by Brian Goslow
There's no better example of a rock and roller growing
old gracefully than Ray Davies. He's not only managed to reinvent
himself (and his band) endless times but never failed to understand there's no
better music in the world than that which he made with the early Kinks. His new
CD, The Storyteller (Konk), mixes acoustic versions of Kinks songs
(which you may have seen on VH-1) with new studio material, which is being
featured by Nick DiBiasio on Against the Grain every Saturday evening
from 8 p.m. to midnight on WICN (90.5 FM).
"He [Davies] originally did it [the live shows] to promote his book
[X-Ray], but they went so well, especially around here, he kept doing
them," says DiBiasio, who especially likes the title track and "London Song."
He also loves the soundtrack to Robert Redford's new movie, The Horse
Whisperer (MCA). "There's a brand new song by Lucinda Williams,
`Still I Long for Your Kiss,' which is also slated to be on her new CD, due out
in late summer, and Emmylou Harris does a cover of a Chris Smither's
song, `Slow Surprise.'" Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, the
Mavericks, and Flatlanders are also featured.
When you compare someone to one of the greats, you're asking for it. "The
High Llamas' Cold and Bouncy (V2) is reminiscent of the Beach
Boys' Pet Sounds." How close? "Pretty close," DiBiasio says confidently.
"It has the harmonies, the music, and lots of instrumentals." He's also pleased
with Bonnie Raitt's Fundamental (Capitol), which features a great
cover of Willie Dixon's "Round and Round." "It has a more modern sound than her
past three or four albums, which all sounded the same. Producer Mitchell Froom,
who adds his own distinct sound in the same way Daniel Lanois does, also worked
on the most recent releases by Los Lobos, whose guitarist, David Hidalgo, plays
and contributes backing vocals and cowrote `Cure for Love.'"
Nick Lowe returns with Dig My Mood (Upstart). "He's really toned
down from his basher days. Now, he's more of a country gentleman, with the
corny backing vocals and strings reminiscent of 1960s Nashville," says
DiBiasio, who's also been airing Ramblin' Jack Elliott's Friends of
Mine (High Tone), which features duets with Jerry Jeff Walker,
Emmylou Harris, and Bob Weir. Weir helps bring the Grateful Dead's
"Friend of the Devil" back to life. Jules Shear's Between Us
(High Street) includes musical collaborations with Roseanne Cash, Ron
Sexsmith, Susan Cowsill, and Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies.
Chris Knight's self-titled Decca debut "has that really Americana sound
similar to Steve Earle's," while Loudon Wainwright III's Little
Shop (Virgin) was produced by John Leventhal, who also produced Shawn
Colvin's A Few Small Repairs.
Greg Garing, who Mojo magazine calls, "Hank Williams on Acid,"
takes some chances on Alone (Paladin). "He was originally from
Philadelphia, but he spent some time in Bristol, England, where he was heavily
influenced by the trip-hop sound there. He plays country ballads with an almost
electronic sounding background." The Hellecasters' Hell III: New Axes
To Grind features John Jorgenson (who's worked with Michael Nesmith and
Elton John), Will Ray, and Terry Donahue playing Telecaster guitars. "It's
almost a Western surf sound." "Jesus and Tomatoes" is a seasonal treat from
Kate Campbell's Visions of Plenty (Compass).
DiBiasio now presents an hour of blues at 10 p.m., mixing the old and the new
from Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters to John Hammond's
Long as I Have You (Point Blank) and Jamie Hartford's What
About Yes? (Paladin).