Upon hearing from my friend Hemant that he was listening to a lot of Walter Trout, I rummaged in my hard drives and CD shelves to bring out my old copies of albums by one of the most fret-searing blues guitarists that I’ve heard. I hadn’t heard Trout in a long time. And what came up first was the two-disc live album from 2000, Live Trout, on which Trout plays with his band The Free Radicals (the band’s now just called Walter Trout). Read more
Ever since iTunes opened up its store to customers in India, it has been bliss for me. I can now buy music at very reasonable prices – songs for as low as R12 and in some cases, even full albums for a dirt cheap R30. The opening up of the iTunes Store was the best thing to have happened for Indian music lovers but some of us, especially of the grey-haired (or, no-haired) vintage, the real deal is often all about buying the album in its physical, touchable form. There is a certain something about peeling off the plastic and opening up the jewel case of a new CD that digitally downloaded albums just can’t match. Read more
Many new musicians can remind you of older (and sometimes more famous) ones. Three years ago, I’d written about the Rhode Island-based alternative folk and blues band, Deer Tick, and mentioned how uncannily Bob Dylanesque their lead singer, John McCauley sounds—so much so that a colleague after hearing them play even dubbed him ‘Baby Dylan’. But they’re not the only ones. Whenever I hear New Jersey’s rockers, The Gaslight Anthem, I’m reminded of Bruce Springsteen—and, in fact, that association is not without basis: The Gaslight Anthem are quite heavily influenced by The Boss; they’ve opened for him; and he’s played with them. More recently, I heard Charles Bradley who is known as ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’ and at 64 has just one album (No Time For Dreaming) to his credit. Bradley has his own style of singing funk, soul and R&B tunes but you can also distinctively discern strong influences of two legends, the late James Brown and the late Otis Redding. Then I read that Bradley began his career as a James Brown mimicker on stage before he found his own groove.
My daughter, about to be eight, has an earworm. You know, a piece of music that seems stuck in your ear so seemingly permanently that you just couldn’t get it out. It’s a song that she hums, sings and dances with vigorously even though it’s not being played anywhere. And I’m happy. Delighted, actually, because the song happens to be Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. Actually, the duo that makes up The Black Keys may also seem like an earworm for Download Central, in case you are one of those readers who for some strange reason follows this column fairly regularly—I don’t know how many times I have written about them, obsessively, compulsively and, perhaps also, maniacally.
There are two albums sitting on my desk next to the laptop that I’m typing on and I haven’t yet heard them. One of them is Bruce Springsteen’s new and, as I understand, angry album, Wrecking Ball. Serendipitously, the album landed just as I was thinking of Springsteen. I like Springsteen although I’m not as huge a fan of the sincere, honest, working-class hero musician as are a couple of my colleagues. He is politically outspoken and many of his albums are themed on major issues of their times—Wrecking Ball has been associated by critics with the current financial crisis in the US. Read more
I never really took to Neil Diamond, although his growling baritone often came out of the record player we had at home in the early 1970s. The player wasn’t mine; very few of the records were what I could call my own; and the women at home seemed to be very fond of Diamond’s songs. So, there was no escaping an occasional dose of Diamond: Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline, Red, Red Wine, and so on. Women seemed to love Neil Diamond, although my wife tells me her memories of the shiny sequin shirted singer relate to playing musical chairs to his songs at birthday parties. Some men liked Diamond’s songs too, as I realised much later, when a cousin of mine, well into his forties, made a solo trek to London’s Hyde Park expressly to listen to Diamond sing live. When he came back he seemed to be on cloud nine. To each his own, I guess. Read more
There are some musicians that you want to kick yourself for not discovering earlier. And the desire to plant the sole of your shoe firmly on your own behind is intensified if the musician happened to have been right under your nose and yet you didn’t notice. Sugar Blue is one such musician that I wish I’d discovered much earlier than I did, which happened to be just a couple of weeks back. Sugar Blue plays the harmonica. In fact, he is dizzyingly good at it. But more about him in just a minute. Read more
I don’t know about you but those rare Fri-Sat-Sun weekend holidays almost invariably end for me with an anxious and slightly depressed Sunday morning. First, there’s the ugly form of another work-filled week looming ahead and just a few quick hours away. Then, again almost always, the most pleasing part of the extended weekend is over before it extends to Sunday. So last week, when the Easter weekend rolled by and the all-familiar dip began on Sunday morning, I was determined to fight it off. With a playlist. I wanted some happy music. So, weeks after I’d acquired Crazy For You, last year’s debut album by Best Coast, a Los Angeles indie band, but hadn’t really got down to listening, I popped it in and sat back. Read more
It is not easy to get into an album by Deerhunter. The Atlanta (Georgia, US) based quartet has been variously described as being purveyors of experimental rock or of post-punk or even noise rock. I prefer what Deerhunter’s frontman Bradford Cox calls their music – ambient punk. Cox is six-foot-four and very thin and has what is known as Marfan’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue (and which I read somewhere that Joey Ramone also had). The disorder can make limbs and fingers very long and thin. That gives Cox a unique stage presence that is made all the more weird when he wears sun-dresses or vintage gowns and has fake blood on his face. Add his quirky vocals and things can get weirder during Deerhunter’s rather intense live gigs. Read more
During a bit of downtime at work the other day, I put on The Gaslight Anthem’s new album, American Slang, on the sound dock I have in my office (yes, you could say I enjoy some privileges at work by way of being a somewhat higher form of pond life) and a colleague dropped in. He heard a few bars, stuck up his nose, saying, “Very nineties,” and left, going back to his own lair presumably to listen to the recently re-mastered (and issued with 10 additional, hitherto unpublished tracks) 1972 album by one of rock’s most famous bands. Read more