Sunday, April 22, 2018

Short Rounds: Catfish, Jimmie Vaughan Trio, King Crimson & Memphis Rent Party (2018)

Catfish's Get Down & Live Catfish LPs
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Catfish – Get Down/Live Catfish (BGO Records)
Bob “Catfish” Hodge grew up in Detroit, birthplace of most of the country’s high-octane blues, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll (sorry Memphis). A leather-lunged blues-belter and a mighty fine guitarist, Hodge formed Catfish in the late ‘60s, opening for the likes of Bob Seger, Mountain, and Santana. Catfish only released a pair of 1970 albums – Get Down and Live Catfish – but it’s been enough to earn them a cult following that spans decades. This two-disc BGO reissue includes both LPs, remastered and with new liner notes but no bonus tracks. Get Down offers nine powerful jams, including the blues-on-roids “The Hawk” while Live Catfish, recorded in Hodge’s hometown, is electrifying with the tongue-in-cheek “Letter To Nixon” and a ramshackle cover of the Motown gem “Nowhere To Run.” Hodge is still kicking around to this day, with a dozen or so solo albums on tap. RIYL Johnny Winter or Walter Trout. Grade: B+   BUY IT!

Jimmie Vaughan Trio – Live at C-Boy’s (Proper Records)
Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan strips his sound down to the raw blues bones, fronting a trio that includes keyboardist Mike Flanigin and the late drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith (who played with Lee Michaels in the ‘70s). Recorded at C-Boy’s Heart and Soul club in Austin, Texas back in March 2016, Live at C-Boy’s is a no-frills, mostly-instrumental collection of well-chosen blues, rock, and jazz cover tunes that perfectly capture the smoky ambiance and late-night vibe of the performance. The jazzy instrumental arrangement of the Lennon/McCartney gem “Can’t Buy Me Love” showcases Vaughan’s immense chops and range of talent while the classic “Saint James Infirmary” features Flanigin’s emotional keys. The bluesy “Dirty Work At the Crossroads” offers Vaughan’s underrated vocals alongside his expressive fretwork while Slide Hampton’s “Frame For the Blues” explores the jazzy side of blues street. The performances are fine but missing the spark that would have made them great. Grade: B-   BUY IT!

King Crimson's Live In Vienna
King Crimson – Live In Vienna (Discipline Global Mobile)
Prog-rock pioneers King Crimson have discovered gold in beating the bootleggers by releasing frequent live discs for their loyal following. Live In Vienna is a career-spanning three-disc set at a reasonable price, packaged in a slipcase with 16pp booklet, offering everything the hardcore fan could want. Disc one features a majestic reading of “In the Court of the Crimson King” and the cybernetic funk of “Vroom” while disc two includes the darkly chaotic “Red” and the grand story-telling of “Cirkus.” The pulse-quickening electricity of “21st Century Schizoid Man” anchors disc three, which includes a reverent and imaginative cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” There’s plenty more, including the first-ever live performance of “Fracture,” making Live In Vienna a comprehensive set by any standards. Offering 30 performances by one of the best Crimson line-ups, Live In Vienna delivers an incredible mix of old favorites and new gems in Crimson’s unique, indomitable style. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Memphis Rent Party
Various Artists – Memphis Rent Party (Fat Possum Records)
The ‘soundtrack’ to writer Robert Gordon’s excellent Memphis Rent Party, this vinyl-only compilation adds punctuation to Gordon’s vivid storytelling. The buffet begins with real-life outlaw Jerry McGill’s incredible reading of Guy Clark’s classic “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train” before seguing into Luther Dickinson and Sharde Thomas (daughter of Otha) kicking up dust with the bluesy, hypnotic “Chevrolet.” Half the LP comprises previously-unreleased material like Alex Chilton’s shambolic romp on reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s “Johnny Too Bad” or Memphis legend Jim Dickinson’s tongue-in-cheek “I’d Love To Be A Hippie (But My Hair Won’t Grow That Long).” There are lo-fi recordings of Hill Country blues great Junior Kimbrough and fiery band the Fieldstones as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Feathers, Furry Lewis, and the Panther Burns, a glorious platter of blues, jazz, R&B, and rockabilly. Pressed on black vinyl, this is the sound and fury of Memphis music in its glory. Grade: A+   BUY IT!

Previously on That Devil Music:
Robert Gordon
’s Memphis Rent Party book review

Short Rounds, March 2018: 6 String Drag, The Doors, the Nick Moss Band & Jack White
Short Rounds, February 2018: 6 String Drag, Tinsley Ellis, Mabel Greer's Toyshop & Wishbone Ash
Short Rounds, January 2018: Ethiopian & His All Stars, Gladiators, Moloch & Phil Seymour

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