WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Friday, June 14, 2019

Best Music in 2019, So Far...

Best Music so far in 2019.

Ok, well, to be truthful, for me, the most significant record released this year is the one my band recorded, "The Alternate Boot: Vols 1&2." A long time coming, a labor of love. We released it, got some nice reviews, t-shirt sales, cd sales and streams, a fantastic string of shows, including a transcendent release party in February, growing our band sound, and fan base, show by show; progress has been slow, but steady. Our sound evolving, morphing, live shows getting more fully-realized. One of the most significant projects I have ever worked on. Our band of musicians are an inspiring creative outfit dedicated to the vibe. You can purchase your own copy on Amazon here!

What else?

Two releases have captivated me this year.

One is the 2 cd set: The Bootleg Series Vol 13: Trouble  No More 1979-1981  This is full-on Jew for Jesus, Evangelical Bob Dylan. I was one of those Dylan fans horrified when Bob turned up "born again." This album is a mind-changer. Listening to these live cuts many years later is a revelation. One of Dylan's most fertile, creative periods. One of his greatest live bands, he is in superb voice, singing with passion, conviction. It's a stunning collection. Jim Keltner on drums, Spooner Oldman keys, Tim Drummond bass, Fred Tackett on guitar, Carlos Santana guests on a track. And quartet of backup singers (Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Carolyn Dennis, Gwen Evans, Clydie King, Regina McCrary, Regina Peebles, Helena Springs, Mona Lisa Young) is breathtakingly good. Spiritual renewal. I have lived with and loved these songs for a couple months now. Great gospel music. Some of the best ever written and performed. Really. That good.  It is such a pleasure to hear Dylan singing his heart out, to us, and to the Lord.

The other record I "discovered" this year, and have not stopped spinning, is a record that was actually released in 1998, Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue. I read Jeff Tweedy's book and I fell in love with Tweedy's solo album, "Warm" (2018), a major work, Tweedy at his soulful, beautiful, very revealing best , and fell into a major Wilco vortex. I own every Wilco album except their first. Wilco's discography from "Being There" (1996) - "Schmilco" (2016), and every record in between, is absolutely magnificent. I can put any Wilco record on and find new things to love and be inspired by. If you pressed me, I'd have say to that Wilco is my favorite band of the moment. No doubt. Great band. By the way, I think, in order to really "get," to understand the secret code, to reveal the DNA of the band, be sure to check out their live album, recorded at the Vic Theater in Chicago, "Kicking Television," (2005), and watch the DVD, "Ashes of American Flags" (2009), (I have seen it many, many times, and always find it thrilling), a band working at it's absolute peak. We are now talking the current band, a much different musical animal than the Mermaid Ave. crew, the lineup from "Sky Blue Sky,"(2007) til today features the incomparable Nels Cline on guitar and Glenn Kotche on drums. I'd also say Jeff Tweedy is one of the few songwriters I'd even consider in the same sentence as Dylan. Yes, I do think he's quite brilliant in his own quirky way.

I was aware of "Mermaid Ave." for years, but resisted buying it, thinking it was just a gimmick, a marketing ploy. Bragg and Wilco taking Woody Guthrie lyrics and conjuring up songs? For some reason it just didn't appeal to me. One day in early 2019 a friend asked me if I ever heard the record, and recommended it. I was so enamored with all things Tweedy, so I snagged a used copy at my local record store. Boy was I ever wrong. Mermaid Avenue is a complete joy, a stunner, a fantastic labor of love, pure sonic gold. Wilco has never sounded looser, more fun and more creative.  Tweedy and Bragg really bring a passion to Guthrie's amazing, touching, funny, superb lyrics. There isn't one false step.  A great, joyful, inspiring, spine-tingling, record. I think Jeff Tweedy was sort of liberated singing someone else's lyrics. It's fantastic to hear Jay Bennet on guitar and piano and Ken Commer on drums, the original lineup of Wilco, tearing it up with not a care in the world. I mean the band sounds loose, powerful, sloppy, r&r perfect. Another completely breathtaking album. Who knew?!

This is where my head, my ears have been at this year...  playing songs from our latest record with my phenomenal band, and time-tripping to the distant past, listening to music so powerful, so lively, so inspiring, so of the moment. Doesn't matter when it was recorded. Kind of surprising, lost in time, and enjoying every last moment. Wow.

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