Category Archives: Whit’s Picks

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 7 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3Take 4Take 5, Take 6


Laika & the Cosmonauts / Local Warming

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

The genius of this Finnish group (1987-2008) was not only that they imported masterful instrumental takes on American surf garage rock back into our record stores, but that they also delivered blistering live shows to prove their point. Local Warming keeps it in cruise control with Sci-Fi guitars, greasy organ hooks, and a punkabilly rhythm section. The vibe veers off into prog and post rock at times, but thankfully never strays too far off the futuristic retro path. Crank up the old hovercraft and blast these instant classics!


Greg Trooper / Floating

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Heart on its sleeve country-rock from a troubadour lifer, the late Greg Trooper. Having penned songs for Vince Gill, Steve Earle (who provides a true fan’s liner notes), Billy Bragg and others, Trooper showcases his beefy baritone on these tough and touching jukebox-worthy originals. Forthright yet dreamily reflective lyrics reveal river-deep themes swirling around love and loss. Masterfully recorded and produced by Americana heavyweight Phil Madeira.


13Ghosts / Cicada

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

This Birmingham, Alabama duo flew low enough under the music biz radar to miss out on fame, but high enough to attract critical accolades. On this stylistically sprawling 21 track album, Brad Armstrong and Buzz Russell share songwriting duties, and while both are lyrically rooted in southern gothic, the music swerves back and forth – sometimes abruptly – between lo-fi avant pop rock and brooding folk. Think Mark Linkous and Elliot Smith (both ghosts themselves) fussing over fuzz pedals and tape loops in some creaky pineywoods cabin. Or better yet, don’t think. Just tune in and tag along on this richly rewarding backroads trip.


Mal Waldron / Soul Eyes : The Mal Waldron Memorial Album

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Not quite the jazz household name as Monk, Bud, or Duke, Waldron was most certainly that special musician’s musician, as well as an accomplished composer and sideman to the likes of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Billie Holliday. This compilation spotlights Mal as both solo artist and house pianist for Prestige Records by showcasing various tracks from the Prestige All-Stars, hard-bopping alongside Coltrane and Webster Young, Steve Lacy and Eric Dolphy. Elegant, melodic, classic bop. Essential listening for even the most casual of jazz fans.


Nina Nastasia / Dogs

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Minimalist chamber folk from Los Angeles singer-songwriter Nastasia. On this, her first album, the musical moodiness is captured clean and bright by Steve Albini’s bone-dry and in your face production. Hints of dissonant strings and the occasional dark drums/goth guitar combo (“Roadkill,” “Nobody Knew Her,” “Jimmy’s Rose Tattoo”) help to cut the treacle of Nastasia’s almost too-sugary sweet vocals. Legendary BBC DJ Jon Peel declared the album “astonishing.”


[Harold Whit Williams is a Content Management Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

Whit’s Picks: Take 6 – Gems from the HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3Take 4, Take 5

Parts & Labor / Stay Afraid

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor droned and thrashed in somewhat obscurity for exactly one decade (2002-2012), but left behind an impressive slab of noise pop albums in the vein of early Hüsker Dü, or a more song-oriented Lightning Bolt. Stay Afraid pushes the faders all the way up with its scorched earth feedback and fuzz, its electronica squeal and hyper-manic drumming, but those sugar-sweet vocal hooks are still up there in the mix (somehow!) front and center. 

Sid Selvidge / A Little Bit Of Rain

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Selvidge, the late great Mississippi Renaissance Man (songwriter/anthropologist/radio producer/record label owner), graciously bequeaths us this collection of Americana classics, with a couple of topnotch originals to boot. His protean vocals moan and yodel on country standards such as Long Black Veil and Swannanoa Tunnel, then growl and screech on old-time rocker Real Thing. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Memphis with gorgeous and understated production by the legendary Jim Dickinson, the songs drip with Delta sincerity, simultaneously breaking the heart while nurturing the lovesick soul.

