Sunday, December 05, 2010

Stay Around a Little Longer

Deerhunter, Hal-
cyon Digest
, 4AD

When Atlanta's Brad-
ford Cox
released his
third record, Micro-
castle/Weird Era
, in 2008, I
wouldn't have thought
of him as a 4AD artist
(the double-album
appeared on Kranky-
4AD). After listening
to Halcyon Digest,
though, the full em-
brace of the vener-
able British label
makes sense as he combines loud and soft in ways that re-
call 4AD veterans like A.R. Kane and His Name Is Alive.

I had never heard Cox, who also records as Atlas Sound, prior to
his last LP, but he quickly became one of my favorite artists. The
man has a lovely, lovely voice and a unique way with a melody.

There's nothing quirky or dissonant about his work, and yet it's instantly recognizable. It isn't poppy, but it's always accessible, despite the strange sounds floating around the edges. "Sailing," for instance, fades out into a quiet rumble, while closer "He Would Have Laughed," a tribute to Jay Reatard, has a cold ending.

At times, you'd think wind and rain have invaded the studio. I
have no idea how Cox conjures up such effects; I'm more inter-
ested in whether they work or not. They do. I only question the
addition of saxophone to "Coronado." Said Cox to Exclaim!, "I
wanted that sax on there because I was listening to the Stones'
Exile on Main Street
reissue a lot." And yet Deerhunter has
more in common with the Beach Boys, at their most lysergic,
than any iteration of the 'Stones. Still, I have no question a-
bout the album as a whole: he's produced another winner.

Black Dub, self-titled, Jive/Sony

Canadian singer/guitarist Daniel Lanois, producer of albums for
Bob Dylan, U2, and Neil Young (including Young's Grammy-nom-
inated Le Noise, which bears his name) strikes out with a new en-
semble for Black Dub. Blue-eyed soul, gospel, and reggae meet
Daniel's trademark atmospherics as he joins forces with Brian
Blade (bass), Daryl Johnson (drums), and Trixie Whitley (vo-
cals, keyboards), daughter of the late rocker Chris Whitley.

Their music relies more on the riff or the jam than the lyrics, which revolve around the repetition of simple lines like "I want to live where love lives" ("Love Lives"), "I Believe in You" ("I Believe in You"), and "I feel good, just like I knew I would" ("Nomad").

Whitley strains too much for my taste and "Canaan" sounds like a U2 outtake, but the first release from Black Dub grew on me after repeated listens. The best tracks: the instrumental "Slow Baby" and "Last Time," a blues-psych cover of the Rolling Stones classic.

John Eye, Cannonicus 3.14, H1 Massive

Boston dance-rock purveyor John Eye appears to have absorbed
a few Nine Inch Nails (and Killing Joke) discs in his time. The re-
sult, Cannonicus 3.14, isn't a facsimile, but the EP comes close
as the beats bury vocals and the electronics have a grungy, dis-
torted sound, like a horror movie score for party people. Inter-
estingly, the cover lists the BPMs for each song, from 100-128.

Buddy Guy, Living Proof, Jive/Sony

There ain't nothin' I haven't done.
-- Buddy Guy, "74 Years Young"

I've never been a fan of the phrase "XX years young," a favorite
of frisky senior citizens who consider themselves "young at heart,"
but Chicago blues man Buddy Guy, who entered the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, has earned the right to use it.

On Living Proof, the Louisiana-born guitar slinger rocks hard-
er than men half his age. If his voice betrays his years, that's no
crime when it comes to the blues, and he's never been known
for his smooth vocals. Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach would
surely be pleased to sing with as much grit when he hits 74.

Granted, I prefer the rockers to the ballads, like "Stay Around
a Little Longer" with his 85-year-old buddy, B.B. King, though
Guy pours his heart into all of 'em, and band mate Reese Wy-
nans' expertise on the B3, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer elevates the
enterprise. (Carlos Santana also guests on "Where the Blues
Begin.") In '11, Guy competes for a Grammy (best contem-
porary blues album) against Bettye LaVette, Dr. John,
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and the late Solomon Burke.

Endnote: Image from The Vancouver Sun.

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