shirley

Though she retired from regular public performance decades ago, Shirley Collins’ influence on today’s musical landscape seems to grow with every year. That’s a very good thing. Her classic LPs, either alone, or with Davy Graham, her sister Dolly, and Ashley Hutchings, among others, are master classes in traditional English folk forms (with plenty of trips into other folk forms as well). They’re also just fantastic records, with Collins’ unmistakeable vocals and pristine delivery bringing age-old songs to miraculous life. She’s one of our great voices.

That voice and legacy is paid well-deserved tribute to on two worth-your-time recent releases. First up we’ve got For Shirley Collins, with visual artist Emily Sundblad playing Collins to Matt Sweeney’s Davy Graham on an LP of spare and lovely tunes drawn from Shirley’s repertoire. It’s a melancholy beauty of a record, as Sweeney’s fingerpicked acoustic sensitively complements Sundblad’s high, fluttering vocals. Sweeney is certainly one of the most versatile musicians out there; it’s kind of hard to believe this is the same dude who plays with Endless Boogie and Chavez. Covers of Michael Hurley and the Everly Brothers round out For Shirley Collins — they don’t fit the concept, but they fit the vibe.

Next, there’s the sprawling Shirley Inspired from Earth Recordings — three LPs worth of Collins-derived English trad-folk tunes interpreted by the likes of Lee Ranaldo, Angel Olsen, Josephine Foster, Graham Coxon, Meg Baird and many others. As might be expected from its sheer size, Shirley Inspired is a mixed bag, with some of the performers nailing their chosen songs, and others missing the mark slightly. But there’s more than enough quality material here, including Baird’s unbelievably good “Locks and Bolts,” Will Oldham and Bitchin Bajas’ haunting “Pretty Saro,” and Sharron Kraus’ hypnotic “Gilderoy (Heart’s Delight).” Good to know: proceeds from the album go towards the production of an in-the-works documentary about Collins. words / t wilcox

Will Oldham / Bitchin Bajas :: Pretty Saro
Emily Sundblad / Matt Sweeney :: Dearest Dear

GRRD26_cover_smallThe music of Tucson’s Ohioan, led by songwriter O Ryne Warner, is about many things, but chiefly, it is music about the concept of “place.”

“From Roscoe Holcomb and the ‘mountain minor’ players to the Berber banjoists of Marrakech, Tinariwen’s Tuareg guitar tradition, and the electric reverberation of country music throughout the Sonoran desert: we are bringing these far-flung influences together to reconcile where we come from, where are, and where we’re headed,” Warner writes of his upcoming album, Empty/Every MT, out early next year via Gold Robot Records. Following 2014’s American Spirit Blues, the album is sun-worn and faded, featuring contributions from deep underground heroes Susan Alcorn, Arrington De Dionyso, and Tara Jane Oneil, aiding in expanding Warner’s droning compositions.

“You’ll never know where you’re going unless you know where you’re at,” Warner says. “Any place you are living in, should be engaged with, touched and bled upon and cursed on occasion, but regardless felt as an entity available for dialog. You breathe its air, in and out.” A Midwestern transplant “dusting up” in Tucson since Dia de los Muertos in 2011, Warner says the desert has informed his songwriting, but it’s done so, “Indirectly, via the people around me that are changed by it. Just living here and talking to them, listening. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on water rights for the Hopi & Diné tribes, and that put a whole lot into perspective.” Environmental themes weave throughout the songs of Ohioan — parallels between the mines of his native Ohio and in Arizona, the clear cut forests he saw in Oregon, the onset of climate change.

The sounds of Empty/Every MT are as connected to the soil as Warner’s ecological themes. “…I grew up on hardcore and ‘90s NYC hip-hop,” Warner says. “I remember specifically talking with Jef Brown of Jackie-O Motherfucker, who was giving me some theory lessons, and saying ‘I think I really like modal music’…. which was just something i had read about in a description of a jazz record. And he took the time to really explain modal music to me and help me make these connections and then it was just the skies parted you know…. all the Sabbath riffs I like, the certain kinds of banjo tunes, the African trance grooves…. all modal.”

With Ohioan, Warner draws lines from hillbilly folk songs to the desert blues of the North African nomads, from banjo players in Kentucky to banjo players in Morocco, separated by geography but spiritual connected by musical approach. “So this is all going on with me musically, combining Appalachian banjo music with African desert guitar music, as I’m simultaneously thinking about these environmental and mining concepts over the years, living in the desert and being from Appalachia….and it all just sort of starts cookin’ into a bigger idea.” words / j woodbury

Ohioan :: Pissing At Will
Ohioan :: Easy Company

Sam Dees Soul Sister

Dig that ominous, hypnotic, and downright menacing groove. When Sam’s vocal begins, it’s all over.

