoslavia.
But the biography would be richer in detail and more coherent if it conflated these eminent lives and so I resolved not to disabuse him. Here, word for word, is his report, for which, with a faith that touched me deeply, he depended on me for the research.
Marshall Tito Puente was that rare combination: political strongman and mambo percussionist. He played the timbale and the vibes as perfectly as he played the political winds that blew through Eastern Europe in the wake of World War 2, riding them to an ecstatic synthesis of absolute power and worldwide pop superstardom.
Indeed, he anticipated the astonishing political/pop crossover acts of our own era, displaying simultaneously the political acumen of a Barbra Streisand and the irresistible pop hookcraft of a Richard Gephardt. He purged his political rivals with the same improvisational megalomania that he employed to dominate the luxurious New York ballrooms of the fifties He'd beat you to death, as it were, with the same sticks he used to make you slither drunkenly around the dance floor in your best outfit.
Marshall Tito Puente was born Josip Broz in 1892 in the tiny village of Kumrovec to a peasant family. He made his name as a salsa agitator in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes between the wars, and was at first an enthusiastic ally of Stalin. Around the same time, he and his sister joined the "Stars of the Future" neighborhood arts organization, where young Tito was noted for his precocious cha-cha. Stalinism served as the model for Tito's "iron irritant of bureaucracy," as well as for his uproarious stage antics, imitated in turn by everyone from Desi Arnaz and Sheila E to Saddam Hussein.
But after leading the Puerto Rican resistance to Hitler - with his death camps and obsession with Patti Page - Tito Puente emerged as the primary figure in the newly constituted Leninist music fad. He served an apprenticeship in some of the finest Latin bands of the period, including those of Juan Peron and Fidel Castro, whom Tito always credited for teaching him the music business.
Finally, he led a fiercely independent Yugoslavia to its break with Charo, whose control of communism on the American airwaves was sagging even as her behavior became more erratic and Diva-esque. At the decisive moment, he issued the classic Dancemania, named in one critics' poll as one of the 25 most influential political manifestoes of the twentieth century.
A newspaper review of the period referred to Tito's "ability to literally drive a crowd crazy with his spicy heat from south of the border," a skill that served him well in international diplomacy, as well as in his efforts to confine political opponents to psychiatric facilities. Later he was to train that seductive beat squarely on Richard Nixon and a series of other American presidents, who invited him to perform at the White House even as they attacked his brand of Marxism. As Watergate broke over a shocked nation, Tito moonlighted as the eldest member of the Jackson 5.
He was declared President for Life in 1976, and in his career recorded about 120 albums, more than almost any other dictator in history. He won five Yugoslav Grammies. His influence is still felt today among members of the current generation of Latin music stars, such as Selena, Enrique Iglesias, and Pervez Musharraf.
So when someone tries to tell me I can't, I tell them right back about Marshall Tito Puente. Anything you can dream of being - tap-dancing firefighter, incredibly stupid professor of physics, white NBA star, or sweet and sour pork - you can be. Be it all and - like Tito - be so much more.
Crispin Sartwell's latest book is "Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives"
it made me want to believe. @crispinsartwell (i) is tweeting a series of contemporary bluegrass gospel songs. i think this is most beautiful popular music, as good or better than it has ever been. here are the first two.
george michael was a fine pop singer. but before you make him an symbol of huiman liberation, you should ponder a bit. @OwenJones84, as others, treat him as a gay icon, in part because of 'i want your sex.' now, i say that is a pretty great princey pop song. but owen jones should watch the video, because it's very apparently hetero, softcore porn. not exactly a feminist document either. you'd have to say that it's one of the most impressive heterosexist works by a gay person.
the man was quite closeted, yes? until he was arrested for public sex. now, you can celebrate 'the party' as human liberation. you can, like michael purported to, find anonymous sex profoundly innovative or something, i suppose. i'm going to sortof try to hide my disgust, whether it's straight or gay. maybe the drugs were great too: all part of the human road to freedom. however, i have a funny feeling that george michael was loaded to the gills with addictions and compulsions, which were enslaving. also destructive: look at his touring and recording arc, and you will see a good artist who couldn't make art anymore, so free was he. also, dead. owen, and everyone, if that's the liberation you want or admire or are pursuing, i'll have to leave you to it.
i really first got exposed to hip hop in maybe '81 or '82, covering the 'get fresh fest' for the baltimore city paper. i saw that lineup three times here and there, i think: basically grandmaster flash and the furious five, fat boys, the teenage ll cool jay, run dmc. it took me some time to even figure out what was going on and why there was no band on stage. i would say that each time i might have been as impressed with whodini (jalil, ecstasy and grandmaster dee) as any of the acts. really, i think they were as good as run dmc, but have been kind of forgotten. 'five minutes of funk' for example, is a great concept, unfoldding in real time ('two minutes left'). some of the tracks, as on 'funky beat' were pretty excellent, radical productions for the era.
New Vets News Network Today Post. -- Lots of music ranging from a Ani di Franco Cover of Woodie Guthrie to Steve Earle and Dukes and Duchesses doing Hillbilly Highway to Gary Allan's remaster Juarez...to the horns of Hattin and the palisade at the Alamo...
If Hume awakened Kant from his doctrinal slumbers, perhaps this can rescue country western music from it lyrical and musical doldrums.
Miranda Lambert is an artist who sits on the cusp of my consciousness -- I listen to her stuff but don't stockpile it. May have to change my approach...This is about as bleak as beauty can be. The video conception is amazing, and the beginning and the climax are parallel. Part cinema noir, part medieval morality play, but fascinating musically and lyrically. She seems to break down the walls of country music's current lyrical malaise in a way that reminds me of Marianne Faithful's comeback...except she still has that marvelous voice where Marianne had in effect re-invented herself as an artist. I have no idea why she has yet to be cast in a Coen Brothers film, in a True Detective or Fargo...