As STARTLING MONIKER readers can probably tell by now, I don’t do a whole lot of broadcasting or reviewing outside the world of experimental music. This isn’t a reflection of my personal taste, as much as it is a choice to focus on one thing, and attempt to do it well. There’s so much music– even among the limited-run, cdr-friendly fringe world experimental works inhabit– that I rarely have the feeling of being constrained. Every now and then, though, I take a week or two to broadcast my “vacation” shows. These are where I allow myself the freedom to play from any genre, any style, and share all sorts of unheard music with my listeners. It’s truly surprising what sorts of things are unheard, or underrepresented on radio– you can hear a “classic” Aerosmith cut on practically any part of the dial, but their recent blues album “Honkin’ on Bobo” barely got played. To hear radio tell it, Aerosmith disbanded after “Love in an Elevator,” but reformed to record the Armageddon theme “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.”
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this.
My main point is that normal radio sucks. I’d say “corporate” radio, but even the little not-for-profit community station I volunteer for is part of some sort of corporation, so clearly, this word doesn’t mean much. Normal radio not only misses out on handfuls of decent albums by gigantic bands, but has never even heard of the thousands of fantastic albums released by ordinary folks. One example is the Jug Fusion “Box Set” album currently sitting in front of me. Released by cigar box guitar fanatic (and National Cigar Box Guitar Museum curator) Shane Speal’s Insurrection Records label; the album is an amazing construction of blues, rock, surf, and the kitchen sink– er, washtub. It has also been one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard in a long time.
I need to frame this statement a bit. You see, I’m incredibly picky about what blues I listen to. I’ve read enough books and liner notes to know who I’m supposed to like, but the trouble is that I just can’t seem to get with that program. I always end up enjoying the dirtiest, oldest, scariest, most raw things I can find. Son House, Robert Johnson, RL Burnside, and Blind Willie Johnson thrill me to death– but if BB King showed up on my porch, I’d be more interested in his blood sugar than hearing him play another beautiful solo. Honestly, what do you expect from a Merzbow fan?
Anyhow, the first thing I see on this disc is a cover of “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” the Blind Willie Johnson song so amazing it is now floating outside the solar system on the Voyager spacecraft record. Then I spy a medley with Miserlou in it, and since Dick Dale will forever be the king of surf rock– well, let’s just say I was pleased. Don’t even get me started on the instrumentation. Cigarbox guitars, paint-bucket drumsets, Hammond organ, sitar, megaphones, and blown amps are just a handful of the fine instruments; hence the back cover promise: “sounds like the Fat Albert Gang on acid!” Indeed.
And what a mighty blues freakout it is! A well-recorded thick sound of raw slide guitar, walloping drums, lazer sounds, you name it– these are the relatives Jack and Meg White hide from at the holidays, too ashamed to meet their steely gaze. I can see it now: “We had paint buckets and and torn-up Kustom amps. You had a million bucks. How come your last album sucked so bad?”
Well, I did say I was picky. So, instead of flaming me about your love for Jack and Meg’s latest feed-the-hipster colored vinyl EP, get on over to Insurrection Records and educate yourself.
Update: Jug Fusion’s “Box Set” album (and merch) are currently available online through Dark Holler Mailorder. Pick up a Uton album while you’re there for a freakout of a different order.