Bentley’s Bandstand: August 2022
By Bill Bentley
The Allman Brothers Band, Down in Texas ’71. At the beginning of the 1970s the road was wide open for rock & roll bands, no matter where they were coming from. The wild frontier of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury ethos was not necessarily calming down, but its newness was waning. There was room for other elements to ride into play. Enter the Allman Brothers Band, a full-tilt whirlwind of musicians based in Georgia who were ready to blow the doors down with a blues-based stew of ferocious guitars featuring king picker Duane Allman with Dickie Betts, double drummers capable of anything rhythmic and a vocalist in brother Gregg Allmann who knew no bounds in and out of the bluesy inspirations he favored. The man sang Bobby “Blue” Bland songs for God’s sake: no timid territory there. This live album recorded in Austin, Texas in 1971 makes up in ferocity what it lacks in sonics. Sometimes it’s just necessary to look beyond the nicety of perfect recording conditions. The Allmans’ setlist had been solidified into songs like “Trouble No More,” “One Way Out, “Stormy Monday” and the ear-opener instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Taking a cue from the hallucinatory improvisations of the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers mined a set list of Southern classics into their own creation of craziness, and never looked back. There have been a dozen live albums from the Allmans in the past 50 years, starting with the mind-blowing LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST. But right behind that classic it’s time to put DOWN IN TEXAS ’71 at the top of the list of follow-ups. The Allman Brothers Band were hitting the note and showing the Lone Star listeners in the audience how things should be done. Add to that a 13-minute Houston radio interview with Berry Oakley and Duane Allman that puts a fine cap on this disc. Hear in the pair’s own words where they came from and where they wanted to go, and marvel at all the wonderful what-coud-have-beens. That both young men would be dead in a little over a year is to really realize all that was lost. Rest In Peace.
Dawes, Misadventures of Doomscroller. Dawes has been a major part of the Los Angeles music landscape for well over a decade, but always seems to strive to keep a sense of stealth to their achievements. They have recorded some of the best albums of the 2000s, but don’t make a big deal about it. Who really knows if this is on purpose or not, but with the new release MISADVENTURES OF DOOMSCROLLER it might be they are finally ready to bust loose, even with an album title that’s a bit of a mind-twister. No matter what, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith is a major league force. His voice rises to the top of anything he sings, and Goldsmith’s ability to command attention is as natural as it is impossible to miss. And then there’s Dawes themselves, who have an intriguing way of taking over a song while staying right underneath the surface. It’s a bit of a magic trick, really, and has served them well through what has always felt like a predestined career. With eight albums to their credit, this is a California bunch that is clearly in it for the long haul. The seven songs on the new release, most of them stretching over six minutes, sounds like there is something momentus about it. Like Dawes has decided to show all their cards and let things fly. In a way, the band is in a league of its own, making music without boundaries but always within reach. That is not as easy as it sounds, but for this So Cal crew it feels as natural as a Pacific Ocean sunset capable of changing the world. Doomscroller Anonymous anyone?
The Groove Krewe featuring Nick Daniels III, Run to Daylight. New Orleans’ heart and soul is never too far from modern music. There is something in the polyrhythmic beats and flight of fancy horn sections that resides in the deepest recesses of players there who like to explore where things come from. The Groove Krewe is the brainchild of Rox Pearce and Dale Murray’s free-swinging spirits and how they want to capture the strongest essence of the Crescent City’s center. Bring in singer and bassist extraordinaire Nick Daniels III along with a whole brave St.Charles streetcar full of players to bring the vision to reality and this album definitely feels like a missing link to the past and, hopefully, the future. Daniels is someone who has played bass and sang with a Who’s Who of soulful whizzes, from the Neville Brothers to the Wild Magnolias Indians to Allen Toussaint and Etta James. Massive movers all. On Daniels’ lead the Groove Krewe heads off down Decatur Street, hangs a right on Canal and blasts off into the outre zone that is New Orleans. This is real deal second-line shenanigans as only the home team can lay down, and the credits read like a primo role call of players from uptown, downtown and all around town in New Orleans. What happens when this kind of humans get together is really only capable way down yonder, and even in the dimming of so many of the Big Easy’s originals it always feels like those still onboard have enough fire in the belly to make things percolate and bounce right into infinity. Because when all is said and sung that’s what this city’s music can capture: that place beyond what Dr. John used to call the “meat world,” and live in a fantasia of frolic and fever somewhere not that far from the Great Beyond. The Groove Krewe are dedicated to getting to that special place, and herding as many followers as they can into the spirit world. Even if just for today. Because, really, what else is there? Nick Daniels III is the conductor supreme for this journey, and he’s signing up fellow travelers to go with him. Run to daylight.
