a2399782606_10

Originally issued on cassette in the Cook Islands in the early 1980s, this totally wonderful reissue via Little Axe Records contains the complete recorded works of teenaged singer Anna Makirere. Come for the gorgeous, solar-powered harmonies, stay for the subtly grooving, phased-out guitar work. This is music that’ll lift you out of any doldrums, guaranteed — and we could all us music like that these days, right? words/t wilcox

jessi-colter

Jessi Colter takes a sip of wine.

She’s ordered a white, something not too tart. Apologizing, she tips a carafe and adds a liberal splash of water to her glass. She tastes again. It’ll work. With a slight adjustment, the First Lady of Outlaw Country.

We’re seated at a small wine bar called the Living Room at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, its garage-style doors open to an unusually warm March evening. Colter has spent much of her life in Arizona; she grew up here, raised Mirriam Johnson in the mostly Mormon town of Mesa, where she attended a Pentecostal church before wandering off to Topanga Canyon in 1961 with her then-husband, guitarist Duane Eddy. When that marriage ended, she found her way back to Phoenix, where she met Waylon Jennings, a country rebel known around town for his electrifying sets at local club JD’s. The two quickly fell in love. They married and headed to Nashville, where she released albums like I Am Jessi Colter and Mirriam and recorded hits with Jennings, like their cover of Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

Along with recordings by Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Tanya Tucker, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jennings and others, her LPs helped define the burgeoning outlaw country movement, an expression of the desire to rough things up a little in the button-down music city.

But the desert kept calling to her, and she returned to Arizona in the late ’90s with Waylon in tow. He passed away in 2002 from complications involving diabetes and was buried in Mesa. She’s remained here since, frequently heading out to Los Angeles to visit her son, Shooter Jennings and his family.

The Living Room is a nice enough place, but given its chipper waitstaff and top 40 playlist, it’s an incongruous setting to discuss Colter’s two new projects, both intense documents of her faith. First, a memoir, An Outlaw and a Lady, about her life with Jennings and her lifelong Christian faith, and The Psalms, her remarkable new album. Produced by Lenny Kaye, with whom Jennings collaborated on his own book, Waylon: An Autobiography, the record features Colter on piano, mostly improvising chording and melodies, singing from the Old Testament psalms of King David.

The “aching and paining in misery” of the warrior poet’s words has long been a comfort to Colter. After Jennings’ death, she began devoting herself to the Old Testament book, finding in the prose a sustaining expression of humanity. The resonance of the psalms, Colter says, stretches across multiple faiths. “Muslims, Christians, Jews,” she says, “King David is very important [to them all].” The roots of the project stretch back a decade, when Colter began collaborating with Kaye, sitting at the piano in her home, singing direct quotes from her family Bible, a treasured gift from Waylon. For later sessions, she recited from Kaye’s bar mitzvah Bible.

Jessi Colter :: PSALM 150 Praise Ye The Lord

miracle-legion-2

There are a solid three ways you could have come to be a fan of Miracle Legion: directly through the band’s output in the mid-80s through mid-90s; through singer Mark Mulcahy’s solo music; or via spin-off band Polaris’ sole album, which soundtracked the cult ’90s Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. In this case, all roads lead to the New Haven, Connecticut band.

20 years after calling it a day following their fifth album, Portrait of a Damaged Family, the band came back together to re-release the album and celebrate 20 years of the Mezzotint record label, started by Mulcahy in order to release the album following label problems in 1996. The band kicks off a short American tour in April, with a few shows around the Northeast – including the Bowery Ballroom in NYC on April 21st – before coming to the Echoplex in Los Angeles on April 28th.

Aquarium Drunkard sat down separately over the phone with founding members Mulcahy and Mr. Ray and talked about the reunion, the issues of tackling music you haven’t played in a long time, Mulcahy’s upcoming solo album, and the virtues of wanting to sound like the Gun Club.

Aquarium Drunkard: How did the reunion come about?

Mark Mulcahy: I think the easy progression was that we ended up doing a bunch of Polaris gigs – which is everyone [in Miracle Legion] but Ray. I hadn’t played with those guys either for quite awhile. Playing with them made me think about all four of us playing again. And as much as I wouldn’t have imagined doing it, a bunch of people wanted to book gigs for us, so that plus I just think – I don’t know if there is some era of reunion. I don’t know if there’s been other reunion-eras in rock and roll, but a lot of groups from the time we were playing have regrouped as well, so, I don’t know, it just felt like taking part in a movement. [laughs]

AD: When did the reunion really come together? Was it last year or prior to that?

