On his third solo outing -- and his second with his backing band Great Southern -- Allman Brothers lead guitarist Dickey Betts moves back into the deep-fried Southern boogie that the Brothers are (in)famous for and serves it up with just a smidgen of country and comes out with another winner.
Once again the mood is laid back and greasy with the guitars taking center stage in a funky, spunky mix that concentrates as much on the backbeat as it does on the swinging Southern boogie blues. Hence Betts digs deep into New Orleans as a source of inspiration on tracks like "Good Time Feeling," "Dealin' With the Devil," and "Back on the Road Again." Again relying heavily on the harmonica stylings of Topper Price for color and nuance, Betts uses this cue as a way of bringing the entire band into the proceedings this time out. While it's true that his guitar is the centerpiece of the album, Great Southern is present more as a unit than as Betts' backing band. On the title track, a ballad that offers a ghostly narrative of the end of the Civil war, Betts also uses Bob Dylan's backing choir of Bonnie Bramlet, Clydie King, and Shirley Mathews for added emotional impact as well as a string section. While the string section could have been dispensed with, it doesn't hurt too much as the integrity of the song is so focused and sharp it's a minor nuisance. Production on this set is a bit muddier than on the Great Southern album that preceded it, and this is a good thing. There is more immediacy in the band's presence on the record than the studio's. Given that this was issued in 1978, when the bottom was about to drop out of rock & roll in favor of things like new wave and rap, this album holds up surprisingly well over two decades later. The shuffle and roll that was then Betts' trademark is refreshingly untouched by the production or musical excesses of the time. There is no attempt to be "relevant" or "cutting edge." But there is no retro feel on this disc either; it sounds consistent with a man's vision who's always considered himself right on time and still does. Loud, tough, and funky, Atlanta's Burning Down is a winner.
In 2001, Ekkehard Ehlers released a compositional cycle of abstract tributes to artistic personalities. Released as a string of five EPs and singles on Staubgold and Bottrop-Boy throughout 2001 and early 2002, they were later culled and issued by Staubgold as Ekkehard Ehlers Plays in May of that year. The album comprises ten tracks, two per artist. Ehlers' music never references the works of its namesakes.
Instead it draws inspiration from a certain state that the music of Cornelius Cardew, Albert Ayler, and Robert Johnson, the films of John Cassavetes, and the writings of Hubert Fichte create in Ehlers' mind. Although each set has its own character, associating it with the corresponding artist simply doesn't work -- and to add to the intentional confusion, the order in which the EPs' titles are listed on the front cover and the actual track list given in the booklet differ. Ehlers' music draws on German experimental ambient and minimal techno, but also post-rock melancholy and drone-based improvisation. The best pieces are the two "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Albert Ayler" tracks, featuring slow cello notes (almost drones) by Anka Hirsch. They sound like funeral marches. The two "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Hubert Fichte" tracks, with delicate guitar work by Joseph Suchy, also captivate. On the other hand, the dancefloor-friendly beat in the concluding "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Robert Johnson" brings things to an awkward end.
This album generates its own universe of cultural references but, beyond its conceptual side, it draws the listener into a highly introspective sound world, slow-changing and mesmerizing. It eschews the clichés of clicks + cuts, microsound, or any other trend rooted in experimental electronica at the time, making it definitely one of the strongest, most personal artistic statements of 2002. Highly recommended.
Ronnie Hawkins is known for many things but ballads are not one of them. Bear Family’s 2011 set proves this to be a misconception, illustrating that Hawkins is as adept with a slow burn as he is with a hopping rockabilly beat. Strictly speaking, these aren’t all ballads, at least not in the folk sense: there are plenty of those, but there are bluesy grinds, swaying slow dance crossovers, rolling progressive country, and any number of slow tunes, all of which are handled with ease by Hawkins.
Bear Family’s generous 30-track disc skips through the eras with grace, with simple early-‘60s sides sitting next to slicker ‘70s productions, but the disc never plays schizophrenically; rather, the shifting sounds reveal how Ronnie Hawkins could always deliver a song with unassuming skill.