An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, September 9, 2019
Music: current count 32047  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+2).
I've had a couple weeks of nagging technology problems. Got up and found both computers dead, resembling an overnight power shutdown but no indications of that anywhere else in the house. Both are on UPS's. One definitely has a bad battery, so turns out to be very interruptible. The other (my main computer) remains a mystery, and repeated a few days later, but second time was easier to power cycle. No data loss, but a bit unnerving. Main computer developed a speaker glitch after that, introducing a lot of static into music I was streaming. Haven't figured that out either, but switched to secondary computer for streaming (but speakers are inferior). It's old and I'm finding it extremely slow. The thing that bothers me most is how slow it is to wake up: closer to a minute than the 2-3 seconds of the main computer. Monitor has something to do with that, but slow as it is, it still displays connect status 5-10 seconds before getting a screen image. Tempts me to build a new one, especially as some newer and faster technology has become affordable.
Synology backup server appears to be working, although I've only set up two machines to backup so far, and I haven't checked them for updates carefully. More things I need to learn about it. One source of frustration is that I'm using an appliance router/firewall that I don't totally understand. In particular, I have it providing DHCP addresses, but it doesn't seem to provide DNS, so my computers have no way (other than fixed /etc/hosts addresses, not necessarily right with DHCP) to find my other computers. Looking at the router manual now, and don't see anything about DNS (although it does have stuff on DHCP and DDNS).
Most disconcerting glitch of the week was not being able to log into my dedicated server last night to post my Weekend Roundup. I've been informed that CPanel (the web server management gui interface software) has been bought up by the same vulture capitalists who own Plesk (their competitor). CPanel's management is celebrating their newfound monopoly by raising their prices, and enforcing this by requiring new licenses, breaking my server. Took several hours to get the hosting company to fix it, and will cost me more bucks in the future (CPanel is already almost a third of my monthly charge). Things like this make me wonder if the server's worth the cost and trouble -- or perhaps remind me that it isn't.
Lots of other things made life difficult. I could begin to enumerate them, but may not come out the other end. Some of the just boil down to being old and decrepit, which no one wants to hear about. Much pain the day I tried to cook dinner for friends, ending with two planned dishes abandoned, my kitchen stool crashed to the ground, and the front door handle falling off. On the other hand, the dishes I did manage to finish were magnificent: duck ŕ l'orange; a salad with grilled asparagus, zucchini, and bread cheese, over arugula with roasted tomatoes and basil pesto; a sweet potato gratin, and spiced carrots; with triple chocolate mousse cake for dessert (Laura has a pic on Instagram, but I can't find it).
Some of these things cut into my listening time, which was pretty scattered anyway. Two records I had held back from last week managed to slip over the A- cusp. After making a dent in my new jazz queue, I got stuck on Avram Fefer's Testament, which I've played at least five times without writing up a grade. Release date isn't until November 8, so I'm tempted to put it aside until then. At some point I started looking for country music, and was struck at how the first four albums I sampled -- Tanya Tucker, Molly Tuttle, Dee White, Matt Carson -- wound up at the same B+(**) with different virtues and flaws. Four more records were easier to spread out (Mercury Rev, Highwomen, Ian Noe, Weldon Henson). Checked out a couple of old Bobbie Gentry albums after listening to Mercury Rev, and was surprised to find that the "classic" was a much bigger mess than the revival.
Thought I'd work on a Book Roundup mid-week, then got confused by some sloppy bookkeeping. I managed to clean that up, and will try to have a post ready mid-week (but the way things are going, could be months). I'm slowly trudging my way through Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, which is a useful map of the various schisms on the Republican side since 2008, although it falls short of exploring the deeper roots of their cravenness and corruption. That's kept me from reading a couple of promising books I picked up at the library: Joseph Stiglitz's People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent, and Astra Taylor's Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone.
Also got a third book at the library, which I'm definitely not going to read but should at least crib some notes from: Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Github, and More (3rd edition). The one thing I want to do with it is to copy down a list of on-line resources, especially the APIs. On the other hand, I'm not finding many things I want to do in the examples. Maybe I should build a tech resources link page, if only for my own use. (I had several long ago, didn't update it, and finally disconnected them to stop getting mail from wannabe adds.)
New records reviewed this week:
Matt Carson: No Regrets (2019, Bunba): Country singer-songwriter from South Carolina, first album, a short one -- 9 songs, 29:22, six originals, three context-setting covers). A serious young man with hurt in his voice. B+(**)
James Carter Organ Trio: Live From Newport Jazz (2018 , Blue Note): From Detroit, the most impressive of the "tough young tenors" to emerge in the 1990s, unclear why he's been so rarely heard since 2011 (unless he's been holding out for another major label). He formed his Organ Trio for a live album in 2005, revived it for another in 2011, then nothing until this festival date. With Gerald Gibbs on organ and newcomer Alexander White on drums. Some extraordinary saxophone. Organ doesn't strike me as anything special. B+(***)
Avishai Cohen/Yonathan Avishai: Playing the Room (2018 , ECM): Two Israelis, trumpet and piano, very intimate. B+(*)
Marco Colonna/Agustí Fernandez/Zlatko Kaucic: Agrakal (2017 , Not Two): Clarinet/baritone sax, backed by piano and drums. Tends toward harsh, but the rhythm can get energetic enough to overcome that problem. B+(**)
Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019, Polydor/Interscope): Sixth album, starts with a dollop of strings and proceeds so slyly, so ethereally, I never really notice the title in the title song. Still, nearly every song seduces me in the end, maybe with a riff on "Summertime," or a choice expletive I happened to notice. Ends with: "Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have." Claims it anyway. A-
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds (2019, Ridgeway): Bass-guitar-drums trio, Denson and Pilon splitting the writing credits. Nothing very splashy, but intricate, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]
Eliane Elias: Love Stories (2019, Concord): Jazz pianist from Brazil, pretty well established before she started playing (1990) or singing (1994) Jobim, but vocals and Brazilian rhythms have increasingly dominated her work, as is evident here. That's not necessarily a problem, but sometimes the strings are. B+(*)
Frode Gjerstad/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Matthew Shipp: Season of Sadness (2018 , Iluso): Alto sax/clarinet, cello, and piano. "We are living in a sad moment in time." Avant music that demands thinking, that doesn't lull you into a comfort zone, but also doesn't offer many answers. B [bc]
Weldon Henson: Texas Made Honky Tonk (2018, Hillbilly Renegade): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Humble, Texas, sounds a lot like vintage Joe Ely. The voice, anyway -- doesn't have the piano, but gets by with his guitar (and some pedal steel), especially when he doesn't dawdle. (Not that I have any complaints about "Not the Kind to Hang Around.") A- [os]
The Highwomen: The Highwomen (2019, Elektra): Patterned on the Highwaymen -- the 1984 supergroup of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson -- starting with Jimmy Webb's title melody, keeping the syllable count from "waymen" to "women." Not so super voices, but accomplished writers -- Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires -- with guest slots (Yola, Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert). Lot of talent. Not much to show for it. B
Florian Hoefner Trio: First Spring (2018 , ALMA): German pianist, based in St. John's, Newfoundland (not a town I've ever associated with jazz before). Fifth album I've heard, trio with Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums). Always strikes me as a sharp, thoughtful player, roughly comparable to Fred Hersch. B+(***) [cd]
Urs Leimgruber/Jacques Demierre/Barre Phillips/Thomas Lehn: Willisau (2017 , Jazzwerkstatt): Cover lists the saxophonist (tenor/soprano) above the title, the others (piano, bass, analogue synthesizer) below, Lehn standing out in red (like the title). Joint improv, has some moments but widely scattered. B
Mercury Rev: Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited (2019, Partisan): Indie rock band from Buffalo, debut album 1991, Christgau described their fifth (first gold) album as "soundtrack-rock." This is their tenth, something different: a remake of most of the one-hit country wonder's 1968 second album with an "Old to Billie Joe" thrown in for good measure. Each song has a guest singer, starting with Norah Jones and finishing with Lucinda Williams, but most could be anonymous. B
Ian Noe: Between the Country (2019, National Treasury): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, first album, after an EP. B+(***)
Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019, Drag City): One-shot album by singer-songwriter David Berman, who recorded as Silver Jews 1994-2008, released less than a month before his suicide at 52. Seems like a very solid effort, open and accessible, perhaps something that grow on you. B+(**)
Michele Rabbia/Gianluca Petrella/Eivind Aarset: Lost River (2018 , ECM): Italian percussionist, albums start in 1996 but he rarely gets top billing. Here with trombone and guitar, everyone also credited with electronics or "sounds." Fades into ambient, and doesn't do much there. B
Rapsody: Eve (2019, Roc Nation): Rapper Mariana Evans, from North Carolina, old enough to cite MC Lyte as a model. She had a commercial breakthrough last time out, netting more guests and samples here, 16 songs that run long, that will no doubt pay dividends if given more attention than I can muster. B+(***)
Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano: Roma (2018 , ECM): With Giovanni Guidi (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums), listed on cover below the title. Leaders play trumpet and tenor sax (plus tarogato), and are justly famous. Live meeting, must have seemed like a big deal, but only occasionally seems to connect. B+(*)
Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (2019, Columbia): Soul singer-songwriter, started in the group Tony! Toni! Toné! (1988-96), went solo in 2002, only his fifth album, eight years after Stone Rollin' took the critics' polls by storm. Ghetto drama, lament for a dead brother, but the music is strong enough to persevere. Highlight is a rap, Change of pace is a gospel in lieu of a funeral. A-
Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (2019, Outside In Music): Bassist, seems to be his first album, originals plus one cover of a Victor Jara song. Quintet, with tenor sax (Paul Jones), guitar (Alex Goodman, piano (Ben Winkelman), and drums (Dan Pugach). Tries to do a lot of different things: Jones' more avant stretches always catch my ear before moving on to something else. [10-25] B+(*) [cd]
Tanya Tucker: While I'm Livin' (2019, Fantasy): Country singer, been around so long I'm surprised she's only 60, but she was 13 when she broke her first hit. Twenty-fifth album, her first since 2009's My Turn, which without much research I ventured was her best ever. (I did listen to The Upper 48 Hits: 1972-1997, and gave it a B.) Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings produced this one, with Carlile co-writing 7 (of 10) songs (only one co-credited to Tucker). Still, the covers are more striking. B+(**)
Molly Tuttle: When You're Ready (2019, Compass): Bluegrass singer-songwriter from Santa Clara County, California, plays banjo and guitar. Played in family group the Tuttles, at 13 recording an album of duets with her father Jack Tuttle. First solo album, fortified by her fingerpicking. B+(**) [bc]
Dee White: Southern Gentleman (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Warner Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from Alabama, long-haired male barely 20, first album. Oddly enough, song that most impressed me was his drippiest ballad ("Oh No"). Brings out something in his voice. B+(**)
Young Thug: So Much Fun (2019, 300/Atlantic/YSL): Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, officially his debut studio album (although I have a dozen others in my database). B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Vaughn Nark Quintet: Back in the Day (1982-83 , Summit): Trumpet player, based in DC, spent twenty years with the USAF Airmen of Note, spanning the period when this was recorded. Three originals, repertoire from Gillespie through Walrath with a few standards like "Caravan" and "Over the Rainbow." Has some chops. B [cd]
Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe (1967, Capitol): Roberta Lee Streeter, born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, recorded seven albums 1967-71, first album named for his crossover pop single. Second best song: "Bugs." B
Bobby Gentry: The Delta Sweete (1968, Capitol): Second album, reissued in 1971 as Tobacco Road and 1972 as Way Down South. No hits, a very scattered mix ranging from delta blues to Cajun hoedown to baroque pop (very baroque). C+
Weldon Henson: Weldon Henson's Honky Tonk Frontier (2015, Hillbilly Renegade): Fourth album, does a nice job of working up his light, breezy honky tonk sound, closer to Lubbock than his home town of Humble (near Houston, in 1903 an oil boomtown, later the name of one of the Standard Oil companies). B+(***)
Weldon Henson: One Heart's Gone (2011, self-released): Working backwards, seems closer to his honky tonk roots, but keeps his head down. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: