Bob Seger: Face the Promise (Capitol)
Some cling to Springsteen, others to Dylan. But my favorite geezer rocker is Bob Seger. It’s been eleven years since Seger released fresh material–Dylan and Springsteen have churned out a combined 20 cds in that time, most of them stuffed with filler, others almost unlistenable. Face the Promise is not a grandiose statement about “America” in the recent manner of Springsteen. It’s not coy, partially plagiarized (from the confederate poet Henry Timrod, no less!) nostalgia in the manner of Dylan. Seger’s music remains what it has always been: pop music rooted in place, working class rock and roll, songs charged by sharp lyrical imagery and power chords. Face the Promise is also enhanced by a lucious duet with Patty Loveless. I guess you could ask for more, but I wouldn’t know why.
The Ponys: Celebration Castle (In the Red Records)
The Ponys are a hyper-literate Chicago post-punk band whose music stampedes with a feverish and urgent sound. At one moment they might remind you of Television, the next the MC5. The highlight here is “Get Black”–a furious and fun rocker.
Katy Moffatt: Up Close and Personal (Fuel)
The red-haired country singer and songwriter from Fort Worth went on the road for the first time in 1976 as the opening act for Muddy Waters–proof that Katy Moffatt knows the country blues as well as the nuances of Patsy Cline. Her voice is one of the most alluring you’ll ever hear–full, supple and heart-wrenching. The big record companies admonished her for, as she put it, “having too many styles.” In other words, the country A&R execs didn’t like the influence of black music on her voice, didn’t believe they could sell such a confluence to their crackers audience. To her credit, Moffatt told them to shove it. “You know,” she said, “I never felt that criticism from audiences on the road.” If you listen to this recent live recording from an evening in Albuquerque, you’ll know why.
Marta Gomez: Entre Cada Palabra (Chesky)
The Colombian folk singer Marta Gomez has a voice that is as liquid as the best jazz singer and as crisp as Ms. Baez at her best. These are luminescent folk songs from Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Cuba, beautifully recorded in the nave of St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan.
Otis Rush: Right Place, Wrong Time (Hightone Records)
Otis Rush recorded this album in 1971 for Capitol Records, but for some reason it was left buried in the vault until 1976 when it was finally released by the small Bullfrog label. Even then, the record sounded ahead of its time. Chicago blues has never been this hard-charging, as Rush’s scorching guitar work is backed by powerful horns. Rush is one of my favorite artists and Right Place, Wrong Time is one of his most astounding achievements.