Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

JULY 20, 1998: 

THEODIS EALEY

Raw
Ichiban International

THIS HOTSHOT ELECTRIC guitarist exemplifies several Southern blues traditions, from his take on the classic legend "Stagger Lee" to a fine reading of "Since I Met You Baby" by the Gulf Coast's Ivory Joe Hunter. Those who appreciate how Clapton perfectly bluesified Dylan's folk song "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" will feel the same about Ealey's cross-breeding of blues and country on Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Ichiban is a great source of Southern blues music, as deserving of attention as Northern blues labels like Alligator and Delmark. That aside, you gonna pass on a blues album with a song called "All My Baby Left Me Was A Note, My Guitar And A Cookie Jar" ?

--Dave McElfresh


VARIOUS ARTISTS

Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me!: Narrative Poetry from Black Oral Tradition
Rounder

SOMETHING YOU NEVER thought you'd see: a CD from Rounder Records, the venerable folk and world music label, slapped with a parental advisory sticker? No, they haven't signed the Wu-Tang Clan. But Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me!, a collection of narrative poetry from the African-American oral tradition otherwise known as toasts, is about as close to rap as Rounder is ever likely to get. And what's remarkable about this selection of decades-old rhyme is just how close it comes to the styles that dominate today's popular music landscape. Recorded mostly in the '60s and mostly in Texas prisons--where there's lots of time to kill memorizing epic poems and plenty of sympathetic ears to hear these low-life tales--Get Your Ass is the essential aural companion to Bruce Jackson's 1974 book of the same title, a study of the literature and culture surrounding toasts. Essential, because more than simply a written art, toasts come to life only in their theatrical and individually stylized recitations. Though the toasts on Get Your Ass are full of color and folksy wisdom, under the surface simmers a hotbed of psycho-social issues. Though so much has changed in the years since the toast evolved into rap, it's both amazing and tragic how much has stayed the same.

--Roni Sarig


VARIOUS ARTISTS

Long Journey Home Soundtrack
BMG Records

BECAUSE OF THE Riverdance phenomena, loads of labels are churning out insignificant collections of folk songs that either deify some Irish City of Brotherly Loathe, or bemoan legendary potato-munchers who in days of yore abandoned their Belfast belles--forced stuff that comparatively makes Enya sound as sincere as Billie Holiday. This documentary soundtrack is the real thing, though, impressive throughout, beginning with the Chieftains/Van Morrison version of "Shenandoah" opening the album. Mary Black follows, as does Elvis Costello, Sinead O'Connor and Vince Gill. Head Chieftain Paddy Maloney is in charge of the whole affair, keeping the musical flavor firmly planted in Irish tradition. While the instrumental breaks in many soundtracks are forgettable bathroom breaks, the Irish Film Orchestra holds its own among the impressive cast of rock/folk/country names. The ties between Irish and country music are made evident, no doubt paralleling the documentary's commentary on Irish immigrants' influence on music in the Southern states. It works whether you've seen the accompanying film or not--and you can't say that about many soundtracks.

--Dave McElfresh


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