Ter­rell’s Tune Up

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Changes

Steve Ter­rell’s top 10 al­bums of the year

These are my fa­vorite al­bums of the year: ▼ Merid­ian Rising by Paul Burch. On this song-cy­cle biog­ra­phy of as­cended coun­try-mu­sic master Jim­mie Rodgers, Burch tells the story of Rodgers’ life from the Singing Brake­man’s point of view, as he toured the coun­try like a De­pres­sion-era rock star, pick­ing, drink­ing, wom­an­iz­ing, and even­tu­ally dy­ing. Burch jux­ta­poses the sweet sunny South of ro­man­tic myth against its op­pres­sive his­tor­i­cal re­al­ity. “Let me tell you all about the place I’m from/Where the po­lice tip their hats while they’re swing­ing their clubs.” It’s not an overtly po­lit­i­cal al­bum, but Burch makes some bit­ing com­men­tary on so­cial in­equal­ity with songs like “Poor Don’t Vote.” (www.paulburch.com/ the-story-of-merid­ian-rising) ▼ Meet Your Death (self-ti­tled). This band is some­thing of an Austin punk-blues su­per­group fronted by harp-man Wal­ter Daniels — a vet­eran of bands in­clud­ing Big Foot Ch­ester and Jack O’ Fire (a band who, years ago, cov­ered a Blind Willie McTell song called “Meet Your Death”) — and slide gui­tarist John Schoo­ley, who I know best from his three al­bums on the Voodoo Rhythm la­bel, un­der the name “John Schoo­ley and his one-man band.” The stand­outs on this out­stand­ing record are “Ele­phant Man” (that one comes from a nasty old gut­ter blues song) and “Obeah Man,” a Caribbean-rooted in­vo­ca­tion to the rul­ing hoodoo deities of rock ’n’ roll. (www.meety­our death.band­camp.com) ▼ Hex City by Church­wood. If you’re a fan of Captain Beef­heart, Frank Zappa, Pere Ubu, The Fall, The But­t­hole Surfers, or Jonathan Swift, get your­self ac­quainted with Church­wood. Ev­ery track on their fourth al­bum is filled with in­cred­i­ble blues, funk, and some­times even metal riffs, with un­pre­dictable time sig­na­tures and lyrics that sound like a cryp­tic code that, for the il­lu­mi­nated, could open the secrets of re­al­ity. (www.saus­tex.com/church­wood.html) ▼ Blood on the Keys by James Leg. If you need more of that blues-driven, rump-bumpin’, holy-roller­shoutin’, swampy rock ‘n’ roll, a key­board player called James Leg just might be your man. A for­mer mem­ber of Black Di­amond Heav­ies and Im­mor­tal Lee County Killers, Leg has a voice that falls some­where be­tween Beef­heart and Jim “Dandy” Man­grum of Black Oak Arkansas. And he can even do a cred­i­ble ver­sion of a Blaze Fo­ley song, “Should’ve Been Home With You.” (www.alive-records.com/artist/ james-leg) ▼ Changes by Charles Bradley. Like the late Sharon Jones, her Dap­tone la­bel-mate Bradley’s mu­sic ca­reer didn’t take off un­til rel­a­tively late in life — Jones was in her for­ties when she put out her first solo al­bum, Bradley was in his six­ties. But this guy, known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul, sinks his talons into a song and won’t let go. opens with a mono­logue by Bradley, who in­tro­duces him­self as “a brother that came from the hard licks of life. That knows Amer­ica is my home … Amer­ica rep­re­sents love for all the Amer­i­cans in the world” be­fore break­ing into a soul­ful cho­rus of “God Bless Amer­ica.” But his pa­tri­o­tism isn’t the blind kind. In “Change For the World,” he sings, “If we’re not care­ful, we’ll be back seg­re­gated … Stop hid­ing be­hind re­li­gion/Hate is poi­son in the blood.” The al­bum is all this plus a sweaty, emo­tional cover of a Black Sabbath song — the ti­tle track, “Changes.” (www.thecharles­bradley.com)

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