Rant’n’Roll: Alternative Americana, The Return Of The Prodigal Son, Prog-Blues, Samba, Banjo Deluxe, The Hook & The Almighty Ju

Rant’n’Roll: Alternative Americana, The Return Of The Prodigal Son, Prog-Blues, Samba, Banjo Deluxe, The Hook & The Almighty Ju

—by , May 10, 2017

05-10 Rant - Pinkerton Raid by Will Gehrman

Tolerance Ends Love Begins, the self-released third CD by North Carolina indie co-operative Pinkerton Raid, is a family affair. Eleven musicians—on synthesizers, Hammond B-3, trombone, trumpet, drums, banjo, acoustic/electric guitars and vocals—accent the songs of three talented siblings. Jesse and Katie Deconto are the twin lead vocalists while Steven Deconto shreds. Well, not exactly. His guitar, though, does provide subtle textures as does Katie’s ukulele and piano plus Jesse’s bass and chimeatron (a keyboard of bells). The result is a stunning synthesis of folkloric beauty, sweetly rockin’ alterna-indie pop/rock and the kind of originals—“Deeper Than Skin,” “Ghost In My Bed” especially—that not only sound good, but might make you think.

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There once was a Kansas City roots-rock/Americana/alt-country band called Hadacol led by singer/songwriter Greg Wickham. When it dissolved, Wickham dropped out of public sight, met a girl, fell in love, got married and raised three kids. Now, 15 years later, Wickham returns, wondering what would happen If I Left This World (Thirty Days Records). He wrote the title tune on the day that Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens died. He knew going into this project that, as he says, “This may be the only record I ever make.” His 12 originals reek of authenticity: late nights, stale cigarettes, rotgut whiskey and bar room drama. The vocal harmony from his guitarist brother Fred Wickham is right on time and the others who participated—all 17 of ‘em plus an 18-voice Front Porch Choir—make this an obvious labor-of-love. This kitchen-sink of a production does not sound cluttered whatsoever. Each item in this KC stew is simmered and shook for just the right atmosphere, making his world-weary voice sound even more righteous.

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                  Never Trust The Living by Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys is certified Louisiana progressive swamp blues. Talk about being the real deal! Numbers never lie: over 100 festival appearances, 30 Euro tours and 10 CDs preceded 78 takes of 27 songs in 2 days to pick these 11 tracks. And what tracks they are! It starts with a laugh and ends with a supersonic rocket ship. In between are odes to dead Confederate generals, aliens from outer space and the kind of voodoo one can only find in the lower garden district of New Orleans. Their cover of Freddie King’s “The Sad Night Owl” is a highlight as is the traditional “House Of The Rising Sun.” Originals like opener “Snake Doctor,” “Whiskey,” “Monkey Man” and “Bucksnort Annie” put new emphasis on the odd as well as the funky. Man, what I wouldn’t give to see these guys live!

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The follow-up to Made In Brazil by singer/songwriter/pianist/arranger Eliane Elias is Dance Of Time, a 12-step program of divine samba utilizing guitarist Joao Bosco, trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and vocalist Mark Kibble. Reinventing Kurt Weil’s 1943 “Speak Low,” Sinatra’s 1956 “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” Joao Gilberto’s 1960 “O Pato” and Joao Donato’s 1965 “Sambou Sambou,” she also adds a few of her own. Highly recommended.

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                  Stove Up by Danny Barnes is a self-released bluegrass special from a guy whose wild experimental side has been fully satiated by his Austin band, the Bad Livers, as well as a two-decade solo career encompassing electronica, jazz and old-time back-porch Appalachia string-band music. Here, his banjo takes center stage almost in honor of a predecessor like Earl Scruggs [1924-2012] whose “Flint Hill Special” and “Fireball” get dexterous work-outs. His fiddle-banjo fights with Jason Carter (Paddy On The Turnpike” and “Bill Cheatum”) are downright thrilling as is the one Grandpa Jones tune (“Eight More Miles To Louisville”). Still, the highlight has to be his reinventing “Factory Girl” by the Stones. With two soothing mandolinists on board to sandpaper his rough edges plus a rhythm section on some of the 17 tracks, Stove Up is state-of-the-bluegrass-banjo art.

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The music of John Lee Hooker [1917-2001] is timeless. The problem with accumulating his divine boogie is that he recorded for so many different labels under so many names. That didn’t stop a generation of British and American rock ‘n’ roll bands from appropriating his essence including the Stones, Animals, Canned Heat, Van Morrison, George Thorogood and Tony Joe White. Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest (Vee-Jay/Concord) should be essential in any decent music collection. The 16 perfectly chosen songs from the Stax, Riverside, Specialty and Vee-Jay labels show an American Original. His lyrics don’t always rhyme. His rhythms are so spectacularly convoluted that no band could truly do them justice (although in the studio, as opposed to the stage, he simplified his aesthetic in search of hits). As a guitarist, as a singer, as a composer, he had no peers. You just can’t improve upon “Boom Boom,” “Boogie Chillun’,” “I’m In The Mood,” “Grinder Man,” “I Need Some Money,” “Big Legs Tight Skirt” or “Crawling Kingsnake.” I met him once. He was playing solo at some dank Greenwich Village basement and after the set, I found him in the kitchen, ran up to him and just gushed. He looked sideways at me, his gold tooth winking, smiled and uttered a hoarse thank-you. I’ll never forget it.

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They’re based in Budapest. This Hungarian trio hates being tagged as a noisy punk band as their assault incorporates free jazz, hardcore, worldbeat, ambient, metal and derivations of ancient Euro-folk. Summa (RareNoise Records) by Ju is not easy listening. You’ll either love it or hate it. (I love it.) Ju is Adam Meszaros on guitars, African thumb piano and various percussive toys. Erno Hock is on bass, bass ukulele and more percussion. Andreas Halmos is the drummer who also strikes bells. Highlight “Patir” has guests on sax and electronics. The result is indescribable, a descent into the maelstrom of the unknown. Be forewarned. This stuff is flammable.


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