22 May 2013

Culture Desk (Part II): Music Reviews

Although people rarely ask me about what I'm listening to lately, I do like to go on about it nonetheless.  So, on this cool winter's morn, rather than bore you with the details of my daily ablutions / herb garden / herniated disc / son’'s croquet tournament / dreams of country living, etc., here are some, uh, reviews.  Of like, music.

Impervious Leprechauns  Songs from our Summer Cottage Cheese

While for my money they are not the best Leprechaun-themed band out there – I'd put it something like Violent / Fat-free / Craptastic / Heartless Leprechauns, in that order, with a shout-out to Satan's Elves – nonetheless the Impervious Leprechauns are coming front and center to the main stage and grabbing the microphone boldly to declare to the world without reservation that they are a thing that is meant to be reckoned with, on this follow-up to their eponymous debut album Roger Whittaker: All My Best.  Shrieking like the love child of Molly Malone and Garrison Hearst, with echoes of early seventies surf-ska and a dollop of post-punk manichaenism, in the title track which is meant to evoke images of seagulls kicking it at The Hat Barn, what starts as an homage to Wilma Rudolph's post-Olympic career in program administration gradually builds to a thundering crescendo that evokes a combination of countless seven-foot-tall ants ransacking the Louvre and a feverish outtake from Bjork's latest tribute to Kristy MacNichol.  Seven and a half out of a possible nine thumbs up, with one index finger sideways and a provocatively curled pinky.

Ben “Chicken Head” Turner  Lost and Found Sessions Vol. 1

Ben "Chicken Head" (often misspelled "Chickadee," as it is heard pronounced by the recording engineer on a test recording made in the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, during the Victor Recording Company's storied 1928 race music field trip, the nickname is properly "Chickasaw," from the Indian nation to which Ben was born in the 1890's and from which the verse "I've been to the Nation, Lord but I couldn't stay there" is doubtless derived) Turner, actually a woman, seemingly materialized out of the vapors in the summer of 1928, made four undistinguished recordings (only two of them initially released, the rousing "Made It Up In Your Soup" with "Jabo" Williams purportedly pounding the ivories, and the barely passable "Milk Girl's Troubles" where Ben displays her uniquely melancholy slide technique on a "slack string" guitar. Notable primarily for its bluesy turn of phrase: "He done me wrong, but I done better," the record's rarity seems to have elevated the artist's status among the blues cognoscenti, with several verses lifted wholesale by Cream on their magnum opus, "Disraeli Gears," though it seems likely they were initially exposed to them during one of Josh White's folky London performances). Like many southern blues musicians during the Depression, Ben reportedly migrated to St. Louis and later Chicago, finding work as a washerwoman and (perhaps) finding an outlet for her singing and playing in Chicago's late, lamented open-air market on Maxwell Street, but this is unfortunately unconfirmed, and most, if not all, of her early and late history is nothing more than conjecture. (A grainy advertising photo posted by Victor in a broadside printed for independent record shops shows a handsome, long-faced woman wearing the flapper attire of the era and an incongruous pair of laced boxer's shoes.)

Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685 - 1750)  The Portable Bach

Finally a Bach you can lug around to class up your contemporary mobile lifestyle.  The Portable Bach comes with a convenient carrying case no bigger than a harpsichord, which fits easily inside a shoebox the size of Kate Smith.  It can be folded up and placed in any overhead storage bin or breezily removed from the lining of your jacket for use as barter in fish markets.  Sand does not affect The Portable Bach but it's not a total neat freak either so it can be enjoyed equally in a desert shitstorm or a class twelve clean room.  Sound does not travel in a vacuum and neither does the Portable Bach.  On melody alone this is one Portable Bach that can't be topped.  It gets two stars out of four because the curvature and lack of handle on the case made the lugging difficult, and because no one could dance to it, I mean come on Bach, next time hire a DJ to give it some bottom bro.

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