Thursday, July 08, 2004

the luverly miss McKay
the misanthrope leaves the house: nellie mckay

Nellie McKay's album is a stumbly-bumbly wonder; it often plays as a pointlessly inflated 2CD temper tantrum and is occasionally twisted by overproduction (album versions of "Sari", "The Dog Song" and "Inner Peace" are about twenty times less interesting than the demos) but the gems on this puppy shine as brightly as anything else I've heard made in this past year.

I was therefore awfully excited to hear about her live show at the South Street Seaport, for free yet! I find McKay absolutely adorable and the Lauren Bacall thing she does with her voice gets me all jelly-toed.

Don't get me wrong; the appeal is considerably more than skin deep; her savvy blending of multiple musical idioms, that gentlehoneyed Annie Ross tone and considerable keyboard chops have put her in the pole position. Hell, she even performed a few songs in German and French, suggesting that she has every intention to take over the world. She just might pull it off.

One of the things I found most reassuring about Nellie's musical future is her tremendous musical professionalism. She snapped to like a jukebox when she started playing, throwing herself into the songs and delivering heartfelt gutbucket renditions of "David", "Sari", "Respectable" and "Inner Peace". The girl's got a flair for the non sequitur (what was up with the railing against "Spider Man 2"? Those that tour with Alanis Morrisette are hardly in a position to play hipper than thou) and the flustered Tori-ish madwoman facade reared its head at almost every song break (see the SFJ article below for more on that), but the rubber meets the road when she starts playing. No nonsense, just a fireball of energy and excitement.

It's quite obvious that Nellie's management seems a little unsure how to market her; she shows up on The View but also opens for Lou Reed? She does little clubs in Virginia but is also on tour with the BareNakedLadies? The crowd that turned up for this gig was a good indication of Nellie's diversificated audience: oldsters, hipsters, quite a few openly gay couples and quite a few political types that distributed stickers and literature, a small crowd of comic book guy types and several families. One mother/father/seven year old/thirteen year old collective all started boogy-ing together when "Ding Dong" was played; that kind of Nick/VH1/MTV synergy can't be bought, but how do you harness it?

She made a vague allusion about her next album being a live set; rumour on the net has it that she's trying to record a show (with a full band yet!) in a women's prison. Looking forward to that; I have to believe that the right direction for Nellie is stripped down and live. It's where she excels.

If it isn't already obvious, I was VERY gratified by the show; the girl can flat out captivate a crowd and she got me too. I stuck around afterward and waited my turn for my minute or two of face time and an autograph. Nellie was a goldplated bumblebeeheart, cute as three pearl buttons dipped in applesauce and sweetly unflappable. I told her I had a big old crush on her and was available for groupie auditions then asked her if she'd mind if I put a few tracks of hers on my website. When she asked which songs, I said the ones of her website. She asked if I meant .com or .net and I told her that I wasn't aware there was a difference. Turns out that the .net is a fansite and the .com is Sony's site, so Nellie doesn't consider herself to have an "official" presence on the web.

I asked her what she would like me to put up, her choice. She requested a link to Columbia Cruelty (Nellie's a hardcore animal rights girl), a picture of Liberace, a picture of Betty Hutton and an open plea that some rich person ("I'll do it when I'm richer") start a charity wherein children write in requesting pianos of various colors, "so if some child wants a rainbow piano, they paint it and send it to them."

I asked if she just meant kids with cancer. She said "No, just kids!"

All in all, one of the nicer times I've had in the last few months. I totally heart Nellie.

I _STRONGLY_ recommend that those of you who haven't heard any live tracks give her a second try; live Nellie beats the record ten ways to Sunday.

Here's a knockout pair to give you a sense of what you might be missing:



Buy "Get Away From Me" from Amazon
The Onion interview
New Beats interview
SFJ weighs in
And O-Dub says...
Though to be fair, Oliver: a lot of ALL music is crap.


eating hands = no-no
glisten: ook ook

Jake Jones and the Gold Front Boys - "Monkeyin' Around"

Sleepy Texas Blues means that there WILL be a "long tall woman" who's gonna cause trouble. This piece is hardly the exception to that rule.

Buy "Texas Black Country Dance Music 1927 - 1935" direct from Document Records.
Just search for the title.
South Texas Monkey Observatory Documentary
Yes, you read that correctly.
Did you say, "Gold Fronts"?


The Five Red Caps - "The Monkey and the Baboon"

Sweet and swingin'.

Buy "The Five Red Caps: 1943-1945"
I've fronted the Caps here before; if you like what you're hearing, the whole album is of the same quality.
More information than you could possibly need about the Five Red Caps.
Aristotle on the monkey and the baboon.


Toots and the Maytals - "Monkey Man"

This is probably the most obvious selection I'm posting on the monkey collection, but it's just so damn good that I can't stand the possibility that you may not have heard it before.

Toots is way WAY up on my list. Neophytes are requested to begin with the Twentieth Century Masters.
Negro Please calls the new Toots one of his fave releases of the year and offers a dl'able track to show you why. Indulge him, whydon'tcha?
Toots' official site and a fairly devoted (if flash-ad-heavy) fansite.



I'm fairly excited (publicity whore that I am) to see that this reuter's article that I got quoted in actually came out. I've had a number of conversations with media folk about this new wave that is musicblogging and only a few of them have panned out.
I'd would like to apologize for mixing my metaphors, tho'. I'm a schmuck that way.

"balance the canoe in the sea of riches"? Why didn't I add that the music industry was up the creek without a paddle and that a listener stuck between a rock and a hard place would pick the lesser of two evils? Schmuck.

One caveat: I'm a bit tired with the whole "not targeted by the RIAA... YET" chickenlittle vibe that always accompanies any conversation about musicblogging. Our intentions are clear; our willingness to take down any tracks that anyone considers misappropriated are regularly stated (and, when necessary, obliged); our audience is confined to a small host of devotees and we're not making money on this enterprise, WE'RE SPENDING MONEY TO PROMOTE ARTISTS WE LOVE. So what's the problem?

I certainly hope I won't be proven wrong, but I think the music industry has come to realize that fans are not the problem, they're the solution. We aren't napster. We aren't Kazaa. We are, in fact, manna from heaven: intelligent tastemakers that encourage buying from label catalogs and hype up unknown or new artists. In a more rational world, we'd be getting payola.

I DO accept payola, by the by. Just sayin'.
I just started Ray Charles' autobiography, Brother Ray and it is fuckin' AMAZING. Here's a few choice bon mots from the first few chapters:

In those days no man just took his pussy -- not unless he had his gun.

Even later, when I got fairly good at the piano, I knew that I couldn't even carry Art Tatum's shit bucket.

A school for the blind ain't the easiest place to jack off.

I didn't turn to God either (when my mother died). I didn't have an ax to grind with Him, but I didn't have much to say to Him either.

It wasn't that I was angry at those white cats for taking (musical styles and songs) from blacks. No, I gave those ofay boys some credit for having good ears.

This is a fount of wisdom if ever there was one.

You are obliged to go get this book NOW and report back tomorrow. I wanna compare notes.
I'll be in contact late tomorrow night about those acapella CD's. I think everyone who contacted me should get one.

Listen, I'd like to switch to a full (or at least mostly full)-time selection of mix CD's; it makes for easier bloggin' and I need a bit more free time these days.

As such, I'd appreciate mix theme suggestions.
Also, keep an eye on the Hut; in the next few days I'll be requesting considerable collaborators.

Cuz I do it for you, y'know?
Some Musicblog updates:

Quoth Opacodex:
"Actually, starting yesterday, I'm mostly back!"
(Heck if I can get the site up, tho'.)

Quoth Dolby Surrender:
"Dolby Surrender does not provide mp3s anymore, but you can still listen to exciting new music in the radio blog on the right sidebar. right now you can listen to The Yummy Fur, Life Without Buildings, or the previous band from Franz Ferdinand's singer Alex Kapranos, called The Karelia."