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CounterPunch Playlist

What I’m Listening to This Week

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Some of you relics are waiting for the new Dylan cd, but here’s what I’m listening to while awaiting shipment of Face the Promise, the first Bob Seger record in more than a decade.


Freddie King: Hide Away (Rhino)

Eric Clapton stole nearly all of his best licks from the great Texas guitar slinger, Freddie King, who, if he hadn’t died so prematurely, might well have emerged as the King of the Kings.

Magic Sam: West Side Soul (Delmark)

Scarcely a week goes by without this venerable CD being forced into extended play on my Mac. Inexplicably neglected now, Magic Sam Maghett was the best blues guitarist of the 1960s. Indeed, he has few peers across the history of recorded music. Like Freddie King, Sam died young, leaving behind a tragically thin body of work. Rarely has the electric guitar been played with such tenderness.

Drive By Truckers: A Blessing and a Curse (New West)

Lynyrd Skynyrd pioneered the three guitar attack. The Truckers vaulted a step further with a three guitar, three voice assault. Inventors of the southern rock soap opera, DBT are Skynyrd with a social conscience and a darkly ribald sense of humor. "Aftermath USA," indeed.

Patty Loveless: Mountain Soul (Sony)

The most versatile singer in country music. Loveless bucked Nashville by recording this suite of neo-bluegrass songs in one take without over-dubs. The result a record exuding a freshness and an immediacy that hasn’t been heard in country music in decades. Loveless comes from coal mining country in the mountains of Kentucky. Her father died of black lung disease. But you don’t need to know any of that background to well up with tears when she sings Darrell Scott’s song, "You’ll Never Leave Harlan County Again":

"Where the sun comes up about 10 in the morning
And the sun goes down about 3 in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinking
And you spend your life digging coal from the bottom of your grave."

Bob Seger: Beautiful Loser (EMI)

Seger was the first rock musician I interviewed. Back in 1975, I was 16 and he was on the cusp of becoming a huge arena rock star on the merits of Night Moves and Live Bullet, one of the best live rock albums. Seger was no newby, though. By 1975 he’d been touring the Midwest hard for nearly a decade, popular enough in the heartland, but relatively unknown in New York and LA. In the story I wrote on Seger for a local music rag, I called his music "Dirt Rock," meaning it was gritty, true, rooted in place. Seger remains one of my favorite artists and Beautiful Loser one of my favorite albums.

JEFFREY ST. CLAIR’s music writings (as well as CPers Ron Jacobs, David Vest and Daniel Wolff) can be found in Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.