Saturday, February 21, 2004

Well, here's the goods. Comments are now, more than ever, very much appreciated.


Unknown Artists - "Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme" (Live)

This was a P2P find, probably an accidental download; but I find myself returning to it on a regular basis. The recording is pretty poor, which somehow adds to its immediacy and power.

As best as I can tell, this was recorded live in what sounds like a church; you can hear babies cry out and the shuffling of chairs, but the crowd is entirely too quiet and reserved for a regular concert.

The beep at the start of the track suggest this was probably bootlegged off of a videocamera, the strings/drum/vocal choir and language all sounds African to me.

Precious stuff; the choir soars even through the muffled sound and the simple, innovative musical arrangement is reminiscent of Baaba Maal.

If you have suggestions about background, I would appreciate info.


The Hill Billies: Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters - "The Feller That Looked Like Me"

This here is some snazzy real deal bluegrass recorded May 1927 in New Yawk City... skyscrapers and everythang.

Here's an excerpt from the liners by Prof. Charles Wolfe:

"Their first big break came when they got a shot on the radio at Washington's WRC in January 1926; the station was deluged by letters, post cards, and phone calls, all with compliments and requests - so much so that Radio Digest did a feature on it. Though WRC was only a 500 watt station in those days, the signal carried both up to New York and down south to Virginia... the boys were so popular that they were asked to play at a White House function before President Coolidge... (t)he end of the Hill Billie's saga came... as a result of a grinding automobile crash in October 1932 in Winchester: [lead vocalist] Al Hopkins was killed."

Part Hee Haw, part children's story; the lyrics have a great old timey bluegrass mix of sing song absurdity and mad violence. Witness the chorus: "Oh wouldn't I like to catch him/Wherever he may be/Oh, wouldn't I burst his pumpkin head/that fella that looks like me." The playing is casually expert.

Much of this album is filled with standards, but as far as my (admittedly limited) knowledge goes, this was an Al Hopkins original. It's a fairly obscure song, even for bluegrass fans, but I likes it.

More tracks by this artist: Sadly, in Real format, which I don't play with. Honking Duck is a great looking website if _you_ do, though.
A page dedicated to Charlie Bowman, famed Buckle Buster fiddler: However, please note that the fiddle on this particular track is NOT by Bowman; personnel for fiddle on "Feller" is Elvis Alderman.
Purchase the CD direct from the publisher.


Jabula Home Defenders - "Where You Come From?"

Popularized in America by Joseph Shabalala and the Black Axe of Ladysmith Township, this sort of choral performance (along with the dance that accompanies it) is known as isicathamiya, which might be loosely translated as "township jive". These songs are performed as battles, with township representatives competing in officially scored contests known as ingoma ebusuku.

The dancing here is often as beautiful as the singing; listening without seeing it is like listening to a great orchestra perform a ballet on tape: you're missing half the point. More's the pity, but the driving beat of this song should be enough to at least hold your attention.

Performed in both Zulu and English, November 1985. English lyrics: "Where you come from? Come on. What you say? That's why I speak English. You make me cross." Pretty basic and necessary English for a Zulu servant. The Zulu translates into "Dear me, there is no money. My coffers are exhausted," explaining why this English was necessary to learn.

Powerful. 8 Mile eat your heart out.

I grew up with Isicathamiya performance very near and dear to my heart. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Background on the history of Isicathamiya
Robert Christgau deigns to listen to good music: "Put off by its ethnographic audio, I shelved this as a field reference until my boundless thirst for knowledge induced me to take it out and turn it up." Hoooookay.
Purchase the CD, Zulu Worker Choirs from Amazon: I gotta tell you, this one's worth it. I could've posted any of several tracks on here; the version of "Just a Closer Walk with Me" is similarly priceless. In fact, I may have to post that one sometime later.

The Coasters - "Down In Mexico"

I love the Coasters. You've undoubtedly hummed along to a song or two; they're responsible for "Yakety Yak", "Poison Ivy" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe".

"Down In Mexico" is a seriously naughty vice, a song essentially about contacting a Mexican pimp to acquire the services of one "chick" who will do "a dance (you) never saw before".

Everything in this slinks and boogies. It's a tattoo come to life.

It's also a total personal fave. That sax riff still kills me and I defy you not to shake ya butt when the bongo solo drops.

Learn a bit more about the Coasters
Purchase the CD from Amazon: This astonishing two disc Rhino set is sadly out of print, hence the ninety buck cost. Must say, at any price it's hard to call this a bad deal. Check Ebay first, tho.

The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet - "My Walking Stick"

"Down in Mexico" is one of the earliest songs I remember ever listening to and liking. This would likely be the first. It's in my top ten favorite songs.

This "Human Orchestra" style of acapella beats seven flavors of hell out of beatbox, for my money. Joyfully nonsensical lyrics: "Without my walking stick/I'd go insane/Couldn't look my best/I'd feel undressed/without my cane".

Simply perfect.

Purchase the CD direct from the publisher


I would never have heard any of this music if not for my father, who turns 57 today.
I love you Pops.