Robbie Fulks recommends Annette Peacock

Robbie Fulks and Annette Peacock

Robbie Fulks and Annette Peacock

Robbie Fulks’s artist recommendation: “The latest thing to blow me away is Annette Peacock, and please don’t quote that excluding the “away” part. Cognoscenti have known about Annette for decades, so it looks like old Robbie is late to the love-in as always. What is she? She contains multitudes. Voice-wise she’s at times astringent, at others soft and syrupy, but always soulful. A lot of her output in the last 30 years seems to be mellow (as on her records with the ECM label, which she was associated with early and often). On what’s right now my favorite of her records (I’m the One, see below), she presents herself as a half-crooning, half-shrieking pop diva, a jazz composer, a sensitive keyboardist, a freaky crazy poet, a mother, and a half-cocked prophet of electronics. “Half” because the world she prophesied, of machine-savvy audio manipulation, has come to be, but it’s nothing like the ecstatic, free, funny, and weirdly powerful style of synthesis she unloosed. Her tunes meander, often non-repetitively and non-catchily, like the Shaggs. But her singing and playing are fierce and focused, and her inborn gifts honed. None of her records sound much like another of her records. Even less do they sound like anyone else’s records.

Annette has an illustrious biography. She was married to Gary Peacock and then Paul Bley, and she has played and recorded with people like Albert Ayler, Mick Ronson, and Bill Bruford; she directly influenced David Bowie and Brian Eno; she’s been sampled by Busta Rhymes. She’s also beautiful, for what that’s worth — which seems to be quite a lot to whoever decided to plaster her skimpily dressed frame, come-hither expressions, and bare stomach all over her record art.”

Not familiar with Annette Peacock? Robbie suggests you start here: “On I’m the One (a record I think everyone ought to buy at once), Annette puts an early (1972) Moog into her mouth and makes sounds that are musical by a generous but actual definition. The first thing up is the title track. This is two minutes of tense, dense-chord, late 1960s far-outness, played by a funky rhythm section (Airto is on the record) and horn section, followed by a blunt edit and a few naked syllables of singing and immediately into what you might call a “song” — more specifically, a cagey and coiled tone-rapture of sexy self-assertion, expressed in words that are idiomatic and natural but, by pop lyric standards, ungraspably bare, childishly uncensored and comically artless. Song lyrics tend never to play well on the page and away from the bandstand, but a lyric like “I’m the one/I’m the one/You don’t have to look any further/I’m the one/I’m here, right here for you/I’m the one…one/one/one/one” is as good as an announcement that Greil Marcus will be writing no explanatory essay on the dust jacket.

Annette’s unholy range is revealed toward the end of the “song” — she’s fairly bursting blood vessels at the fade — along with her Moog, which appears high in the mix in beautifully rude bleats, blurps and glissandi. I love how, in contrast to those who in the early 1970s used synthesizers as the Instrument of the Future, Annette saw its function as an instrument of the past: a hammer. I’d say Sun Ra was a fellow carpenter. And I may be idly fantasizing, but her and Paul Bley’s live synth workouts (their show at Lincoln Center in 1969 was the first live use of the Moog, says the Internet) put me in mind of Paul Hindemith’s 1930s experiments in turntablism — fun science perpetrated by people with a love of invention and a deep musical feel. Elsewhere on the record there’s a riverine cover of Love Me Tender and a minute of Annette’s 5-year-old daughter tinkling on the piano (“Did You Hear Me Mommy?”).”

Denver DalleyAbout our guest author, Robbie Fulks: As Robbie hilariously details on his website, music writers have a hard time classifying him. He considers himself country, but how many acts on CMT do you know can pull off songs that are titled Fuck This Town, have released a full album of Michael Jackson interpretations (The Way You Make Me Feel sounds like Tom Waits in full stalker mode) and has a new record that is produced by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, The Breeders)? Robbie describes himself best when he said, “I play the kind of thing that you might hear if you come to America and go out in the country — not the thing you hear if you rent a car at the airport when you arrive and hit the “country” button.” Let’s pass on trying to fit Robbie into a specific box and focus on the praise a bit, shall we? Spin calls him “America’s most unjustly unsung singer/songwriter” and The Chicago Tribune says that he’s “so good, he’s scary.” Veteran Fulks desciples and those just learning about Robbie can rejoice for two reasons: one is that Robbie’s new record is coming out on August 27. Do yourself a favor and preorder the album, Gone Away Backward (and listed to a song from the collection below). Secondly, some of you lucky souls will be able to check out Robbie live. Robbie is a 20 year vet of being on the road and he’s a flawless showman. Get the album, see the show and join the growing ranks of smarties that are in the know.

Editor’s note: As we mentioned, Robbie can be downright hilarious, so it wouldn’t surprise us if his essay was just a tad tongue-in-cheek. Either way, there’s some killer writing there.

