Seuras Og

Seuras Og is an old enough to know better family Dr in Birmingham, UK, having taken the easy option of medicine upon failure to get work in a record store. By now drowning in recorded music, he has thought it about time to waste the time of others in his passion here, as well as a few other places dotted about the web.

Sep 242022
 

Things Happen That WayLet’s start with a quick nod to the elephant in the room. Dr. John’s Things Happen That Way isn’t a cover album per se, given there are a number of Mac Rebennack originals on this posthumous release. But given the dude has released his 32nd studio album after having been gone these past two years, we’re of a mind to forgive that. Plus, with the otherwise wealth of covers included, heck, of course we had to review it. And for extra kudos, it is a splendid and unexpected joy, delving into the more country flavors of the N’Awlins voodoo meister.

It seems Mr. Mac was always a bit keen on classic country music. He talked about wanting to make this album long before he actually got to. Now, this here country music is none of your Americana or alt-country; this is the real deal, country that demands to be followed by “and Western.” Between 2017 and 2019, Rebennack and guitarist/producer Shane Theriot met up and made it happen. They enlisted several old buddies along the way, cutting tracks until Rebennack’s heart disease finally caught up with him.

However, with his demise, so too, it seemed, died the final say in what songs and which versions would be allowed to appear, this right now transferring to his estate. So what we get isn’t quite what Dr. John had concluded in his lifetime. Mastering took place later, with some of the versions tweaked to further fulfil, says his daughter, her father’s wishes. He re-recorded “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” perhaps his best known song, with additional vocals from Rickie Lee Jones. They ditched this in favor of one with Lukas Nelson and his band. Which isn’t a bad thing, but both mayhap would have been better?

Anyhoo, with no further ado, what’s Things Happen That Way like?
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Aug 302022
 

Under CoverIt takes some guts to cover songs as venerated as the ones on Valerie June’s Under Cover. As in, either you delude yourself if you think you can add to, or better, any the myriad other versions, let alone the originals. Or you are pretty damn good. Self-belief is certainly part the job prècis, and Valerie June has that in spades. She has the talent in spades as well.

You may have heard her name, maybe even some of her material, possibly whilst listening to a blues station on the radio. Or a country music station. Or pop, R&B, or folk. Gospel, even. For she straddles each of these genres, a woman of color from Tennessee, exposed to all and comfortable with each. Following self-releasing her first couple of recordings, she was spotted by Black Key Dan Auerbach, who, no mean gauge of talent, co-produced her 2013 eponymous label debut, which introduced her to a broader and welcoming audience, at home and worldwide. Europe has been especially supportive. Ahead of this, and also worthy of mention, is an EP she released independently, credited to Valerie June and the Tennessee Express. The Tennessee Express were Old Crow Medicine Show.

There have been a couple of albums since, each well-received, if remaining hard to classify under any one genre, perhaps explaining the changes of record label along the way. Fantasy Records demonstrate their faith by issuing this EP, on the back of last year’s album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers, which had also been on this label.

Is it any good? Let’s see.
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Aug 052022
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Respectfully Yours

At last, via Bandcamp, it is once again possible to get hold of Ian McNabb’s 2016 album Respectfully Yours. For a while it seemed well nigh untraceable, with neither McNabb nor his manager able to lay a hand on or a link for a copy as little as a year or so ago. The original release was in hard copy only, and only at live shows or direct from the artist’s website. No downloading malarkey in those days, which now threatens to become the only way for many releases to meet the light of day. I’ll pretend it was my request last year that had McNabb put this up for re-evaluation, but I suspect it was more the harsh economics of lockdown logistics, pumping all hands to deck in the pursuit of making ends meet. Be that as it may, Respectfully Yours is a welcome presence, virtual or otherwise.
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Jul 252022
 

Melt AwayHaving released two Christmas albums, it is only fitting that She & Him move on to tackle summer. And what says summer more brightly than the Beach Boys? Even thinking about the band makes me (smiley) smile and look for garish Hawaiian shirts in my wardrobe. And of course, the Beach Boys wouldn’t have been the Beach Boys, whatever Mike Love might think, if it wasn’t for the genius of Brian Wilson, the last Wilson brother standing. Hence, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson. All the songs here have at least some input from Brian Wilson, largely the melodies, with lyrics also on occasion. (Mr. Love would want me to say he co-wrote many of them, I am sure, so I will.)

She & Him, then, a curious mélange. M. Ward, the somewhat-cerebral-seeming singer-songwriter from the Pacific Northwest, and Zooey Deschanel, the manic pixie dream girl in many a Hollywood comedy. The combination smacks of vanity project. Actually far from, with Ms. Deschanel responsible for the bulk of their own material, at least as far as the songwriting credits go. Taking most of the lead vocals, Deschanel plays guitar and ukulele (don’t panic), whilst Ward is content to supply a subsidiary presence, responsible for additional vocals, guitar and keyboards, as well as production duties. Which, in anything involving the songs of Brian Wilson, is going to be no small feat.
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Jun 282022
 

Tonight We RideJason McNiff may not be the best known of names, but this hard-working singer and guitarist has hewn himself quite a place in the annals of that awkwardly entitled genre, UK Americana. McNiff earned a degree in French and Russian, but the lure of his first love proved too strong. He immersed himself in the fingerpicked guitar of folk and blues, in particular the work and style of the late Bert Jansch.

Ahead his premature death, Jansch had had a residency at London’s 12 Bar Club, playing to the faithful every Wednesday. McNiff made sure he was there, week after week, soaking up the excellence. No doubt Jansch came to recognize the tousle-headed youngster in the front row; it’s no coincidence that McNiff’s first record deal was with Jansch’s brother-in-law’s label, Snowstorm. A slew of releases have followed, garnishing him, along the way with an Americana UK (a webzine) album of the year and a nomination for alt country best of year in the US Independent Music Awards. So, no slouch.

Like many current releases, COVID and lockdown birthed Tonight We Ride. McNiff spent his enforced vacation hunkering down with weekly on-line gigs: the “Sundowner” sessions. Exhausting both his own repertoire of songs and those he already loved by others, he had to learn a whole new catalog of material. Tonight We Ride was the logical conclusion: eleven songs encompassing artists McNiff holds the most in reverence, with a couple of his own for good measure. Unsurprisingly, this encompasses both the accepted great and good–in this case, Dylan, Townes, and the Beatles–as well as a couple from the next generation down. And, of course, a couple from Jansch, his idol, and whose percussive picking style permeates this album.
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Jun 152022
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Hmmm–“In the Spotlight” could well be the giveaway, being exactly where at least half of this odd couple seems, more than anything else, to want to be. Odd couple? Well, back in the day, I daresay that the idea of Robert Fripp, the complex guitar wrangler of King Crimson fame, besuited and besitted always, having a lengthy and lasting marriage with Toyah Willcox, the punk-pop princess of Birmingham with the look-at-me dramatics, was not one of life’s great certainties.

I confess to being quite delighted by the couple’s first forays into Sunday Lunchtime COVID-19 entertainment, as much for the bizarre hoops Mrs. Fripp could put her permanently-bemused husband through, in the sake of raising the spirits of those who stumbled onto these little vignettes of, apparently, their life.

According to Willcox, the purpose of these weekly vids was primarily to lift Fripp out of the black dog that permeated him as lockdown locked down, depriving him of both an outlet for and an income for his art. So, on 5th April 2020, those idly browsing the net became party to the extraordinary image of the couple, dressed to the nines, having a bop to Bill Haley’s vintage hit, “Rock Around the Clock.” And looking to be having a whale of a time.
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