Music » Music Reviews

Music reviews - 11-08-06

This week: Bloodshot Records DVD, Yo La Tengo, Don Byron

Untitled Document


Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records’ Life in the Trenches
Bloodshot Records

Chicago, 1995. Bloodshot Records begins operations, according to a tongue-in-cheek documentary included on Bloodied But Unbowed, “fueled by boredom, hubris, naïveté, and a complete ignorance of what might lie ahead.” The label is as insurgent as the various strains of country and western it proffers, and to mark the beginning of its second decade as arguably the premier imprint, Bloodshot has cobbled together more than three glorious hours of music videos and live footage showcasing its diverse roster of artists, from the traditional pedal steel-laced sounds of Wayne Hancock to the rowdy cowpunk of Scroat Belly. Godfathers like Alejandro Escovedo, Graham Parker, and former Mekon Jon Langford have all found a home at Bloodshot, and Ryan Adams and Old 97s both started there before going corporate. The best thing about any collection like this is the opportunity to experience lesser-known artists, including Bobby Bare, Jr., with his plaintive Jeff Tweedy delivery, the torchy Kelly Hogan, and Scott H. Biram, my favorite one-man band. But after seeing the shorts “I Heart My Label” and “Blood, Sweat, and Beers: A Bloodshot Primer,” it’s entertainingly obvious that the common thread connecting the label to its stable is that none of them take their dream jobs too seriously.

--- Dayna Papaleo




Yo La Tengo
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Matador Records

Without sounding erratically different than the perfect LP I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Yo La Tengo's new record reinvents the band anyway. Elated percussion, atmospherics, and distorted bombast are here, complemented with trumpets, pianos, and falsettos. With complex songwriting --- the “At the Hop” drive of “Watch Out For Me Ronnie” in collusion with the balladry of “I Feel Like Going Home” --- I Am Not Afraid Of You has rather a White Album diversity while retaining the band’s fluidity and archetypal prowess. The songs don’t seem so much written as alternately blitzing and grooving from out of the cosmic warehouse the three band mates inhabit. Soulful and sinister, emphatic and momentous, Yo La Tengo is fearless and will beat your ass. It ain't braggin if it's true.

--- Joel Leonard Chaffee





Don Byron
Do The Boomerang
Blue Note

Don Byron’s latest album is named for a song by the artist he’s paying homage to, Junior Walker. But it could also be a description of Byron’s career. With an admirable disregard for the opinions of jazz purists, Byron has consistently come back to his roots, wherever they may be. Over the last two decades he has released albums exploring the work of klezmer clarinetist Mickey Katz; the cartoon-like music of Raymond Scott, John Kirby, and Duke Ellington (Bug Music); the tunes of 1970s funk group Mandrill (Nu Blaxploitation); and the music of saxophone giant Lester Young (Ivey Divey). Now Byron is revisiting the music of Walker, the great 1960s r&b saxophonist/vocalist, with his own all-star band and two excellent vocalists.

George Colligan is consistently smokin’ on the B-3, David Gilmore keeps up the steady grooves and raunchy leads on guitar, and Rodney Jones (drums) and Brad Jones (bass) form an air-tight, funky rhythm session. (Curtis Fowlkes plays trombone on two cuts.) It’s tough to compete with Walker’s originals, but Byron’s rendition of “Shotgun,” featuring vocals by Dean Bowman, gives Walker’s a run for its money. Bowman is also frighteningly good on James Brown’s “There It Is.” “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love),” with a vocal by Chris Thomas King, is significantly different from Walker’s version, with Byron playing bass clarinet. King also nicely handles vocals and guitar on the title tune. As for Byron, whether on tenor sax (10 tracks), clarinet or bass clarinet, he sounds like he’s having the time of his life.

--- Ron Netsky