Lucinda Williams “Essence”

This Ain’t Yer Mama’s Sequel

Those of you looking for Car Wheels II, buy a beer and hit the blue highway back to Jackson. With a few exceptions, this album is a major departure from the wandering blues troubadour style of Williams’ Grammy winning effort of three years ago.

This album is a bold move. It would have been all too easy for Williams to make like Betty Crocker or for that matter Phil Collins, break out the cookie cutters, make an easy, money making sequel, and keep pumping out Wheels II, Wheels III, Wheels Infinity, die happy and wealthy. Luckily, easy and greed do not seem to be in William’s vocabulary.

Indeed, given the expectations of her past success, many listeners/devotees will scorn this effort, wanting that easily accessible blues tinged rock Car Wheels vibe. I say…screw the lot. People will be listening to this CD and appreciating its understated beauty as long as the unique over the top blue brilliance of Car Wheels.

So everyone always wants to know…what were the cool songs? WE MUST HAVE SINGLES!! I say… this is not one single…nor two…nor three…It is an album…in the truest sense…There are gems… there are throwaways…but the whole supercedes. Having said that, “Broken Butterflies,” is hallucinogenic, remarkable and utterly beautiful. Consider it my failing for having mentioned it above others equally deserving on this CD.

As a final aside, I am possessed with the idea of sharing this album with a lover on a quiet Sunday morning, smoking a little herb, drinking mimosas (cheap champagne of course.) enjoying ourselves, backed by the sweet and biting undulations of this album.

I would definitely suggest sharing the magic of this album with others. Buy early, buy often and spread the joy!

–Steven P. Kramer

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Tenacious D, “Tenacious D”

Tenacious D is the Greatest Band on the Earth. Really, it is.

If you thought that righteous rock with kick-ass hilarious lyrics about sex, food and satan was gone forever, take heart, for the D is here. This is the first studio recording of this hard-rocking duo made up of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Both are actors as well as musicians and appeared in a few short episodes of an HBO comedy show called “Mr Show,” while touring and making themselves imfamous across the land.

Jack Black has had small roles in many tv shows and movies but is best known for his scene stealing performance as Barry, the Champion Records clerk in “High Fidelity,” where he shocked the world with his memorable version of “Let’s Get It On.” All of the comic and musical talent he poured into Barry is evident on this cd. Kyle’s good too.

There are many great moments on this cd, but probably the only one that could be made into a single is the mighty “Wonderboy.” It’s an epic ballad of a super-hero, his arch nemesis, Nasty Man, and his ultimate quest to rise above the mucky-muck.

The only bad thing was they didn’t include my favorite D song, “Cosmic Shame,” about the dangers of following your bliss. Oh well, it’s still great.

Go buy it now and get ready to cream your jeans.

–Kim Boston

The Night Torn Mad with Footstepsby Charles Bukowski

It has become a yearly autumn ritual, as the leaves turn here in the Northeast, Black Sparrow Press releases another posthumous collection of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. Having always respected Bukowski’s unique brand of scabrous realism, I have always looked forward to these new collections to ruminate over while drinking beer on a Sunday morning while other people attended church. I have already been told that there is a seat in Hell already embossed with my ass print, so why not live it up a bit?

The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps is the latest of Bukowski’s dead autumn leaves to fall from the Black Sparrow tree. Please forgive me if I toss it into the head high leaf pile that sits out front of my neighbor’s house (like I would bother raking leaves) that awaits the Highway Department’s orange leaf sucking elephant on wheels.

I tried to like it. I tried to find the handful of either good or great poems that justified the existence of the other collections published since Bukowski’s death in 1994. I just could not manage it.

My biggest gripe is that, there are several poems included in The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps that have appeared almost verbatim in other previously published collections. Consequently, Bukowski comes off not as a bitter sharp-tongued iconoclast, but rather more like someone’s poor elderly uncle that cannot remember that he has already told a story seven times since breakfast.

Clearly, the archive well that Bukowski left is running dry. I cannot say I would recommend The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps nor would I conclude that this offering will be left standing in 15 or 20 years, but, as always, have a look for yourself and decide.

–Steven Kramer

Tori Amos, “Strange Little Girls”

After five original albums and the birth of her daughter, Tori Amos has cast off the girlishness that occasionally found its way into her earlier work. This is, by far, her most mature work yet, an album that features songs originally written by men about women.

However, these are not traditional cover songs. The twelve songs in this album may be better defined as interpretations-they sound nothing like the original versions and fittingly so. Amos provides another view and dimension to these songs, forcing the listener to take a step back and re-evaluate what they mean. In several instances, she strips them down to a deceptively simpler version featuring only piano and vocal. She even goes as far as creating a separate character for each song through the photography in the CD booklet, which is worth the price of the CD alone!

