Benjamin Booker, the sensational new singer whose self-titled debut album of 12 songs was released last month, has such a whiskey-marinated and vintage-sounding voice that you’d never for a moment guess that he’s barely in his mid-twenties.
Leaving a city that you’ve visited and liked is never a happy experience, however short your sojourn to that place might have been. You feel low and wish you’d have had some more time to spend there. And if it’s a city as vibrant and as much a blend of the old and new as Berlin is, the sadness is greater. So it wasn’t with buoyant spirits that we boarded the taxi to go to the airport that afternoon. The music playing inside the cab was soothing. It was a piano sonata. Mozart’s in A minor, and the cabbie turned around to ask us whether we wanted it changed. I looked at my only co-passenger, my eight-year-old daughter, and asked her if it was fine. Yes, she pensively nodded. Read more
You don’t realise how talented a guitarist and bluesman the young Texan, Gary Clark Jr., is till you are into the second song on his first major label album, Blak and Blue. That’s when you see the way he can wield the axe. That’s also when you begin realising why many people compare him to Jimi Hendrix. Clark can make his guitar scream and shriek and do things that take you back to the golden era of blues based guitar rock. He’s also the one of the few contemporary African American blues guitarists to have created a ripple. Most of those in the new wave of great blues guitarists have been white—at least my favourites are (Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jack White, Dan Auerbach and so on). 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.
Had it not been for an email from a young colleague at work (“Have you heard Hanni El Khatib? The guy is awesome. Very Black Keys. Shazamed it on Californication”), I’d probably have never heard El Khatib. Till he became more famous, that is, and I’ve reasons to believe that he may well become so. Read more
Jack White is no flash in the pan. Years and years from now when music writers will look back on the history of contemporary music of the late nineties and the ensuing decade or two, White ought to feature in their writings as a one of a kind musician–actually, not just as a singular musician but a singular musician’s musician. Read more
Every time I listen to Baba O’ Riley, The Who’s marvellous song off their Who’s Next album, I simply have to crank up the volume to as high as my ears can take. Always. Ever since I first heard that album in the early 1970s with its cheeky cover photograph of members of the band having just peed on a huge concrete piling, when Baba O’ Riley comes on, it just has to be full on—the highest volume level that I can manage. Attribute it to the violin solo on the song. Apparently, putting the violin solo into that Pete Townshend-composed song was the idea of the late Keith Moon, The Who’s pretty mad drummer. It was a great idea because that solo is brilliant and one that begs you to turn the volume knob or your iPod touch wheel or whatever works the loudness on the device that you get your fix on up high. Read more
At the beginning of this month, The White Stripes announced that they were breaking up. I was saddened but not surprised. Jack and Meg White—the once-married duo—formed the Detroit-based band in the late 1990s and have six great full-length albums besides some live recordings and many singles to their credit. Although they already had two albums already out, the first album by The White Stripes that I heard was their third, White Blood Cells, in 2001. I liked them instantly. It was their sound: rock and roll with a blues and punk twist. Raspy, distorted guitar-work (Jack), primal drumming (Meg) and howling vocals. I have lost count of how many times I heard White Blood Cells when I first got that album. Even now, I just have to think of that album and I can hear the opening riffs of the first song, Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground. Read more
I’ll be completely honest. I sought out Grinderman 2 because I read it described somewhere as being Nick Cave’s midlife crisis project. Cave’s 53, not much older than me and that phrase “midlife crisis” struck a chord (make no mistake, I’m dealing with mine with finesse: I just bought a motorcycle. Yes, go ahead, laugh). Read more