Thursday playlist: The music business suffers, babe, but the music thrives

1. Medley: Thine Alone, etc. — Al Payne
2. An Astro Nation of the United Worlds of Outer Space — Sun Ra
3. Mr. Tough — Yo La Tengo
4. Metche New — Mahmoud Ahmed
5. Wedding Dress — Sam Amidon
6. Horsetail Feathers — Final Fantasy

(Download here.)

So here’s some of what I’ve been listening to lately. And as it happens, I’ve heard all these acts live.

Al Payne was my grandfather. He passed away a couple of years ago, and my Uncle Dave did a lot of work with some old live recordings he’d made on reel-to-reel of my grandpa playing piano. Grandpa learned to play by ear when he was a child in southern New Mexico; he played in dance halls in Silver City to make a little money during the Depression. He later got a master’s degree in music and taught band at a small-town high school in addition to playing the piano and organ for his church for decades. This track perfectly captures his mix of old-time jazz and Utah schmaltz.

The Sun Ra track is a pretty rough live recording from 1975, but it’s an awesome song. I saw the Arkestra (sans Sun Ra, who has gone back to the cosmos) years ago when they played with Yo La Tengo. Yo La Tengo I saw most recently a week and a half ago when they played the last free concert EVAR at the McCarren Pool in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. ZOMG it was a great show, not even as hot and sweaty as I’d expected, and the music even inspired me to love the hipsters I had planned to loathe. The show was being filmed for some sort of documentary (hopefully about YLT), so hopefully you’ll all get to see a bit of it sometime.

A few days before the Yo La Tengo show, I went to Lincoln Center to see an outdoor concert of Ethiopian music. One of the performers was Mahmoud Ahmed, a legendary singer who glided onto the stage in a white robe with red sash. His voice is amazing: piercing and soulful, weary and hopeful. The song on this playlist (from the Ethiopiques album devoted to Ahmed) was part of his set.

A couple of days after the Ethiopian show and the night before Yo La Tengo, I went to a new venue in town, Le Poisson Rouge, to hear Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly, and Doveman (Thomas Bartlett), along with a kick-ass violist and a drummer. They played in the round and alternated playing each other’s songs. Doveman I could take or leave (Ben Wolfson called them a boring Mojave 3; I didn’t love Bartlett’s Young Romatic vibe), but the show was pretty great overall. Muhly and Bartlett were adorable together, and Amidon is of course adorable. The boyfriend picked up a copy of this album because Amidon is shirtless on the cover (not a bad reason).

Finally, via Zoilus, a new recording from Final Fantasy, a.k.a. Owen Pallett, an amazing performer who gave one of the most jaw-dropping shows I’ve seen a few years ago at Tonic. His new album is all covers of songs by fellow Canadian Alex Lukashevsky, who I saw at (I think) the Mercury Lounge — a truly compelling songwriter.

But you’ll notice a trend here: It’s all stuff I’d heard before, one way or another. What are you guys listening to these days?

15 responses to “Thursday playlist: The music business suffers, babe, but the music thrives”

  1. I’ve been spending the past couple weeks, since it arrived in my mailbox, listening kind of voraciously to the new Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians box set, Luminous Groove — notes here. Also to the Byrds, in whom I got interested by way of there being two Byrds covers on these discs. Listen to this track: Ivy Alone — it is a demo recording from 92 which never ended up getting produced and making it onto a record (before now) — quite marvellous.

    Also I’ve been listening a lot to Sleepy LaBeef’s version of “Rollin’ in my Sweet Baby’s Arms,” which I am working out a fiddle part to — I’ve got it sounding pretty nice and am going to try leading it at the jam tonight.

  2. Oh also, this morning I was listening to Love and Happiness. That was all right.

  3. Dave says:

    You play fiddle, Modesto? That’s awesome.

  4. farrell fawcett says:

    That Sam Amidon song is gorgeous. Thanks. Also, I got a wistful listening to that piano music by Grandfather Payne.

  5. Dave says:

    Have you heard that Amidon album, Farrell? You should check out the whole thing — it was hard to pick just one song.

    And yeah, Grandpa Payne — takes you back to Virden, right?

  6. That’s awesome

    Well that’s kind of an overstatement — more like “kind of neat”. You can see me playing a couple of tunes at this link.

  7. Tim says:

    How incredibly cool and wonderful is it that your family preserved tapes of your grandfather playing the piano? Way cool and wonderful. Also, that you have digitized them and shared a sample with us is very touching. The playing is really great, too! Listening to it I can picture a dance hall in So. New Mexico — shoes shuffling and dust rising off the wooden floor. Thanks!

    As to Sam Amidon, I’ve only recently come to get it. I tried when Bryan was raving about him, but only had my “aha!” moment last weekend, when I listened to the album all the way through. Devastating.

  8. Dave says:

    My uncle Dave did all the digitizing work. He’s a real audiophile, so after putting hours and hours into making the old tapes sound as good as possible, he still felt compelled to write liner notes apologizing for the sound. I think this track was recorded in my grandparents’ living room at their well-worn console piano, so whatever ambience and noises we can hear actually make it a much more amazing recording for the family.

  9. Dave says:

    Amidon did a “Lope like a buzzard” dance all around the stage at the end of “Johnny Brown.” He’s so great. And I love the arrangements on the album — this Muhly guy is on to something.

  10. swells says:

    What am I listening to these days? I’m listening to you casually drop “the boyfriend” into your post. A little deeply buried in the mix–can that be remastered? I’m listening to the echoes of that and waiting for the faders to go up in the post that tells more. That’s pretty much what I’m listening to. I’m listening to the click of the “refresh” button as I unsatiatedly anticipate more details.

    It’s got a good beat actually.

  11. e. tan says:

    hehe the boyfriend

    i’ve been listening this

  12. Rachel says:

    Good God, Swells, I’m glad you noticed that too.

    I’ve been listening to last year’s Stax box set & giving the Beck/Danger Mouse album a second chance.

  13. Tim says:

    Yes, Swells, I was listening to that myself, but also was thinking about this whole public/private debate we’ve been having. Otherwise, Wooden Shjips, The Notwist, Inara George, and The Art of Field Recording box set from Dust-to-Digital.

  14. Dave says:

    Oh, right, the boyfriend.

  15. Scotty says:

    Cutest comment ever! Did you kick the dirt with your Pro Keds when you typed that?