The final chapter- and in no particular order other than the way they scattered across the floor-
Introducing Hanggai Hanggai (eMusic, 2008) My discovery of the summer. Hanggai is a Mongolian stringband featuring throat singing. Their traditional, Eastern sounds are provided bluegrass and old-time touches. Live, they are energetic and arresting. On disc, thoroughly engaging. Songs like “My Banjo and I” and “Drinking Song” are immediately appealing while more controlled material such as “Four Seasons” and “Haar Hu” sneak into long-term memory. A brilliant little album, and I still regret not purchasing the live recording they had on offer at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival; by the time I returned, they were all gone. Never hesitate when it comes to music. Those open to ‘world’ sounds should find something very appealing about Hanggai. Let’s hope they hook up with The SteelDrivers for a recording in the near future.
The Gift The Jam (1982) I missed The Jam, completly and inexplicitly. In the late 70s and early 80s, I loved everything British music offered. From Judas Priest, Girlschool, Kim Wilde, and Kirsty MacColl to Kajagoogoo, Nick Lowe, XTC, and Bauhaus, if it came from overseas, could be found in Smash Hits or NME, and was available on import- chances are I found it. Even things that didn’t really appeal to me (Japan) or that I didn’t really understand (Joy Division) got a listen.
But the Jam, I didn’t get. To be fair, I wasn’t exposed to them either. It was only with “Town Called Malice” that The Jam received commercial airplay in Edmonton, and I did buy the 12” single of it. Beyond that, the band fell on deaf ears. I got into Weller a bit with The Style Council- Our Favourite Shop was more than intriguing and I went thorough a serious Bruce Foxton period when everything from Touch Sensitive was absorbed- but for the next 20 years, Weller and The Jam (and The Jam were much more than Paul Weller) were ignored by me. Somewhere along the time Weller’s albums started appearing on YepRoc, I started exploring The Jam and each of their albums have become a new favourite as they have been acquired. Fittingly, their swan song was finally found this summer, and The Gift was worth the 27 year wait. Ridiculous, that I admit. From the opening bass rumble of “Happy Together,” The Gift is a masterpiece. “Precious,” “Just Who is the 5 O’clock Hero,” “Trans-Global Express,” and of course “Malice” have been heard and enjoyed on out-take collections, compilations, and live albums, but the songs work best as a cohesive set. It is an album of its time and beyond, one that can be taken as surface music that is laden with grooves, hooks, and catchy choruses as well as really listened to for nearly hidden sounds and lyrical insights. Well worth (re)discovering, depending on your history with Paul Weller and The Jam.
When Lost at Sea The Wooden Sky (Black Box, 2008) I believe this one came out two years ago, but I had never heard of them until a friend caught a bit of their music at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. I purchased the album at the Fest without having heard it- after all, all the Hanggai was gone- and have seldom been so pleased by a ‘never heard of it, but bought it anyway’ impulse buy. (The ultimate of which was my trifecta in the summer of ’82 when I purchased Billy Idol, Built for Speed, and Live It Up with my first semi-adult paycheque at Climax Records in Leduc- which would in a few months also be the location of my first record store job.) The album doesn’t seem or sound as calculated as their latest- and still very good- recording, with more rock elements obvious. The cold darkness of “Lonesome Death of Helen Betty Osborne” brings the album to a beautiful sounding if disturbing close.
Finally, album 25…
8:30 Newfoundland Mike Plume Band (Moraine/Fontana North, 2009) I don’t know where Mike Plume has been since Fool for the Radio appeared and then disappeared from store shelves, but I’m glad he’s back. (Hints of the past half dozen year are provided in “Weeds,” but I’ve no idea how literal they should be taken.) For a while there during the No Depression heyday, I was convinced that Plume was going to be ‘the next one’ to be discovered. I guess it never happened, but his recorded legacy stands up against those of Chris Knight, Robbie Fulks, Slaid Cleaves, and just about any other alt.country singer-songwriter type one could mention. The album title is a reference only a Canadian would understand, and the title track name checks as many small towns and features as a pair of Stompin’ Tom albums. The music surpasses the occasional songwriting indulgence Plume allows himself (really, Mike- “knocking boots?”) Produced by Brent Maher (he who discovered The Judds and has been a Nashville A-lister for 30 years) and Charles Yingling (according to Google, either a short baseball player from the late-1800s or a music consultant and contractor in Nashville- whichever, never heard of him), Plume seems to have found a team that understands the importance of staying true to your music and roots while skirting about the edges of the mainstream, much as Corb Lund has. I’ll even forgive him from stealing (in “Like a Bullet from a Gun”) from me a line I’ve been using for years- “Old enough to know better, young enough not to care”- although I haven’t actually lived that particular sentiment). Hockey, driving, judgment, love- all the important themes are explored, and the album – forgive the mindless cliché- completely rocks…in a non-commercial, country kinda way. His voice is as strong as ever. Comeback of the year, anyone?
And that is the list, although many more albums were listened to and enjoyed throughout the summer. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.