Top 10 2015 personal musical moments. Hey, why not?
1) Los Lobos at The Sellersville Theater February 28: Arguably America’s greatest current rock ‘n’ roll band rocked Pennsylvania with two sets of blistering bilingual joyousness including Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and their own barnburner “Kiko.” To think if they ever ran into Paul Simon again, they’d beat him up, still freaks me out.
2) Steve Earle is a hero of mine. Let me count the ways: his resolute stand against war and capital punishment…his slippery soulful Southern voice (singing or speaking)…his compositions over the years…his hard-fought sobriety…his novel (I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive)…his production of Joan Baez (Day After Tomorrow, 2008)…his love for another guy I love (Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt [1944-1997])…and the fact that he’s the brother-in-law of my personal Goddess Shelby Lynne. Terraplane (New West), by Steve Earle & The Dukes, is his best since Washington Square Serenade in 2007. A bluesy romp, it’s the album that could have been made by his character Harley on HBO’s Treme.
3) The cover of The Who’s “I Can See For Miles” by Vanilla Fudge off its new Spirit Of ’67 (Purple Pyramid) is slower, trippy, psychedelic and brings back the feeling I had when I was 16 and the Fudge was not only my very first concert experience (at Upsala College in East Orange, NJ), but also the very first band I ever heard while stoned. My mom was going out with a Manhattan window washer named Arnie and he bought me a record player. I put my head between its two cheap speakers and couldn’t get over the fact that their version of “You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes was actually meant to be listened to while high. Their new Who cover reclaims that glory.
4) Arthur Nasson is a Boston-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumental/all-around cool guy whose five-song EP—The Emperor’s New Sound (Philistine)—is an absolute delight. Someone please give this dude a major label shot!
5) Jimmy Holiday [1934-1987] was the greatest soul singer you never heard of. Now, for the first time, Kent Records, distributed by Ace in England and available in the States as an import, has released Spread Your Love: The Complete Minit Singles 1966-1970, a grandiose 26-track soulfest. Holiday wrote “All I Ever Need Is You” for Ray Charles in 1971 and co-wrote “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” for Jackie DeShannon in 1969. These singles, for a New Orleans indie, are testament to his gruff-yet-tender brand of pure R&B. My fave is his cover of country legend Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time.” It’s that country tinge that makes him the Otis Redding to Arthur Alexander’s Al Green when it comes to genre cross-pollination.
6) Charlie Mars is all about The Money (Rockingham/Thirty Tigers) on the final volume of his Texas trilogy. Released late last year, his is a singular esoteric vision, laid out in an idiosyncratic voice-of-experience. Reeking of wisdom, humor and chops, The Money channels a Robert Earl Keen kind of subtle oddness that should appeal to hipsters and cowgirls alike.
7) Collective Portrait (Smoke Sessions) by Eddie Henderson (trumpet and flugelhorn) with Gary Bartz (alto saxophone), George Cables (piano), Doug Weiss (bass) and Carl Allen (drums) on material by Woody Shaw (“Zoltan”), Jimmy Heath (“Ginger Bread Boy”) and Freddie Hubbard (“First Light”) is my favorite jazz album of the year so far.
8) Hottest Debut Of The Year: ReDrova (self-released) by the Balkum Brothers from Connecticut rocks and rolls and bops and strolls with electric blues.
9) Live In Dublin (Columbia /Legacy), released late last year, by Leonard Cohen, has the 80-year-old maestro in mid-season form on three CDs and a DVD recorded in 2013.
10) Soundtrack Of The Year: The Grand Budapest Hotel. No hit collection this. It’s as weirdly beautiful musically as the film is cinematically.