Saturday, March 19, 2005

I first heard Sara Hickman when her Shortstop album came out on Elektra. My buddy HT had a&r'd it and had Ms Angel Corpus Christi add some of her patented accordion chutzpah to the proceedings. It was a nice little album and not at all in keeping with yer average NBT hooch but you have to keep your radar open y'know. What really put Ms Hickman on the map for me was the version of "Everyone's Gone To The Moon" that she cut with Angelo Badalamenti. It swooped and soared and should've been a huge hit. I got the chance to ask Mr B. about it at the Edinburgh Film Festival and he obviously remembered the session with great fondness. So let's cut to the chase, Sara Hickman is a singer/songwriter of epic proportions. Her music continues to exist outside of what might be considered our remit here but its obvious quality is inherent in all of her work. It's very pretty and commercial but never wet or schmaltzy. She also does a line in children's music which I think has been more successful for her or late. She treats what could be homogenized to be twee with the same edge that she infuses her "adult" work. Its that recognition that sets her aside from yer average singing/songwriting hack, her personality comes through to provide that extra dimension that so much of the fare just doesn't have.

She's also put together a dvd of appearances from over the years and she's even appeared on Li'l Art's Poker Party. The part where she meets George Burns and asks about Gracie is genuinely moving. Perhaps her groundedness has prevented her from being as well known as she deserves to be. Like Amy Rigby.

So check her out but be reminded that this is the polar opposite from the fire-breathing, punk rockin' stuff that we regularly fill yer boots with.
The HANK RAY album "Ballads From The Badlands Of Hearts" (Rhythm Bomb) sees the Rayman revisit obscure Hank Williams tracts and turn them into sparse, spare and spacious readings from somewhere on death row. Not as miserable though as that might sound and best played when the sun goes down. "Ballads" is a cinematic trawl that flows like a bloodline. Coagulation courtesy of David Lynch sitting in on a Johnny Cash session via a ouija board.

That said, it's no walk in the park. The roots of murder balladry and a decidedly black (as in death not race - and don't start with the 2000 smartass) demeanor stalk the album like the reaper his or herself and somehow react to make listening to it somewhat life-affirming. Great care has been taken to let the darkness breath some hope into the inherent hopelessness.

So what has been? Thirteen years since the last BARRACUDAS album? Can't be far away at that and in true quality over quantity tradition they'll be back in the racks very soon. Indeed the single "What You Want Is What You Get" will be out in April. A rip-snortin' taster for a full length return to form that will confound the most ardent cynic. A big part of the elixir coming to life is the appropriation of a couple of Scoundrelles by Messers Gluck and Wills. They needed guys that weren't hacks. People who had the spirit to take their janglefest to a higher plain and Rob and Yan provide that spark. From the opener, "Poor White Trash" they're outta the traps with gusto. Pure punchin' the air rock'n'roll thrills. "I Believe In Everything" is the best Steve Earle song that Sir Duke never wrote but might if he got a serious dose of Roky Erickson.

Chris Wilson's involvement is pivotal and makes the album the closest thing to a Sire period Flamin' Groovies that you're ever gonna get. The 'cudas could always belt out a top notch Byrdsian rattle but Wilson's distinct sound adds that final autenthic edge far beyond any mere tribute. The songs are great and the glamtastic "Don't Ever Say It Can't Be So" is something that I'm sure must have tickled the late, great Greg Shaw. It's like everything Bomp ever stood for rolled up into one big glitter bogey and flicked at radio programmers daring them to have the audacity to help make it the hit it deserves to be. With the Munster single of the cut long gone it's good to have it available again.

To be hit up track after track like this is actually quite moving. Transporting me back to a time when everything was possible, when it seemed like rock'n'roll actually had a chance. "Not That Kind" continues the anthemic upbeat notion of the sound while exploring the sheer isolation of not figuring into society. That crossroads which provides the anguish on which we seem to thrive whilst wishing we could turn the tables. Sometimes I hear people say that it wouldn't be much fun if we all liked the same things. What utter liberal mealy mouthed bollocks.

This music in my opinion is pretty much as commercial as you can get. It will reduce some of you folks to tears I'm sure and it'll induce that feeling that you've maybe not had too much lately. The one that evokes some kind of faith in what you're listening to. The one that seemed to have got away. However shortlived that instinct is we shouldn't take it for granted. "Take a Walk" sounds like The Fleshtones syphoning The Ramones and I imagine I hear Gordon Spaeth providing his trademark honk to fatten it all up.

"Nothing Ever Happens (in the Suburbs Baby)" would be an ideal stadium singalong where ol' Jezza could offer the mic out to the sea of people and they'd all sing it back. "Don't Let The Feeling Go" is the final salvo which brings down the pace to an almost hymnal flex. It recalls the days of "His Last Summer" and cruising in that old Daytona recalling past glories. "It may be a long time til the next one comes around" goes the lyric. To this very day, the Barracudas wave indeed still soars and hopefully a whole new generation will get with the program. This sequel takes up where they left us all those years ago. Who could reasonably have thunk it...

A wee update here - Mr Wills tells me that the version I have here is unmastered so the real thing is gonna sound even brighter. Also, "Nothing Ever Happens" is gonna be replaced by a tune called "Shipwrecked". They have other plans for "NEH(ITSB)". The band will also be in the studio again this week laying down a versh of the Rok's "Red Temple Prayer" for the forthcoming Greg Shaw tribute album.

Oh yeah, Jeremy Gluck urges you to check out SUPERCZAR...
RIP: Justin Hinds.
RIP: Danny Taylor (Silver Apples).
RIP: Lyn Collins.
I know. My tending of this cyber-allotment has been a bit lax of late. There are a number of reasons for this which I don't intend to drag through the neighbourhood. The flesh is weak, no matter how willing the spirit kinda deal...

So, at least life outside the grind is beginning to rev up. You should know that The Thanes are not opening for The Chocolate Watchband in Glasgow this coming week. They have a new bass player and don't wanna throw him in at the deep end. So that and some prolific visitors over the next coupla weeks will keep we busy and somewhat amused. In and around those, slings and arrows will be dodged wherever possible and hopefully the ol' blog will begin to reverberate regularly again. The alarming rate at which time is passing needs to be taken down a couple of notches. Hopefully over the course of this weekend, I'll attempt to get you acquainted with some gear that'll divert your attention from the fact that we're all headin' for hell in handbasket or whatever including that fine new album from those Barracudas. Happy trails...