July 2017

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Local: The Warped Tour closes in on a quarter-century

In these unsettling times, it is great to have something reliable to count on, and if it doesn’t cost a whole lot, even better. The Van’s Warped Tour, now in its 23rd year, makes its way back to Las Cruces Aug. 1. Since this is appearing in the July issue there should be no excuse for missing this one. As always this circus is like no other, with a slew of activities to thrill and delight — but that isn’t meant to distract the concertgoer with second-rate acts. The main focus once again is on the music. This year metal and heavier bands appear to be the dominating genre, with I Prevail, Memphis May Fire, Hatebreed, Barb Wire Dolls and Doll Skin. Some classic punk is certainly worth the price of admission as well, with TSOL, Sick of It All and the Adolescents. A ska blast from the past shows up in the form of Save Ferris, which last year released its first album in 15 years. Lastly, keeping things a little on the weird side, Gwar has been invited to the big dance. Prepare to cook your musical mind to perfection from the sounds of the stage and the heat of the sun.

National: Buffalo Tom, “Let Me Come Over,” Beggars Banquet

Buffalo Tom came onto the alternative music scene via Massachusetts and hung on as a collective force for over 15 years. But after their 1998 “Smitten” record, the world witnessed the demise of one of rock’s best bands. Not all was lost, as lead songwriter and vocalist Bill Janovitz soldiered on and released three stellar solo albums. Almost a decade later a disc of new material magically appeared, followed a few years later by the self-released “Skins.” That was unfortunately six years ago and now rumors are circulating about some new material later this year. By now you might maybe asking why I am telling you all of this. It’s because the band has hit a milestone and Beggars Banquet Records has been put in charge as the party planner. They have released the 25th anniversary edition of the band’s third LP, “Let Me Come Over.” This is the one where the group really hit their sweet spot. While their two previous efforts were produced by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis, this was the first that had them parting ways, which surprisingly benefited the band. They became much more focused and the sound was richer, while still maintaining their rock mode with fuzzed-out guitars and a heavy slathering of jangle pop. For the new version the label has slapped on a bonus disc, featuring a 1992 show recorded in London, with 17 blistering cuts including many from the yet-to-be released “Let Me Cover.” Not only is this reason enough for picking up this updated classic, this also serves as their first official concert recording.

Jason Isbell, “The Nashville Sound,” Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers.

It has been such a long time that Jason Isbell was with the Drive by Truckers that even forensic scientists couldn’t find any evidence of tire tracks in the mud. Jason Isbell gave up his long-haul license over a decade ago. This change in career path proved to be a very wise decision: His last release netted Isbell two Grammy Awards. His latest release is “The Nashville Sound,” which is a reunion of sorts as he has brought back “the 400 Unit,” his band from 2011. This disc has very deep country roots with its low, raspy-tinted vocals getting sparse and dark, moving through some acoustic folk on a few, and taking time sipping on some twang. The disc is filled with songs that address cultural privilege, politics, love, mortality, crippling anxiety and devastation from a breakup. Jason’s detail and clarity take the art of storytelling to an entirely new level. If you’re still riding strong in his old convoy, and haven’t yet veered off his direction, be sure to follow the “Cumberland Gap” (song two) and you’ll find there is room in that truck cab for all.

Ben Ottewell, “A Man Apart,” Sunday Best/Pias

It has been six very long years since I have had the opportunity to amuse (mostly myself) with some clever wordplay regarding the name of the English band “Gomez,” which of course sounds more at home in El Paso. While many members of the band took the mic on any given disc, it was primarily Ben Ottewell’s voice that guided us through Gomez waters. This is his third time treading on his own. His most recent masterpiece is “A Man Apart,” a collection anchored by lush acoustic arrangements with his deep and incredibly raspy voice. Of course there are several toe-tappin’ tracks to satisfy your hippy-daze dance groove. If you can’t wait to start shuffling those feet, head straight to cut five for “Back to the World,” and knock those cobwebs loose. With every solo venture he takes his game to an entirely new level of brilliance, making us ponder if he is better as a man apart from his Gomez family.

Collectibles: The Who, “Live at the Isle Of Wight Festival 2004,” Eagle Rock

Back in 2004, The Who decided to return to the scene of the crime, the Isle of Wight Festival, for their first performance there since their legendary 1970 performance (the live album wasn’t released until 1996). This was not an infraction that had involved drugs, violence, or hooliganism, well maybe that last one a little. The band was guilty of a mind-rattling performance that blew every other band off the stage, so in 2004 they decided to do it all again. This time it’s only taken 13 years for Eagle Rock to release “The Who Live at the Isle Of Wight Festival 2004,” a set of two CDs and a DVD. They kick things off with “I Can’t Explain” and as soon as that guitar comes through your speakers you know they’ve still got it. The band is in top form with a few tracks even getting treated to extended solos. On “Who Are You” Pete Townshend’s windmill is in full effect. Besides some hair loss, and later complaining about the sound level, you can’t even tell he has been touched by Father Time. Vocally Roger Daltrey is also brilliant from his trademark howl on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and punching up “My Generation” to new heights. Even Pete gets a little more passionate as he emphatically declares “You Can’t Have It,” complete with expletive on “Magic Bus.” If you missed the 1970 go-round, here is a second chance to witness something spectacular, and if you didn’t, how about an encore.

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at
tumblindicemusic@netscape.net.

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