Spencer Seim (L, guitar) and Zach Hill (R, drums) make up Hella, a band that plays amazingly together.
This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.
I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!
Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.
We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.
1. "Fannie Mae" — Buster Brown (2:41)
Born in Cordele, Georgia in 1911, he had 64 years on earth and had his first hit record at the age of 48 (!) in 1959 on the FIRE label out of NYC. There were two other “almost” hits, but this is what he was best known for. Obviously a disciple of Sonny Terry, he had a rich voice and knew what to do with it. Kudos to producer/label owner Bobby Robinson for this great arrangement and recording! This was a big R&B hit when I was 15, in case you happened to have missed it. It still sounds as fresh today as it did back then.
2. "Truth" — Chris Ardoin (2:55)
This is modern Cajun music but still retains the basics. This beat and rhythm are irresistible on the dance floor, even to me, pushing 70. This has grown on me over the last five years and will probably continue to do so. Chris has many other Cajun commodities if you git to shoppin’. And how can you resist a Cajun song that mentions cell phones and texts in the lyrics?
3. "Touch the Sky" — Julian Lennon (3:48)
John’s boy has given up sounding almost exactly like his dad and found his true voice. This is from his latest album Everything Changes, and is very well-made and well-written. I don’t know if the Miley-Rihanna music biz can tolerate this sound at the moment, but I love it and I’m guessing my readers/listeners will too. There’s many a gem on this album and it deserves to be enjoyed. You may not touch the sky yet, Julian, but I am sure you WILL touch the hearts of many...
4. "Biblical Violence" — Hella (2:41)
WARNING: THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! It is an instrumental by a guitar and drum duo but is about as far away from Jack White or The Black Keys as possible. To me, this is modern neo-jazz (played expertly) by two Sacramento lads who were in their early 20s when this was recorded about ten years ago. I fixated on this band and went to see them live many times. I thought if they were on the Blue Note label they would have attracted the audience they probably REALLY sought instead of being lumped and forced to participate in the jam band genre. I sent my favorite tracks of theirs back then to Bruce Lundvall, then-president of Blue Note, but he didn’t hear what I heard. This is male music — most women will run from this unless they were attracted to the lads' looks ten years ago. If you like Tony Williams, Joe Satriani, and the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra, then try this on. What I still love about this is how TOGETHER with each other the two of them play.
5. "Making Plans for Nigel" — XTC (3:54)
This was the first track I ever heard by this amazing band and thankfully I stayed with them their entire career and enjoyed and learned much from their original musical and mental mindsets. They are only a notch below Free in my “favorite band of all time” category. See track #6 below.
6. "Making Plans for Nigel" — Al Kooper (4:07)
This was done for an album of XTC covers that someone put out in the early '90s. I conjured up this arrangement as a tribute to 1890s Parisian music, sometimes called "can-can" — y’know, with high-kicking French ladies decades before the Rockettes. As an experiment, I made this demo when I lived in Gnashville. It took me a week to finish and only Bill Lloyd joined me doing his expert backing vocals. I liked the demo so much I never bothered making the costly upgrade to recording it with an actual string section. I handed it in and the guy in charge turned it down. A few years later Bill Lloyd ran into Colin Moulding (the author of "Nigel") and he said he quite enjoyed it and that he really loved the arrangement. I put it on my album Rare & Well Done and kept a hard part in my heart for the bloke who turned it down.
7. "It's a Blessing" — Bonnie Raitt/Maria Muldaur (3:50)
And so it is when these two kindred souls get together and, in a few short takes and under four minutes, show us just what the blues are all about.
8. "Purpose In Your Storm" — Michelle Williams (2:46)
A wee bit of modern gospel music to update Bonnie and Maria’s previous take on old-time religioso.
I'm just trying to figure out how she cut the middles out of those CDs and made earrings out of them and then used radishes for a necklace. And as I've said before, I hope there are more lines at her shows then on her face!
9. "Over You" — Seasick Steve (2:49)
From Seasick’s latest album, Hubcap Music. A few weeks ago, I included another track from that album that was similar to classic ZZ Top. Now, from the same album, here’s some diametrically composed newgrass music from 72-year-old Steve. Definitively done, dude — you da boss!
10. "Beautiful Dreamer" — Cowboy Jack Clement (3:22)
A tip of the cowboy hat to a man who strongly influenced rockabilly and country music with his songwriting, publishing, engineering, executive A&R residencies, productions and generally his just “hangin’ out” in Music City. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Bobby Bare, Hank Snow and Charley Pride are just a handful who recorded his songs. He produced Charley Pride, Ray Stevens, part of U2’s Rattle and Hum album, and engineered tracks by Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, as well as writing Cash’s hit “Guess Things Happen That Way” and producing his mega-hit “Ring of Fire.” I could keep going on like this for a few days, but I just wanted to dip the toes of the uninitiated in the stream of gold this man created. He left us a few months ago on August 8 and this was one of the last things he did as an artist. My total respect goes out to the Cowboy, who was known as the best hang in Nashville right up to his sad departure. We miss ya, Jack, but inevitably you’re embedded in all of fundamental country music and our hearts forever.