Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for July, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Chuck Cleaver, Send Aid (Shake It) Cleaver’s a Cincinnati guy whose been at it for a long time, first in the Ass Ponys and more recently in Wussy, an oft-terrific band he co-fronts with Lisa Walker, where they both play guitar and sing. The blurb for Send Aid informs that, after being at it for a few decades, this is Cleaver’s first solo record, and with Walker and Wussy’s Mark Messerly lending a hand, Send Aid isn’t exactly a radical departure. And yet: for those who know his prior work, the record is a distinct and refreshing affair, with his bandmate’s input fairly restrained (backing vox and mandolin for her, accordion for him) as a half-dozen others step into the studio to assist and Cleaver plays multiple instruments across a tidy ten tracks in under 30 minutes.

Back in the early ’90s I had this habit of haunting any joint that sold cheap used tapes, mainly so I could play them in my jalopy of the moment. Send Aid brought back this memory, in part because the non-polished, not-quite lo-fi quality of the recording, and the tunes of course, connect like an indie record from approximately ’92-’96. And the more I play this (and at 27:45 I can play it a whole fucking lot) I’m convinced that if it had come out during the era mentioned, and I’d grabbed a copy on tape, it would’ve stayed in the deck for weeks at a time. What else? Fine use of drumbox rhythms on a pop-rock and roots-inclined record. Even better use of jaw harp in the standout stomper “Children of the Corn,” in which the Stephen King reference goes deeper than the title and is doubly terrific. A total keeper. A

Lea Bertucci, Resonant Field (NNA Tapes) Bertucci’s bio describes her as a “NYC based sound artist and composer whose work bridges performance, installation, and multichannel activations of acoustic space.” I dig. For Resonant Field, she’s traveled upstate to the Marine A Grain Elevator at Silo City in Buffalo, with the intention of exploring the sonic possibilities of the cast concrete cylinders, which are approximately 18 feet wide and 130 feet tall. The range of what she’s captured is impressive, and she expands it even further by having Robbie Lee play Renaissance flute in the opening “Wind Piece” and James Ilgenfritz add bass to the other three tracks, plus there are drum samples (played by Tigue) in the title track. The avant-garde aura coupled with the environmental timbres and textures is superb. A

The Lewis Express, “Clap Your Hands” b/w “Stomp Your Feet” (ATA) Soulful-funky grooving is happening at the moment, and the ATA label of Leeds, England is a big reason why. We’re talking music by The Magnificent Tape Band, The Sorcerers, Tony Burkill and indeed, The four-piece Lewis Express. The combined success comes partly through organic instrumentation rendered live to tape, but range is also crucial; it’s a quality that’s present on this 45. The Lewis Express’ baseline is the ’60s piano-based groove jazz of Ramsey Lewis and the Young-Holt bands, but the a-side here mingles that with boogaloo to splendid effect. The flip is more straight-up, though handclaps remain. I love George Cooper’s electric piano, but everybody’s firing on all cylinders. If you want to live Mod in 2019, this is unbeatable. A

Mark Dresser Seven, Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed) The Dresser Seven debuted in 2016 with Sedimental You for Clean Feed; the only personnel change is that Keir GoGwilt replaces David Morales Boroff on violin. The other contributors are flautist Nicole Mitchell, clarinetist Marty Ehrlich (who also plays alto sax on opener “Black Arthur’s Bounce,” which is in memoriam to the late saxophonist Arthur Blythe), trombonist Michael Dessen, pianist Joshua White, drummer Jim Black, and of course Dresser on double bass and the McLagen Tines, named for its inventor-engineer-musician Kent McLagen and described by Dresser as a set of seven steel rods attached to a secondary bridge that touches the bass bridge, thus putting the cavity of the bass into motion.

