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A look at notable CDs of the very recent past

A look at notable CDs of the very recent past
Steve Hammer, Scott Hall and Mel Duncan chronicle recent notable CD releases, both locallly and nationally.
Various Artists For Anyone That’s Listening: A Tribute to Uncle Tupelo Flat Earth Records Rob Westcott is the first to acknowledge that the Illinois band Uncle Tupelo did not invent the musical genre that has come to be known as “alternative country.”That bloodline goes back at least as far as the Byrds, the Bloomington resident says, or any number of other acts that have applied a rock attitude to American roots music. Still, the early ’90s punk-country trio deserves some props. After delivering four top-notch albums, it splintered into two of the continent’s most acclaimed bands, Jay Farrar’s Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco; inspired a music magazine, No Depression; and spawned two popular e-mail newsgroups: Postcard From Hell, the home of obsessive alt-country fans, and Postcard2, the home of equally obsessive country music critics, DJs and publicists. “The genre, alt-country or whatever you want to call it — the No Depression movement, this thing that sprang up after Uncle Tupelo’s demise — is such an influence on people,” Westcott says. “That in and of itself is deserving of a tribute.” After the CD-R traders on the Postcard list assembled a homegrown Tupelo compilation, Westcott and his wife, singer-songwriter Janas Hoyt of the Mary Janes, started organizing an official version for national release. Eventually, they brought the project to Indianapolis-based Flat Earth Records, champion of local Americana-type acts. The result is For Anyone That’s Listening: A Tribute to Uncle Tupelo. The disc includes Hoosier artists Middletown, Jason Wilber and Tom Roznowski along with national acts such as Dolly Varden and former dB and R.E.M. sideman Peter Holsapple. The 16-song collection — four from each Tupelo album — is consistently strong, with highlights that include Hoyt’s version of “Slate,” the Shiners’ take on “We’ve Been Had” and a stellar rendition of “Graveyard Shift” by the Chicago band Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel. “I’m really happy with how it shook out,” says Westcott, who works as an autism consultant for schools and group homes when he isn’t managing his wife’s band. “I don’t think there’s a clunker in the bunch.” Enlisting the artists, gathering the recordings and pressing 3,000 copies took more than a year, Westcott says. “If you have a budget that you can actually pay the artists to submit the tracks, then things could go a little quicker,” he quips. “But when you’re dealing with people doing this just out of the goodness of their heart and the interest in doing it, then it’s kind of hard to set real firm deadlines. “If it sells well and all the expenses are met, then they’ll see some money.” For Anyone That’s Listening is available online at Miles of Music and through most major music retailers. —Scott Hall Various Artists Just Because I’m A Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton Sugar Hill Records Years of Vegas shows, campy TV appearances and Dollywood have given Dolly Parton a place in pop culture which tragically overshadows her career as one of the finest songwriters in country music. This tribute album is an overdue re-appraisal of her work. Parton’s hit songs have been radically changed from their original versions, in most cases for the better. While Parton’s “9 to 5” was an upbeat, jazzy movie theme, here Alison Krauss turns it into a lazy, honky-tonk number that seems to wink at the original’s audaciousness. Melissa Etheridge turns “I Will Always Love You” into an electronic, vaguely Sinead O’Connor-ish anthem of longing, taking it miles beyond Parton’s original and, especially, Whitney Houston’s mega-platinum abomination. Norah Jones does an understated, winning version of “The Grass Is Blue,” O’Connor contributes a quirky version of “Dagger Through The Heart” and Emmylou Harris does justice to one of Parton’s most maudlin songs, “To Daddy.” The album’s only misfire is on a kitschy “Coat of Many Colors” featuring Shania Twain. Not even Krauss and Union Station can save the song from being trampled underfoot by Twain’s punishing voice. The real treat of the disc is Me’Shell NdegeOcello’s take on “Two Doors Down,” transforming it from a cry-in-your-beer party song to a creeping, almost voyeuristic song. You get the feeling that Me’Shell is peering through curtains or holes in the wall to see the party two doors down to which she is uninvited. The disc is a fitting tribute to a sadly underrated artist. —Steve Hammer Bert Switzer 1977-2002 Self-released This one has been around for a while, but it seems unable to leave my rotation of favorite discs. It’s a collection of music from the various groups that Switzer, a Boston-based drummer, has been in or hung out with in the past 25 years. There’s some really strange stuff here, from a 1985 cover