Recently heard this great African jazz album by Senegalese drummer Mor Thiam. I'm hesitant to even call it jazz, as it doesn't have a lot to do with most of the genre conventions, or African, for that matter, as it was recorded in St. Louis with mostly American musicians. Anyway, just really beautiful music.

Mor Thiam - Ayo Ayo Ne Ne

In 1968 Thiam came to the States at the invitation of choreographer Katherine Dunham. Here he is with Dunham (center) and wife Kine. He and Kine had a child, Aliaune Thiam, who would go on to tell you he wants to fuck you, but that you already know.

The album was recorded in '73 by producer Oliver Sain. Here's a list of the personnel via That's All Rite Mama:

Bass - Rayman Eldridge
Congas - Billy Ingram
Drums - Charles 'Bobo' Wesley Shaw Jr.
Drums [Bass] - Zak Diouf
Guitar - Philip Wesdmoread
Piano - James Mathis
Saxophone [Alto], Flute - Oliver Lake
Trombone - John Evens
Trumpet - Lester Bowie
Vocals - Abdoulaye N'Gom
Written - By, Leader, Djembe - Mor Thiam

You can download the full album over at secret dance moves.



Vintage Powell Peralta promo footage.

via Ready for the House




Another fine reissue from Mississippi Records. The Rats was Fred Cole's early 80's pre-Dead Moon outfit, and marked the first time Fred and his wife Toody played in a band together. This was their second record.


The Rats - Intermittent Signals



Legendary LA punks Fear on Saturday Night Live, Halloween 1981. Apparently this was John Belushi's idea; he thought it might boost the shows sinking ratings. In the audience that night: members of the Cro-Mags, Negative Approach, and Ian MacKaye (that's him yelling, "New York Sucks!" at the 4 minute mark). SNL's producer's cut to commercial during "Let's Have A War," fearing they had a riot on their hands. They were right.

The Cro-Mags' John Joseph describes what it was like behind the scenes:



Guardian UK photog Eamonn McCabe narrates his previously unseen footage from the Altamont Free Concert. Gritty and grainy, McCabe's film is interesting nonetheless, if only because it provides a record of what fans on the ground were seeing that fateful December evening.



I recently picked up the Wailers record Another Dance - Rarities From Studio One, one of the countless repackaged collections of early (Wailing) Wailers material. But the compilation has the distinction of including more Junior Braithwaite led songs. Braithwaite was the original lead singer, leaving the group in 1964 to pursue a medical career in the States. He can be heard on the classic (and amazing) "It Hurts to be Alone."

The Wailers - It Hurts to be Alone

also don't miss this beauty...

The Wailers - Don't Ever Leave Me

I always assumed "It Hurts to be Alone" featured a woman singing. Not so. Bob Marley later remarked, "Junior used to sing high. It's just nowadays that I'm beginning to realize that he sounded like one of the Jackson Five. When he left we had to look for a sound that Bunny, Peter and me could manage."

Coxsone Dodd remembered, "Junior Braithwaite definitely had the best voice. After he left for America I demand that Bob do the lead. They needed a lot of polishing but Bob had a gift, you know, he was willing just to get his steps together. He had the makings. When the Techniques came out with "Little Did You Know", man it was really, really a big struggle for them [The Wailers], because Slim Smith was really a better vocalist than Bob." - from Reggae Routes by Wayne Chen.

You be the judge...

The Techniques - Little Did You Know

The Wailers - Playboy



Millie Jackson performing "It Hurts So Good" on Soul Train in 1973.

Millie Jackson - It Hurts So Good

Susan Cadogan - Hurt So Good

Recorded by Lee Perry on his Perries label. The song didn't do much in Jamaica but became a #5 hit in the UK.

Susan Cadogan on Top of the Pops.

Elaine Monteque - Hurt So Good

I couldn't find any information about Elaine Monteque, but it's my favorite version of the bunch. I got it off a compilation of Studio One singles. All I know is that it was apparently released on the Sight N Sound imprint. Let me know if any of you have any information about it or Monteque.




Lately I've been listening to a lot of warm, unchallenging music. To this end, Jackson Browne’s For Everyman (1973) has been on regular rotation. My favorite song off the album is Ready or Not, about meeting (and knocking up) his eventual first wife Phyllis Major.

She looks like a Phyllis, doesn't she?

Jackson Browne - Ready or Not


I think Nashville should really revisit the song. It does all of the things country music supposedly continues to do so well-- nuanced storytelling, dramatizing the mundane, at once confirming and complicating normative gender roles. Or is that hip-hop? I can never remember.

