Category archive


Sound Salvation — Ep 1: Sympathy

Yeah, I know the blog has been fallow again. I’m thinking about changing that, but in the meantime (the in-between-time) I’m indulging my yen to do a music podcast, at least with a pilot.

Check it out:

Weekly spins: Mavis Staples; Echo in the Canyon; Stray Cats; Ryan Hamilton; Empire Cats

Further evidence of the chicanery of modern digital media release practices: What should have been last week’s lede was left out, partly because it wasn’t highlighted in Apple’s new music; and partly because we now trickle out a song at a time while letting listeners pre-add the album to their library. [Insert fist-shaking exhortation to exit my lawn here.]

So, without a doubt the album of last week, and maybe this month was Mavis Staples’ We Get By. And I’ve got some other holdovers herein.

Mavis’ late-career renaissance stands second only to Johnny Cash’s, but she seems to have some time to catch up. This time, her muse is Ben Harper, who produced, wrote all the songs, and appears on one track. Mavis means Gospel and hope; Harper means urgency and dark for the light to envelop.

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Friday spins: Lee Moses, The Lee Boys, Amyl, Not-Elton-John, Aretha Franklin

As part of my resolution to write more, I’ve set up some specific intervals to write about particular passions. The first of these is a weekly look at new music based on Friday’s new releases.

As an initial aside, I really miss the weekly Tuesday release that was prominent in the days of physical media. There was something nice about the regular not-quite-midweek gift of new tunes (and video, and games, etc.).

The way I tend to listen to music, perhaps because of the old schedule, is to heavy up om my newer picks earlier in the week and favorite mixes on the weekend. So the Friday drops have tended to languish a few days in my queue.

For this first entry, I’ll also note that my tastes are fairly eclectic; and that I use several different tools to keep up with the latest releases. Increasingly, just the “For You” tab on Apple Music (my preferred service) is enough, catching 90% of what I’m seeking. (The algorithm has gotten significantly better just in the past month. I supplement with the app MusicHarbor, and a weekly newsletter from AllMusic.

So with that prelude, this week’s picks:

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Guilty pleasure: Allman and Woman

Candid, unposed photography generally makes for the best covers.
Candid, unposed photography generally makes for the best covers.

Time prohibits this being as fleshed out as my last Guilty Pleasures post, but a Twitter debate with my pal Houston last night compels me to make a brief case for this album as a horrible, wonderful gem.
The album, actually called Two the Hard Way, is billed to “Allman and Woman,” ie: Greg Allman and Cher, during their brief marriage. It was a critical and commercial flop.
But it had an wonderfully terrible airbrushed cover. Allman looks like a intellectually challenged dog who caught a car and doesn’t know what to do with it. Cher looks like, well, Cher. Keep Reading

Creative chaos, off the rails

Partly because of my company’s new lease on life, I’m in a creative mode for the first time in, well, too long. I was making my way to work this morning, amping with coffee and good tunes and was reminded of how much I love songs where a band — usually a band that is generally technically precise — goes off the rails into a cacophony that is both sloppy and skillful. The resulting sound is loose and fun, but also suggests that it is born from an attempt to go just beyond the range of their high level of skill.
Here’s two great examples:

Sometimes, creative success requires risk.

Welcome back, Oxford American

401pI’ve had a longstanding love-frustration relationship with the Oxford American, “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing.” I love its eclecticism and its connection to Southern culture. I’m often frustrated with its dalliances with pretention and its penchant for going out of business.
I recently got a mailer inviting me to subscribe again, which briefly pissed me off: I was certain I was owed some back issues from my subscription to the last incarnation, but I later realized they had been fulfilled with a few issues of Paste. Worse, I’d apparently missed a year of the magazine.
But, the offer included starting with OA‘s tenth annual music issue, which always comes with an AMAZING CD — This year it was a double-disc with one of artists previously unvisited, and another of artists (but not songs) from previous editions. Keep Reading

The Great Songs: "Goodnight, Irene"

The original recording
The original recording

This is the first in an occasional series of posts on “The Great Songs.” These are songs that have stood some reasonable test of time; been performed by multiple artists; and stand up to virtually any arrangement.
Today the focus is, “Goodnight, Irene,” a song I enjoy so much that April and I have agreed to name our first female child “Irene”. Keep Reading

I'm dreaming of a dark Christmas

An underappreciated classic
An underappreciated classic

Previously posted treacle aside, I like my Christmas songs like I like my humor– dark. Provides a nice place to whistle.
I went on a big Christmas song kick this year. Here are my current faves: Keep Reading

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