My Brightest Diamond / Bring Me The Workhorse

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Avant pop singer-songwriter Shara Nova (previously Worden) simply sparkles and shines as My Brightest Diamond. Utilizing her classical voice training from the University of North Texas, Nova served as guest/backup vocalist for the likes of Sufjan Steven, The Decemberists, Laurie Anderson, and David Byrne. But on her debut studio album, Bring Me The Workhorse, she combines these masterful vocals with a slightly skewed, shadowy songcraft that presents something uniquely her own. The etherealness of Kate Bush; the edginess of PJ Harvey. A Goth pop instant classic.

Marc Cary Focus Trio / Live 2009

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

NYC pianist and McCoy Tyner acolyte Cary leads his Focus Trio (bassist David Ewell, drummer/percussionist Sameer Gupta) into jazz hinterlands on this mesmerizing concert recording. A droning intonation of Monk’s classic ‘Round Midnight starts things off, then the trio lets things unravel artfully with intense originals. Cary’s piano beseeches us to hear those notes between the notes while his rhythm section hard bops like a most welcome punch in the gut. Gupta’s classical Indian tabla is highlighted on KC Bismillah Khan, and audio of Malcolm X and Dr. King speeches weave their way in to the mix (Runnin’ Out of Time, and Slow Blues for MLK), adding a historical gravitas to what is already a truly heavy experience. Metaphysical, moving, and masterful.

Soledad Brothers / Voice of Treason

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

The Soledad Brothers were White Stripes garage rock fellow travelers back in the day (guitarist Johnny Walker taught Jack White how to play slide, while White produced their debut album). Having said that, the Ohio natives became more Sticky Fingers than Seven Nation Army. Their third album, Voice of Treason, finds them not only stomping and hollering tried and true swaggering blues, but also mellowing out on tracks such as the sweet and soulful Muscle Shoals-inspired Only Flower In My Bed, or the acoustic Delta-tinged Sons of Dogs. Dig that warm analog tape sound captured by UK producer Liam Watson.  

[Harold Whit Williams is a Content Management Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 5 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3, Take 4

Emily Jane White / Victorian America

 Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Haunted chamber pop-infused indie folk from Oakland’s Emily Jane White. Stark, autumnal, minor-key story songs stack up before the listener like sepia-toned family photos. White’s plucked guitar and sparse piano are formally backdropped by somber strings, cymbal swells, and pedal steel, but it’s in the bleak lyrics her eerie disembodied vocals deliver where each track’s true power lies.

 

Eulogies / Eulogies

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage 

On their self-titled debut, L.A.’s Eulogies mixes thematically heavy lyrics with reverb-drenched back alley indie pop. Coolly restrained with an economy of motion, not a single guitar lick, bass thump, or snare hit is wasted. The band beautifully broods with noir-inspired post-punk, allowing singer/songwriter Peter Walker’s world weary vocals plenty of room to stagger about in his serious moonlight.

William Parker / Long hidden: the Olmec series

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage 

NYC bassist/composer William Parker pushes the boundaries of free jazz and world music alike with this heady and cross-pollinated collection. Parker (solo artist, poet, painter, onetime sideman for Cecil Taylor) displays the deep cultural connections between West Africa and the New World by blending traditional instruments from both areas with gritty downtown avant-garde sax and upright bass. Ancient, modern, and astounding.

  

Palms / It’s Midnight in Honolulu

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Berliner Nadja Korinth and New Yorker Ryan Schaefer meet somewhere in the jet-lagged middle on this mash-up of proto-punk fuzz, darkwave ambience, and krautrock minimalism. Drawing upon such art rock touchstones as VU, JMC, and Neu!, Palms defiantly never settles into a coherent sequence, preferring to bounce back and forth between styles in such a no-wave bliss that it keeps the unsuspecting listener peeking around the next corner for what’s next.

