Hey Pussycat (3/16/2001)
Lisa Angelle, Lisa Angelle (Dreamworks Records 2000) - I don't understand why Nashville insists on tarting up every new female singer from Music Row. But that is what happened to Lisa Angelle, a New Orleans singer/songwriter who has joined with old studio hand Andrew Gold for her debut recording.
Angelle began her professional recording career at eight. Recalls the artist, "I did a Tasty Donuts jingle." Lisa's been around the block more than once; she served a stint on Capitol Records, moved to Los Angeles, and tendered songs in Nashville, including the number one country hit for Wynonna, "I Saw the Light"(1992).
The musicians on Lisa Angelle include Steven Conn on squeezebox, veteran Dan Dugmore on steel guitar, Stuart Duncan on violin, Andrew Gold on electric and acoustic guitars and keyboards, John Hobbs on keyboards, George Merinelli on electric guitar, Tom Roady on percussion, Biff Watson on acoustic guitar, Lonnie Wilson on drums, Glenn Worf (from Kevin Welch's excellent band) on bass, and Paul Mills on viola and bells.
Angelle finds herself influenced by the Crescent City. Says Lisa, "In New Orleans, there are no boundaries . . . I like to write about real life. Real life is twisted by contradictions and extremes."
Lisa Angelle is a class A Nashville production, filled with solid production values. Thus, "I Don't Know Why" shows a touch of Patsy Cline in the vocals. Yet the album suffers from cliched Nashville lines: "A Woman Gets Lonely" leads to "I Wear Your Love" heading to the just-a-touch-of twang in "I Don't Know Why."
And the album includes the obligatory "controversy song"; the track, "Daddy's Gun," is based on a story Lisa read about a 12-year-old boy in Iowa who ended his father's daily beatings with a shotgun blast.
Angelle has interesting anecdotes about her songs. Says the singer, "The ingredients for 'I Didn't Want to Know' are: four years of a bad boyfriend, a front porch, woman's intuition, a bathroom window, and bamboo."
Lisa continues. "The song '4,3,2,1' started with me sitting in my white Mustang in the parking lot in the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel in Studio City, California. It was nighttime and I was staring out at Ventura Boulevard, counting the beats between the red lights at the intersection."
Lisa Angelle is made for the masses. And that's why this Louisiana beauty fails to click unlike her fellow Delta resident, Lucinda Williams, whose wrenching classic, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, was written from the heart.
Pushcar, Apartment D (Tarantism 2000) - Apartment D is one of the best indie projects that I've heard in months. Blending L.A. rock with some of the textures found in the Pixies, Pushcar creates a sonic whole on Apartment D.
Pushcar consists of Jim Saunders and Chris Farrell, who partnered to compose and arranged the 12 tracks on Apartment D. Chris and Jim provided guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, and percussion. Big surprise: "the album was recorded in Jim's apartment D in Santa Monica, CA."
The duo enlisted a host of friends for backing support, including Robert Gregorio on guitars, David Kim on programing and keyboards, and Damon Marshall on drums.
From the sunny pop of "Defiant Song" to the introspective rocker, "No Waste of Space," through the Houses of the Holy-influenced "Limbo," Pushcar delivers the goods. Explains the band, "three months into the recording, Chris took off on a 13-month trip around the world, while back in apartment D, Jim worked his production mastery."
While Chris may have been absent from the apartment, his contributions continued, as Jim used lines from Chris' postcards to finish the songs. In addition, "standing in the pouring rain near midnight at phone booth somewhere in Athens," Chris and his girlfriend called Jim's answering machine and spoke the words you now hear during the intro to "Out Here in the Sun."
These strange doings led to a flawless album. Apartment D is a labor of love, a rock gem that should be heard by everyone who enjoys a good record.
For more information, contact:
Attn: Jim Saunders
2315D Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Southern Culture on the Skids, Liquored up and Lacquered Down (TVT Records 2000) - Southern Culture on the Skids (that's SCOTS for short) are the reigning heirs to the B52's. With songs that veer from the silly to the sublime, and a walking encyclopedia of music styles, SCOTS hits the spot.
Liquored up and Lacquered Down is the band's seventh full length CD, and follows a pair of successful releases on Geffen, including Dirt Track Date (1995). The band is centered in North Carolina, and includes longtime leader Rick Miller on guitars and vocals, Mary Huff on base and vocals, Dave Hartman on drums, and newcomer Chris "Cousin Crispy" Bess, who signed up for keyboard duty in 1988.
SCOTS was formed in 1985 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where Miller earned an art degree. The band brings a party feel, intermixed with an incredible swirl of blues, boogie, soul, and swamp. Thus, "King of the Mountain" opens with a T-Rex styled guitar lead; "Haw River Stomp" is a smooth swamp-rocker; and "Corn Licker" is driven by a swinging organ.
The band's party feel comes through most clearly on "I Learned to Dance in Mississippi," while "Over it" shows Everly Brothers-influenced vocals.
SCOTS' broad-based style comes from Miller's upbringing. Recalls the vocalist, "We had one AM radio station where I grew up, and since the town was half-black and half-white, he had to do a mix. I would hear everything from the Dave Clark Five to Buck Owens to Booker T and the MG's to Aretha Franklin. It was an incredible mix."
There is a liberal dose of booze on Liquored up and Lacquered Down, culminating in the centerpiece in the album, "Drunk and Lonesome Again."
The band member who deserves more of a chance is singer Mary Huff, who only steps up to the microphone on two tracks, including the surf-influenced "Hittin' on Nothing." Her sweet version of "Just How Lonely" is the track that comes closest to having a pop sheen, and brings to mind the honey-voiced Tara Nevins of Donna the Buffalo.
The band tells incredible tales of life on the road, perhaps blending fact and fantasy. One memorable night occurred when they dropped in on the late blues legend Junior Kimbrough's Juke joint in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Rick Miller describes the folk art on the walls: "Somebody from the hills of North Mississippi had painted this mural of what he thought it must be like in the South Pacific. So he had volcanos going off and macked-out guys with big Afros on surf boards."
Drummer Dave Hartman picks up the story. "First thing I saw when I walked in the door - that is, after passing a refrigerator where they sold quarts of beer - was this heavy-set black woman bent over holding her ankles and rubbing her ass into this guy's crotch. He turned around like he was used to seeing me and hollered, 'Oh, Lord God!'"
Booze flows freely on Liquored up and Lacquered Down. But SCOTS is a much better than average band.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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