Albums of the Week

September 2-September 8

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In this edition: Jonny Corndawg, Hella, Ry Cooder and Luke Temple

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Jonny Corndawg: Down On The Bikini Line (Nasty Memories Records)

True country soul can crop up anywhere. All the L.A. longhairs in the late 60s proved it, as did Uncle Tupelo in the 80s, and Brooklyn’s Jonny Corndawg – a name made for music if not porn – proves it today. What Waylon, Merle, Willie and Johnny kick-started bubbles like gravy in Corndawg’s veins, accept he expresses himself with crude aplomb all his own. From ballin’ underwater to sci-fi Brazilians, he sniffs around like a dirty old dog. But like a dear, disheveled hound, Jonny’s able to touch our hearts by surprise, digging up tasty gutbucket pathos in between the yucks & fucks. Cuts like When A Ford Man Turns To Chevy and Silver Panty Liners bring to mind blessed weirdoes like David Allan Coe and Shel Silverstein (in his role as muse for Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show & Bobby Bare). And anyone sweet on Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats is gonna bust a nut over Down On The Bikini Line (released August 30). It’s a heck of an opening gambit but I’ve got a gut feeling Jonny’s got a huge leather saddlebag full of tunes just as good. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Hella: Tripper (Sargent House)

Like a blur of fur, teeth and claws, this leaps at you, lurking in shadows only long enough to size you up before the pounce. Believe me, it’s more pleasant than it sounds if your tastes run to blitzkrieg rock with a lot more sophistication than the initial Sturm und Drang let on – think early Queen riding the lightning of that blue meth from Breaking Bad as they roar through proto-thrash and brainiac jazz licks over pummeling rhythms…and all without vocals to get in the way of the assault. Just two dudes – Zach Hill (drums) and Spencer Seim (guitar) – Hella generates massive amounts of multilayered sound on their fifth album, Tripper (released August 30). But for all the heavy, heavy monster noise, there are compositions, or perhaps mood/emotional poems would be more accurate. There’s none of the usual instrumental post-rock malaise – Tripper has a great big ol’ pair swinging from it – and Hella consistently takes the listener places. Exciting and even harrowing – bits feel like the score to a cool, arty, genuinely scary European horror flick like Mute Witness or the original Dutch NightwatchTripper is pleasantly pulverizing. You shan’t doubt you’ve experienced something when it grinds to a close. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Ry Cooder: Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (Nonesuch)

As I sit here tonight and write this as a victim of Hurricane Irene and having watched three states that I love so dearly (New York, New Jersey and Vermont) crumble under the unprecedented rush of flood water the likes of which we have never seen, I cannot even begin to tell you how much the massive imbalance of wealth in this country pisses me off. Seeing how much Wall Street and Corporate America lives fat off the backs of people like you and me thanks to a Congress that is more willing to give them sweetheart tax breaks instead of much-needed FEMA aid to storm-ravaged areas while preventing Obama from starting up Works Programs Acts that will help jumpstart this economy for real makes me want to either riot in the streets or run for public office. And apparently it looks like all this rampant cronyism has put a major pebble in the shoe of Ry Cooder as well, so much so that it has propelled him to craft his best non-ethnic album since Chicken Skin Music (1976).

Following the strange, bumpy and fascinating ride that was his Los Angeles Trilogy ( 2005’s Chávez Ravine, 2007’s My Name Is Buddy and 2008’s I, Flathead), Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (released August 29) is a total recall to the guitar legend’s 70s heyday, scaling his unique songwriting style back to a simpler time in his storied career to deliver a frank, funny and incredibly poignant national lampoon of the staggering political tomfoolery that is sending America into a downward spiral of serfdom as only the Ry man can. No Banker Left Behind is essentially a Matt Taibbi article set to an accordion-laced waltz, while the Purple Valley¬esque I Want My Crown calls out the Republicans for changing the locks on “the heavenly door.” Meanwhile, Humpty Dumpty World finds God taking hardcore Christian Conservatives preaching His word like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to task as his taste for this marble in the sky He created grows sour.

But nothing on Dust beats the fever dream that is John Lee Hooker for President. With Cooder intonating the late blues giant’s immortal gruff, he channels the Boogie Chillen singer in his plight to truly paint the White House black, granting every citizen their inalienable right to one bourbon, one shot and one beer three times a day, appointing nine fine women to the Supreme Court so they can give him judgment right on time, and threatening to shoot or cut the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of the world who get in his way. “Under John Lee Hooker, everything’s going to be copasetic,” promises Ry’s election illusion. And with the political run for the 2012 GOP ticket teeming with such a clusterfuck of idiocy, the idea of a President Hooker sounds like the most logical choice at this juncture, especially for any pissed-off members of the continually marginalized middle class like myself. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Luke Temple: Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care (Western Vinyl)

As the frontman for the pastoral kraut-wave outfit Here We Go Magic, Luke Temple has helped craft some of the most distinct sounds to emerge from the indie rock canon. As a solo act, however, the Brooklyn resident cools down the 21st century appeal of his full-time gig in favor of crafting a spacey, melodic set of folk-pop songs that stand in stark contrast to his primary group’s distinct sound. Written in the same time frame as Here We Go Magic’s eponymous 2009 debut, Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care (arriving September 6) – Temple’s third solo effort – is rootsier and more atmospheric in tone and substance, keenly indicative of its previous nomenclature: The Country Record. Temple was inspired by the way Rudy Van Gelder ran his famous studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, back when he produced just about every Blue Note and Impulse! album worth owning. And with the legendary jazz guru’s techniques in mind, he gathered up an ad hoc ensemble of his musician buds, including former Jeff Buckley drummer Parker Kindred, Eliot Krimsky of Glass Ghost on synths and Here We Go Magic guitarist Michael Bloch among others, to lay down the album in two four-hour sessions using only three microphones and a four-track tape machine. The finished product is a nine-track journey through the alien calm with a remarkable sense of lucidity, splitting the difference between Elliott Smith’s XO and the Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn with the grace of all Seven of Sufjan Stevens’ Swans. And given Temple’s growth as a songwriter since the conception of this otherwise fine recording three years ago, it will be great to see how far his distinct sound as a solo artist has transcended into the now. (RH)