Friday, November 15, 2013

Ahh...Outsider Music...

The George King/Joe Corney Space-Age Organ Sounds are back on-line.

The first thing many Americans think when they hear the phrase "folk music" is still the Joan Baez/Dylan types listlessly strumming acoustic guitars and singing protest songs in coffeehouses, none of which has much to do with actual American folk traditions. The excellent new compilation Turn Me Loose: Outsiders of Old-Time Music
features not only the weird 'n' wild obscurities you maniacs crave, but it also serves as a nice corrective to the '50s/'60s folk revival's rewriting of history. For one thing, acoustic guitars were not too common (almost no songs on this album feature them), banjos were originally a black instrument (derived from African instruments), silly humor was much more common then protest politics (e.g.: the wacked-out duo Mustard and Gravy), and plenty of "non-folk" instruments like the piano really were used in folk music, Charlie Tweedy's berserk stylings on the ivories being one of this albums' many highlights (which reminds me of Tom Lehrer's crack introducing his song "The Folk Song Army": since the piano isn't considered a folk instrument "imagine I'm playing an 88-string guitar.") Ernest Rodgers' Greek lesson "Mythological Blues" punctures holes in the notion that these were all dumb, uneducated hicks.

Most of these recordings, taken from old '78s, are by fairly professional if necessarily rough 'n' raw performers, but at least one character here, Willard Hodgin, is just flat-out nuts. To quote from compiler Frank Fairfield's extensive liner notes: "He recorded 18 sides (1927-1928) for various labels, which is quite an outstanding feat considering how unusual a performer he was. The combination of the occasional verse speckled in with his own unusual yet charming stanzas and his delirious haphazard banjo strumming make him one of the most unique performers to ever record." 18 songs?  Someone put out a complete Willard Hodgin album! (Clicky on song titles to take you to Divshare-land:)

Willard Hodgin: "Don't Get One Woman on Your Mind" Now with bonus offensive racist lyrics! 
But don't musical saws make everything better? Dig this barn dance earworm:
South Georgia Highballers: "Mister Johnson Turn Me Aloose"

Another great new comp recently purchased at my local record emporiums is "Enjoy The Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992," a two-disc set plus 44 page booklet, all for only $15. Explore the wonderful world of private-press records! I was amused to see that the booklet featured reproductions of the covers of a couple albums I own, namely Mike Hudson and Wayne & Marin Foster. No tracks from them featured on this, but I included them on my own collection "I'll Take Las Vegas." This album goes way beyond Vegas-y lounge performers, tho, ranging from the already sorta-well known punk jazz of Gary Wilson and the middle-aged former Big Band singer-turned-hippie Arcesia, to such unknowns as the hip Christian behind this absurdly catchy upbeat bit of apocalyptic pop:

Ray Torsky: "666"

The booklet includes interviews with some of the performers the compilers were actually able to track down. The heartbreaking tale of Joe E.'s swindle at the hands of a fly-by-night record label is particularly memorable. Unfortunately nothing is known about one Vinny Roma, but he recorded what could be this blog's theme song.  Hell, it could be my (or your) life's theme song:

Vinny Roma: "Ahh...Music"

And if that's still not enough outsider music for you, Colchester, England's premier mental patient/transvestite/stoner/coprophiliac singer-songwriter has a new album out called
"Hippie Heaven
for your free downloading pleasure. It's like a 12" single more than an album, with the same songs appearing in slightly different forms throughout. Highlights inc the biting "Parasite Pest," and "Rock 'n' Roll Brothel" ("Why won't any of the girls have sex with me? It's quite frustrating...I could get a complex!") The backing track of "Lady Dub #1" could be by Martin Rev. And paging Yoko Ono! The final track is a 20 min field recording of wind.



Michelle said...

Glad you too like musical saws! Do you know there is a festival dedicated to playing music on saws? 'Time' magazine reported on it

Anonymous said...

I really loved the book. Especially the first half of it. The artwork/presentation is beautiful too!!