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  Listen Up! 8/26/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Aug. 26

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many others, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Capitol Records. This record helped change my life when I first heard it 20 years ago (which was 11 years after it was made). It introduced me to so much country music history, to so many standards that I’ve since heard a million times in a million older and newer versions. I haven’t listened to it in a long time, but hearing this newly remastered CD is as thrilling as the first day I played my vinyl copy. The sound is incredible, and you can hear the dialogues before some of the songs even better than you used to be able to. The performances are what matter, though. This brought the then-young Nitty Gritty Dirt Band into musical contact with Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, and Mother Maybelle Carter, among others. It’s a joyous celebration of musical bonds across generations.

Rockhouse Ramblers, “Torch This Town,” not out yet. This is St. Louis’ own retro-country music act, and they’ve put together an even better second album than their debut of a couple years ago. I’d tell you more, but you can’t buy it for a couple months, and I have to save my best thoughts for a longer article for another publication. I’ll just tell you they know how to write songs, and they have two magnificent guitar players, along with three excellent vocalists.

Junior Wells, “On Tap,” Delmark Records. This was a very solid early 70s blues album featuring the great Junior Wells on vocals and harmonica, and a whole bunch of fabulous musicians whose names don’t sound familiar (along with one, A.C. Reed on sax, whom I have heard before). It’s worth picking up for the intensity of “What My Mama Told Me,” the opening cut that sounds like a classic Chicago blues blast-off. But, even the more laid-back songs sizzle at times, and this record brings back a time in blues history that has been lost. After the 60s revival had wound down a bit, but before the 80s turned blues into a frozen industrial product, the 70s was a time when a lot of great musicians just cranked out good music for small audiences. The rhythms were elastic, the performances loose and relaxed. This is an excellent example of what made that time so great.

Ours, “Precious,” Dreamworks Records. I almost didn’t say anything about this, because I barely noticed its presence, but then they did a workmanlike, formulaic cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” and I looked at their picture to see a bunch of Factory wannabe-types. You can’t relive that level of cool, kids. Make up your own cool. And while you’re at, try to come up with more interesting musical ideas.Their originals sound like a cross between Radiohead and Queen, but not half as competent as either.

--Steve Pick
   

 

 

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