152509Tucked modestly between the magical “Some Day I’ll Be A Farmer” and the happy-go-lucky “Brand New Key” lies a timeless gem that illuminates Melanie’s 1971 record, Gather Me, with elements of what music was, will be and ultimately what it should be. In this swooning narrative of new beginnings, Safka’s vocals gently tell the story of a finished relationship and the hesitant start of a new and unattached life.

In quiet whispers of apprehension she tip-toes through the verses and falls headfirst into the chorus, accompanied by cascading strings and countrified harmonica. This is sincerely one of Melanie’s masterpieces. words / p dufrene

Melanie :: Steppin’

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Jimmy Lee Williams lived his entire life in Poulan, GA. He also lived his entire life as a peanut farmer and juke joint rocker.

Williams was pretty much unknown to everyone outside of his town and farming community until musicologist, George Mitchell, discovered and recorded Williams on his farm in the late 1970s. He wasn’t admired until ten years after his death. Williams has the ability to really fill the entire room with just his guitar and voice. He exchanges the parts where he doesn’t sing with humming and cooing. His train chugging rhythm is very similar to Bukka White, yet has its own distinctive style. Sometimes you really do have to let your backbone ease and hoot your belly. Go ahead, try it.  words / m norton

Jimmy Lee Williams :: Hoot Your Belly Give Your Backbone Ease
Jimmy Lee Williams :: Have You Ever Seen Peaches

Maison3

Tip your hat to block the sun, wipe the dirt from your boots and let the scratchy recordings of heroes take you on a journey through the back roads of America and the untamed West.

Maison Dufrene III :: Outlaws, Ramblers & Hired Hands

Bruce Langhorne – Opening
Lee Hazlewood – If It’s Monday Morning
Townes Van Zandt – Like A Summer Thursday
John Stewart – Willard
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mississippi You’re On My Mind
Terry Allen – Do They Dream Of Hell In Heaven
Bob Dylan, Booker T. & Bruce Langhorne – Billy
Bob Dylan – Thirsty Boots
James Talley – Give My Love To Marie
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – With God On Our Side
Townes Van Zandt – My Proud Mountains
Bruce Langhorne – Ending

Previously: Maison Dufrene: Volume One / Maison Dufrene: Volume Two

palmerListening to the first 30 seconds or so of Steve Palmer’s excellent Unblinking Sun, you might think you’re in for an album of low-key, Fahey-style fingerpicking. Think again. Six-string eclecticism is the Minnesotan’s MO, as Palmer rapidly shifts gears into the careening krautrock boogie of “Cassini,” with a classic motorik beat and whiplash electric guitars providing the fuel for a fun, loose-limbed ride.

Unblinking Sun may bounce around stylistically over the course of the album’s 40+ minutes, but the overall vibe is cohesive and engaging, drifting from dreamy, feedback-layered drones of ” Banjo Burner” to the noisy rattle of “Plastic Mouth.” As a new addition to the ever-expanding realm of recent guitar anti-heroes, Palmer is one to watch. words / t wilcox

Steve Palmer :: Cassini

500full

My grandfather, C.W. Hardwick, died when I was sixteen. We were not close. Growing up, I knew very little about him. I knew that he was fond of jumpsuits, Sam Houston cigars, Murder She Wrote, and that he owned a coin-op business in San Antonio, Texas. We would drive or fly out from California on a fairly regular basis to visit my mother’s side of the family, but we spent most of our time with aunts and uncles, eating Tex-mex and swimming in the Comal river. “Pop” as he was known in the family, just didn’t have much time for grandkids. Oddly enough, he did end up inadvertently shaping my musical tastes—particularly in Rhythm & Blues, and early Soul records.

C.W. Hardwick Enterprises Inc. was, to my understanding, essentially a one-man operation. He would sell and service pinball machines, one-armed bandits, video games and his cash crop so to speak–jukeboxes. If you were to walk into any pool hall or ice house (e.g. Bar) in central Texas from 1950 to 1990 and drop a coin into the jukebox, there is a pretty good chance my grandfather put it there. Being the jukebox man meant that it was his responsibility to keep his machines stocked with the newest hits. All of those discs were sent directly to him from record labels and their distributors on a regular basis. What he did not stock, he kept.

When he died, he left behind over 4,000 45s—jukebox records he had miserly stored for forty years. My uncle transported them from the warehouse of C.W. Hardwick Enterprises after the building was sold to the warehouse of his own business where he asked me if I’d like to take them off his hands. I gladly agreed, but being sixteen and living in my parents’ house, I knew that if I were to take the entire stash my folks would probably hassle me forevermore about where I/they would store such a mass of vinyl–so I did what I thought would be the next best thing.

