Archive for ACL 2009 Preparation

State Radio

State RadioThe prevalence and popularity of reggae music is always something that has boggled my mind. I simply don’t see the appeal of Bob Marley or Sublime, and when I stopped by Slightly Stoopid’s ACL set in 2008, I felt even further vindicated in my disdain. State Radio don’t buck the trend enough to make me interested but I did wanna give them some props. Their album The Barn Sessions is reasonable and, at times, even engaging. I would never have expected myself to say that about the reggae-rock epics they’ve recorded.

Some of the tunes are downright reminiscent of the random reggae deviations you find on albums like The Clash and My Aim Is True. The difference, though, is that those tunes are the exception and not the rule. When I listen to State Radio, the songs seem lengthy for the sake of filling up a 74-minute disc.

THE VERDICT: Seriously, I never thought I’d speak this favorably about a reggae album.

The Soul Stirrers

The Soul StirrersShame on me, I guess, for having no clue who The Soul Stirrers are. Evidently, they’ve been going strong (with varying lineups, of course) since 1926. Sam Cooke even headed them up for awhile and, although I really don’t know much of anything about soul music, I’ve heard that name before, therefore he is important.

Let’s keep the context, though. I’m, frankly, not sure which album I’m listening to but it seems to be a self-titled one. The album is a cappella and, judging by the warmth of the recording, must have been cut in the ’60s, at the earliest. Who knows what I’d be getting if I went to their set at ACL? I’d loosely expect a backing band and, beyond that, four guys who have only cursory connections to the original group. As much as I like the gospel sound, I probably have to pass on this.

THE VERDICT: I really do like ’em but I’m just not sure I wanna bother with the current version.

Alberta Cross

Alberta CrossCrack open a brew, sit back in your lawn chair, and cool off to the folk-rock groove of Alberta Cross. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out The Virgins, blissfully unaware of the middle-aged Texan-fest going on at the Barton Springs stage (oh, by the way, the schedule has been released!). It’s not that I dislike slow-paced music, as a rule, but to have an entire catalogue of it is silly.

Admittedly, the deck was stacked against these guys. Saturday’s already a tough day to compete during for my mindshare and, as luck would have it, they were put up against The Virgins, whom I’ve already lauded. The lack of upbeat tunes isn’t helping the Alberta Cross case at all, though.

THE VERDICT: As much as I’d love to awkwardly stand around and pretend like I’m into it, I’ll pass.

The Henry Clay People

The Henry Clay PeopleI’ve never really liked punk rock all that much (well, save for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) and I have a hard time classifying The Henry Clay People as much else. At this point, I’ve listened through For Cheap or for Free and didn’t care; then I listened through some weird live album and continued not to care.

To their credit, they seem to have a slightly more versatile sound than standard old punk rock — “This Ain’t a Scene” sounds downright Tom Petty-esque. As much as I admire a willingness to deviate, though, it almost certainly won’t be enough to attract my eyeballs in person. I guess if I’m particularly annoyed with the alternative acts at that point, I’ll head over.

THE VERDICT: Highly doubtful.

Medeski Martin & Wood

Medeski Martin & WoodNormally, any act even loosely associated with “free jazz” would earn automatic disapproval from my brain. Radiolarians II is an exception, though. It certainly helps that it’s not that unmetered, disconnected schlock “loved” by people who make $140,000 a year or more. That’s not fair, though.

Medeski Martin & Wood (who, curiously, lack commas) write some genuinely interesting tunes. Lots of build-up and resolution and you just sort of get the idea that the guys actually know what they’re doing with this music stuff. In the interest of full disclosure, I remember liking the aforementioned record a lot more during the first listen than during the second but, regardless, I think they’ve warranted a stop-by.

THE VERDICT: If they start playing in 13/6, I’m leaving. I don’t think they will, though.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis & the HoneybearsThis is probably as close to a no-brainer as you get for me. I don’t really expect Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears to just utterly blow me away or anything.

Well, no. I guess I kinda do.

Loud blues with a horn section and a smattering of funky licks are the quickest path to my heart. With tunes like “Sugarfoot” and “Boogie”, these guys have no excuse not to have a hugely fun live set. One thing I’ve noticed while listening through Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! is that there aren’t really any solos of note. I guess they’re trying to keep the tunes accessible but I hope the ACL venue gives them an opportunity to go crazy. Just a thought.

THE VERDICT: Duh.

Walter "Wolfman" Washington

Walter \"Wolfman\" WashingtonIt’s strange how vividly I’m able to predict how some of these acts will fit into my schedule. With a very high degree of certainty, I can say that Walter “Wolfman” Washington will garner at least a few songs worth of my attention at the WaMu tent on Friday afternoon. I mean, I say this not taking into consideration the other Friday acts and, of course, having no idea what the actual schedule will be, but I’ve been through this song and dance before. Funky blues will get a hold of my ears and not let go.

It’s not even that Wolf Tracks is that interesting to me (it’s fine but I wish it was more upbeat). I can just clearly imagine the set being engaging, having huge solos and audience interaction, and just generally being a fun time. It certainly doesn’t hurt that twelve-bar blues is one of my favorite sounds. I guess my high school obsession with Tower of Power is still latent in some capacity.

THE VERDICT: Pretty much automatically.

K'naan

K\'naanI once lost a spelling bee on the word “Canaan”; I’ll do my best not to let that affect my judgment here.

I’m hoping for two things from K’naan: a) that he has his set in the WaMu tent; b) that he sticks to the first half of Troubadour. “ABCs” and “Dreamer” are both capable of bringing The Tent down but “Fatima” and “Fire in Freetown” are sort of laborious, Somalia notwithstanding. Everybody already understands that life sucks in Africa and “15 Minutes Away” is a better ballad anyway.

I guess I do have one more wish. The Kirk Hammett collaboration “If Rap Gets Jealous” works better than I thought it would, although the (requisite) guitar solo is as campy as you would imagine. I do, however, hope Hammett actually makes an appearance and then plays some hip-hop version of “The Memory Remains”. “Fuel” would be fine, too.

THE VERDICT: Yeah, but let’s keep the political interludes to a minimum.