Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 1.54.59 PMDescribing Tashi Dorji’s music makes it seem pretty esoteric. The Bhutan-by-way-of-North Carolina guitarist creates improvised solo guitar pieces made up of skittering runs, buzzing strings, gamelan-like harmonics and other possibly unnameable sounds. But don’t let that scare you off. Dorji’s unusual approach translates into something positively magical — and extremely listenable.

There was a great collection of earlier Dorji material on Ben Chasny’s fledgling Hermit Hut label last year, but Appa, his new LP on Bathetic Records, might be the best place to start exploring this beguiling six-string universe. Dorji works in mostly miniature format — the songs come and go quickly. But he packs a lot into every moment. It’s as though he’s discovering the music along with the listener, the fragile and beautiful melodies unfolding in a logical, but always surprising fashion. Dorji doesn’t fit into any particular box. He’d prefer to build his own. words / t wilcoxTashi Dorji :: Death Flowers

sound-system

Welcome to the fourth installment of Jamaican Snapshots — a recurring column illuminating Jamaican artists whose music largely flew under the radar outside of genre enthusiasts.

Winston Cooper a.k.a. Count Machuki: known as the first Jamaican deejay — the first man to speak over a record. Truly a story about being in the right place at the right time, as recounted by Adam Greenberg’s biography:

“One of the original men of the dancehall scene in Jamaica, Machuki worked as a disc selector (eventually to become known as toasters, and then DJs) for Tom the Great Sebastian. One fateful evening, while Sebastian left the hall to get more liquor for the bar, Machuki began turning new records to keep the crowd moving. He then moved on to other larger halls, eventually working with Clement Dodd (Sir Coxsone). It was with Sir Coxsone on an Easter concert that Machuki first picked up a microphone at the same time as working the turntable, telling jokes over the beats. Liking the reaction, he began working on bits of lyrics that he could use in future concerts, his first (take note of this, this is the absolute earliest example of rap) being “If you dig my jive/you’re cool and very much alive/Everybody all round town/Machukis’ the reason why I shake it down/When it comes to jive/You can’t whip him with no stick.” (via)

Below, a couple of choice tracks from an artist who was regrettably rarely recorded.

Count Machuki :: Movements
Count Machuki & The Sound Dimension :: More Scorcha

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 9.07.38 AMJuan Wauters, the Uruguayan poet and songwriter, makes his physical home in Queens and his artistic home in the space cleared by Jean-Luc Godard. Like Godard’s Breathless, Who, Me? politely acknowledges the world outside of its creator’s bedroom but spends its time and artistic energy on semi-intimate, largely wandering conversations whose consequences matter but go emotionally unacknowledged. It’s an album about charm, in other words. And like Breathless, Who, Me? doesn’t just get by on charm; charm is its greatest asset.

Plenty of “things” happen in Who, Me?, Wauters’ second LP. He argues with family back home in Uruguay. He tries to convince a woman to sleep with him, pointing to staying warm in the cold Queens winter as a compelling enough reason. He tells us that another woman looks her best when wearing leather and fur. And while Wauters has an almost preternatural gift for and grasp of songwriting — his arrangements and melodies seem like they’ve always existed and have just been sitting around waiting for him to articulate them — the songs themselves depend wholly on Wauters’ delivery.

Take “She Might Get Shot,” the aforementioned song about the woman’s clothing. It’s an easy, slightly loping number that pitches Wauters’ voice and guitar against a rolling little piano line. As it draws to its close, a group of people clap and cheer, and Wauters breaks into what seems like a spontaneous paean to the wardrobe: “Thanks to leather! Thanks to fur!” It’s goofy, sure, but it doesn’t come across as canned or precious. In standout “Woodside, Queens,” Wauters tells his potential lover that the ice on his toes makes him need to pee, and he does it without batting an eye. Wrapped up in his romantic, slightly wistful melody, he may as well be complimenting the color of her eyes.

These matter-of-fact observations that Wauters strings throughout Who, Me? are the connective tissue that holds the album together. They can be harsh — “You’re so ugly with good teeth/Why don’t you lend your body one more time to me?” goes the chorus of “Woodside, Queens” — but they rarely come across that way. They’re the kinds of things that people say when they’ve become deeply comfortable with one another. “Through that red I see your breast,” he points out in another track, and whether he’s warning someone about to leave the house in a too-sheer top or is lying next to her in bed, his delivery draws us into an otherwise private and kind memory.

That intimacy is augmented by the album’s barebones production. There’s not a ton going on here: Wauters accompanies himself on nylon-stringed guitar, there’s usually a shuffle of drums, and a treble-heavy bass plays the lead melody. It could have been recorded in an apartment in the early evening. Whether that’s the case or not, Who, Me? ultimately works because listening to it feels like looking in on a few friends playing together after a couple of drinks. What matters isn’t what they say or how they got there. They’re there. words / m garner

Juan Wauters :: She Might Get Shot

aquarium_drunkard

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 388: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ David Bowie – Fantastic Voyage ++ Destroyer – Chinatown ++ David Bowie – Win ++ Jullian Lynch – Terra ++ Atlas Sound – Another Bedroom ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ David Bowie – TVC 15 ++ Talking Heads – I Get Wild/Wild Gravity ++ Blur – Blue Jeans ++ The Clash – The Call Up (AD edit) ++ Pylon – Cool ++ Deerhunter – Fluorescent Grey ++ Lower Dens – Tea Lights ++ Deerhunter – Dr. Glass ++ Lower Dens – Holy Water ++ Deerhunter – Leather Jacket II ++ Disappears – Gone Completely ++  Viet Cong – Static Wall ++ Women – Eyesore ++ No Age – Neck Escaper ++ Fugazi – Cassavetes ++ Rodrigo Amarante – Hourglass ++ Little Joy – Don’t Watch Me Dancing ++ Sandro Perri – Everybody’s Talkin’ ++ Here We Go Magic – Tunnelvision ++ Benoit Pioulard – Shouting Distance ++ Little Wings – Eyes Without A Face ++ Julee Crusie – Floating

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
__________________________________________________________________________________

white-eyes-st-1Chooglin’ through Midwest backwater towns in a 1953 Cadillac Hearse – appropriately named “Black Boris” – Missouri’s White Eyes were almost another lost to time psychedelic band. That was until the Numero Group happened upon them amongst a dusty filing cabinet, via the long defunct booking agency New Sound Projections. In it they found a one-sheet containing an ominous logo and a brief, but spirited, description of the group …

“Also hailing from Missouri, these talented musicians have delighted audiences in coffeehouses, dances and concerts alike. White Eyes blend of both acoustic and rock material teamed with the lusty voice of their female lead singer are reminiscent of the style of the Jefferson Airplane. Their concert appearances include a very well-received performance with The Flying Burrito Brothers”.

Forty years later Numero’s swift detective work uncovered Butch Dillion, White Eye’s drummer, who still had in his possession the original master tapes of the group’s unreleased demos. Recorded between 1969 and 1970, the self-titled LP was intended to be shopped around to prospective labels and industry insiders – though it never occurred. Opening with the sparse vocal harmonizing and hand claps of “It’s For You” before exploding into an incendiary fuzzed guitar solo that rumbles down the road into a smokin’ version of “I Know You Rider” – nodding heavily to the late, great lysergic jammers The Grateful Dead. Tucked deep on side B is “Hard Hard Livin’’ a heavy blues with Kathy Helmick’s raspy hypnotic vocals recalling another great yet underappreciated group, Ellen McIlwaine’s Fear Itself. Comparisons aside, the well-crafted arrangements and crisp, tight production make this an outstanding piece of lost Bay Area inspired Mid-West psychedelia. words / d norsen

White Eyes :: I Know You Rider

KSS-sleeve-FINAL-NEWIf things had worked out differently, Vince Matthews and Jim Casey’s 1972 album The Kingston Springs Suite might be heralded as an outlaw country standard, alongside conceptual records like Red Headed Stranger, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Bitter Tears. Produced by Shel Silverstein in association with Johnny Cash, “Cowboy” Jack Clement, and Kris Kristofferson, it’s an example of down-home high art, a love letter to the small rural town for which its named, southwest of a thriving Nashville in the early ‘70s, when an infusion of energy by longhaired rock & rollers emboldened some of the town’s biggest names to explore traditional roots music with a newfound poetic freedom.

But that’s not how things shook out. While some of its songs would find suitable homes – Waylon Jennings recorded “Laid Back Country Picker,” Johnny Cash picked up “Melva’s Wine”– the album never saw release. Until now, that is, as the Delmore Recording Society has finally pushed it through. Matthews passed away in 2003, but his vision and Casey’s dogged belief in it has been vindicated after all these years. It was an “off the wall, daring thing to do,” Casey says, driven by the coursing outlaw spirit that was roaring through country music in those days. “We all had the feeling that, ‘Man, things are changing. They’re even going to be more wide open.’”

Even as The Kingston Springs Suite explored the long player album format, with sound clips, interview segments, and even greater designs for an expansive film project to accompany it, Matthews and Casey’s sights stayed trained on the real life people of Kingston Springs, population 510. There’s the old preacher and philosopher “Mr. Soul,” the railroad man in “Mr. Sam,” with his pickup truck painted red “so it’ll go faster,” the “Old Man and the Boy,” exploring the distances between generations and offering up the theme of the album: that there are traditions worth saving, that there’s a beauty to the preservation of moments and places.