 

Linzay Young & Joel Savoy / Linzay Young & Joel Savoy

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Old time Acadian music from Eunice, Louisiana’s Linzay Young and Joel Savoy. Like an update on Alan Lomax’s field recordings, Young (Red Stick Ramblers) and Savoy (founder of Valcour Records) captured these pre-accordion Cajun standards in just one afternoon with no frills and with no overdubs. Their vocal/fiddle/guitar dynamic rings true with front porch authenticity, and the twin fiddle tunes are simply enchanting. 

  

[Harold Whit Williams is a Library Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources Cataloging for Content Management. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

Whit’s Picks: Take 4 – Gems from the HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2, Take 3


Free Electric State / Caress

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

 Not your typical ethereal shoegaze, Durham, NC’s Free Electric State lays its smoky slab of Carolina alt-rock down heavy upon your picnic plate. Shirlé Hale’s lead vocals stun alongside her band’s densely distorted drone. The song structure and guitar wash of Ride or MBV, but with a more radio-friendly fist-pumping feel. Crank it, of course.

 Willie Buck / The Life I Love

 Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Chicago blues legend Willie Buck steps out from the shadows of Muddy, Buddy, and Howlin’ Wolf on this high-spirited lowdown collection of classics. A native of Houston, Mississippi, Buck drives his boogie-woogie combo further on up the road with a mixture of juke joint whimsy, suave Windy City certainty, and undeniable Delta-cred.  

 

The Eighteenth Day of May

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

The self-titled debut album by this London psych-folk outfit made quite the critical splash across the pond with its shaggy-bearded nods to Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Pentangle, and the Byrds. Behold the acoustic Celtic shimmer! The chiming electric jangle! Behold those bittersweet Summer of Love harmonies! 

 

Brigitte DeMeyer / Something After All

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

California’s Brigitte DeMeyer serves up some serious heartland soul on this Brady Blade-produced roots rock record. The Buddy Miller and Steve Earle covers (with backing appearances by both) lend an Americana helping hand, but it’s DeMeyer’s own tracks here that truly stand out and shine. 

 

John Stetch / Ukrainianism

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Haunting solo piano from Canada’s fellow traveler jazz genius, John Stetch. Classically avant-garde at times (only to be leavened by his family’s ancestral folk songs), Ukrainianism thrills with life-affirming highs, then breaks the heart with slow and dissonant lows. Contains historical notes for each song. A masterful work of art for a nation and its people.

[Harold Whit Williams is a Library Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources Cataloging for Content Management. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

Whit’s Picks: Take 3 – Gems from the HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1, Take 2


Snowdrift / Starry All Over

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Icy, ethereal dream pop from the Pacific Northwest. Kat Terran’s ghostly vocals haunt and swoop high above her band’s north wind din of swirling looped guitars and bass/drum drone. Classic 4AD followers take note.

 

Champian Fulton / The Breeze and I

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Award-winning jazz pianist/vocalist leads her top-notch trio through a thoughtful batch of standards. Tickling the ivories à la Monk while crooning like Sarah Vaughan, thirty-something Fulton champions bebop and bravely marches it forward into the 21st century.

 

Near the Parenthesis / Music for the Forest Concourse

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

From the excellent Oakland electronica label n5MD comes this natural world-inspired ambient theme album. San Francisco-based artist Tim Arndt filters his soft piano through leafblown beats and pulsing synths. To be aurally absorbed as an autumn dusk falls – ask your doctor if Near the Parenthesis is right for you.

 

The Sojourners / The Sojourners

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Vancouver, B.C.’s powerhouse gospel trio strips it all down to the very essence of soul with roots-rock producer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson at the helm. Dense rich harmonies uplifted over a backporch stomp. Whether believer or skeptic, the listener is promised joy, peace, and transcendence.

 

International Jetsetters / Heart is Black

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

This side project of Jesus & Mary Chain guitarist Mark Crozer and drummer Loz Colbert thrills with a filled to the brim imperial pint-sized EP of bittersweet Brit-pop. Not quite shoegaze, not quite psychedelia, just amped-up, fuzzed-out rock and roll glory.

Harold Whit Williams is a Library Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources Cataloging for Content Management. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.