Listening to this album is an overwhelming experience. As intimately personal as any of her previous efforts, one can not help but be drawn into the world of Strange Little Girls. From the disturbing violence of “97 Bonnie and Clyde” in which she whispers a tale of a man who murdered his wife. To the tender beauty of Tom Waits’ “Time”, this album covers a broad spectrum of emotions and themes that one needs to listen to numerous times to appreciate.

The album truly begins in “New Age” where she declares “oh, you sick little fucks, yes, it’s the beginning of a new age”, and ends with this contemplative line from “Real Men,” “but now and then we wonder who the real men are…”

Fans of Neil Young or the Beatles may be bewildered to hear her sharp electronic cover of “Heart of Gold” and the ten-minute epic “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

Considering all this, it may at first be an intimidating listen. I suggest tuning out everything else in your life and allowing yourself to be drawn into Strange Little Girls, an exploration of what it means to be a man (or a woman) and the relationships between the two genders.

Buy it, enjoy it, listen to it repeatedly and regardless of your gender, prepare to be changed.

–Agnes Makar

Track List:

1. New Age – Originally Performed By The Velvet Underground
2. 97′ Bonnie & Clyde – Originally Performed By Eminem
3. Strange Little Girl – Originally Performed By The Stanglers
4. Enjoy The Silence – Originally Performed By Depeche Mode
5. I’m Not In Love – Originally Performed By 10cc
6. Rattlesnakes – Originally Performed By Lloyd Cole And The Commotions
7. Time – Originally Performed By Tom Waits
8. Heart Of Gold – Originally Performed By Neil Young
9. I Don’t Like Mondays – Originally Performed By The Boomtown Rats
10. Happiness Is A Warm Gun – Originally Performed By The Beatles
11. Raining Blood – Originally Performed By Slayer
12. Real Men – Originally Performed By Joe Jackson

Henry Rollins, Zipper Theater, NYC (April 1, 2005)

It will be two weeks tomorrow since I saw Henry Rollins at the Zipper Theater in NYC. I have been meaning to write a review of the show ever since. So many diversions and misdirections since then, I am amazed I even remember being in New York at all, much less the specifics of the show, but I will give it a go anyway. If this sucks, read it anyway, because you were not going to do anything more important anyway. Trust me…

Why are people such clueless tools, such egocentric assholes that they feel entitled to interrupt a performer on stage not once, but twice with pointless babble over their cell phone DURING the damned performance. I was amazed Henry Rollins did not choke the bastard into submission. There was a pointed rebuke while he glared in our general direction, and let me just say that it is more than a little disturbing to have Henry Rollins glare at you as he screams, “Is there a fucking problem over here? I am in a zone up here. If you’re fucked up or drunk, leave. If you think the show sucks, leave, ask the manager for your money back. I’ll give you your money back. Shut the fuck up or get the fuck out.” And so it goes that the people who need to hear Henry Rollins’ spiel the most, just cannot be bothered to pay attention.

And so…I could wax on about how Rollins hit his stride with this piece about George W. Bush and the soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan or that he strayed a bit too far on another about his experience riding the Trans-Siberian Railroad, but the splitting of these microscopic critical hairs would only sound like some asshole talking on his cellphone in the middle of a public forum and would only serve to diminish the overall effect of a Henry Rollins spoken word performance.

Indeed, I think one needs to view his shows in grander terms and frankly this show on Friday April 1 show felt like being pounded and savaged and yet somehow surviving a category 5 hurricane. Rollins was relentless, pounding the sand, tearing up barrier islands, blowing houses over and ripping up anything that previously existed six inches above the Earth.

I was amazed, as hurricane survivors often are, by the violence, the sheer force of Rollins and the small surviving, battered instances of humanity and humor one finds laying in drainage ditches of his mind after the big blow. There is in fact always time for humor in the mayhem Rollins creates, despite his own comments indicating that the God of Comedy has smiled upon him but once. Certainly, he’s no stand up comedian, but he’s not a CPA from Ames, Iowa who watches paint dry for the sake of amusement either.

After Rollins’ two hour and thirty minute performance, I felt like a South Florida trailer park as we exited the Zipper, blown to hell and damaged beyond repair. You could say, that two and a half hours is a little long for a spoken word performance. I say people never get the chance to tell Mother Earth, “OK, we’ve had enough hurricane now. Couldn’t we get some blue skies, so we can clean up the mess?” Be sure to check out Hurricane Henry when he blows through a town near you. You can check for dates at his website http://www.henryrollins.com

PS: The Zipper Theater was one cool, funky venue. A renovated zipper factory with bucket and bench seats from the finest American and import automobiles. It felt like watching a show in the bombed out shed out behind a friend’s house. You know the one, with empty kegs for end tables and bench seats from a 1976 Nova. Worth checking out if there is a show there that interests you: http://www.zippertheater.com