Archive for the ‘Brownout’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BROWNOUT-Tiny Desk Concert #930 (January 10, 2020).

I’d heard of Brownout when they released Brown Sabbath, a funk covers album of Black Sabbath songs.  They have also released an album of Public Enemy covers.

I didn’t realize that they were a long-established band (fifteen years).  They originally started as a Latin funk band (and backed up Prince).  Their singer, Alex Marrero, has only been with them for four years or so–it was originally a side project that turned into much more.

One of the things you need to know about this band is that they can change traditions or genres almost on a dime. The core members dip into soul, Latin funk, a form of Peruvian cumbia called chicha, and funk covers of both Black Sabbath and Public Enemy.

The first song they play “Somewhere To Go,”

is punctuated by an old-school R&B horn section (Mark “Speedy” Gonzales on trombone and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet) that’s deceptively simple and emblematic of the power of their concept and spirit.

The song has a slow groove and starts with a cool bassline from Greg Gonzalez.  There’s rocking, distorted guitars and lots of horns.  He sings a few lines and then starts singing into a megaphone “paddle your way out of this.”

The next song “Nain” is also new, “with lyrics in Spanish about being different and not fitting in and seeing that as a positive.”

The intricate interplay of the baritone sax (Joshua Levy), guitar (Beto Martinez), bongos (Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes) and electronic and acoustic drums (John Speice) launch the second cut, “Nain,” into another down-tempo burner,

I love the way the horns play a simple melody after the first section that sounds a bit like a commercial break in a TV show–waiting for whats to come next.  Again the guitar is interesting, playing a few complex patterns while the echoing keyboard solo from Peter Stopschinski adds a trippy aspect to it.

The final song is “You Don’t Have To Fall,” which includes

old-school Tower of Power horns that made quite a few heads dip and hips shake in our corner of the NPR building,

The song has a ripping guitar solo from Beto Martinez’s during  which Alex plays a shaker gourd.  It’s really catchy.

They seem to be able to do it all.

[READ: January 10, 2020] “The Whale Mother”

Leila’s marriage has fallen apart.  She still lives with her husband and kids, but they have both hired lawyers.  Her lawyer had told her things were over and she should “Go forth and date.”

So she decided to book a retreat

While on the SeaTac-Whidbey Island Shuttle, the older man in front of her started talking to her. He says he’s lived on the island for more than ten years.  When the ferry arrived, he led her upstairs–not waiting for her but assuming she’d be following him.  He was married–he wasn’t trying to pick her up–he just seem to enjoy talking to her.  Their time on the ferry was a little disappointing to her because she wanted to stay inside in he “sophisticated interior” but he went right through to the deck.  Nevertheless, she enjoyed the company and developed a bit of a crush on him.

He asked what her heritage was.  This “was the question she would have asked him if such a question weren’t now a minefield.  Leila welcomed the question when it came from another brown person but would not have assumed other brown people felt the same way.” (more…)

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CV1_TNY_01_06_14Ware.inddSOUNDTRACK: BROWNOUT presents Brown Sabbath (2014).

brownout_cvrI was intrigued by the premise of this album: Brownout is a nine piece jazz band and they play a selection of Black Sabbath covers.  The NPR site (where you can stream the album this week) explains:

They played a residence at an Austin club where they devoted a week each to the repertoire of artists like Black Sabbath to break the monotony of a long club gig.  Audience response, not to mention the fun the band had on stage reworking Sabbath classics, led to a full-length album.

So, this band plays a number of Black Sabbath classics, with, oftentimes, the horns standing in for Tony Iommi’s guitars or Ozzy Osbourne’s voice. Although there are also times when the (various) singers in the band try out their inner Ozzy (and often succeed).  They get pretty heavy for the heavy parts (and there are guitars so the do have appropriate guitar sounds from time to time).   But they also play some of the groovier songs too (like “Planet Caravan.”)

Other songs include “The Wizard” (probably my favorite here), “Iron Man” (which is very different from the iconic song, and is only vaguely recognizable as the song, but is very good nonetheless).  They also do “N.I.B.” a bass heavy song which takes on a different style (perhaps a bit too much like Dread Zeppelin).  “Black Sabbath” has no vocals, just a guitar playing the lines–and the horns in the beginning add a suspenseful accent. “Hand of Doom” plays that slinky dark sound very well (I just like the original so much that this one can’t quite compare).  And “Into the Void” which also has no vocals, but sounds a little too marching band here (but the middle instrumental section is really trippy).

So I enjoyed this take on classic Sabbath.  Although I don’t need to listen to it more than once.

[READ: June 13, 2014] “First Husband”

Looking back, I see that I have enjoyed a lot of Antonya Nelson’s stories.  And I enjoyed this one too.  She seems to have a great eye for little details, or interesting aspects of family life that are fun to unravel.  The thing I really liked about this story was the simple construction of the character relationships.

Lovey is married to William.  It is both of their second marriages.  But Lovey’s first husband was married before he married Lovey–she was his second wife.  Lovey’s first husband had several daughters, including Bernadette.  So for a time, Lovey was Bernadette’s stepmother (even though she was close in age to the oldest daughter).  Then when Lovey and her first husband split up, she was no longer Bernadette’s step mother.  But because the marriage lasted for more than a few years, the girls grew close to her, especially Bernadette.  When they divorced, Bernadette actually chose Lovey over her father.  So now Lovey is her ex step mother.  And William is something to Bernadette that there’s not a word for.

I love that.  Even though it’s probably not that uncommon, it is such a linguistic mess that its clear no one was ever prepared for that.

I especially liked that that level of detail is included even though it is not the crux of the story.  It is relevant, but it is not the crux.  The crux is that Bernadette’s husband (whom no one likes) is out drinking.  Again.  Bernadette is nervous about him coming home drunk and the fight they will have so she wonders if she can bring the kids over to Lovey’s house.  It is 2AM.

Lovey doesn’t mind.  Lovey doesn’t have children of her own–she feels that her first husband (Bernadette’s dad) deliberately kept her from having children during her prime years and now she is stuck.  And even though these children are technically nothing to her, their ex- step-grandmother, she still cares them.  And Bernadette’s oldest boy, Caleb, is the reason she is named Lovey–it was something that he could say when he was little.  So when the children come crashing over, Lovey welcomes them without waking William (who needs to be up early for his doctor rounds). (more…)

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