Saturday, September 24, 2016

MarchFourth: “Magic Number” (2016) CD Review

I love it when people introduce me to great new music. That happened recently with the Portland, Oregon band MarchFourth. Of course, the band has been around for a while already – since March 4th, 2003, apparently (which was Mardi Gras that year) – and have released several CDs, but they are new to me. The band’s new album, Magic Number, was funded by fans and features original material written by a few of the band’s members. This disc follows 2011’s Magnificent Beast, and is the first to be released under the name MarchFourth rather than March Fourth Marching Band. And as far as marching goes, it seems to me this band is marching in the sense that the Grateful Dead’s bears are marching (that is to say, they’re dancing). This album is a whole lot of fun, and it features some guest musicians including Trombone Shorty.

They get things going with “Call To Action,” an instrumental track which opens with some cool percussion, The band gets you interested with its groove, and then – bam – hits you with the horns, and by that time you’re totally in, totally theirs. “Call To Action” was written by Anthony Meade, and the action they’re calling for is to let loose and dance like the uninhibited freaks you all are at heart. It’s followed by “The Quarter,” written by Paul Chandler. There’s something cool and sneaky about this one, like a spy going about his work. It begins as an instrumental, and then halfway into the track, the vocals come in. “Sitting in the window seat, the city in your sight.” But it’s those horns during the next section that I especially love. Bloody wonderful! This song then breaks through to a bright, magnificent section, before returning to that cool opening section again.

“Magic Number,” the album’s title track, is one of my personal favorites. It seems to promise adventure right from the start.  I appreciate the jokes about aging, with lines like “I laughed so hard that I fell off my dinosaur” and “Grow old, grow round.” But no matter your age, this track will have you dancing. This CD was recorded in New Orleans, and the magic of that city certainly makes itself felt in songs like this one. “Magic Number” was written by John Averill. By the way, the number 37 is a magic one for me. It seems to come up every day. The second line of this song is “I got thirty-seven hundred reasons to me mad.” What’s your magic number?

“Push It Back” is a dance number that features Galactic’s Stanton Moore on drums. The lyrics are sung with an odd sort of hushed tone: “I’ve seen you swinging from the trees/You’re going to bring it right down to your knees/If you push it back.” Then Galactic’s Ben Ellman joins the band on harmonica for “Inventing The Wheel,” a great instrumental track. (Ben Ellman also produced this album.) Trombone Shorty adds some fantastic trombone to this track. I love when this one breaks open, though still holding onto that steady base, that insistent hook. The band then starts to increase its pace, once this beast has been uncaged; it is at first tentative, testing its freedom, then bounding and leaping in an ecstatic frenzy, before returning to its base, that initial groove. Written by Anthony Meade, this is another of my favorites.

“Hotstepper” is more of a pop tune in certain respects, and is another where the vocals don’t come in until halfway through the song. Is the title “Jan Jar” a playful Star Wars reference, you know, to everyone’s favorite character from the prequels? It was written by Taylor Aglipay. If it is a reference to Jar Jar, it is certainly much cooler than that character ever could hope to be. If it’s not a Star Wars reference, then “It’s A Trap!” must be. Right? By the way, just before Admiral Ackbar says that line, watch the Mon Calamari standing in the background. He seems so confused and excited, and makes me laugh every time I watch the film. Just imagine him dancing around in the background while “It’s A Trap!” is playing, pointing this way then that way. Ah yes, everyone do the Mon Calamari boogie! The CD then concludes with “Endless Highway,” a short and kind of pretty instrumental number.

CD Track List
  1. Call To Action
  2. The Quarter
  3. Magic Number
  4. Push It Back
  5. Inventing The Wheel
  6. Hotstepper
  7. Drunk Bears
  8. Jan Jar
  9. Science (Free Your Mind)
  10. It’s A Trap!
  11. Endless Highway 
Magic Number is scheduled to be released on September 30, 2016.

Monkees Dream

This morning I dreamed I was at a Monkees concert. It was outdoors, and Mike Nesmith was playing with them (so the Pantages show was not his final Monkees performance after all). It was a really good show, and rather than the usual encores, Mike Nesmith sang a new song to end the evening. I loved the song, which was a serious number, but needed to know its title to include on my set list. After the show, I went to ask Mike what the song was called, but he was busy. I think “Sorrow” was in the title, but it was a long title (though of course it wasn’t “Long Title”), and it was one that you couldn’t figure out from the lyrics (you know, like “Tapioca Tundra”). Before I could discover the name of the song, I woke up. And then I realized I’d actually written the song, so I could name it anything I wanted. Except, of course, I hadn’t written it, but only dreamed it, and soon all the lyrics were gone from my memory, and all that remained was the basic feel of the song, or rather, how it made me feel. Oh well. I need a machine to record concerts in my dreams. But at least I got to see Mike Nesmith perform with The Monkees again.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Heaters: “American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings” (2016) CD Review

Remember The Heaters? Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Unless you lived in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there’s a good chance you never heard them. I never did. Though they released two records back in the day, neither album did all that well. They then went a different route, and in 1983 recorded several tracks on a Portastudio at the house of the lead singer’s parents, but these weren’t released. Until now. Thanks to Omnivore Recordings, they are here as American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings, ten great tracks, many of which have a definite 1960s girl group flavor. But unlike a lot of those girl groups of the 1960s, these women play instruments in addition to delivering fantastic, delicious vocal performances; also, they wrote all the songs on this disc. The Heaters were made up of two sisters – Missy A. Connell and Maggie J. Connell – and lead vocalist Mercy Bermudez. Joining them on certain tracks are Steve Barbato and John Cowsill. The liner notes are written by Mercy, Maggie and Missy, and tell the story of how these tracks came to be.

The CD opens with its title track, “American Dream,” a cool garage pop tune that I got into immediately. Certain lines stood out for me the first time I put on this disc, lines like “Your smile looks like a brand new car,” “You’re not a machine,” “Your hair looks like an airport” (unless I’m mishearing that) and “I’ll never get over your electric windows.” Missy Connell wrote this one, and it’s a lot of fun. I like what Maggie Connell does on piano near the end. “All I Want To Do” then is a sweet, innocent-sounding love song in which they sing, “All I want to do is love you.” Check out these lines: “I don’t understand it/I heard such stories about romance/Do I come from a different planet/Oh, lucky stars, give me one more chance.” Oh, we’ve all felt like that at one time or another, right? This one was also written by Missy.

That’s followed by “10,000 Roses,” which is part 1960s girl vocal group, part punk, and is a total joy. “I need a rose umbrella.” Those backing vocals (“Wah-oo, wah-oo,” and so on) made me laugh out loud. And check out that guitar work. This one was written by Maggie Connell. And then with “Every Living Day,” also written by Maggie, they really nail that delicious kind of heartbreaker that the 1960s vocal groups did so well. And it’s a fantastic song, probably my favorite on this CD. Mercy delivers an incredible vocal performance, and the backing vocals are perfect. “Every living day/Brings us closer/Closer to the end.” There is certainly a humor to it as well, like when they sing, “No, no, no, yes, no.” This one features Steve Barato on guitar, and also includes one of those spoken word sections favored in many of those 1960s tunes: “And my very, very, very best friend/Every living day/Bring us closer and closer and closer/Closer to the end.”

“Sandy” is certainly an unusual song. It starts with a phone being dialed, a girl answering. And then the song kicks in. So it’s like the band, rather than talking to this girl, sings her their thoughts about the boy she’s been seeing. I hope if The Heaters ever have any advice for me, they’ll give me a call and sing it. “But that boy that you’ve been seeing/Doesn’t really care for you/He’s in love with his own feelings/He can’t see you/He wants to be you.” Yup, “That boy wants to be a girl.” I love this song. And the end is surprising and funny.

John Cowsill (from The Cowsills) joins the group on drums for the last several tracks, beginning with “I Want To Love Again.” That song opens with a bit of spoken word: “You know there’s a way to my heart/That no one’s ever found/I thought someone did one time.” They let it loose on “Rock This Place,” which has a strong rock and roll vibe. The CD ends on a sweeter note with “I’ll Meet You There.” “Never will never do/It’s only a word we say/When it’s hard times/We’re going through/Everything is possible/When love’s got a hold on you.” Mercy adds saxophone to this one.

CD Track List
  1. American Dream
  2. All I Want To Do
  3. 10,000 Roses
  4. Every Living Day
  5. Just Around The Corner
  6. Sandy
  7. I Want To Love Again
  8. Rock This Place
  9. Love Will Be Hurrying To You
  10. I’ll Meet You There
American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings was released on August 19, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Gina Sicilia: “Sunset Avenue” (2016) CD Review

Gina Sicilia is a talented blues singer and songwriter. Her new release, Sunset Avenue, is an EP featuring mostly original material and one really good cover. On this CD, she mixes blues with soul and pop sounds, all driven by her powerful vocals. This is her sixth release, following 2014’s The Alabama Sessions. Joining her on this release are Ron Jennings on guitar, Glenn Barratt on guitar (Barratt also produced the CD), Ken Pendergast on bass, Scott Key on drums and percussion, Gary Oleyar on fiddle, Joel Bryant on organ, Walter Runge on organ and piano, and Charlene Holloway on backing vocals.
The EP kicks off with “Abandoned,” which begins with some tasty bluesy guitar before the rest of the band kicks in. This is a groovy blues song about that sometimes fleeting companion, Love. “Love was here, then it abandoned me/Love is who/Taught me to kiss you/Gone without a clue/Left me to miss you.” That’s followed by “Never Gonna End,” which has something of a soul vibe and great backing vocals. “Blood’s being shed/Heart’s on the mend/This hole that we’re in/Is growing deeper/I’m scared to know/Where will we go?/’Cause this battle we’re in/Is never gonna end.” Though those lyrics indicate a somewhat depressing outlook, this becomes kind of a sweet-sounding song by the end, particularly that instrumental section. Perhaps this is sung by someone resigned to this never-ending battle, not someone anxious or eager to get out of it.

In “I Cried,” Gina Sicilia sings about going to the river and crying. “I just had to cry, cry, cry/My weary eyes/Needed to cry, cry, cry.” Ah yes, sometimes we just have to let it out, regardless of what’s going on around us. A song like this, with its easygoing groove and heartfelt vocals, can act as a friend for us at those times. Songs like this tell us, “Hey, you’re not alone.” And sometimes that’s enough. I like that she tells us, “Life ain’t always bad for me/But right now it’s just too tough.” It’s good to know that this too shall pass. It’s a good song, and it’s followed by the EP’s only cover, “Tell Him,” a tune written by Bert Berns and famously recorded by The Exciters.  Gina Sicilia does a really good job with it. At the beginning when she sings, “I know something about love,” I believe her.  There are some nice backing vocals too. It has a slightly messy ending, but I suppose that’s part of its charm.

This EP concludes with “They Never Pay Me,” which for me is the most interesting track. Musically, there is a lot here to get immersed in. And vocally, she delivers a wonderful and emotionally charged performance. “Why do they have to be so cruel to me/Why oh my oh my/So watch your back/Tread carefully now ‘cause/This ain’t the last of me yet/Don’t underestimate me/I am telling you/This ain’t the last of me yet.” It’s a compelling song, and features some good work on guitar.

CD Track List
  1. Abandoned
  2. Never Gonna End
  3. I Cried
  4. Tell Him
  5. They Never Pay Me 
Sunset Avenue was released on August 26, 2016 on Blue Élan Records.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Porter Wagoner: “The Definitive Collection” (2016) CD Review

I’ve been enjoying the new Dolly Parton CD, Pure & Simple. On that album, she revisits two songs she originally recorded with Porter Wagoner. And listening to those tracks got me in the mood to go back to some more Porter Wagoner material. Well, guess what? Real Gone Music has just released a two-disc set titled The Definitive Collection, which contains forty tracks spanning the years 1953 to 1974. Most of these songs are from before his collaborations with Dolly Parton, with only a few tracks from the early 1970s.

The first disc opens with “Howdy Neighbor, Howdy,” a bright, happy tune from 1963 that features some wonderful work on fiddle. The CD then goes back to the 1950s, with “Trademark,” which has a more raw, loose sound. This song was co-written by Porter Wagoner, and in it he describes his trademark as: “A little bit of croonin’/A little bit of spoonin’/A little bit of swoonin’/And a lot of honeymoonin’/That’s my trademark.” He goes on to sing that he’s noted for his attempts to keep satisfying. Oh yes, and from what I can hear, he’s pretty damn successful at it. And from there this collection goes mostly in chronological order.

In 1954, Porter Wagoner had a #1 country hit with his excellent, passionate rendition of “A Satisfied Mind,” a song written by Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes. His vocals sound great, and he’s joined by some good backing vocals on certain lines. “Money can't buy back/Your youth when you're old/Or a friend when you're lonely/Or a love that's grown cold.”

I could do without the Jesus song, “What Would You Do (If Jesus Came To Your House),” though a part of me keeps coming up with snide responses to that and other questions posed in the song. “If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two/If he came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do.” Well, I really don’t like it when people show up uninvited, especially if they’re planning on spending the night. I think that’s incredibly rude. And as my friends can attest to, there’s hardly enough room for just one person in my home, never mind an uninvited guest. All right, enough about that. That song is followed by the great “Uncle Pen.” I’ve heard a lot of renditions of this song over the years, and this one still works its charm perfectly. It’s a lot of fun, and always makes me smile (and sometimes makes me dance around like a goof). Porter’s version of “Uncle Pen” reached #14 on the country chart. It’s followed by another of my favorites, “Tryin’ To Forget The Blues,” which reached #11 in 1956. Ah, some great country blues. “The song they’re singing makes me want to cry/’Cause it reminds me that you’ve gone and left me.” Then we get “A Good Time Was Had By All,” and with that fast banjo and fiddle, I don’t doubt that for a moment.

“Midnight” is a wonderfully sad and effective song. Ah yes, missing that special someone late at night, feeling lonely, midnight being an hour when you can’t turn to anyone else to alleviate the pain. ”I’m so lonely/So lonely at midnight for you.” And will the coming daylight help? Nope. “Tomorrow is on its way/Empty and blue.” This is another of the first disc’s highlights. I love those sad country songs. Like the delightfully depressing “Everything She Touches Gets The Blues,” in which he sings, “Wonder what she’ll name our baby/Someone else is helping her to choose/I only know my heart is broken/Everything she touches gets the blues.” Even better is “Cold Dark Waters,” another great depressing country song, this one dealing with lost love and suicide. His vocal delivery is perfect and heartbreaking. “I guess it all started the day we first met/You promised that you’d love me so/And I never thought it would end in regret/In the cold dark waters below.” This is one of my personal favorites.

The first disc closes with “I’ll Go Down Swinging,” with the excellent lines, “She thinks she made a fool of me by loving someone else/She should see me make a fool out of myself.” The second disc then opens in a fashion similar to the first disc, with “Y’all Come,” a happy, positive tune about neighbors coming to see you. It was clearly a deliberate choice to open both CDs this way, because both cases are deviations from the chronological order of tracks.

“Y’all Come” is followed by “Green, Green Grass Of Home,” a sweet song that was a big hit for Porter Wagoner, reaching #4 on the country chart. There is a spoken word section toward the end, and a spoken word section in “Skid Row Joe” too. That spoken word part of “Skid Row Joe” is actually my favorite section of the song. “But you see, this is my home/And you see the other bar down the street/Well, that’s my home too.” The spoken word part of “Confessions Of A Broken Man” is also wonderful. “I had a woman/Guess every man does/And every man thinks his is the best/Mine was/Stuck by me through thick and thin/’Til it just got too thin, I guess.”

“The First Mrs. Jones” is one of the highlights of the second disc. It was the lead-off track of his 1967 LP The Cold Hard Facts Of Life. Check out these lines: “Her real first name was Betty/But I’d rather just forget it/So I’ll call her the first Mrs. Jones/We were married in September/And it lasted ‘til November/Then one day she just took out on her own.” Like a lot of his recordings around this time, this track features a spoken word section, and in it he kills his wayward woman and we discover he’s telling the story to the second Mrs. Jones. Wonderful! Ah, the Julie of “Julie” is trouble too, and he tells us, “For she’d only laugh as she’d walk out the door/And each time she hurt me made me love her more.” And uh-oh, this one will end in death too. “Julie” reached #15 on the country chart.

“The Last One To Touch Me” is the only song in this collection written by Dolly Parton. Porter Wagoner released it as a single in 1970, and also included it on his 1971 record Simple As I Am. Dolly included her own version on her 1971 record Joshua. “The last thing I remember before I go to sleep/Is the touch of your sweet lips softly kissing me/And I go to sleep a-thinking how happy you make me/And I want you to be the last one to touch me.” Sweet, eh?

While the majority of the songs in this collection were written by other people, the final three tracks were all written by Porter Wagoner. “The Rubber Room” is an unusual and intriguing song, and Porter’s vocal delivery and approach are quite a bit different here. “Illusions in a twisted mind to save from self-destruction/It’s the rubber room.” And I dig the bass. This strange tune ends up being one of my favorites. “I hear footsteps pounding on the floor/God, I hope they don’t stop at my door.” “What Ain’t To Be, Just Might Happen” is a playful number that I also really like. “Highway Headin’ South” is also fun, and is one I’ll be adding to my road trip mix CD play list.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Howdy Neighbor, Howdy
  2. Trademark
  3. Company’s Comin’
  4. A Satisfied Mind
  5. Eat, Drink And Be Merry (Tomorrow You’ll Cry)
  6. What Would You Do (If Jesus Came To Your House)
  7. Uncle Pen
  8. Tryin’ To Forget The Blues
  9. A Good Time Was Had By All
  10. Midnight
  11. I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name
  12. Legend Of The Big Steeple
  13. Your Old Love Letters
  14. Everything She Touches Gets The Blues
  15. Misery Loves Company
  16. Cold Dark Waters
  17. I’ve Enjoyed As Much Of This As I Can Stand
  18. Sorrow On The Rocks
  19. The Life Of The Party
  20. I’ll Go Down Swinging
Disc Two
  1. Y’all Come
  2. Green, Green Grass Of Home
  3. Skid Row Joe
  4. Confessions Of A Broken Man
  5. I Just Came To Smell The Flowers
  6. Soul Of A Convict
  7. The Cold Hard Facts Of Life
  8. The First Mrs. Jones
  9. Julie
  10. Woman Hungry
  11. Turn The Jukebox Up Louder
  12. Pastor’s Absent On Vacation
  13. The Carroll County Accident
  14. Big Wind
  15. When You’re Hot You’re Hot
  16. You Got-Ta Have A License
  17. The Last One To Touch Me
  18. The Rubber Room
  19. What Ain’t To Be, Just Might Happen
  20. Highway Headin’ South
The Definitive Collection was released on September 2, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Meters: “A Message From The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977” (2016) CD Review

The Meters, like Booker T. & The MGs, were successful backing other artists, and had hits and plenty of great material on their own as well, including lots of memorable instrumental numbers. A Message From The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977 is a two-disc set featuring much of the band’s best material, produced by Marshall E. Sehorn and Allen Toussaint. The first disc contains the Josie singles, and the second disc has the Reprise and Warner Bros. singles. This set includes liner notes by Bill Dahl. The Meters still exist as The Funky Meters, but at the time of these recordings the band was made up of Art Neville on organ, Leo Nocentelli on guitar, George Porter Jr. on bass, and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste on drums. And then Cyril Neville joined on percussion and vocals.

The first disc opens with “Sophisticated Cissy,” the band’s debut single, a groovy, somewhat relaxed instrumental number credited to the entire band and released in 1968. Its flip side, “Sehorns Farms,” is likewise credited to the group. The second single, “Cissy Strut,” is one that should be familiar to everyone (if not this version, then one of the many covers). This great, fun instrumental funk track reached #4 on the R&B chart and #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also the lead-off track on the band’s self-titled debut LP. It has such a cool vibe to it, a great song to play at a party. It was paired with “Here Comes The Meter Man,” which is a lot of fun too, and features some good work on organ and some great stuff on guitar over that steady funky rhythm. And it goes into a drum solo as the track fades out.

“Dry Spell” is one of my favorites from this early period, with its groovy beat and catchy hooks. I do wish it were longer (the track is only two minutes or so). I’d love to hear them jam on this one for several more minutes. Its flip side, “Little Old Money Maker,” is another highlight. That’s followed by the first track of the collection to include vocals (but no real lyrics) – “Look-Ka Py Py,” a fantastic tune that reached #11 on the R&B chart and #56 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Chicken Strut” actually begins with some odd shouting before diving head-first into the funk. This one has some actual lyrics (“You just keep on strutting”), as well as some – well – chicken noises, and is another favorite. Like “Look-Ka Py Py,” it reached #11 on the R&B chart, but went a little higher on the pop chart, reaching #50. “Hand Clapping Song” also features some simple lyrics (“Clap your hands now, people clap now/Clap your hands now, people, clap your hands”), and also, as you might expect, hand claps. Yeah, there isn’t much to it, but it’s fun and effective.

“A Message From The Meters,” the song that gives this compilation its title, is the first track in the collection not to be credited to the entire band, but rather just to Leo Nocentelli. And the message? “Get with it, people/Don’t let time pass you by/We can make it/We can make it if we try.” And then, “Get together, get together/We got to get together.” Nothing like a great, funky tune to get people together. Like “Groovy Lady,” also written by Leo Nocentelli. This one was the flip side to “Stretch Your Rubber Band,” and it’s yet another highlight of the first disc, a really cool instrumental.

“(The World Is A Bit Under The Weather) Doodle-Oop” is an interesting track. It was written by Leo Nocentelli and Vincent Toussaint (Allen’s brother), and contains a nod to “Feelin’ Alright” in its lyrics: “The world is a little bit under the weather/And I’m not feeling too good myself.” Its flip side, “I Need More Time,” begins as a slow number, which comes as something of a surprise, sounding so different from everything that’s come before, but it’s not too long before it kicks in, and then things are back to normal.

The second disc opens with “Do The Dirt,” a song that was included on the band’s 1972 LP, Cabbage Alley, their first album on the Reprise label. It was written by Leo Nocentelli, and though it’s a good tune, apparently the single didn’t chart. It’s one of those songs teaching you a new dance, this one called The Dirt, urging us to “Get nasty.” Its flip side, “Smiling,” is a cool instrumental written by Art Neville. The next single was the album’s title track, and its flip side was likewise an instrumental track, this one an interesting, mellow journey mixing jazz into its funk, titled “The Flower Song” (on this CD titled “The Flower”). The two-parter “Chug-Chug-Chug-A-Lug (Push ‘N’ Shove)” was not included on the Cabbage Alley LP (though it was included on the 2001 CD re-issue as two bonus tracks). It was written by Joseph Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli.

“Hey Pocky A-Way” is a song I first heard by the Grateful Dead. They covered it in the 1980s, with Brent Mydland on lead vocals, though it was titled “Hey Pocky Way.” The Meters released it as a single in 1974, and also included it on their Rejuvenation LP. This tune is a whole lot of fun, with a section that is just percussion and vocals. There are also horns on this one. This single version is a bit shorter than the album version. The other single from this album, “People Say,” is also shorter than the album version, this one two minutes shorter. “People Say” is a funky little gem.

The band’s next album, Fire On The Bayou, provided just one single, “They All Ask’d For You,” but it is an absolutely delightful song, one of my favorites, a bundle of New Orleans joy with even something of a country flavor. The flip side is “Running Fast,” and in this instance, the single is actually longer than the album version. At this point, Cyril Neville had joined the group. “Disco Is The Thing Today” was the lead track from the 1976 LP Trick Bag, and yes, it has a disco beat. It is not their best song, but it’s not bad. Their next single was the title track, “Trick Bag,” which is actually a cover, written by Earl King, and it’s a good one. The last single of this collection, “Be My Lady,” was the only Warner Bros. single that the band released. They broke up soon after its release. (It was more than a decade later that The Funky Meters emerged.)

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Sophisticated Cissy
  2. Sehorns Farms
  3. Cissy Strut
  4. Here Comes The Meter Man
  5. Ease Back
  6. Ann
  7. Dry Spell
  8. Little Old Money Maker
  9. Look-Ka Py Py
  10. This Is My Last Affair
  11. Chicken Strut
  12. Hey! Last Minute
  13. Hand Clapping Song
  14. Joog
  15. A Message From The Meters
  16. Zony Mash
  17. Stretch Your Rubber Band
  18. Groovy Lady
  19. (The World Is A Bit Under The Weather) Doodle-Oop
  20. I Need More Time
  21. Good Old Funky Music
  22. Sassy Lady
Disc 2
  1. Do The Dirt
  2. Smiling
  3. Cabbage Alley
  4. The Flower
  5. Chug-Chug-Chug-A-Lug (Push ‘N’ Shove) Part I
  6. Chug-Chug-Chug-A-Lug (Push ‘N’ Shove) Part II
  7. Hey Pocky A-Way
  8. Africa
  9. People Say
  10. Loving You Is On My Mind
  11. They All Ask’d For You
  12. Running Fast (Long Version)
  13. Disco Is The Thing Today
  14. Mister Moon
  15. Trick Bag
  16. Find Yourself
  17. Be My Lady
  18. No More Okey Doke
A Message From The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977 was released on September 2, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

Bobby Rush: “Porcupine Meat” (2016) CD Review

Bobby Rush is still going strong, and his new CD, Porcupine Meat, features some great blues tunes, many with a bit of a funky edge to them. The disc contains all original material, written or co-written by Bobby Rush. He is backed by a really good band (including Vasti Jackson on guitar, Shane Theriot on guitar, David Torkanowsky on keys, Cornell Williams on bass, Jeffrey Alexander on drums), and is joined by some special guests, including Keb’ Mo’ and Dave Alvin (Dave Alvin provides that guitar solo on “It’s Your Move”).

He gets things off to a great start with “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around,” a delicious, funky blues tune about not trusting anyone at home with his wife. “Milkman, don’t bring no milk/Mailman, don’t bring no mail/Yard man, don’t call my home/I don’t want nobody while I’m gone.” Hell, some of the people he mentions later I wouldn’t want stopping by even if I were home (bill collectors, preachers). He even addresses the listeners, apparently not trusting us either. “That means you/You and you and you/Especially you.” And I love that horn section. Kirk Joseph is on sousaphone, Barney Floyd is on trumpet, Jeff Albert is on trombone, and Jeff Watkins is on saxophone.

Bobby Rush follows that with the CD’s title track, “Porcupine Meat,” in which he tells us, “I’m in love with a woman/She don’t mean me no good/I would leave that woman/If I could.” This is a kind of humorous, playful tune, and it features some nice harmonica work by Bobby Rush. Sure, there are some clichés: “If you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned” (of course, that line is put in the mouth of his mother, and motherly advice is often in the form of clichés, right?). This track features a lead guitar part by Vasti Jackson. “Got Me Accused” is a slower blues number, about one of those great blues subjects – being accused of a crime one is innocent of (and hey, that’s not his only trouble – “They got me accused of forgery/And I can’t even write my name”). I dig that sousaphone. And listen to that wonderful, plaintive harmonica lead. “Got Me Accused” was written by Bobby Rush and Scott Billington.

Things get fun and funky again with “Snake In The Grass,” a song which provides a warning about trusting people. Hmm, another song about lack of trust? Is everything okay, Bobby? “Boy, you’d better listen/Don’t you move too fast/’Cause when you’re not looking/You’ll find a snake in the grass.” “Snake In The Grass” was written by Bobby Rush, Scott Billington and Johnette Downing. He follows that with “Funk O’ De Funk,” a funky song about being funky. So there. “My music’s funky/As a Mississippi junky.” He then says, “Let me show you what I mean,” leading to a lead part on harmonica. Oh yes! This one also features a cool horn section: Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Barney Floyd on trumpet, Jeff Albert on trombone, Khari Allen Lee on alto saxophone, Jeff Watkins on tenor saxophone and Roger Lewis on baritone saxophone.

The fun continues with “Catfish Stew,” with lines like “I got a taste of her catfish stew” and “You got the right fishing pole.” There is nothing too subtle about this one, eh?  “Catfish Stew” was written by Bobby Rush, Scott Billington and Johnette Downing. Yes, there are some interesting metaphors on this album; or is “Nighttime Gardener” really about late-night landscaping? It is a fun, bluesy rock tune in which he promises to be the right man to trim your bush, and it features Kep’ Mo’ on slide guitar. “Yes, I’m a nighttime gardener, girl, I’ll cut your yard to please/If I can’t do it standing up, I’ll even get down on my knees.”

In “It’s Your Move,” Bobby is excited by the shortness of a woman’s dress: “You kept on teasing me, girl, with the freaky little things you do/Wearing that short dress, ha, and the sun come shining through/You got me all worked up, girl, and I want to make love to you.” But then in “I Think Your Dress Is Too Short,” he re-thinks his position a bit, as now she is his woman, and he doesn’t want other men seeing the very thing that got him excited in the first place. Ah, there is that air of distrust again. “You walk down the street with your short dress on/Men be looking at you like a dog at a bone.” And then: “You’re my woman, I’m your man/Why, why, why you want to show everything?/I think your dress is too short.” It’s a cool tune, with more nice work on horns. And there is more great stuff on horns on “Standing On Shaky Ground,” particularly on saxophone. I also really like Cornell Williams’ work on bass on this track.

The disc then concludes with “I’m Tired,” a great folky blues number about being tired all the time.  I know the feeling. This is a song that Bobby Rush had recorded before, including it on his 2007 release, Raw. This new rendition, the “Tangle Eye Mix,” develops a good groove over which there is some great work on harmonica. This is one of my favorite tracks; it opens with a cool harmonica solo, and ends with him simply stating, “I’m tired.”

CD Track List
  1. I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around
  2. Porcupine Meat
  3. Got Me Accused
  4. Snake In The Grass
  5. Funk O’ De Funk
  6. Me, Myself And I
  7. Catfish Stew
  8. It’s Your Move
  9. Nighttime Gardener
  10. I Think Your Dress Is Too Short
  11. Standing On Shaky Ground
  12. I’m Tired
Porcupine Meat was released on September 16, 2016 on Rounder Records. This is his first album on Rounder.