ShintaroOur 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 359: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Zion Travelers – The Blood ++ Los Sleepers – Zombi (Mexico) ++ The Soul Inc. – Love Me When I’m Down ++ Del Shannon – Move It On Over ++ Jacques Dutronc – Hippie Hippie Hourra ++ The Beach Boys – Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine ++ The Love Language – Lalita ++ The Donays – Devil In His Heart ++ Benjamin Booker – Falling Down Blues (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – In A Phantom Mood ++ The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – Watch ‘n’ Chain ++ Barrett Strong – Misery ++ Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, & Durr – You Can’t Blame Me ++ Slim Smith – Hip Hug ++ Eddie Ray – You Are Mine ++ Nancy Sinatra – Drummer Man ++ The Motions – Beatle Drums ++ White Fence – Swagger Vets And Double Moon ++ Cass McCombs – Morning Star ++ The Kinks – I Go To Sleep (demo) ++ Jan Hammer Group – Don’t You Know ++ Flo & Eddie – I Been Born Again ++ Michael Kiwanuka – I Need Your Company ++ Chuck Berry – Oh, Louisiana ++ Scott Walker – 30 Century Man ++ Françoise Hardy – Till the Morning Comes ++ The Everly Brothers – Mr. Soul ++ The Pebbles – We Love The Beatles ++ Timi Yuro – Hurt ++ The Fondettes – The Beatles Are In Town ++ The Beatle-Ettes – Only Seventeen ++ The Bit-A-Sweet – If I Needed Someone ++ The Blue Things – High Life ++ Arzachel – Queen St. Gang ++ The Rolling Stones – Downtown Suzie ++ Jack And The Rippers – Cathy’s Clown ++ Bob Fryfogle – Six Feet Under ++ John Williams – Flowers In Your Hair ++ Neil Young – LA ++ Neil Young – Star Of Bethlehem ++ Buffy Sainte-Marie ++ Modern Vices – Cheap Style

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

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will oldham

On August 27th Chicago-based label Drag City announced a new Bonnie “Prince” Billy album, Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, by uploading a staged interview with Will Oldham, the cryptic force and songwriter behind the “Prince” Billy moniker, dubbed “The Most Awkward Radio Innerview Ever!?!” For 17 minutes and 47 seconds, Oldham berates, threatens, and belittles a clueless sounding radio deejay, all the while refusing to reveal anything about the album he’s ostensibly trying to promote.

It’s a brilliant piece of comedy, but one nervously rattling around in my head as I called Oldham, whose records occupy mythic status in my collection. Few songwriters cast the kind of shadow Oldham does, and many of his albums, I See A Darkness, Master and Everyone, Sings Greatest Palace Music, Viva Last Blues, and Superwolf, included, have defined me as a music listener. Luckily, I fared better than the hapless disc jockey of “Innerview,” and found Oldham warm, friendly, and eager to discuss his new album, which falls in line with his countrypolitan classics Master and Everyone and Lie Down in the Light. Featuring many songs that appeared on his 2011 album Wolfroy Goes To Town, the album gave Oldham a chance to try those songs with a crack Nashville session band, featuring longtime collaborator Emmett Kelly, Chris Scruggs (grandson of bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs), and the gospel singing McCrary Sisters, who’ve contributed vocals to albums by Bob Dylan, Charlie Louvin, and Solomon Burke.

Ever fascinating, Oldham discussed the “mind-blowing” pool of talent in Nashville, the nature of “God,” the internet, WTF with Marc Maron, and one of his favorite Samhain lyrics.

Aquarium Drunkard: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the players that appear on Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues. How did you meet Chris Scruggs?

Will Oldham: This record sort of carries on from Master and Everyone, Lie Down in the Light, and to some extent the Sings Greatest Palace Music record, in that they’re all these Mark Nevers [produced] records. He approached me about making another record, one he thought would be a third part of a trilogy for us. One of the great revelations of making the Master and Everyone record was working in Nashville, and beginning to have contact with and access to the Nashville session players’ scene.

We were talking about a couple songs for this album – specifically “Mindlessness,” where there’s this weird little moment, a time change situation, where there was a gap. It sounded very strange, because the timing changes — and we thought, “Let’s get a mandolin player to come in and fill that gap.” He said, “Chris Scruggs,” and I said, “Great.”

I had met Chris Scruggs when he was playing steel, about four years ago or so at a celebration of the musical work of Shel Silverstein in Chicago. There was a house band and featured singers would come up and do different Shel Silverstein songs. I was one of the singers and Chris Scruggs was one of the band members. So that’s how we met, though that had nothing to do with this record, other than I was excited to see him again and work with him again.

AD: Emmett Kelly appears on this record. You’ve maintained a partnership with him for quite a while now.

Will Oldham: The first thing we did was the record The Letting Go, about nine years ago. We’d run into each other a couple of times in Chicago, usually late at night at a bar or something, and I liked him. Then, he came to Louisville as part of Azita [Youssefi]’s band. He blew me away. It was just so tremendously exciting, his moments on stage with Azita. I started talking to him about playing on a record, and then I gave him the songs, and some records to listen to sort of potentially inform what we were going to undertake. And that began it.

AD: The gospel singing group, the McCrary Sisters, are all over this record.

Will Oldham: I don’t think I was fully aware of how subconsciously aware I was of one or more of the McCrary Sisters when they came into the recording studio, but then through conversation with them and conversation with friends afterward I realized I knew different people they had recorded with, either personally or by reputation.

