BOCK'N'BOLL JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION QMU, Glasgow, Tue 9. Apr
There has never been a more misappropriated term than ‘the blues’. OK, OK, along with soul and punk, there has never been a more misappropriated musical term. Do the Lighthouse Family have soul? Hell, no! Are Blink 182 punk? Hell, no! So, by that logic, is the rattling bellow of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion really the blues?
Well, yes. But not in the way you might think. Unlike the aforementioned douchebags, Spencer and sidemen Judah Bauer and Russell Simins have realigned the blues as opposed to pointlessly re-flogging its original constituent parts for maximum commercial appeal. The Blues Explosion have been kicking out acerbic jams since 1991, and have in that time knocked out half a dozen mind-blowing albums of wanton, rumbling, tumbling, excitable, heavy breathing rock’n’rol|,which singlehandedly explode the myth that blues only means Robert frickin’ Cray.
It’s true, however, that in the past they have strayed from their original path - previous outings have enjoyed cameos from Beck, Moby and the Beastie Boys - resulting in a cross- pollination between the roots of blues and hip hop. ‘Collaborations were something we had to get outta our system I guess,’ says Spencer.
The good thing about these musical adventures, compared to many back-slapping studio cook-outs, is the same secret ingredient that allows people such as Massive Attack to be musical magpies: at the very heart is something unique and exciting.
For their sixth opus, Plastic Fang, Spencer has
FOLK SHOOGLENIFTY Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Sat
airport and he'd learned all the stuff — even written it out. He
stripped them down to their bare essence: a bass-less, twin guitar assault and skeletal drum set up (with the occasional smattering of keyboards courtesy of Dr John and Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell). This affords a degree of space that means if the music’s funky you can feel it, if it rocks there’s no dilution.
One track, ‘She Said’, captures all that is good about the Blues Explosion: dirty, funky guitar lines, some snapping, hyperactive drums and a wailing, sailing crescendo of a chorus and a raw vocal telling the sorry tale of a true blues outsider - an outsider who this time isn’t the guitarman, gunman or cheating spouse, but a full-blown monster, literally. In this case a werewolf.
‘A lot of the songs on the new record are about monsters and depraved creatures and I wanted a
30 Mar was on stage with us a few
title to reflect that,’ he says. ‘I think it ties in with aspects of aggression that is part of rock’n’roll as well as Showmanship, the more plastic part.’ Jon Spencer, he’s true blues and he’s created a monster, and it’s unleashed in your town now. There’s nothing to do but submit to its every will. (Mark Robertson) I P/ast/c fang is out Mon 8 Apr on i'i/iuz'e.
WIN BLUES EXPLOSION GOODIES Gotta taste for the blues? Well sample for yourself as The List offers you the chance to win a Blues Explosion hoody, T-shirt, a signed album and a radio session CD. Send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to ‘Blues Explosion Competition’, The List, 14 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TE, by Mon 15 Apr.
BT SCOTTISH ENSEMBLE Thu 4 Apr Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh; Fri 5 Apr, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Colin Currie's name is well known to class‘ical audiences. particularly those in
The times are a—changing for Edinburgh's much-loved. world-travelled Shooglenifty as they prepare to join fiddler Aidan O' Rourke's fast-rising Sunhoney in a wild Queen's Hall night of dancey. acid-croft. celtic fusion grooves. Mandolin-Wielding founding member Iain MacLeod has already left the Shoogles ship. to be replaced later this April by a brilliant young Antipodean picker. Bass player Conrad lvitsky. just back from a round-
the-world honeymoon With wife
Skye. reveals more: ‘l'd heard of Luke through the grapevine.
and my wife and I finally met up
With him in Tasmania. He's supercool. Studies classical Greek literature. Doesn't drink or smoke — and he's got a great sense of human. On Boxing Day I left him our CDs and ten days later he met the band as we arrived at Hobart
44 THE LIST 78 Mai '. ' Apr 7007
Pretty ‘nifty with the changes
And there are more changes in the pipeline for the band formed from the ashes of Swamptrash a decade ago in the late-night dives of the capital's Cowgate: Conrad himself is on the move.
‘Yes. Sunhoney's Ouee MacArthur is joining in my place.‘ he says. ‘So this“ be my last gig in Edinburgh. It's Just that I've come to the end for myself. It's been great. but I've been doing this for ten years and there's so much more I want to do. Skye's producing films — she's got a short. called Leyla. about an Iranian woman. premiered in Edinburgh soon — and we plan to do something around the street children problem out in Brazil. I'm fascinated by that country.‘
Brazil's complexity resonates with Conrad's own ethnic mix. His grandfather was a White Russian refugee. and the rest are from Irish emigres to England. via India.
‘lt's tricky to say. but when you play so many folk and celtic music festivals. you realise that nearly everyone is white. Yet the world is Wider. and far more coloured. and I want my music to be like that ~even more open-ended.' (Norman Chalmers;
the percussionist's home town of Edinburgh. Less familiar in these parts — but surely only for the moment —- is composer Joe Duddell, whose new concerto for marimba. percussion and strings »— Snow/blind — is about to be premierer‘l by Currie With the BT Scottish Ensemble. In a i_)rogramme of repertoire written by young composers. the 25) year—old Duddell sits alongside Carl Nielsen. who wrote his Lift/e St/ite at age 213. and the prodigious Felix Mendelssr l‘rl‘: who was only 16 when he produced his exuberant Octet For Strings.
Coming from a background rooted in pop and playing drums II‘. l)éll‘.(lf3. Duddell's interest in composition developed through studying with Steve Martland at the Royal Academy of Music. where he was roughly contemporary With Currie. Working together as part of the Steve lvlartland Band brought about this fusion of Virtuoso performer and composer whose music is characterised by driVing rhythms. a strong melodic sense and rich harmonic language. Currently Lecturer in Composition at Exeter University. Duddell is delighted to be working again With Currie. 'I knew he'd tackle anything.” he says. ‘He's actually had some input to the piece. making really useful suggestions that put the finishing touches on it. The challenge of the piece is that it is not idiomatic writing for marimba. It's more intimate than the usual percussmn concerto. With the mariinba trying to sing With the strings rather than sound like a percussive instrumentf
Taking the baroque three movement form of fast slow — fast. S/iowh/i/id is less traditional in how it got its name. 'lt's actually the title of a book I was reading at the time.' says Duddell. 'I usually use abstract titles. The last time I wrote for tuned percussion. I was really struggling. Someone put on some Blondie. so I called it Pafk’i/lO/ Lines. I like to give every piece a title. but not something boring, like string quartet or concerto.‘ (Carol Main)
Joe Duddell goes blind