What I’ve been listening to lately

A double helping of old country:

  • The Carter Family – Volume 2: 1935-1941. Commentary on roots music tends to favor the old–the earlier and scratchier the recording the better, the closer it is to the mythological source. The Carter Family’s 1928-29 recordings, featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music, are officially legendary. But these later ones are often more listener-friendly, with better sound quality and more assured performances. An amazing wealth of songs.
  • The Delmore Brothers – Classic Cuts 1933-41. Another treasury of classic country tunes, sometimes a bit bluesy, sometimes almost a proto-bluegrass. The very pure, clear and uninflected vocals actually take some getting used to, so far is their style from the extroverted emotionalism that has been the norm in more recent decades of popular music.

Plus the usual jazz miscellany:

  • Jimmy Giuffre – The Life Of A Trio: Sunday. Jimmy Giuffre has been developing his particular version of jazz minimalism since the late 1950s, and always getting better along the way. These 1989 recordings reconvene his famous 1961 trio with Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on bass; the result is strong and fresh and not at all a nostalgia session.
  • Ran Blake – Short Life Of Barbara Monk. An overlooked classic from the unheralded year of 1986. The lineup is solidly traditional–tenor sax, piano, bass drums–but the approach is fascinatingly untraditional and melodic.
  • Lee Morgan – The Procrastinator. A standout 1967 Blue Note session with an unbeatable lineup–Wayne Shorter and Bobby Hutcherson–and great tunes. This brand of advanced hard bop is for many people the absolute pinnacle of jazz. I’m not one of them–for me, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra will always be the top–but it’s recordings like this that make that taste an understandable one.

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