On the new ECM CD, Last Dance, with pianist Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden’s extended bass solo on “Where Can I Go Without You?” magnificently extends the melodic contours and the meaning of the song, as if the question had been deposited directly in the heart of the listener.
Yet his epitaph might be another standard, “Everything Happens to Me.” Not as a solipsistic whine, this was a humble man. Rather, this musician lived a remarkably full creative existence,…Continue
The Pabst Theatre crowd leapt to its feet and roared, and you knew he was coming back. Not only that, 65-year-old Richard Thompson suddenly scurried back out to his guitar, like a kid pouncing onto a Christmas present.
I’m standing the conventional concert review on its head because, as excellent as Thompson was from start to finish, the surprising end was so remarkable and telling. Thompson proceeded to play a seven-song encore with little prompting, including Otis…Continue
This is an updated version of an article originally published in July, 2010 in YourNews.com, Madison, Wisc., edition.
FORT ATKINSON – If the carp ain’t bitin’ folk here just start writin’ -- and singin’ and pickin’. Actually locals have caught white bass lately in the Rock River, beside the café named for the infamous scavenger that slouches toward river bottoms. Does the Café Carpe, a rootsy music mecca, befit its homely name?…Continue
Devin Drobka evokes fellow composer-percussionist Paul Motian--one of his influences and heroes--like a kind of guiding light throughout this album. The CD-opening "Blues Town," exploits the fraught relationship between an elegantly unfolding, mournful melody and a rhythmic pulse that pushes the melody like waves lapping against a rocky shore.
Bell Dance Songs brims with such melodic and rhythmic tensions, often evoking dance-like rhythms, as a bell's ring might,…Continue
The propulsive "Augurs of Spring" rhythms and the contorted "Ritual of Abduction" must’ve called out to Minneapolis' muscular alt-jazz trio. They bravely delve into Stravinsky’s transformative epic The Rite of Spring. Yes they boil down the orchestra; yet Ethan Iverson brilliantly funnels Stravinsky’s glittering, dissonant orchestration through his keyboard.
Bass and drums stoke the suspense and ecstasy, the thunderous drama,…Continue
Added by Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch) on May 23, 2014 at 9:00am — No Comments
It's no secret that the bass gives the gas to funk, as the pulse and the sinewy drive. Among wind instruments, the honking sax has mostly led the charge since the blues and R&B blasts of Illinois Jacquet, Maceo Parker, Stanley Turrentine, and David Sanborn.
Then Bennie Maupin added a twist to the equation when his guttural bass clarinet slinked out of the ether to grab the music world by the throat in the intro-groove of Herbie Hancock's genre-shattering jam…Continue
Milwaukee-born singer Jackie Allen brings to mind a bramble bush in autumn on her new album My Favorite Color. You hear a delicate balance of songs imbued with painful confession, as if her voice carries the slight tinge of spiritual bloodletting. It’s probably her best album to date.
She has ripened into a mature artistic interpreter, without losing the youthful elan that always gave her a special power. Circumstances compelled her to give this record a full six…Continue
Added by Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch) on May 20, 2014 at 1:00pm — No Comments
So, who is Jason Moran, really? Well, seems he took his MacArthur “genius” Fellowship and began messin' with folks, in his latest musical project. For part of the show, he transforms into the Harlem Renaissance pianist-singer-songwriter Fats Waller, wearing a giant caricature head.
If you go, and shout out something about his head getting too big, he'll be asking for it, with that get-up. But he might just grin and say "Yo' feets' too big!" as Fats would have, in one of his…Continue
Added by Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch) on April 23, 2014 at 10:00am — No Comments
Finally, this extraordinary Chicago-born guitarist is no longer playing the blues in history’s alleyway. Al Kooper -- who met Bloomfield when both played on Bob Dylan’s epochal “Like a Rolling Stone” -- curates this "audio/visual scrapbook" with love…Continue
Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn (Little, Brown) $32 679 pages
The steely quaver in Johnny Cash's voice seemed to ring out of the blackest, most-bedeviled corner of the male American psyche. It conveyed the resolute self-assurance of a guy you could count on standing up for the little guy -- if not for showing up for a concert date. But to know the man's life story is to understand all the fault lines cracking the foundation of…Continue
Pioneering black music critic, playwright, essayist, and former Poet Laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka died at 79 on Jan. 9 in a Newark hospital. I thank jazz critic, author and educator Howard Mandel for posting a tribute to Baraka on his Facebook page, which prompted this blog post.
