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JOHN McCUTCHEON/Joe Hill's Last Will: There's certainly something in the air lately. After not thinking about it for years, I was singing "Joe Hill" in the shower recently, and then this centenary tribute marking the wobblie's execution, by this well traveled folkie, shows up. Funded via a Kickstarter campaign, this is the first recording that covers the Joe Hill songbook ever. Since no one but the fans wanted this, McCutcheon wasn't worried about the indie risk and he didn't just take the money and run as evidenced by the big, full sound delivered by the on board army of folk world luminaries. And if that's not enough, fusing 37 years worth of folkie chops, McCutcheon doesn't make this sound like a Folkways album, he gives it as much of a full bodied pop flavored treatment as can be expected making this something you'd play in the car when you have someone riding with you. These union organizing hymns might have been written over 100 years ago but they still describe the inequities that inspire stuff like the Occupy movement and other forms of dissention against the man. Obviously, if you are a folkie of a certain age, even if you've subsequently sold out all your values other than smoking dope and getting an over priced ticket for the last Dead concert, this will strike an immediate chord. Word to the young and restless: I didn't know passion like this still existed. With less than five months of the year gone, I'm happy to go out on a limb and hail this as one of the best albums of 2015 of any genre. Killer stuff that's long overdue.

ALECTRO/School of Desire: Here's two cats that grew up sitting in the back row of the class, bored out of their minds and not caring a whit what the cool kids were listening or doing. Naturally, the net would bring them together and they would be amazed how they were basically twin sons of different mothers. Outsider surf/punk/spaghetti western music that fuses all the stuff Miss Thing would never allow her boyfriend to listen to, this set colors so far outside the lines that if the words top and forty never rest next to each other in your vocabulary, you can't help but love this underground set that just keeps coming. Certifiably a wild ride well worth taking.

DAVIDE TAMMARO/Ghosts: I feel like I'm detecting a young guitarist with a real taste for 70s fusion blossoming as he makes his way out of the halls of academe and takes on the real world. The only knock here is that this set wears it's budgetary limitations of it's sleeve but it does portend good things for the future from a cat that knows where he wants to go and how to get there.

BASTET/Eye of Ra: Four piece experimental/improv jazz from a young cat that's quickly emerging as a go-to whiz kid that can hit them to all fields. Well done stuff for those that like it to the left of classic Oregon, leader/guitarist Justin Rock knows how to deliver outsider/minimalism that's much more than noodling.

JON POUSETTE-DART/Talk: A likeable cat that is going on 40 years in this biz probably never broke through because of that clown cover on his record released around the time of being the opener on the Frampton Comes Alive tour confused a fickle public that moves on quickly. Meanwhile, he's always wanted to make a record with Reggie Young, who he met 40 years ago on the "Drift Away‘ sessions, and that time is now. With a guest list that will knock any Americana fan off his chair, there's more reasons than that to check this out. A very solid folk-rock/Americana set with a J.J. Cale feel, any real Americana fan would be pleased to have this in rotation on the car stereo. Well done.

MATT MacDOUGALL/Boy Goes to the City: If you're a kid from Canada that relocates to Nashville and wants to make off kilter jazz, it's a smart move to hook up with Jeff Coffin who not only brings his beard to the session but a box full of chops and tricks to make sure the record isn't something you can use multiple copies of to balance wobbly table legs. With a distinct Brooklyn feel running through things, the young and restless that fancy themselves jazzbos can nod and groove to this neo Miles date with a guitarist leading the way all night long.

TIFFANY HUGGINS GRANT/Jonquil Child: In another time, this would have been called country crossover but now the sobriquet is Americana. A nice vocalist whose southern sound was fermented in Georgia before heading to Nashville, this is kind of Oprah country since the songs have an undercurrent of dealing addiction and recovery. Girl friend country that you can't do yoga to, at least it's amiable enough not to hit you over the head too hard with it's messages.

ON THE 20TH CENTURY/new Broadway cast recording: The thing that held this 1978 musical back was that it came out around the time the Broadway bubby paradigm was shifting. A new breed of blue hairs was filling the seats and they were embracing Andy Webber while rejecting the stalwarts as last year's fashion. Add to that how this show was set in the 30s and had a title that felt like Dorothy Fields might have written it in the 30s and newly liberated bubbies were rebelling. The show had a nice run but Comden, Green and Coleman were denied the glory of being acknowledged for delivering a winner. What a change 40 years makes. Now acknowledged as a classic, the current Broadway revival lives up to all promises and expectations. A show biz musical about a bunch of show biz people taking a train ride from Chicago to New York (yeah, the train was called "The 20th Century", and this is what happened on the 20th Century as cast laments getting screwed by a shifty producer), it might be old school flavored but it's right in the moment. This is how a Broadway musical should be presented. Killer stuff.

FUN HOME/new Broadway musical: Shifting from Public Theatre to Broadway, this new expanded edition doesn't lose any of the flavor of the original keeping it one of the most striking new works for Broadway and musicals. Fox Theatricals has a hand in this show and if they keep out of everyone's way that made this such a mighty work, they are going to have one killer movie on their hands. The label released the Public Theatre version of this last year and both are well worth having. Check it out.

BEETLE BAILEY/65th Anniversary Collector's Edition: Do you think the kids today would believe you if you told them there were once cartoons on Sunday morning? Bailey shared a half hour with Ignatz and Krazy Kat and some others on Sunday morning. Since the end of Viet Nam War, Bailey has lost some of it's steam but you can't deny glories to Bailey and creator Mort Walker. The 50 cartoons rolled out here was from 1963 and these have been batted around over the years, but this is the first time they've been available in a presentation box with extras that tip the cap to cartoon stalwart Walker. The original army slacker, Bailey wandered across various media since his inception in 1950 when we were just coming out of WWII and hadn't even thought about Korea yet. This is a fine tribute to Mort Walker, still going strong at 92, who has given us as much of an enduring work as "Peanuts". Not just for TV/animation historians.

Volume 38/Number 201
May 20, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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