What We’re Listening to This Week

Rudy Ray Moore: The Best of Rudy Ray Moore and Friends (RNB Entertainment)

Before Richard Pryor, before Snoop Dogg, there was Rudy Ray Moore, the raunchy black comedian who set the stage for Pryor’s cleaned up routines and the raw rhythmic story-chanting of hip hop. This is black comedy from an after hours blues club, a juke joint, a speakeasy, by a comedian who never had to worry about censorship because his raps were never going to get airplay to begin with. Moore, born in Ft. Smith, Arkansas in the 1930s, has been called the Godfather of Rap. I’ll buy that. But he’s also Redd Foxx with rhythm. Moore doesn’t waste time with social commentary, except in trying to demolish nearly every taboo erected by white suburban America. Did anyone ever employ the word “cocksucker”on a record as many times as Moore or to greater effect? Moore, who landed in LA in the late 1960s, was in big demand as an emcee for blues acts, such Etta James and Bobby Blue Bland. He and Ike Turner were a perfect pair. Moore’s albums Eat Out More Often (featuring his character Dolemite) and This Pussy Belongs to Me were underground hits in the 1970s, and some of the best routines, including “Dolemite” and the unforgettable “Pete Wheatstraw”, are preserved on this hilarious collection. Rudy Ray was also a pioneer in Hollywood, as one of the few blacks to produce his own films, such as Dolemite. Rudy Ray Moore is an American original. Filth was never this much fun.

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Hardin (Columbia)

Dave Marsh writes to say that I should listen to the new Dylan album, Modern Times. Marsh claims it’s Dylan’s first Willie Nelson record. By which, I take it, he means the music is Williesque, played by a fine group of musicians schooled in the Austin sound. But Willie can still sing and Dylan can’t. So the comparison scuttles fatally there. And the lyrics to Modern Times read like yet another descent into inscrutable Kabbalistic hokum. Has Bob been sitting in on kabbala classes with Madonna? Has anyone spotted him wearing a red string on his withered wrist? Who knows. Who cares. Dylan’s always wanted a number one album and now he has one–thanks to the saturation bombing of those ads for iPods made in Chinese sweatshops. I’d much rather listen to Dylan when his voice and songwriting were at their peak, before mysticism and misanthropy took their grim toll. John Wesley Hardin may not be Dylan’s best record, but it will do for a scorching Labor Day Weekend here in the crispy Northwest.

Willie Nelson: Milk Cow Blues (Island)

You say you want a Willie Nelson album? Here’s Willie playing the blues with BB King, Johnny Lang, and Dr. John. All fine stuff. But the best songs are the two duets with Francine Reed.

Gretchen Wilson: All Jacked Up (Sony)

Gretchen Wilson plays right on the edge. Her voice flirts with disaster on nearly every song, teeters on the brink and then pulls back to relative safety, before plunging headlong into the maelstrom again. This is hard-driving roots music, a new generation of outlaw country that leaves the bland productions of Nashville behind like week-old roadkill. Wilson’s duet with Merle Haggard, “Politically Uncorrect”, alone is worth the price of the cd. But every other song is almost as good. If this is the future of country music, play on. And jack it up–the volume, that is.

Various Artists: The Pilgrim: a Celebration of Kris Kristofferson (Emergent)

Kristofferson is a great songwriter, who can’t sing. He’s never come close to doing justice to his own songs. But that’s okay, because a lot of other artists, from Emmylou Harris and Janis Joplin to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, have made the most of his work. This cd, featuring some of neo-country’s best performers, shows that Kristofferson’s songs still have life in them. Pass over Russell Crowe’s ragged reading of “Darby’s Castle” and the oddly sequenced (not bad, just peculiar) Brian McKnight cover of “Me and Bobby McGee,” for the real meat of this CD: Gretchen Wilson’s charged version of “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis’s beautful duet on “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” and Patti Griffin’s eccentric cover of “Sandinista.” Don’t stop writing now, Kris.

Roy Hargrove: Nothing Serious (Verve)

Forget Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove is the best living jazz trumpet player. And he ups the ante on almost every record he releases.

Jumpin’ Gene Simmons: Haunted House (Hi Records)

The real Gene Simmons died this week. I’m talking about the rockabilly stalwart, not the tongue-flashing apologist for Israel from Kiss. I saw Simmons in Franklin, Indiana with Roy Orbison back in the mid-1970s and it remains one of the best rock shows I’ve ever witnessed, topped only by James Brown one outrageous night in Chicago. But Simmons was already passé by then, a rollicking relic. Jumpin’ Gene died almost anonymously, his enormous contribution to American roots music nearly forgotten. But once he was a strange titan of the art.

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 Murray and the Gwo-Ka Masters: Gwotet

A fabulously freaky European-African-Caribbean intersection, including still more inspiring guest work from Pharaoh Sanders. Sort of like Fela Kuti and Sam Kinnison Go To Carnival.

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen: Untitled

A unique mix of greasy and clean, fat and trim. What kind of arrogant moron claims to have the funkiest band in New Orleans? Listen; its hard to argue. Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander is the latest chapter in the book of New Orleans’s gifts to the drumming world.

Trouble Funk: Live/Early Singles

Not many bands embody their own genre. TroubleFunk = Go Go, an early 80s funk thingamabob. Basically indescribable. Out of print forever, now made available on Henry Rollins’s 21361.com website.

Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin’: Best Kept Secret

Soulful zydeco from an 18-year old kid who sings like twice-divorced 50.

Comet on Fire: Avatar

Undeniably 2006 but with a huge helping of 1971. Rocks heavy but not ponderous. Feels like plate tectonics; massive, relentless, violence around the edges, makes you feel tiny, beautifully tiny.

Paul Bossert can be reached at: sommatomophobics@hotmail.com



Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3