AD: When I realized that Regina McCrary sang on Bob Dylan records…

Will Oldham: Specifically those born again records. Which, if I’m thinking right, might be the last musically exciting Bob Dylan records that were made.

AD: Those records have a strange reputation, kind of a complicated legacy, but I like Dylan’s religious records a lot.

Will Oldham: I do, too, yeah. And there’s a couple of great bootlegs from that period as well. I’m fortunate enough to not have instilled in me an aversion to Christianity, and to Christian terms and concepts. It’s sort of easy for me to translate any religious or Christian term or concept into a language I understand in a heartbeat. I think a lot of people have a fucked up relationship with religion because of how it was delivered to them early on, and that unfortunately sort of bars the gate and keeps them from a lot of really good musical experiences, those Bob Dylan records being a really great example.

AD: “We Are Unhappy” is my favorite song on the record, and the vocals are pure gospel.

Will Oldham: And that’s funny, because there was a great moment in there where Mark said in advance, “You might have some problems with this song with the McCrarys.” One of the other sisters is deeply religious and deeply spiritual, and when it came to the line “we are unblessed,” she said she couldn’t sing it. So you know, we talked about it for a while, I tried to explain the intention behind the song, tried to see if there was a way that she could find her way to singing that line. She couldn’t; we ended up doing sort of a hum or an “ooh” underneath that line. But it was funny because when it came time sing the song “Whipped,” which is all about vaginas and fucking, she had no problems whatsoever with that. [Laughs]

AD: I wondered if the lines about “demonized bodies” and “exorcized minds” might create some tension.

Will Oldham: Those didn’t. They didn’t have to sing those lines… and they have a kind of professionalism. She didn’t mind participating in a song with the line “we are unblessed,” but she just couldn’t let those words come out of her mouth.

AD: I’ve long been fascinated by your use of religious language. In Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy, your book with Alan Licht, you talk about using religious language in a completely open manner. You aren’t confined to the terms you use; you say something along the lines of “God can mean a lot of things.”

Will Oldham: Yeah. I love to think, for better or for worse and right or wrong, my default is to think of “God” as literally being all things, and in so being God is also nothing. God is the absence of God, and God is God, so that God is the word for all things, and therefore there is nothing untrue that can be said about anybody’s concept of God. So you can just say, “Yeah, that’s true: God is merciless, God is merciful; God is good, God is bad; Of course God doesn’t exist, and of course God exists.” Do you ever listen to that WTF interview show?

AD: Yeah, all the time.

Will Oldham: I was listening to the beginning of the Jay Bakker interview, you know him? [Televangelists] Jim and Tammy Faye’s son.

AD: Yeah, I do.

Will Oldham: They were rapping a little bit about the role of faith and the role of religion, and for some reason this line came into my mind, as it does now and then, from this Samhain song that I learned as a child. It’s from the first Samhain record, Initium. There’s this song, and I think Danzig intended it to be about the Devil, Satan, or Lucifer, or whoever, but the song is called “He Who Cannot Be Named.” I think about one of the lines he uses — he describes “he who cannot be named” as an “intricate entity,” which is a nice little phrase.

herbie-hancock-synth

“…I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music and the more ethereal kind of far-out spacey stuff. Now there was this need to take some more of the earth and to feel a little more tethered; a connection to earth…” Herbie Hancock, 1997

Cascading back into the etheric plane, Hancock centered his new 70’s quintet, the Headhunters, around the filthy sounding clavinet and flanked it with a slick rhythm and blues section composed of Paul Jackson (bass), Mike Clark (drums) and Bill Summers (percussion). Not to be forgotten is saxophonist Bennie Maupin, the only member left of the original Hancock sextet, whose fiery solos flirted with breaking the earthly boundaries set by the new group. With a funky groove the 1973 album Head Hunters ushered in a new era of jazz that appealed to a far wider audience – making jazz listeners out of rhythm and blues fans, and vice versa. Long circulating proof of the dynamic chops of this group is this live set from November 1974, captured in Bremen, Germany, where we find the group ripping up the stage for an hour straight on ‘Chameleon’, the aptly named ‘Sly’, and newer joints from the follow-up album, Thrust - ‘Butterfly’, ‘Spank A Lee’, and ‘Palm Grease’. So. Nasty. words/ d norsen

abner-jay

Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.

Luke Winslow-King’s latest long-player, Everlasting Arms, hit shelves last month via label home, Bloodshot Records. Once again, the New Orleans based journeyman’s latest collection is a swirling medley of primitive blues, gospel, folk and beyond. For this installment of Diversions, Winslow-King highlights a choice selection of Delta Blues and NOLA favorites.

Abner Jay :: The Reason Young People Use Drugs

I think Abner Jay really understands America’s youth. He has a knack for singing very direct lyrics without metaphor. His sadness and life experience are shared so purely and honestly. You can’t tell from this video that Abner Jay is a one man band; singing, and playing harmonica, guitar, and drums with his feet.