Director John Alexander on his documentary about Wichita soul singer, Rudy Love

Director John Alexander on his documentary about Wichita soul singer, Rudy Love

Director John Alexander on his documentary about Wichita soul singer, Rudy Love

Director John Alexander’s documentary, This Is Love, tells the story of Wichita soul singer extraordinaire, Rudy Love. While his name is one of those best known to crate-digging heads, his influence and talent can be heard on the recordings of Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, the Soul Searchers, and more. Love was also Sly Stone’s bandleader and tour manager for the…


A chat with Dan Auerbach ahead of Wednesday’s Easy Eye Sound Revue stop at the Truman

A chat with Dan Auerbach ahead of Wednesday’s Easy Eye Sound Revue stop at the Truman

A chat with Dan Auerbach ahead of Wednesday’s Easy Eye Sound Revue stop at the Truman

Dan Auerbach & the Easy Eye Sound RevuePooneh GhanaWhen does Dan Auerbach find time to sleep? Even though the Black Keys have been on hiatus for a while…


Vinyl Review: Various Artists — Jesus Rocked the Jukebox

Vinyl Review: Various Artists — Jesus Rocked the Jukebox

Vinyl Review: Various Artists — Jesus Rocked the Jukebox

In the press release which accompanied the arrival of Craft Recordings’ new compilation, Jesus Rocked the Jukebox, the label makes the point that the 40 tracks on the three vinyl records represent “the roots of American popular music,” just as much as they honor “esteemed gospel groups.” Those are phrases, which — to non-music nerds — might get folks nervous.


Izzy Bizu on the heart of her music before her Sprint Center show on Tuesday

Izzy Bizu on the heart of her music before her Sprint Center show on Tuesday

British singer Izzy Bizu’s rise to prominence has been rather amazing. In the past five years, she’s gone from the standard pop sounds of SoundGirl to t…


Earth Wind and Fire frontman Bailey’s “Shining Star” a shining example of ghostwriting gone awry

book cover - shining starBeing familiar with pop culture memoirs, I understand the purpose of the the “with” which comes after the ostensible author’s name. The celebrity, musician, actor, whomever — it’s their story. They sit down with a computer, knock out some stories, do an interview with their collaborator, and then that person shapes everything into a narrative. Some are better than others, allowing the voice of the subject to come through, while authors are basically cranking out something.

Word to the wise: if an “autobiography” has not one, but two “with” credits on it … it will suck. Terribly. Oh my god. Philip Bailey‘s Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire was written with Keith and Kent Zimmerman, and I just don’t know what happened. It’s written in such a way that the historical context often takes over the story, because while Bailey’s story is the constant, every other page features some sort of historical digression. You’ll go from a fine piece of malapropism like “her nice round booty ass” to a stentorian explanation of Juneteent which might as well have been taken directly from a textbook: “an American holiday celebrated by African Americans in more than forty states, commemorating the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865.
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Swamp Dogg reissues out today from Alive Naturalsound; download two free tracks

Legendary psychedelic soul bluesman Swamp Dogg‘s first two albums, Total Destruction to Your Mind and Rat On! see reissue today via Alive Naturalsound. I’ve had a chance to listen to both, and they sound amazing. They’ve still got that swamp funk to them, but the remastering job is just absolutely stellar. For those used to vinyl rips and bootleg CDs, these brand-new LP reissues (and first-time official CD releases) will blow your mind.

Hopefully, this will lead to a new generation of folks getting into this somewhat lost musician. While Swamp Dogg’s songs have been covered by the likes of Galactic, it don’t mean shit to be known if folks can’t get your music. Now that’s the case. Both LPs are available from the Bomp! store. Check out two tracks from the reissues below.

MP3: Swamp Dogg, “Creeping Away” (from Rat On!)
MP3: Swamp Dogg, “If I Die Tomorrow” (from Total Destruction to Your Mind)

Andre Williams, “Life” LP

cover-andre-williams-life90% of Andre Williams‘ latest, Life, is stone-cold cool. Alive Records put the man with with a team of musicians who know how to rock that back-alley juke joint vibe. This is some after-hours shit. “Stuck In the Middle” and “Heels” groove and sway. Smooth. Not quite silky … more like a black cup of coffee, the way it warms with its heat and bites just enough at the end to let you know it’s working — not unlike a stiff shot of rye.

Yeah, I know Williams is 100% stone cold sober on Life, but these are the tales of a man who knows what it’s like to be blisteringly blasted past all sense. His voice shows its age, but the band knows how to work alongside it, and age brings knowledge and experience in this case, not wear and tear.
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Capsule reviews

In which I review CDs that have been sitting next to my stereo since shortly after Thanksgiving. Just because they’re not timely doesn’t mean they’re not content…

Star Fucking Hipsters – “Until We’re Dead”
(Fat Wreck Chords)

Does every single band Scott Sturgeon (aka the Stza) is involved in have to sound alike because of a contract he signed somewhere, or is he just a one-note guy? Seriously – from Choking Victim to Leftover Crack to the Crack Rock Steady 7 and now Star Fucking Hipsters – the bands all have crust punk mixed with ska and Stza screaming political rhetoric over the top of them. Add in the various other acts that have shot off – No Cash, Stockyard Stoics, INDK, Morning Glory – and there’s a veritable sub-genre of bands that all sound EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME. It’s a good sound, but it doesn’t exactly take advantage of the possibilities the punk / crust / ska crossbreed would suggest. Star Fucking Hipsters do slow things down and add in some electronic effects, as well as the stellar keyboard work of World/Inferno Friendship Society and Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay, though. It’s also got some female vocals, which would be a pleasant counterbalance to Sturgeon’s screeching, except for the fact that Nico de Gaillo is equally as razor-throated, if not more so.
Download “Until We’re Dead” and “Two Cups of Tea.

Joey Cape – “Bridge”
(Suburban Home)

Joey Cape is the frontman of Lagwagon, as well as Bad Astronaut. A lot of these songs have already seen the light of day in electric forms from those bands. “Errands,” “B Side,” “Memoirs and Landmines,” “No Little Pill,” and “Mission Unaccomplished” all appeared on I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon, which came out on Fat Wreck about two months before this record. In essence, rather than a “true” solo record, this is pretty much just reworkings of songs that have already been released, making it feel like a b-sides comp. It’s pretty good, and “The Ramones Are Dead” is worth picking it up alone, but since Cape’s split with Joey Sly was pretty much the same thing – acoustic versions of Lagwagon tunes – I’d really hoped this would have been a little different. It’s not bad if you want to hear some slowed down versions of songs you already know, but not so great if you want new material.
Download “Errands

The (International) Noise Conspiracy – “The Cross of My Calling”

Wow. When the “RIYL” tag on the front of the CD names two of the frontman’s previous bands, you know they’re not being honest. This does not sound anything like the Lost Patrol Band, nor does it sound even remotely like Refused. It barely even sounds like the first two T(I)NC records. Those were hip-shaking, modish garage efforts that managed to rock the joint. This is… fuck, I have no idea what happened. Dennis Lyxzen once had some sort of vocal strength and the desire to change the world, and now it just sounds like he wants to chill on the couch and watch Scooby-Doo. This is boring-ass hippy bullshit of the worst kind. Somewhere in the second half, it seems like the band might know how to rock again, but it’s pretty fleeting.
Download “I Am the Dynamite.

Hank III – “Damn Right, Rebel Proud”
(Sidewalk Records)

If ever someone could be accused of cashing in on a name, Hank III would be that person. Coasting on the fame and talent of both his father and grandfather, Hank III’s only claim to being musically worthwhile is pretty much shock value. The first track, “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)” is a combination of both name-dropping and shock, with Hank swearing like a sailor and talking shit on the Opry for never reinstating his granddad. Lacking any sort of talent, and trying to offend anyone and everyone, this is pretty much just shit-kicker country for metalheads. If you listen to both David Allen Coe and Pantera in your pickup, then Hank III’s your man. If you like either the original Hank or Bocephus, this’ll probably turn your stomach.

Useless ID – “The Lost Broken Bones”
(Suburban Home)

Israeli punk rock. Once you get past the fact that Useless ID is from overseas, there’s really nothing to recommend them. Aside from the novelty value of “hey, not bad for a band from Israel,” the band’s pretty fucking bland. They sound just like a dozen other acts, like Rise Against or Bad Religion, and when those bands’ most recent lackluster efforts are better than your album, you might want to rethink your band. I appreciate that Useless ID is repping the scene over there in the Middle East, but that’s no excuse for boring the shit out of me.
Download “Blood Pressure” and “Killing A Ghost“.

The Riot Before – “Fists Buried In Pockets”
(Say 10)

Melodic punk rock, a la the Gaslight Anthem. It kind of breezed right by me. The Riot Before’s got that Lawrence Arms style where you’re not quite sure if the lyrics are serious or not – and titles like “You Can’t Sexy Dance to Punk Rock” don’t really help matters any. Still, if you like your punk a little anarchic and melodic all at once, with a touch of Americana twang… in other words, if you like O Pioneers!!!, Against Me!, or Fake Problems, this is probably your bag.
Download “5 to 9

The Shortcuts – “The Shortcuts”

Hey, Mitch Clem drew the cover! It must be punk rock! And it is, done by four relatively talented females who are known collectively as the Shortcuts. They write songs about fighting, staying out too late, and crushing on people. In other words, it appears that the ladies can be just as clichéd as the boys. Still, it’s not too terribly stuck in a rut, and the Shortcuts manage to eke out a couple of tunes that show some promise. They draw a lot on Tilt and Discount, too, and that’s NEVER a bad thing.

The Backsliders – “You’re Welcome”

No, thank you. I do not like white girl pseudo-soul. There’s exactly ONE band that does the whole soul / rock thing with a female singer well, and that’s the Bellrays. Even they get tiresome after a while. This is beyond tiresome. Whenever any band has “percussion” listed as something a band member does, it tends to venture beyond mediocre and into suck.

Book Review: The Hardest Working Man

Thanks to some time I had to kill before finals, I found a pretty decent book while kicking around the Kansas Union’s Oread Books. It’s entitled The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America. It’s by James Sullivan, and primarially is about how James Brown, along with various folks in the city of Boston, lessened the extent to which the citizens of the city rioted in comparison to the rest of the nation after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Granted, that story’s pretty brief. The details flesh it out a bit, but the whole thing can be summed up pretty easily:

“King gets shot. James Brown is supposed to play a show at the Garden the next night. The city fathers get him to not only go on with the show, but guarantee his gate and broadcast it live, along with a repeat broadcast immediately following. City riots less than surrounding areas.”

Because the story isn’t really all that complicated, the book fleshes out the story with details regarding James Brown’s life, the story of race relations in Boston, how the rest of the nation reacted to King’s death, and the details of all the figures involved.

It’s a good read, if a bit fast. It almost seems glib, because it’s trying to flesh out a story that probably would have best been suited to a long-form magazine article (Mojo runs shit like this all the time). By adding in so many other details, nothing feels like it gets the treatment it deserves. The actual meat of Sullivan’s book (the subtitle, in other words) is spread so thinly through the book that it just seems to get lost in the shuffle. It’s a quick read, and vaguely entertaining, but not something that left any sort of lasting impression.

Chuck D’s foreword is pretty fly, however.

James Brown – “Try Me” (from 20 All Time Greatest Hits)

My secret place

In one of the numerous small towns surrounding Lawrence, there is a thrift store. I go there once or twice a year, wander into the basement, and ransack their record section. It’s a small section – just about ten or twelve feet of shelving – but it yields high-quality, well-maintained, insanely cheap records. I’m talking the best selection of old-school country I’ve ever found, along with a surprising number of funk and soul albums. Sure, there’s the usual Tom Jones, Mantovani Strings, and Mormon Tabernacle Choir records… but the finds!!!

Merle Haggard & the Strangers’ Same Train, A Different Time, the soundtrack to Mondo Cane, Isaac HayesBlack Moses and …To Be Continued, Ernest Tubb’s My Hillbilly Baby & Other Hits… seriously, these are all in such good condition, they might as well be new. The jackets have some wear, but they’re all together and pretty good. The LPs look like they just got pulled out of the shrink wrap. And that list is only partial – I still got some Left Frizzell, Roy Clark, Robert Goulet, and even more. Twelve LPs. Two bucks, plus tax.

The ladies who work there don’t ask any questions. They just let me wander, sit on the concrete floor (kneeling will mess up your back and knees quite quickly), and dig. Then they ring me up, and I wander out, barely containing the giggles. If I were a better person, I’d share this with my friends. But really… I don’t want to share. Everyone should have it this good.

See? You only get places like this in the Midwest. They don’t exist in big cities.

Isaac Hayes – “The Look of Love” (from …To Be Continued)