Part of Baraka's rhetorical gift was his way of offering incisive insight while often pushing to the edge of provocative (and sometimes offensive) polemics that could undermine his posture as…Continue
Joel and Ethan Coen do a fine job of making us feel the experience of a fictional Greenwich Village folk singer in their new film Inside Llewyn Davis. We feel sorry for this poor schlub who can barely score a bed to sleep in, much less a gig for a meal or two. This is the way it was for Dave Van Ronk and probably many other striving troubadours who believed in the need to get out there and sing something with their guitar in front of a bunch of people who seem to care about…Continue
The Best Roots Music Albums of 2013
I continued to be amazed by the strong quality and artfulness in vernaculars presumed to be mere "folk" musics.
These rankings make some fine distinctions between albums but the points stick, for me. Tedeschi-Trucks’ extraordinary blues-R&B-jazz-rock collective tops the list for all its musical artistry and exuberance, to bolster the high level of lyric writing one expects of today’s roots purveyors. Vocalist…Continue
“Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.” The image from 1985 shows John Mellencamp’s knack for literary horror, 15 years before he began writing a musical with iconic horror writer Stephen King. The song about a dying Heartland farm was one of the singer-songwriter’s first indelible artistic statements.
Some years ago, Mellencamp bought a lake cabin which turned out to be allegedly haunted -- by accidental deaths and restless spirits -- the inspiration for Ghost…Continue
Added by Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch) on October 21, 2013 at 2:00pm — No Comments
I interviewed Bill Monroe -- born 102 years ago today -- between his sets at Summerfest in 1981 for The Milwaukee Journal. He is credited for inventing bluegrass in 1939 when his Bluegrass Boys auditioned at the Grand Old Opry and caused a high, lonesome stir that has never quite died down, rather coming and going through American culture like the wandering…Continue
From a Westerly Cultural Travel Journal, Vol. 3.
MORRISON, CO. -- The scenery on my drive to Colorado diminished as I headed west: the farmland of Northern Illinois and Iowa are verdant but without the rolling sumptuousness of “God's country” in Southwest Wisconsin, which I forsook for a quicker route. Nebraska unfolds as increasingly flat. I didn’t find it boring though, as it put me into an expansive Zen-like mode wherein I tune into the sky more with land as backdrop.…Continue
One brooding afternoon I walked along Dunn’s Marsh in Fitchburg WI when a chilling cry pierced the rustling breeze. It sounded like a call of the wild through time, echoing the ancient history of life cycles. I looked up and saw an array of long, craggy wings floating on air. The majestic creatures descended…Continue
Added by Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch) on June 2, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments
Notice mountaineer Bills Briggs' ski tracks zig-zagging down from the summit of The Grand Teton, an unprecedented feat he accomplished on June 15, 1971, a few years before I climbed with him. Photo by Virginia Huidekoper.
Do I start by saying that Bob Dylan once backed up Bill Briggs on mandolin -- at a wedding reception performance -- while Bill sang and played banjo? Ah, that's a story for the other side of the summit.
Bill Briggs seemed like pretty much a…Continue
The Flatlanders with Jimmie Vaughn and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band in concert, Northern Lights Theater.
The Flatlanders seem to embody the restless and intricate cultural development called roots music. When they performed last night at Potowatomie Casino in Milwaukee, you could immediately sense the communal and, in this case fraternal, motivation at work. They’re surely brothers in Lone Star spirit, if not blood, having all been born in dusty West Texas as they…Continue
A bit like the Wizard of Oz, avuncular Paul Geremia toils in relative obscurity, as if behind a curtain while mustering his musical wonders. This remains true despite some critics asserting that he's as good as anyone playing country blues. He dwells in the murky corners of the blues history he sheds light on.
Yet Geremia also seems to know which side his humble crust of bread is buttered on. He opened a recent recital at the UW-Milwaukee's MKE Unplugged series with a…Continue