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That right there is one Lowell George, he of Little Feat, whose discography has just been reissued by Rhino. In 1972 the band released their second long-player, Sailin’ Shoes, the final album not swamped in the funky Topanga Canyon cum New Orleans r&b sound that would aesthetically define the rest of their days. As such, Sam Bush’s rendering of the album’s title track makes perfect sense. All mandolin and cocaine trees, it’s near definitive in its approach.

Sam Bush :: Sailin’ Shoes

The War on Drugs were born with a sound. When Adam Granduciel’s Philly-bred concern released Wagonwheel Blues in 2008, they were already singular. There were familiar signifiers—woo-hoo-hoos stolen from Born in the USA-era Springsteen, Granduciel’s pinched vocals and turnaround chord progressions nicked from Dylan via Tom Petty—but they were specks in a maelstrom of searing synth patches and controlled feedback, with a tick-tack rhythm doing its damnedest to pin it all together. By the time of 2011’s Slave Ambient, Granduciel seemed overwhelmed by the size and potential of his creation. That record lacks the energy and sense of awe that give Wagonwheel its trajectory, its way through the tornado of sound, and their absence makes the record feel at times too dissipated, too depersonalized. It’s a good record, nearly a great one, but it’s also a record given over almost entirely to its guiding aesthetic. Granduciel haunts its heartland drone like a tired ghost, and it can be tiring trying to coax him out.

That’s no longer an issue. Lost in the Dream is easily the most direct and engaging work that The War on Drugs have ever released. It’s also the best. Those two statements—both technically subjective but still readily apparent from the moment Granduciel lets his voice unwind around a big-sky melody in opener “Under the Pressure”—aren’t necessarily complementary, and Granduciel’s particular genius has always seemed to be for obfuscation. In the past, he allowed, say, loneliness to drive him into an ambient haze and left a nice-looking chemtrail for us to gaze into. But here he forces his songs to bloom outward, exposing them and himself. It gives you something to see, a pair of eyes to make contact with, and it gives the record a sense of purpose greater than its own aesthetic achievement. It’s such a frequently and effectively heartbreaking listen that when he finally gets loose a joyous, unqualified yelp in the record’s final few minutes, you want to jump up and shout for him.

Which isn’t to say that Lost in the Dream is some kind of bummer. Sadness here is buoyed by a kind of tentative triumph. “Well the comedown here was easy,” Granduciel sings in “Under the Pressure,” “Like the arrival of a new day.” When the lyric gives way to breakdowns and runaways and pain, they’re countered by a horn chart that could’ve been ripped from Sports or Fore! and a sparkling galaxy of synth. It takes a full three minutes of ambient exhale for the song to catch its breath. Lead single “Red Eyes,” itself threaded with the kind of milky guitar line that Granduciel and former bandmate Kurt Vile practically invented, builds to a defiant, orchestral stomp.

But Lost in the Dream is at its best when it goes dark. The gentle Rhodes and synth washes of “Suffering” move like The Band lilting across space, with Granduciel floating out ahead as he repeats the title phrase. “I’m just a bit rundown here at the moment,” he sings over a float of lap and pedal steel and synthesized strings in “Eyes to the Wind,” the slow-building ballad that is the album’s emotional centerpiece. “There’s just a stranger living in me.” Suffering, alienation: These aren’t exactly new sentiments, particularly in the folk-rock realm in which Granduciel still works. But he’s harnessed all of that free-floating noise that engulfed him on Slave Ambient and put it in service of relatable pain. The result is a set of songs that sound sad, sure, but they sound sad in a way that sadness has never quite sounded before.

The prevailing narrative surrounding the creation of Lost in the Dream has centered on Granduciel’s relationship to the sonic fog that covers his group’s first two records. He spent a full year editing down Lost in the Dream, meticulously shaping and taming wild sound, trying to understand what makes his band effective. Read enough profiles and you get the sense that these disparate tones grow from him like bright mold up a humid wall. Rest assured, all of those sounds and patterns and fractals of mysterious feeling are still here, and they’re still central to what makes The War on Drugs compelling. But for the first time, really, you get a very clear sense of the source of all of that sound. Adam Granduciel sits in the center of it, illuminated. And there’s color blooming and decaying all around. words / m garner

The War On Drugs :: Red Eyes

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I recently re-watched the underrated/half-forgotten Blue Collar – Paul Schrader’s 1978 directorial debut starring Richard Pryor, Yaphet Kotto and Harvey Keitel. Filmed on location at the Checker Motors plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the film boasts one of the decade’s most effective pairings of music during an opening credits sequence.

