Rock & Pop / Non baby-boomer Division – A Few Favorites 2013

There's Hope
The return of Hope Sandoval

Rock & Pop – non baby-boomer division

Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day (iTunes)
Mikal Cronin – MCII
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get…
The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars
Brandy Clark – 12 Stories (iTunes)
Dawes – Stories Don’t End
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
My Bloody Valentine – m b v
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Single of the Year
The Flaming Lips – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Olivia Harris & Bruce Richardson – Up On the Roof (iTunes)

This year settles it for me, as far as rock and pop goes I’m no longer going to devote a heckuva lot of time to figuring out what the kids are into. I have to surrender to the verities that brought me here, songcraft, melodious harmonies, and slide guitars. Bingo: Mazzy Star hits a homerun with their triphopamericana comeback, a record soaked in tunefulness and slide and steel guitars. Mikal Cronin may have some appeal to the much younger generation but it seems to me the markers are all pegged to the late sixties, or, alternately Mott the Hoople and Queen. My Bloody Valentine strikes again and not much has changed–a very good thing except for having to read the adjective ‘gauzy’ too many times. Vampire Weekend surprised me. ‘Goth power pop’ sez I, crudely aiming my old fogey bag o’ categories; still, a terrific record.

Then there is home base, country and country rock and folk rock and nice singing and somgs set in the real world. The best singing is found on The Civil Wars, the saddest duo in the history of rock and roll. Neko Case is also dour on her best record so far. Kacey Musgraves isn’t sad, she’s mad. Brandy Clark sings like an angel. Dawes harken back to the folk rock band America, except they are much better songwriters, players, and there’s no top forty hippie radio anymore.

Just go plunk down $1.29 for Up On the Roof. You’ll be glad you did.

Rock & Pop / Old Timers’ Division – A Few Favorites – 2013

Harris - Crowell


Old Timers – Live

The Band – Live at the Academy of Music 1971 
Bill Payne‘s “Tracing Footsteps” with Dennis McNally 2013-05-17 (all shows)
Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks Vol. 7 
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Miami Pop Festival (iTunes)

Bonus: best bootleg:
Graham Parker & The Rumour – The Stone Pony (Asbury Park, NJ) 2013-04-19

comment: Five unreleased tracks key The Band’s Academy of Music deluxe set. Fans get something more in that this set showcases a Bob Clearmountain mix the cornerstone live date Rock of Ages and provides a nicely saturated and visceral mix of the later set in discs 3 & 4. Every year brings more remastered Grateful Dead goodies from the prime 1968-1974 era. Hendrix is God.

Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne has been touring as a solo act and has used the opportunity to tell about the history of Little Feat. He is a natural raconteur. I hope more dates pile up on I had to pick one. All the ‘Tracing Footsteps’ dates supply a piece of the Little Feat & Bill Payne puzzle.

Old Timers – New

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon

Neil Finn & Paul Kelly – Goin’ Your Way
Dan Baird And Homemade Sin – Circus Life
Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You
Linda Thompson – Won’t Be Long Now
The Del Lords – Elvis Club

comment: The reunion of Harris and Crowell fulfills expectations: it’s transcendental. On the song Back When We Were Beautiful, Emmylou evokes Edith Piaf. Aussies Finn and Kelly acoustic power pop is cheery and grown-up. Both Dan Baird and The Del Lords appropriate the attack of Sticky Fingers era Rolling Stones and deliver the old school rock and roll goods. It’s especially explosive to have The Del Lords tossing grenades again. Linda Thompson’s comeback record is full of felicitous moments and heartfelt expression–and it seems to me to be her finest hour. Guy Clark is what Bob Dylan would be if contemporary Dylan were more observant, less self-satisfied, and, consistently true to a deep artistic vision.


The Clash – Sound System
The Beach Boys – 50th Anniversary Box Set

Revolutionary punk or reactionary power-pop. What floats your boat?


Joe Walsh – Live at Daryl’s House

Context; 1972:


My favorite Joe Walsh turns out to be his set with Daryl Hall. Back in the day my boss and owner Mark would play the sh*t out of The James Gang. They were his Saturday night get a ‘lude buzz on go-to turn-it-up-to-ten guitar banger with rhythm section choice.

At the time, all known guitar players were up against Robbie Robertson and Clarence White. But, I could appreciate Joe’s gritty virtuosity. And that The James Gang’s approach shouted Ohio bar band was an attractive feature. Scroll ahead and Mr. Walsh is one of the greatest of all rock guitarists.

