Cowboy Swings (5/03/2002)
Lyle Lovett, Anthology Volume 1: Cowboy Man (MCA Nashville 2001) - Lyle Lovett is a man who walks to the beat of his own fiddle (and needs to learn how to run from the bulls). For Cowboy Man, Lovett assembled 15 songs, 13 of which are drawn from his first three albums. This is unadulterated Lyle Lovett - pre-Julia Roberts, pre-Hollywood, pre-fame and fortune. Just the man and his songs.
And Lovett certainly has Texas singer/songwriters credentials. Lovett was born in 1957 and raised north of Houston, Texas, in the unincorporated farming community known as the Klein community, named after Lovett's great-great grandfather, Adam Klein, a German immigrant who came to the community in the 1840's. Lovett and his extended family still live on part of the original homestead.
Lovett enrolled at Texas A & M University in 1975, where he started rubbing shoulders with such songwriting renegades as Willis Alan Ramsey, Steve Fromholz, and friend and classmate, Robert Earl Keen.
Cowboy Man draws from his 1986 self-title debut, the certified gold Pontiac (1987), and the grammy-winning And His Large Band (1989). Also included are two new songs recorded in the summer of 2001: "The Truck Song," a Texas shuffle, and the Western swing inspired, "San Antonio Girl."
Thus, Lovett will be recalled with songs like "God Will," "If I Had a Boat," and "Which Way Does That Old Pony Run?" While Lovett went Hollywood briefly, appearing in several Robert Altman films (most recently in the Richard Gere drama, Dr. T & The Women), his strength lies in his music. Get your fix of old-time Lovett (including "Farther Down the Line") on Cowboy Man.
J. P. Torres and His Cuban Allstars, Cuba Swings (MCA/Pimienta Records 2001) - As the cultural barriers between Cuba and the U.S. come down, we see an interesting phenomena - Cuba has kept alive certain musical styles that are now out of date in the U.S. Thus, Cuba Swings combines a Cuban swing band playing American big band standards, such as "Satin Doll," "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Take the 'A' Train." And it works very well.
I don't know if Cuba Swings is really reflective of contemporary Cuban music. However, it shows a vitality in the Big Band style that is absent in the U.S.
Says band leader, Juan Pablo Torres, "The relationship between jazz and Afro-Cuban music is so evident that both develop a form of single concept; the rhythm, melody and harmony give way to a jam session. Only the elements that determine their unique identifies serve to locate them within time and space, while identifying their original and perspective."
Um, I'm not sure what that really means. However, the trumpet solo by Julio Padron on "In the Mood" is one of the most distinctive pieces that I have heard in awhile. Also appearing on the album are Tata Guines on percussion, guitar player Poncho Amat, bass player Jorje Reyes, Juan Pablo Torres on trombone, and vocalists Maria Elena Lazo and Lazaro Reyes.
You'll swing both ways with Cuba Swings.
Mark Olson & The Creekdippers, Pacific Coast Rambler (Hello Records/Koch Records 2001) - Pacific Coast Rambler is a quirky labor of love concocted by ex-Jayhawk, Mark Olsen, his wife, singer-songwriter, Victoria Williams (listed in the credits as Mabel Allbright), and multi-instrumentalist, Mike "Razz" Russell, who has worked with Joe Henry and the Honeydogs.
Pacific Coast Rambler (which includes three previously unreleased bonus tracks) is a laid-back, lazy sort of West Coast folk, recorded by Olson and Williams at their home in California's Mojave Desert (an odd place for a boy from Minnesota to wind up).
You'll find acoustic guitars and fiddles and an old timey sound on Pacific Coast Rambler. Olsen has a distinctive voice and a strong sense of himself, so I am always drawn to him. Says Mark, "We all got together for Victoria's musings of a creekdipper album to record a few things. We did a few songs as demos, then we suggested Mike come back and we do it property. So we came back, and we did the first record then. It's easygoing and fun, and I love the simplicity of it, which is reflected in the music."
I saw the Creekdippers live at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Los Angeles, and I hated them. But Pacific Coast Rambler is a better serving, considering that Victoria Williams is the Yoko Ono of the folk scene. (And if you don't believe me, jump to track 9, "Golden State Locket").
Originally available only by mail order, Pacific Coast Rambler is now available in wider distribution. It is certainly an idiosyncratic production, unlike anything on the contemporary scene.
Woven, E.P. (Interscope 2001) - Woven are a six-piece combo that plays experimental California rock. Think the Chili Peppers, without all of the hip-hop and some more ambient textures. With a fusion of sounds, Woven is rock music made in the studio for people who want to test boundaries.
Woven consists of vocalist/bassist, Jonathan Burkes, guitarist, Steve Abagon, drummer/programmer, Mark Viner, vocalist/guitarist/programmer, Ory Hodis, keyboardist, samplest, Mike Jerugim, and drummer/vocalist/keyboardist, Rich Abagon.
With that many musicians, there isn't a single drum loop in sight: the band made the music themselves. Says Mike Jerugim, "We are looking at the remote control mentality in our culture and are hoping for self-realization. We want to make people think, dance and enjoy the music.
With two guitarists, two drummers, a bass player and a keyboardist, Woven comes at you from left field. You'll hear lots of influences - Pink Floyd, Jane's Addiction, and the Deftones, but you'll wind up with a synthetic whole.
Adds Mark Viner, "One of the things that we like to do is to blend elements that haven't been blended before or in a way that we have never heard. We are the type of musicians who want to do something just for the sake of being new. These five songs are great examples of what comes falling out of the sky when we collaborate."
Songs like "Tesion" and "Who Knows" are a unique hybrid. I am not sure if I like it or not, but it certainly is different.
One thing I don't like is the hidden track. The EP consists of five songs, totaling 15 minutes. Then there's 30 minutes of silence, before you get to a ten-minute "hidden track." I've never been a fan of "hidden tracks" but certainly don't understand why a band with no name recognition would go to such lengths to obscure one of their songs.
- Randy Krbechek © 2002
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