Heat and rust
‘It’s sort ofwhere I'm from. it‘s not like a big schtick with me. Honestly. I just mostly used those themes because it’s what’s close to me.‘
Through a cracked lens and a voice of tensile steel strains does the imagery of Chris Whitley’s America emerge. As demonstrated by this 30-year-old Texan’s sublime debut album of last year, this is the sound and feel of the backwoods and the byways, gritty and dusty, bluesy and true. Living With The Law finds Whitley drawing on his accumulated experiences of a lifetime on the move — from Texas to Mexico to a log cabin in Vermont to New Orleans via Belgium — then refracting these through the dreamscape props of a continental hinterland.
‘For these songs, these were the most pertinent symbols and landscapes,’ he muses. ‘If I’m trying
Trick or treat?
So, along with the rest oi sane civilisation, you’ve iatlen iorthe ‘dorky American with guitar and a liletime oi pent-up aggression to share' recipe. Nirvana strike a chord and a blow at everyturn and you’ve unearthed Mudhoney’s back catalogue again. Right now it ieels like the American underground has never been more in evidence, and all the time new messiahs are being led to hungry, awkward kids. Pearl Jam, Hole, Superchunk, Nymphs. . . and Chicago’s Smashing Pumpkins.
Smashing Pumpkins otter something iorthe more reiined palate; ior those who dig Zep-like meaty riiiola (cough) as much as the next bod, but have room ior something sweet alter the main course. There are more shades on their debut album ‘Gish’ than on Phil Schoiield's garish garment. The only thing their peers have overthem is a sense at humour, but then singer/ songwriter Billy Corgan is A Very Serious Young Man.
‘I just come irom the Velvet Underground school oi things, whereas a lot oi the Seattle bands come from the
Stooges school. They’re more rooted in a punk ethic and my ethic I would call a little more -I hate to say it-arty or aesthetic.’
Nevertheless, reassure us that we're not inventing some American invasion irom our side oi the water. There is currently some iorm oi musical revolution in the States, isn’t there?
‘There is a resurgence oi interest in alternative music because people are sick oi having music handed to them. People who listen to heavy metal are sick oi the poodle hair, and they’ve started turning to other bands because the things they like about rock can exist in alternative music without all the bullshit. it’s almost like a simpliilcation, just going back to the basics oi energy.’
However, Billy sees a downside to the upsurge. ‘There’s a lot at people
; who tollow wherever there’s smoke.
Just imagine how many mini-Nirvanas
‘ we're about to get.’ Still, no lire
5 without smoke, or something like that. (Fiona Shepherd)
, Smashing Pumpkins play Calton
Studios, Edinburgh on Sun 9.
Favourites such as ‘Peter And The Woli’ and ‘Carnival 0i The Animals’
and strings, is based loosely on Aesop’s ‘Fables’ and its lour sections
_, = / . w.
Jim Mullen As the Scottish jazz scene wakes up from its mid- winter slumbers. the Paisley Arts Centre is amongst the first to get into the action with a modest week-long festival devoted to the music. The Tcnncnts Paisley Jazz Festival will feature three main concerts, supported by a series of free gigs in the bar.
The most interesting event is inevitably the return ofcxpatriate Scots Jim Mullen and Bobby Wellins. a concert arranged in association with the Scottish Jazz Network. The pair
E teamed up for a tour in an
earlier SJN season. and are joined this time by the excellent Brian Kellock
Their bop-based approach will be in contrast to both the jump-jive of the Festival’s
i opening nightattraction.
Craig McMurdo & That Swing Thang. and Le Jazz 1 lot Orchestra. an
expanded version of the popular Swing trio,
although applying the term ‘orchestra’ to a
six-piece probably ranks as a major delusion of grandeur. Nonetheless. both will be fun.
The supporting programme of free gigs is well-chosen. and although
have earned themselves a lirm place in the world oi musical menageries. Set to join these classical creatures is a whole evening‘s programme oi new animal-inspired works to be premiered in a themed concert at Edinburgh’s
are mainly about dwellers oi the sea: dolphins and whales, ilying fish and
1 small iish. No less than ten ol Scotland's leading composers have
: donated a three-minute song each to ‘An Animal Song Book’, a collection oi
to put across a certain bent, maybe a kinda cruel vibe in a song, I’ve used the words “barbed-wire" or “rusty”, because symbolically it puts you in a certain place.‘
That certain place having an
honesty and eye-to-eye directness that cleaves tightly to the blues and brittle country traditions, the same themes marshalled by other so-called country/roots artists like Joe Ely or Lyle Lovett.
But unlike the former’s real rockin’ tendencies or the latter’s dabblings with big band jazz, Chris Whitley plumps for something more stressed, with a wiry sparseness to his National Steel guitar pickings and a plaintive adroitness in his longing voice.
‘Yeah, it’s the way that I understand and I think,’ he says of the space in his songs. ‘I don’t like a lot of detail, things that are ear-catching, spectacular little sounds that are unnecessary. I like basic ideas, and things that are more . . . cerebral. I like that sort of clarity.’ (Craig McLean)
Chris Whitley plays King Tut’s, Glasgow on Sat 1.
Queen’s Hall presented by ECAT Contemporary Music. Given in aid ol the Scottish Society tor the Prevention oi Cruelty to Animals, the concert will ieature two main new works. ‘Moral Tails' by 21-year-old Edinburgh composer Jane Gardner, ior two pianos
W Jane Gardner
songs covering all sorts oi aspects oi
. animal lite, irom domestic dogs and
cats to a consumer’s guide to buying a horse. Perlormers will be Siisan
’ Mackenzie-Park, Christopher Hobkirk
(singers) and Elizabeth Mucha (piano) with instrumentalists from St Mary's Music School. Other Edinburgh schools — Leith Academy and Portobello High — have worked alongside Jane Gardner on a special educational project related to the animal theme, and their new works on battery hens and lox-hunting will complete the programme. Compere iorthe evening is the aptly-named Jackie Bird, the BBC newscaster, and the concert will be recorded by the BBC ior iuture transmission on Radio Scotland. (Carol Main)
An Animal Song Book is at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on Sun 2.
strongly rooted in swing and traditional styles. alsc offers the Latin-ﬂavoured mainstream music of Perdido. and the ethnic inﬂuences of Aboganza. The Festival runs from Sat l-Sun 9 (see listings for details).
Assembly Direct. meanwhile. return to the fray with a new sponsor for a five concert season at the Queen's Hall, which will now open on Fri 7 with the redoubtablc Tam White. and not trumpeter Roy Hargrove as previously announced. The Rolling Rock Jazz Season will also include a visit from the great McCoy Tyner. and the Scottish debut ofa rather newer pianist.Julian Joseph. (Kenny Mathieson)
28 The List 31 January — 13 February 1992