17 for ’09 — and then some

Pasatiempo - - Pop Cd Reviews - Steve Ter­rell

Last week I wrote about my fa­vorite al­bums of the decade. Here are my fa­vorites of the past year.

Drac­ula Boots by Kid Congo & The Pink Mon­key Birds. Brian Tris­tan, the El Monte, Cal­i­for­nia, na­tive bet­ter known as Kid Congo Pow­ers, has been a mem­ber of The Cramps as well as of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club. With The Pink Mon­key Birds, his M.O. is recit­ing strange tales over in­sane psy­che­delic gui­tar. Some­times there’s NewWave-y key­boards adding some sci­ence-fic­tion zing to the mix. There’s a song about La Llorona, Santa Fe’s fa­vorite ghost; two songs about Santa Claus; and a cover of a funny Thee Mid­nighters tune.

Not Now! by The A-Bones. This band of New York­ers— led by the first cou­ple of Nor­ton Records, Billy Miller and Miriam Linna— sounds like those anony­mous com­bos play­ing at sin­is­ter night­clubs or hopped-up youth dance par­ties in blackand-white teen-ex­ploita­tion movies. A lit­tle danger­ous, a lit­tle sleazy, but ul­ti­mately invit­ing be­cause it’s so much fun.

Viper of Melody byWayne Han­cock. Wayne the Train is per­haps the great­est liv­ing pur­veyor of ’ 50s-style road­house honky-tonk. With a tip of the hat to west­ern swing and a sly wink at rock­a­billy, Han­cock is retro to be sure. But he never sounds hokey. My fa­vorite song here is a mur­der bal­lad, “Your Love and His Blood,” which con­tains a should-be-clas­sic line: “The next time we’re to­gether, you’ll be on the wit­ness stand.”

Raw, Raw, Rough! by Barrence Whit­field. His first solo al­bum since 1995 is full of early rock ’n’ roll/crazed R & B spirit. Barry prob­a­bly gets sick of Lit­tle Richard com­par­isons, but in many ways such talk is well de­served. He also can sound al­most pretty— in an Otis Red­ding kind of way.

The Fine Print (a Col­lec­tion of Odd­i­ties and Rar­i­ties 2003-2008) by Drive-By Truck­ers. I find this col­lec­tion of out­takes, al­ter­nate ver­sions, cover songs, and other pre­vi­ously un­re­leased tracks fresher than the Truck­ers’ past cou­ple of stu­dio al­bums. The strong­est cut is Pat­ter­son Hood’s slow burner called “The Great Car Deal­erWar,” about a guy paid to torch ve­hi­cles at a car lot. The best lyrics: “I don’t ask ques­tions, I don’t as­sume/I just take a long hard look when I walk into a room.”

Tell ’Em What Your Name Is by Black Joe Lewis & The Honey­bears. This Austin, Texas, out­fit doesn’t see soul mu­sic as some frag­ile mu­seum exhibit— it’s a funk/punk Satur­day-night fish fry

that never ends. The horn sec­tion is loud, the gui­tar has a bite, and the or­gan­ist sounds as if he has been force-fed a steady diet of Jimmy Smith and The An­i­mals. And Lewis shouts like Wil­son Pick­ett’s long-lost grand­son.

In­vis­i­ble Girl by The King Khan & BBQ Show. There’s a big el­e­ment of stripped-down blues bash­ers like Flat Duo Jets and The White Stripes in KK & BBQ. But what dis­tin­guishes this dy­namic duo is its an­chor in raw doo-wop. The ba­sic sound, there­fore, is punk-rock roar, em­bel­lished by some Ruben & The Jets/ Sha Na Na/rama-lama-ding-dong silli­ness but fre­quently based on some se­ri­ously gor­geous melodies and oc­ca­sional sweet har­monies.

Ru­ins of Berlin by Dex Romwe­ber Duo. Speak­ing of Flat Duo Jets, founder Romwe­ber was back this year with a new duo, this time with his sis­ter Sara. Some songs sound like Flat Duo Jets rein­car­nated. But other tracks fea­ture mu­si­cians in­clud­ing a bevy of fe­male guest vo­cal­ists, such as Ex­ene Cer­venka, Neko Case, and Chan Mar­shall (aka Cat Power). Try not to think of Den­nis Hop­per in Blue Vel­vet while lis­ten­ing to Mar­shall singing “Love Let­ters” with the Duo.

Mer­ri­weather Post Pavil­ion by An­i­mal Col­lec­tive. My one con­ces­sion to “mod­ern” rock and one se­lec­tion that you’ll prob­a­bly find on most of those real rock crit­ics’ lists. Some of this mu­sic sounds like an ad­vanced civ­i­liza­tion of space crea­tures who wor­ship Bri­anWil­son. One of my fa­vorite songs of the year is the sweet, euphoric, and ir­re­sistible “My Girls.”

High, Wide & Hand­some: The Char­lie Poole Project by Loudon Wain­wright III. Wain­wright plays lots of songs as­so­ci­ated with Poole— a hard-livin’, ram­blin’, gam­blin’, sin­gin’ moon­shiner— as well as some orig­i­nal tunes about the in­flu­en­tial singer. It’s hard to find any­thing as cos­mi­cally kooky this year as Wain­wright’s ver­sion of Poole’s “I’m the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the­World.” Also: honor­able dis­charges: Hay­maker! by The Gourds Blue Black Hair by The Del Moroc­cos Be­fore Ob­scu­rity: The Bush­flow Tapes by Tin Huey Tan­gled Tales by Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women by Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women Best live al­bum: Live From Axis Mundi by Go­gol Bordello Best oldies com­pi­la­tion: I Still Hate CDs by Var­i­ous Artists

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