My brain is like a 3 sided wheel clunking along a very rocky road. When in motion and one side comes crashing down to earth, "lucid" thoughts and ideas get rattled around and configured into something completely different in my brain pan.
While I was in the middle of my vacation from MOG (I took off to add 40,000+ tracks to my digital library), I ran across Little Axe-The Wolf That House Built and I knew I wanted to post about it. The first thing that pushed me toward Little Axe was Anna's post about Moby. Nothing against Moby, but I was thinking to myself that Little Axe's record did the whole Folk-Blues mixed with beats thing way ahead of Mr. Moby and how everyone missed the boat (Little Axe has sold 10,000 cd's since release) on a great record and they should run out and grab this right now. But I had a job to do and the CD ripping dragged on and the wheel was turning for almost a months time up to Feb.27, my Dad's birthday.
He turned 67 that day, and it got me to thinking about all that my pops exposed me to in the music/art world ..folk, blues, beat poetry, Tom Waits, and the theater. My Dad is an actor (stage mostly, some TV and movies) and at his age he doesn't get too many star turns, but he does work, and has for the better part of 50 years. His perseverance and love of his craft reminded me of another favorite topic: my passion for the work of music sidemen (and women).
Whether it be Robert Ward, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Fred Wesley, Carol Kaye, Steve Cropper, or Skip "Little Axe"McDonald, I usually find a lot of merit in the work of folks who aren't necessarily the stars, but always seem to be around when great music gets made.
Skip McDonald (Guitar) has been around since the mid 70's and along with Keith LeBlanc (Drums), and Doug Wimbush (Bass) made up the rhythm section of Sugar Hill Records, playing behind The Sugar Hill Gang, Sequence,and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5, on what, some would say, are the records that started a revolution in pop music.
This didn't last long though, as hip hoppers started dropping real musicians for the "authentic" two turntables, microphone, and sampler sound, so Skip and the boys headed over to England, where they ended up with a new gig. Skip, Keith, and Doug became the house band at Adrian Sherwood's On-U sound label, playing behind electro trail blazers like Mark Stewart and Gary Clail under direction of Mr.Sherwood, surely one of my favorite producers of all time.
They also got a chance to work on solo projects, other gigs, and their own pre-electronica band, Tackhead. I always liked Adrian Sherwood's reggae productions the best, but Tackhead was pushing the sound envelope toward where Trent Reznor would make millions. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I was listening. If NIN is up your alley I recommend seeking out early Tackhead stuff or Keith Leblanc's-Major Malfunction.
Around 1994 I was living in Phoenix,AZ and not particularly digging it, even though I was invited to a Sony records party where they were hyping, G Love and Special Sauce, Dionne Farris, and Vitology from our good friends-Pearl Jam. I like all these folks and I actually won a raffle for some Pearl Jam tickets, but I was still pouting because I didn't win the promo 10" of "Ride On" from the new Little Axe record. So I traded my Pearl Jam tickets for the vinyl to one happy record store clerk, who must've thought I'd gone insane. I did not launch into the discussion above and get all nasty with the cat, 'cause I got what I wanted, and I'm still glad I did.
Basically, The Wolf that House Built, takes spoken words from prewar Blues records (with full credit) and adds atmospheric guitar, drum, and bass to the mix (sound familiar?), to create a respectful but new 21st century blues. I thought it was brilliant then and I still do today. If you aren't one of the 10K that did already, you really should run out and get this.Happy Birthday Dad and long life to you and all the great sidemen. Believe me, we notice.
The mix at 8tracks
No More, My Lord..Jimpson
I Belong to the Band ..Rev. Gary Davis
Tupelo (Part 1)..Pop Staples, Albert King, Steve Cropper
Praying Ground (1963)..The Soul Stirrers
Nicotine & Vitamin C .. I See Hawks In LA
Why Can't It Be Like It Used To Be..Mavis Staples
Last Stop Before Home..Rosanne Cash
Venus In Tweeds..Shooglenifty
Icicles In My Meatloaf ..Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
Fear No Evil..Robert Ward
The Race Is On..George Jones
Atomic Power..Uncle Tupelo
There's A Higher Power..The Louvin Brothers
Pretty Polly..Dock Boggs
La Chanson De Prevert..Serge Gainsbourg
Smoke Rings..Sam Cooke
Supermarket Blues..Eugene Mcdaniels
Diamond In Your Mind..Solomon Burke
I Am A Pilgrim And A Stranger..Fern Jones
We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning..Gram Parsons
Ride On-Little Axe
Wolf's Story-Little Axe