David Libert, Rock and Roll Warrior. It takes a major amount of energy to remember enough of the past to be able to write a book about it, but that’s exactly what David Libert has done. This is someone who went from a musical career with The Happenings in the 1960s, and switched sides of the bandstand and became (in no certain order) a road manager, artist manager, producer and agent. Among other things. His roster of those he worked with include the original Alice Cooper Band, George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic, The Runaways, Cherie Currie, Bootsy Collins, Prince, Sheila E., Guns N’ Roses and Living Colour. And that’s just for starters. Libert’s time at the side of “Supermensch” manager Shep Gordon could almost have been a book by itself. Granted, it takes a certain taste to want to wade into the weeds with the writer on the real interworkings of all this boulibasse of characters, but for those with the right appetite this is as intriguing a guidebook to semi-insanity as exists. A lot of that is due to David Libert’s ability to paint the past so it just isn’t the past, but rather remains a living entity today. That’s not easy in memoirland, but for those who can do it the world owes them a debt. Because someday all the pioneers of the first few decades of rock & roll will have told their tales, and that will be that. Which makes ROCK AND ROLL WARRIOR a fine keepsake for all those who had their lives changed by rock, and want to get behind the curtains and discover what made it roll. Of course, not all is roses but that’s what keeps life interesting. When the tours end and real life begins, sometimes the necessities of staying alive call for some dicey decisions. The good news is that this is one rock and roll warrior who got through some roadbumps and through strength and tenacity took on some of the most powerful elements of the music business to recover what he was owed from his earliest days in The Happenings. And found a way to help others. Fine, fine memories.
Beth McKee, Monday After Sunday. Music is so often all about surprises. To find something totally unexpected that is strong enough to really reset reality a bit. Which is exactly what Beth McKee does with the six songs on her new release. McKee is a Southerner, with strong ties to New Orleans but now living in Florida. And while the feeling of her deepest music has strong roots there, the real power of what she does is that it could actually come from anywhere. Maybe that’s because where these sounds originate are really from deep down inside her. The lead track “Strange Cookie” is a near-mystical adventure through a place not often visited, and actually defies description. Which is the deepest compliment of all. There is a true juju lurking inside all these selections, either written or co-written by McKee herself. The sole cover, Tom Petty’s “Down South” is delivered with such a knock-out punch it’s like Beth McKee could have written it. There is some major league mojo juice circuclating on this set, something the South specializes in, and if there is any justice in the crazy mixed-up world of recorded music there has to be a way for it to rise to the top. McKee’s voice, keyboard and accordion (!) playing is full of wonder mixed with mystery, the musicians onboard with her feel like they all grew up together and when E-Turn throws in a rap verse on “Cosmic Drifter” the clouds do a hallelujah dance and make all seem right in the cosmos. In 2022 it seems the world has thrown the doors open and we are heading into the New Freefall. Nobody really knows where we’re going, and that is going to have to be okay. The trick will be to avoid fear at all costs and let the motion rolling through us call the dance we’ll all have to do. At this point, there is no way to predict just what that will be. But what is within our possibilities is to embrace music like Beth McKee is making. That’s the path.
Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts, Fully Charged. In the end, true blues sounds best when its stripped to the bone and feels like an open wound. It’s rare to hear something so simple these days, because with recording techniques worthy of the NASA laboratories not many artists keep things to a minimum. Vocalist Kathy Murray doesn’t add on many of the extras in the studio, because she really doesn’t need to. Her voice is switchblade sharp and capble of an emotional knockout punch on demand. She comes by it all naturally too, having grown up in Austin through the golden years of the 1970s when the streets were roamed by the kind of musicians who didn’t much bother with anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Maybe a turban or two, but that was about it. This was before hi-tech had hit and changed the rule book for everything. So thank goodness for Murray and her band of stripped-down stalwarts. Guitarist Bill “Monster” Jones is right there on the case too, laying in the lowdown lead lines and burning solos with an economy of feeling that comes from the inside emotions which say the most. The Murray-Jones team is a treasure to hear, with just enough vocal sultriness to stir things up, and six-strings to set it all on fire. Ms. Murray’s originals keep things moving in the right direction, and ensure nothing becomes too overdone. Even the covers–“It Hurts Me Too,” “Suspicion” and “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is”–stay in the pocket, which is always one of the clues to a great band. While the Live Music Capital of the World (as Austin likes to call itself) can sometimes get a little full-up, there is always room for a group like Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts, because intstead of taking up space they’re actually blowing a few cobwebs out of the corners and letting a local outfit come in and show the newcomers how things really get done. Fully charged indeed.
She & Him, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson. Talk about courage. To record an album of classic Brian Wilson songs created with various co-writers is to walk into the world of musical greatness like very few others have equaled. And face it, no one has ever done it better than Brian Wilson. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are fully fearless in their brand new take on all that Wilson has accomplished, both with the Beach Boys and beyond. These are songs that live in a pantheon very few others have entered. “‘Til I Die,” “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder),” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Please Let Me Wonder” and more live in their own time zone, one that Brian Wilson began making in the earliest days of the Beach Boys and has continued to this day. Deschanel and Ward take on this glorious effort as they should: they wade into the water and do things exactly how they want to do them. Lovingly, and with utmost respect and also unfettered creativity. Just like Brian Wilson would want it to be: creators who start with inspiration and travel totally into their own realm. With all the thousands of previous covers of Brian Wilson’s music, this creation might be the highest result of all. In a time when the unknowable seems to have wrestled the power over the world’s control panel there is nothing like these songs to remind everyone that it’s not the first time that a crack in the planet has occurred. Maybe it’s just the speed of shared information that makes this present one seem so ominous. Either way, a song like “Please Let Me Wonder” and “Meant for You” can reset the numbers and hopefully remind all that there is hope ahead. Because if anything the songs of Brian Douglas Wilson, recently turned 80 years old, has taught everyone anything is that there is always hope. The man has made a life of it, and doesn’t seem like he has any intention of stopping now. Bless his heart.
