1) eLZhi Preface (Fat Beats)
2) Lil Wayne Tha Carter III (Cash Money/Universal)
3) NaS Untitled (Def Jam)
4) Immortal Technique The 3rd World (Viper)
5) Zo! & Tigallo Love the 80's (Hall of Justus Records)
This week's number one seller at the Amoeba Music Hollywood store is the brand new release from longtime bubbling-under Detroit emcee eLZhi (pronounced Els-Eye), who made his introduction to most in the hip-hop world a few years back when he joined Slum Village. Consequently, he has been keepin' active, between touring and appearing here and there on others' releases doing guest shots, including on many records from his Motor City hometown. Many of the Amoeba Hollywood shoppers who made Preface number one this week had no doubt obtained copies earlier this year of elZhi's Europass, his limited edition independently pressed-up CD/ download-able collection, which has won the talented emcee worthy praise from many quarters and also included "Motown 25." But it is the brand new Fat Beats issued Preface that will put eLZhi permanently and deservedly in the hip-hop history annals.
Stylistically, eLZhi is a gifted storytelling emcee whose delivery harks back to the more golden age of hip-hop (even the records scratched in are from that classic era in the genre, such as KRS-One) with tales of the hard knock life he has led coming up in Detroit. For samples off the new album and other recordings check out eLZhi MySpace, where you'll hear such great album tracks as "Motown 25," featuring Royce Da 5' 9" and "The Leak" featuring Ayah. Other guests on this recommended new album include A.B., Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Fatt Father, Danny Brown, Fat Ray, Phat Kat, and Fes Roc.
When I was a kid my dad surprised me one day when he told me that his two favorite guitarists, hands down, were T-Bone Walker and Roy Buchanan-- two mostly obscure blues guitarists whose lofty talents are usually held in awe by only record collectors and guitar geeks. You would have thought my dad was a blues musician or at least someone with a passion for obscure vinyl … well, no, he just digs music -- he always said he was too busy working, customizing hotrods in those halcyon days of the 1960’s to be anything but a just a fan, but he does play a mean "Malaguena" from the Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona on classical piano.
Anyway, T-Bone Walker’s most famous number was "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)." His other classic recordings include "T-Bone Shuffle" and the brilliantly understated parable, "Let Your Hair Down, Baby, Let's Have a Natural Ball." Walker lived to be a reasonably old man, especially by blues standards, passing away in 1975 at the age of 65. Unfortunately, Roy Buchanan’s life didn’t get that distance.
20 years go today, Roy Buchanan was found hanging in his cell in the Fairfax County Jail in Fairfax, Virginia, by his own shirt, shortly after being arrested and soon after being placed in a holding tank. Buchanan had been picked up by the police earlier in the evening for public intoxication. Though he had a long history of drunken, restless and destructive behavior, many of his fans, friends and family have always doubted the suicide verdict of his death. He was 48.
Countless aficionados in the guitar world have long considered Roy Buchanan one of the finest and most overlooked guitarists of the blues-rock genre. According to legend, Buchanan's soulful and fiery skills led him to being invited to join the Rolling Stones in the late 1960’s. In 1971 Roy Buchanan found his greatest public exposure in an hour long Public Television documentary appropriately titled The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World. For a moment he was famous and in demand, signing a multi-record deal with Polydor. His 1972 self-titled debut contains one of Buchanan's best-known tracks, "The Messiah Will Come Again." Here’s some live footage of that song from a German television show in the early 80’s.
I am a big fan of Dalton's studio albums, It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You the Best (1969) and In My Own Time (1971). When I first heard them, they seemed like precious relics from the past. It also seemed unlikely anything else of hers would ever be uncovered and released, but now, just a few years later, there have been reissues and even video footage released!
Dalton's life story is very compelling. She seems to have lived on her own terms, with little compromise and a lot of eccentricity and self destruction. Basically, Karen was a free spirit. She was half Native American and grew up in Oklahoma. She married and had two kids by the time she was 21. She also played banjo and 12 string guitar. Dalton left her husband and moved to New York in time to take part in the early '60s Greenwich Village scene, playing clubs and hanging out with Bob Dylan and Fred Neil. Later, she moved north to Woodstock, where she was surrounded by a creative community that included her friends and sometime lovers The Band. Her two albums never sold well and she slipped into obscurity, heartbroken. Eventually, after a life of drinking and drug abuse, she died of AIDS in New York in 1993.
Her voice is unmistakable: a craggy, worn sound that cracks and warbles its way through old folk standards. Green Rocky Road is a 1963 recording of Karen in her home, something never intended for release. Her sound lends itself to this type of setting and is only enhanced by the intimacy of the recording. Dalton slowly winds her way through the songs, taking her time and allowing her throaty voice to coat the jingle jangle of her banjo accompaniment. It's well-known that Karen hated being in the studio, and though her two official albums are extremely well worth seeking out, there is a certain pleasure, a palpable ease and comfort that the informed listener can wring from her voice in these home recordings that may be lacking from the studio records. It's also enjoyable to listen for the idiosyncrasies of the recording: her mother's voice, a phone constantly ringing, picking errors that simply serve to remind me of the organic nature of song. Dalton's voice is haunting and like no one else's.
Last of the Blacksmiths are one of the most talented and moving bands here in the Bay Area. Comprised of Nathan Wanta, Nigel Pavao and Bert Garibay, who play everything from mandolin to keys to guitar to drums, the band's sound rolls from The Band-like harmonies and depth to deep fried Southern- sounding funky interplay and heaviness. To check out their music, visit the band's Myspace page. Their latest record, Young Family Song, is available at Amoeba. I chatted with Nathan and Nigel recently about their visit to Levon Helm's farm, how Bikini Kill makes them cry, and the charm of a Wurlitzer.
Miss Ess: So, what have you been listening to lately?
NATHAN: Seems that this can change so drastically from day to day, but thinking of albums that I’ve listened to most in the past year or so, I’d say Allen Toussaint’s first three records probably win, followed by Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue, the Amazing Visions Black Fiction cd that Bert gave me,Terry Allen’s Juarez, Candi Staton’s Candi, Clifford Coulter’s, East Side San Jose, and I can’t leave out Eugene McDaniel’s Outlaw. Was pretty obsessed with the song “Cherrystones” for a while.