by: Hobert Taylor
David Basse - The Hero and the Lover - (Cafe Pacific Records)
Drummer and vocalist Basse has a long pedigree of associations with greats, most notably collaborations with pianist Mike Melvoin, (Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra). As a staple on the Kansas City scene he brings a raspy baritone and a drummers precision to a mix of new songs by contemporary composers. I like "Sins of the Father" (drums and vocals only),the bluesy "Gravy Waltz", a new and jazzy take on "Sixteen Tons", and his own tune about New Orleans, "Katrina".
Mike Longo Trio - MLT Celebrate Oscar Peterson @ the Baha'i Center - (Consolidated Artists)
Classy and classic, pianist Longo, bassist Paul West, and drummer Ray Mosca pay homage to Peterson without mimicking him. All the music is familiar to jazzheads... many pre-bop jazzifications of 30's pop tunes as interpreted not only by Peterson, but also by God himself, Art Tatum, i.e. "Honeysuckle Rose", "Tenderly" etc. There's Ellington, and even a Clifford Brown-Max Roach tune, "Daahoud". This is not to say that this is a dinosaur... the playing is so smart, fresh, vibrant, and personal, that the old is made new again.
God Help The Girl (Stuart Murdoch) - God Help The Girl (Soundtrack) - (Milan Records)
Belle and Sebastian's Murdoch wrote and directed a film about the formation of a pop girl group. There are spoken word interstices so that you get to listen to the movie and it's narrative development. A bit of a vanity project, much of it is as vapid as the form it lovingly mocks. Having said this, some pretty stuff emerges,; "Pretty When The Wind Blows", "The Catwalk of the Dukes", the non-OPI instrumental (despite the title), "Fuck This Shit", "Pretty Eve in the Tub", and especially "Come Monday Night", and the sweet and driving 60's Nancy Sinatra like "Musicians Please Take Heed". The last few songs sound the most like Belle and Sebastian.
J.E. Sunde - Shapes That Kiss the Lips Of God - (Cartouche Records)
So, can a college radio station full of young, questioning , and rebellious souls accept earnest and thoughtful Christian music without assuming that the songwriter is a mindless bigot? I think so. Because J.E. Sunde is a Tolstoy Christian, not a Falwell Christian. From somewhere in Iowa comes this transparent soul who 'fesses up as easily as some rappers boast. Imperfect and yearning, his best songs "I'm Gonna Disappoint You", "Rabbit Trail", and "You Can't Unring A Bell" sound intimate and revealing. He is not proselytizing, he's just describing his own religious experiences, sometimes quite thoughtfully. A very interesting record.
Carolyn Currie - Echolocation - (North C Records)
From Maine comes this skillful songwriter with who delivers her songs with precision. The ballads, "Safe In The Eyes Of The Moon" and "Heart Like a Rose" are stand-outs, but really remarkable is her real life documentary of the soul of a grown woman who has it all and sees that it doesn't even come close enough to satisfying her, "February Morning".
Jim Mize - Jim Mize - (Big Legal Mess)
Zen like profundity emerges from Conway, Arkansas' Jim Mize. The every day seems refracted through a kaleidocscope of awareness and satori in these songs, particularly in the quiet majesty of songs like "Empty Rooms" and "Drunk Moon Falling". Accompanied by some of the staples of the Big Legal Mess recording artists (Jimbo Mathis and John Paul Keith play guitar) Mize also fills up this effort with eccentric (and that's a good thing) rock and roll i.e."Rabbit Hole".
Jimbo Mathus - Jimmy The Kid - (Big Legal Mess)
Good and country, rock, and idiosyncratic songwriter Mathus, (formerly of The Squirrel Nut Zippers), has been churning out rootsy portraits of an alternative southern reality with the same down home skew sensibilities of say a Patterson Hood or a Cowboy Jack Clement. "Good Old Time" and "Fallen Angel" are honky tonk, then the CD takes a left turn into Hank Jr. country before settling into the real pretty heart of the record, "Tenn. Walker Mare", and the really personal and profound like "Check Out Time". Subtle humor lives in "Whispering In the Wings", "Little Hand, Big Gun" and "Tell It To The Judge". I'm placing it in country even though it came to me in a pack of Folk/Americana sent to me by Big Legal Mess.
Kenny Brown - Going back To Mississippi - (Big Legal Mess)
This is one of those hidden treasures. Produced by the legendary Dale Hawkins ( author of "Susie Q") and recorded mainly in 1996 but recently released, this is deep country blues. R.L. Burnside has called Brown who played slide guitar for him, "my white son", and unlike some other southern white blues guitarists he doesn't try to create a rock star persona or rock and roll edge to his playing, but like Dickie Betts he stays true to the tradition. It's all good, but I really like "Goin' Back To Mississippi", "Wretched Mind", "Hold Me Baby", and especially "Jumper On The Line".
Dead Fingers - Dead Fingers - (Big Legal Mess)
I reviewed Dead Fingers' (Birmingham, Alabama's Taylor and Kate Hollingsworth) latest release recently, "Big Black Dog". The label sent me the couple's earlier release, Dead fingers,(2012). While "Big Black Dog" is sort of atmospheric, this is a straight ahead lo-fi earnest effort that could have been included in the "Juno" soundtrack. These are good songs sung with heart. My picks, "Closet Full of Bones", "Four Stone Coaches", "Against The River"( low key Southern rock with a tinge of Bowie), the slide guitar blues tunes "Lost in Mississippi" which is fun fun fun and "Never Be My Man", and best of all "Please Don't Let Me Go". You may recognize Taylor's picking on the releases from Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band.