PICK OF THE WEEK
Grinderman. “Grinderman 2” (Anti-, 2010) Nick Cave and his minions are back for a second dose of hellbent hoodoo punk blues. More varied and sonically expansive than the debut, this sophomore disc finds Cave’s big, booming baritone name-checking such cultural icons as Mickey Mouse, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Mata Hari, Ali McGraw, Steve McQueen, Miles Davis, Buddha and the Abominable Snowman – all buttressed by a squadron of squalling guitars. “Worm Tamer” features our fave lyric: “Well my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster/Two great big humps and then I’m gone.” Not for the faint of heart.
Laura Nyro with Labelle. “Gonna Take a Miracle” (Columbia/Legacy, 2002) Originally released in 1971, this album still rocks our world. Joyous, upbeat, soulful dance party music. And this 2002 re-issue (produced by Nippertown’s own Al Quaglieri) ups the ante with four live bonus tracks, including “O-o-h Child” and “Up on the Roof.” Oh yeah!
Justin Townes Earle. “Harlem River Blues” (Bloodshot, 2010) Backed by a stellar band – including drummer Bryan Owings (from Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Boys) and saxman Jeff Coffin (Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) – Earle cuts a swath across roots-music genres from the reverb-drenched, bass-slappin’ rockabilly of “Move Over Mama” to the working-man folk-blues of “Workin’ for the MTA” (in which he insists again and again, “This ain’t my daddy’s train”), from the fiddle-fueled ramblin-man ode “Wanderin'” to the laid-back R&B stroll of “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” bolstered by Muscle Shoals-style horns. While there’s nothing here that flies as close to the sun as “Mama’s Eyes” (from 2009’s “Midnight at the Movies”), this is JTE’s best and most consistent album to date.
Mitch Ryder. “Naked But Not Dead” (Line, 1980) Good golly, Miss Molly! I picked up this German import at the Salvation Army for a dollar. And while it’s not the hellfire Motor City R&B meltdown of his earlier “Devil With the Blue Dress” days, Ryder spits venom as he chews out corporations (“It’s Not For Me”), the war machine (“War”) and the fickle finger of fame (“I Got Mine”).
Various artists. “Highly Strung: British ’60s Instrumentals” (Sequel, 1996) Proof positive that there’s always something new to discover – even if it’s old. This compilation collects 23 tracks from 17 bands who recorded for the Pye label between 1960-66, and we’ve got to admit that we’d only ever even heard of one of the bands – the Dave Clark Five (represented by a ’62 Duane Eddy tribute, “First Love”). Really. Ahab & the Wailers? The Packabeats? Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers? The Sons of the Piltdown Men? This isn’t all great stuff by any means, but it’s a truly fascinating missing link between skiffle and Mersybeat.