The Freddie Steady Revue, Dandy. Now here’s a Texan that has done it all, toured the world, started a band or two, bought the T-shirt and still is searching for new ways to spread the musical word. Freddie Steady Krc is like a comet in the universe, and when he hits on new ideas to play and sing about–well, look out. DANDY has enough inspirations and amalgamations to fill up a tour bus, and as the man progresses into his mature years he sounds like he has hit on something profound, which is do it all and fly his freak flag high. So many musical gyrations are covered on the new album that sometimes it gets a bit dizzying, but in a good way. Maybe that’s because this is someone who has pretty much seen it all and is now in the process of siphoning it all into songs like “Muchacho Borracho,” “Don’t Blow Out the Candle,” “I’ve Been Framed” and “Train to Nowhere.” Each and every track on the album stands on its own and makes the singing-drummer-guitarist-etc. a true triple-plus threat. And then there’s the musicians that have been rounded up to spread the wealth on DANDY. It’s like a role call of all the best players in the Lone Star state and beyond, to the point where they’re too many to list. So when it comes for a shot of something different, but not so different that the neighbors will call the local mental health workers to the scene, give the Freddie Steady Revue a chance. There is something truly going on within these grooves, and there’s a good chance it is some styles that haven’t been heard before. Because if anything, this man is an original and those are the kind of artists not to be missed. Do the Freddie.
The Suffers, It Starts with Love. Leave it to a tough as nails aggregation out of Houston to grab modern soul music by the cell phone and show ’em what their Mama gave them. The Suffers have been laying down the blister in Space City for years now, and just keep getting hotter and hotter. Lead singer Kam Franklin is no one to mess with. She sings like she means it and is not open to any other way. While the band’s sound has been dubbed Gulf Coast Soul, it’s a good inclination that The Suffers know what their surroundings have offered them. Just 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is the kind of city that is proud of its toughness, even while it aspires to sophistication. Much like this band. They are a throw-down rhythm & blues outfit at the same time the group weaves in all kinds of topshelf musical sophistication. The center of it all, of course, is the flat-out kick of the band’s rhythm section as it gets punched in the gut from blasting horns and then carried to the finish line with Ms. Franklin’s righteous voice. Of course, there are elements of church music woven through songs like “Take Me to the Good Times,” “I’m Not Afraid” and “How Do We Heal.” The vibrations from Buffalo Bayou, the old Astrodome, James Coney Island and, yes, even a touch or two courtesy of nearby NASA sneak their way into The Suffers’ sound, all in a most too-hot-to-stop style. It feels like there is a start to a renaissance of positive reverberations following the two-and-a-half years of COVID meltdown, but one that is based on a steady gaze in the rearview mirror to see what’s gaining on the world again. At this rate, it might be smart to start singing about partying like it’s 2099, and pray that there’s still some party people left by then. Until then, turn The Suffers up and set them free. Love has started.
Dylan Triplett, Who Is He? It is not a surprise that the title of the St. Louis soul master’s debut albums asks who he is. At 21 years old and not much touring experience yet, Dylan Triplett is the surprise of the year. His voice, featuring a 4-and-a-half octave range, sounds like it comes from the center of the universe. Born and raised in St. Louis, the young man also sounds like he was cruising the backroads of Memphis and and Mississippi during those crucial years of growing up. He takes an age-old music and fills it full of modern feeling to create something that should not be missed. Produced by Grammy-winning bassist and vocalist Larry Fulcher, also known for his work with the Phantom Blues Band, along with guitarist Dr. Wayne Goins, head of Jazz Studies at Kansas State University, this is the kind of album that hits full-on right at the start, and does not stop until the end. With new originals by Triplett and Fulcher standing proudly next to songs by Bill Withers, Jimmy McCracklin, Lonnie Brooks, Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong and, yes, Miles Davis, WHO IS HE? is the kind of modern collection that gives all due to the heroes of the past and jumps right into the present and stays ready to ride off into the future. That’s because Dylan Triplett’s voice has few equals now in the new soul world. It’s sweet, tough, loud and soft, depending on what is needed on the song, and comes from someone who is 100% sure of himself. When it feels like the night time is the right time and the music being called for comes from deep within someone’s heart, this is man to reach for. Triplett will take you to the river and wash you in the water, but he won’t leave you there. He’ll bring you home hoping for the brand new day that these ten songs promise. Soul music lives.
Bentley’s Bandstand: August 2022