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Quick Licks
 Short reviews of a variety of new releases

C.C. Adcock · Norm Bellas · Continental Drifters  · Merle Haggard · Corey Harris  · The Jazzhole · Lloyd Jones  · King Kong  · The Klezmatics · Curtis Mayfield · The Psychobilly Cadillacs · Bernard Purdie  · Dino Saluzzi, Anthony Cox & David Friedman · Brooks Williams  · Workdogs · Stephen Yerkey

Continental Drifters  Continental Drifters
Monkey Hill Records CD MON 6123-2, 1994 (38:43)

 Grand slam $1.99 special, country-style

You don't need to know where they came from. You don't need to know who's married to whom. Listen first, check their pedigrees later. What you'll hear is a talented bunch of singing and songwriting guys and gals serving up a hearty plate of roots in boots. Tasty originals with a side of classic nuggets by folks like Gram Parsons and The Box Tops. In two words-Camper Van Morrison meets The Band with John Hiatt and Maria McKee in the trunk. --Jason Staczek


The Jazzhole
 ...and the feeling goes round
Bluemoon Records, 2-92586, 1995 (55:09)

 Anti-acid jazz

Don't let the name fool you. This is more hole than jazz, and I mean that in the nicest way. Urbanely urban hip-hoppy pop that's much closer to Soul II Soul or Brand New Heavies than US3 or Groove Collective. Lots of lazy, funky grooves layered with live vocals, horns and keyboards. File this one under hip-hop bachelor pad soundtrack. --Jason Staczek


Dino Saluzzi, Anthony Cox & David Friedman  Rios
Intuition CD INT 2156 2, 1995 (48:13)

 Insinuating sounds and rhythms for late night

Dino Saluzzi is an ace on the bandoneon (aka button accordian, the mainstay of the tango), David Friedman is a vibes/marimba player who was part of Double Image, and Anthony Cox plays bass. That may give you a pretty good idea of the sound of this trio: pretty interesting sounds, pretty polite, pretty. There are several original tunes and one standard, "My One and Only Love," where the melody is never really started outright, and it sounds like all three are improvising simultaneously at a very slow pace. The result is very atmospheric, not  quite new age, good for late night listening when beauty is more important than energy. But you will find yourself wishing at times they would just get on with it. The recording is very fine by the way. And the producer is Lee Townsend, who turns up repeatedly. --Glenn Brooks


Curtis Mayfield  Superfly
Curtom Records CD CUR 9503, 1995 reissue (36:17)

 Freddy lives!

Freddy's back from the dead in this long-awaited domestic CD re-release of the classic 1972 orchestsoulfunkfest.  Superfly's sound and its two chart topping hits--"Freddy's Dead" and the title track--helped pioneer the funk sound that edged soul music off the charts in the early '70s. All feature Mayfield's magnificent arrangements, a conga and bass-heavy mix full of tasty wahwah guitar and punchy horns, sugar-coated with a shine of strings.

The remaining tracks hold up very well for a soundtrack LP with a heavy message, even when the lyrics turn overly didactic. In fact, there's something almost humorous about Mayfield's distinctive falsetto wisping lines like "secret stash heavy bread/baddest bitches in the bed/I'm your pusherman." Hearing this once-baaad '70s disc sound so innocent today makes me wonder how Public Enemy will sound in twenty years. Long live Freddy. --Scott Boggan


Corey Harris  Between Night and Day
Alligator CD ALCD 4837, 1995 (49:48)

 An education in the blues

Harris is a young New Orleans teacher who has studied in Cameroon and listened to the great blues singers from Blind Willie Johnson to Bukka White to Tampa Red and Muddy Waters, all of whose tunes he covers here, along with three originals. It's just Harris' strong baritone voice and National slide guitar, with an occasional kazoo. If that's not particularly innovative, it still sounds damn fine, and Harris does manage to leave his mark on most of these songs. I especially like Sleepy John Estes' "Going to Brownsville," where his guitar and voice sing the song together, in different ways.

