New Arrivals, Restocks, & Reduced - late autumn 2014

** A feature on north Mississippi fife and drum musician Willie Hurt is new to the Articles section, and includes an interview, audio, video, etc.




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Joshua Abrams
Natural Information
Eremite
CD
$16

"Bassist & composer Joshua Abrams has been in the thick of Chicago's vibrant music scene for fifteen years, playing & recording as leader & sideman in projects across the genres. He co-founded the 'back porch minimalist' band Town & Country, & with Matana Roberts & Chad Taylor the trio Sticks & Stones.  He has released four records under his own name as well as two under the moniker 'reminder' that navigate the realms of jazz & improvisation, electro-acoustic composition, beatmaking, minimalism and field recordings.

"Natural Information, Abrams' 1st record for Eremite, is another fascinating entry in a solo discography of recordings that gather aesthetic input from all over the map into vivid personal statements. At the heart of Natural Information is the guimbri, a three-stringed animal hide bass traditionally used by the Gnawa of north Africa in healing ceremonies. Combining solo, trio & quartet formats with adroit use of sampling techniques Abrams creates intricate psychedelic environments that join the hypnotic character of Gnawa guimbri music to more contemporary musics & methodologies. Brown Rice era Don Cherry, Sandy Bull's 'Blend' recordings & Can's 'magic' albums are super-heavy but in this case earned & appropriate historical reference points.

"CD edition presented in a high gloss Stoughton miniaturized gatefold sleeve with 20 minutes of previously unreleased additional material." - Eremite. Hear some of A Lucky Stone

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Joshua Abrams
Represencing
Eremite
CD
$16

"Represencing is the second installment of the Joshua Abrams sound world introduced on his 2010 Eremite album Natural Information.  Recorded at home in Chicago summer of 2011, Abrams again organizes small group statements around the resonant grooves of the North African ceremonial instrument the guimbri with a unique & broadly assimilative compositional voice.  Sources from traditional musics to minimalism, jazz to krautrock, animate Represencing, but Abrams is always grounded in the solidity of true working musicianship & he proves himself an artist fluent not just in styles but traditions.  Abrams' guest musicians embrace his polyglot approach.  Goaded (the guimbri is partly constructed from animal-hide) by Abrams to focus on a particular facet of their musical vocabularies, Jeff Parker & Emmett Kelly appear as finely contrasting rhythm guitarists, Michael Zerang gets virtuosic on a tambourine & David Boykin devotes himself to altissimo long-tones & circular breathing.  Others perform more structural roles, such as Jason Stein's bass clarinet, or, as with Nicole Mitchell's diaphanous choir of flute parts, function as landscape.  The Moondog-influenced ‘Sungazer’ is an aria for Tomeka Reid's spirited cello.  Throughout the album gong rhythms, synthesizer ‘sub’ bass, harmonium & organ return as unifying coloristic elements.  Abrams likens the overall concept to ‘entering a forest from different directions,’ & cites the AACM, Sandy Bull's duets with Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Arnold Dreyblatt, Hamza el Din, Popul Vuh, & Pharaoh Sanders as inspirations."

"The CD edition of Represencing is presented in a matte Stoughton miniaturized 'lazerdisc' sleeve with 25 minutes of previously unreleased additional material." – Eremite. Hear some of Represencing

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RL Boyce
Ain't the Man's Alright
Sutro Park
LP
$18

RL Boyce was born on August 15, 1955, in Como, Mississippi, where he still resides. It is a community with enduring blues, fife-and-drum, and gospel traditions.  Boyce picked up music as a teenager, starting out singing in the church choir and playing percussion in fife-and-drum bands. Regarding his evolution on the drums, he says, “I learned from a foot tub.  Back then we didn’t have a bathtub – a foot tub is what you bathed in, what you had your water in.” His earliest issued recording [“Late at Midnight, Just a Little Before Day,” on Traveling Through the Jungle: Negro Fife and Drum Band Music from the Deep South] was made on his 15th birthday, accompanying his uncle Otha Turner. Boyce later adjusted that percussion style to a blues context on a more expanded drum kit, as heard on Jessie Mae Hemphill’s classic Feelin’ Good album. His singular, bursting-at-the-seams drumming on the first side of that record is a benchmark of loose-limbed groove.  

