Sunday, November 18, 2018

CD Review: Preacher Boy's The Rumble Strip (2018)

Preacher Boy's The Rumble Strip
Christopher Watkins, a/k/a ‘Preacher Boy’, has been kicking around the American blues scene for a couple decades, cranking out his original style of acoustic blues across a handful of critically-acclaimed albums. Inspired by country-blues legends like Bukka White, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt, Watkins developed his own distinctive vocal and guitar style and launched Preacher Boy & the Natural Blues in the early 1990s. He recorded a couple albums for the esteemed Blind Pig Records label and released a couple more independently before disappearing from the blues world.

After a short hiatus from music, Preacher Boy came roaring back in 2016 with three new albums filled with inspired original songs and inspired classic blues covers. The albums all feature Watkins’ sandpaper-soaked-in-whiskey vocals and mesmerizing slide-guitar played on a vintage National Resophonic guitar. The trio of recordings wasn’t so much a commercial endeavor as an artistic one, Watkins shaking off the ‘ring rust’ and getting his blues mojo back in the wake of his absence. The Rumble Strip is his follow-up to 2016, a more commercially-oriented effort that nevertheless displays an amazing amount of artistry and musical sophistication. Simply put, Preacher Boy’s performances on The Rumble Strip leave nothing but scorched earth in their wake.

Preacher Boy’s The Rumble Strip

“The Sliding Window (Hail Mary)” reminds of R.L. Burnside’s 1990s-era electro-blues with its low-slung instrumental groove, Watkins’ vocals a cross between a guttural Tom Waits barroom brogue and Mississippi Hill Country patois. The album’s rockin’ title track is part field-holler and part street-corner talkin’ with percussive percussion, scraps of razor-sharp guitar, and an unrelenting vocal delivery that roars out of your speakers like a bootlegger speeding away from the revenuers. The devastating “Bullet” marries the poetic lyricism of Bob Dylan with Son House’s fatalism, the song’s ornate underlying instrumentation doing little to soften the crushing body-blows and uppercuts delivered by Watkins’ explosive heavyweight-class vocals and harrowing socially-conscious lyrics. I’ve been listening to rock and blues music for almost 50 years and I’ve never heard a more haunting, desperate, anguished story-song.

Watkins’ “Bandy-Legged and Broke” returns to the same cutting-edge blues sound that Jon Spencer brought to Burnside’s A Ass Pocket of Whiskey. The song crackles with energy, with vocals shouted above a deep background groove to jarring effect. The yearning vocals of “Saint Peter” are out of character for Preacher Boy, but quite effective here, Watkins displaying a more soulful facet of his talents on a song that buzzes with distortion, emotion, and raw immediacy. The syncopated rhythms of “Crazy Dirty James” are matched with similar vocal gymnastics with clashing instrumentation adding punctuation to Watkins’ lyrics. Preacher Boy’s familiar National Resophonic can be heard fighting to rise above the din, grounding an otherwise chaotic performance in the murky mud of the Mississippi Delta. The muscular “Can’t Sleep Here Tonight” is a Led Zeppelin-styled blues-rocker pumped up on steroids, threatening to blow out your speakers with a sonic tsunami while “Showers of Rain” ups the ante with exotic instrumentation clamoring behind Watkins’ colorful (autobiographical?) lyrics and world-weary vocals.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Although The Rumble Strip showcases a welcome expansion of his musical palette beyond his signature country-blues sound, Watkins’ vocals on these songs still growl and bite like Howlin’ Wolf chewing on a microphone, swallowing electricity and spitting out lightning bolts. It’s with his lyrical skills where Preacher Boy really shines, though, and The Rumble Strip is full of whip-smart story-songs backed by imaginative and often-dense instrumentation that proves that Preacher Boy is no one-trick pony. Recommended for rock and blues-rock fans alike, The Rumble Strip marks the return of a unique and original musical voice. Grade: A

Check out Preacher Boy's website

Also on That Devil
Lost & Found: Preacher Boy

Buy the CD from Preacher Boy’s The Rumble Strip

Spotlight On The Pandoras

The Pandoras photo by Jason Dost, courtesy Restless Records

Select Discography:
It's About Time (1984, Voxx Records)
Stop Pretending (1986, Rhino Records)
Rock Hard EP (1988, Restless Records)
Live Nymphomania (1989, Restless Records)
Hey It's the Pandoras (2018, Burger Records)

Omnivore reissues Henry Townsend’s 1980 album Mule

Henry Townsend’s Mule LP
Legendary bluesman Henry Jesse James “Mule” Townsend was born in Mississippi in 1909 and grew up in Cairo, Illinois before making his way to St. Louis as a teenager out on his own. Townsend recorded his first sides for Columbia Records in 1929 and enjoyed a lengthy career as both a solo artist (under a number of names) and as a sideman playing on a wealth of classic recordings by artists like Big Joe Williams, Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk, among many others. Along the way, he also recorded his own performances for a number of labels including Paramount Records and Victor/Bluebird.

