Off The Beaten Track: Music Reviews & Musings by Mary Leary
O N T H E R O A D
Lyle Lovett – July 25, Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay
Dan Sartain – August 18, The Casbah
Gloomy summer so far in San Diego – haven’t seen one like this in 16-some years here. My first 10, it was pretty gorgeous; the kind of sunny, warm, dry weather accounting for the area’s endless sprawl. Last few, we’ve gotten the typical “June gloom” (clouds that burn off by noon, followed by nice weather). This year it stayed gloomy a lot. July, especially by the end, is when it starts to get really hot and humid. And that’s the last thing most people want. Even if the time’s not quite right for dancing in the street, a stream of traveling minstrels is still rolling through town.
If I sound unusually laconic, you can blame Lyle Lovett. Listening to Lyle can bring out the summers and Christmases I spent with my grandmother and other relatives in the Maryland countryside. You know, sitting on the front porch over a sea of crickets, looking at the birds until it gets too dark; emitting sporadic syllables that through their minimalism turn into a sort of Zen.
As far as I’m concerned, Lovett is America’s real poet laureate. Sure, Tom Waits and Canadian Joni Mitchell have written some incredible lyrics, as did the late Laura Nyro. But few nail American life, places, and mythology as often and well as Lyle. He can convey Jackson Browne’s restless Saturday night, then personify the pain and joy of the wanderer unfolding his or her napkin for the blue plate special that was there all along. Lyle’s American obsession is like an ongoing love affair that can never be satisfied, leaving room for lots of dramatic conflict.
In Lovett’s hands, the conflict only screams when gospel voices help deliver the message. Because, yeah, this guy’s a poet; often conveying more with one line or vocal inflection than many artists manage in their whole oeuvre. With his intuitive grasp of American roots music, he chooses or combines from country, rock, blues, Dixieland jazz and gospel as they best serve. The musical part of the songwriting’s damned good, as well.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of this guy before, all I can say is, he’s created his own genre, one that’s too wide for some to fathom. He still has a large following (like his band, “it’s not big, it’s large”). Damn, I wish he were bringing that band to San Diego. But I’ll take Lyle on any terms.
Lux Interior is dead and the Cramps, as such, are dead. Rocket from the Crypt, at least as a band, is in the crypt. But loopy Alabaman Dan Sartain is coming to town – I wish I could be at the county line to see if he rolls in a souped-up Mustang. Or maybe he’ll hop off a caboose at the train station; grip in hand. Formerly on Swami; encouraged by RFTC’s John Weiss, the man who could have been separated at birth from John Waters (well, a younger, better looking one – no offense, John) has a new album (Live, released by Little Indian July 20). Back on the road behind it, Dan’s likely to attract a bevy of grease monkeys and Bettie Pages (or folks who just want to look like them), along with anyone hungry for Sartain’s lunatic-fringe menudo of rockabilly, ‘60s rave-ups, and classic punk; all ringing with perfectly-executed vintage reverb. I predict he’ll rock the house –if we’re lucky, taking “Walk Among the Cobras IV” to incendiary heights. Yeah, Dan has a thing about snakes… and a thing about atheism, and Satanism, and miracles. All in one hypnotic package. I’m not throwing around a phrase like “lunatic fringe” loosely. From a 2008 ArtRocker interview, here’s Dan on hanging (oneself):
“It’s about Alice Cooper, man. And I saw some pictures of James Dean and he did that. He looked really cool. I took these pictures, and I actually did have to hang myself for five – ten seconds while my friend went click click click, then I put my toes back on the stairs. But they cut my fucking feet off the album cover, so you couldn’t see that I was actually hanging! So I did all that shit for nothing! I guess my neck got real stretched out. When my mother saw ‘em (those photos) she was horrified.”
One more separated-at-birth thing re: Sartain – his voice, and a lot of his topics and structures, remind me a lot of Nathan Payne, who I profiled here a few months ago. If one wasn’t an atheist and the other a Christian, I’d suggest some sort of match-up.
Mice Parade isn’t coming to San Diego – it’s just doing a few NE (and at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, for my D.C.-area pals) appearances before heading to Europe or something (yeah, it’s making me cranky). Anyway, I’ll be writing about the new record somewhere soon. The title made me lol: What It Means To Be Left-Handed. Okay, maybe you have to know MP’s work to find that amusing. So here, from Obrigado Saudade, is one of my favorites. The way MP leader Adam Pierce knits lyrics with sound is often brilliantlyvisceral. O/w, would you catch me publicly lauding anything that could invite the shoe-gaze moniker? Eh, who cares? Labels, schmabels.
This has barely tickled the surface of this summer’s notable touring artists. If you comment, maybe give a heads-up re: whatever you’re excited to see. Meanwhile, I’m lovin’ the excuse to ice this cake with a nifty little number by Hard Stuff (nee Bullet), a relatively short-lived, early metal conjunct including master bassist John Gustafson and a couple of ex-Atomic Roosters. I used to throw this on at WGTB. For those who remember; here, from Bulletproof, is that song you didn’t like – or maybe one you dug. Toodle-oo, cowgirls ‘n’ boys.