Thursday, November 13, 2003
Greatest Hits 2
The true king of proletariat rock he is and was, Bob Seger is far more the nuts n' bolts man of that genre than anyone else, more than Bruce, Cougar or the Nuge, whomever. Straight ahead and heart on the sleeve he is, no frills, no nonsense, no jive.
Which means that he's kind of plain (instead of plaintive) most of the time. On the bright side, that means that his enormous hits are totally worn out and very few of them are here, having been covered in Volume One. Volume Two is indeed the second tier. "Sunspot Baby" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" are, well, forgotten. That both of these songs address truly adult concerns--ruined credit and lost bohemianism, respectively--speaks a ton about the guy's heart.
There are a couple 'o new ones here, the best of which is a slow honky-tonker called "Satisfied." But there's nothing from his pre-Silver Bullet garage days and "Mainstreet" and "Feel Like a Number" aren't here, either. Good cruisin' music all the same, which is probably its intent.
Coast to Coast, Vol. 2
When Reid Genauer, the original front-man/principal lyricist of Strangefolk, left to pursue academia, the group became ostensibly rudderless. Suddenly, the lyrics went from "magazine is empty and it's tired morning empty" to "my life is like an escalator."
On Strangefolk's double disc release, Coast to Coast Vol. 2, the group proves an adept improvisational act. They can play with heroic muscle for twenty minutes on a single theme ("Take It Easy") without making it a test of patience. They also employ chord inversions and changes that they never considered in their original four-piece format."
But such instrumental improvements remain a mixed bag of major chord cliches and redundant runs. Lyrics now serve as merely an abeyance before the next solo. Strangefolk always appeared more engrossed in the art of songwriting than just jamming, often underscoring the "folk" in their name. Now, more than ever, their chosen title seems like a gross misnomer.
HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN
The Austin-based trio Hot Club of Cowtown conjures up images of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli by way of Bob Willis' Texas swing days. But in the studio the Hot Club of Cowtown's mix of Jake Erwin's bass, Elana Fremerman's violin, and Whit Smith's gypsy guitar often stalled, never reaching the prestigious territory they passionately mustered with such facility on the stage.
On Continental Stomp, the triad's first live outing, the group finds their collective stride, filling their sound with stunning interplay and warm reminiscences.
They allude to Waylon Jennings. Even tackle some Willie Nelson. Take a rapid fire run approach to sundry bluegrass changes. And yet despite the composition selected, or whatever quote they throw in, they always return to the familiar hot jazz trio framework replete with block chords and minor inversions.
Sure the band's blithe-mannered vocals work, completing the full nostalgic trip to 1946, but appear patently secondary to the unrestrained excitement of their intense instrumental interactions. Amongst the crowd's cacophonous roar, the Hot Club of Cowtown's true talent emerges complete with ultra-hip jazz missteps and extemporization highs found only in the most esteemed Parisian swing LPs.