Monday, November 26, 2007

Road Tuning

On a recent return trip back from Pittsburgh, I tried to minimize the amount of times I'd be swerving back and forth on the road as I picked out the music to put into the CD player. So, I kept the number of CD's available for choosing to 4. Although that 4 is misdeceiving since two of the 4 were double/triple CD's.

1) Joe Henry's new release,Civilians, reviewed quite favorably by Mr. Whisky Prajer here, is an album to play when you get to that moody deep thought part of the trip. Long straightaways, distant horizons, foreboding weather conditions. I don't know about you folks, but necessary (although completely irrelevant) life-decision pondering of the past/current/future variety usually comes on about 2 hours into any major travel. Mr. Henry's newest album assists one into getting to that stage, earlier if you wish it. He's done quite a bit of pondering and deciding on his own so you can use his experiential jet stream to draft along.
FWIW, I'm with Whisky Prajer's opinion that Civilians is a strong candidate for one of the top albums of 2007. Having Mr. Bill Frissell along for the ride on this album certainly makes that proposal stronger.

2) Alligator Records 35 X 35 Collection, came out early last year. 2 CD's of Alligator Records talented performers doing 35 songs in honor of 35 years of the label's existence. The producer of the album is WXPN's own Jonny Meister, the maestro of the station's blues programming and one of the country's top Blues dj's. Selections include a scorching harmonica solo from the late William Clarke in his "Lollipop Mama", Koko Taylor doing "I Got What It Takes", the Holmes Brothers on their wonderful "Speaking In Tongues", and "In The Wee Wee Hours" as done by Professor Longhair The only clunker of the bunch may be Dave Hole's "Short Fuse Blues".

3) Blind Pig's 25th Anniversary Collection, released in 2001, also has 35 tracks, on 2 music CD's and a Video CD. As I was driving I could not enjoy the video CD and waited until coming home to take that in. High energy tracks, excellent production, fine stable of artists. A good point on this CD collection was the performance of some of the artists on multiple tracks. Especially strong are George "Harmonica" Smith's "Last Chance", Snooky Pryor's "Work With Me Annie", the Gospel Hummingbirds' "That Same Thing", one of my favorite blues performers, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, with his song, "Wake Me Up Early", and the sassy E. C. Scott's "What A Good Feeling"

4) Herlin Riley's Cream of the Crescent, released in Sept. of 2005 is solid, from the first song,"Bird Life" , to the last, "Trombone Joe". Giving him a hand is an all-star cast featuring Victor Goines on saxes, Wynton Marsalis, not too shabby on the trumpet, one of my favorite jazzmen, Wycliffe Gordon, on the clown prince of jazz instruments, the trombone, Mr. Herlin Riley on the funky drums, Reginald Veal keeping it together on the bass, and Eric Lewis, on piano. One of the best jazz albums of the last couple of years. All ranges of speed and mood, necessary components of musical accompaniment on a long trip.

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