Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

JUNE 29, 1998: 


Long Way Blues 1996-1998 Matador

THE BASSHOLES' SOUND on Long Way Blues 1996-1998 is as crummy as those scratchy and archival 78 RPM vinyl recordings historic blues label Yazoo was accustomed to releasing. Those crackling and sub-primitive acetates were steeped in lo-fidelity rural blues tradition and shrouded in folkloric mystery. The same enigmatic standard applies to the Bassholes led by guitarist Don Howland, who started the group after the Gibson Bros. disintegrated. Howland is a blues purist with a long list of punk-related credentials, and this album, with drummer Bim Thomas, goes a long way to prove his musical diversity and embrace his blooze-punk roots. Howland's vocals possess the raw emotional depth of Rufus Thomas or Skip James, and he brandishes his six-string weapon in the same trashy exuberance of deceased junkie/hero Johnny Thunders. If former New York Dolls singer David Johansen decided to unearth the corpse of Charley Patton and start a crude punk-meets-Delta blues band, Howland might be elected to carry the shovel. Howland is one funky-but-chic singer songwriter who's always been historically aligned to the twisted and fucked up roots of Americana music. On "Ass Welt Boogie," his guitar recognizes a dissonant imprint as dizzying and murderous as Link Wray's. "Hail Bop!" probes the murky depths of a Collins Kids dance party parked next to an illegal still in the rolling hills of West Virginia, a dark hillbilly stomp that would make Hasil Adkins drunk with joy.

--Ron Bally


The Prime of 16 Classic Cuts From The '70s
Music Club

ASTUTE LISTENERS WILL remember Andy from his recent collaborations with British stoner gods Massive Attack, but he's been something of a reggae legend for decades. This compilation offers up some of his best work from the '70s for producer Bunny Lee. Dub fans will recognize many of these tunes from the work of the late Jamaican studio alchemist King Tubby. The Prime of Horace Andy collects a number of songs Tubby later reinvented. It's striking to hear these songs in their original form--especially after being weaned on the dub versions. Gone are the cascading cymbals and thunderous echo, replaced with straightforward instrumentation and Andy's high, sweet voice. Tubby may have created huge sweeps of sound with these tracks, but they also work well as stripped-down island R&B. The whole album has a certain lo-fi charm, from Andy's sometimes breathless delivery to beautifully fucked-up, out-of-tune guitars. On occasion, Andy strays dangerously close to preciousness or utters some cringe-inducing lyric, only to have a weird turn of rhythm or horn solo save the song. Lyric content alternates between social consciousness, paeans to the almighty weed and typical boy-meets-girl treacle. As much as I loathe reggae cover versions, he also manages to pull off a pretty cool "Ain't No Sunshine." If anything, Andy brings to mind teenage American rhythm and doo-wop singers from the '50s and '60s, like Frankie Lymon or Little Stevie Wonder. Massive Attack followers and reggae fans alike should definitely seek this one out for a welcome look into the roots of a still-vital singer.

--Sean Murphy


Wag The Dog (Soundtrack)

THE DIRE STRAITER'S soundtracks for Local Hero and Last Exit To Brooklyn offered some of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous movie music in the last several decades. This 25-minute mini-soundtrack features loads of Knopfler signature sounds--particularly from his countrified side--but none of the noble, Scottish-influenced composing that makes you want to march around the living room in a kilt, waving something plaid. The guy's got the notoriety and diversity film producers slobber after, as well as a tendency to deliver soundtracks that top his work with that famous band of brothers-in-arms. Not so with this one, unfortunately. It's fine stuff throughout, but the rocker who has frequently whupped fellow soundtrack rock 'n' reelers Ry Cooder and Randy Newman comes up with wandering, moodless compositions that fall short of his usual jaw-dropping work.

--Dave McElfresh

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