Mr. Ray: It was about a year ago last November. I think they [members in Polaris] were pretty shocked that people were really interested. We knew this was a different thing, because the Pete and Pete thing has more of a nostalgia, Comic-Con vibe to it. [laughs] But, I think that was what made us all think. I don’t know if I thought we’d ever play again. We said, let’s see. Will anyone be interested? Would anyone book us? Will anyone come? And then last year was amazing. I mean, bigger crowds than we had most of the time back in the day. I didn’t want to do a nostalgia thing and just play to guys my age saying ‘oh, when I saw you in ’82,’ you know. But it wasn’t a nostalgia trip at all. The audiences were great, and a great mix of male and female and ages. So it was great. So we’re doing it more.

tumblr_omyog71PFL1qdejlho1_1280

Oslo-born, New York-based bassist and composer Eivind Opsvik launched his Overseas series all the way back in 2003. An in-demand session player — he’s appeared alongside Anthony Braxton, Mary Halvorson, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, and dozens more — the Overseas project has long served as an outlet for Opsvik’s most personal material. It’s also allowed room for experimentation: his latest, Overseas V, brings his tuneful, melodic jazz into alignment with the jerking sounds of post-punk and art rock (think Talking Heads or ’80s-era King Crimson), creating an electronically-modified update on the “punk jazz” of the Lounge Lizards and James Chance and the Contortions.

Eivind Opsvik :: Hold Everything

Leading a band including guitarist Brandon Seabrook, saxophonist Tony Malaby, drummer Kenny Wollesen, and keyboardist Jacob Sacks, Opsvik dives into jittery funk (“I’m Up This Step,” “Brraps!”) and moody ballads (“Extraterrestrial Tantrum,” “Shoppers and Pickpockets”). The best material refuses to be put into any particular box, like “Cozy Little Nightmare,” which veers from lovely piano runs to discordant noise and back again, or the loping “First Challenge on the Road,” which balances its chopping guitars with melancholic melodies. An engaging, playful listen throughout, Opsvik’s Overseas group pulses with charm and vitality. words/j woodbury

VIC

2017 is shaping up to be a great year for fans of Vic Chesnutt as New West Records is slowly re-releasing, in gorgeous expanded color vinyl editions, most of his albums originally released on the now defunct Texas Hotel label. Both Little and Drunk have been already been re-released, with Is The Actor Happy? scheduled for this month. More are scheduled to come through June with an additional as-yet-unnamed title to come in the late part of the year. But Aquarium Drunkard was recently gifted a track, by Elf Power’s Andrew Rieger, that won’t appear among any of the fantastic bonus tracks.

The moment the soundcheck-recorded song starts, you’ll probably recognize the notes. And if you’re a fan of Athens music in general, then you also probably recognize the guitar style of the person playing it. In this case, it’s a pair of Athens luminaries, Vic Chesnutt and Rieger’s band Elf Power, taking a turn at one of R.E.M.’s most well-known songs. It’s the one whose video award-winning ways got an acceptance speech hijacked by a becostumed Beastie Boy.

In March of 2009 – a scant nine months before his suicide – Vic Chesnutt took part in a tribute concert to R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall in New York. The list of players that night is astounding, ranging all the way from Patti Smith to Victoria Williams to Calexico to Darius Rucker, but of course Chesnutt’s relationship with R.E.M. went back nearly 20 years at that point, having been “discovered” by Michael Stipe, who produced his first two albums. Throwing Muses also played that night, and Kristen Hersh wrote about the concert in her memoirs about her friendship with Chesnutt, the essential read Don’t Suck, Don’t Die.

Chesnutt was his normal, prickly self that night. He made loud comments about the food backstage. He repeatedly called and hung up on Michael Stipe while R.E.M. was soundchecking. But when it came to the performance:

“You [Chesnutt] looked…like a well-rested hick, like you were wheeling out to the back porch to shell peas or something. Incongruous in Carnegie Hall…You radiated a rumpled focus that nobody could imitate. Except maybe somebody waking up on the widewalk in a good mood and that almost never happens…
Your secret turned out to be that you could play R.E.M. covers and sweep the floor with the rest of us…You? Killed us. ‘Everybody Hurts’ and in your hands, it rang heartlessly true…But yeah, cuz it’s not like you invented any of the other chords you played or the words you zapped with your alchemy to turn them into your lyrics. It was a twisted thing that you brought to the table. Popping open the genie bottle, you twisted someone else’s song; kept twisting and twisting until you’d wrung every tear out of it and us.”

