Doug DeLoach's new music top 5
Flap, Bill Pritchard, and more 2017 standouts to hear now
Various Artists | The Hired Hands: A Tribute to Bruce Langhorne
In February, Scissor Tail Records released a 32-track compilation featuring artists reinterpreting songs and interludes from Bruce Langhorne’s spare, meditative soundtrack to Peter Fonda’s 1971 Western, The Hired Hand. The offbeat film, starring Fonda, Warren Oates, and Verna Bloom, marked Fonda’s directorial debut. Contributions to the collection include languid prairie-soaked evocations by Lee Ranaldo (“Harry and Hannah”) and Susan Alcorn (“Hello Goodbye Hello”), artfully improvised soundscapes by John Fahey (“Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today”) and Daniel Bachman (“The Sound of the Sun”), and furiously twanging outlier cuts by Elliott Sharpe (“Eon Blur Changer”) and Eugene Chadbourne (“Graveyard — Response to Dead Girl”). A gifted and largely unheralded (until recently) guitarist, percussionist, and composer, Langhorne accompanied most of the folk stars of the Sixties including Odetta, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. In April, he passed away at age 78, less than two months after the release of The Hired Hands, proceeds from which helped cover the cost of his hospice care.
Faun and a Pan Flute | 2004-2016
“As far as we’re concerned, this is Faun in its most robust incarnation,” proclaims David Gray in the liner notes for Faun and a Pan Flute’s second album, 2014-2016, and the lead guitarist for the band is absolutely correct. In concert, Atlanta’s premier folk-chamber-jazz-rock ensemble tends to fluctuate between delightful, groove-oriented swing, edgily discordant rock and disconcerting what-the-frak-is-that-noise. By contrast, the half-dozen tracks on 2014-2016 are infused with a pleasantly proportional balance of compositional structure, improvisational abandon and shimmy shaking soul. Thrumming, minimalist passages segue into jagged percussive excursions, which flow into languorously swinging romps that resolve into exultantly orchestrated outros, making for a sublimely engaging listening experience.
FLAP | Novelty Stop
Novelty Stop is a musical jack-in-the-box jammed with superlative instrumental pyrotechnics, seriously catchy hooks and hilariously imaginative lyrics courtesy of FLAP, Atlanta’s self-proclaimed “danger folk” guitar duo (Andy Hopkins and Matt Miller). From a dozen original tracks loosely based on the novelty song format, listeners will howl with delight at the plight of the unemployed pet owner in “Doggie Day Care,” facepalm with incredulous glee at the hapless protagonist in “Nickel Smart, Dime Dumb,” and chuckle themselves silly while marveling at the melodic zigging and rhythmic zagging of “One-Man Georgia Funeral Home Disaster.” FLAP’s collection of fractured fables belongs in everyone’s music box.
Bill Pritchard | Amplituba
Amplituba is a four-track CD of music for tuba and electronic effects composed and performed by Bill Pritchard. As a regular member of the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra and veteran of numerous classical ensembles, Pritchard handles the most unwieldy of brass instruments with consummate dexterity and vividly imaginative panache. On “Green Lady” he lays down a New Orleans second line groove spiked by bleeps, buzzes and fuzz-wah distortion. “Entanglement” is riven with low register rumbling offset by piercing Fifties sci-fi soundtrack shrieks. Drone-y and reverb-laden, “Lenny, I’ll Do My Best” proffers a spookily spectral, meditational tone. “For Cliff,” an unbridled tubular feedback/note-shredding confab, provides an outlet for Pritchard’s hardcore roots to shine through darkly. Getting one’s ears wrapped around Amplituba takes some doing, but, once the work is done, the reward is ample enough.
The debut release of works by New Hampshire-based Heather Gilligan, a rising star among younger American composers, points to the robust health of the “art song,” an often-overlooked subset of the contemporary classical music scene. Through six song cycles for soprano voice and varying instrumentation, Gilligan demonstrates deft control across a spectrum of styles augmented by a deeply empathetic ear for the poetry, which serves as inspirational framework both for the composer and soprano Margot Rood. “Finer Points,” a three-song cycle based on poems by Lisa DeSiro, was written for Rood and percussionist Caleb Herron, artistic director of Atlanta-based Chamber Cartel, who performed the cycle at Orpheus Brewing in August. On Living in Light, the duo gives Gilligan’s composition a poignant, beautifully evocative rendering distinguished by Rood’s luminous, crystalline intonation and impeccable articulation and Herron’s sparkling precision on xylophone, toms, cymbals, and other instruments.
Doug DeLoach has been writing about music for Creative Loafing since the early 1980s. He is also a regular contributor to ArtsATL.com, Georgia Music, and Songlines, a London-based world music magazine. Currently, DeLoach lives in Decatur with Ellen Poulsen and their feline and canine companions, LC, Pete, Hank, Pearl, and Buck.