Never the most prolific of blues artists, Townsend had recorded only a couple of full-length albums for labels like Prestige Bluesville in the 1960s and Adelphi Records in the ‘70s before recoding the album Mule for the St. Louis-based Nighthawk Records. At the time, Nighthawk was making the turn from a blues-oriented label towards reggae with releases by Jamaican artists like the Gladiators, Junior Byles, and others. Townsend’s critically-acclaimed Mule was one of the label’s last blues albums, but it was a good one that has sadly been out-of-print for over a decade.

On December 14, 2018 Omnivore Recordings will reissue Henry Townsend’s Mule as part of their restoration of the Nighthawk Records catalog. The reissue CD includes the original tracks along with eight previously-unreleased songs from the album sessions. Mule also includes updated liner notes and photos from original co-producer and Nighthawk label founder Leroy Dodie Pierson. The CD was remastered from the original master tapes by Grammy® Award-winning engineer Michael Graves.

The original liner notes for Mule show that the label was firmly behind the bluesman and his new album, stating “the production of this record was undertaken with two goals in mind: to create, finally, an album worth of Henry Townsend’s unique genius, and thus secure for him the recognition that an artist of his stature and historical importance deserves. We at Nighthawk have become convinced that Henry is perhaps the greatest living country bluesman.”

Henry Townsend died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 96 years old with a lifetime of great music to his name. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy® Award in 2008 for “Best Traditional Blues Album” for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesman: Live In Dallas. Released by the Blue Shoe Project, the album featured performances by legends like Townsend, ‘Pinetop’ Perkins, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards. After years lingering in obscurity, it will be good to have Mule back in print again.

Buy the CD from Henry Townsend’s Mule

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Short Rounds: Joe Bonamassa, Peter Holsapple & Alex Chilton, Winston Jarrett, The Posies & Rolling River Royalty (2018)

Joe Bonamassa's Redemption
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Joe Bonamassa – Redemption (J&R Adventures)
The second album this year from the blues-rock guitarist (the first being the live British Blues Explosion), Redemption is also Joe Bonamassa’s first studio work since 2016’s Blues of Desperation. Working again with producer Kevin Shirley and writing with some of Nashville’s finest wordsmiths, Bonamassa leans heavily towards his rock ‘n’ roll side, delivering an explosive set of songs that push against the boundaries of the blues with a scorching blend of classic rock and soul. “King Bee Shakedown” offers rollicking roadhouse boogie, “Deep In the Blues Again” is a blustery Celtic-tinged blues tune, “Pick Up the Pieces” is a sleazy Tom Waits slice-of-life, and the tortured title track welds haunting Delta blues to Rory Gallagher’s shivering ghost. None of the material strays far from Bonamassa’s tried-and-true blues template, but he could use an update and new musical challenges. Still, Redemption is an exciting collection that will thrill the Bona-fan. Grade: B   BUY!

Peter Holsapple & Alex Chilton's The Death of Rock
Peter Holsapple & Alex Chilton – The Death of Rock (Omnivore Recordings)
Months before hooking up with the dB’s, Peter Holsapple sojourned down to Memphis to record some demos at Sam Phillips’ studio, hoping to capture a spark of the ol’ Big Star magic. That band’s Alex Chilton was working on his Like Flies On Sherbert album and the two ended up playing together. The Death of Rock is drawn from those long-lost 1978 recordings, featuring Holsapple and Chilton collaborating on songs like the latter’s poppy “Tennis Bum” and the former’s “Take Me Back.” The recordings have a raw, immediate feel with some of Holsapple’s tunes like “Bad Reputation” and “We Were Happy There” later recorded by the dB’s. Chilton’s “Martial Law” is provided a chaotic, delightfully-messy performance while a ramshackle cover of “Train Kept A Rollin’” recklessly runs off the rails. More than a mere historical curiosity, The Death of Rock showcases two legendary artists trying to find musical common ground. Grade: B   BUY!

Winston Jarrett & the Righteous Flames's Jonestown
Winston Jarrett & the Righteous Flames – Jonestown (Nighthawk Records/Omnivore Recordings)
Winston Jarrett was a veteran of 1960s-era ska legends Alton & the Flames; when frontman Alton Ellis went solo, Jarrett formed the Righteous Flames from the ashes. Recording a number of albums during the 1970s with producers like Joe Gibb, Sir Coxsone, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Jarrett landed on Nighthawk Records for this 1983 release. Recorded with a new version of the Righteous Flames, including talented guitarist Chinna Smith, Jonestown – named for the Kingston neighborhood where he was raised – showcases Jarrett’s silky vocals and the Flames’ gorgeous harmonies. Jarrett provides socially-conscious lyrics on the dub-tinged “Knotty Got To Find A Way” and “Jonestown” with a fierce voice while “Spanish Town Road” is more akin to Bob Marley. The rhythms of “Run To the Rock” are a throwback to the early ska sound while “Lover’s Making Love” is a pure-hearted R&B jam, Jonestown an album worth discovering for the reggae fanatic. Grade: A   BUY!     

