French label Dixiefrog Records has released the self-titled debut of Connecticut’s Balkun Brothers where they go from zero to 60 in three seconds as they put the pedal to the metal on opener “Been Drivin’.” (You’ll hear traces of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.”) Producer Popa Chubby is always going to keep things bluesy, though. Older Balkun brother Steve can wail on that slide guitar. Younger bro Nick heavy-rocks the drums. Recorded in Central Valley NY at Serpentine Studios, it’s a 12-track bonanza of some very unsubtle rock moves and they like it like that. Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues” gets a 2016 makeover and they’re honest enough to sing about “The Painkillers.” If Muddy Waters fronted Motörhead instead of Lemmy, this is what it might sound like. They’ve already won a bunch of regional blues awards (see picture) so if they come to your neighborhood, definitely go see them but bring ear plugs.
We loved Jefferson Airplane. We hated Jefferson Starship. We sure do like Georgia singer/songwriter/guitarist Jefferson Grizzard. Daydream Of Hope (Back Porch Syndicate Records), which starts off profound and pretty yet ends up totally rockin’, is a worthy follow-up to his potential-laden Learning to Lie, which had a Levon Helm tribute song written with Willie Nile called “When Levon Sings.” Journo John Pfeiffer in this very newspaper said, “Grizzard…joyfully embraces…cranked up slash and burn excitement [and is] on his way to becoming a rising force for a whole new generation.” He’s been tapped to open for Leon Russell on a little Northeastern tour which will land them at The Sellersville Theater in Pennsylvania Sunday night February 21. Dude’s a poet and a picker and probably a problem when he’s stoned, a walking contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction (apologies to Kris Kristofferson). He’s worth seeing.
The Dining Rooms ask that musical question, Do Hipsters Love Sun (Ra)? on their 14-track electronica experiment on Schema Records. Subtitled A Soundtrack Of Cosmic Funk, Abstract Jazz And Cinematic Avant-Garde, the tracks are as oftentimes as obtuse as they are confounding but an inner logic prevails. Uneven but entertaining, “Instrumental Hip Hop Is Back” is a no-rap assemblage of beats while “Sergio Leone Asteroid” pays homage to the king of spaghetti western movie music. Opener “Space is the Place” invokes the late Sun Ra most of all as it is said that Ra was an alien on this earth from 1914-1993. Of course, he also was a serious intellect who composed, confused, stymied and provoked the jazz world as a Bizarro version of Duke Ellington. (For those not down with DC Comics lore, every Earthling has a cracked-face version of themselves on a planet somewhere filled with Bizarro versions of all of us.)
Concerning the titular hipster, no less an authority than novelist/poet Jack Kerouac [1922-1969] described such as “rising and roaming America, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere…characters of a special spirituality.” That said, the answer to the musical question has to be a resounding yes.
The Hidden Voices on Cuban composer/pianist Aruan Ortiz’s new Intakt Records release come courtesy of his forebears from Santiago where he was born 42 years ago and raised before moving to Spain, then to studying at Berklee in Boston, now living in Brooklyn. He calls it “Cuban Cubism.” Armed with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver, the trio covers Thelonious Monk’s “Skippy,” two from Ornette Coleman (“The Sphinx” and “Open and Close”) and a Cubano childhood nursery rhyme (“Uno, dos y tres, que paso mas chevere”) that closes things out.
Ortiz’s originals take some getting used to, especially “Analytical Symmetry” and the two-track suite of “Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose.” He doesn’t move in linear fashion, embracing instead the concept of circular motion. Everything’s so abstract. In cubism, painters like Picasso, Braque and Lam deconstructed reality. Their main themes were fragmented, hidden inside the painting, to the point where it took patience to understand. Ortiz’s music is the same way. It’s an enigma wrapped in a puzzle.