Jim Finnigan Poop 08

“THAT’S WHAT THEY ALL SAY…”

In the end, 2008 was the year of Change and a great feeling of elation in many people I know. At a Little Annie show at Santos Party House on November 6, she couldn’t stop smiling and finally came out with, “How can I sing the blues when I feel so happy?” But, beware, Grasshopper! As the great philosopher Bonzo Dogband once said, “No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in”.

2008 to me was a year of some nice but unspectacular recordings, and some great concerts.

First, the concerts:

By far my favorite gigs this year were by Peter Stampfel, who has been steadily gigging around the city at such hip joints as The Stone on the Lower East Side and the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook, Brooklyn, not to mention a whole weekend that I caught at the Taunton River Folk Fest. Collaborating with a great bunch of people including John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers (“Uncle John’s Band”), Sam Shepard, and, at least at some spring concerts, wacky percussionist Alan Gunga Purves, the result is joy and laughter in abundance, but with the caveat that “technical prowess is not the point”. Special mention must be given to the weekend in Taunton, which is truly the Peekskill of Massachusetts, for a sparsely attend folk fest (aren’t they all? …that is, unless they get cancelled) where nevertheless Peter and John did what some people would call “a brain dump” of all of the songs that their well-worn brain cells could recall.

In a related vein, Michael Hurley and Ida did a pretty kick-ass show at the Varga Gallery in Woodstock in May, and Gary Lucas & Fred Perry celebrated Mick Jagger’s 65th at the Boiceville Inn inna fine style – I think that Gary should sing Jagger songs more often – they fit his voice better than a lot of Gary’s own songs.

The concert that surprised me most was the Eric Burdon & the Animals show at the Newburgh Waterfront Festival in August. Burdon, who looked like he just stepped off the set of The Sopranos, was in excellent voice, as he did songs from the Animals early blues phase and the later psychedelic anthems, with great support from a funky backing band.

Bard College’s Summerscape series was given over to a festival celebrating the California label New Albion, which has relocated to Hudson, NY. Some fantastic ambient / new classical / experimental music (they’d probably object to being called new age), the highlights for me included a performance by Slow Six enhanced by a ferocious thunderstorm outside the Spiegeltent, and the circling chorus during Daniel Lentz’s O-Ke-Wa. Almost all of the performances were inspiring, with special mention due to Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening Band, Ingram Marshall, John Adams, Margaret Leng Tan and Paul Dresher.

Other great shows at the Spiegeltent included a thought-provoking and playful duet between Roswell Rudd and Lafayette Harris (presented by Raissa St. Pierre), and a charming Peter & The Wolf by the Friday-Seezer Ensemble (without Gavin Friday, unfortunately).

I had avoided seeing Wire during their Mute phase, but I decided to check out their show at the South Street Seaport in May, especially because it was free. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the subway and started walking down Fulton Street and found that I was surrounded by the group, who had just been out to a pre-concert meal. Never one to give up a chance at making a bad joke, I asked why, since they had dropped the “e” in Wire to become “Wir” when Robert Gotobed left the group, and had restored the “e” when he returned, why did they not drop another letter now that Bruce Gilbert has left the group, and become “Ire”? Ahem. Nevertheless, they put on a good show, new stuff along with stuff from the first 3 albums, pounding rhythms and flashing lights galore: in fact, Graham Lewis asked the lighting man to tone down the lights, he didn’t want to trigger an epileptic fit. The crowd was interesting, a lot of faces from the CBGB / Hurrah / Tier3 days, but now older and grayer, some with kids in tow. And hello to Patty Heffley, and congrats in getting your photos included Thurston Moore’s “No Wave” book published this year!

Other great gigs included Stew’s “Passing Strange” on Broadway, Jeb Loy Nichols at the Housing Works Cafe in Soho, Richard Thompson at the Egg (“The only building that makes the Sydney Opera House look normal”), the American Travelling Morrice at the Peekskill waterfront, and Little Annie as mentioned above. Oh, and one magical song by Vashti Bunyan at Joe Boyd’s Night of Witchseason presentation at Joe’s Pub. To quote Annie again, “I have a new CD coming out in the spring, if there’s still a record industry in the spring.”

