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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
October 2005

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

HOBART SMITH / In Sacred Trust (Smithsonian)
Mountain music virtuoso Smith played a vast array of instruments (banjo, fiddle, guitar, piano) with blurring intensity and density, jumping from blazing breakdowns to hypnotic blues guitar to Tin Pan Alley tunes at the drop of a dime, holding total authority over anything with a string involved. His career started when his sister contacted Alan Lomax, declaring "my brother can play anything", and recordings started to pop up around 1948. In 1963 he was living with a heart embolism that caused him great pain, yet continued to tour, do radio appearances, teach, and with fellow banjo player Fleming Brown (the documentarian here) whipped out 9 hours of music onto tape, two discs worth preserved here on this amazing collection. Smith never needed back-up musicians, his was a universe of sound so in his command that frankly there may have not been space for them, and besides, the show was all his even without the instrumentation. In between the flying notes there was storytelling, clog-dancing, and more.. Most excellent detailed booklet of course, thanks to Smithsonian, as well. Hear Smith accompany himself clogging on "Railroad Bill" (Real Audio from Hatch's show)

CARTER/CHESTNUT/JACKSON/VEAL / Gold Sounds/ (Brown Brothers)
Mike Lupica has coined the term "Judgementnightcore", a rather apt description of the clashing of two musical genres you normally wouldn't expect to hear, if you remember that 90's soundtrack where Helmet, House of Pain, Mudhoney, Sir Mix-A-Lot etc. all got chocolate in each others' peanut butter so to speak. Well, I don't know what exactly is happening here, but for some reason there now exists an album of Pavement covers, done up by proper jazzbos James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Ali Jackson and Reginald Veal. According to the liners, the producer Alan Suback posed the musical question "what album would we buy that doesn't exist?" then goes on to detail picking out the fantasy team (Reginald Veal was spotted backing up Wynton Marsalis for example), but doesn't quite explain why exactly Pavement covers seemed like a suitable fantasy project other than "we were avid fans since Crooked Rain Crooked Rain." Perhaps the Dave Brubeckisms of "5/4=Unity" from that record lit the fuse? Who knows. But the end product is fascinating, I guess, especially if you're a Pavement fan, though I don't know if the fans of the artists performing these songs would run out and buy a copy of Slanted and Enchanted. It's very peculiar to hear the tres-uptown-SNL-band treatments some of these songs get into considering some early Pavement originals were buried in lo-fi hiss; "Cut Your Hair" starts with some free-yet-restrained Carter sax skronk before settling into a funky organ groove and "doo wah's", "Summer Babe" is a slick jam around a three-chord Rhodes loop, and Chestnut's solo piano take on "Trigger Cut" somewhat preserves the ominous intro. If anything, the record definitely highlights the fact that Pavement themselves were masters of sublime melody amidst loose, dissonant pop structures that could allow for this kind of treatment; they started out very much about sifting through the static so to speak, but gained an elegant maturity themselves towards their break-up while still walking sideways with conventional guitar-based rock. The label's site is quite unusual, offering up images that include Michael Stipe's face, and links to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Derek Jeter, saying "if you still hate him, that's your problem."

DANNY AND THE NIGHTMARES / Freak Brain (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
For my money this is as harrowing as Daniel Johnston gets in many ways. Billed as his full-time "horror rock" combo, the Nightmares' new record stares Lucifer in the face not unlike Roky Erickson (a self-professed hero of Johnston's) while trashing up the proceedings like a farfisa-happy Mummies burning in the pit itself. More songs inspired by women, Satan, and Jesus Christ (listed as producer of the album), but for the first time Daniel really sounds at home leading a band sharing his own vision (as opposed to say, the Paul Leary-produced Atlantic thing where somewhat proper musicians joined forces with him). It's a giant mess of a roller-coaster ride, check out "The Lord Loves You" (Real Audio) in it's belch-enhanced splendor.

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