Author Archives: Andrew Hamlin

Holly George-Warren, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton (Viking)

Alex Chilton loved New Orleans, even though he had to wash dishes to live here. Actually, washing dishes wasn’t the first job he took in the city after moving from his native Memphis in 1982. The man often considered one of the great pop performers and songwriters of his era, went to work first making [...]

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Thomas Brothers, Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism (W.W. Norton & Company)

Thomas Brothers’ second volume in his massive Louis Armstrong biography begins in 1931 with Satchmo singing “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You” (a.k.a. “You Rascal You,” a.k.a. “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead”) to the Memphis police. The song’s indistinct title parallels the various uses Armstrong, and those around him, put it [...]

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The Plum, Magnetic Terra Animata (Independent)

Somebody was bound to mate gentle folk (music, not denizens) with banjo, with tabla, with oscillating prog-rock structures traveling up and down through the chambers of the nautilus. The Plum Magnetic do it reasonably well, sporting subtle textures that stand out the more you listen. Steel drums, saxes and voices wander in and out, sometimes [...]

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Buddy Guy, Rhythm and Blues (RCA Records)

Buddy Guy is probably, let’s face it, the greatest living electric guitar player besides B.B. King. Can you prove it with this double-disc set? About one-third of the time. Maybe one-third plus one-fifth of the time. The powers that be won’t let him get crazy nearly so much as Guy deserves, and the crazy serves [...]

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Joshua Polk, Beauty School Dropouts (Exploding God Heads)

First cut straight out of the gate, I’m thinking, “My God, this is where Calvin Johnson escaped to!” ’Cause that first cut sounds exactly like the former Beat Happening frontman’s graveling, wavering baritone-bass. The song sounds weary. The singer sounds weary. But it’s a strange thing about singing in that range; someone singing low can [...]

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The Upstarts, Live In New Orleans (Independent)

Someone must answer the call. So many headaches, heartaches, backaches, cracked hearts, turned-down raises, unanswered messages—someone somewhere must agree to undertake the balm. Into the breach, this fivesome (plus James Martin on sax) playing somewhere near you, sometime soon, maybe now, comes to say in their matter-of-fact way, that the healing has begun. And the [...]

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Various Artists, Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins Square Records)

Gotta sing high, if you want to sing out over those accordions. Conventional wisdom. But some people are unconventional, one way or another. Angelas LeJeune (great-uncle to Iry, great-great-uncle to Eddie) was born, seemingly, with icy and hot in his throat. He breaks and wavers at the tops of phrases for tremendous sorrow, or sometimes, [...]

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Strange Roux, Boogieman (Total Riot Records)

The boogieman, Wikipedia tells us, exists in various forms around the world, known as Sack Man, El Coco, Babau, Butzemann, Bala, and many other names. For Strange Roux, it’s cause for a dark flirtation with an amorphous dark side. Singer Michelle Cunningham smiles for the back cover, but she sings like she’s seen it all, [...]

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Various Artists, Boppin’ by the Bayou Again (Ace Records)

Those Cajuns, so the liner notes tell us, went off to war and came back with guitars and drums on their minds and in their hands. Thus, scores of snappy gator-swipe swamp rockabilly (swampabilly?) on these sets, cut mostly before Kennedy left Massachusetts. Cajun accordions actually sound shocking when they kick in, without warning for [...]

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My Music: Luke Winslow-King

“I started playing guitar at about eight or nine years old, studied piano a bit, and played French horn in band. My dad was my earliest influence. He liked to play Bob Dylan and James Taylor tunes around the campfire. I was struck by the soul and lyricism in the music. My playing has become [...]

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