Sunday, June 19, 2011

UFV Shuffle

I was recently asked to review four songs for the UFV newspaper, The Cascade, for their weekly "UFV Shuffle" segment. As I was over-exuberant about music (which happens quite often for me). I wrote far more about each song than was necessary, so I thought I would share the full text of my reviews with you here.

Justin Townes Earle – South Georgia Sugar Babe, The Good Life, 2008

Justin Townes Earle derives his name from two massive figures in contemporary American songwriting. His last name is from his father, Steve Earle, and his middle from the legendary songsmith Townes Van Zandt. These are not easy shoes to fill, but JTE has made a career of making them seem like they were cobbled just for him. His songs hearken back to the sounds of American music of all generations, from folk to bluegrass to soul to the delta blues. His lyrics are often born of deep-rooted pain and polished through the lens of soul-wrenching honesty about his past and his own shortcomings. This song is a rather abrupt departure from that, as it is the only one of his songs (to the best of this reviewer’s knowledge) that has a completely happy message. It also has a beat lead by the classic sound of a Hammond organ that will put the shimmy in your hips and the shake in your shoes. This is the atypical JTE song, and it is all the sweeter for its contrast to the bitterness of the rest of his work.

The Kings of Nuthin’ – Old Habits, Old Habits Die Hard, 2010

Boston’s Kings of Nuthin’, in their own words “[tried] to re-create an authentic rock and roll sound, [failed] to do so, and [invented] a very unique new sound in the process.” A more apt description has rarely been self-applied. The Kings are the perfect example of what punk rock would have sounded like if it had been invented in the 1940s. Their unique mix of standup bass, a driving piano that harkens back to Jerry Lee Lewis and a pair of saxophones that ooze greasy good times create a fantastic party atmosphere. The vocals, on the other hand, wouldn’t seem out of place on a record by fellow Bostonites The Dropkick Murphys. Vocalist Torr Skoog’s heartfelt and honest lyrics keep the band’s punk rock cred firmly intact even when the rest of the band is rocking like a Deep South Juke Joint. This is true rhythm and blues, arrived at by accident through punk rock.

J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters – Chase Down These Blues, Dark Bar and a Juke Box, 2006

J.B. Beverley first made his mark upon the music scene as a singer for The Murder Junkies, replacing the infamous G.G. Allin in that role. When a man comes from one of the most vile musical acts in history, his rebirth as a leader in classic country music comes as a total shock. The Wayward Drifters’ sound is what country music is all about. Unlike the country music that you hear on radio, the sounds of mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar and banjo are right up front, not hidden behind Def Leppard-esque walls of electric guitars. Beverley has a voice that is capable of an outstanding emotional range, and lyrical chops to match. “There are times in life that we lose, if I’d but learned to let it go. It’s only fair that you stare. Last call was so long ago. Hey bartender, before I go, why don’t you pass me just one more? I need one more shot to chase down these blues…”

Demented Are Go – Call of the Wired, Kicked Out of Hell, 1988

The Meteors invented the psychobilly movement in 1979 by combining 50’s rock ‘n’ roll (aka rockabilly) with horror movie themes and cranking the speed up to eleven. But as much as they created the recipe, the flavour of psychobilly wasn’t perfected until Demented Are Go released their second album, Kicked Out of Hell. Their singer, the self-christened Spark Retard, brought madness to a whole new level with songs about amputation, suicide, death and mayhem. Call of the Wired is a song about surfing outer space while taking hallucinogens, driven by a blues-influenced guitar that is irresistibly danceable. This album sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released in 1988. This is music that you can go mad listening to, or grab a partner and jive to. “No money, no cigarettes. No money to pay my debts. Got a buzz going through my brain. Damn near drove me insane. Be a surf cadet. Be a space cadet.” Sign up today.