Next: the movies.

Wall-E was by far the coolest movie. Young@Heart was inspiring, if a little too cutesy. Patti Smith’s Dream of Life was interesting, if partly creepy (she likes to visit notorious cemeteries on her holidays). I liked Cadillac Records, but I thought that Howlin’ Wolf wasn’t scary enough. My favorite music flick was Mamma Mia, a mess of a movie but then again, “technical prowess is not the point”.

And, so: the CD’s:

My number one, and some also-rans, marks the tentative reawakening of On-U Sound. Samia Farah is a jazzy, cool French-Tunisian singer who I believe is now Mrs. Sherwood, and her Many Moods is a smooth update of old-style On-U riddims. Mark Stewart‘s Edit was a funky return to form, which was steeped in 80’s funk riddims (probably why I liked it so much), with some of the tracks cut off when the riddim was still cooking. However, no remixes or versions were forthcoming. DJ Kentaro‘s Tuff Cuts showed how the On-U Sound Crashes from a couple of years ago should have been. I was a little less satisfied with the Harry Beckett and Lee Perry efforts. Perry was in jokester mode, and Sherwood mostly relied on remakes of old Black Ark riddims, so The Mighty Upsetter album seemed more backward than forward. The Harry Beckett was pleasantly lulling, seemed to me like it could have been a Jon Hassell album to On-U backing tracks, but with drum programs by Jazwad, not real drums, so not so exciting. Finally, good things from two more artists tangentially connected: When Good Things Happen to Bad Pianos applies Little Annie‘s deep smoky voice to cabaret standards, and Days are Mighty is Jeb Loy Nichols in a mellow mellow reflective mood. Nichols usually keeps up the old C&W tradition of building songs around humorous and sad maxims (“Seems like only bad fruit grows on my family tree”), but it seems that this year he reserved the aphorisms for his mini-novel, The Untogether, which was full of ’em. A master of the imperfect moment.

The Listesses:

The TOP TEN (these get the points)

samiafaria   find it on Amazon.co.uk
1. Samia Farah – The Many Moods of Samia Farah


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2. DJ Kentaro – Tuff Cuts


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3. Portishead – Third


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4. Mark Stewart – Edit


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5. Robin Guthrie – 3:19 Bande Originale du Film


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6. Jeb Loy Nichols – Days are Mighty


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7. Vetiver – Thing Of The Past


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8. Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple


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9. Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch – When Good Things Happen To Bad Pianos


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10. The Bug – London Zoo

EXTENSIVE RUNNER-UP and REISSUE picks:

Groove Armada – Soundboy Rock
Jay Ungar & Molly Mason – The Pleasures of Winter
Kip Hanrahan – Beautiful Scars
Lee Perry – The Mighty Upsetter /&/ Repentance (both)
Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
B52’s – Funplex
Marianne Faithfull – Easy Come, Easy Go
Harry Beckett – The Modern Sounds of Harry Beckett
Stew & the Original Broadway Cast of – Passing Strange
Danger Mouse & Jay-Z present: The Grey Album
Bruce Springsteen & Suicide – Dream Baby Dream EP
Brian Wilson – That Lucky Old Sun
Tricky – Knowle West Boy
Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time Allstars – Dub I
Funky Nassau – The Compass Point Story 1980-1986
Steinski – What Does It All Mean? A Retrospective
Bobby Charles (reissue of his Bearsville album)
Watersons – Frost and Fire – Ritual and Magical Songs
Kid Creole – Going Places: The August Darnell Years
Cohen Covered – freebie MOJO Tribute to Leonard Cohen
More Dirty Laundry – The Soul of Black Country
Frank Zappa – Wazoo
Feline Groovy – 24 Purrfect Tracks for Kool Kats
Dubstars Vol.1 – From Dub to Disco and From Disco to Dub
Little Steven’s Underground Garage presents Christmas A Go Go
You Heard It Here First – in their original, pre-hit versions

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