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that such a vibrant musician would want to branch out from solely being a sideman to establish himself as a solo artist and leader of his own groups. Inspired by his neighbors Mississippi Fred McDowell and RL Burnside, he took up the guitar: “Oh man, I loved it. I always wanted to do what they did, so I got along with it.” He was coached by a couple local musicians including Joe Townsend (whose sole 45 for Designer Records is spellbinding, live-in-the-church gospel blues) and over time he developed an individual style that draws upon songs from the local repertoire and interprets them with considerable enthusiasm and spontaneity.

RL comes from a stream of the folk tradition that is less concerned with “getting it right” than getting it going, and with developing a distinct, individual sound. While regionally popular tunes and lyrics often serve as the bedrock of Boyce’s material, he takes them to places that no one else would, often peppering them with lyrics he makes up on the spot, as well as shout outs to his collaborators, his longtime companion Sheila Birge and their daughter Shanquisha, and anyone else who might happen to be in the vicinity. At other times, his songs are fully improvised. As Boyce puts it, “Most of it, when somethin’ hits my mind, I just start.  You know, like if I’m around you and I think about you a lot, I could sit at home in the yard, if you hit my mind, I play one right there, right then. I’m playin’ this for Adam, a friend of mine in New York. It’d hit me like that and I’d just go right on. I don’t do no rehearsin’ with nobody. I don’t do nothin’ like that. Whatever hits me, I jump in on it.” If he is in one of these more talkative moods, his stream of consciousness delivery is reminiscent of Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and even the jokester side of Furry Lewis. When he really gets going, there is a deeply infectious sense of release, and of letting loose. At such times, laughter comes easy and often from RL and those around him.

Although Boyce occasionally takes gigs in faraway locales, most of the time he seems content to play at clubs and parties closer to home, often in his own front yard. His music developed within this informal environment where he plays largely for friends and family, which is perhaps one reason why his songs have such an open-ended, spontaneous, freewheeling quality. His performances are very social and he welcomes an unpredictable, interactive relationship with his fellow performers as well as the audience. Other musicians may be invited to join in, but they shouldn’t expect much guidance. An inquiry regarding what key Boyce is playing in will likely elicit an instruction along the lines of “follow me.”  This is not always a straightforward task. They need to be ready to respond to sudden shifts, make adjustments on the fly, or play for hours while making subtle variations on a few grooves.

This record, Boyce’s long-awaited full-length debut, includes a rotating cast of collaborators who are accustomed to operating in this framework while also adding their personalities to the proceedings. In his earlier years, Luther Dickinson played extensively with RL (most notably on Otha Turner’s Everybody Hollerin’ Goat, which Dickinson produced), and here both men take a clear delight in renewing their partnership, at times calling to mind the sparks that flew when Mississippi Fred McDowell and Eli Green performed together. Guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm and RL sit in on one another’s sets quite often, each seemingly with an open invitation to join the other (As documented on the M for Mississippi film and soundtrack). And it is always a treat to hear drummer Calvin Jackson’s instantly recognizable rolling and tumbling style, sometimes done in tandem with his son, Cedric Burnside, on a second drum kit. Like all the other participants, they sound as if they’re having a ball.  

Though RL is now one of the elder statesmen among the traditional musicians in Como, his songs still retain the quality of when he was an exuberant youngster who was thrilled to be learning to play music with his role models. Hear a couple clips:  Gonna Boogie / Going Away
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Peter Brotzmann and Jason Adasiewicz
Mollie's in the Mood
Eremite / Bro
LP
$30

Mollie’s in the Mood is the sequel to the Brotzmann / Adasiewicz 2012 tour-only CD Going All Fancy & the third LP on Bro since the label’s 2003 revival. Recorded in ‘you are there’ fidelity live at Chicago’s Hideout, a favorite venue of both artists on the duo’s 2012 USA tour. This is what happens when the most original vibraphonist of his generation slams into a force of nature. Vinyl cut at Sterling by Steve Fallone & manufactured at RTI. Hand pulled screen printed covers on heavyweight Stoughton ‘laserdisc’ sleeves by Alan Sherry / SIWA. One-time pressing in an edition of 600, VINYL ONLY.” - Eremite

