Kitty Little/The Kiss Ups: Split CD
Art of the Underground Records, 2004
Rock has always been at its best as the voice of bratty rebellion. At a time when corporate constraints are narcotizing the scene, it’s heartening to see back-to-basic bands scratching out three-chord rants a la The Ramones.
Rosendale-based rockers The Kiss Ups remind us that less is more. Paul Heath and Michael Wilcock are slacker-savants with a hard-on for ‘70s punk. But they don’t stint on the element that makes Outkast so fab: humor.
Last year’s Coffee Sessions, their second cd, offered snarky love songs worthy of Jonathan Richman and Stephin Merritt, and a sense of hometown pride that rivaled Springsteen’s jones for the swamps of Jersey. Most of their eight cuts here are more bone-crunchingly punkish, but equally clever. Kitty Little, a group of post-punkers from Albany, generates suitable heat in a playful way, but lacks the songwriting chops of The Kiss Ups.
Various Artists: Live From the Bardavon, Volume 1
The venerable 1869 Bardavon Opera House in downtown Poughkeepsie beams a bright light against urban blight. With an eye on the future and an ear toward the audience, this mid-sized (900-seat) venue presents a perfect balance of traditional and contemporary artists. Their first musical compilation cd, Live From the Bardavon, Volume I, offers a showcase of (mostly) legendary performances from their stage.
These recordings, from 1999 to 2003, display the booking prowess of Bardavon executive director Chris Silva and co-producer Steven LaMarca. With the best intentions, the duo has captured the old-time sounds of Utah Phillips and Ruth Ungar, alongside more recent acts like Medeski Martin & Wood, Kate Pierson, and Bruce Hornsby. The cd is especially worthwhile for rare performances by David Crosby (“Almost Cut my Hair”), The Blind Boys of Alabama (“Nobody’s Fault but Mine”), and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (“Locomotive Breath”). These cuts, and others by the Rainbow Gospel Singers and Levon Helm, carry the weight of this compilation.
Like The Bardavon, this compilation nicely covers rock, folk, gospel, and blues without taking long-shot chances. Note for Volume II: some Hot Tuna, please!
—DJ Wavy Davy
Zoe B. Zak: In the Direction
Sister Z Music, 2003
“Assalaamu Alaykum” and “Shalom Aleychem” are nearly identical greetings amongst Arabic and Hebrew speakers respectively. Zoe B. Zak’s new cd, In The Direction (www.zoebzak.com), celebrates Islam and Judaism as the siblings they are with liturgy, accordion and keyboards, Dean Sharp’s seamless rhythms, Steve Gorn’s bansuri flute, and other talented musicians. This balm heals old wounds.
From a blues/jazz background, Zak found her true voice singing Jewish prayers. Loving the sounds of Hebrew, she created melodies to accompany holy words. To open her mind for composing new songs, Zak would cease listening to other music, letting the sounds come.
This meditative cd swirls, croons, whirrs, and murmurs, simultaneously otherworldly and earthy. The first listen brought tears to my eyes and goose flesh. The vital spirit of ancient desert people comes alive through this thoroughly modern amalgamation.
This is a gift of healing—from global rifts to the health of a friend (“Healing Prayer”), to the wordless song (“Jacob’s Ningun”) celebrating a newborn child. What words can one say to baby Jacob? The meaning is the same in any language. Peace be with you.