In this edition: Chandler Travis Three-o, And So I Watch You From Afar, Nakia, Larry Carlton & Robben Ford, Greg Prevost, and Iceage.
The ignorance of greatness does nothing to diminish its greatness. That said, how in the world does the wide world not know about Chandler Travis? Just on the basis of these two recent releases the guy is an Elvis Costello meets Warren Zevon meets NRBQ meets The Beatles treasure in our midst. And apparently he’s been doing the voodoo that he does since the early 70s. It’s humbling when one comes across as beautifully tweaked and tugged a record as This Is What Bears Look Like (released last October), where one realizes as hard as they try to keep their ear to the ground for the good stuff it’s inevitable one’s gonna miss a few. Thankfully both the Impound and you, good reader, can rectify a wrong by digging into Travis’ catalogue with vigor, starting with the Three-o’s softly seductive, jazz-inflected pop gem – we hear snippets of Sun Ra’s wooing warble inside some of these relaxed, gracefully arched compositions filled with dented wisdom, unfiltered romance, and streetwise spirituality.
For a rowdier slice of Travis’ oeuvre, the corker from Catbirds (released last August) is akin to discovering The dB’s or The Smithereens, a potent descendent of middle period Beatles invigorated by 70s punk and 80s underground jangle that convincingly asks questions like, “Don’t you ever want to quit? Don’t you ever want to cut the shit?” The band’s webpage comically posits this description (evidence of their good humor and knowing backbone):
If Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga had quadruplets, except somehow they ended up being kind of musical in addition to being rather large and rubbery, and it happened about 50 or 60 years ago, well, presto!
Seasoned pros all just based on their lock-tight vocals and punchy, brawny playing, Catbirds Say Yeah! makes one want to set up a go-go cage in their living room and see if they can get a happening started. Any power pop aficionado is gonna be in hog heaven with this slab, which neatly picks up where Rubber Soul-era Fab Four and #1 Record Big Star left off, crying, “Who cares what the donkey wants?” and making you sing along to songs you’re hearing for the first time – Travis’ cohorts are skilled composers too, making the collective talent here kinda lethal.
A little research revealed that I’d heard a bit of Travis’ work in the 80s with aptly named The Incredible Casuals, which included future NRBQ guitarist Johnny Spampinato, and realizing that it’s clear that Chandler Travis has been a quality operator for decades. It’s past time listeners tuned into his varied, infectious thang in greater numbers, and we’re down to help make that happen at the Impound. We’re all ears for whatever you got coming and going, sir, and we’ll gladly let the people know about it from here on out. (Dennis Cook)
Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
And So I Watch You From Afar: All Hail Bright Futures (Sargent House)
Few albums feel so immediately alive, permeating your listening space like glowing pollen, seeping into pores and making one react quickly and emphatically. An energizing propulsion drives All Hail Bright Futures (released March 19) – there’s no missing one has gone somewhere when this concludes. The first words spoken on this selectively wordless effort are a chant of, “The sun, the sun, the sun is in our eyes,” accompanied by solar flare guitars and an enveloping, cosmic rhythm. Each time language enters it’s matched perfectly by the delivery and musical tenor. Anyone drawn to the “Blessing Force” end of Akron/Family is gonna splort over this set. There’s plenty to grab onto in this psych-tinged-yet-clearly-post-Television sound, but And So I Watch You From Afar – a name of terrific romance and desperation that plays out in rougher, more interesting ways than some bullshit emo band would with the same moniker – is too headlong in their own exploration to be cribbing from anyone. Caribbean outbursts, blip science, mountain shaking drums, and more accent different sections, and always All Hail Bright Futures keeps one guessing. There’s some kinship with contemporaries like Delicate Steve and Ak Ak but as with planets and stars there’s plenty of distance between these guys and anything else in their orbit. In the end, this feels like a catalyst towards the bright future of the title, and that is a pretty amazing thing to bottle and share. (DC)
Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Nakia: Drown In The Crimson Tide (Something-Music)