Confederate ghosts and oak trees loom over the record, about people and a town in transition, grappling with the heritage of their past and the uncertainty of their future. It’s all rooted in the “healing waters” of Kingston Springs, where Casey and Matthews lived. “It really was connected to the heart of the people,” Casey says. “That’s why we were writing the whole thing. It was about real people where we lived.” The duo couldn’t have written these songs cooped up in Music Row offices, Casey says. Instead, the two composed wildly, on location, taking pictures, hanging out on porches, interviewing the old timers of Kingston Springs. “Running around, smoking dope, drinking beer, and doing crazy shit,” Casey laughs.

Matthews was known in those days for his prodigious taste for speed, but he got clean –“mostly,” Casey clarifies – to make the record. He believed that this was his big shot, and though he scaled back his drug use, he wasn’t about to reign in his ambitions. He wrote a treatment for The Johnny Cash Show based on the town and the album, and got as far as filming some footage – at least until a mix up resulted in a freight train crashing into a cherry picker Matthews had procured for a videographer.

Things were changing in Nashville as the two finished the album, and the fortunes of many of their benefactors, Cash and Clement chiefly, were in flux. Without a strong hand on the business side, the record failed to find receptive ears at the labels. Maybe its message was too rooted in the counter culture. “We all thought we were hippies, only because we didn’t have any money,” Casey laughs. Or perhaps the suits in charge couldn’t get past Matthews’ craggy voice, sometimes at odds with the more palatable tones of Casey, Rita Coolidge, or the Gary Paxton Singers on the record. “Vince was not known for his singing prowess,” Casey chuckles. “If you asked somebody back then, he was legendary for his bad singing.”

But Casey knew there was something to the recordings. When Clement ended up tossing the tape reels out onto his front lawn, Casey collected and saved them. His relationship with Matthews soured and their partnership fell apart. They both stayed busy: Casey’s songs would be cut by the likes of the Oak Ridge Boys and Ritchie Havens, while Matthews wrote songs recorded by Gene Watson and Crystal Gayle. The two mended their friendship before Matthews’ passing, but all the while The Kingston Springs Suite sat on Casey’s shelf, waiting decades for reappraisal.

To the songwriter, the record offers a snapshot of those early days, when songwriters could congregate at Matthews’ place in Kingston Springs. “Vince’s yard in Kingston Springs, you know, it was the scene of so many, many people on a daily basis,” Casey says. “Billy Joe Shaver would be there one day, Kristofferson might come by on the weekend. Just different people all the time. Earl Scruggs sons were out there, Guy Clark [would show up], and they’re going, ‘Holy crap, there’s gold in them there hills.’”

The record’s liner notes feature an essay Matthew’s penned for Country Music magazine in August, 1975. In the rambling story, he highlights details and moments that dot the record and define his time in Kingston Springs. “Anyway, the era passed,” he concludes, noting the dissolution of his marriage to Melva and the arrival of “the factory,” representative of progress and industry arriving in Kingston Springs. Indeed, all eras pass and all places change, but not every town gets a document like The Kingston Springs Suite. Only the lucky ones. words / j woodbury

The Kingston Springs Suite :: Bessie That’s A Lie

twain

Twain is the vehicle of Mat Davidson, previously of the Low Anthem and Spirit Family Reunion. In the way the latter describes their music as “open door gospel,” Twain very much evokes that same atmosphere — open door in both the sense that it is welcoming and that it breathes. Gospel in an early morning folk color. Spiritual in earth tones.

“Are We In Heaven?” which opens last year’s Life Labors in the Choir, is like a draft passing through the window on a humid day. Davidson’s deep, wistful tremble exudes a country, front porch rumination with the subtle ebb and flow of guitar, fiddle, and percussion. There is a slow, deliberate simplicity that revels in the warm, natural setting of “Ashville/Farm Remedy.” Harmonica and pedal steel stretch and bow, a piano delicately steps around them. Davidson observes. “Watching the gypsy moths / foolin’ on the hot sidewalk / the way they jump and lark / makes lighter my heart.” Afterwards, a group of girls jump in the pond. It isn’t low-stakes; he’s working on answering that question from before. words / c depasquale

Twain :: Are We In Heaven?

Diarrhea Planet, Pickathon 2014

Welcome to the sixth installment of an ongoing series with Pickathon, showcasing footage from the Galaxy Barn located at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon: Diarrhea Planet – “Kids”.

fats domino

“Lady Madonna’ was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing … It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place.” – Paul McCartney

So consider this — Fats’ version of “Lady Madonna” — a tribute to the tribute. One of three Beatles covers appearing on Fats’ Richard Perry-produced 1968 lp, Fats Is Back.

Fats Domino :: Lady Madonna
Fats Domino :: Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey