Mavis Staples needs no introduction and at 75 years old, this gospel/soul icon’s voice is as strong and relevant as ever. Her latest EP with Anti Records, Your Good Fortune, is 4 powerful tracks full of conviction. You can hear Mavis’ passion in the title track (below) as she questions her own value. Here’s to many more years of Mavis releasing new music.
Your Good Fortune is available now from Anti’s site.
The Melodic, a 4 piece, folk-pop band out of South London recently released their debut EP, On My Way, with Anti. Using instruments like the Charango, Melodica and Kora (most of which I have never of heard of ), The Melodic have created a fresh new addition to the folk genre. Title track “On My Way”, is instantly captivating from it’s very first notes. The music has a happy melody, sure to cure even the sourest of moods. The boy/girl vocals are fantastic, light and airy. It’s one of my favorite songs right now. Check it out below.
I had no idea who Keaton Henson was two days ago, until I received a text from my cousin Ben, “Holy shit man, I am getting my world rocked right now by Keaton Henson’s album Birthdays. I feel like I am not worthy enough to listen to this singer-songwriter, and I am guaranteed to go to Hell, if there is such a place, because I am just learning about him. It’s the most simple but elegant music, with some of the best lyrics I have heard in a long time.”
After reading Ben’s text, I jumped on Spotify and listened to Birthdays for myself. It is just how Ben described, “…the most simple but elegant music…”. Check out “You” (below), one of the standout tracks from the album. The song consists mostly of 24 year old Henson’s soft, but powerful voice, accompanied mostly by guitar, with a few more stringed instruments sprinkled throughout. Birthdays was released by Anti at the beginning of April. It’s an intense album. I highly recommend it. Thanks for the tip Ben.
I know this one’s a few years old but this is such the un-Muggs album and perfect for this moody time of year. Muggs is best known for the venomous hooks behind all your favorite Cypress Hill and House of Pain joints, as well as collabos with various hip-hop all-stars under the Soul Assassins umbrella. On 2003’s Dust though he pays homage to his less obvious influences such as Pink Floyd and brought in some lesser known vocalists in Amy Trujillo and Josh Todd. Dusted, natch, but broadly accessible.
He’s a little bit country; he’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll; he’s a little bit hip-hop. He’s straight outta Brooklyn. He’s Tim Fite. Basically, Mr. Fite builds songs around hip-hop loops and beats, infusing the tracks with folk’s lyrical sensibilities. “Away From the Snakes,” for example, follows country’s song template: “I lost my dog, I lost my wife, I lost my money.” Then, on “No Good Here,” he’ll fracture an upbeat, diddy-of-a-riff, with rock’s explosive power. Consider him Beck’s East Coast brother-in-arms, ten years later, but mining the same, largely untapped source of urban-folk gems. If cursing offends, beware. If cursing delights, dig in.
Michael Franti is the one of those rare singers whose boomin’ growl can start a party as quickly as it can a protest (probably about time for him to update his 1992 cover of “California Uber Alles“). His latest Spearhead joint comes on the heels of his self-booked trip to Iraq, which is documented on the DVD I Know I’m Not Alone. His experience, which included performances for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi families alike, clearly shaped the album’s compassionate (“I Know I’m Not Alone”) and passionate (“Yell Fire”) flavors of rebellion.
Matt, aka Gigahaw, reminded us of The Coup, the Oaktown rap duo who are best known, unfortunately, for “that album cover.” Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funktress do wear their politics on their sleeves (even their toned-down cover for Party Music depicts a young player at a bar enjoying a Molotov cocktail). But what they don’t seem to get enough credit for is their ability to move your butt as well as your conscience. So, with their latest, Pick a Bigger Weapon, they have turned up the funk to match the intensity of their message. The intro is even called “Bullets and Love,” which brings me to another first for The Coup… A handful of apocalyptic slow jams that include the best (and possibly longest) song title of this administration: “babyletâ€™shaveababybeforebushdosomethinâ€™crazy” — awwwww yeeeeaaaahh…
Itâ€™s already been established (see below) that I canâ€™t even attempt neutrality when talking about Neko Case. Iâ€™m in love with her, plain and simple. Iâ€™m married, but I think even my wife understands, or at least as much as I can understand her love for Zach Braff. But donâ€™t let my bald adoration turn you away, because itâ€™s Nekoâ€™s mind you should love, man. Her mastery of lyrical storytelling is nearly in a league with Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynne, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson, and â€œnearlyâ€ only because she hasnâ€™t been around as long. The angelic tenor of her voice, rendered with a ballroom echo, is sublime, and the stories themselves possess the exquisite detail and suspense, the juxtaposition of familiarity and esoteric conceit, of the finest Flannery Oâ€™ Connor tales. And donâ€™t forget that, lest you complain (and, really, itâ€™s the only complaint Iâ€™ll accept about my beloved) that the sonic similarities between tracks is a hair too close, Neko is pushing the boundaries of American roots music by night while she and the New Pornographers keep inching toward the perfect pop song by day. Iâ€™m well aware that this is the kind of adoring write-up that could come back to haunt me. Oh well. Love makes us do crazy things.