Adam Levy recommends Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy’s recommendation: “One artist who moves me consistently is Sam Phillips. Her songs are smartly written, yet she always keeps them from sounding fussy or fussed over. Her melodies get stuck in my head and I never mind them sticking there. Some of her lyrics race along with the pace of taut short stories (imagine Tobias Wolff as a singer/songwriter), while others are more dreamlike. She’s a strummer — not a fingerpicker — and I love the way her guitar lopes and swaggers through her songs.”

New to Sam Phillips? Adam suggests you start here: My favorite Sam record is A Boot & A Shoe. Song for song, I think it’s her most consistent batch, and the production is seductively gritty. My other fave is Fan Dance — released a few years prior to A Boot and a Shoe To me, these two feel like companions. (I’ve no idea if Phillips thinks of them that way.) Both records were produced by T-Bone Burnett, and the cast of session players is similar — including drummer Carla Azar and guitarist Marc Ribot.

MP3: I Don’t Know Why by Sam Phillips

Adam LevyAbout our guest author, Adam Levy: We at recently found out about Adam Levy on a WFUV segment and we really liked what we heard: skillful guitar work perfectly laid under intimate, well crafted lyrics. We dug around the Web for his bio info and found out that his grandfather wrote “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the theme from the TV series Gilligan’s Island (how cool is that?!) and that he has backed the likes of Norah Jones, Ani DiFranco and Tracey Chapman. But the interesting thing is that there is not a ton of bio info on his own site. Instead the music and reviews of his work speaks for itself. Of his most recent record, The Heart Collector, No Depression says, “A great album overflowing with warm and soulful songs that enchant the ears and captivate the heart,” and Minor 7th writes, “It’s his guitar virtuosity, melancholy melodies, vocals — multiple musical personalities — that will surely mesmerize you.” Levy gets a lot of jazz coverage, but there is definite crossover potential here; we see him as a gifted singer-songwriter. Be sure to check to check Adam’s concert schedule, join his mailing list and more.

Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide carries a torch for Little Jimmy Scott

Eef Barzelay and Little Jimmy Scott

Eef Barzelay and Little Jimmy Scott

The recommendation from Eef Barzelay: “Jimmy Scott is one of my very favorite singers. Born with a rare hormonal condition that kept his voice from ever changing, he somehow sounds like a man, a woman, and a child all at once. Also he sings so far behind the beat it just devastates, nobody sings slower. I saw him at Birdland on New Years Eve years ago and it was one of the best nights I’ve had upon this earth.”

The Source: Rock Torch exclusive, 2/14/10

More on: Eef Barzelay and Clem Snide
(Editor’s note: Eef Barzelay fronts Clem Snide, perhaps most famous for penning Moment in the Sun, the song that was used as the theme track for the NBC show Ed. Their latest album, Hungry Bird is coming out on February 23 of which Rolling Stone says it “… sounds like Michael Stipe fronting Pavement.” Also, check their site for tour dates.)

More on: Little Jimmy Scott

New to Little Jimmy Scott? Start here: The story goes that Ray Charles plucked Scott for his own Tangerine label to record this collection with the strongest arrangers in the business to make Falling In Love Is Wonderful the best it can be. Charles even fingers the keys on the album. The collection has been snagged in a legal bird nest for years but it has now been re-released in all of its wondrous glory.

Buy the Album Here:

Falling In Love Is Wonderful

Or preview a track here:

Kevin Barker carries a torch for Pharoah Sanders

Kevin Barker and Pharoah Sanders

Kevin Barker and Pharoah Sanders

The Quote from Kevin Barker: “I’m not a jazz musician, and my record collection is MABYE 10% jazz records. A lot of jazz music I can appreciate without really having an emotional connection to, but there are really only a handful of jazz records that have really struck a chord (har har) with me. To name a few: Tangents in Jazz by Jimmy Giuffre, A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, Miles Smiles by Miles Davis, and Tauhid by Pharoah Sanders. Pharoah’s records are meditative, ecstatic, open, loving, and very melodic. They’re like a great big giant spiritual hug.”

The Source: Rock Torch exclusive, 2/9/10

More on: Kevin Barker
(Editor’s note: Kevin Barker has spent the last few years collaborating with the likes of Joanna Newsom, Vetiver and Antony and the Johnsons. He has released a lovely solo record called
You and Me
that is chock full of his signature fingering guitar playing and lush harmonies.)

More on: Pharoah Sanders

New to Pharoah Sanders? Start here: An amazing band {appears on Tauhid} including the great Henry Grimes on bass, Dave Burrell on piano and Sonny Sharrock on guitar. A particular favorite is Japan, which my wife and I had some friends perform an arrangement of for our wedding procession. This is the record I would play for someone if they believe that they don’t like jazz music. It transcends genres and labels. It’s not even that it straddles genres, like Mahivishnu Orchestra or electric Miles Davis. It transcends them because steps completely outside of them to make its own style of music. More akin to Indian Classical music without sounding anything like it, this is devotional music at its finest, gospel music preaching ecstatic love of the unknown and the unknowable.

Buy the Album Here:
Pharaoh Sanders Tauhid