Reviews of the latest CDs from Beck, The Groobees and Pee Wee Crayton. 

Now Hear This

Beck, "Midnite Vultures" (DGC) — Since Beck is currently on the cover of every magazine in the Western world, I'll assume you know who he is and that Modern Rock Amalgamated Inc. has designated his new disc a party-filled "return to form" after going introspective last year. Who cares if this new disc is no "Odelay," that it's Beck's shallowest and goofiest to date, that last year's "Mutations" was more of an advance for him (and for popular music), and that the cover has the ugliest design of the year. I can't stop playing it ("Get Real Laid," "Debra," and "Mixed Bizness" get the repeat mode) and neither will you be able to.

Beck's white-boy funk fiesta is one of the best discs of the year, and you really have no excuse for missing it after all the press hullabaloo — which I didn't just contribute to. Honest.

Don Harrison

The Groobees, (Blix Street Records) — The claim to fame for this Texas-based band is that lead singer Susan Gibson penned "Wide Open Spaces," a No. 1 monster for country radio's Dixie Chicks. Flush with her songwriter royalties, Gibson and the band quit their day jobs to tour and record this CD of originals.

Unfortunately, this could prove a dubious move. While "The Groobees" ambles along pleasantly enough, it stakes out no claim for the band's identity. Sometimes there's a pop-country mood and other times there's a search for a smoothed over roots sound. Co-songwriter and pianist Scott Melott says the band takes a personal approach to its music and that's fine. But the project overall sounds like producer Lloyd Maines put Gibson in a studio with some strangers to back her while she sang her songs of heartbreak and independence. To be fair, Gibson's lyrics are often very good and when Melott takes a turn at vocals the band comes together; there's much potential here. But maybe a little more woodshedding could better focus future projects.

Ames Arnold

Pee Wee Crayton, "Early Hour Blues" (Blind Pig) — The late Pee Wee Crayton's West Coast blues style was both hard-swinging and laid-back moody. A student of T-Bone Walker, he mixed a bluesy feel with jazz chord voicings and led the way for Lowell Fulson, Gatemouth Brown and others. Crayton hit huge on the Los Angeles scene in the late '40s and broke nationally in the '50s only to disappear in the '60s. Re-emerging in the '70s to play showcase gigs and festivals, he made these last recordings in the '80s before his death in 1985. Far from a creaky reminder of an artist's glory days, "Early Hour" is vivid proof of an enduring power; the music jumps and shouts with timeless sparkle that's both frantic and mellow. When Crayton's electric-guitar magic pours from the speakers you can almost hear the ice tinkling in tall whiskey high balls and feel the smoky claustrophobia of the coolest little joint in the world.

Ames Arnold

Latest in Miscellany


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation