Nick Tosches | Texas Monthly | July 1994
LIKE A HONKY-TONK ORPHEUS RETURNED FROM THE dead, George Jones, the world’s greatest country singer, is alive and sober.
“I ain’t touched a drink in ten years,” Jones will tell you. A little more than a decade ago, he was drinking himself into a straightjacket, but now the dark-starred Jones, at 62, is once again on top of the world. Lately, on record, he has lent his voice to some intriguing duets. On “Never Bit a Bullet Like This,” the single from his last album, High-Tech Redneck, he was joined by Sammy Kershaw, one of his many young country idolaters. His collaboration with B.B. King was the standout on the recent multiartist album of duets, Rhythm Country & Blues. And his forthcoming Bradley Barn Sessions, scheduled for release this fall and fast becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated records ever to come out of Nashville, is an album of duets with ex-wife Tammy Wynette, Keith Richards, and others. But onstage, Jones, as he has throughout most of his long career, continues to stand alone, the survivor of a forty-year journey down a rugged road that would have killed lesser men.
On a winter night in his dressing-room suite at Bally’s Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Jones strolled back and forth, chain-smoking Barclay cigarettes. He is short and paunchy, and his high-heeled cowboy boots did not do much to enhance his height. The weight that he has put on in his renewed health, combined with his facial characteristics that long ago inspired the nickname Possum, made him appear more possumlike than ever before. His white hair, fastidiously styled and always in place, with impeccable scimitar sideburns, was like a sculptured pinnacle of incongruous permanence atop a distinctly mortal shell. Beneath his brown eyes, his cheeks were striated with deep fissures that seemed less the natural carvings of age than the ravages of mortification. When he grinned, the furrows were less obvious, but when his expression was blank or subtly scowled, as was more often the case, they were like the scars of a clawing.
MUCH MORE AT GEORGE JONES (1931-2013)
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BACKYARD BRUNCH SESSIONS: LUCIUS – WILDEWOMAN
Ewan Jones Morris | Vimeo
Joseph | Vimeo
Music video for “Babe’s Lair” by Walt & Vervain. soundcloud.com/walt-vervain
For a man who’s wasting his time in the tired souls’ cave…
A tribute to the german expressionists, Lotte Reiniger, and Limbo.
Michael Gallucci | The AV Club | amazon
Afraid Of Heights sounds bigger and more ambitious than anything Nathan Williams’ former backyard solo project has ever recorded. The big-name producer and studio certainly help; so does the three-year break between Afraid Of Heights and 2010’s breakthrough King Of The Beach. But unlike Wavves’ previous records (including two simply titled Wavves), Afraid Of Heights doesn’t sound like it’s filled with first-take toss-offs. The lo-fi garage surf stomp feels worn in this time, like Williams and partner Stephen Pope actually stepped away from the bong long enough to give the mixes a second listen.
It starts with a killer one-two hit: “Sail To The Sun” and “Demon To Lean On” roll out crashing surf-punk and a guitar-powered midtempo love song, respectively, finding solid footing among the jagged edges that would have tripped Wavves in the past. There’s definitely more confidence in the songs, but there’s also a sense that Williams has grown up in the three years since King Of The Beach. Plus, “Demon To Lean On” would make a great Nirvana B-side if Williams were a more passionate singer.
Steve Arroyo | The Consequence of Sound | amazon
The new eponymous LP by Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez’ three-piece rock band Junip is their second full-length release since forming 15 years ago, and also their second since 2010. You read that correctly; after Gonzalez happened upon sudden success as a solo artist in the mid-aughts, Junip was cornered into taking an extended break, managing to squeeze out just two EPs before their 2010 formal debut Fields. Their tedious progress finally comes to a head on Junip, a frequently gorgeous exercise in teamwork and restraint: In the album’s strongest moments, Junip treat their songs like a fragile house of cards, not to be built too fast or aggressively lest one over-eager misstep ruin the whole thing.
As musicians, Gonzalez, Elias Araya, and Tobias Winkerton have a limitless arsenal, but Junip mainly flexes three things throughout: Krautrock-derived rhythms, pitch-perfect harmonies, and Gonzalez’ mumble, never at odds with the sonic feel of any moment.
Robert Spencer | All About Jazz | 1 February 1997 | amazon
One Step Beyond is the first of three albums Jackie McLean made with Grachan Moncur III on trombone and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes (also Eddie Khan on bass and Tony Williams on drums). These three (the other two are Destination…Out! and Moncur’s Evolution ) are the crowning achievement of McLean’s Ornette Coleman-inspired pianoless “outside work” of the early Sixties. McLean has said that in the late Fifties he felt as if he was going nowhere until Ornette’s nascent harmolodics put the wind back in his sails. Not that he sounds much like Ornette on his albums that celebrate “free” playing (most notably Let Freedom Ring ), but compared to his earlier work with Miles, Trane and others, his post-Ornette Blue Notes give a more expressive voice to his characteristic exuberance. He was a trailblazer in bringing the techniques and innovations of the “free” players into the hard bop mainstream.
GHANA – JACKIE MCLEAN
with Woody Shaw,McCoy Tyner,Cecil McBee,Jack Dejohnette
Supposedly, there are three things you never talk about in polite company: sex, religion, and politics.
It would seem no one passed that memo on to local “punkgrass” band Haymarket Squares, who formed in 2009 and immediately became a fixture on the downtown arts scene, playing in coffeehouses, bars, and at activist events. Their second album, 2010’s Dancing in the Street, explicitly nails at least two of those taboos.
The trio, comprising guitarist and banjo player John Luther Norris, Marc Oxborrow on bass, and Mark Sunman on mandolin, accordion, and guitar (all three members sing), laugh when I share the axiom about screwing, God, and the democratic process with them.
“We need to write more sex songs,” Sunman says with a smile.
Steven Hyden | Pitchfork
In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a female monster who dwells in the forest and feasts on children. This doesn’t necessarily mean she’s evil– in some stories, she’s a benign or even helpful figure– but she’s certainly mythical and definitely mysterious. For starry-eyed cosmic country-rock band Futurebirds, Baba Yaga is also a metaphor, for the rigors the Athens-based outfit endured while trying to locate a label to put out its stunning second record, and for the ambiguous darkness that peers inside the lush sprawl of their beautiful, foreboding songs.
Futurebirds have been honing this sound– a loose-limbed tangle of reverbed guitars, hollered harmonies, and driving yet contemplative Southern rock rhythms– over the course of two EPs, 2010’s full-length debut Hampton’s Lullaby, and countless gigs in support of kindred spirits like the Drive-By Truckers and Heartless Bastards.
. . . Baba Yaga is very much an “on tour” record; the controlled chaos of Futurebirds’ live shows translates on record like never before. You feel the energy, forgive any flubbed notes, and soak in the past-midnight revelry. Many tracks extend past the five-minute mark, with the excess padding coming from guitar solos stacked upon guitar solos, and boisterous sing-alongs allowed to go on for several extra beats. Baba Yaga nails the melancholy of trying to chase and pin down something that’s special and fleeting, because Futurebirds were clearly doing the same when recording these songs. This “something” might be best described as relief; Futurebirds’ twin obsessions on Baba Yaga are dysfunctional relationships and death, with the music acting as a communal salve against the private anguish documented in the lyrics.
Ian Buruma | The New York Review of Books
There is no question that Bowie changed the way many people looked, in the 1970s, 1980s, even 1990s. He set styles. Fashion designers—Alexander McQueen, Yamamoto Kansai, Dries van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier, et al.—were inspired by him. Bowie’s extraordinary stage costumes, from Kabuki-like bodysuits to Weimar-era drag, are legendary. Young people all over the world tried to dress like him, look like him, move like him—alas, with rather variable results.
So it is entirely fitting that the Victoria and Albert Museum should stage a huge exhibition of Bowie’s stage clothes, as well as music videos, handwritten song lyrics, film clips, artworks, scripts, storyboards, and other Bowieana from his personal archive. Apart from everything else, Bowie’s art is about style, high and low, and style is a serious business for a museum of art and design.
David Fricke | Rolling Stone
It’s unfair but true: Scott Morgan is Michigan rock’s greatest unknown singer. Locally in the Sixties, with the Rationals, Morgan was as big as Bob Seger and Mitch Ryder, fusing British young-man blues with native soul on a stunning run of singles. Morgan kept on making near-miss classics (“Take a Look,” “Electrophonic Tonic,” “16 With a Bullet”) with a murderer’s row of high-energy accomplices, including the MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith and Stooges drummer Scott Asheton. This three-disc compilation covers all of that ground into this century, with official releases and rarities that affirm Morgan’s prowess, legend and the stardom he still deserves.