Music at Elsewhere

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20th Century Steel Band: Warm Heart, Cold Steel (Mr Bongo)

28 Feb 2010

The fate of this reissue by a mid Seventies steel band from the UK (in disco-funk outfits) is probably going to be on one of those summertime radio programmes where wild'n'crazy hosts play odd versions of big hits. And this group can certainly oblige because here are steel band treatments of the theme to Shaft, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, a dramatically brooding spoken-word version of Standing in... > Read more

20th Century Steel Band: Heaven and Hell

Arbouretum: Song of the Pearl (Thrill Jockey)

27 Feb 2010

Although this album was released almost a year ago Stateside it has only just appeared here -- but its collision of electric Neil Young, heavy strum Anglofolk and indie.rock should see it find a ready audience in the post-grunge era. No unique ground is staked out by this four-piece and so the appeal is in the extension of the familiar rather than the shock of the new, but when the guitars... > Read more

Arbouretum: Thin Dominion

Various artists: Crazy Heart soundtrack (New West)

23 Feb 2010

This soundtrack album is from the excellent movie which has been picking up Jeff Bridges acclaim and awards, as it should. He does a terrific job as an aging country singer whose career has been derailed by booze and drugs and itinerancy. And who looks for all the world like Kris Kristofferson might have if he hadn't pulled himself up a notch or two. As Bridges (who plays singer/songwriter... > Read more

Jeff Bridges: Fallin' and Flyin'

Jackie Bristow: Freedom (Ode)

22 Feb 2010    3

Singer-songwriter Bristow moved from New Zealand to Austin in 2008 (where this, her third album, was recorded) and it would be easy and convenient to drop her into the alt.country/country category. Certainly on the recent tour with Tami Neilson and Lauren Thomson she fitted into that zone. Those three gals delivered a terrific show which would have been acclaimed in any country music bar in... > Read more

Jackie Bristow: River

k.d. lang: Recollection (Nonesuch)

22 Feb 2010

Seeing kd lang -- "just a big boned gal from Canada" as she described herself to me an eon ago -- at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver singing a beautiful if slightly overlong Hallelujah reminded what an extraordinary talent she is. She effortlessly opened up her career from country music into big but soft-voiced ballads, performed with Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett... > Read more

kd lang: I Dream of Spring

Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago (Matador)

22 Feb 2010

The problem as I see it with this sonically fascinating and musically dramatic album is that it lacks a lyric sheet and the poetic words are frequently difficult to distinguish because singer Jonathan Meiburg's vocals are often buried behind those odd instrumentations, or sung in soft high Anglofolk voice which is hard to decipher. Because of that, I defy anyone coming to this cold to... > Read more

Shearwater: God Made Me

The Haints of Dean Hall: Sleeper (Arch Hill)

22 Feb 2010

The mystery continues as this poetic, dark alt.country outfit once more -- as on their impressive self-titled debut album -- explore understated, musically and emotionally stark songs which sometimes evoke empty rooms in spider-webbed old houses and an emotional ennui. But although they suggest a more ancient time and place these are very contemporary lyrics ("doing donuts in the... > Read more

The Haints of Dean Hall: My Pomeranian

The Antlers: Hospice (FrenchKiss/Border)

21 Feb 2010

This may not sound like everyone's idea of an album to listen to -- it is a 10-track concept piece about caring for someone in a hospice who has been emotionally abusive. But whaddya gonna do? They are dying so you can hardly pay out on them. Here New York's Peter Silberman crafts a song cycle of great depth and sometimes alarmingly beauty, but which equally soars and rages in the manner of... > Read more

The Antlers: Atrophy

Boz Scaggs: Speak Low (Decca)

21 Feb 2010

With his classic blue-eyed pop-soul albums of the mid and late 70s -- Silk Degrees and Down Two Then Left -- Scaggs brought a slippery rhythmic sensibility to his singing and, with famed jazz and studio musicians backing him, managed to cross effortlessly between the pop, r’n’b and soul charts. Over the decades he moved further into material from the Great American Songbook... > Read more

Boz Scaggs: Ballad of the Sad Young Men

Freda Payne: Band of Gold/Contact/Reaching Out (Edsel/Triton)

21 Feb 2010

Although it was slightly ambiguous about who had failed on the wedding night, it is Freda who says her new husband should come back and "love me like you tried before". And so we might guess . . . This was interesting and slightly saucy stuff -- was he gay or impotent? -- but the sexy Payne from Detroit turned it into a hit in '70. It should have been the start of fine career... > Read more

Freda Payne: Bring The Boys Home

A Mountain of One: Institute of Joy (Pod)

15 Feb 2010

After a couple of much sought after EPs the London duo of Zeben Jameson and Mo Morris here (with a lot of help from their friends) unveiled their much anticipated debut album last year. And quite some cosmic trip it was. Their often very lovely and certainly astral-aimed psychedelic sound owed debts to the likes of Pink Floyd (the Meddle period), the more pastoral side of early King Crimson,... > Read more

A Mountain of One: Lie Awake

Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (EMI)

15 Feb 2010    1

An album where an artist covers the material of others is hardly a new concept, but you can guess that Peter Gabriel -- the ever sensitive quality controller, with his first album in eight years -- brings something special to the table. Here he is on songs by those of his generation such as David Bowie (Heroes), Paul Simon (Boy in the Bubble), Randy Newman (I Think It's Going to Rain Today)... > Read more

Peter Gabriel: Heroes

OK Go: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (Capitol)

14 Feb 2010

At the recent Laneways Festival it was noticeable every young band delivered up its obligatory noise segment -- feedback, atonal guitar trash'n'trash -- as if to prove its indie-alt cred. But if everyone is doing it then how independent and alternative is that? You've just conformed to type. And most such noise isn't that interesting anyway. I suspect that live this LA band might do the... > Read more

OK Go: Last Leaf

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1925-1942 (Rhythmandblues/Southbound 4 CD Set)

14 Feb 2010

From the opening track on this remarkable collection -- a testifying scream of faith recorded in 1934 which calls to mind Little Richard and Hasel Adkins as much as African chants -- you are offered evidence of the old saying/song, "the blues had a baby and they called it rock'n'roll". Just as Blind Willie Johnson (here with Nobody's Fault But Mine from '27, which Led Zeppelin... > Read more

Lil Johnson: Press My Button (1936)

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1942-52 (Rhythmandbluesrecords/Southbound 4 CD Set)

14 Feb 2010

If the previous collection in this excellent series -- which went from country blues in the Twenties to swing, boogie and jump jive in the early Forties -- laid out the ground, this equally fine (and fun) set picks up the pace and moves from the clubs of Harlem into proto-rock'n'roll. In the early part of the first disc (entitled Jumpin' from Harlem to the West Coast) the shadow of the war... > Read more

Arthur Crudup: That's Alright (1946)

Various Artists: Womad New Zealand Sounds of the Planet 2010

12 Feb 2010    1

Here is the official 14 track compilation of artists at the 2010 Womad in Taranaki (March 12-14) and includes the exotic oud-folk-pop of Kamel el Harrachi, alt-world by Calexico, Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed, the Skatalites, the lively tropicalia-cum-flamenco of Ojos de Brujo . . . As with all such fit-for-purpose sampler items, this is perhaps only useful as a memento if you are at the... > Read more

Mariem Hassan: La Tumchu Anni

Scalper: Flesh and Bones (Border)

8 Feb 2010

Scalper is Nadeem Shafi who was previously a vocalist in the exciting London mutli-culti hip-hop (and beyond) outfit Fun-Da-Mental. These days he lives in New Zealand but little of the rather more benign South Pacific atmosphere intrudes on this dark, brooding and menacing mood-piece where his up-close and urgently delivered vocals speak of a spiritual fog, the horrors of war, bloodshed,... > Read more

Scalper: Treacherous Disciple

Basia Bulat: Heart of My Own (Rough Trade)

8 Feb 2010

Canadian singer/songwriter and auto-harp player Bulat appeared at Elsewhere with her confident if slightly disconcerting debut album Oh My Darling of '07. She has the kind of vibrato you might not have heard since Melanie's Brand New Key. But she is a powerful folk-rock singer and here really lets her passions fly (the folk-psychedelics of the fiddle-driven Gold Rush) while also letting her... > Read more

Basia Bulat: Sugar and Spice

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: The Live Anthology (Universal)

8 Feb 2010

They used to say you could always judge a band by its covers. But today many bands write "originals" which sound exactly like their influences (like these people), or seem to be above such direct referencing. You suspect only the most confident of bands play other people's songs simply because they love and respect them. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were always confident and... > Read more

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Louisiana Rain

Gil Scott-Heron: I'm New Here (XL)

8 Feb 2010    1

When Gil Scott-Heron -- the American poet, activist and conscience of his nation from the Vietnam years to the Reagan era -- was jailed for cocaine in 2001, then again in ‘06 and ‘07, it seemed it was going to be the beginning of a slow, sad end for one of the most important voices out of black America. If he had done nothing more than The Revolution Will Not Be Televised -- a... > Read more

Gil Scott-Heron: Where Did the Night Go