The playing is sharp and fleet in how it ranges from Tradition to avant newness, but given its political focus, Cyber Coup is maybe most importantly an expertly constructed CD, with a closing composition in memory of pianist Butch Lacy (“Butch’s Balm”) bookending with the opening Blythe tribute. In between, the pieces take on with precision what Dresser calls “our national reality-horror-show of corruption, malice, xenophobia and class warfare”; tracks two through five cohere into a mini suite that culminates with “Let them Eat Paper Towels.” It’s a highlight, as is the title cut. Protest jazz can have a tough road. Unless one brings vocalists or poets into the framework, the structure and the playing need to communicate it all. Inspired by Mingus, Dresser succeeds with flying colors. A

Steve Goodman, Affordable Art & Artistic Hair (Omnivore) Goodman was a friend and musical contemporary of John Prine, and they once shared roughly the same level of cult stature. Through simple endurance and a retention of quality in his work, Prine has entered the pantheon of folk and country-imbued smart singer-songwriters, while Goodman, who died of leukemia in 1984, has remained more underneath the radar, even though he co-wrote “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” and was the sole author of the oft-recorded “City of New Orleans” (a hit for Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson). Goodman cut records for Buddah and then for singer-songwriter enclave Asylum, but his stuff didn’t catch on. In the early ’80s he started his own label Red Pajamas and released these discs.

Outside the punk underground, artist run indies were pretty much unheard of in those days, and Affordable Art really illuminates Goodman making the most of his freedom. That is, it’s difficult to imagine any major label at the time giving the okay to back-to-back songs about baseball, especially as “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” was something of a regional thing (he did name one of his Asylum LPs High and Outside, though). But Affordable Art shows no signs of Goodman traveling down a path of self-indulgence, instead showcasing his humor in “Vegematic” plus offering the co-write with Prine “How Much Tequila (Did You Drink Last Night?),” a cover of Prine’s “Souvenirs,” and “I Wish Jethro Was Here,” an opening tribute to his friend and playing partner, the great mandolinist Jethro Burns.

This 2CD Affordable Art also collects his full-band rallying song for his beloved team “Go Cubs Go” plus seven unreleased solo tracks including a sweet cover of Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London.” Affordable Art has a few live songs, but Artistic Hair is a full-on performance album, and it begins with the first Goodman song I ever heard, “East St. Louis Tweedle-Dee.” I remember digging that, and have pretty much always admired Goodman’s stuff, even if he could be a little mild-mannered at times. What’s always saved him is how he’s nixed introspection for the life of the musical student triple majoring in country, folk and blues. The single-CD Artistic Hair has his two best-known songs (plus a fucking X-mas tune) and adds ten bonuses. Alongside Affordable Art, it provides a fine intro to Goodman’s work. A-/ A-

Richard X. Heyman, Pop Circles (Turn-Up) Starting out in the ’60s garage outfit The Doughboys, Heyman got rolling solo in the 1980s and even landed on Sire for an album (Hey Man!) in 1991. Across the decades he’s cut an EP with Herman’s Hermits’ singer Peter Noone and played with Brian Wilson, Ben E. King, Shangri-La Mary Weiss, Jonathan Richman, and Left Banke leader Michael Brown. I mention Brown last because Heyman’s particular strain of power-pop regularly features strings, though it’s far from imitative of the Banke; the garage roots are regularly asserted, as in “Action,” which has a Nuggets thing going before dropping in some Argent-like organ. Across this CD, Heyman’s “one-man-alone-in-the-studio” thing (think early solo McCartney, Emmitt Rhodes, and Todd Rundgren) largely works. B+

Horoscope, Carne. (Wharf Cat) Born in Miami and a current Brooklyn resident, Rene J Nunez-Cabrera is Horoscope. To illuminate matters further, this is his multimedia project, with Carne. the third in a trilogy that began in 2015 with El Espejo y el Mar and Misogyny Stone two years later. I haven’t heard those. At least I don’t think I have, which is a safe assumption as this baby very effectively blends abstraction, intrigue, and the cathartic; if his prior efforts are in approximately the same league, it’d be difficult to forget them. If reading “multimedia project” led to some doubts, like how Horoscope might be the bee’s knees in performance but a little wanting on record, don’t worry. One spot in particular inspired me to utter “oh, fuck,” and that’s always nice. Overall, this is just as well-described as sound-art. A-

Ernie Kovacs, The Ernie Kovacs Album (Omnivore) Released for the first time on CD and digital in conjunction with the Kovacs Centennial, the contents here hold up pretty well and reinforce that the artist was very much onto his own thing, which was offbeat enough that it was extremely difficult to rip him off. This means an absence of schtick, a lack worthy of note as the era from whence this material derives (the 1950s, though this album was first released in 1976) was loaded with schtick. Plagued with schtick, even. Kovacs wasn’t edgy in the Lenny Bruce-ian way. Rather, he’s just pleasurably inventive. Those who dig Nichols & May and Bob & Ray likely already know Kovacs, but if not, please step right up. His stuff thrives visually (and with music), but this in no way falls short. With six unreleased cuts. A-

Ada Lea, what we say in private (Saddle Creek / Next Door) This is the first LP from Montreal-based Ada Lea (real name Alexandra Levy), though she’s a painter/ visual artist. I mention this because what we say in private doesn’t feel like a debut. There is confidence, or perhaps I should say sturdiness (more on that a couple lines down), that well-serves her combination of tech-derived glossy boldness, chunky big rock moves, and post-indie confessionalism. This is where the sturdiness comes in, as this LP emerged only after she spent 180 days journaling as a way of coping with a severe break-up. Emotions are on display, but this isn’t a frazzled experience but rather a strong one. And there’s a lot of range here, but overall, a lack of eclecticism (“just one, please” is an exception). At once satisfying and promising. B+

The Quiet Temple, S/T (Wichita) The debut from the group led by Rich Machin of Soulsaver and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood features contributions from members of Spiritualized, Stereolab, and the band of Julian Cope, and is self-described as an “experimental cosmic-psyche-jazz-Krautrock-post-punk-dub record.” I can’t really do anything but concur, though what shines through brightest is the element they’ve been somewhat at pains to distance themselves from, which is the jazz angle. To elaborate, Machin and Garwood are resisting the description of this set as a jazz record, but when the admitted models are Larry Young’s Lawrence of Newark, Marcus Belgrave’s Gemini, and Noah Howard’s Black Ark, the jazz tag is going to be hard to shake. Perhaps we can call it soulful, spacy, searching music instead. A-

Tui, Pretty Little Mister (Self-released) Tui is the fiddle-banjo-vocal duo of Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer; he plays both, she pulls the bow, and both sing. Appalachian old-time is the area of expertise, with Blount and Weitnauer learned in the music. As both are experienced performers, Pretty Little Mister is quite the assured debut, and while there are vocals, there aren’t always vocals, though the singing never detracts. I can’t deny preferring the sweet tones of Weitnauer (e.g. the combo-punch of “Mistreated Mama Blues” and “Make Me a Pallet”), but Blount’s okay too, especially as his “Sugar Babe” is devoid of even a trace of strained rough-toned backwoods mimicry. What shines after multiple listens is the playing, which is beautiful and with the Appalachian toughness on full display. A-

V/A, Hot Sick Vile & Fun: New Sounds from San Francisco (Rocks in Your Head) Here’s release two on Sonny Smith’s new label (the first was from his band Sonny & the Sunsets), and per the title, it’s a regional comp. However, New Sounds doesn’t necessarily equate to artists who’ve hardly recorded, as Bruce Ackley has done so extensively in ROVA Saxophone Quartet since the late ’70s (he’s also recorded for longer durations, as his two tracks combined last 19 seconds, brevity that was initially…kinda frustrating for this jazzbo. With time to reflect, I’m just glad he’s here). The 15 other tracks span from old-school indie rock in varying shades of fidelity to guitar pop to some psych-fingerpicking. I wasn’t blown away, but if I weren’t so old and hadn’t spun many thousands of records, I might’ve been. B+

Carmen Villain, Both Lines Will Be Blue (Smalltown Supersound) This is the third album for the US-born Norwegian-Mexican Villain (aka Carmen Hillestad), but the first I’ve heard. I’d like to spend some time with her prior two (where she reportedly fits the description of singer-songwriter, though in a non-trad sorta way), but as this record is presented as a bit of a departure (and maybe more), I’ll just focus on this one. Doing so makes me feel like I’m floating down a river in a raft in a humid locale. In a nutshell, Both Lines Will Be Blue is five tacks of meditative drift, again much closer to the earth’s surface in its New Ageist sensibility than the spacy qualities of kosmische, and hey, that’s alright. There is also a boatload (or at least a canoe full) of flutes on this baby, and y’know fuck it, I won’t complain about that either. B+

This entry was posted in The TVD Record Store Club. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text