of “Crazy Train” played by a 12-year-old guitarist and recorded on cassette to several cuts from a Zappa-like band in which Switzer was briefly a member. The real treasures here are from The Destroyed, a punk group that briefly flourished and quickly flamed out c. 1977-’79. The group was apparently hated by “club owners, other bands and even the punk audience,” Switzer says. It’s easy to see why. Fueled by alcohol, rage and a desire to destroy everything in their path, The Destroyed played sledgehammer punk à la the Dead Boys: young, loud and snotty. “The band never rehearsed between performances,” Switzer says in the disc’s liner notes. “Instead, the rehearsal started when we hit the stage.” Beautifully captured for posterity on cassette recordings from the audience, the live songs on this disc capture old-school punk at its finest. A rocking cut called “686-6,” the Ramones-like “Animal Disease” and “KO” are the highlights. The execrable audio quality only enhances the pleasure received from this disc. Strictly a homemade affair, this album is so DIY that the name of The Destroyed is even misspelled on its cover! A rare find. (See for more information.) —SH Dave Brockie Experience (DBX) Songs for the Wrong Metal Blade Records In between Gwar’s tours of 1,500 to 2,000 capacity venues, DBX made a separate name for itself playing in the gutter. Any place that had a P.A. system and enough room for a few people to stand around became a venue for DBX and some of the shows are legendary. Ask anyone who was in attendance at the May 2001 Muncie show where singer/bassist Dave Brockie admitted to having done acid for the first time in 10 years. Or a few nights later in Bloomington when he set his pubic hair on fire. These shows weren’t just on par with mythical status because of the antics, but the performances themselves. Even late last year when the group did another small tour, the new songs premiered seemed promising. Most of Songs for the Wrong has that feel-good quality that’s synonymous with the Diarrhea of a Madman release, but a few of the tracks fall short of even B-side quality. “I Wanna Be a Squirrel” and “March of the Faggot Soldiers” are immediately disposable, and a couple others like “Slowpoke” and “The Chinese Have No Cheese” have the potential to grow over time or become more compelling when played live. As usual, the lyrics border on hysterical and downright stupid (I mean that as a compliment). On “Hard for a ’Tard,” for example, Brockie sings quite matter-of-factly, “I’m in love with a girl that’s fucking retarded / the only time she made a sound was when her pussy farted.” Classic. While it’s easy to assume that Diarrhea of a Madman was a culmination of songs that didn’t quite fit Gwar’s motif and therefore gave way for DBX’s very existence, it’s probably an even safer bet that most of Songs for the Wrong was written as an excuse to release a second “non-Gwar” album. All that being said, this album is still easily worth your $13. Somewhere between dirty punk and music from Fraggle Rock, Dave Brockie Experience has found a place to lay their blood- and cum-soaked heads. —Mel Duncan Old Devil Moon Midnight and Bright Hawthorne Street Records If you’re familiar with the music of Suicide Note, I don’t need to go on and on about the guitar-playing prowess of Jay Golday. From my understanding, the guy is well-versed in every aspect of the instrument, including classical guitar. So it makes sense that neither Suicide Note nor his side project Old Devil Moon suffer from the drudge of the typical “chugga-chug” power chords that have come along with 90 percent of rock released in the last five years. Though his skills are superior to most anyone out there, he plays modestly for the most part. No overdone solos or embellishing. Plus, he’s not a bad vocalist either. On Midnight and Bright’s title track (easily the best, if not the catchiest track on the album), he sings, “Here’s one last lie, it’s midnight and bright / such a perfect way to say goodbye,” into the punch-you-in-the-gut chorus of, “Should have been my best friend.” I swear if this song was released as a single and rock radio actually bothered to play it, it would be the biggest thing since (insert your favorite radio hit here). Between Jay and brother Justin Golday on guitars and organs, Old Devil Moon has built a thick, plush wall of sound that allows the rhythm and lead to interchange harmonies, while drummer Jason Gagovski (who also plays with the ’Note) and bassist Jeremy Campbell round out this excellent debut. If this album suffers at all, it would be from the less than proficient production quality and the lack of overall flow or direction of the song placement. It’s tough to pin down what exactly Old Devil Moon sounds like, and Suicide Note is an easy comparison for a few reasons, but I’d compare it more to Foo Fighters-meets-Drive Like Jehu and the great Jim Fix. Laid-back yet intense. Quiet but solid. This is easily one of the best albums of the year. —MD

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