Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Desert Resort Discs, Part 1
ALT.COUNTRY/AMERICANA—With a gilt-edged array of artists eager to participate in a special tribute, 30 songs by one of the best songwriters in the game, and many inspired and affectionate performances, you just can’t go wrong with This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark (2CD set Music Road MRRCD012). Carefully
Guy Clark is a wry, laconic, sometimes whimsical performer. It seems he’d rather repair guitars and write songs for other folks to sing--or like me, sing along with. (Take it, Ed!) “I wish I was in Austin, mm-hmm, In the Chili Parlor bar, Drinkin’ Mad-Dog Margaritas, And not carin’ where you are…”
BLUES—Lost in limbo for four decades, but finally issued a few months back, my vote for Blues release of the year goes to Son House in Seattle 1968 (Arcola A CD 1008), a nice 2-CD package with Son strong and live, sermonizing and sounding sober, his guitar and vocals powerful and exciting, his interview and between-song raps sweet and witty and wise. I witnessed all this; I was there. And I wrote at greater length about House and the concert some weeks back (find it a few posts down).
COUNTRY—I’ve chosen two discs/artists here, a standby fave and a new discovery (new to me, that is). Somehow I completely missed the excited buzz, the “out there, bad girl, say anything” antics, the amazing hits, the major awards, the big romance and wedding… in short, I missed everything that’s happened in the eight years since cute and nubbly blonde-bomb Miranda Lambert slammed into Country with sass
Tough act to follow, but my man Vince Gill’s got the chops: master musician and brilliant songster, with one of the most pleasing voices around (tackling with aplomb Blues, Bluegrass, Cajun, Country, Cowboy songs, Folk, Gospel, and anything else you got), he succeeds too as husband, father, golfer, producer, practical joker, easygoing Christian volunteer, back-up vocalist happy to help as needed… His last album was an astonishing 4CD box set with Gill’s songs everywhere; it sold for the price of a
FOLK—At the Edinburgh Festival in 1983 or ’84 I listened in wonder—transfixed, mesmerized, reveling in each new old song—to a landmark, life-changing concert, vocal and guitar only… ah, but when the glorious voice box is June Tabor’s, and thego here.)
JAZZ—Well, it ain’t Sketches of Spain… but it ain’t chopped liver either. I’m talking about Miles Espanol: New Sketches of Spain (Entertainment One EOM-CD 2104). Who knew 2011 would become another year of Miles, what with those "New Sketches," a couple of official Sony “bootlegs” of Miles live in Europe, the Columbia Legacy CD called Bitches Brew Live (with performances taped at Newport 1969 and Isle of Wight ’70), a mid-Nineties Warner Bros. release called Live Around the World I’d never paid attention to till trumpeter/teacher/composer/conductor Bill Kirchner recommended a track from it. Heck, even Dave Holland’s album with flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela called up memories of the original Sketches.
But getting back to Miles Espanol, it’s two CDs offering new versions of the Sketches tunes, plus originals in homage to the classic set, and some Spanish-sounding or Latin Jazz numbers given a Milesian makeover, the whole shootin’ match of 16 tracks arranged and produced by Bob Beldin, directing a rotating group of major stars and lesser lights alike. (You'll need to listen well because booklet and labels confuse order and placement on the two CDs!) Great to hear oud and dumbek mixing it up with flute and harp and French horn, bongos and oboe reinforcing bass and bassoon; and that’s just the opener, “Concierto de Aranjuez,” with Rabih Abou Khalil, Brahim Fribgame, Lou Marini, Edmar Castaneda, John Clark, Alex Acuna, and others. At the opposite extreme is Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s piano solo “Fantasia for Miles y Gil,” along with various duets, trios, and quartets played bracingly and gracefully and with all the Latin sway you could ask for—yeah, and wait’ll you hear the juggernaut of “Saeta/Pan Piper,” as inexorable as
The Sketches of Miles Espanol get better with every spin.
Part 2 coming soon.