Schrader tapped Jack Nitzche to score the film. In an inspired move Nitzche brought in Captain Beefheart (née Don Van Vliet) to lend his rust-leaden vocals to “Hard Workin’ Man”, the Nitzche penned track that acts as an aural introduction to the late 20th century metal-machine world the film’s characters inhabit. A blues, the song hits of two fronts: the obvious (lyrics), and in keeping with the auto manufacturing plant visuals of the opening sequence, the instrumental. Raw and chugging, that’s Ry Cooder on accompanying guitar as Beefheart growls out the lyrics along to the sight of steel and sparks. Check it out, below:

The below track was later included in the collection Hard Workin’ Man: The Jack Nitzche Story, Vol. 2, sans the auto plant’s ‘ambiance’ and slightly modified lyrics.

Jack Nitzsche / Captain Beefheart :: Hard Workin’ Man

7 PM

While a younger generation has picked up the American Primitive torch in the past decade, some of the original 1960s fingerpickers have recently emerged from the mists with some damn good new material.

Don Bikoff’s magical Celestial Explosion was reissued last year by Tompkins Square, bringing its splendid, slightly spacey acoustic explorations to a much wider audience than when it originally came out in 1968. Up until this year, it was the guitarist’s only release. But Hallowed Ground shows that Bikoff’s powers are undimmed; perhaps they’ve even deepened over the years. Though the cover art may look a bit like something you’d find gathering dust in the “local” section of your neighborhood coffeehouse, don’t let it deter you. The 10 tunes here are lovely guitar soli gems that weave and wind with a loose, easygoing charm. A particular treat is Bikoff’s faithful but not overly reverent rendition of John Fahey’s classic “Sligo River Blues.”

Don Bikoff :: Good Dog, Josie

Harry Taussig was another one-and-done Takoma School guitarist. He put out the extremely rare Fate Is Only Once in 1965, appeared on the Contemporary Guitar compilation alongside Bukka White, Robbie Basho and Fahey … and then disappeared from the music scene for several decades. But in 2012 he returned with a worthy sequel, Fate Is Only Twice, and even played his first-ever gigs last year. Now there’s no stopping Harry. He’s got a third album, The Diamond of Lost Alphabets, out digitally on Tompkins Square this month, a rough-hewn beauty, full of moaning, minor-key slide guitar lines and plaintive melodies that dig into a deep well of folk and blues forms.

Harry Taussig :: Bridge Over Golden Mists

Also out now on Tompkins Square (doing the Lord’s work, as per usual), is Suni McGrath’s Seven Stars. McGrath made three LPs in the 1960s, which for some reason have never been reissued, but they are favorites among guitar soli collectors (seek out The Cornflower Suite for a taste). Seven Stars was recorded a few years back but is only seeing the light of day in full this year. It’s a showcase for the guitarist’s nimble-fingered 12-string excursions. It may be his first album in four decades, but McGrath has clearly been practicing. words / t wilcox

Suni McGrath :: Steven Stars

Previously: Glenn Jones / Chuck Johnson / Origins Of American Primitive Guitar

Greg AshleyGreg Ashley is best known as the leader of the Texas cum Oakland psych outfit The Gris Gris, but he’s also spent time in other bands, including the brash punkers The Strate-Coats and acid-drenched folkists The Mirrors, while releasing a number of noteworthy solo albums along the way. With his new album, Another Generation of Slaves, Ashley dives deeper into his Leonard Cohen obsession, one that was sparked by his 2013 note-by-note rendition of Cohen’s hated masterpiece, Death of a Ladies Man.

Here, like Cohen and fellow curmudgeon, Lou Reed, Ashley has painted a vivid after hours universe of seedy but lovable characters. They mean no harm, but the bottle has intervened, and the jazz band tucked in the corner is playing for nickels and whatever slugs remain in the bottle accidentally left on the piano. There is an energy that carries over the album’s entirety as it swings from the opening declaration of innocence, “East Texas Plain”, to the irrational romantic anger of “Awkward Affections” (featuring what may be the catchiest suicidal chorus ever ), and finally, the sad ode, “Prisoner #1131267″, to a buddy who stares from jail cell bars as the narrator laments the next time they shall meet. It’s with this set of anecdotes that Ashley continues to prove he is a modern day troubadour. His bare bones production, coupled with sparse lyrics and an ad hoc group of jazz musicians, places Another Generation of Slaves firmly at the top in his flawless library of work. words / d norsen

Greg Ashley :: Prisoner #1131267

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Save yr. soul. Chicago soul gospel. Year, 1971. I was woken up last night in Los Angeles by a rumbling earthquake, yet this nugget still packs the bigger wallop.

