Liner Notes by Brian Chozick
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Las Cruces festival features country music as its main dish
It has been two very long years since Dwight Yoakam last visited us, and this time he two-steps his way over to open Las Cruces’ sixth annual Country Music Festival. The event runs Oct. 19-21 and hosts over half a dozen heritage acts, as well as some bright up-and-comers in the form of Sawyer Brown, Rick Trevino, Frankie Ballard and King Leg. The last one just so happens to be produced by the man who kicks things off, Dwight Yoakam. Yoakam’s last disc in 2016 was his first foray into bluegrass, which he pulled off brilliantly, but he’s sure to be playing tunes from his 30-years-plus career. His instantly recognizable drawl and guitar playing usually finds itself bouncing from country to rockabilly to honky-tonk. If somehow all this is foreign to you, look no further than your favorite cover version of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” or Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” among countless others. He’s no stranger to taking on other’s material and each one of his four discs on the subject are full of surprises. Let’s also not forget that his originals that are worth the price of admission by themselves. Pop on that cowboy hat, strap on those spurs, and gallop (or drive) over to Las Cruces for some down-home country goodness.
National: Soul Asylum, “Say what you… & Made to Be Broken,” Omnivore Records
Long before they were singing about runaway trains, one would have thought they were the conductors of the iron horses. The band was loud, fast and careening out of control. Their sound was far more punk than anything that was going to be embraced by MTV and the masses. This was an era for the band that is sadly missed, but every so often that sound does pop up on a disc. All is not lost thanks to the magic of the reissue. Omnivore records has excavated their first two releases, “Say What You Will, Clarence... Karl Sold the Truck” and “Made to Be Broken.” These albums go back nearly four decades and feature a very young band full of angst and energy. Both are produced by Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould. Their debut was certainly rough around the edges but had an undeniably infectious raw energy; while their sophomore effort seemed to hone their sound, taking their foot off punk pedal a bit, and applying more pressure on rock and pop. Each CD offers up a bevy of bonus tracks with unreleased material as well as alternate versions and demo tracks. So jump aboard and let Soul Asylum give you the ride of your life.
Bottle Rockets, “Bit Logic,” Bloodshot Records
“Bit Logic” sounds as if we are about to get schooled in technology. Don’t panic: Although the first cuts of the new “Bottle Rockets” release covers the subject, the rest of the album abandons the theme. This is their first CD after a long three years’ absence. Waiting for a new collection from the guys from St. Louis, Missouri just seems to become a painful experience as the anticipation mounts. They continue to demonstrate why their name must be mentioned right along alt. country greats like Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo. They even explain their position on the genre halfway through on “Bad Time to be an Outlaw.” They’ve kept it together for over a quarter-century, and keep getting better with age. This set leans harder on the country side, but there’s still plenty of fuzzed-out, feedback-riddled guitar, combined with that twanged-out tone that provides the soundtrack to life in rural America. Things come to a close with a gentle ode to love in “Silver Ring,” a sure-to-be future staple of wedding ceremonies, and this from the guys who brought us the poor man’s anthem with “1,000 Dollar Car.”
Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood, “With Animals,” Pias
After crafting a solo album last year, former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has gone back to what he has spent close to the last two decades doing, and that is collaborating. This time it isn’t dropping in with Unkle, Queens of the Stone Age, Duke Spirit or Moby, but more of a partnership like time served with Greg Dulli when they created the Gutter Twins. This time he teams up with British musician Duke Garwood, as he did on their 2013 release “Black Pudding.” The new one is “With Animals,” and if you expect this album to rock and be the feel-good album of the year, you may want to look away. Be prepared for the complete opposite: chills through your entire body with a deep exploration into death. This is going to take you on a dark adventure you may not soon recover from, but it’s well worth the exploration. The instrumentation is extremely sparse. The vocals are the main attraction of this journey, especially when Lanegan steps up to the mic. He is still caught between a guttural groan and a cigarette-coated rasp. Whether you listen to this disc with or without animals present, it is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Collectibles: Ben Folds, “Brick: The Songs of Ben Folds 1994-2012,” Edsel Records
In the United States when it comes to a quality reissue and a profound exploration of an artist’s catalogue, the go-to label is Rhino records. In Europe, if you’re looking for someone to go deep into the vaults to dig out serious treasure, a fine choice is Edsel. This is the home of the new, expansive career-encompassing release by one of the finest piano players to ever put fingers to keys, Ben Folds. The new collection takes its name from one of his finest songs and weighs more than its title. “Brick” features 13 compact discs, including all four Ben Folds Five albums, all his solo material, live recordings, b-sides, and copious amounts of bonus material. The bonus music cuts are chronologically placed on each original album, and in some cases spill over to a completely separate CD. “Songs for Goldfish” also makes a rare appearance — this was originally an extremely elusive platter only sold via his website. The collection of course has an incredible 60-page booklet featuring a new interview with Paul Myers, and comes in very unique brick-style packaging. Be sure to use this Brick as a main building block to ensure a very sound structure when it comes to constructing a music library.
Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at
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