Modern soul music is in a sorry state. Folks that think what’s proffered on MTV or VH1 has soul are generally people that take what’s given and ask few questions. It’s outside the video glare that a small real soul surge is occurring, and Alabama-raised Austin-based Nakia is part of that fresh wave. The crowd-sourced Drown In The Crimson Tide EP (released March 5) is smart and sexy, a sly creeper born from the ashes of Otis Redding and prime Joe Cocker, winking and offering reposts like, “What I lack in common sense I make up with a gun,” over original arrangements that incorporate elements of reggae, classic Southern soul and today’s more contemporary update of it a la Sharon Jones and Allen Stone – two folks Nakia should be cutting duets with toot sweet, not to mention kindred spirit Zach Deputy who would be a dynamite foil for him. There’s broad romance (Dream Big), rockin’ saunter (Pieces And Castles), and horn basted gutbucket crooning (When I Found You) on top of single-ready cuts like Tight, Make Up With A Gun and When I Found You. I hear Nakia was on The Voice but don’t hold that against him – everybody gotta try and make their mark where they can in this topsy-turvy modern industry. This is a real talent with a hearty, heart-filled voice and bangin’ tunes. Don’t sleep. (DC)
If you were to ask my guitar playing Uncle George who his two favorite pound-for-pound guitarists are, the man who essentially educated me on about 75-percent of the music I’ve listened to in my lifetime would most likely tell you Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. So the thought of these two titans of titanium strings coming together for an on-record jam session is just a mind-blowing notion for not only my dear uncle but anyone who has followed the careers of these legendary axes. Following up their previous union Live in Tokyo (2006), Carlton and Ford teamed up once again – this time in an all-acoustic setting – for a recent gig at the New Morning Jazz Club in Paris, France, the meat of which comprises this most excellent live set on Carlton’s own 335 Records, Inc. imprint (released march 12). Backed up by famed French sidemen Fifi Chayeb (bass) and Claude Salmieri (drums), the two guitar masters intertwine their distinct jazz and blues styles in a veritable Master Class of a performance highlighted by such winning material as the seven-minute opening burner NM Blues 08, Ford’s hard driving blues number That Road, a great version of Carlton’s 1978 gem Rio Samba, and a supremely laid back cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You. Hey Uncle, this one is definitely for you! (Ron Hart)
Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Greg “Stackhouse” Prevost: Mississippi Murderer (Mean Disposition)
If you wanna look back into the roots of the American new garage movement, its origins rest within the existence of the Rochester, NY-based band The Chesterfield Kings, whose Delta-born brand of Bomp! stoked punk blues set the scene for a new layer of post-Stones sleaze that inspired icons as disparate as Johnny Thunders and Jorma Kaukonen to get up and get down with them while laying the foundation for the likes of such celebrated new jacks as Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. Now the Kings’ main crow, renowned underground rock journalist and champion record collector Greg Prevost, makes his long-overdue debut as a solo act with Mississippi Murderer (released February 5), unleashing over 35 years of sonic moonshine he’s stashed away under a floorboard for himself, delivering a dirty dozen cuts of rowdy originals (Hey Gyp, Downstate New Yawk Blooze) and hollerin’ cover versions (Skip James’ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues, Robert Johnson’s Ramblin’ On My Mind) that come across like the original New York Dolls hunkered down in the Hill Country shack of RL Burnside. Fans of either the Kings or any of Prevost’s prefab outfits like Tar Babies or Distorted Levels will definitely want to seek out this collection of quality electric mud. (RH)
Ron’s Bonus Review:
Iceage: You’re Nothing (Matador)
When you have Iggy Pop, the Godfather of punk himself, hailing your group as “the only current punk band I can think of that sounds really dangerous,” you better come strapped with the nuts to prove his words right. Lucky for Denmark’s young, savage Iceage their self-produced sophomore set and label debut on NYC mega-indie Matador Records is fueled by the same amount of electric napalm as their 2011 debut New Brigade. Only for You’re Nothing (released February 19), these kids expand the base of their CBGB-reflecting hardcore futurism with elements of mid-60s Italian pop, dark ambient music and a touch of Station to Station-era Bowie. Dangerous indeed. (RH)