With a brief and elegant run of notes, bassist Tim Midyett gently announces the opening of “Contempt”, the first track on Silkworm’s Lifestyle, the album which is the subject of this 12-week, one track a week, Between the Grooves series. It’s so slight that a listener still settling down after dropping the needle might miss it. And then suddenly, all at once, the rest of the band including Andy Cohen, the singer on “Contempt”, join in. However, the vibe here is unusual. If Silkworm have a reputation (and that is meant in the most speculative sense of the conditional, i.e., “Does Silkworm’s music have a general reputation?”), then perhaps it is as a dude’s band, a point noted by fan Dan Mohr in Seth Pomeroy’s 2013 Silkworm documentary Couldn’t You Wait?, a treasure of a film and a source we’ll turn to more than once in the coming weeks. Silkworm: Three dudes who make dude music. Big guitars. Big drums. Songs about World War II. Songs about life on the road. Songs about Julius Caesar. Music to go with steaks and beer. For goodness sake, Tim Midyett is even the inventor of a delicious, world class meat rub. Dudes!
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With a voice like scorched earth and a guitar played as though its strings were ablaze, Benjamin Booker has taken the blues straight to hell. His songs, mini-dramas of sun-bleached rock, trade on the old-time traditions of players like Son House, Lowell Fulson, and Brownie McGhee. Booker’s approach is to push the perimeters of the blues to its most uncomfortable and perilous extremes, affording his music the cautious air of danger. His self-titled debut, released in 2014 on Rough Trade records, is a revelation of pantheon dimensions, a temple of ancestral and present influences which has carried Booker’s collection of work to esteemed heights.
A few years ago I was in a bookstore perusing the music magazines, when I came across the latest issue of Chips & Beer. I picked it up and flipped through its newsprint pages. Assholes, I thought to myself as I put it back. I started walking away, but quickly turned around and hid the issue behind a glossy Revolver. After two seconds of smug self-satisfaction, another thought crossed my mind.
Just what in the hell am I doing? I had played right into their hands.
Every decade has its slew of songs that, while memorable at the time, are quickly forgotten once the next decade once its new trends and styles come around. For every timeless classic like “Let It Be” or “Stairway to Heaven”, there’s a “More, More, More” or “96 Tears”. For some reason, it just seems like the ‘90s were home to the most memorable songs that time forgot. Here’s a salute to the songs that stop mattering once the calendar flipped to the year 2000, and some that were forgotten much, much sooner.
The Mastersons’ second album, Good Luck Charm, shares Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson’s depth of connection both personally and after hundreds of shows together. Whether playing as a duo or band, they communicate musically in a way that brings the audience in, never crossing over into uncomfortable intimacy or leaving out the listener. Whitmore and Masterson are each stellar multi-instrument players, with years of backing incredible songwriters and bands, including their on-going gig as part of Steve Earle’s touring band. Combining their gifts, though, at first was more give and take, as on Birds Fly South (their debut together). Good Luck Charm demonstrates their comfortable interplay and loops in some of their friends for co-writes, including Country Fried Rock alumni Aaron Lee Tasjan and Steve Poltz, and many other notable pals of theirs.