TER­RELL’S TUNE-UP

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Steve Ter­rell

An on­go­ing re­vival

No, it wasn’t just a fad. The most re­cent “soul re­vival” be­gan erupt­ing some time af­ter the be­gin­ning of the new cen­tury. As I’ve said be­fore, at any given time in the past few decades there has prob­a­bly al­ways been some kind of soul mu­sic re­vival go­ing on some­where. And as far as I’m con­cerned, that’s a good thing.

Sharon Jones has come as close to main­stream suc­cess as any in­de­pen­dent artist can achieve these days. She and her la­bel mates at Dap­tone Records keep crank­ing out ex­cit­ing mu­sic. Bettye LaVette is now get­ting the recog­ni­tion she de­served in the late ’60s. Mean­while, the likes of Lee Fields, Charles Walker and The Dy­na­mites, Wi­ley and The Check­mates, J.C. Brooks and The Up­town Sound, and The Diplo­mats of Solid Sound — not to men­tion soul cra­zies like King Khan and The Shrines — roam the planet.

The cool thing, es­pe­cially with some of the younger war­riors in this move­ment (if you can call it that), is that the best of them aren’t out to merely re-cre­ate those glo­ri­ous Stax/Volt days of yore. You’ll hear the en­ergy of punk rock, the raw­ness of gut­bucket blues, and all sorts of stray in­flu­ences that keep the sound vi­tal and re­fresh­ing.

Here are some re­cent rock ’ n’ soul-drenched CDs that have had me in a cold sweat lately: ▼ Scan­dalous by Black Joe Lewis & The Honey­bears. This highly an­tic­i­pated al­bum by the Austin band is the fol­low-up to the group’s ac­claimed 2009 de­but, Tell ’Em What Your

Name Is. In a re­cent in­ter­view with The Bos­ton Globe, the pro­ducer of the al­bum, Jim Eno (also the drum­mer of Spoon), said he con­sciously em­pha­sized The Honey­bears’ punk in­flu­ence.

Charles Bradley is in his 60s, and ‘No Time for Dream­ing’ is his first al­bum. He’s a late bloomer, but I like this flower.

In­deed, sev­eral songs sound more like hard rock than sweet soul. “Je­sus Took My Hand,” for in­stance, sounds less like gospel than Black Keys-style min­i­mal­ist blues-rock. The same is true with “You Been Lyin’,” on which Lewis is backed by a Dal­las gospel group called The Rel­a­tives. “The Bal­lad of Jimmy Tanks,” dom­i­nated by the gui­tars of Zach Ernst and Lewis, sounds like a pumped-up take on some long-lost, pri­mal Ju­nior Kim­brough song. And speak­ing of blues, it would ap­pear that Lewis and the band had Mis­sis­sippi in mind on the song “Messin’.” This one owes a lot to El­more James and John Lee Hooker.

There is a cover song on the al­bum — a pas­sion­ate take on “Since I Met You Baby.” This song, writ­ten by Texas blues­man Ivory Joe Hunter, has been passed back and forth be­tween blues, coun­try, and rock artists for decades. Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Freddy Fen­der, Sam Cooke, and even Bobby Vee have taken their turn with this clas­sic. The Honey­bears do a slow, sway­ing take on the tune as Black Joe shouts the lyrics.

But don’t think this band has for­got­ten its soul roots. “Booty City” gives the Honey­bear horn sec­tion and ev­ery­one else in the band a good workout. “Livin’ in the Jun­gle,” driven by the horns and a scratchy gui­tar hook, could be a funky cross be­tween “Gimme Shel­ter” (the Merry Clayton ver­sion of the Stones song) and the Guns N’ Roses hit with a sim­i­lar name.

Hands down, my fa­vorite song here is the hi­lar­i­ous “Mus­tang Ranch,” a tale about young Black Joe get­ting his “ham glazed” dur­ing a visit to a legal whore­house in Ne­vada. Not only is the story hi­lar­i­ous, but it’s prob­a­bly the rockingest track on the whole record.

Un­for­tu­nately, when I bought this CD (yes, I’m a critic who fre­quently buys mu­sic!), I didn’t pick up the deluxe edi­tion, which con­tains four ex­tra songs, in­clud­ing a hard-rock­ing ver­sion of Robert John­son’s “Stop Break­ing Down.” Oh well, that’s why God cre­ated down­load­ing.

Check out www.black­joelewis.com. There you’ll find a link to iTunes, which sells sev­eral tracks by Lewis at the South by South­west Fes­ti­val last month.

▼ No Time for Dream­ing by Charles Bradley. Al­though Bradley is more than twice Black Joe Lewis’ age, Lewis has recorded more records than Bradley. Bradley is in his 60s, and this is his first al­bum. He’s knocked around for years from New York to Maine to Alaska to Cal­i­for­nia and back, play­ing gigs in lo­cal bands but mainly earn­ing his liv­ing as a cook.

So he’s a late bloomer, but I like this flower. His voice is rough and gritty and more than a lit­tle world-weary. His band is a tight lit­tle group that seems to be well-versed in the records of Otis Red­ding and Al Green.

The al­bum starts off with a terse lit­tle apoc­soul-lip­tic tune called “The World Is Go­ing Up in Flames.” A bass line that al­most sug­gests reg­gae throbs as stut­ter­ing horns punc­tu­ate Bradley’s growls and moans.

This and the song “Why Is It So Hard,” which starts out with the mu­si­cal ques­tion, “Why is it so hard to make it in Amer­ica?” might sug­gest a mod­ern take on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Go­ing On. (There’s also “Trou­ble in the Land,” a bare­ly­over-a-minute in­stru­men­tal that sounds a lit­tle like Hugh Masekela’s “Grazin’ in the Grass” — ex­cept for the po­lice siren in the back­ground.)

Most of the songs, how­ever, don’t deal with so­ciopo­lit­i­cal is­sues. Bradley is usu­ally plead­ing with lovers in doomed love af­fairs. And there’s plenty of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy here, too. In fact, the cli­max of No Time is “Heartache and Pain,” which tells the story of Bradley’s brother be­ing shot and killed by a fam­ily mem­ber. “I woke up this morn­ing, my mama she was cry­ing / So I looked out my win­dow/ Po­lice lights were flash­ing / Peo­ple were scream­ing so I ran out to the street / A friend grabbed my shoul­ders and said these words to me/ ‘Life is full of sor­row. So I have to tell you this / Your brother is gone.’”

He shouts about heartaches and pain, and you be­lieve him. See www.dap­tonere­cords.com.

Tune-Up got soul! I play stuff like this all the time on Ter­rell’s Sound World, free-form weirdo ra­dio in ac­tion, 10 p.m. Sun­day on KSFR-FM 101.1 and scream­ing on the web at www.ksfr.org. And don’t for­get The Santa Fe

Opry, the coun­try mu­sic Nashville does not want you to hear, same time on Fri­days. ◀

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