This year’s Voodoo Experience may have decided to surf the youth wave, but my desk is overrun with CDs by the Old Boys’ Network. As I’ve said before, Grinderman 2 speaks to me with Nick Cave growing old gracelessly, stomping out ill-mannered, dirty-minded rock ’n’ roll without pretending he’s still a young man. On the other hand, Elvis Costello’s National Ransom presents him in his awh-tist mode. He’s still making a version of roots rock, but T Bone Burnett’s production emphasizes everything difficult about the songs.
Unlike Nick Cave, Robert Plant has figured out how to age gracefully, but he’s done so without sacrificing who he is. In concert, it became clear that Raising Sand was T Bone Burnett’s show, and he cast Plant as the male suitor pursuing Alison Krauss; on Band of Joy, Plant works with producer Buddy Miller to create a unified, otherworldy version of roots music, one that draws across eras, oceans and aesthetics to produce something psychedelic and rooted in real experience at the same time.
In the reissue department, Rhino has re-released Richard and Linda Thompson’s brilliant Shoot Out the Lights with a second live disc from their first and only American tour. Producer Joe Boyd bemoans that he taped the wrong show and missed a brilliant, heartbreaking performance by Linda, but what’s here is a pretty spectacular show that draws from the broad spectrum of their recording career dating back to Fairport Convention. The disc ends with a couple of great Thompson guitar solos—one on “Shoot Out the Lights” and a frantic solo in “For Shame of Doing Wrong” that betrays the ball of conflicting, submerged emotions smoothed over by the words and melody. The lengthy liner notes tell the album’s story and the couple’s break-up from the perspective of Boyd, the Thompsons and the band members, the latter of whom are circumspect in the extreme. When asked about “Did She Jump or Was She Pushed,” Linda said, “I can tell you right now, she was pushed.”