Adam’s Holiday Shopping Guide 2010
As the song says, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” I got the tree and most of the outside decorations put up over the weekend and have already gotten review copies of two Christmas albums in the mailbox: one from Donnie Iris and the other by Angry Johnny & the Killbilles. The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. To me, there’s nothing better than spending time with my family and friends, enjoying great meals and great times. Yet there is always that nagging question of what to buy for everybody. (And for people such as myself who tend to begin their Christmas shopping on December 23rd, this presents an even bigger problem.) So, if you’re still up in the air about what to get this holiday season, here are several suggestions. The people on your list are guaranteed to like at least one of them.
For the fan of classic music
For roots music fans, you can’t go wrong with Dust-to-Digital’s new release Baby How Can It Be?: Songs of Love, Lust and Contempt from the 1920s and ’30s. The three disc collection is culled from the record collection of John Hegehan and features everything from Appalachian folk and Dixieland jazz to Hawaiian ballads and cowboy songs. Virtually every form of roots music can be found here, from artists as well known as Uncle Dave Macon and Cab Calloway, to those such as Henry Thomas who should be familiar to devotees of the eras music, to complete unknowns like Hazel Scherf and Davey Miller.The discs are thematically arranged and while all feature numerous highlights, the second disc- “Lust”- is the real gem here. While many of the tunes on the disc are tame by today’s standards, others, such as Harry Roy’s “My Girl’s Pussy” and Harman’s Heart Breaker’s “Let Me Play with It” would still give Tipper Gore a heart attack. All of it is beautifully packaged with liner notes by Nick Tosches and artwork by R. Crumb. In short, the set provides hours of great, rarely heard music from the Golden Age of Recording and would be the perfect gift for the roots music fan in your life.
Another possibility is The Dark Side of Fame, a recent compilation of early Waylon Jennings tracks. While any self-respecting country music fan will have plenty of Waylon in their collections, not everybody is aware of his pre-“outlaw country” work. This collection features 28 of his best recordings from before he became a legend. Among these are a soulful version of “Delia’s Gone” recorded years before Johnny Cash’s iconic version, a Grammy-winning version of “MacArthur Park” and numerous tracks written by the likes of Harlan Howard and Shel Silverstein. The collection makes for an excellent showcase of the singer’s uncanny ability to adapt to any style while always staying on the outskirts of mainstream Nashville. More on this release HERE.
For blues fans, you can’t go wrong with Delmark Blues’ recent release of Live in Boston 1966 by Junior Wells & the Aces. Recorded at a nightclub just a few months after the release of Wells’ seminal record Hoodoo Man Blues, the album finds wells and the legendary Aces running through a slew of Chicago blues classics with the best of the bunch being “Man Downstairs,” a number recorded by Elmore James as “One Way Out.” Wells handles the song with great humor and this humor is, in fact, prevalent throughout the album. The performer is obviously having a great time, joking and telling stories to the audience in between raucous blues classics and the attitude is contagious. It is simply impossible to not have a good time while listening to this album and the gritty sound quality merely adds to the record’s authentic quality.
For the modern music fan:
We all have that one person on our list who simply doesn’t get our style of music. There’s nothing wrong with that and they are entitled to their own tastes. Pressing the issue is the absolute worst thing you can do, so don’t try to slip a Steve Earle disc into their stocking. Instead, buy them modern music without buying them mainstream music and remember that just because it isn’t normally found on No Depression, that doesn’t mean it can’t be great.
A good choice for a hip-hop fan would be Trunk Muzik 0-60, the debut album from Alabama rapper Yelawolf. The album plays up all of Yelawolf’s strengths magnificently and proves beyond any doubt that he is quite simply the best rap artist to emerge in over a decade (a friend of mine wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Willie Nelson and he wholeheartedly agrees). Yelawolf has a penchant for realism, detailed narratives, and lightning-quick rhymes. His raps survey both the hardships and the good times in rural America, without ever giving in to worn-out cliches. This is a rapper who is destined to be the next big thing and I have no doubt that he will remain on the scene for years to come. And I think he has something to offer Americana fans as well, if they’ll give a listen. After all, how many rappers preach the joys of Tom Petty while sporting a Hank Williams shirt?
For those who like their rock hard and heavy, I highly recommend The Ghetto Blaster EP, the sophomore release from Street Sweeper Social Club, a supergroup of sorts comprised of Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) and Boots Riley (of The Coup). Riley’s anti-establishment lyrics, coupled with Morello’s take-no-prisoners approach on the guitar is exactly what is needed in a nation starved for protest songs. The EP features several originals, as well as covers of songs by M.I.A. and LL Cool J, both of which are vast improvements over the originals. By it’s very nature, this album works in equal measures for the fan of modern music and the disenfranchised rock junkie. In fact, SSSC ranks with the Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus as one of the best pure rock bands in years. See more on the band HERE.
For the film buff:
For the film buff on your list, both Fox and Warner Brothers have released box sets this year in honor of Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday. As is to be expected, both sets are mixed bags in a way. The Warner Brothers collection contains a staggering 17 films and while you get a few great films such as Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas and the three classic documentaries That’s the Way It Is, Elvis on Tour, and This is Elvis, which show the King at the top of his game doing what he does best, most of the set is comprised of films like Kissin’ Cousins and Tickle Me. The Fox set, on the other hand, includes far less films, but far better quality. The set includes two of Presley’s westerns- Love Me Tender and the Don Siegel-directed Flaming Star– dramas such as Wild in the Country and the boxing flick Kid Galahad (which co-stars Charles Bronson), and the excellent comedy Follow That Dream. Unfortunately, it also contains Frankie and Johnny and Clambake, two of Elvis’s worst films. Overall, I would choose the Fox set, although there are certain films on the Warner Brothers set which are essential to any Elvis fan.
But what if the film buff in your family isn’t an Elvis fan? No need to worry. Warner Brothers has you covered with Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years, the ultimate collection of films from America’s greatest living actor and director. Unfortunately, because the set is from WB, Clint’s three iconic mid-’60s spaghetti westerns with Sergio Leone are left out along with several other films, but other than that, every major film is here: the entire Dirty Harry series, his two Best Picture winners Unoforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, and his two most recent films Gran Torino and Invictus. To keep this relevant to No Depression, it also includes the extremely underrated 1982 drama Honkytonk Man, a tragic tale of a country singer’s battle with tuberculosis, Bird, his 1988 biopic of jazz legend Charlie Parker, and the 1971 thriller Play Misty For Me, which is about a California disc jockey and includes footage from the Monterrey Jazz Festival. His 1969 musical Paint Your Wagon, which co-starred Lee Marvin, isn’t included. But that’s probably a good thing. (Please note that this is the only item on this post I do not own, so if anybody would like to buy it for me, feel free to do so. Just kidding.)
For the book lover:
For book lovers, few books released this year have been more rewarding than Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010, the masterful take on one of America’s best living songwriter’s by America’s best living music writer. Featuring articles, essays, and reviews written from 1968 to the present, the book is also a brilliant cultural history of that time period in the United States and often widens it’s scope to look at artists other than Dylan as well. The best section of the book is the emphasis on Dylan’s post-1997 work which has rarely been covered in such detail. This book is perfect for any fan of Dylan and ranks among Marcus’s best works. Read more on it HERE.
Another great book that will be of interest to any student of history is Douglas P. Horne’s recent five-volume work Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK. Weighing in at over 2,000 pages of solid medical evidence and insider knowledge, this is by far the most expansive work on the Kennedy assassination since at least Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, and probably since Jim Marrs’ Crossfire. Several reviewers have even stated that it should receive the Pulitzer Prize for History. This book will be sure to make any history buff happy this holiday season and will be one of our best glimpses into what really occurred until the remaining files are released in 2017.
For lovers of comic books and graphic novels, it will be hard to top Neil Young’s Greendale, a beautifully written and illustrated graphic novel based on Young’s 2003 concept album. Joshua Dysart’s story and dialogue are expanded to compensate for the graphic novel format, but are still surprisingly similar to the story on the album. Cliff Chiang’s artwork represents the personalities of the characters brilliantly, while Dave Stewart’s dark earth-toned coloring adds the perfect finishing touch. In short, this politically aware tale of a teenage girl fighting corruption in her small town is the perfect tale for the young reader on your list, as the book’s main character is a young person who really is a good role model. And that is something that is way too rare in today’s world of Twilight. Read more on this book HERE.
For the joy of giving:
As you know, this website is mostly maintained by two people and is funded not only through advertising revenue, but from the support of community members. You can pitch in on the right side of your screen anytime or head over to the No Depression store where you can purchase most ND back issues, several books, tote bags, and posters, as well as shirts and hoodies. I own two of the shirts and I can vouch for the fact that they are both comfortable and stylish.
You can also help support our ND community manager Kim Ruehl in another way. She is currently raising money for a book project. She plans to write a book on Zilphia Horton, the composer of “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome” among other tunes. She has raised over $3,000 for the project so far and has slightly less than $2,000 left to raise of the $5,000 goal. The book must be funded by December 8th or she will not receive any money for the project and if you pitch in now, you will receive an autographed copy of the book when it is finished. Projects such as this are of massive importance to our history and culture and I urge you all to click HERE to pitch in.
I’d like to thank everybody for helping to make this the greatest music site on the web and for reading my posts. Merry Christmas to all of you.