New Music for Old People: Tiny Town, Don Covay, Donny Hathaway, and More

By , Columnist

Thao

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.



1. "Hollywood" - Tiny Town (3:37)

Once upon a time, the New Orleans-formed SubDudes broke up. Lead singer and lead guitarist Tommy Malone and bassist/singer Johnny Ray Allen recruited top N'awlins drummer Kenny Blevins and Nashville local legend singer-songwriter Pat McLaughlin and formed this new band. Johnny Neel from the Allmans played organ on the entire album. Bernie Leadon, a former Eagle, helped with the production. And a fine album it was.

They toured for awhile, but unfortunately no hoped-for larger audience materialized. I was sad. I got to see them live three times, however, and they were in my top five. Then, as if by magic, Pat went home to Nashville, Kenny returned to N.O. and the SubDudes got back together again. So I guess this was like a summer vacation in the middle of all their careers. This track features Pat singing lead and I quite enjoy the lyric. This is rockin’ in a great, timeless way!

2. "Memphis" - Don Covay (3:06)

Don Covay, famed R&B singer-songwriter, made records that were collected by the bluesy UK crew of the '60s (Clapton, Winwood, Beck, etc) and oft-times covered by them as well. In the ‘70s Covay made an exploratory trip from his New York-based recording to Muscle Shoals, Alabama and collaborated with their famed Rhthym Section. They made an amazing album crowned by this Chuck Berry cover done reggae style. I have found over the years, that many musician friends had never heard it so I spread the word as best I could. And now I continue ... because I can.

3. "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a L'il While)" - Isley Brothers (2:33)

The absolute best version of this song done, although comparatively hairless versions charted big for Kim Weston and also The Doobie Brothers. This version already existed when the Doobies covered it and I never understood why they aped the Weston version and not this one. James Jamerson’s bass entrance is amazing. I dare you to sit still once James starts jammin’. Will go to my grave loving this.

4. "It's Easier" - Eli “Paperboy” Reed (4:03)

Born in Brookline, MA and with residencies in Clarksdale, MI and Chicago, IL, the blues made their way into this music critic's son’s repertoire. He‘s a great blue-eyed soul singer as demonstrated by this track - his finest at the moment. Also raved about for his live shows. Don’t miss him when he gets to your town.

5. "Know Better Learn Faster" - Thao (3:48)

At first I thought it was a guy singing, but then I saw a photo of the female Asian lead singer guitarist the band is named for. I love singers whose voices gender-trip me - hence one of the reasons for this addition. As her voice reaches the female notes, she reminds me of The Cure lead singer in that particular range without the vibrato. Whatever. This is an original-sounding track, mixed quite well with interesting instrumentation. I would like to see them live before I go any further...

6. "I Still Sleep With the Light On" - Teitur (3:31)

I slept with the light on for years after my dad took me to see the horror flick The Thing in 1952 when I was 8 years old. This guy’s horror was only caused by a woman, but one man’s Simon is another man’s Garfunkel. This came out maybe five years ago and made a little noise, but Teitur has not made a bigger noise since. I will still wait a while longer for him, but allow me to insert a literary elbow in the ribs here.

7. "Can I Get a Witness" - Edwin McCain (4:17)

This is one of those bizarre arrangements of a song commonly played the same way as the original every time. Not this time... This hefty arrangement is from an all-American lad named Edwin McCain. Keeping his band together for many years and playing many gigs annually, he has built up quite a following. Should be co-billed with Eli "Paperboy" Reed. House of Blues, are you listening?

8. "A Hard Place" - Willy Porter (3:20)

An amazing guitarist, singer, and writer, Porter has been around the longest of the previous three artists. He pioneered the concept of recording a live show and selling it immediately after the gig. A hard-working lad, he’s out there most of the year playing original tunes like this and captivating audiences, often playing solo. This is lyrically the rarely heard voice of an American Marine survivor partially returned from Afghanistan/Iraq. Well done and compelling.

9. "Meaningless Love" - Under the Influence of Giants (3:28)

A different edit of this tore up the radio a few years back and made the top 20, but you don’t hear much about these lads nowadays. So they will be, for now, the one-hit wonders of today's roundup. This is a pretty darn good record (GREAT guitar figure!). I wonder why they couldn’t duplicate this with a decent followup. But on the other hand, I wonder about things like this all the time.

10. "Thank You, Master" - Donny Hathaway (5:44)

One should immediately sense they’re in the realm of greatness here. This track dropped me in my tracks - I couldn’t get enough of it. It was my virgin listening experience to Donny Hathaway as a solo artist. Prior to this, he was a well-known (by me) studio keyboardist and all-around arranger at Atlantic Records. I LOVE the horn arrangement (especially the rising French horns in the fade) and the piano solo halfway through where they go into a swing thing and leave the ballad behind for awhile. Donny is playing acoustic and electric piano and Morris Jennings on drums is a sensitive standout.

This is topnotch stuff, but I believe it is not a well-known selection, hence its inclusion here. So may I present the songwriter, keyboardist, arranger and vocalist on his very first album in 1970. And little did I imagine that three years later, Donny would record my song ("I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know") and turn it into a standard because of his amazing, unique interpretation. We lost a master here after his unexpected suicide in 1979, so I just wanna say, "Thank You, Master...for EVERYTHING. Bless you forever."

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