From Birmingham, AL, Sam Dees journeyed to Nashville as a young man to begin recording in the late ’60s. Even though records such as this and the mighty “Lonely For You Baby” are the type of 45s that make soul collectors weak in the knees, these devastating records sold next to nothing upon their initial release. However, considering how whipped my personal copies of these records are, they were undoubtedly loved and partied with by their former owners. Fortunately, Sam Dees saw success as a songwriter – his songs having been recorded by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston (and dozens more) and he remains active to this day. words / d see

Sam Dees :: Soul Sister

ElyseWeinberg1400-2

Elyse Weinberg is a longtime favorite of Aquarium Drunkard, whose husky voice was introduced to many via folk rockers Vetiver. In 2001, her long lost debut, 1968’s Elyse was reissued by Orange Twin Records, a swooning, mystic effort bolstered considerably by bonus track “Houses,” a laidback but insistent groover featuring searing lead guitar by Neil Young. Now, thanks to Numero Group’s Numerophon imprint, one can hear that song presented in its original context, Weinberg’s unreleased second LP, Greasepaint Smile, to be released September 18th.

Produced by Young’s longtime partner David Briggs in 1969 and featuring Young, J.D. Souther, Kenny Edwards of the Stone Poneys, and a young Nils Lofgren on guitar, the record is a lowdown stunner, loose and funky on songs like “City Of The Angeles” and the winking “Your Place Or Mine,” touched by the spirit on “Gospel Ship,” given to full bore blues rock on “Collection Bureau,” and achingly beautiful on “It’s All Right To Linger.” Over chiming acoustic guitars, fuzzed electrics, and a sympathetic rhythm section, Weinberg’s voice is ragged and sounds far too world weary than her 23 years should allow. Her words follow suit: “It’s all right to linger but it’s no good to stay/when you feel in your heart there’s a better way.”

Tellingly, Weinberg didn’t stay. Following a bumpy ride through the music industry’s back streets — documented beautifully in notes by Jerry DeCicca — Weinberg took leave of Los Angeles, eventually settling in Oregon, where she’s continued to make music as Cori Bishop. “While the 1960’s were closing its doors, Weinberg graduated from Toronto folk clubs to crashing on Neil Young’s Laurel Canyon couch to the Billboard charts within one prolific year,” DeCicca writes. “But within a year, the bright lights began to dim and she quietly walked away. Informed by her astrological study and an awakened spiritual urge, Weinberg left the phony grin she sang about in Greasepaint Smile behind her and, with that, the music business.” words / j woodbury

What she left behind, as is often the case, is worth hearing.

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Time flies. Saturday night, August 1st, we’re celebrating a decade of Aquarium Drunkard at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles with The Allah-Las, The Tyde and Drug Cabin. Grip your tickets, here, and join us.

We’ve giving away some pairs to AD readers. To enter, leave a comment below with how you happened upon the site…and what kept you coming back. Here’s to another 10. . .

Raiders Just SeventeenBetween 1965 and ’67 Seattle’s Paul Revere & The Raiders were a non-stop hit machine…but by 1970 they were viewed as passé bubblegum by the rock cognoscenti and had been relatively hitless for three years. While the group may have been overexposed (thanks to the several daily afternoon TV shows  that they hosted), they had far too much substance and talent to completely fade away into obscurity. The band – effectively led by singer Mark Lindsay at this point – tried in vain to reinvent themselves as hip ’n’ heavy, going so far as to promote their 1969 album Alias Pink Puzz with an experiment to see if FM radio would play tracks from a test pressing LP labelled as Pink Puzz and not the Raiders. The experiment failed and The Raiders remained hitless until their massive ‘comeback’ hit in late 1970 “Indian Reservation”” a track that took on a pop sensibility matched with a social conscious (of sorts).

The Raiders ‘heavy’ period yielded some fantastic gems, but to these ears the group truly hit their stride in 1970 with the proto-glam mini-masterpiece “Just Seventeen”. Granted, today it seems kinda creepy that dudes in their late 20s would be belting out horned-up paeans to teenage girls (and in their defense, Mark does mention that ‘it’s a crime’), but putting aside all political correctness, this track slams HARD. words / d see

The Raiders :: Just Seventeen

Manu Dibango Dikalo

Manu Dibango will forever be known as the artist behind the 1972 worldwide smash “Soul Makossa“, but his career spans much deeper than that one immortal track. This Cameroon-born sax man has released nearly 60 albums and 80 singles since 1961, and only a handful of those have seen US release. Throughout his career, Dibango has performed traditional Cameroonian music, jazz, and his own unique fusion of afro-beat and funk — a bouillabaisse that not only made “Soul Makossa” such a smash, but is heard in even higher intensity on the track below.

“Dikalo” starts out with a sax riff that bristles with authority, immediately drawing the listener in. When the devastating rhythm section kicks in, this song ignites into a furious maelstrom of global funk madness. Sadly, ‘Dikalo’ was not a follow-up hit to “Soul Makossa”, and only saw release in half a dozen countries. Regardless, it’s a jam far too righteous to keep under wraps. words / d see

Manu Dibango :: Dikalo

Marc Bolan On Tour Bus

Streaming in full, and narrated by Suzi Quatro, the BBC ‘s 2007 documentary chronicling Marc Bolan. Born Marc Feld in 1947, the film documents the artist’s life beginning in post-War East London, before diving into nascent T. Rex and the beyond. Press play — “One and a-two, and a-buckle my shoe~ahh”.

Welcome to the eighth installment of an ongoing series with Pickathon, showcasing footage from the Galaxy Barn located at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon: Bobby Patterson – “I Got More Soul”.