Permanent Green Light's Hallucinations
Permanent Green Light – Hallucinations (Omnivore Recordings)
At the end of his legendary “Paisley Underground” band the Three O’Clock in 1989, Michael Quercio went looking for new rock ‘n’ roll cheap thrills. He formed obscure psych-rockers Permanent Green Light, which released a handful of singles and a full-length album, building a loyal West Coast following before breaking up. Hallucinations compiles 16 of the band’s best performances, including three previously-unreleased demos and, to be honest, as much as I liked the Three O’Clock, this stuff rocks with an urgency, creativity, and honesty directly in opposition to most ‘90s bands. While the deliciously psych-pop “We Could Just Die” or the jangly “Street Love” display Quercio’s 1960s-era musical influences, tunes like “The Truth This Time” (with its funky groove) and the somber “Portmanteau” (with its exotic intro) showcase a welcome willingness to experiment musically. Hallucinations is an exceptional collection of guitar-rock from one of the best bands you never heard. Grade: A+   BUY!

The Posies' Frosting On the Beater
The Posies – Frosting On the Beater (Omnivore Recordings)
The second of Omnivore’s restoration of power-pop pioneers the Posies’ major label catalog, Frosting On the Beater picks up where the band’s debut Dear 23 ended. Expanding the Posies’ sound to offer a harder-edge with more prominent guitars and dense instrumentation, the album’s brilliant original tracks offer more joyous noise in the grooves. Red-hot numbers like the psych-flavored “Dream All Day” or the smoldering “Burn & Shine” sound like R.E.M. on steroids. The band didn’t catapult its power-pop roots, though, as the lovely “Flavor of the Month” will attest, and the first disc of the two here offers nine bonus tracks in the form of demos and outtakes. The second disc will delight the faithful, featuring a whopping 21 unreleased songs, my faves being the charming, melodic “21” and the mesmerizing yet raucous “Magnifying Mirror.” Unfairly neglected in their day, the Posies were true heir-apparent to the Big Star legacy. Grade: A   BUY!  

Rolling River Royalty's Rolling River Royalty
Rolling River Royalty – Rolling River Royalty (Kingfish Records/New Bohemian Records)
Nashvillian Robert Jetton has been making great music since he landed in Tennessee from Texas 40 years ago. He partners with multi-instrumentalist Wendell Tilley as Rolling River Royalty, the two raising a helluva ruckus and having a grand ol’ time rocking a mix of original and traditional songs with a couple of Merle Haggard covers ‘cause why not? The duo’s self-titled debut is a sprightly collection of country, folk, blues, and bluegrass music delivered with no little authenticity. The laid-back “What A Country” is a twangy tale of love on the 4th of July and their “Man of Constant Sorrow” skews closer to the Stanley Brothers than contemporary versions. Jetton’s “Something’s Gonna Break” matches clever lyrics with “Black Betty” foot-stompin’ rhythms while Haggard’s “Mama Tried” displays a hauntingly beautiful performance. With plenty of high-lonesome vocals, spry guitar pickin’, and wailing harmonicas to entertain any listener, Rolling River Royalty defines Americana. Grade: A   BUY!

Previously on That Devil
Short Rounds, October 2018: Mike Felten, Eric Lindell, John McLaughlin, Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson, Bob Seger & Ska Authentic
Short Rounds, September 2018: Junior Byles, Guadalcanal Diary, Peter Holsapple, the Textones & Bill Kopp’s Reinventing Pink Floyd book
Short Rounds, August 2018: Gene Clark, Kinky Friedman, David Olney, The Posies, Boz Scaggs, & Southside Johnny

The Blues Images 2019 calendar has arrived!

Blues Images 2019 calendar
The Reverend has been a big fan of John Tefteller’s incredible Blues Images calendar for around a decade now, and every autumn I look forward to receiving that record-shaped box that includes the next year’s calendar. The 2019 edition is now available and, as usual, Mr. Tefteller has outdone himself once again.

The Blues Images calendar features vintage 1920s-era advertising artwork from long-gone blues label Paramount Records. Some of each month’s art includes artist photos – this year more than in the past – but typically each page offers gorgeous B&W artwork from label advertisements that noted record collector and dealer Tefteller literally rescued from a dumpster almost 20 years ago. Each year’s calendar preserves an immensely-valuable visual history of the early years of the blues; I donate my copies at the end of each year to the Bill Schurk Sound Archives at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