Blast From the Past: Little Village

Little Village — back in the day a hippie super group might have been wrangled out of a connoisseur’s fever dream in a total pushback against all the trends of the early 1990’s. Wait, this actually happened, except for the dream part.

Oddly enough, a middling record led to a great tour yet no recordings of the band’s live music were ever released. Nevertheless, thank you John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner, for your brief 18 month or so reactionary blast.

Living the Truth

Earl Scruggs (January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012) | WSM’s tribute

Levon Helm (May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012) | The Beginnings of The Band

It is my usually editorial policy to reinforce that life is for the living. However, it isn’t often that losses pile up as they did so the last several weeks. Earl Scruggs introduced me to the idea of musical virtuosity via a lucky vinyl strike at Tommy’s Polka Store on Cleveland’s West Side, sometime around 1969. This opening will soon enough lead a few years later to Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Carlie Parker, and John Coltrane. You know Scruggs is jazz, yes?

Meanwhile, I heard The Band for the first time in the fall of 1969, and in a very particular sense my elementary education in the resonant great American music of my own time had made its first wind around the circle. The gracious Dynamo Man, Jamie Cohen, had in very short order cued up The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Workingman’s Dead, Music From Big Pink, and Little Feat, and so had squared this same circle.



Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong. Laurel Canyon soft rock, it is said, is on the up and up. This is funny branding from the perspective of those long in the tooth. Wait, has Silver Lake fallen to the side?

However, the Dawes’ second record is quite entertaining, and, the lead video here is at once straight-forward and deliciously laced with odd visual references.

Compare this with the movie Laurel Canyon from 2002, a flick itself a very long way from somebody deciding whether or not Graham Nash is the ticket.

Dub Collision mix: Devil In Disguise

1 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band-Billy in the Low Ground 00:56
2 The Dillards-Man Of Constant Sorrow 1:24
3 Jesse Winchester-The Brand New Tennessee Waltz 3:09
4 Linda Ronstadt-Keep Me From Blowing Away 3:09
5 Buffalo Springfield-Kind Woman 4:11
6 The Byrds-You Don’t Miss Your Water 3:49
7 Dillard & Clark-Train Leaves Here This Mornin’ 3:53
8 The Flying Burrito Brothers-Christine’s Tune 3:04
9 Rick Nelson-So Long Mama 3:28
10 The Grateful Dead-Mama Tried 3:03
11 New Riders of the Purple Sage-I Don’t Know You 2:27
12 Neil Young-If I Could Have Her Tonight 2:21
13 The Band-King Harvest (Has Surely Come) 3:38
14 Barbara Keith-The Bramble and the Bush 2:55
15 Crazy Horse-Dance, Dance, Dance 2:13
16 Michael Nesmith-Propinquity (I’ve Only Just Begun To Care) 3:00
17 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-Teach Your Children 2:53
18 Beau Brummels-Jessica 2:21
19 Jerry Jeff Walker-Backslider’s Wine 3:35
20 Cowboy-Seven Four Tune 2:42
21 Ian Matthews-Biloxi 4:17
22 Moby Grape-If You Can’t Learn From My Mistakes 2:36
23 Little Feat-Texas Rose Cafe 3:41
24 Poco-Just in Case It Happens, Yes Indeed/Grand
Junction/Consequently So Long 9:36

Because my musical world triangulates, as I would tell you, The Byrds, Thelonious Monk, and Pauline Oliveros–crazy, I know–here’s a mix that speaks for itself.

Although I was partly deflected off the folk-rock course for a long period, the time during which I sank my ears into all sorts of different waters, the fact is folk and country rock was my original ‘home.’ This compilation brings together some prime exemplars from roughly the period 1967-1974. Favorite tunes here and music for DFH like me.

Dub Collision mix: A Cover Album Volume 1


Likely volume one of an never-ending series. This compilation includes rarities, covers by unlikely proponents, and an appearance by Clarence White.

1 Dillard & Clark Expedition – Don’t Be Cruel 1:49
2 Rusty Dean – Only Daddy That’ll Walk In Line 02:22
3 Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis – Losing Hand 5:14
4 Barbara Streisand – Free the People 3:12
5 Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes – Rad Gumbo 5:28
6 Golden Smog – Spooky 4:50
7 The Grip Weeds – Hello, It’s Me 3:38
8 Emmons & Pennington – Deep Water 2:53
9 Wilco – 100 Years From Now – Wilco 2:47
10 Bill Frisell – I’m So Lonesome I Should Cry 7:34
11 The Imagined Village – Scarborough Fair 6:45
12 Brinsley Schwarz – Day Tripper 2:42
13 Robby Turner – Call Me The Breeze 4:47
14 Steinar Gregertsen – Pali Gap 6:03
15 Bobby Womack – All Aong The Watchtower 3:20
16 Neil Young & Pearl Jam – Baby, What You Want Me To Do 7:45

Burrito Blast


Flying Burrito Brothers Live at Fillmore East 1970, (released this year.) Chris Hillman, years after the night captured on this energetic new addition to the Flying Burrito Brothers discography:

Sneaky Pete’s steel guitar shines throughout and may be his best performance on record.