T.L. Barrett :: Like A Ship

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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 334: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Twin Peaks – Stand In The Sand ++ Twin Peaks – Natural Villain ++ Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster ++ Jay Reatard – Hammer I Miss You ++ Harlem – Come Back Jonee (Devo cover) ++ Courtney Barnett – History Eraser ++ Gap Dream – Fantastic Sam ++ Dead Gaze – This Big World ++ Surf City – Dickshakers Union ++ Jack Name – New Guitars ++ Jack Name – Pure Terror ++ Jacco Gardner – Clear The Air ++ Chris Cohen – Optimist High ++ Sic Alps – Cement Surfboard ++ Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin – I Wear Black ++ Beach Fossils – Time ++ Trailer Trash Tracys – Candy Girl (demo version) ++ Jonathan Rado – I Wood ++ Woods – Size Meets The Sound ++ Natural Child – Out In The Country ++ Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You ++ Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Bicycle ++ The Growlers – Hiding Under The Covers +++ White Fence – Pink Gorilla ++ Ty Segall – Music For A Film I ++ Atlas Sound – Amplifiers ++ Deerhunter – Leather Jacket II ++ Night Beats – H-Bomb ++ Daughn Gibson – Bad Guys ++ The War On Drugs – Baby Missiles ++ Kurt Vile – Freeway ++ Mac DeMarco – Rock And Roll Night Club ++ Calvin Love – Missions ++ Scout Niblett – Gun ++ The Orwells – Mallrats (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ The Orwells – Halloween All Year (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ The Orwells – In My Bed (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ The Orwells – Southern Comfort (Aquarium Drunkard Session)

*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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Reverend Louis Overstreet was born in Louisiana in 1947. He began singing in gospel quartets and preaching at a young age, before settling in Pheonix, Arizona in 1961. It was in Phoenix that Overstreet was discovered by Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records, who would record and release the album Rev. Louis Overstreet – His Guitar, His Sons and the Congregation of St. Luke’s Powerhouse Church of God in Christ. Seriously raw, intense homespun gospel, Overstreet’s recordings have most recently appeared on the Mississippi Records tape, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die, and the 2009 Tompkins Square compilation, Fire in My Bones: Raw, Rare and Other-Wordly African-American Gospel 1944-2007.

The following video is a prime example of the impassioned vocal and musical performances that went down in Overstreet’s church. Raw and hypnotic, the clip is culled from the 1963 German documentary, Down Home Music: A Journey Through the Heartland, which is available on DVD through Arhoolie Records. Shouting, stomping and the Holy Ghost follow. words / c depasquale

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Chris Forsyth’s guitar extravaganza Solar Motel was one of 2013′s most cosmic releases. As great as the LP is, Forsyth took things a whole ‘nother level with the live band he put together to bring it to the stage. The Solar Motel Band, consisting of guitarist Paul Sukeena (Spacin), drummer Steven Urgo (ex-War On Drugs) and Peter Kerlin (Peter Kerlin Octet), have quickly become one of the most raved-about live acts on the road today.

Lucky Los Angelenos will be able to check into the Solar Motel on March 14 at the Paradise of Bachelors/Aquarium Drunkard-presented “Ides of March Weekender” at the Church on York. The rest of us sinners will have to wait for Record Store Day, when the Electric Ragtime label releases Solar Live 11.15.13, a live version of the Solar Motel record.But if you’re feeling especially impatient, dig these two unbelievable covers recorded live last month on an all-too-brief U.S. jaunt. The barnstorming rendition of Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel” was captured at Nashville’s Stone Fox club, and features Music City’s own William Tyler joining the band for a thrilling triple guitar blowout. “Cortez The Killer,” the classic Neil Young & Crazy Horse dirge, was played on the last night of the tour in Cleveland, and Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band perfectly capture the ragged glory of the original. words / t wilcox

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band :: Little Johnny Jewel
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band :: Cortez The Killer

Related: Diversions :: Chris Forsyth (Bootleg Mix)