Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for November 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for November 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Henry H. Owings, Plus 1 Athens: Show Flyers From a Legendary Scene 1967-2002 (Chunklet Industries) Unless I’m misremembering, Athens, GA was the first city that entered my consciousness specifically as a locale of a music scene. This was no small thing. Although I preferred the sounds of other regions, Athens heavily impacted my consciousness as a place of possibilities achieved, and in my imagination, against substantial odds, at least until I learned that dozens of college towns across the country had scenes. But it’s not like that realization burst my bubble. Offering over 150 flyers (and one guest list) chronicling a city’s musical development, Owings book effectively captures the non-glamor of the Athens experience (this attribute shared with other college rock-indie rock scenes) while documenting a range of styles considerably wider than Southern new wave and jangle.

Owings allows bands no more than three appearances, so instead of 52 flyers of R.E.M., the pages present a narrative of substantial depth as distinct pockets of the scene get illuminated, including the welcome appearance of a few leftfield outfits like Boat Of and the Opal Foxx Quartet, plus a fair amount of out-of-towners, ranging from the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Fugazi to Hasil Adkins and Southern Culture on the Skids. Together with Owings’ thoughtfully personal introduction, there is a forward by Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, an afterword by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, and essays from Michael Lachowski and Vanessa Hay of Pylon and Arthur Johnson of the Bar-B-Q Killers. Anybody who fond memories of a wall in their humble college-era dwelling decorated with tacked up show flyers understands the appeal of such supposed ephemera (spawned from necessity). There’s an abundance of it in this book, with its first hand numbered edition limited to 500 copies. A

Daxma, Unmarked Boxes (Blues Funeral Recordings / Majestic Mountain Records) To begin, the name is pronounced DOCK-ma and it’s a term for a Zoroastrian funerary temple. The band, comprised of Isaac R. (guitar-vocals-bass), Jessica T. (violin, vocals, guitar, piano), Forrest H. (guitar, bass), and Thomas I. (drums), is from Oakland, CA, with Unmarked Boxes their second full-length alongside two EPs since 2016. Described as a post-doom combo, Daxma’s ambitiousness is on full display here, with the record drawing inspiration from a poem by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi  (his line “Don’t grieve, anything you lose comes back in another form” titles the last two tracks). The sound is heavy but also atmospheric. Notably, the band employs “post-metal” as a descriptor, which strikes me as a genre extension of post-rock. I bring this up because the atmospheric qualities occasionally brought Godspeed You! Black Emperor to my mind. I’m not the first to mention this similarity; while it’s not overdone, the relationship is certainly there. And that’s swell. So are the vocals. Eminently relistenable. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Leo Nocentelli, Another Side (Light in the Attic) Nocentelli is best known as the guitar player and songwriter in The Meters, the decidedly funky New Orleans institution. This recently-unearthed solo album (the story features “Money Mike” Nishita and a Southern California swap meet), recorded between 1970-’72 with assistance from pianist Allen Toussaint, drummer James Black, and fellow Meters, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, is largely acoustic and therefore not inaccurately described as folky, but it’s still a pretty funky affair, which is cool. It can be hard not to think of Bill Withers as the songs unwind, but that’s just fine, as thoughts of Bill Withers have never been a problem for me. But along with a few instances that inch toward swamp pop (“Riverfront” reminds me a bit of Tony Joe White with a hint of Shuggie Otis), everybody’s playing is sharp, and Nocentelli’s singing is consistently likeable, especially on “Getting Nowhere” and an album-closing version of Elton John’s “Your Song.” Another sweet surprise from a reissue label full of them. A-

Jeremiah Lockwood, The Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Record (Reboot)  Inspired by John Fahey’s holiday masterpiece The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album, Brooklyn-based guitarist Lockwood offers eight original compositions, one for each day of Chanukah, and all solo per the title, with one exception, “Little Dreydl,” where he’s joined by his friend Luther Dickenson on second guitar (they first played the song together in 2011). Lockwood’s background is diverse, having performed in the choir of his grandfather Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, getting versed in the Piedmont blues tradition by Carolina Slim (aka Elijah Staley), and leading Sway Machinery, a band I’ve not heard. To my knowledge, this is my first taste of Lockwood’s playing in any context, and the impression is favorable. The connection to Fahey’s work is obvious but Lockwood’s not an imitator, as the prettiness in opener “Ritual” radiated hints of prime Ry Cooder. The American Primitive vibe is strong, however. I’m talking Imaginational Anthem-level strong. CD and digital, available 11/22. A-

Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh, Local Folklore (Destiny) A guitar duo record of substantial beauty and verve, Local Folklore has affinities to Americana, though thankfully the passages of prettiness in their combined thrust avoid faltering into sterility or preciousness (both are, too my ear, recurring characteristics in far too much contempo Americana). It works to the advantage of Mizell and Rauh (both based in New York) that they are cross-genre guys, Mizell having played experimental improv, bluegrass, salsa, and solo jazz guitar as Rauh has worked extensively as a sideman in numerous stylistic situations (they’ve both released solo recordings of which I’ve not heard). Both are dexterous of finger, but while there are a few spots where the sheer proficiency made me say “damn,” this CD is far more about feeling than flash. Local Folklore is also not an easy album in terms of comparisons, though the mention of Ralph Towner continues to resonate with me, largely due to an inclination that’s tangibly (but subtly) folk-jazz. Relaxing but never insubstantial. A-

Hayden Pedigo, Letting Go (Mexican Summer) Long a resident of Amarillo, TX but currently based in Lubbock, guitarist Pedigo has a colorful biography. In 2019 at age 25, he ran unsuccessfully (and eccentrically) for Amarillo City Council. On the musical side, he’s collaborated with Charles Hayward of This Heat, Fred Frith, Werner “Zappi” Diermaier of Faust, and Terry Allen, amongst others, along with curating the seventh volume of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series dedicated to solo guitar, much of it of the American Primitive variety. That John Fahey and Leo Kottke are influences is easily discernible (he directly cites Kottke’s masterful 1969 LP 6- and 12-String Guitar as an inspiration), though Letting Go (recorded by Andrew Weathers) isn’t a purely solo affair (Kottke’s ’71 set Mudlark is also mentioned), as Luke Schneider and Rich Ruth contribute pedal steel and synthesizer, respectively. This deepening of the atmosphere is appreciated, as Pedigo’s light touch expands from Fahey and Kottke and reinforces the comparisons to John Renbourn and William Ackermann. A-

Shilpa Ray, “Bootlickers of the Patriarchy” b/w “I Am Not An Effigy” (Northern Spy) Ray is a Brooklyn-based songwriter and vocalist (describing her as a singer-songwriter is inapt), active since the mid-’00s, whose last record Door Girl made my list of the best new releases of 2017. Upon giving it a recent spin, it hasn’t lost a thing. Now, I do understand that not much time has passed, but…it kinda feels like a WHOLE lot of time has passed. Don’t you agree? But to get back on topic, one of Ray’s strengths is her refusal to remain in one stylistic zone, swinging from neo-’60s pop classicism to punk raging and back again on Door Girl, all without undercutting her sheer vocal prowess (it can be formidable). This 7-inch successfully extends the scenario as Ray engages with an electronic sensibility, beginning the a-side in ethereal retro-pop territory before kicking into high electro-hard rock gear as Ray belts it out. The flip, featuring assistance from Heather Elle of Flossing, is a Ministry cover, the first song from With Sympathy, in fact. Poised as a sweet little twist of a B-side, it grows in something bigger and better. A-

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