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What We’re Listening to This Week

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR And DAVID VEST

Scott Miller and the Commonwealth: Citation
(Sugar Hill)

Scott Miller has been called
the Springsteen of Tennessee, which sounds like an oxymoron to
me. But this record by the former leader of the V-Roys is fueled
by brutal rocking and smart and gritty lyrics from the edgier
precincts of Appalachia.

Bruce Robison: Eleven
Stories
(Sustain Records)

I got started listening to
Bruce Robison, the gangly singer-songwriter from Austin, the
back way: through his wife, the sunny alt country singer Kelly
Willis. Robison, whose sister-in-law is the quite Dixie Chick,
Emily Robison, writes as deftly as that sad icon of the Austin
sound, Townes Van Zandt but, unlike Van Zandt, Robison’s voice
does justice to the emotional complexities his music. Every one
of these songs is a gem, but the duet with Willis on “More
and More” is a true thing of beauty.

Daddy: At
the Women’s Club
(Cedar Creek Music)

Okay, I know rock music is
long dead, having ex-sanguinated the moment Grand Funk Railroad
mis-struck their first powerchord. So I don’t know what you’d
call the music that Daddy plays: electrified Americana, perhaps.
Daddy doesn’t rock, per se; they just kick ass. Imagine the Sex
Pistols by way of Waylon Jennings. That’s as close as I can come
to putting a label on songs such as “I Miss Ronald Reagan,”
recorded live before a raucus crowd in Frankfort. That’s Frankfort,
Kentucky, dude.

Ralph Stanley: Clinch
Mountain Gospel
(Rebel Records)

If the voice of God ever calls
my name, I expect it to sound like Ralph Stanley’s on “I
Am Weary.” Bluegrass gospel at its most thanatic.

 

Anita O’Day: Sings
the Most
(Polygram)

I remember her from the wonderful
film, “Jazz on a Summer Day”, her voice airy, luscious,
swinging. O’Day may be the great white jazz singer. You got the
sense that she truly was an improviser, who took as much from
Charlie Parker or Monk as from Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.
Diana Krall seems rigid and canned in comparison with O’Day–but
what do you expect from someone who married Elvis Costello? Anita
O’Day died this week and perhaps an era of American music died
with her. There are lots of O’Day recordings to choose from,
but she never sounded sharper than on this brisk set from the
1950s with the Oscar Peterson Trio.

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.

David Vest …


Julie London, About
the Blues
(Blue Note)

I looked for this album after
flipping channels and catching London opposite Robert Mitchum
in “The Wonderful Country,” which also featured Satchel
Paige in the cast. Why do I keep forgetting what a fine singer
she was? The intelligence and presence of her phrasing are legendary,
and “Meaning of the Blues” and “Dark” say
that needs to said about her voice, not to mention her soul.

Mary Black, Full
Tide
(Curb)

Amazon is still listing this
CD as an import, but it’s available for $9.99 on iTunes. Black
is a singer’s singer, not given to belting, with phenomenal breath
control. She never oversings a song, but she’s got plenty of
power when it’s called for. Her latest effort features two Dylan
covers, “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “To Make
You Feel My Love”. “Straight As A Die” is sensational.

Oscar Peterson, Solo
Oscar
(Live) (Pablo)

I have seen serious jazz critics
spin the fact that Peterson sprang onto the scene more or less
fully formed in his technique as a “failure to develop.”
What crap. If it leaves them speechless, there must be something
wrong with it, right?

David Vest’s latest CDs are: Serve
Me Right To Shuffle
and Way
Down Here (Live)
. He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

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