Albums of the Week

May 9-May 15

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In this edition: Diamond Rugs, Chelle Rose, Dave Mulligan, The Waco Brothers and Paul Burch, Mark Stewart and Pelican.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Diamond Rugs: Diamond Rugs (Partisan)

Addictively listenable, dirty in all the right ways, and possessed by a jittery hip-shake that makes heads nod with rubbery bounce, the eponymous debut from new collaboration Diamond Rugs (released April 24) is a raw ass, vintage rock honoring, beer swilling treat. This band brings together John McCauley (Deer Tick), Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), Ian Saint Pé (The Black Lips), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate) and Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite), and this set nails things with a wham-bam-thank-you-mam immediacy and lusty playfulness that’s just wonderful. They repeatedly toss out tunes with a buzzed, sometimes surfy wiggle, touching on odd culture points (call girls, “damn, it feels good to be a gangster,” Christmas in a Chinese restaurant), and generally run rough fingers under our skirt, fully aware that if they feel our leg then they’ll feel our thigh, and then it’s on – to which Diamond Rugs replies, “Hells yeah, let’s do this thing.” The ghosts of Buddy Holly and the Beau Brummels hover near these Nashville sessions, though perhaps a touch floatier than usual from the contact high coming off these lively recordings. Diamond Rugs strikes one as a release for the musicians involved, a chance to rock around the clock, thinking fast and all loosened up on a case of Romilar they found in a dusty attic next to a stack of Creem back issues – a publication that would have likely seriously dug this hard-as-a-rock, hungover gang a whole bunch. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Chelle Rose: Ghost of Browder Holler (Lil’ Daniel Records)

“Woke up to the bam of a hammer crashing down/ Scared me half to death/ My bed was lifted off the ground.” With a swing and a solid hit, Ghost of Browder Holler (released May 1) sets to flooding your head with blood, a haunting too seductive to actively resist. If the word ‘holler’ in the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Rose trucks in down home sounds, the loose, deliciously teetering clatter of juke joints and street corner picks resonating in her music. Add to that a voice perfectly aged in maple wood and top-drawer sour mash, a full grown woman’s timbre at her disposal with all the spine and ready fists to back up whatever mama dishes up. In fact, at one point Rose tells her lover she’s baking up a “big ol’ apple pie, just the kind you like,” and one is instantly reminded of the food language coding of early blues sides, where a biscuit was rarely just a bit of dough. Producer Ray Wylie Hubbard keeps the guitars ringing loud and the beat low ‘n’ lean (with a band that includes former New Earth Mud bassist George Reiff and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan), each track empathetically appointed in arrangement and instrumentation to maintain a consistent yet nicely shifting sonic atmosphere for Rose’s sharp originals and a badass cover of Buddy & Julie Miller’s “I Need You.” Her ability to detour into tenderness – just another girl strolling sadly through the weeping willows – only adds to Chelle Rose’s considerable charms. This is great Southern slathered music and a signpost that folks need to start paying serious attention to this emerging talent. (DC)

Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Dave Mulligan: Runaway Blues (self-released)

Amidst notched bedposts and slippery, spent Sierra Nevada bottles, Dave Mulligan is handily reviving classic 70s country-rock flavors in a way that makes them seem like they never went away. He does this on his latest EP, Runaway Blues (released May 1), by writing indestructibly enjoyable tunes about all the things normal folks love and bellyache about – a modern answer to Hoyt Axton, Kris Kristofferson and Glen Campbell in their heyday – and delivering them with a glint in his eye. There may be something wrong with you if you don’t clap your hands and stomp a bit during corkers like the title tune and Santa Fe Runaway, where he duets with Nicki Bluhm, his bandleader in the Gramblers, where Mulligan is also making some very fine music these days. On Runaway Blues, he’s joined not only by Nicki but also fellow Grambler Deren Ney (guitar), Jackie Greene, Greg Aiello and Tim Bluhm, who produced at his Mission Bells studio in San Francisco. Mulligan’s voice has a smoky, slow rolling feel, the words easing out of him in a manly burr with a quality that suggests either a plump Burt Reynolds moustache or thick beard surrounding the syllables. This six-pack is ideal EP fare, establishing Mulligan’s chops as a solo artist, leaving one anxious for more, and probably singing along with winning couplets like, “Heard you up and moved on like a boulder down a hill/ Never wait for no one and I know you never will.” Luckily, if this whets yo’ appetite Mulligan’s 2007 debut album The Late Great Southwest has been reissued along with Runaway Blues. A more somber affair than the lightly shuffling EP, the full-length shows off Mulligan’s range with a song cycle heavily absorbed with the end of a romance and how that leaves a man twisted up inside. There is something softly haunting about The Late Great Southwest, a shimmering, feeling-filled album that bears deeper inspection (with a bottle of something strong in easy reach) in between dancing around to his latest Blues. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
The Waco Brothers and Paul Burch: Great Chicago Fire (Bloodshot)

“Your paltry record sales have inspired me to suggest a rock collaboration, one which the world has never heard the likes of before” begins the open letter to Paul Burch and The Waco Brothers by the top brass of their label, Bloodshot Records, on the back inlay card of their outstanding collaborative debut. “The record shall be called Great Chicago Fire (released April 24) and should aim to be between the 14th and 25th best rock albums ever made.” Signed mysteriously “L,” whether the note was penned by one of the co-owners of the revered Chicago-based alt-country imprint, Nan Warshaw or Rob Miller, is unclear, but its motivating words, presumptively scribbled in jest, were certainly taken to heart by this winning combination of the Nashville-based indie twanger and the celebrated Mekons side band. Here, they deliver a rowdy, rambunctious 11-song set that falls somewhere between Ronnie Wood’s short-lived late 70s supergroup New Barbarians and The Amazing Rhythm Aces at the peak of their powers, evidenced on such highlights as Wrong Side of Love, Transfusion Blues and a version of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall that sounds like it was hijacked by The Band after the two parties went their own ways. Perhaps the owners of Bloodshot should send along a follow-up letter mandating that Burch become a permanent member of The Mekons. Now that would be something. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Mark Stewart: The Politics of Envy (Future Noise Music)

In this hectic, unpredictable climate of global economic instability, staggering wealth imbalance, Arab Springs, Occupy movements, mass media paranoia and austerity riots, it seems as though the dystopian future British industrial icon Mark Stewart has warned us about since the heyday of his renowned band The Pop Group – way back in the genesis of the Thatcher regime – has come to fruition. And on his eighth solo LP, the Bristolian badass makes a roaring return to call out the “corporate cocksuckers” fucking up modern society on his finest effort under his own name yet. On The Politics of Envy (released March 27), Stewart enlists the assistance of a jaw-dropping array of guests, including Lucifer Rising auteur Kenneth Anger, original Clash guitarist and Public Image Ltd. co-founder Keith Levene, Richard Hell, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Slits bassist Tessa Pollitt, Raincoats frontwoman Gina Birch, bassist Douglas Hart of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Massive Attack toaster Daddy G and the entire lineup of Primal Scream. Together, this motley lot delivers a dubby, clangy and catchy assault on the hypocrisy of the present age with a total return to form for this true legend of the English underground. (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Pelican: Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord)

An EP release is generally not much of a stopgap between full-lengths from one of your favorite bands, but the follow-up to Pelican’s 2009 album What We All Come To Need is no mere morsel. The Chicago post-metal quartet took as much care with the creation of this four-song set as they have with any of the titles they’ve brought forth since their inception in 2000, maybe even more so. Recorded in four different studios with Sanford Parker (Natchtmystium, Minsk) and Isis drummer Aaron Harris, Ataraxia/Taraxis (released April 10) instills a sense of seamlessness on par with their finest material as the group incorporates elements of Eno-esque ambience, Mogwai-style soundscapes, electronic minimalism and downer folk into their caustic instrumental recipe. Indeed, it would be great to see some of these new directions turn up for their next long player. (RH)