Hearing Chesnutt sing “Everybody Hurts” this close to his own death is in some ways troubling, but this performance echoes his song “Flirted With You All My Life” from his album from that year, At the Cut. The latter was written from the point of view of someone who’d attempted suicide before; the former is a plea from someone who is watching the person in action. Both reside in places uncomfortably close to his own death.

But while the temptation to be sad that Chesnutt would sing this song and yet seem to ignore its message is there, what expertly borders on maudlin entreaty in the original song becomes something greyer and brighter in the hands of Chesnutt and Elf Power. Much like the aforementioned “Flirted…”, this version of “Everybody Hurts” is a document of a moment in time. As the band joins in piece by piece, as the song becomes a righteous cry against the dark, another story within one well-told is unleashed. And on that night, on that stage, in those words and those guitar notes at least, Vic still exists, expressing his feelings, at uneasy peace with his surroundings. As fans, you always wonder what could have been. It’s selfish in a lot of ways. But we also get to marvel at the moments that were and are. Despite his death, that is where Vic Chesnutt lives still. words / j neas

Vic Chesnutt :: Everybody Hurts

Related: Vic Chesnutt :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

ISB

Imagine dialing around on the radio and stumbling across this utterly fried live session from The Incredible String Band late one night in 1968. Transmitted via Bob Fass’ legendary Radio Unnameable show, this is some seriously psychedelic free-folk, with Mike Heron and Robin Williamson delivering ecstatic visions and out-of-time tales. Rob Young, in his highly recommended Electric Eden, summed up the ISB best when he said the group “captured [the] elemental essence of music as an intimate rite in the flickering light, imparting sacred mysteries to rapt ears in the sapphire deep of night.” Radio Unnameable, indeed. Tune in. words / t wilcox

Download: The Incredible String Band :: Radio Unnameable – NYC, 1968

boss-hog

“You play that Blues Explosion album from last year a lot, so check this out.” That was Rob Green, a guy I clerked with in an Athens, GA record store in 1995. The record CD he was referring to was Boss Hog’s s/t second full-length. And like the Blues Explosion’s Orange and Extra Width before it, the album quickly entered regular rotation with “knock my teeth out, make way for gold” becoming something of an in-store, record nerd, mantra for the next several months. Ah, the 90s….

And now…they’re back. Made up of Jon Spencer and co-conspirator/wife Cristina Martinez, Boss Hog returns with Brood X, their first new album in 17 years. Out today via In The Red Records, we asked Spencer to run down some of his favorite garage and proto-punk moments for AD. As expected, his picks and thoughts on each are inspired. Jon Spencer, in his own words, below . . .
__________________________________________________________________________________

Let’s skip the more widely-known and acknowledged “masters” – The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, MC5, Suicide, and New York Dolls. Here are some of the other freaks! I tried to stick with bands that had little to do with the blues, rhythm & blues, and tradition – these are bands that found their own style, their own sound, their own way. This is in no way meant to be any sort of definitive list. It s purely subjective – just some of my faves.

YouTube links are included for easy reference but if you are curious please visit your local Mom & Pop independent record store and buy some music! Or pick up a guitar or synth or drum or kitchen utensil or piece of earth and make some noise!

Los Saicos, Demolition: 1965. Crazy surf-style punk from Peru: “Destroy the train station!”

The Monks, Complication: 1966. A German band comprised of ex-American GI’s (that had been stationed in Germany), The Monks wore robes and shaved tonsures into their hair and made uber-rock. All-rhythm, relentless, and wild. The Monks toured the German beat-club circuit relentlessly in the late 1960s, playing several shows a day, 7 days a week. Their one studio album Black Monk Time is great from start to finish: pounding drums, fuzz guitar & fuzz organ (a buddy of the band custom-bulit their fuzz-boxes & amps), banjo as rhythm guitar, and off-the-wall yet still political chants & hollers.

The Music Machine, Talk Talk: 1966. Along with the Chocolate Watchband (and The Seeds, see below) one of the the great California ’60s garage-punk bands. Unlike the Watchband I think these guys actually played their instruments in the studio, and all band members wore black turtlenecks and a black glove on one hand!. Driving beat, sharp turns, great fuzz – Talk Talk gets in and out and lays waste all in under 2 minutes.

The Seeds, Pushin’ Too Hard / Mr. Farmer: Most people know Pushin’ Too Hard (see goofy TV sitcom appearance) but I prefer Mr Farmer (1967) from their 2nd album Web Of Sound. The Seeds were led by the mystical and way-out-there Sky Saxon and their sound was dominated by Daryl Hooper’s heavy-handed keyboard style. Mr Farmer almost sounds like krautrock.