FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What I’m Listening to This Week

 
Homesick James: Blues on the Southside (OBC)

A neglected hero of the blues, Homesick James Williamson was born in Somersville, Tennessee in 1910 and his music reflects the country blues of the Smokies, not the Delta. A master of the bottleneck slide guitar, Homesick James taught his more famous cousin, Elmore James, some of the funkiest licks on record, licks that eventually became staples of Clapton, Page and other practioniers of blues-based rock. Homesick James played bass and slide guitar on many of Elmore James’ signature recordings, including “The Sky is Crying” and “Dust My Broom”. But this record, made in Memphis, is as innovative as anything Elmore recorded and two of the songs, “She May Be Your Woman” and “Homesick’s Blues,” stand as classics of the genre. Homesick’s spirited-haunted voice is eerie and wrenching, a kind of uptempo Skip James.

Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note)

The gifted altoist Jackie McLean grew up on the same Harlem block that gave us Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins and, the great jazz drummer, Art Taylor. If New York were Vienna, the street would be preserved as a national landmark. McLean got his start playing with Rollins and later Miles Davis. But it was his close friendship with Charlie Parker that proved the dominant influence on his music and his life. In the final months of Parker’s brief life, McLean and Bird shared a saxophone. Unfortunately, they also shared a needle. After Parker died, McLean fell into the grip of a serious heroin addiction, which eventually led him to lose his license to play in Manhattan clubs. McLean spent a few years freeing himself from the spike and emerged with a post-bop sound that he called, “the new thing.” Let Freedom Ring captures the birth of that new aesthetic of free jazz. Forty-five years later it still sounds new. Blow on, Jackie!

Bruce Langhorne: Hired Hand (Blast First)

You may never have heard of Bruce Langhorne, but you’ve heard his guitar on some of the best songs by Bob Dylan, as well as Richard and Mimi Farina. In a way, Langhorne is the sound of the New York folk scene of the early 1960s, which he helped to create. Here Langhorne lends his considerable artistry to the soundtrack of Peter Fonda’s neglected anti-western, Hired Hand. If William Carlos Williams played guitar, it might have sounded like this: spare, sharp, imagistic. Langhorne is now seriously ill and like most musicians he lacks health insurance. Please read this message from the film director Jonathan Demme and help Bruce if you are able.

Ahmad Jamal: At the Pershing (MCA)

In the 1960s, when jazz was bifurcating toward either fusion or the harmonic abstractions of free jazz, Ahmad Jamal was tagged as a player of lounge jazz. This was a slur. Jamal’s approach to the piano is as modern as Cecil Taylor’s and a lot more coherent. If Taylor and his devotees tended toward jamming as many notes into a song as possible, Jamal went the other direction. He is a minimalist, exploring the negative spaces of a song. Jamal elided notes from chords, inserted extended caesuras of silence into his songs–an innovation that was seized upon by Miles Davis to devastating effect. Jamal’s rendition of “Poinciana” may be as close as jazz ever came to being a soundtrack of Zen.

Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison: Happy Holidays (Rykodisc)

I don’t have any excuses to justify my long-running obsession with Kelly Willis, except to say that she has the sexiest voice in country music since Tanya Tucker came down out of the hills in the 1970s. If this rendition of “Santa Baby” doesn’t warm your holidays, then face the facts: your batteries are dead beyond recharging.

John Lennon: Live Peace in Toronto, 1969 (Toshiba EMI)

At the height of the war (in Vietnam, as well as inside The Beatles), John Lennon assembled a few of his pals, namely Eric Clapton, Alan White and Klaus Voorman (as well as Yoko, natch), to perform as his back-up band for a hastily arranged concert in Toronto. The band plugged in without rehearsing and scorched their way through Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins songs before erupting into a fiery version of “Cold Turkey” that might well qualify as the birth-pangs of punk rock. The playing is ragged, electrifying and as urgent as any music ever recorded. Unfortunately, it’s hard as hell to find. Good luck tracking it down.

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.

 

 

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail