Can't Kill Nothin'
By Bob Weinberg
"I got a new way of wearin' my hair/I got a smile on my face and you didn't put it there." When you hear those words from your lover, you pretty much got the blues. Not just the tears-in-your-beer blues, mind you, but the appetite-stealin', sleep-snatchin', I'll-try-anything-even-voodoo-to-win-her-back blues. And that's what Joey Gilmore serves up with exquisite pain and a lifetime full of hardluck tales on Can't Kill Nothin', his latest album and first release for the independent blues label Ichiban.
From the menacing slowburn of the title track to the hilarious "I Don't Have to See Blood" to the mandatory sing-along with the chorus of "Someone Else Is Steppin' In," Joey can't seem to catch a break. He does, however, seem to give grief at least as well as he takes it, as displayed on the blues standard "Breaking Up Somebody's Home." A tough cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "A Real Mother For Ya" broadens the scope from the personally devastating to the socially reprehensible, including a line about mothers not being able to afford milk for their babies, set to a hard-groovin' urban vamp that sounds like the chaos of rush-hour traffic.
But Joey parties down, too, explaining his blues credo on "Still Called the Blues": "Party on Saturday/Go to church on Sunday/Fall down on my knees 'cause I got to go back to work on Monday." And "Blues House Party," with its goodtimes background chatter ("Let's go see what the band's doin'"), ends Can't Kill on a celebratory note.
Gilmore's singing is stronger than ever, inhabiting a neighborhood with an address close by shouters such as B.B. King and Little Milton Campbell, but certainly not imitative of either; in fact, this album refutes anyone who would dismiss Joey as B.B. Klone. The bluesman's guitarwork is tasty if unflashy, emotive without going over the top A you won't confuse him with Buddy Guy or Albert Collins. Backup vocals, too, are subtle and unobtrusive, lending a smooth, cool counterpoint to Joey's heated lead. Underlining organ riffs supplied by Reginald "Wizard" Jones, and punctuating horns A trumpet, tenor and baritone sax -- also lend their voices to the mix.
Recorded at KALA Studios in Atlanta and produced by veteran Stax soulman William Bell (in fact, the album was released by Wilbe Recording Corporation, Bell's own concern and a subsidiary of Ichiban), Can't Kill may not be the breakthrough to stardom for longtime SoFla bluesman Gilmore, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. Bell's influence is deeply felt, from adding the trademark Memphis horn sound to scribing three of the album's cuts, including "I Don't Have to See Blood" and the title track.
Despite the subject matter, this album will do more to chase away your blues than bring you down to curb level. And after all, that's the point to singin' (and listening to) the blues.
(Left Past Mercy Street Productions)
By Todd Anthony
While sauntering past Stephen Talkhouse one night, a drunk and disorderly scribe from a local weekly publication thought he overheard a particularly tasty folk-rock-blues pastiche emanating from within. He paused by the door to listen, amazed that anything could penetrate the haze filling his skull, let alone a blues band fronted by a pair of distaff singers with voices big enough to shout down the Norway as it sliced through nearby Government Cut.
"Must be from Chicago, or Memphis, or N'awlins," thought the besotted music writer aloud.
"Orlando," corrected the Talkhouse doorperson.
Yup. The Implications, blues-beltin', string-poppin', harp-blowin' R&B warriors from Mouse country.
Turns out they've got a CD that does a pretty fair job of re-creating that powerful live show at the Talkhouse. While acoustic rhythm guitar plays a more significant role in the mix on the disc than it did live, the basic infectious spirit, propulsive percussion, and twin siren attack sound every bit as fresh as the wobbly wordsmith remembered them. But what he didn't remember, because he was too far gone to make 'em out, was the lyrics -- sassy, sardonic, and original. No twelve-bar, my-woman-done-left-me exercises.
"Once I drove to San Antonio just to get a fresh beer/But I didn't drive to my granddaddy's funeral 'cause I wanted to remember him here/Don't like flying, need more under my feet than air/But if I could fly to you I'd sprout wings on a dare," goes a representative refrain from "Beholding You."
No need to drive to San Antonio next time, gang. Plenty of beer right here. Not to mention a writer or two who'd gladly help you find it.
With more shuffles than a three-card monte hustler, the Jeff Prine Group tricks the face card through eleven hard-boogyin' tracks on this live recording. Prine's pristine guitar leads, Bobby Freeman's charging Hammond B-3, and John Russ's way-after-midnight piano noodlings make for a romping road trip through Kansas City swing, back-alley Chicago blues, and deep South dirt-path rambles.
The axman's originals show a great command of form, from the hooky chorus shout-alongs of "Who Died and Left You Boss" and "Don't Change Me, Enjoy Me," to the laid-back, crescendo-building instrumental, "Currents" (long a favorite of local audiences). Although this last kicks the same pebbles down the same backroads Dickey Betts and Duane Allman traveled, Prine and the band's playing is so fine, the composition so irresistible, you won't mind taking this trip one more time.
Perhaps the strongest original here is pianist Russ's "Keep Your Love Alive," a plaintive, midtempo shuffle, with heartfelt vocals by Prine. Prine's chops are equally effective on the Bobby Blue Bland standard "24 Hours," a phenomenally catchy tune A you'll be singing it long after the tape stops (Everybody now: "Five o'clock, in the early mornin'/Six o'clock in the early evenin'..."). Freeman displays mediocre vocals, but outstanding B-3 wizardry, on his self-penned swing "I'm on the Road Again" (not even a distant relative of Willie Nelson's theme song or the Canned Heat classic) and Bobby Troupe's "Route 66." Yeah, Troupe's signature song was on-the-way-to-tired when the Stones did it twenty-some years ago, but Freeman's keys spark that corpse for one more joyous jig.
The electricity of the live set comes through loud and clear as the band enjoys lengthy jams and the opportunity to stretch. Blues and blues-rock lovers will find plenty to keep their ears happy here, although those less-than-enamored with the boogie-bounce may become bored after a few tunes (Translation: Don't play this for your lady, fellas, unless you're prepared to ignore the "they-all-sound-alike" mantra until you break down and put on some Robert Cray). We hope that at least some of those ears belong to promoters looking to book a hot blues combo.
The Red Shoes
By J. C. Herz
After fifteen years of making beautiful records for art school students, Kate Bush has produced something that her record company calls "the most accessible Kate Bush album yet." This made me immediately suspicious. But not to worry A although her falsetto is a little less nervous, Kate Bush's sharp enunciation and crystalline delivery are intact. Her lyrics are studded with religious imagery and sexual metaphor in equal measure, and she still seems to hail from a lovely planet other than our own. In short, she's not taking back a thing, artistically. This time, though, Prince and Eric Clapton sit in.
Stylistically, The Red Shoes is a variety twelve-pack, from the springy funk of "Rubberband Girl" to the Caribbean rhythms of "Eat the Music," as well as intensely personal reflections that let Kate Bush's voice ring like a glass bell. Her poetic scrapbook, "Moments of Pleasure," and wistful "You're the One" are, frankly, spine-tingling. "I just have one problem," she sings to a recent ex, "We're best friends/We've tied ourselves in knots, done cartwheels across the floor/Just forget it, all right?" It's a bittersweet musical memo: all beautiful things must end, so no matter how happy and in love you are, for God's sake make sure you put your name on this album.
By Steve Almond
There's not much room for woman storytellers in rock. Mannish bards aplenty. Oodles of 'em. But the standard fare for chickees is sex and attitude, both in liberal supply, along with more than a pinch of tittie. Been a good long wallop of a time, come to thunk of it, since a female artist of the non-emoto/eroto stripe has cashed in big.
Let's hope blond and beguiling Kirsty MacColl doesn't charter the club. Be a pity to have her sly Brit rock made the servant of wankers like Jann Wenner and Shadoe Stevens. That's the risk, though, heading into Titanic Days.
What has the faithful especially edgy is the sure-to-be single, "Can't Stop Killing You," which has the same kind of hypnotic refrain that threw the klieg lights all over squinty little Warren Zevon when he released "Werewolves of London." In keeping with the recent pop-culture trend A i.e., KILL, THEN MARKET A the tune tells the tale of a moll's fantasies of violent retribution against a lover. Like "Walking Down Madison," MacColl's last brush with celebrity, she backs the jammy with a danceable, Celtic thump. (Likewise, she has the sense to collaborate again with riff-prodigy Johnny Marr.)
Lot of women plotting on this platter, most of them, like MacColl, smart enough to expend their anger exacting revenge rather than boo-hooing their own oppression. None of them, thank the Queen, drowning in that confessional goop that leaves sticky stains on even the most inventive melody.
MacColl's voice, coy as ever, purrs to suit the mood, from the soft, broguey styling of "Angel" to the traditional pop of "Soho Days." A less adventuresome offering than 1991's Electric Landlady, Titanic is still prickly enough to confuse the slackers, most of whom are going to listen to the catchy title track devolve, never quite catching the allusion to the Beatles's "Day in the Life."
What the hell.
Paul is dead. Long live the blondie.
