Brittany Howard, leader of the band Alabama Shakes, is up for four Grammy Awards this year in four different musical categories. Defying musical categorization is something Howard has done since the beginning of her career, but this year she’s stretched those boundaries even further. Her first solo album, Jaime, was released in September and is up for Best Alternative Music Album. It’s an award Alabama Shakes won as a band in 2016 for Sound & Color.
“Stay High” is nominated for best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. An early release of the single “History Repeats”, which is included on Jaime, was nominated in this category last year, and these awards were won by Alabama Shakes in 2016 for “Don’t Wanna Fight”.
Brittany is also up for Best American Roots Performance for “Short and Sweet”. This is an award Alabama Shakes won in 2018 for “Killer Diller Blues” from the documentary movie American Epic Sessions. Here’s a solo acoustic version.
Finally, Brittany is up for Best R&B Performance for “Goat Head”. This is Howard’s first nomination in this genre. Here’s a live performance featuring the killer band she’s put together, from the Save Our Stages Festival. The lyrics, which start at about 1:30 are worth the wait.
Elvis Costello will release a new album, Hey Clockface, on October 30th. It’s been over 40 years since the release of his first, 1977’s My Aim Is True, and two years since his most recent, 2018’s Look Now. Hey Clockface was mostly recorded in the before times at studios in Helsinki, Paris and New York, though some tracks were assembled in pieces post-quarantine. The different recording locations brought different musicians into the project, promising a wide spectrum of sound for the album’s fourteen tracks.
Costello has already released the three tracks recorded in Helsinki, where he worked on his own, playing all the instruments. All dish up social and political commentary against edgy instrumentals. Here are “No Flag” and “We Are All Cowards Now”.
Thinking back to My Aim Is True, every track was a classic in my book. Here’s a 2011 performance of the romp, “Mystery Dance”, by Elvis and The Imposters.
In an online article in Variety, Costello mentions that while it didn’t work out for Hey Clockface, he’d like to get back together with Nick Lowe at some point. Sounds like more albums to come. “Don’t bury me ’cause I’m not dead yet.”
A couple of weeks ago a friend turned me on to the keyboard wizardry of Lachlan “Lachy” Doley. Thanks, Rainer! Doley is an Australian whose 2019 album Make or Break debuted at the top of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Jazz and Blues Chart. A solo artist and group leader since 2011, Doley has also been a session player since the 1990’s.
Here’s the 2016 live performance of “Stop Listening to the Blues” that got me going on this post. Doley is known for playing Hammond organs, which are among the most incredible sounding and beautifully complicated electromechanical devices ever created. It’s wonderful to hear artists like Doley keeping that sound alive.
The keyboard parked on top of the Hammond is a Hohner Clavinet (another amazing instrument with strings and pickups under the keyboard) equipped with a monster whammy bar. Here’s Doley doing his best Hendrix imitation.
Digging into Doley’s past took me on a detour to the Australian band, Powderfinger. Doley played on the band’s fifth studio album, Vulture Street, which won the 2003 ARIA award for Best Rock Album. Doley then toured with the band from 2007 to 2010. Here’s “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind” from Vulture Street. The song doesn’t feature Doley, but there’s a point.
While I haven’t seen Powderfinger compared to the legendary Australian band INXS, seems to me their lead singer Bernard Fanning is trying to channel a bit of Michael Hutchence in this video. And though Fanning is pretty good, Australia may never see another Micheal Hutchence.
In November 2019 Beck released his fourteenth studio album, Hyperspace. The album was co-produced by Pharrell Williams who shared song writing credits on most of the tracks. Here is an entertaining rendition of “Uneventful Days” from an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel in December. Prescient lyrics. And the set starts out looking like a bad home office fading into one of those Zoom virtual backgrounds.
Earlier in 2019 Cage the Elephant released their fifth album, Social Cues, and took home their second Rock Album of the Year award at the 2020 Grammy’s. Here’a the psychedelic video for the title track. I’m not sure what happens if you text the phone number.
Beck appeared as co-lead singer on “Night Running” from Social Cues. The song gave its name to the 2019 concert tour Beck and Cage the Elephant co-headlined.
If you feel like watching a couple more videos, definitely check out the career-launching songs of Beck, “Loser”, and Cage “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”. You’ll see why Cage’s lead singer Matt Schultz said, “Beck’s tunes have helped shape my life and musical palette.”
It feels a bit odd to end Friday conversations with “Have a great weekend” these days, with no travel, no restaurants, no bars, no concerts, no sports, and not much else brewing to separate weekend from weekday routines. Hopefully it won’t be long before the weekend resumes its rightful place in the rhythms of our lives.
During a conversation this past Friday, lamenting another weekendless weekend, I was introduced to the O’Jays “Living for the Weekend”. Thanks, Spencer! The song was released in 1976, in the middle of the group’s run of classics. Don’t know why I can’t recall it, but maybe clocking in at over six minutes it didn’t get the air play of “Love Train” or “Use ta Be My Girl”. Let the O’Jays sing you through the entire weekend cycle from Friday pay check to Sunday wind down.
A year after “Living for the Weekend”, Dave Edmunds released “Here Comes the Weekend”. The song was co-written by Dave’s regular collaborator and sometime bandmate Nick Lowe, and only demands your attention for a radio-friendly two minutes. Here’s a nice live version.
Among the goofier weekend homages is “Party Weekend” by Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns from 1980. It has a special place in my heart, though. On Friday afternoons in the 1980s, Jonathan “Weasel” Gilbert – DJ for Washington D.C.’s progressive rock station WHFS – played “Party Weekend” along with “Here Comes the Weekend” to close his Frantic Friday shows. Have a great weekend.