The 2019 calendar offers the imaginative pen-and-ink art promoting Paramount releases of plastic fantastic sides like Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Piney Woods Money Mama” (February), Blind Blake’s “Too Tight Blues No. 2” (May), “Dad” Nelson’s “Coon Can Blues” (August), “Papa Charlie” Jackson’s “Ash Tray Blues” (September), and Charley Patton’s “Oh Death” (October). Several pages feature rare B&W photos of blues artists like Papa George Lightfoot, Memphis Minnie, the Beale Street Sheiks, and Joe Williams instead of the drawings. Each calendar page is annotated with historical and biographical information about the featured artist, and each month also includes the birth and death dates of classic blues artists.
The Blues Images 2019 calendar cost more than some cheap wall-hanger you’d buy from the mall or local bookstore, but for the hardcore blues fan, Tefteller packs a lot of value for the $24.95 (plus shipping) it will cost you. Each Blues Images catalog also includes a full-length CD that features rare, impossible-to-find, and often one-of-a-kind tracks, many of them sourced from Tefteller’s extensive personal collection. The performances, which include the songs from the original advertising as well as related releases, have been remastered from the original 78rpm records using the recently-developed ‘American Epic’ digital process that makes the sound on these antique shellac marvels really pop out of your speakers.

Blues Images 2019 calendar sample page
The free CD accompanying the Blues Images 2019 calendar features a wealth of vintage ‘20s blues tunes by both reasonably well-known artists like Memphis Minnie (“Ma Rainey”), Blind Lemon Jefferson (“Low Down Mojo Blues”), Charley Patton (“Troubled ‘Bout My Mother”), and Joe Williams (“My Grey Pony”) as well as the aforementioned tracks illustrated by the advertising artwork. The disc also includes super-rare sides by obscure bluesmen-and-women like Lottie Kimbrough (“Don’t Speak To Me”), Leola B. Wilson with Blind Blake (“Black Biting Bee Blues”), Otto Virgial (“Got the Blues About Rome” and “Seven Year Itch”), and gospel-blues artist Sam Butler (“Heaven Is My View” and “Christians Fight On, Your Time Ain’t Long”) and others.

Throw in newly-discovered songs by William Harris (“I’m A Roamin’ Gambler” and “I Was Born In the Country – Raised In Town”) and Papa George Lightfoot (“Winding Ball Mama” and “Snake Hipping Daddy”) from Tefteller’s ever-evolving collection, and between the calendar and 23-track CD, you have a bona fide collector’s item. Blues Images sells other cool blues-related stuff like posters, t-shirts, CDs from previous years, and past years’ calendars. You can find it all on the Blues Images website. Tell John that “the Rev sent ya!”

BMG Books’ RPM Series launches with Sub Pop, Excello Records stories

Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story
The Reverend loves books about music – heck, I’ve written a couple dozen of ‘em myself, and I’m currently reading the bio of former Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen – so I’m particularly hepped up with this news of a new series from BMG Books. Dubbed ‘RPM’, the series kicks off on November 20th, 2018 with the publication of its first two books – Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story and Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story.

Each tome in the RPM series is sized at 7” x 7” square to resemble the dimensions of a 45rpm record and each book features a special insert offering rare and previously-unpublished photographs. In a press release for the new series, BMG’s Kate Hyman, who conceived of the project, states “we want to honor the truly special independent labels. We want to celebrate the days when fans would buy records based on the logo alone. Let’s hope there will continue to be more of them that take the big risks and break the mold of the majors.”

Future volumes in the series will explore the history of Chrysalis Records (home to essential recordings by Procol Harum, Jethro Tull, Blondie, and many others) and the Cold Chillin’ label (a pioneering hip-hop imprint that released albums by Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie, among other ground-breaking artists). In the same press release, Publisher and Senior Director of BMG Books Scott B. Bomar says “As a self-proclaimed music geek, I’ve always been a big fan of the 33 1/3 series. We wanted to take that concept and build upon it. Instead of focusing on a single album, each volume in the series covers a label that made an important splash in one way or another. We’ve given ourselves space to dive into some of these stories in ways that maybe haven’t been explored in the past.”

They’ve certainly picked a couple of good ‘uns to launch the series. I’ve been reading Gillian G. Gaar, a Seattle-based writer, for years in publications like Mojo, Rolling Stone, and Goldmine and she’s written better than 15 books on subjects like Nirvana and Elvis Presley. As Senior Editor of Seattle’s The Rocket music magazine, Gaar was at ground zero in the late 1980s when Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman launched the legendary Sup Pop Records label with recordings by regional bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Screaming Trees, among many others. Gaar’s World Domination draws upon her years of covering the local music scene to provide a comprehensive history of the label from its founding to the present day.

Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story
Nashville’s Randy Fox is an acquaintance of mine, a well-known local DJ, music journalist and historian who has written for publications like The East Nashvillian, Nashville Scene, Record Collector, The Journal of Country Music, Vintage Rock, and others. A co-founder of the independent free-form Nashville radio station WXNA-FM, Randy hosts “Hipbilly Jamboree,” a weekly broadcast of classic country, rockabilly, and Western swing music. Fox is uniquely qualified to write about the legendary Excello Records label.

Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story dives into the history of the trailblazing record label. Founded in 1953 by Ernie Young and operating out of Ernie Young’s Record Mart (“The Record Center of the South!”), Excello found a natural partnership with Nashville’s WLAC-AM, a 50,000-watt clear channel station that would broadcast R&B and blues music across much of the U.S. every night. Excello’s releases by artists like Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Lonnie Brooks, Lightnin’ Slim, Marion James and others were tailor-made for the station’s playlist, which helped extend the label’s popularity across the country and even to the U.K. where it would influence young musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton.

Buy the books from
Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story
Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s Election Day! Vote for your Rock & Roll of Fame nominees!

The MC5 photo by Leni Sinclair
The MC5 photo by Leni Sinclair

The nominees were chosen a month or so ago, but today is election day across the U.S.A. so after you’ve gone and do your civic duty, log onto the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website and register to vote for your favorite artists to be inducted into the “mistake on the lake.” Fan voting doesn’t ensure that an artist gets honored, but it seems to reflect the zeitgeist of the HoF insiders.

I voted for the five artists listed below, each with a brief reason why I picked the Zombies, MC5, John Prine, Roxy Music, and Todd Rundgren for my ballot. Other artists included on this year’s HoF slate include Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, the Cure, Rage Against the Machine, Kraftwerk, Devo, and Radiohead as well as non-rock oriented artists like Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson, and LL Cool J.

The Rev is only going to bang his head against this wall one more time – it’s either the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or it’s not, and pop and R&B artists like Jackson, Rufus, and rapper LL Cool J shouldn’t be inducted unless it’s really a “pop culture” HoF, in which case they should change the damn name of the institution. Right now Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks lead the fan voting, with Todd Rundgren (surprisingly) in third place. Sadly, the most influential of all these artists, Detroit’s MC5, are currently in last place in fan voting. I’m gonna predict that Nicks, Def Leppard, Radiohead, the Zombies, and Rundgren get the nod tho’ Jackson and Rufus are outside choices. 

The Zombies
They’ve received three previous nominations so if they don’t get in this year I don’t think that they ever will. The influential British band is an overlooked British Invasion participant that scored Top 10 charting hit singles in the U.S. and the U.K. with songs like “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season.” Their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle is widely considered a classic of 1960s rock and their influence can be heard in the music of followers like Game Theory, XTC, and even fellow nominee Todd Rundgren.

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren is a bona fide music genius but while he’s been eligible for Hall of Fame induction for nearly a quarter-century, this is his first nomination. Todd isn’t the most commercially successful nominee on this list, but he’s undeniably one of the most influential, and over the past 50 years he’s released almost two-dozen studio and live albums, pioneered the use of video in music, and was one of the first to incorporate computers into his work to create interactive multimedia…and that’s just as a solo artist. His work with the prog/electronic/pop outfit Utopia has been widely acclaimed, and Rundgren is also an acclaimed producer who has helmed albums by artists as diverse as XTC, Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad, Meatloaf, and the New York Dolls, among others. He’s earned his spot… 

Roxy Music

Roxy Music
The 1970s-era “glam-rock” outfit Roxy Music is another first-time HoF nominee and they should be inducted immediately, if only for giving the world Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, and Brian Eno. They were big stars in their British homeland, less so in the states, but their eight studio albums circa 1972 to 1982 would become a major influence on “new wave” bands of the 1980s like Duran Duran, the Smiths, Magazine, and Tears For Fears. Roxy songs like “The Thrill of It All,” “Love Is the Drug,” “Both Ends Burning,” and “Avalon” remain classics of suave style and musical substance.

John Prine

John Prine
Another deserving artist just now receiving his first HoF nomination although he’s been eligible for 22 years, singer/songwriter John Prine is the missing link between Bob Dylan’s 1960s-era albums and Bruce Springsteen’s early 1970s work. Prine has released nearly two-dozen critically-acclaimed albums since his self-titled 1971 debut album, and his original songs like “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There,” and “Sweet Revenge” changed the rules of songwriting like nobody since Dylan himself. A master at blending roots-rock, country, and folk music Prine has won three Grammy® Awards and inspired songwriters like John Hiatt, Todd Snider, and Jason Isbell, among many others.

Sadly, while the legacy of Motor City sonic terrorists MC5 is safe, the Detroit band’s induction into the HoF is unlikely. This is their fourth nomination to the institution since becoming eligible in 1991 and it’s a real tragedy that they haven’t already been voted in…MC5 may be the most important band on this whole damn list, and although they only released three albums during their brief three-year tenure, they were massively influential, inspiring punks from the Clash and the Sex Pistols to the Dead Boys and Patti Smith as well as more contemporary artists like the White Stripes and Soundgarden. The MC5’s explosive, original mix of hard rock, blues, and jazz delivered with punkish fury continues to find a new audience among disaffected youth decades after the band’s break-up.

Do your duty as a music fan and vote for your favorites for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! 

Artist photos courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Book Review: Daryl Sanders' That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound (2018)

Daryl Sanders' That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound
Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll albums of all time. Released during the summer of 1966, Blonde On Blonde received almost universal critical acclaim at the time. The album was a commercial success as well, spawning two Top 20 charting singles in “I Want You” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” which helped drive Blonde On Blonde into the Top 10 in both the United States and the U.K. Two other songs from the album – “Just Like A Woman” and “Visions of Johanna” – were included among the 15 Dylan songs featured in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. The album would eventually be certified Double Platinum™ for over two million albums sold, a rare achievement back in the day.

Blonde On Blonde is also one of a handful of Dylan’s 70+ albums that the non-fanatical Bob follower would be familiar with (along with Blood On the Tracks and, perhaps, Highway 61 Revisited). Wildly influential even beyond its enormous commercial success, artists as diverse as British rocker Robyn Hitchcock, Jason & the Scorchers’ frontman Jason Ringenberg, and Americana singer/songwriter Todd Snider, among many others, cite the album as a major inspiration on their own work. Blonde On Blonde was the first of several albums that Dylan would record in Nashville with some of the city’s most talented studio professionals as he was searching for the “thin, wild mercury sound” that he heard in his mind.

Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound

Writing about Bob Dylan has become a legitimate cottage industry, the Scribe inspiring literally dozens of books ranging from fanboy exhortations to deep-thought academic tomes, including more than a few covering Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde. However, Nashville-based music journalist Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound provides a unique and definitive account of the recording sessions that resulted in this classic album. Sanders has worked as an editor for a number of local publications, including Hank magazine and Bone music magazine and, as a writer, he’s contributed to The Nashville Scene, The East Nashvillian, and several other local publications. Daryl is also a friend and colleague of mine dating back some 40 years and has been my editor at three different publications.

When it comes to Dylan, Sanders knows his stuff, and he’s been around the Music City long enough that he knows all the major players. He interviews many of the musicians that played on Blonde On Blonde, getting inside info and anecdotes on the sessions, correcting much of the misinformation that has swirled around the album with new details sourced by his years of exhaustive research. Sanders begins the story with producer Bob Johnston’s efforts to convince Dylan to record in Nashville (against manager Albert Grossman’s wishes) after sessions in New York City for the album resulted in meager results. Johnston subsequently enlisted some of the Music City’s most talented players to work with Dylan – legendary musicians like harmonica wizard Charlie McCoy, guitarists Wayne Moss and Joe South, and drummer Kenny Buttrey would joined in the studio by long-time Dylan accompanists Robbie Robertson and Al Kooper.

Dylan, Nashville and the Making of Blonde On Blonde

Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde
Over the course of roughly eight days spread across February and March 1966, Dylan and his makeshift studio band spun pure magic out of these recording sessions. Sanders takes the reader behind the scenes and into Columbia Records’ Studio A for the recording of classic songs like “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” “Temporary Like Achilles,” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.” Sanders explores Dylan’s eccentric songwriting method, which frequently left the session musicians hanging around the studio lounge collecting time-and-a-half scale for hours waiting as Dylan refined and tinkered with his lyrics while sitting alone in the studio. The hardcore fan will revel in the details provided by Sanders on the creative evolution of these classic songs.

Sanders’ numerous interviews with musicians like Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, and Al Kooper, among others, as well as with producer Bob Johnston and session spectators like Billy Swan (then a studio assistant who would go on to fame as a country artist) provide invaluable insight and often-humorous stories about these intense and artistically-satisfying recording sessions. Sanders manages to capture the vibe of the room, including the musical missteps and experimentation that went into the crafting of each song, providing a deep accounting of every individual performance. Sanders also incorporates interviews with Dylan acolytes like Robyn Hitchcock and Jason Ringenberg into the tale, as well as comments on the album from legendary rock critic Dave Marsh and previously-published quotes from Robbie Robertson and Dylan himself to round out the story.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound provides a fascinating and comprehensive history of this classic album. There are a heck of a lot of Dylan-related books available – enough to stock a smallish library, really – but none of them have dug this deep into the making of one of the Scribe’s most creative, critically-acclaimed, and commercially-successful works. If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you’ll want a copy of That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound on your bookshelf. Grade: A+ (Chicago Review Press, published October 2, 2018)

Buy the book from Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound

CD Preview: Cold War Kids’ This Will All Blow Over In Time

Cold War Kids’ This Will All Blow Over In Time
They began as a sort of blues-infused soul-punk band in the early 2000s and gradually outgrew their more punkish tendencies to become a reliably-rocking and commercially viable band, a rarity these days as rock ‘n’ roll is pushed aside stateside by the major labels in favor of the more mainstream (and better selling) pop and hip-hop genres. As shown by their 2017 release L.A. Divine, Cold War Kids continue to mature as musicians and creators as they close in on their 15th anniversary as a band.

As a treat for their fans, Cold War Kids has collected together all of their singles releases circa 2005 to 2015 along with a bunch of previously-unreleased and rare tracks for an ‘odds ‘n’ sods’ set titled This Will All Blow Over In Time. Scheduled for December 7th, 2018 release by Downtown Records/UMe, the collection will be available as a two-CD set and digital download; a translucent yellow vinyl double-LP version of the collection will be released in February 2019.

