A LOT of new music over the transom and rattling around my brain this past week.
It seems that I just put the last revisions on the liner-notes for one of Sony’s latest “Essential” compilations — this one on Bill Withers — and there it was, the finished set, already on my porch.
It was a strange way-back-machine trip into the past, floating on the early singles while I tried to fit the pieces of his life and music together. I learned a lot more about his time here in Los Angeles, working in aerospace and focusing his free time on writing and playing so as to save enough cash to put together a demo to take around. I was even able to get some time for a quick interview, which doesn’t always happen with these projects because of time restraints or the balance of logistics.
I slipped it in the player yesterday and it’s still in rotation today, sort of the perfect backdrop for this protracted blast of Indian Summer we’re experiencing here in the Southland.
Earlier in the week, I did something that I have really come to miss over the years, and that’s digging in the CD and vinyl bins at my local (one of the few still standing!) record stores — Canterbury Records. I’m lucky, I have a good one in my neighborhood and stopped in initially for Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos.
Back in the fall of 2011, I saw the first show of the two-night stand in San Francisco at the elegant jewel box American Music Hall that sits just at the edges of the Tenderloin. The evening moved like a freight train. Big, powerful, you felt it push both past and through you. It was great to see progression of tunes shape-shift and carefully honed as the sequence moved from afternoon rehearsal to opening night performance. The extra-special effect of having the brass musicians all seated high up in the balcony, created a bright, surprising splash — a wrap-around effect.
This gorgeous CD package was put together by the great team, Jeff Smith and Al Quattrocchi, at Tornado Design here in L.A., which was why I did not want a virtual copy of this one, I felt I needed something tangible to hold in my hands.
I picked up some a couple of other finds — New Orleans’ Papa Celastin’s “Marie Laveau” and a couple of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown CDs.
Here’s a little preview of the Cooder disc:
The week ended with a nice sense of symmetry; I met up with a long-time friend who I’d been out of touch with then happened to run into a half-dozen more on Saturday. They were all among the lively crew of New Orleans ex-pats and Louisiana music lovers who convened at The Mint for its “New Orleans in L.A.” bill. The lineup featured Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman, first set; Paul Sanchez and His Rolling Road Show with the Tin Men, second.
Stepping out for a little air, I ran into my friend Chuck — an old college classmate, NOLA-native and long-time DJ. He commented on my unreal-for-L.A. parking place ( mere steps away from the venue — I’d somehow completely lucked out.) He called it my “Marie Laveau Parking Place.” How did I pull that one off, I wondered. To which he replied:
“All it takes is an offering and a respectful request”
Plentiful offerings of all kinds to the music spirits this week.
and now a little Papa Celestin ….