Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Music

The thing about buying music on CDs these days is that you cannot hear what you might buy. I miss the old vinyl records days, where you could listen to them in separate enclosures within the shop called "listening booths" and decide whether to buy an album or not. There are a couple of friendly sales folks around who will rip off the plastic wrap and play it for you with no conditions attached. Obviously those are the places I frequent for my music shopping.

Then again, there are times when I take a risk, usually impulsive, and just buy the CD because whatever I can read on both sides of the jewel case seems interesting. Yesterday was one of those days. Music World on Park Street is almost next door to my favourite watering hole - Olys. Diwali had apparently kept the usual evening crowd seeking solace in a glass or more of liquid refreshment away from Olys. It was almost empty yesterday as Ranjit and I sat there and caught up with each other after quite a bit. Though we didn't say it till much later, we realised that the place was lacking in its waves of energy, loud chatter and laughter, smoke and the almost solidified atmosphere of liquor scents which assault you on entry. So we left after an hour or so, much less than the average length of time I would have otherwise spent there.
(I must make a film located in Olys...)

So we leisurely walked out into the bracing October evening of Calcutta, when all seems to be well with the world. Ranjit browsed magazines as I did the same with pretty faces passing by. Music World was not crowded either. I guess people hang out in jewellery stores during this festival of lights, to be dazzled by the glitter of precious metal and stones.

I saw a 3-VCD set of Scorcese's biopic of Dylan - No Direction Home - and grabbed it. Then I saw another album tucked quietly away in the lower corner of a rack - The Wood Brothers' Ways Not To Lose. Chris Wood on bass and Oliver Wood on guitar and vocals. In my vodka-fuddled memory I thought this Chris Wood was the same name who had played in Traffic's early records. I forgot that that Chris played flute and horns and stuff, not bass. Anyway, this was an impulsive buy, and listening to it now I realise I struck gold.
This is new blues. It's derived from black man blues and done by white men but it has a contemporariness which is refreshing. At the same time elements of the familiar are spread across each song letting you indulge in a bit of deja vu. The Wood Brothers album is first and foremost blues in its traditional 12-bar form, and then the tweaks and other style influences, not least being jazz. Oliver's voice has a gravelly tone tending to the nasal but he sings his soul. His guitar playing is prominent but not overwhelming. Chris' acoustic upright bass is contrapuntal in its soft statements which may lack the hard punch and growl of blues but never deviates from its earthy presence in all the songs. Lovely album! "At least when I die young, I'll have chocolate on my tongue". One line from one song, you must listen to the rest.

Elvis Costello, a British musician has been quite a phenomenon in the West since the 80s. Somehow he never was able to make his presence felt among the wide ranging listening that many of us do back here in India. Allen Toussaint was a name that briefly came up in Santana's Moonflower record as the last song 'Toussaint L'Overture'. I have not actually followed either of these musicians but I see that Toussaint is considered "one of America's greatest musical treasures" with almost guru-like attributes. Anyway, this collaboration between these two musicians has resulted in The River In Reverse. It has songs from Allen Toussaint's own catalogue, plus five new ones penned by them both, as well as the title track by Elvis. This is a gumbo of New Orleans and rock'n'roll and some other influences not immediately identifiable from the initial listening. Yet another gem I impulsively bought without any real knowledge!

Now you know how difficult it is for me to remain solvent when I walk into a music store!


Prerona said...

such a nice post. nice evening sounds like. makes me nostalgic for calcutta. as if i wasnt already :)
i had heard about oly for ever! and i finally got to go a few years back, had just gotten back from texas, it was SUCH an anticlimax! as was the steak.

i can never decide which is more painful, staying away and missing
her (cal) or going back and facing up to how diff she has become from the person in my head ... or was that always her, maybe it was just my skewed perception :)

"Ranjit" is Uncle (Rahul's dad), is he? Will you say hello? How is Aunty? Can you email me any of their phone numbers? Been wanting to get in touch last few days.

patrix said...

prerona, thanks for visiting - calcutta is not merely a "state of mind" like NYC. it's (she's?) mind, body, soul and heart. the city's always been an individual perception, different to each and everyone of us and yet somehow consistently familiar for all.
check your mail...

Prerona said...

True. Have always found that. Yet, do you find that most people dont realise this and think that there vesion is the ONLY and the REAL version? :)

patrix said...

but it is, innit? ;D

Prerona said...

yes it is!

david mcmahon said...

Tried leaving a comment a couple of days ago. Just wanted to say, all the years trying to get you to convert to rock were just wasted effort! You're still into jazz?!!! Anyway, happy birthday, Brian Wilson.