What happened to The Flying Burrito Brothers the next year, 1971, ushered in twenty-five years of what I would term, fractal dynamics, as different configurations of players, constituting a kind of shifty strange attractor, bubbled up and out and up again, all around either the original ‘brand,’ The Flying Burrito Brothers, or Burrito Brothers, and, finally, Burrito Deluxe. Pedal steel icon Sneaky Pete left the band late in 1971, only to find a new attractor three years later, as the band rose once again after all but disbanding a few months and a European tour after another shuffle of personal followed in the aftermath of Chris Hillman, Michael Clark, and Bernie Leadon all moving on to greener pastures.

Sneaky Pete remained not quite the central constant in the midst of various permutations, with each at least securing the ‘Burrito’ part of the band’s name. Yet, the result is that there is a lot of Sneaky etched on legitimate and illicit recordings strung between 1974 and Sneaky’s last recordings, released in 2009 with Burrito Deluxe.

Although there was a certain measure of cynicism likely in the motivation for some of these configurations, and, each of the studio recordings are dragged down to different degrees by mediocre material and, at times, too much obedience to the commercial trends (in country music) of their day, there is also a lot of terrific Sneaky Pete steel guitar on display. Other moments of grace are supplied by musical evidence that supports just how much the shape-shifting cast of characters enjoyed playing with each other. Amongst the likes of talented and heart-felt players such as John Beland, Joel Scott Hill, Gib Gilbeau, Kleinow was the only first tier player, yet under the different variations of ‘Burrito’ the various crews kept their ‘Bakersfield sound’ inflected California country rock going against, really, the odds.

Of course Chris Hillman wasn’t onboard for the ensuing messy history, so he didn’t get to hear the ace steelman do his thing on many a long lonely night. Sentimentally, I will always feel Sneaky’s amazing essays on The Guilded Palace of Sin are not only his best work on record, but represent a pedal steel guitar-driven country rock moment second to none. Still, especially in the various Burrito ensembles of the eighties, there exist a plenitude of recorded and stunning Sneaky moments. This was especially the case throughout the eighties. (I will offer up a mix in a later post.)

Here’s 30 minutes worth of the Sneaky Pete, with five tracks taken from two albums, Suite Steel, and Pacific Steel, that featured his playing along with other virtuoso players.

1 Flying Burrito Brothers::Star Of The Show 4:10
2 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Splittin’ Image 1:58
3 Flying Burrito Brothers::Did You See 2:58
4 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Medley: My Back Pages, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Wheels 3:55
5 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::It Makes No Difference 5:07
6 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Blackbird 2:06
7 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Cannonball Rag 2:25
8 Flying Burrito Brothers::Hot Burrito #2 4:38


h/t Tim Connors offers up a capsule history of all permutations Burrito on his essential web resource about all things The Byrds.


Robbie Returns

Robbie Robertson

Kevin O’Hare interviewed Robbie Robertson about his new album. The above video is from that page. …Robbie journeys to make a record with Eric Clapton. Yay.

There’s a comment on the page for this video praising the band at the same time the writer offer the group didn’t “have the perfect guitarist.” …caused me to chuckle. My three favorite rock guitarists who don’t slip a slide on their little finger are Clarence White, Robbie Robertson, and Richard Thompson, so, I’m admittedly biased in feeling Robertson wasn’t only the perfect guitarist for The Band, but is also a perfect guitarist, as he goes about subjecting his virtuosity to his soul’s expressive and poetic wishes.

Wrapping Up 2010 I. Everything Rock Pop and Country and Folk List for 2010

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Before Today
Jackson Browne &
David Lindley
Love Is Strange
Jamey Johnson
The Guitar Song
Neil Young
Le Noise
Brian Wilson
Gershwin Reimagined
Elisabeth Cook
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Cassandra Wilson
Silver Pony
Julie Neumark
Dimestore Halo
J.J. Grey & Mofro
Georgia Warhorse
Jackie Greene
Til the Light Comes
The Texas Sapphires
As He Wanders


Ralph McTell
Somewhere Down The Road
The Doors
Live In Vancouver
Deadstring Brothers
Sao Paulo
Quarantine the Past
Jack Rose
Luck In the Valley
Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
1970 With Eric Clapton
Patty Griffin
Downtown Church
The Rolling Stones
Exile On Main Street

My first thought to myself, while scanning a spreadsheet listing of my popular music encounters last year, was, ‘what a great year for hippie music!’

