Rant ‘N’ Roll: Tex-Mex, Blues, Broadway & Bruce

If Southern Hospitality are the new Allmans, then Tampa, Florida’s Damon Fowler is their Duane. On his third Blind Pig solo CD, Sounds Of Home, he covers Johnny Winter (“TV Mama,” not to be confused with the Big Joe Turner song of the same name), Elvis Costello (“Alison”) as well as a traditional gospel, “I Shall Not Be Moved,” beautifully finger-picked. Fowler plays guitar, slide, lap steel and dobro and can sing the blues and write a mean country song too (“Old Fools, Bar Stools & Me”).

Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis ups the ante of his 2010 Moments debut with the startlingly gorgeous, meditative, adventurous, brave, free-jazz of his Divine Travels (Okeh). Avant-garde yet church-based, complete with the poetry of Brooklyn-based Thomas Sayers Ellis on two tracks, Divine Travels is a trio record with two older improvisational masters, bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Lewis, 31, originally humbled to be in a studio with those two, winds up dominating the session with, yeah, divine sax squalls and sanctified squeals.

Finally saw the Springsteen & I movie (Eagle Rock Entertainment), the one patched together with nothing but fan-filmed tributes. I liked the guy who cried at the wheel of his car talking about how much he loves Bruce…the Philly Elvis who Bruce calls on stage to do his thing…and the scene where Bruce joins a street musician to sing “I’m On Fire” and “Dancing In The Dark.” There’s a great montage of “Born To Run” with each line from a different concert. Best of all is “Red Headed Woman,” which I had never heard, a song Bruce wrote about going down on his wife. Pretty damn funny, especially when, in the on stage intro, he flat-out says the song is about cunnilingus. “If you can say it, you can do it,” shouts a gleeful Bruce as thousands cheer his resolve. Love the bonus footage of the London show where Bruce sings “Thunder Road” with just harmonica/piano accompaniment (“the first song I ever sang in England”) before the band comes out for scintillating versions of “Because The Night,” “Shackled And Drawn” and “We Are Alive,” made even more dramatic by rainfall. Enter Paul McCartney for a “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist And Shout” encore.

Rucca (Anaconda) is the second album by Joe King Carrasco and El Molino (the first was in 1976). King came out of the South Texas “Beans & Tortilla Circuit” with Freddy Fender and Augie Meyers (who plays his signature Vox Organ on the title-track) to achieve fame with the Sir Douglas Quintet, establishing, in the process, the Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ roll precedent. Here, with Delbert McClinton’s drummer Ernie Durawa and Texas Tornado bassist Speedy Sparks (both original El Molino members), plus nine other musicians adding to the groove, vocalist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Carrasco gets down ‘n’ dirty with the real thing: a combo of rockabilly, punk, polka, waltz, swamp, Cumbia Tropical, garage and, of course, Tex-Mex. With some pumpin’ accordion and honkin’ sax, it’s a cantina dancehall doozy, especially “Chihuahua,” “Loco For Anna,” “Hasta Manana Iguana,” “Muchos Frijoles,” “Nacho Daddy” and even “Tamale Christmas.”

The original Broadway cast recording of A Night With Janis Joplin is a fine complement to listening to Janis herself for here are her influences Odetta, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Bessie Smith, Etta James and doo-wop girl-group The Chantels all coming to life via an amazing cast of singers. Also special are Joplin’s between-song raps. Mary Bridget Davies was born for this role. She’s toured with Big Brother & The Holding Company and, especially during the spoken-word passages, has Joplin’s phrasing, timing, accent and inflections down so pat it’s scary. You’re never going to hear Janis ruminate like this about her life, but damn if Bridget doesn’t resurrect that holy ghost.