To my surprise, the album features Sneaky Pete Kleinow playing pedal steel. Many of you may know Sneaky Pete as member of the Flying Burrito Brothers.


Sneaky Pete in his pajama-style Nudie suit with applique pterodactyl. There are two t-rexes on the back. Why? Sneaky Pete loves dinosaurs. Also dinosaurs are much better than pot leaves or roses.

Flying Burrito Bros. - Wheels

Flying Burrito Bros. - Hot Burrito #2

Around the time I first heard the Burrito Brothers, my parent’s friend Don lent me his Poco box set. These were in the formative years of my musical taste and, between the two bands, I found myself hooked on loping country rock. This was a little confusing, as I still really wanted to be punk, even while listening to (and enjoying!) a whole box set worth of a band that sounds an awful lot like the Eagles.


Poco - Just In Case It Happens, Yes, Indeed

Poco's first album was still very much in the Byrds mold, or however you describe that very particular countrified, harmony-laden rock that was ubiquitous in L.A. at the tail end of the sixties. Nowadays, I prefer some of their hokier songs from the 1973 album Crazy Eyes.


Poco - Let's Dance Tonight

Anyway, I probably have Don to thank for my eventual Jackson Browne affections.

Jackson Browne - These Days

In the tangled web of L.A. session players, For Everyman also features frequent Browne collaborator David Lindley who’s on another of my favorite corndog seventies albums, Graham Nash’s Songs for Beginners.


Graham Nash - Military Madness

Which brings us back to Poco.

In ’68, when Graham Nash was looking to leave the Hollies to start work with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, he was only released from his contract with Columbia through a trade with Atlantic for Richie Furay and Jim Messina (of later yacht rock fame with Kenny Loggins). Both were still under contract with Atlantic as members of Buffalo Springfield, while Columbia was interested in signing them as part of the newly formed Poco.

Atlantic really got the winning hand with that one.


And now...

Avuncular Flannel Showdown!


Furay with the easy win!


I saw the premiere of this great short last night at ATA in San Francisco. Written and directed by Jameson Swanagon, shot by Joe Golling and starring some friends of mine, "The Big Feet" manages to reconcile some of Swanagon's more adventurous minimal guitar/tape loop pieces with striking visuals and a morbid, horror-film sense of humor. The locus of the piece is at about the halfway point, as the camera pans across an empty California beach to the sound of warped bells. Swanagon himself struggles against the waves, his shirt inflated comically, his foot bound by a rope, and his deliberately convoluted guitars pointing in no particular tonal direction.

Also check out Grand Lake, an unconventional, literate pop group to which Swanagon lends his sensibilities.





Self Portrait

Born in Normal, Illinois, Ralph Eugene Meatyard eventually settled in Lexington, Kentucky, where he began photographing his new-born son at the age of 25. An optometrist by day, he joined the local camera club, where his talents were recognized and encouraged by Van Deren Coke. Taking pictures only on the weekends, Meatyard began to realize a wholly singular aesthetic, incorporating props (notably masks, detritus, and graffiti) into the photos he took of his wife and children. Influenced by eastern mysticism and Zen philosophy, he began to focus on what biographer James Rhem called "the beauty of ideas rather than ideas of the beautiful." This led Meatyard to his many formal experiments, including the so-called "Zen Twig," "No Focus" and "Sound Image" series.

Early examples of a developing aesthetic




His last effort, completed shortly before his death from cancer at age 47, was The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, a family photo album depicting the family and associates of the titular character. Named after the protagonist in a Flannery O'Conner story, "Lucybelle" features 64 images of Meatyard's wife Madelyn in a hag's mask, accompanied in each photo by a friend or relative in a translucent old man's mask. The first image shows Madelyn with Meatyard himself as the old man, standing in their back yard. The sun seems to be rising behind them, and Madelyn has her foot firmly planted on the neck of a very snake-like garden hose. The world seems newly formed, open and rife with possibility, a sort of Oedipal Genesis for the American Gothic set.

Lucybelle Crater and her 40 year old son, Luycbelle Crater

As the album progresses, we are introduced to the various members of Lucybelle's cohort, all of whom seem to be called Lucybelle. Meatyard's use of the masks, and his insistence on giving everyone the same name, is his attempt to universalize the photographs; he wanted merely the "aroma of having a person, a human being in the picture, which stands for a very different thing than having a particular human being in the picture." He articulated his pictures as representations of sentiment- that which is abstract and universal- as opposed to sentimentality, which is local and particular.

The last image in the series circles back to a garden setting. This time though, Meatyard and Madelyn are in reverse: he is in the hag's mask (and his wife's dress), his body thin and ravaged by cancer, while Madelyn plays the friend. There is a quietness about the picture, and one gets the sense that Meatyard felt he had accomplished what set out to do: to reflect us back upon ourselves, to nudge us "beyond the billboard" of particulars and into a world of greater and deeper consideration. A beautiful idea indeed.

Lucybelle Crater and close friend Lucybelle Crater in the grape arbor





I spent yesterday afternoon scrolling through portraitpainting.com’s blog. The site creates original paintings after customer’s photographs. The examples are really great, making evident the funny things that happen when a painting is way beholden to a snapshot or studio portrait. Lots of weird, strained smiles and chiclet teeth.

I think, at first, I felt sort of contemptuous and maybe a little threatened, what with my art-school-trained notions of enlightened artistic process, but more honestly, I can’t help but admire the unfussy craftsmanship. A painter can save a lot of time when there's no fumbling around for meaning or supposed sincerity.

I wonder what the painters think about the process—do they see themselves as part of an esteemed tradition, today’s Titians? Is the work just a tedious way to make a living? Do they hate all those stupid smiling couples and cute little children, wishing they could focus on their true passion, plein aire landscape?

The site’s a real testament to the historically loaded ways we think about painted portraiture. Even as painting as serious art or career or whatever seems less relevant, paintings continue to narrate our cultural past, and therefore, seem prestigious and substantial and permanent in ways that photographs don’t. A bit like a vinyl record. We know that records will be around for at least another 70 years because they’ve already done so, and are a format that puts a contemporary recording in a continuum with Charlie Parker, Elvis, Bob Dylan in the same way that a painted portrait recalls emperors, kings and popes. At $300 a pop, a customer gets a painting and the authority of history.


The apparently tireless folks at Live From Memphis have teamed up with MTV and local boy made good Craig Brewer (director of the not so good films "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan") to produce a series of short documentaries about Memphis' expansive arts and music scenes. Focusing their cameras on everything from the local roller derby team to high-concept electro clubs, art collectives to drum shops, the Flipside crew captures the energy and spirit that makes Memphis one of our favorite cities to visit.

Some highlights:

A nice little profile of our pals Eric and Zac at Goner Records. And hey look- there's your's truly at the 2:40 mark.

Tad Pierson's American Dream Safari: the best underground, backroad tour of legendary Memphis music locales led by a masters degree-holding, pink '55 Caddy-driving, bloody mary mix-slanging raconteur in the world. Trust us.

The U Dig Dance Academy is an informal school that aims to teach young and under-privileged folks the uniquely Memphian style of dance called jookin'. Sort of a more fluid cousin to West Coast krumping, jookin' focuses on gliding footwork while sustaining a metered "inner bounce."

In addition to the Flipside project, Brewer and MTV are producing a web-series called $5 Cover that focus on the Midtown Memphis music scene. The show uses local talent and features some of our favorite musicians (Jack Oblivian, Harlan T. Bobo) but beyond that is generally unwatchable. Can't win 'em all, I guess.






The photos above are from an exhibit at the California African American Museum in LA. Chronicling the history of black bikers in and around Oakland and the East Bay, the show examines the contribution of blacks (and black women) to popular cultural perceptions of motorcycles and motorcycle riders. Unfortunately, we're a day (or 2 months) late and a dollar short, as the biker-specific stuff came down in March. Lucky for us, there's a book that looks at this stuff too: Soul on Bikes: the East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Biker Set.

Still up are Howard L. Bingham's (famous for his iconic snaps of Muhammad Ali) photographs of Black Panthers taken in 1968 for LIFE magazine.




via The Vintagent and The Selvedge Yard



The timeless sleepy cowboy motif

Roy Drusky is maybe the sleepiest country singer ever. I guess we all have different reactions to romantic disappointment. Roy likes a good long nap.

Roy Drusky - Town & Country Cafe

Roy Drusky - Bitter They Are, The Harder They Fall



UPDATE: There's a streamable interview with Walter Coleman, who wrote both of the songs below, over at the website of the Sitting in the Park radio show.Here.

The Para-Monts - I Don't Wanna Lose You

The Para-Monts - Come Go With Me

The slower number, "I Don't Wanna Lose You" slays me. I've been walking around singing "the dial from my ray dee ohh" softly to myself. But the flip, "Come Go With Me" was the moderate chicago hit in '67, and the more desired cut by the Northern soul DJs. Chances are, maybe at this very moment, there's an English postman, or cabby, or policeman spinning around in circles to the song, or I like to think so anyway.



Courtesy Big States' favorite Seattle-area 15 year old.





Download all the songs here.