Thursday, July 17, 2003
Life Of Sorrow
All life is suffering, the Buddha assures us. Perhaps that is why a happy song like "I'm Too Sexy" is relegated to the novelty bin almost immediately upon release, while a song like "Man of Constant Sorrow" is a timeless wonder. The people of Appalachia, the wellspring of bluegrass music, knew that life was hard, that sorrow was at least as much a part of life as happiness, if not a greater part. It is these baleful realms that David Grisman explores on his latest release, "Life Of Sorrow." Grisman collected songs fitting this theme from various recording sessions, both formal and informal, that he's been a part of between 1969 and 1998. Considering the time span, the collection is remarkably cohesive, not just thematically but sonically. The recording quality is stunning, which is par for the course on Acoustic Disc.
So is the playing. Grisman plays with the Del McCoury Band, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mt. Boys, John Hartford, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Herb Pederson and others. Along the way Grisman does everything from tasty, understated solos to duets where he's way out front on mandolin and vocals. Despite its focus on "sorrow," the CD is not depressing by any means. To the contrary, this is spectacular, life affirming music that explores the full gamut of human emotions. Of course death plays an important role here, but what is life but a sexually transmitted death sentence? It's how we deal with everything between the cradle and the grave that makes us human, and dealing with, even reveling in, the sorrow at times is a huge part of that experience. Then again, forget the philosophy and dig: this is another great bluegrass record from David Grisman.
Trojan 12" Box Set
If a body and brain love a groove for three minutes, who is to say they wouldn't for six, nine, twelve or longer? Such is the philosophy behind the 12" single, the remix or the various permutations thereof that began back in the '70s via electronic prosthesis, or tape edits. The idea is to keep 'em dancing to those steady beats per minute until they tire. Sure is better than trying to seamlessly segue one three-minute hit after another, no?
These reggae classics turned dub turned dancehall/rap foundations were the real roots of the music of today, what is techno really but minute variations of a theme? Thing is, the theme's were the thing on these discs, be they Marley, the Mighty Diamonds, Dennis Brown, Lee Perry or whomever, the bass lines remained intact, but the rest was really a studio take on what live bands were doing forever--building crescendos, dropping down and repeating themes into a frenzy. It is the bedrock of reggae and all rhythm and blues--they're doing what gospel choirs have been doing for centuries.
Sure, there's a bit of "dead-horse beating" in some of these extended jams, most which feature Lee Perry's band The Upsetters. Best track is the unbreakable "Kouchi Vibes/Pass The Knowledge" track from the M Diamonds, which morphed into one of the most enduring pop moments of the '80s in the States, Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie." And unlike today's up-up-up techno, the beat settles down and mesmerizes instead of propels. But that's reggae, mon, and if you loved these tunes in their compact forms, a little noodlin' and doodlin' does you no harm.