Jean Paul Sartre Experience
By Rat Bastard Falestra
The Experience began in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1984, with members James Laing, David Yetton, David Mulcahy, and Gary Sullivan deciding to share songwriting duties equally. The blend has proved worthy of worldwide consumption many times since.
Bleeding Star does not change that. "Into You" kicks in with the powerful, hypnotic, ambient guitar sounds the band's known for, with great pop melodies skipping across the top. "Ray of Sunshine" glides through a kaleidoscopic journey into the realm of bop and vibrato blues.
Their brand of guitars/melodies moves the Earth again in "I Believe In You" A big waves with Day-Glo tubes, easily surfed by these old pros. They shift to a meteor shower of crashing guitars in "Spaceman," soaring off until they wind out of sight. Proving they can strip the production down, JPSE goes acoustic in "Still Can't Be Seen." And the title track proves these guys can stand with the heavies of the rock world -- a monster tune.
Look to the blue, blue sky. Look toward New Zealand. Or just go to your local mom-and-pop and demand they order you this CD.
By J.C. Herz
Sick of waiting for the next Hothouse Flowers album? It's here. Except it's by a Manchester band called James, which couldn't sound less like a band from Manchester. James exudes an honest, acoustic, dirt-under-me-fingernails-and-love-in-the-heart vibe more appropriate to Ireland or Australia or some Arcadian sheep ranch in New Zealand, not the smoggy industrial dinge-pits of northern England. Tim Booth's lead vocals are poised between Liam O Maonlai's resonance and Morrissey's plaintiveness, and Brian Eno's production is, for the most part, spare and tasteful.
Occasionally, the album does veer into anthemic bombast A the feverish guitar strumming, the wash of backup vocals, the bare bulb of naked emotion, etc. But that's excusable, considering the album's Great Themes quotient. It's liltingly thick with true love, death, and redemption A songs like "One of the Three," a new wave hymn, and "Five-O," which asks the big scary questions about lifelong commitment. Altogether, Laid is a rather sober and poetic album whose spiritual depth belies its title. It'll sooner have you walking in the rain than dancing in your underwear.
Whichever Train Comes
By J. C. Herz
Attention, fans of the Three-Minute Pop Song. There are no, repeat, no extended remixes or maxi-jams on the Spelvins Whichever Train Comes. There are, however, ten tracks of trains and rains and don't-you-love-me-any-more songs that ooze black-clad, cigarette-smoking cool. Composed of songwriter/guitarist John Keaney, bassist/keyboardist Dave Bondy, drummer Drew Vogelman, and a vocalist called Bird, the Spelvins's tragi-catchy new wave sound suggests they were pitched into 1993 by an Eighties high school science experiment gone haywire. After listening to pasty-faced blues like "Looking for a Cab in the Rain," you can't believe these boys didn't crawl out from under some northern English rock. And "Love Letter" would've dovetailed smoothly into any early Smiths album ("I put pen to paper last night/Then put a match to the written word/Clever allusions didn't come out right/I read it back and now it sounds absurd").
Fortunately, an exuberant rave-up of Arthur Alexander's obscure R&B gem "The Girl that Radiates that Charm" and shamelessly melodic tunes like "Ride" keep the Spelvins from miring themselves in melancholy. Chalk it up to Bondy's thick bass line, or the fact that Bird occasionally breaks from Morrissey into Pee-wee Herman. In any case, break out your old pointy shoes. The Spelvins will get them tapping.
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Go Slow Down
By J. C. Herz
What's amazing about the latest Bodeans album is not that the Lynyrd-Feat- Allman-Mac school of roots rock is alive in 1993, or even that it's done well. It's that the Bodeans, a supposedly alternative band, perform this Cougar/Springsteen-type material apparently with a total lack of irony. It's like, "Go directly to Classic Rock. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just sing that flat-out earnest, pedal down, bridge-right-where-you-expect-it rock and roll and forget that punk, new wave, or rap ever happened."
Produced by T-Bone Burnett, Go Slow Down is a well-executed Seventies simulacrum, but campy nevertheless. The Bodeans hammer home fist-in-the-air Boss anthems like "Feed the Fire" ("Lay down, lay down, lay down, and feed the fi-hire!"), cigarette-lighter ballads like "Cold Winter's Day," and lots of hooky choruses. "She's so fine, yeah," (up to the predictable three chord), "She's so fine. She's so fi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yine." Deadpan. If you've been anywhere near techno, goth, or grunge lately, this track will have you in stitches, before it makes you want to dig out the (old) bell-bottoms, put on the tunes, and pour a little Riunite on ice.