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.
As a compulsive hoarder of music, I have a confession to make. I often acquire albums and songs that I don’t get down to listening to. Not even once. Not even cursorily. Yes, it’s true and it does make me feel a bit silly. I mean I don’t display my music on racks and shelves as some hoarders of books do, ostensibly to impress visitors although they may not have read even a page of most of them. I can’t really do that, unless I offer people my iPods, hard drives and pen drives or a peek into the virtual cloud—places where most of the music I hoard are stored—but the fact is I do have countless albums and songs that I’ve never heard. I’ve downloaded them with all good intentions of listening to them but never got around to doing so. Read more
Last week, I finished reading Walter Isaacson’s riveting biography of Steve Jobs. As most of you know, it is a fat book with more than 650 pages, which for a newspaper hack like me, is a lot of pages to read. But Isaacson’s book is magnificent. He got unfettered access to his subject and his book is refreshingly not hagiographical. You get to know Jobs, warts and all, but you also get to see what a genius that man was and the profound manner in which he has changed the way we live and do so many things.
If you’ve ever heard Gogol Bordello play, particularly at one of their adrenalin charged live concerts, the last thing you’ll do is classify them as folk musicians. This nine-member band from New York’s gritty Lower East Side is raucous and boisterous and I’ve seen them described somewhere as “demented”. After listening to a couple of live recordings, I wouldn’t dream of calling their gypsy infused, non-stop, high-energy performances folk music, at least not by the conventional yardstick of what that genre represents. Their music has elements of East European gypsy music, western punk and alternative rock. Not surprisingly, Gogol Bordello, led by frontman and singer Eugene Hutz, an Ukrainian-American, is described as a gypsy-punk band. I’ll tell you why I mentioned the folk music genre in a few seconds but first a bit about Gogol Bordello. Read more
Late last month, as 2010 wound down and the usual end-of-the-year blues began clouding my mind, two missives brought a smile to my face. One was a compressed zip file, delivered digitally to my Gmail inbox and the other came via creaky, old snail mail in a packet delivered to my office. They were two new albums by two bands from two cities, Boston and Delhi, which are at least 11,400 kilometres apart. What is more, both the albums were sent to me by the bands much before they were scheduled to be released officially. Read more
Sometimes there comes along a week that you wish you could rewind and do it again in a better way. Last week was one of those. Stress, tension, unhappiness, frustration all rolled into one big bad week. It’s over now, thankfully but I’m still reeling from the collateral damage it wrought: for the greater part of last week I couldn’t find time to listen to music. Of course, there was enough stuff coming my direction—via RSS feeds, my online music store accounts and a host of mp3 blogs—but I just couldn’t get down to exploring them. Up until the very end of the week when my mood was suddenly and very pleasantly lifted by a donkey’s jawbone. Read more