This Will All Blow Over In Time features 23 tracks overall, with the first disc – titled “Singles Worked At Radio” – leading off with their first single, 2006’s “Hang Me Up To Dry,” and including the radio hits “We Used To Vacation” and “Hospital Beds,” along with nine more of the band’s single releases from their first five albums. The second disc of the set, jokingly titled “Songs From All Over the Place,” offers eleven unreleased tunes including a cover of Nick Cave’s “Opium Tea” and songs previously only released on iTunes like “Goodnight Tennessee” and “Minimum Mistake.” The set also includes a pair of songs from the band’s long out-of-print debut EP, 2005’s Mulberry Street, with “In Harmony In Silver” and “Quiet Please.” Check out the complete track list for This Will All Blow Over In Time below.

Buy the CD from Cold War KidsThis Will All Blow Over In Time

This Will All Blow Over In Time track listing:

Disc 1 “Singles Worked At Radio”
1. Hang Me Up To Dry
2. We Used To Vacation
3. Hospital Beds
4. I’ve Seen Enough
5. Something Is Not Right With Me
6. Louder Than Ever
7. Royal Blue
8. Audience of One
9. Miracle Mile
10. Lost That Easy
11. All This Could Be Yours
12. First

Disc 2 “Songs From All Over the Place”
1. Vacation In Chicago
2. First (Demo)
3. Opium Tea
4. Goodnight Tennessee
5. Coffee Spoon
6. Minimum Mistake
7. In Harmony In Silver
8. Quiet, Please
9. Expensive Tastes
10. Romance Languages #1
11. Fashionable

Thursday, November 1, 2018

New Music Monthly: November & December 2018 Releases

It's the fourth quarter of the business year for the record labels and pretty much the end of the road as far as new releases go. The labels are emptying their archives this month, though, with rejuvenated old releases finding a new audience from Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, Big Brother & the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), Lee Michaels, Metallica, and more! There's a smattering of "new music" to be had from folks like Dead Can Dance, Marianne Faithful, Tenacious D, Muse, J. Mascis, and the Tangent and for psych-rock fans, ATO is reissuing the first (indie) albums by Aussie rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Enjoy!

If we wrote about it here on the site, there will be a link to it in the album title; if you want an album, hit the 'Buy!' link to get it from's just that damn easy! Your purchase puts money in the Reverend's pocket that he'll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock 'n' roll ecstasy!    

Bob Dylan's More Blood, More Tracks

Dead Can Dance - Dionysus   BUY!
Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks [box set]   BUY!
Marianne Faithful - Negative Capability   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - 12 Bar Bruise   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Eyes Like the Sky   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Float Along Fill Your Lungs   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Oddments   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Willoughby's Beach   BUY!
Metallica - ...And Justice For All [30th anniversary box set]   BUY!
Sun Kil Moon - This Is My Dinner   BUY
Tenacious D - Post-Apocalypto   BUY!

Muse's Simulation Theory

Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever   BUY!
J. Mascis - Elastic Days   BUY!
Muse - Simulation Theory   BUY!
Various Artists - Confessin' the Blues   BUY!

Chris Cornell's Chris Cornell

Chris Robinson's Brotherhood - Betty's Midwestern Magick Blends   BUY!
Chris Cornell - Chris Cornell   BUY!
Brian Eno - Discreet Music [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music For Airports   [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Brian Eno - Ambient 4: On Land [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Brian Eno - Music For Films [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
John Mellencamp - Other People's Stuff   BUY!
Lee Michaels - Nice Day For Something   BUY!
Lee Michaels - Tailface   BUY!
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - The Best of Everything   BUY!
The Tangent - Proxy   BUY!

Roine Stolt's The Flower King's Manifesto of an Alchemist

Bauhaus - The Bela Session   BUY!
Dan Reed Network - Origins   BUY!
Roine Stolt's The Flower King - Manifesto of an Alchemist   BUY!
Vandenberg's MoonKings - Rugged and Unplugged   BUY!

Big Brother & the Holding Company's Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills

The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships   BUY!
Big Brother & the Holding Company - Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills   BUY!
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Complete Studio Albums [vinyl box set]   BUY!
The Long Ryders - Two-Fisted Tales [import box set]   BUY!
Rise Against - Career Book [first eight LPs vinyl box set]   BUY!
Jeff Tweedy - Warm   BUY!

Jason Becker's Triumphant Hearts

Jason Becker - Triumphant Hearts   BUY!
Cold War Kids - This Will All Blow Over In Time   BUY!
Van Morrison - The Prophet Speaks   BUY!
The Long Ryders - State of Our Union [import box set]   BUY!

Henry Townsend's Mule

Henry Townsend - Mule   BUY!

Album(s) of the Month: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard reissues. As a testament to the band’s growing U.S. popularity, ATO Records – which released King Gizzard’s last few albums stateside – will be reissuing the band’s first five records on both CD and vinyl this month. Each album title will include ‘reimagined’ artwork and packaging and new liner notes, and the vinyl versions will feature dazzling, eye-popping colored wax. If you haven't heard 'em, get on it!

Archive Review: John Doe's Meet John Doe (1990)

John Doe's Meet John Doe
As bass player for X, the now infamous early ‘80s Los Angeles punk band, John Doe was something of a trendsetter. With a fast ‘n’ furious guitar-oriented rock style and decadence-tinged lyrics courtesy of Mr. Doe and X vocalist and then Mrs. Doe, Exene Cervenka, X was a stylistic precursor not only for many of the hardcore bands that would follow, but for many of today’s college market “alternative” bands as well.

An unusual dichotomy existed, though. Doe and X, for all their lyrical erudition and undeniable punk attitude and fury, drew not only on influences as obvious as the Doors, Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground but upon other, less ‘hip’ artists as the Bobby Fuller Four, Chuck Berry, and Gene Vincent, as well as elements of country and folk music. Although derivative musically, the fresh twist which X put on an old sound – as well as their intelligent lyrics, often inspired or affected by the tension in the Doe/Cervenka relationship – won the band a growing audience and critical acclaim, if not wide-spread acceptance, until their self-destruction.

Which brings us to Meet John Doe, Doe’s pseudonymous solo debut; the results are pleasantly unexpected. Drawing upon an obvious wealth of knowledge of American musical styles, Doe has assembled a top-notch collection of songs which incorporate decades of progress in rock ‘n’ roll, blues, county, and even folk music. It’s a delicate balancing act, though Doe pulls it off, rocking furiously on one tune, waxing poetic on the next.

Lyrically, Doe ranges from merely competent to sporadic brilliance, his vocals matching the material well, the backing instrumentation tight and professional (featuring talents like Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, slide guitarist Greg Leisz, and Television guitarist Richard Lloyd). Meet John Doe offers a pleasant mixed-bag of musical styles and inspirations; it’s a strong debut that will appeal to fans of X, Dave Alvin, the Blasters, and anyone who loves roots-flavored American music. (Geffen Records, released May 29, 1990)

Buy the CD from John Doe’s Meet John Doe

Review originally published by Play Magazine, July 1990

CD Preview: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ The Best of Everything

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ The Best of Everything
Hot on the heels of a very cool four-disc Tom Petty box set – American Treasure – comes word of a career-spanning “best of” set that encompasses the late rocker’s solo work as well as recordings with his two bands, the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch. On November 16th, 2018 Geffen Records/UMe will release The Best of Everything, a two-CD set that features 38 tracks including two previously-unreleased songs.

The Best of Everything will be released simultaneously as a two-disc CD set sporting deluxe packaging and in all digital formats. Two different vinyl versions, in both black and clear vinyl, will be released on December 7th. The set includes an essay on Petty written exclusively for the collection by Academy Award-winning screenwriter, director, and former rock critic Cameron Crowe. All the material has been re-mastered from “pristine transfers of the original studio multi-track masters” sayeth the press release announcing the album.

The set features a number of familiar hits, Heartbreakers’ tunes like “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “Learning To Fly,” and “Breakdown” (one of the band’s earliest tracks) as well as a solo hits like “Wildflower” and “I Won’t Back Down.” Of the two unreleased tracks, one is the autobiographical “For Real” and the other is an alternative version of the title track, which restores a never-heard second verse to the song that was originally recorded for the 1985 album Southern Accents. Check out the complete track list below and then get thee over to and order your copy of Tom Petty’s The Best of Everything!

Editor's Note: UMe has changed the release date for the CD, digital, and vinyl versions of The Best of Everything to February 1st, 2019

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers photo by Aaron Rapoport
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers photo by Aaron Rapoport
The Best of Everything track list:

Disc One
1. Mary Jane's Last Dance - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. You Wreck Me - Tom Petty
3. I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty
4. Saving Grace - Tom Petty
5. You Don't Know How It Feels - Tom Petty
6. Don't Do Me Like That - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
7. Listen To Her Heart - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
8. Breakdown - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
9. Walls (Circus) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
10. The Waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
11. Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
12. Southern Accents - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
13. Angel Dream (No2) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
14. Dreamville - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
15. I Should Have Known It - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
16. Refugee - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
17. American Girl - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
18. The Best Of Everything (alternate version) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Disc Two
1. Wildflowers - Tom Petty
2. Learning To Fly - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
3. Here Comes My Girl - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. The Last DJ - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
5. I Need To Know - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
6. Scare Easy - Mudcrutch
7. You Got Lucky - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
8. Runnin' Down A Dream - Tom Petty
9. American Dream Plan B - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
10. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (featuring Stevie Nicks) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
11. Trailer - Mudcrutch
12. Into The Great Wide Open - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
13. Room At The Top - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
14. Square One - Tom Petty
15. Jammin' Me - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
16. Even The Losers - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
17. Hungry No More - Mudcrutch
18. I Forgive It All - Mudcrutch
19. For Real - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers