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SIR LUCIAN
TURNS IT UP
UMG chief is sitting on top of the world. (9/17a)
OCEAN ACTIVITY?
Let's be Frank. (9/17a)
A HARD DAY’S
HITS LIST
Stars across the board (9/17a)
GRAMMYS HAVE A NEW AWARDS CHIEF
Will she be able to clean up the mess? (9/17a)
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES
FOR BOWIE CATALOG
WMG snags a cornucopia of sound and vision. (9/16a)
HITS' 35TH ANNIVERSARY
A chronicle of the inexplicable.
GRAMMY: ALBUM OF THE YEAR
We make yet more predictions, which you are free to ignore.
2022 TOURS
May we all be vaxxed by then.
ROCK'S NEW CHAPTER
Power pop, global glam and the return of the loud.
Critics' Choice
KEYS TO THE HILL COUNTRY BLUES
5/11/21

By Bud Scoppa

Spotify’s scintillating new playlist Hill Country Blues is now streamable, with the inaugural list co-curated (in collaboration with either humans or algorithms) by The Black Keys. The Hill Country Blues playlist illuminates the history and heritage of an exotically funky subgenre indigenous to Northern Mississippi that inspired The Black Keys back in their Akron days and comes full circle with their new covers album, Delta Kream, out Friday on Nonesuch.

The playlist includes two tracks from the LP, including a kickass falsetto reimaging of from R.L. Burnside’s “Going Down South” featuring incendiary slide work from local hero Kenny Brown, alongside classic and obscure cuts from the likes of Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Little Jr. Parker, Jessie Mae Hemphill, T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour

If we’d been co-curating with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, we would’ve insisted on a selection or three from modern-day perpetuators the North Mississippi Allstars, but perhaps they’ll get a shot when the list turns over. 

"There would be no Black Keys without this music,” Dan and Pat readily acknowledge. “Hill Country Blues represents the concentric circle where we crossed over musically as teenagers. Artists like Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and T-Model Ford are heroes to us. We made Delta Kream with Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton to remember where we come from and celebrate the music we love. The raw sound of Hill Country Blues and songs represented on this list are some that kept us going in those early days of touring, driving all night in the van. We hope fans can do a deep dive on these artists and realize how important they are to the canon of American Music.”


AN A-MAYS-ING DAY
5/6/21

Willie Mays, the personification of perfection on the ballfield, turns 90 today and scribes across the land are weighing in on the distinct qualities of the spectacular home run-hitting, base-stealing centerfielder for the Giants and Mets from 1951 to 1973. ESPN has this; a NY Times piece is here.

The jump blues combo The Treniers, led by identical twins Cliff and Claude Trenier, were among the first to introduce the word “rock” in their material and in 1955 they released a tribute to Mays, who had a spectacular season the year before. After losing two prime seasons to Army duty, 1954 was the year of The Catch and a World Series victory for the New York Giants.

 

GEARBOX HITS NEW MILESTONES
2/24/21

Black-owned indie label Gearbox has operated with a vinyl-first ethos since being launched by Darrel Sheinman in 2009.

The London-based label, which focuses on jazz, electronic, funk, Americana, ambient and lo-fi soul, has accumulated over 50 releases in its 12+ years and is hitting new milestones this year, including opening its first office in Japan. 

“This is the second-largest music market after the U.S., and our music and products are a good fit there. Having a local presence will help us exploit the nuances of that market,” shared Sheinman.

Additionally, Gearbox inked its first Japanese artist, Chihei Hatakayama, released a series of 15 Japanese Editions with Japanese liner notes and obi strip, which are available in the U.S. with the last few arriving in March, as well as other limited vinyl series available on their direct shop.

The series includes new pressings of vinyl from legends likes Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich and Abdullah Ibrahim, newcomers like Theon Cross and Butcher Brown, as well as a Don Cherry 1965 session that was previously unreleased until a 2019 limited Record Day Store release, which included three new compositions and will be available via standard edition and Japanese edition LP in the U.S., plus more.

They also dropped a limited edition pressing of London duo Binker & Moses’ live album, Escape the Flames.

Mentored by Blue Note engineer Rudy Van Gelder, Sheinman has amassed the same gear that Van Gelder previously used, including a Studer C37 valve reel-to-reel tape machine. The studio also has direct-to-disc capabilities.

Audiophiles can learn more about Gearbox here.