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Earl Cross, Muhammad Ali, Rashied Al Akbar, Idris Ackamoor
Ascent of the Nether Creatures
NoBusiness Records
LP
$25

Excellent & previously unreleased live session that features Earl Cross (who was recorded far too infrequently), Idris Ackamoor of The Pyramids & many other projects, the legendary Muhammad Ali on drums, and bassist Rashied Al Akbar, about whom I unfortunately know nothing other than he held his own in this heavy company. Limited edition of 300 copies, recorded in the Netherlands on July 12, 1980. Hear some of Ascent of the Nether Creatures. See Roy Morris' Homeboy Music site for much more about Earl Cross: http://www.homeboy-music.co.uk/#cross

Earl Cross: trumpet
Idris Ackamoor: alto & tenor saxophone
Rashied Al Akbar: bass
Muhammad Ali: drums

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Rev. Charlie Jackson
Wrapped Up Tangled Up in Jesus / Morning Train
Booker Records
45rpm 7"
$9

Officially licensed reissue of Rev. Charlie Jackson’s first 45. All his original singles are in high demand, this one especially so: 2 hot, classic sides. Edition of 500.

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Curtis Jones
1937-1940
Document
LP
$8

Curtis Jones was a popular blues singer/pianist, with an understated and enjoyable style that goes down real easy. A bit samey, but if you’re down with that late ‘30s Chicago piano blues sound, you’ll probably enjoy the ride. Jones also gets points for singing about hunching decades earlier than Hasil Adkins. Probable accompanists include Washboard Sam, Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Bee (James) and Kansas Joe McCoy, with occasional jazzy touches courtesy of Punch Miller.

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Sunny Murray
Big Chief
Eremite
LP
$24

“Examples on record of Sunny Murray’s enduring originality & influence as a drummer are many, but very few recordings demonstrate his strikingly unusual voice as a band leader & composer. None do so more spectacularly than his 1969 album Big Chief. Unfortunately it’s been a sick collector's item since long before Ebay. So it is with great pride & satisfaction that Eremite returns to our friends in the human clan this long unavailable masterpiece. The group assembled for this Parisian studio date includes musicians from France, South Africa, Jamaica, & the USA, & the huge sweeping sound they conjure while absolutely NAILING Murray’s highly irregular compositional structures is as thrilling as free jazz gets. Hart le Roy Bibbs appears once only in a wildly memorable turn. Everywhere & thru-out, Murray uses the instrumentation’s orchestral range to explore his fascination with the far extremes of the frequency range. Prepare your hearing for searing high-end burn! The record resolves beautifully in a performance of ‘This Nearly was Mine’ that manages to be both otherworldly & poignant. (Hear it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RZqShm6goE)

“Not only is Big Chief one of Murray’s great achievements, it’s one of the truly special recordings in free jazz history. Seriously. There is no greater love. The music was fastidiously remastered from the best available sources by Mike King, pressed on premium HQ-180 gram vinyl by RTI, & presented in a heavyweight Stoughton replica sleeve in an edition of 600. PROJECT PRODUCED WITH THE ARTIST'S FULL PERMISSION & COOPERATION.” - Eremite

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St. Louis Jimmy Oden
1932-1948
RST
LP
$10

Warm and inviting blues from the great St. Louis Jimmy Oden, who is perhaps best remembered these days as the composer “Going Down Slow,” which became a standard recorded by Howlin’ Wolf and many others.  On this LP, Oden is often accompanied on piano by Roosevelt Sykes and his vocal delivery provides a reflective, end-of-the-night vibe, which is one that frequently resonates with me these days.  On a couple tracks there is nice accompaniment from an unknown violinist, somewhat in the Mississippi Sheiks style; indeed “Six Feet in the Ground” is to the tune of “Sitting on Top of the World”.  The two songs with Muddy Waters and His Blues Combo (circa 1948) are also standouts, with Muddy taking some barbed, honey-bee style guitar solos. Hear Florida Hurricane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQf0qFHNjw0. Limited stock, one corner dinged on the cover.

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Various Artists
Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4: Rhythmic Changes
Mississippi
2LP
$32

“The fourth volume of the Anthology was never finished by Harry Smith. He managed to choose and sequence the tracks but never submitted liner notes to Folkways. Revenant Records released a version of this volume in the late 1990's with excellent liner notes and packaging. For our current release we have decided to not include any liner notes and conform the packaging to the same style as the first 3 volumes. This volume explores rhythmic changes that occurred in folk music between the late 1920's and early 1940’s.” - Mississippi

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Pete Whelan
78 Quarterly - Issue No. 3
78 Quarterly
book, 76 pages
$12

Published in 1988. Front and back covers are clean. Staples show rust that slightly stains the centermost pages. Feature articles:
“Paramount, Part 1: The Anatomy of a ‘Race’ Label” by Stephen Calt
“Trev Benwell: ‘Man and Legend’” by Russ Shor
“Polk Miller and the Old South Quartette” by Doug Seroff
“Collecting Ethnic” by Dick Spottswood
“’Big Foot’ William Harris” by Gayle Dean Wardlow
“Gennett-Champion Blues: Richmond, Indiana (1923-1934), Part 1” by Tom Tsotsi
“The Rarest 78s (A-B)”
“A White Man’s Integrity” by Stephen Calt (interview with Skip James)

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Pete Whelan
78 Quarterly - Issue No. 4
78 Quarterly
book, 96 pages
$18/$14; see below

Highly desirable issue of 78 Quarterly that features R. Crumb's illustration of Robert Johnson on the cover, and interview with the great music historian Frederic Ramsey, Jr., tales of Paramount Records, and more.

Staples show rust that slightly stains the centermost pages.  Back covers show slight rubbing; front covers cleaner.  I've also got a couple copies that show a bit more wear such as staining to the outer edges of the pages that are $14.  Please specify your preference. 

Feature articles:
“Paramount, Part 2: The Anatomy of a ‘Race’ Label” by Stephen Calt
“Fred Ramsey Speaks Out!” an interview by Pete Whelan
“Robert Johnson” by Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow
“The Idioms of Robert Johnson” by Stephen Calt
“Remembering Big Joe” by Henry Renard (subtitled “The life and times of Big Joe Clauberg and his Jazz Record Center – New York’s famous [and bizarre] hangout for collectors, celebrities, musicians, alcoholics, and hobos…”)
“Paramounts in the Belfry…” by Bob Hilbert
“Gennett-Champion Blues: Richmond, Indiana (1923-1934), Part 2” by Tom Tsotsi
“The Rarest 78s (C-D)”
“Postscript to the McKune Story…” by Bernard Klatzko

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Pete Whelan
78 Quarterly - Issue No. 5
78 Quarterly
book, 96 pages
$12

Published in 1990. Staples show rust that slightly stains the centermost pages.  Front and back covers show slight rubbing.  Features include:
"The Buying and Selling of Paramounts, Part 3" by Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow
"Rarest 78s (F to G)"
"Louie Bluie, Part 1" by Terry Zwigoff
"100 Years from Today" by Doug Seroff
"When the Wolf Knocked on Victor's Door" by Dick Spottswood
"Gennett / Champion Blues, Part 3" by Tom Tsotsi
"Portrait of a Blues Singer" (Skip James) by Stephen Calt
"Six Who Made Recorded History" by Gayle Dean Wardlow

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Pete Whelan
78 Quarterly - Issue No. 12
78 Quarterly
book, 116 pages
$12

Features an incredible Paramount Records cover story.  Perfect-bound (no staple trouble!), clean covers.  Featured articles:
“Gold in Grafton!  Long lost Paramount photos, artwork, 78s surface after 70 years!” by John Tefteller
“Ma Rainey and Her Jazz Hounds – 1917/1922/1931” by Jim Prohaska
“Try Me One More Time – Marshall Owens Spiced with a Bit of Curry” by Alex van der Tuuk
“Bayless?  Bailey? – A Rose By Another Name” by Christopher C. King
“Gennett’s Mystery Label: The Superior 300 Series” by Tom Tsotsi
“The Rarest 78s (W thru Z)”

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Johnny Young
Slam Hammer / Wild, Wild Woman
Arhoolie
45rpm 7"
$8

Double-barrelled electric blues 45 from Johnny Young c.1965, with a hot band that includes Otis Spann on piano and James Cotton on harmonica.  Hear both sides: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aU3-LL8I7o and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66aKgVFmysQ .