Daily Archives: May 20, 2009

122. RL Burnside – “Acoustic Stories”

A pitfall of this review process that I have created for myself is the requirement to listen to the albums in the order they appear on my shelf. Thus I have spent almost a week immersed in the more rootsy world of music. And I must say I’m starting to pine for some rock, rap or the like.

RL Burnside Acoustic Stories album coverAs such, I’m concerned that I might not be doing this album justice. It is a rather subtle effort from one of raw blues’ legends. This is the usually reasonably raucous Burnside getting all soft and gentle, plucking out tunes on an acoustic guitar.

His song-writing is still very good as he navigates very traditional territory – hardship, love gone (very) wrong, poverty – all of which, of course, have got him down.

The playing is sparse. Some of the tunes are pretty funny. The spoken word tale Monkey in the Pool Room contains some hilarious lines, and some gobsmackingly difficult phrases to interpret. He really sounds like he’s speaking some other language.

The pick of the tracks is Skinny Woman. He doesn’t want one… which reminds me of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s views on the matter. Alas he isn’t next in the queue.

File under: Slow and subtle

121. Solomon Burke – “Nashville”

Having conquered the soul arena, it was logical for the enormous force of nature that is Solomon Burke to roll through Nashville bowling over everything in his path.

Solomon Burke album cover NashvilleSolomon is clearly a man with friends in all the right places.  He says “I’d like to do a country album”, and up pop Dolly Parton, Emmy-Lou Harris and Gillian Welch offering to sing along, and Buddy Miller ready to spin the production knobs.

They do a damn fine job.  They find a very workable and attractive middle ground at the intersection of soul and country.  The country is at the “western” end of the spectrum (which I presume has rock at the other end).  Much of the instrumentation is acoustic. The tempo is often thigh slapping speed, and Burke’s voice is right up front.

The song selections are a treat – tunes about money-grabbing ex-wives (Aint Got You), roller-coaster relationships (Seems Like You’re Gonna Take Me Back), and more woman trouble (You’re the Kind of Trouble).

This is a more restrained effort from Burke, but sits comfortably alongside Johnny Cash’s American Recordings as a testament to the power of country music.

File under: The wisdom of Solomon