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by PopMatters Staff

26 Apr 2011

The best part about the Chapin Sisters’ unique indie-folk sound is how it is completely, uniquely their own—a great thing in its own right, and an even more astonishing aspect when you take their famous lineage into consideration.

Lily and Abigail’s story starts with their father, noted singer Tom Chapin, and how the sisters are actually nieces of icon Harry Chapin.  The group’s first album, The Lake Bottom LP, also featured contributions from their half-sister Jessica Craven, who is daughter of noted horror director Wes Craven.  Throughout all of the media namedropping, however, the group has forged ahead with their own sound, and following the departure of Jessica and the formation of the sisters’ own record label, their new effort Two seems poised to place them into the spotlight on their own terms.

Prior to the album’s release, the girls sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, debating between the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Star Trek and Star Wars, and how they once got to share the stage with DMC . . .

by George de Stefano

25 Apr 2011

“Goin’ Down Slow” was written and first recorded in 1941 by St. Louis Jimmy Oden, a bluesman who (despite his moniker) was from Nashville. But the song’s definitive version came 20 years later, when Howlin’ Wolf cut it for Chess Records. From its opening bars, with Hubert Sumlin’s astringent guitar and Henry Gray’s percussive piano, Wolf’s rendition is a dramatic tour de force in three minutes and 18 seconds, and the most emotionally-shattering performance on Rocking Chair

The song is a dialogue between two sides of a dying man’s divided self, as he contemplates his impending demise: one part philosophical, reflecting with fondness and humor on the good times he’s enjoyed; the other part anguished, venting fear and desperation in the face of death. Bassist Willie Dixon, as the ruminative ex-playa, comes in first, speaking the lines, “Man, you know I enjoyed things kings and queens will never have, and in fact kings and queens can’t never get, and in fact, they don’t even know about!” Then, at 1:09, Wolf enters, crying out in his uncanny voice, “I have had my fun / If I never get well no more / Oh my health is fading / Oh yes, I’m going down slow”.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

22 Apr 2011

Klinger: While it’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long to get to another LP by the Rolling Stones, it makes sense that the album in question is Beggars Banquet, the bookend to Exile on Main St and the starting point for one of the most incredible runs in rock history. In fact, part of me wants to say that what came to be known as “rock” in the 1970s starts right here. Bluesy without necessarily being the blues, lascivious, libidinous, and always about an arm’s length from both the advancements and the trappings of the ’60s—Beggars Banquet marks a decided shift in rock culture.

Mendelsohn: Beggars Banquet also has the best song about the devil—ever. I mean, by definition, most rock and roll is about His Most Evilness (some of it you have to play backwards to receive the satanic message), but nothing as wonderfully overt as “Sympathy for the Devil”, which by 1968 standards was way ahead of its time. Also, as you mentioned, Beggars Banquet also marks the Stones’ return to bluesier, rootsier tone. So it would make sense that they would pay homage to the guy who invented (or helped invent) the blues. If Lucifer hadn’t bought Robert Johnson’s soul all those years ago, where would we be?

by Imran Khan

20 Apr 2011

Dizraeli is a name that, at least on the American side of the pond, may have many scratching their heads. The British spoken-word artist/hip-hopper has been working a steady, mindful pace, setting his own course whilst picking up a growing number of admirers along the way. In 2009, Dizraeli unleashed his debut album, Engurland (City Shanties). The album finds the rapper delivering his sputter-quick rhymes deftly, whilst musing over love, both found and lost, in a time of social unrest. Spinning lyrical conundrums over hip-hop-jalopy beat-science, Dizraeli embodies the spirit of contradiction; he finds a fresh and unique counterpoint between the chest-thumping swagger of hip-hop braggadocio and the densely knotty theories found in your political science textbook. It’s a musical vision worlds away from the obscene displays of bling radiating from the glossies we’ve become accustomed to. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the artist infuses his words with razor-sharp acumen, traversing the line between aggression and hope, never once skimping on the grooves. Here, he talks about his introduction into UK’s beat-poetry scene, recording his debut, and the literary inspirations that feed his musical diet.   

* * *

Tell me about your introduction into the beat poetry/spoken word scene that has emerged in the UK over the years. Can you give some of the details of your first forays into interacting with audiences in front of an open mic?

My introduction to spoken word was at university, at the African Caribbean and Asian Society’s poetry evenings. People came to perform words of all sorts, and I brought my rap lyrics to the mix. I’ve always thought of my work as songs, whether with musical accompaniment or nor—it’s still a surprise to me when I’m called a Poet. I write for music, in the same verse/chorus/verse form that songwriters have used forever. But nonetheless, what I do seems to work at poetry events. From university days I started going to the slams which had started up in Brighton—where I lived then—and found myself winning them. Slams were a completely new thing for me and for most English people, and they were an exciting place to meet writers and performers of all kinds; both a harsh competitive environment and the most fertile ground imaginable for creativity. My first slams were a slap in the face for me—I brought my very earnest utopian lyrics to this fairly tough, cynical arena and people didn’t get into them at all. I learned that people relate to what you have to say if you say it with humor and a sideways twist, not if you beat them over the head with a daisy chain.

by Sean Murphy

19 Apr 2011

This hurts.

Of course jazz enthusiasts are a small if discerning bunch, so it’s unlikely the sudden passing of Billy Bang on April 11 will register as much as it should on the collective consciousness. This is a shame, but it can’t be helped. Those who knew Billy, and those who know and love his work, already miss him, and shall have to console ourselves that a great man has moved to the great beyond.

I fall back on what is, at this point, a somewhat formulaic observation, but I’m content to repeat it since it’s true: the death of any meaningful artist, particularly at a painfully young age (Bang was 63, which might not seem particularly painful or young to you, but it does to me, especially since as a working jazz musician he was still relevant, engaged, and important to music) is always difficult to endure, but we have little choice but to console ourselves with the work left behind.

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