A few years ago I came across a great album from one Badly Drawn Boy. Turns out BDB is comprised of one English bloke named Damon Gough. It was his debut album, Hour of the Bewilderbeest. He’s since put out a few more albums, including the soundtrack to “About a Boy”, a really good romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant. But no BDB song has quite captured me like “Camping Next to Water”. It’s a melancholy tune with downright strange lyrics . But it’s the instrumentation that does it for me. The simplicity of the opening drums and guitar, building into the moment at 1:07 where there’s a cool little drum part (I know there’s probably a name for it) and the bass kicks in, amd the song goes to another level.
A beautiful CD and a great introduction to Orisha music from Cuba and Brazil. Another CD that is probably not for everyone, but it’s very well produced, very interesting, beautiful percussion and singing. The songs jump back and forth between Cuban Orisha rhythms and Brazilian Orixa rhythms (you don’t have to know anything about either one to be able to tell where this happens). Orixa songs are from the Yoruban religions that came over from Nigeria to the new world (Santeria, Candomble,etc), and the songs are very powerful and seductive. The Brazilian batucada in the last track is slamming, track 4 is my favorite when the full samba-reggae groove comes in towards the end of the song. That one gets me every time. Check it out.
This is a CD that you may not be familiar with, but is a favorite of mine. It’s one of those CD’s that when it reaches the end, most often, I want to hit play again. Highly recommended for relaxing, something mellow. Diabate comes from a long line of Griots who are highly respected in Mali culture not only for their music but also because their songs pass along their spoken history. The kora, a 21-string instrument, is incredible to hear and to watch being played.
Listening to this CD I can imagine the arid Saharan landscape and many of the songs seem like journeys where you lose sense of time and place. If you want to check out something from Africa, this is a great place to start. It’s a CD that you’ll find yourself listening to often.
the brilliant guitarist nels cline is a current member of wilco and is an interesting link back to the great band- minutemen. jeff tweedy penned a great tune on the uncle tupelo album, still feel gone, entitled d boon- who was the leader of the minutemen, along with bassist mike watt and drummer george hurley. tweedy’s love of the minutemen must have led him to follow the career of mike watt after d boon died in a car crash in the mid-eighties. watt was lucky enough to have nels cline in his group for a time in the nineties- in the studio and on tour. now- nels cline is in wilco and he serves as a reminder of the power of d boon. get any minutemen album you can and you’ll understand.
Here’s a heart-wrenching tune from Toussaint McCall.
I first heard this as a 15 or 16 year old on a Chicago radio station that played old blues and R&B on Sunday nights. I pressed Record on my tape deck, and listened to it over the years. It wasn’t until the magic of the internet that I was able to track down the artist. Yep, Toussaint McCall. This song helped me through many episodes of teen angst and heartbreak. Well, I’m not sure helped is the word, but it certainly helped my wallow in my sorrows over the years. Now that I’m happily married, I’ll never truly be able to play the role of the singer as he laments “I moved your pictures from my wall, and I replaced them, both large and small…” Damn, this is good stuff. One of my favorites of all time.
A classic from the winter of 1967 and possibly the most popular pure deep soul single of all time. Written by McCall, the slow love homage checked in at number five R&B and a solid number 22 pop. The production adheres to the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) and is not much more than McCall’s passionate vocal riding on top of a sheet of minor organ chords.
Lower the lights, make it rain, and listen to this:
Our next quality tune comes to you from Chris Whitley’s debut album, “Living with the Law”, released back in 1991 (where the $^#& does the time go?! crap, i’m getting old). This tune is one of the shining moments on the album. This album was produced by Malcolm Burn in Daniel Lanois’ New Orleans mansion. Mr. Burn has put his stamp on several projects through the years: the Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon” album, Midnight Oil, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl”, John Mellencamp’s “Human Wheels”, not to mention a photography credit on Bruce Cockburn’s “Charity of Night” album. So for some swampy, dirty, rootsy blues-rock, here’s a killer tune from Mr. Whitley:
Chris Whitley – I Forget You Everyday
in the meadow we can build a snowman
and pretend that he is Alan Parsons
he’ll say have you listened to my new band
we’ll say no but we really like that one song
it goes ‘time keeps flowing like a river’
Another I-guess-you-would-call-it old school gem from 1990 from the boys in X-Clan, found on their album “To the East…Blackwards”, this isn’t your run of the mill late 80’s, early 90’s gangsta or Hammer or Ice Ice baby-type fare. This is Afrocentric, 5 percenter, listen to the knowledge I’m droppin’-type stuff, with great samples backing the tracks. On Funkin’ Lesson, they use 2 Funkadelic classics: “Not Just (Knee Deep)”, and “One Nation Under a Groove”.
Turn this one up, play it loud, play it proud… X Clan – Funkin’ Lesson
Teachin’ those actors and actresses,
Who write a couple of lines on what black is, really?
Then they label me a sin,
Cause a brother just speaks from within,
I guess I’m darker than the shadow of the darkest alley, that they always
scared to go in,
I wear boots and beads, bags and braids, stick and scrolls, rings and shades,
Walk in the light of the moon, but I’ve never been a Batman,
African call it Blackman,.
Here’s a 2 minute pop masterpiece by a band out of south Philadelphia who call themselves Marah. They caught my attention a few years ago when they released Kids in Philly, an album chock full of powerful lyrics and imagery, and bare bones rock n roll. They sort of went off the deep end with their next release (Float Away with the Friday Night Gods), but holy $#%@#, they are back this year with 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, one of my favorite albums of 2004 (Yeah, I’m 34 years old, and I will call them albums for the rest of my life!).