Comparisons to Taj Mahal and Keb Mo, who plow some of the same ground, are in order. To my ears, Harris is a much stronger blues singer than Keb, and he seems more single-minded and serious than Taj, maybe too much so. Even on Jesse Fuller's "I'm a Rattlesnakin' Daddy," he sounds contented, but not goofy-happy. In any case, this album is of more than academic interest, and I'm looking forward to hearing more. --Glenn Brooks


Lloyd Jones  Trouble Monkey
Audioquest Music CD AQ-CD1037, 1995 (45:21)

 This monkey means trouble!

Bluesman Lloyd Jones and his excellent 9-piece band record a set of (mostly) Jones originals live to analog two-track in the studio. The result is super crisp, funky rhythm-and-blues with a horn section so tight it hurts. Terry Evans and Ray Williams finish it all off with superb backing vocals. If I were Delbert McClinton, I'd give Jones a call and tell him to back off if he knows what's good for him. --Jason Staczek


The Klezmatics  Jews with Horns
Xenophile CD 4032, 1995 (60:18)

 Party on, chevra!

The Klezmatics are not your traditional klezmer band, thank you very much. They take the party manifest of klezmer seriously to heart, and keep their ears open to non-Jewish music that can get the crowd moving. So, here we get rock and Latin rhythms, plenty of horns (not just the ubiquitous clarinet), tremolo guitars playing Middle Eastern modes, a wild variety of instruments and combinations in intricate arrangements played by a superb bunch of musicians. Oy, are these six guys and gals tight! The only slight blemish is that main lead singer (David Krackauer?) has a voice a bit too watercolor for this bright acrylic album. But the vocals tend to be short (and half the tracks are instrumentals) so big deal. Klezmer traditionalists, I am assured, will not like this album. I do, very much. --Glenn Brooks


Bernard Purdie  Jazz Groove Sessions in Tokyo
West 47th CD WST 2001, 1994 reissue (60:44)

 Purdie good, but not great

This disc has all the right ingredients. Bernard Purdie, Melvin Sparks, Houston Person, covers of "Memphis Soul Stew", "Cissy Strut", "Green Onion" (I guess they could only afford one) and "Cold Sweat". But man does it ever not burn. "Jazz Snooze Sessions in Tokyo" is more like it. This thing is limp, but still probably a must-have for the serious Purdie collector/completist. Tell you what. First new subscriber to mention this review gets a free copy. It must be Purdie, cause jam don't shake like that. --Jason Staczek


Norm Bellas  Out of the Norm
Blue Job CD BJCD 69001, 1994 (62:53)

 These guys can blow

A Northwest quintet of sparkling jazz, led by pianist Norm Bellas. If the group sometimes sounds larger than a quintet, it's because one of the players is the multi-instrumentalist (trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor and flute) Jay Thomas, who overdubs some of the heads on these Bellas originals. Thomas and Bellas are the main soloists, and the tunes are solid boppish numbers, some based on chord changes you may recognize from the punny titles. (My favorite: "Darryl Nefferby & Arthur Hugh.")  --Glenn Brooks


Merle Haggard  Same Train, A Different Time
Koch/Capitol Records CD KOC 3-4051-2, 1995 reissue (66:34)

 Twenty-six years ahead of its time

It's no wonder the original double LP set--a tribute to country forefather Jimmie Rodgers--was buried upon its release. 1969 was not the time for laidback songs about trains and the scoundrels who ride them, and the record had nothing vaguely resembling a hit. But more than Merle's more political songs, this material holds up well today. Haggard's mellow baritone fits these country blues like a glove, and the simple production highlights their quiet grace.

As usual, Merle's band (the Strangers) provides very tasteful accompaniment, but for me the highlight is James Burton's dobro playing. Burton (first recognized at age 16 for swamp guitar on Dale Hawkins' "Suzie Q," later a sideman for Elvis) dusted off the dobro to approximate the acoustic Hawaiian guitar sound used by Rodgers, and he uses it to maximum effect on tracks like "California Blues." Well worth a listen. --Scott Boggan


The Psychobilly Cadillacs  Nobody Never Told Me
Third Wave Productions CD TWP PC 301, 1995 (37:37), see the Back Page for source

 Twang galore from north of the border

Newfoundland psychobilly? Well, as the guys say, "I just can't say 'No' to something I never tried." You've got your no-nonsense guitars, bass and drums, queasy vocals, and layers of twang. Not really psycho, there are some terrific original songs here, from the honky tonk lament of "She Only Half Cried" to the barn harmonies of "Good Ol' Boys" to the rave-up of "Wastin' My Last Quarter," which has been stuck in my head for the last two days. They have a ton o' fun, and so will you, although I don't think their boots have stepped in much, if you know what I mean. --Glenn Brooks


C. C. Adcock  C. C. Adcock
Island CD 314-518 840-2, 1994 (34:57)

 Swamp-roots-rock from Lafayette, Louisiana

The CD starts with the sound of a phonograph needle dropping into a groove. You hear the whoosh-whoosh of the record, which fades into the sounds of a rural Lousiana night, crickets setting the rhythm and the doves taking solos. Then C.C. Adcock jumps in with a throbbing guitar and swampy vocals, and the party is on! This is a nice update of classic swamp rock, with rockabilly and Cajun overtones, featuring Adcock's good guitar playing and decent vocals. Most of the tunes are original, about half just straightforward guitar-bass-drums, while the others tastfully add essential ingredients such as accordian and washboard. The production varies from echoey and dark with processed vocals to crisp, clean and in-yo-face. Recommended for your next gumbo feed. --Glenn Brooks


Workdogs  Old
Sympathy for the Record Industry CD SFTRI 301, 1994 (43:37)

 Blooze boyz

Blues with an attitude from New Yawk undergrounders. Imagine the Velvet Underground backing Skid Roper & Mojo Nixon, or maybe it's the other way around. Rob Kennedy plays bass and sings (if that's the word) while Scott Jarvis pounds the drums on genuwhine blues songs about Robert Kennedy (no relation) and his envy of JFK, unrequited love (shall we say?) on a back road and a beloved Chihuahua who got made into a suitcase. Fun, raucous and a bit stoopid. Jon Spencer and others augment arrangements that slam from funky small-band R&B to ragged folk blues. It's all certified 100% retro-cool for folks old enough to remember the Bush administration. Although I like it, I don't know if I'll play it much. --Glenn Brooks


Brooks Williams  Knife Edge
Green Linnet Redbird Series CD GLCD 2121, 1995 (57:52)

 This is one serious singer/songwriter/guitarist

An easy rolling songwriter and guitarist (both straight and bottleneck slide), Williams sounds somewhat like James Taylor. This a very simply produced album, with his deep smooth voice and fine guitar playing backed by drums and an occasional electric guitar, mandolin or organ. The two instrumentals and the covers of blues and hymn tunes are very enjoyable indeed. I am less enthusiastic about Williams' original songs, which are ambitious, but lack a vernacular feel. "Up in the canopy of Monterey pines, Day-like glow of an equinox moon" sung to a bouncy country reel puts a little too much distance between me and Williams. The references to T. S. Eliot and Walker Percy (and the printing of the guitar tunings) should have been a tip off, I guess. --Glenn Brooks


Stephen Yerkey  Confidence, Man
Heyday Records CD HEY 038, 1994 (57:57)

 Original variety hour

This is yet another interesting Lee Townsend production, with strong all-original songs, very dark overall, in sparse and attractive settings. Yerkey is capable of authentic sounding ventures in a variety of directions, from Tom Waits-jazzish to Bob Dylan-talking-blueish to country twangy--even sometimes a touch of Elvis Costello. But the album still feels cut from the same cloth, partly because of Yerkey's strong, distinctive voice (he reminds me of a new improved version of Norton Buffalo.) By the way, Jason notes that it sometimes feels like you're about to fall into Yerkey's mouth, whatever that means. --Glenn Brooks


King Kong  Me Hungry
Drag City Records CD DC67CD, 1995 (34:46)

 Bam-bam does the boogie

Caveman family gets hold of guitar, bass, drums, organ and four-track. Proceeds to relate details of daily life in song. Creepy jungle instrumentals ward off evil spirits and fear of dark. This is the CD that the frozen mummy guy they found in the Alps a few years ago would have had in his Discman. --Jason Staczek


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