As it is, any year’s offering will be filtered through my decidedly unhip residual hippiedom. Yet, 2010 was exceptional on several crucial counts: first, despite not really having any shelves on which to shelve box sets, or any bins into which to slide reissues, it was sterling year for reissues of ‘way’ old classic stuff. Two reissues almost bookend this year’s distillation, The Doors, and Delaney and Bonnie. On another count, because some of the oldest rock generation’s members popped out records fabulous (Neil Young obviously,) and horrendous. There seemed to be ongoing reminders that some dogged efforts have persisted for 40+ years. What a surprise that Peter Wolf walked back through the door with a darn good record! Then there was the cover record phenomena marked by a lot of mostly forgettable retreading from Cyndi Lauper, Carlos Santana, Sheryl Crow, Garth Hudson, and one immensely enjoyable blast from Bettye Lavette.

Of course by ‘anti’hip’ I mean pro-hippie, and imply that my tastes in pop are long mostly fixed to the verities of well played and well sung, and ‘musicianly’ rock, where the paragons are The Byrds, The Band, Little Feat, and a few really elder others, most long gone. The final count reveals that a lot of rock style buried by FM bombast and punk in the late seventies today has come to constitute touchstones for a third generation of melodious, rootsy bands. It’s not odd that none of this new music is either new or fit to the current mainstream, a mainstream to some extent centered on those bombastic precedents. But, I don’t listen much to this mainstream, settling, as I have settled, on this third wave of accessible, and hoary–in a good sense–rock. The New Pornographers essayed very focused takes on this era on their ingratiating Together.

I put in evidence Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Janiva Magness, whose records this year would instantly appeal to anyone who valorizes Bonnie Raitt. Similarly, and by surprise, The Nouveau Honkies echo Brinsley Schwarz, the connoisseur’s pub rock outfit and Brit equivalent to The Band. Brinsley Schwarz made their last record in 1973! This list of twenty records distills a master accounting of 200+ recordings, so it’s significant English folkie Ralph McTell came out of nowhere with an outstanding record, a record that could be described as what Ry Cooder might be up to were he long The Queen’s subject. Jackson Browne and Dave Lindley‘s 2CD live set squares Browne’s earnest and often biting folk songs with Lindley’s virtuosity, and, on this very fine record, a cast of Latin players. It’s of one of Jackson’s best records.

A certain kind of purist keeps the door shut to the modern sound of Nashville, perhaps not realizing that Nashville isn’t the epicenter anymore. There are so many enjoyable, if modest, records coming out which get lumped into the alt-country, Americana, roots country rock, and, country, that it isn’t possible to keep up. Julie Neumark, naughty Elizabeth Cook and sweet steelin’ The Texas Sapphires, with the Nouveau Honkies, rose into my own top rank. It was Jamey Johnson who sent the biggest message, (perhaps to Brad Paisley and Keith Urban?) with the masterful two sides, The Guitar Song. His deep record has a lot of gravity, and to me Johnson has set himself apart in his genre, in the same way Springsteen did with singer/songwriter fueled rock long ago.

Lilium was new to me and they hold down a spot where hippie demands overlap with post-rock. For Lilium, this means an unholy alliance of country, and, say the demonic spawn of Lou Reed and King Crimson. I know…doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is a fine, if-you-will, slab of “post-alt-country. Sungrazer‘s on the cusp. In my scheme of working this all out I could have plugged something else in. Still, I like this record of heavy guitar psych and hard rock. Unlike the several other alternatives, it preserves its crunch from beginning to the end. Steinar Gregertsen is a Swedish lap steel virtuoso, and he slides all over the Hendrix canon with felicitous zap and zing.

Old timer Brian Wilson‘s Gershwin project proved a winner. If you have any kind of taste for, or weakness to, fifties pop, Wilson has made a statement about timelessness and beauty on a record with only one rock song on it. Delaney and Bonnie‘s archival set from 1970 brings together 3 tour sets from the D&B & friends band that featured Eric Clapton. These have circulated in lesser fidelity in the underground, but Rhino Handmade has given them the mastering and packaging treatment these sets deserve. Prime white gospel soul and rock and roll is the agenda. Last and hardly least is The Doors‘s instantly essential Vancouver performance. Nuff said.

As for Neil Young, the bar is set high because he’s long been in my pantheon and has etched a handful of absolutely essential discs. I was set up for Le Noise by the concert recordings that popped up last spring. Young toured without a band and playing electric, acoustic, piano, and pump organ. A movie of Le Noise is available in a high quality stream. Check it out. This great gust of folk noise music is self-explanatory.

Ariel Pink & Haunted Graffiti finally go into a regular studio after leader Ariel Marcus Rosenberg’s many years working his lo-fi power pop magic from the bedroom or the equivalent. Ironically, I was never a huge fan of the FM radio hitmeisters Mr. Pink brilliantly refers to here. So, I was never much into The Sweet or David Bowie or T-Rex, and, on-and-on, because this record is littered with references and “simulacratic” artifacts from roughly 1965-1980. On the other hand, this was the most refreshing burst of pure psychedelic pop in 2010.

Jazz picks are up next. And then I’ll cover realms of experimental, electronic, and world music…some time soon.

(note–I made up this list year by assigning records released in these genres 3 points each, and then slowly upgraded them through re-listening and re-evaluating, adding points along the way. 2 points is a reject, and 1 point was a waste of my time. Whereas this list of twenty represents the 7,8,9 point evaluations. I’m picky when I do the sort, and I’m careful about where my investment goes, so 80% of the records I engaged with last year have value to me. 63 of 205 pop recordings gained 5 or more points, so there are many gems underneath this creamy top flight.)

The short list.

1. Ariel Pink & Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
2. Neil Young – Le Noise
3. Jackson Browne & Dave Lindley – Love Is Strange
4. Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
5. Brian Wilson – Reimagines Gershwin
6. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
7. Ralph McTell – Somewhere Down The Road
8. Dead String Brothers – Sao Paulo
9. Janiva Magness – The Devil Is An Angel Too
10. JJ Grey & Mofro – Georgia Warhorse
11. Elizabeth Cook – Welder
12. Ray Davies – See My Friends
13. Julie Neumark – Dimestore Halo
14. The Texas Sapphires – As He Wanders
15. The Nouveaux Honkies – Where Do I Go
16. Cassandra Wilson – Silver Pony
17. The New Pornographers – Together
18. Black Dub – Black Dub
19. Jackie Greene – Til the Light Comes
20. Steinar Gregertsen – Standing Next To a Mountain – A Tribute to the Music of Jimi Hendrix
21. Lilium – Felt
22. Sungrazer – Sungrazer


The Crash Years

Together, the sixth recording by The New Pornographers, provides a ton of delight on a bunch of levels. Although the 2010 competition all-of-a-sudden stiffened for pop pleasure listening time on my iPod, this winning record won out. I’ll sort it out at the end of the year. I’m sure Together will still be there.

AC, Neko and gang have put their fans on a bit of a roller coaster. Twin Cinemas, one of the decade’s great bursts of pop power was followed by Challengers, in which singer Neko Case and a lot of focus was, as it were, lost in the mix.

Yet it would be unfair to view the new record as a return to form. It is, yet it’s also the band’s most expansive and confident and playful outing so far. The np’s are, without any doubt, current pop’s best musical anthropologists. Their area of expertise is seventies/eighties radio pop, and, their updated sonic recombinations of Crowded House, Roxy Music, XTC, Squeeze, Bowie, Yes, Bangles, and much more, earns highest honors on this zero-dull moments record. (Tune-in-point: Move, the opener is about as close a cop of Todd Rundgren as one could imagine.) The band’s nostalgia trip here is squared with enough originality and distinction to set their sound apart from much of the backward-looking competition.

I think it’s their best so far.

New Pornographers | np on myspace

Neil Young Orchestra

Who else but Neil Young could pull off a solo tour where he both recasts his chestnuts and debuts brand new songs without a band, while mixing in arrangements on solo acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, piano and pump organ.

What it sounds like is a guy who can make the weather change between songs.

[audio:|titles=Neil Young 3 tracks from Twisted Road]

After the Gold Rush-You Never Call-Cinnamon Girl (recorded late May 2010)

Moby Grape and the Greatest Generation

Let’s see? What can I remember of my friends back in the late sixties and early seventies, and their parents trying to go all Hait and Ashbury on us? No, I can’t think of being offered anything other than a martini. More often were instances where long hair and parental types peered at each other from opposite sides of the doors of perception. Those moments made for some funny encounters.

Yet, back then the counter culture was in fact right in the greatest generation’s face. This clip shows Mike Douglas working too hard–ha, ha!

And here The Byrds visiting Hugh Hefner on Playboy After Dark.