Si Kahn-New Wood

August 5, 2008

Si Kahn

New Wood (1974) (Philo Records)

Si Kahn was heavily involved in the civil rights movement and founded Grassroots Leadership which advocates prison reform. He even wrote a book dedicated to the dangers of privatization upon democracy. His activist roots are readily apparent on New Wood, his debut album. His singing is so disarming and earnest and it is hard to believe that his weathered vocals aren’t the work of a much older soul. Si Kahn’s music paints a picture of blue collar labor, rural Americana and those forgotten by the government. New Wood is tribute to the working man and woman and a way of life that is slowly decaying.

On the surface, New Wood is a humble country-folk album, but his lyrics are so heartbreaking in how they detail the hopelessness and angst of the characters who populate his songs. I especially love “Blue Ribbon for the Boys at the Bar” and how it captures the camaraderie to be found at the local watering hole while addressing the sad nature of all the patrons on the stools. This album is the epitome of bittersweet because he romanticizes rural life, but never fails to describe the tragic underbelly of each subject’s existence. On the surface, “Better Half of You” is a tender tune about compatibility. but there is also an undercurrent that this guy has fucked up so many times and is somewhat deluded in his optimism. This double life inherent in each song is what draws me to each of Si Kahn’s narratives of folks dealing withe inevitable ups and downs in their lives.

Tindersticks-BBC Sessions

August 5, 2008


BBC Sessions

Just look at the kisser on this fella. You know he’s got some naughty sentiments to whisper into your ear at 3am. His classy sleazeball looks match the deep, sultry growl of his baritone crooning. Yes, there is an air of a bonafide “man crush” going on here. From the first time I heard Stuart Staples celebrate his hairy chest in song and weave a seedy tapestry of drunken sex in restrooms and wanton women, it was destined to be a music love affair for the ages.

I always was a sucker for the schmaltzy side of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Birthday Party were too histrionic for my questionable taste and his screeching preacher tunes never excited me. However, I do love me some of his sappy ballads. “The Ship Song” and The Good Son album in particular still gets me terribly misty and sentimental. Since much of the Tindersticks work reminds me of a moody, orchestrated take on Cave’s most tender moments crossed with Lee Hazlewood, I tend to be a sucker for all of their work. Plus, the man sang a duet with Isabella Rosselini for gods sake.

This is a collection of their BBC Sessions and they don’t stray too far from the source material. The edges are a bit rougher, but Stuart Staples sounds even more desperate and pained on these live versions. Plus, it includes their cover of Pavement’s “Here” which eliminates the snarky irony and casts it as a baroque tale of a man at the end of his rope. I like the original fine, but this one possesses an epic sweep that Pavement couldn’t muster. Overall, this is a great introduction to the band since it includes mush of their best material while neglecting lesser tunes on later albums.