Rant ‘N’ Roll: New Orleans, Kansas City, Nashville

Loretta Lynn has come Full Circle on her new Legacy Recordings CD. The 83-year-old coal miner’s daughter has sold over 45 million records and is also the subject of a new documentary film, Still A Mountain Girl. Produced by her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, and the son of Johnny Cash, John Carter Cash, Full Circle is a 14-song gem with Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello duets, but what’s most amazing is that her supple and mountain stream voice is as pure and beautiful as ever. When she sings the first song she ever wrote, “Whispering Sea,” you just know this is going to be a trip well worth taking. Highlights abound. Her own “Who’s Gonna Miss Me” is bittersweet while the Carter Family’s “Black Jack David” is a classic redone. “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven,” she writes, “but nobody wants to die.” She even reprises her own “Fist City,” proof positive that the old gal hasn’t lost her bite.


Kansas City, Missouri, has always been an important American jazz spot. It’s where the big band scene coalesced in the 1930s and ultimately morphed into the bebop generation. Charlie “Bird” Parker was from KC. Count Basie grew to fame there. If jazz was born in New Orleans, it certainly grew up in Kansas City. Robert Altman’s brilliant 1996 film, Kansas City, is a potboiler taking place during its formative 1930s jazz years. Other great jazz legends like Ben Webster, Pat Metheny, Hot Lips Page, Big Joe Turner, Lester Young and Marylou Williams are associated with KC. Now comes Acknowledgement by Matt Kane & The Kansas City Generations Sextet (Bounce-Step Records). Kane is a New York drummer who wanted to go back home to see what was going on today in his home town. He did. He saw. He recorded, using local cats on his own swinging compositions plus those of well-known KC composers. The tenor sax/trumpet/alto sax/piano/bass/drums lineup bops and swings with attention-to-detail, letting the soloists ramble enough for this to be one of the more satisfying KC jazz albums in years.


The eleventh album by Gregg MartinezSoul Of The Bayou (Louisiana Red Hot Records) is a worthy follow-up to his 2013 Creole Soul. The singing bus driver from Opelousas, as produced by Tony Daigle, stretches to interpret Ann Peebles (“I Can’t Stand The Rain”), “Who’s Loving You” (Smokey Robinson), Johnny Adams (“I Wish I’d Never Loved You At All”), Sly & The Family Stone (“If You Want Me To Stay”) and The Bobby Blue Bland Blues Band (“You’ve Got To Hurt Before You Heal”). His originals reek with validity. The band is what you’d expect from Louisiana Red Hot Records so we’re talkin’ pumpin’ horns, struttin’ sassy charts that accentuate Gregg’s died-in-the-wool late-night honky-tonk one-more-drink kind of voice. He’s the real deal. So is producer Daigle who has worked in the studio from 1985 on with the likes of Bobby Charles, Sonny Landreth (who rips a hot slide solo on the Martinez original “That Old Wind”), Joan Osborne, BB King, The Chieftains, Buckwheat Zydeco and Beausoleil. Call this Louisiana Swamp Pop at its finest.


101 Essential Rock Records: The Golden Age Of Vinyl From The Beatles To The Sex Pistols by Jeff Gold (Gingko Press/Kill Your Idols) is a lavish coffee-table book filled with the great artwork of albums from 1963 to 1977. There’s a brief reason why each LP was chosen and in between the album art are essays by artists on their favorite records. Graham Nash writes about Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Robyn Hitchcock is eloquent about Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. David Bowie waxes enthusiastic about The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The picks are arbitrary but that’s half the fun. Reading about Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966), for instance, made me go back and listen to this great pre-Grace Slick version of the band for the first time. And although I certainly remember how influential Moby Grape was, after hearing their self-titled 1967 debut, I just had to purchase “Omaha” and “Hey Grandma” again. Other great albums I had forgotten about in my rush to old age include Aftermath by the Rolling Stones (1966), Talking Heads ’77, Shazam by The Move (1970), The Gilded Palace Of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers (1969) and East-West by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1966).

There’s plenty more. www.101essentialrecords.com.