Rant’n’Roll: Memphis Stew, Melodic Intersect, Crazy Surf Punk, Remembering Nilsson, Alligator Blues

Rant’n’Roll: Memphis Stew, Melodic Intersect, Crazy Surf Punk, Remembering Nilsson, Alligator Blues

—by , August 16, 2017

The DustAphonics

Author of Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, Tamara Saviano has become an important spoke of a big wheel, that of roots-rock, alt-country and Americana music, so much so that I’m all in on anything this woman puts her name on. As co-producer of Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records (Americana Music Society) with North Mississippi All-Star Luther Dickinson assembling a smokin’ house band with guest vocalists, she’s done it again. And she’s smart enough to have had a hand in picking songs that sidestep the usual Sun fare to dig a little deeper.

Warren Smith’s “Red Cadillac and a Black Mustache,” The Miller Sisters’ “Ten Cats Down,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ At Midnight” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential” are just the tip of the tit. I can say that because Bobby Rush sings his own “Tough Titty” and it’s a definite highlight, as is Alvin Youngblood Hart singing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Shawn Camp crooning Charlie Rich’s “Lonely Weekends.” It all goes down so smooth and rockin’ that you just want to hear it again and again. All proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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Melodic Intersect is Looking Forward (Aimere) on its sixth CD. Formed by tabla player Enayet Hossain, and informed by the wonderful sound of Hidayat Khan’s sitar, Greg Hatza’s keyboards, Joy Islam’s Bangladeshi guitar, the sax of Fred Koch, Trinidadian Avirodh Sharma’s percussion and, most intriguingly, the cajon (a Peruvian percussion instrument) of Pakistani Qamar Abbas. India is composed of 28 states all with their own cultures and music. Indian Hossain is well-versed in the jazz, folk and classical strains of his country to the point where it all seamlessly meshes into the kind of wide-ranging free-form delectable sound that satisfies to no end. Take the 8:39 opener “Jazzy Streets Of Mumbai” where you can feel the cobbled streets and venders and human traffic, the sights, smells and sounds, just close your eyes. “Without Borders” is 6:52 of total inventiveness, improvisation and syncopation. The 10:42 “Adolescence” is hip-hoppy with taut skin being pounded in circular rhythms. It all ends with the 11:43 “Rhythmicpaths,” a path you’ll want to traverse over and over again. World music never sounded so good!

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Johnny & Bo (Catty Town Records, England) by The DustAphonics is outrageous garage-band rock ‘n’ roll helmed by the French DJ Healer Selecta who not only writes and produces but uses a rotating cast of musicians to fulfill his punk/surf dreams. The title track is dedicated to his two heroes, Johnny Ramone and Bo Diddley. The Specials’ 1996 “Gangsters” is covered with glee. “Tura Satana Tribute Song” is for the busty actress who starred in the low-budget Russ Meyer film Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. This thing has been growing on me to the point where I can’t get my day started without a quick listen.

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Whenever another new tribute to Harry Nilsson [1941-1994] comes out, one has to revel in the music of the American Beatle. Paul and George loved him. John was a bad influence on him. Ringo became his best friend. Harry’s music, far-ranging, hilarious, heartbreaking, sumptuous, soulful, rocking and dramatic, was, indeed, the American Beatle equivalent. Gotta Get Up: The Songs Of Harry Nilsson 1965-1972 on London’s Ace Records is an uneven affair but for those who loved Harry, it’s another must. For those not versed in Harry’s brilliance, best to get the box of all his albums (he never toured). Here, the Monkees, 5th Dimension, Shangri-Las, Yardbirds, his daughter Annie, Blood Sweat & Tears, Andy Williams, Jose Feliciano and more make his visions come to life as originally released during the years in the CD’s title. The reason this isn’t obligatory, though, for those not already in the Harry Cult (like myself) is because some of the arrangements don’t fit the songs. For instance, Al Kooper’s “Mournin’ Glory Story” sounds too damn happy for a song about a woman “sleeping in a doorway wondering how she ever got that way.” (Harry wrote it upon seeing a homeless woman.) Other musical beds do not fit the intent either. Get the box (The RCA Albums Collection). See the movie (Who Is Harry Nilsson And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him). Read the book (Nilsson: The Life Of A Singer/Songwriter). One day, his songs will grace the Broadway stage and be sung in school choruses. Hail Harry!

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Is Guy Belanger Canada’s best harmonica player? Sure looks that way after Celine Dion took him out on the road as part of her band for 17 Quebec dates to provide some authentic soul into her sterile music. On his seventh self-released and self-produced CD, Traces & Scars, he blows some mighty blues harp for 10 instrumentals plus two sung songs. The band is tight, taut, muscled and primal. No wonder he’s won no less than 16 awards up north. Play it loud. Highly Recommended.

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Pick Your Poison (Alligator Records) by Selwyn Birchwood stretches the limits of the blues with gospel (“Even The Saved Need Saving”), humor (“My Whiskey Loves My Ex”), funk (the title song) and, best of all, the classic soul-man strut of “Heavy Heart.” Birchwood sings in a gravel-road voice, plays a stinging guitar and a wicked lap-top steel (a la Robert Randolph). He wrote, arranged and produced every track. Clearly, this is a new artist to be reckoned with. With his hip-hugging band of bass, drums and bari sax, there’s something for everyone here. Highly Recommended.


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