With all the recent music icon departures and a batch of CDs bought over the Holidays, plus the whole “I’m releasing an album a month in 2016” thing I’ve got going on (www.sbeckwith.com), I’ve really been focusing on albums recently as the legacy of the artists; people creating and releasing, living then moving on. There’s a beauty to that. There’s a richness their music gives to our livings, like tapestries behind scenes, across windows that help to color our memories.
The whole luthier guitar building thing isn’t a job to me – music is a path I allowed to lead me forward and gradually I layered a life onto it and this is that. I live and breathe music; at this point taking part in it in whatever capacity is as natural to me as breathing. It’s my life. So I consume music like food, or water. I’m on almost constant intake, even when I’m doing other things. It’s very hard to still my mind to silence IN silence... but with music on, if I want, I’m gone. That’s how deep it goes.
On the listening side of things, I like to post in these Friday updates what’s been in the CD player or on the turntable… or coming out of the computer speakers. So much of the music that has meant the most to me over the years and miles has been seeded into my garden by others. “Hey, I dig this person and they’re listening to this – maybe there’s something there.” I don’t navigate people by color or what robes they may put on That Greater, or their wallets or work. They are not these to me. I want to know this – “What are you listening to? What album has gone the distance with you? What music fills your life?” First thing I do in someone’s house is look at the CD rack. THEN we get to the bookshelf. I’m hoping I turn you on to something that fits your moments.
Keith Richards’ new album is wonderful. Crosseyed Heart is a grand cross-section of the Stonesy, the impressionist Jamaicanisms of his solo work, and his deep blues & Chuck Berry roots… stirred together until swirled but not blended. Wonderful, and he wrote a bunch of it too. I’m certainly not expecting Sticky Fingers – that’s group magic right there – but it’s good, it’s really good. Speaking of which I picked up the 2CD remaster of Sticky Fingers, and I loved it. That 2nd disc of alternates & live cuts is something else. It helps that this is my favorite Stones record and in my top 10 albums of all time personally, but despite all the audiophile blabla about the mastering being too hot, there are subtleties in the mixes I never heard. Yeah it’s loud, no it’s not pristine. What is this – choir music? No, it’s not. It’s not supposed to be… modern mastering exposes flaws and limitations in ‘70s recording techniques with every layer. I don’t care. It’s authenticity to me – character. I don’t care for a spotless high-end on an old Stones album any more than I want Keith’s old voice to sound like Tony Bennett!
Bill Frisell, an untitled burned CD sent to me by a client (I love it when you guys do that! Please, send me music that moves you – PO Box 1745 Wimberley, TX 78676) has been in the player for days. This one keeps creeping up on me; I put it in and it stays there for a bit, and eventually I come back around to it. Great music. You know, a while back a client was thinning out his CDs and instead of getting a buck for them, he sent them to me! Well, to Maggie the blue heeler actually. See, reggae is her favorite. I don’t know how, don’t ask me, but then again I can’t see how I ended up like this either… sometimes “…it just is.” That stuff is always on – great dub tracks by Scratch Perry, Augustus Pablo… wonderful music to work to. Or, if you’re a particularly sentient Australian cattle dog, to chill yourself out to in a sunbeam.
A feast of Delta-style blues has been on my plate. That whole gunslinger wailing Johnny Winter / SRV thing, I loved it but I think I drowned in it here in Austin some time ago. More specifically I think Austin drowned in it and I was here. These days I’m deep, deep into some of the first music that grabbed me when I found that John Lee Hooker album in the basement 35 years ago… hypnotic, raw, close to the source. Skip James, Lightnin’ Hopkins, RL Burnside, Boyd Rivers, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Junior Kimbrough, Reverend Gary Davis. It moves me like little else.
Scored Springsteen’s Live/1975-85 box set on CD, and man that’s a treasure. There’s an intensity to it that transfers, that charges me up like I’m 12 and just getting into music again. What a great band and what great songs. Listened to some Grateful Dead during a drive – Dick’s Picks Volume Two is some of the best of the best, and From The Mars Hotel. An artist that never hit my radar is David Gray – his White Ladder CD is excellent all the way through; a bunch of you already know that because evidently he’s still pretty big and this platter was released 16 years ago. It’s amazing to pick something out of a $1.99 bin and end up saying “As an artist if you can create one full album this good, start to finish, with its own sound and something a little different about it, you can live the rest of your life knowing you did your gifts justice.” I’m glad he’s still at it; happy he made it.
Jazz has been mostly Jazz guitar – Mark Whitfield’s True Blue and Jim Hall Live are perpetual favorites around the cabin and in the workshop. “If They Only Knew” by the David Liebman Quintet got a bunch of play, that’s got John Scofield on guitar. It came to me years back, when Jamie & I went to a big Austin used CD mecca and decided to buy everything in the bins on the Impulse label we didn’t have. It was a black ‘n orange fest, my friends. You can do that with a few labels and be sure most of it is worth having. Impulse, Blue Note… very little filler in their artist rosters of the past. This one eventually got the serious listen and hit it out of the park. Improvised, in, out, melodic, frenetic; living music is all of these things and this stuff comes alive out of the speakers.
Ok, I’ll stop here for now. I’m well fed, and now you’re well led. Go grab you a plate and step up to the buffet. Take some chances… and enjoy every sandwich.
Peace, love & music,
Listening to (today): David Leibman Quintet, Junior Kimbrough You Better Run, and that bonus Stones disc.