Social Distancing Spins – Day 11

By Joel Francis

Let the hit parade continue.

Sonic Youth – Washing Machine (1995) On the surface, Washing Machine appears to be just another release by avant rockers Sonic Youth. Released nine albums into their three-decade career, the band doesn’t have much to prove by this point but they certainly aren’t coasting through this set. All three of the band’s songwriters are in peak form. The album opens and closes Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo taking lead vocals on their respective compositions. Moore’s closing cut, “The Diamond See” is a fascinating 20-minute track that shows the quartet stretching out, yet never repeating themselves. It’s the longest they let a mood percolate on a studio album. (An even longer 25- minute version was released on The Destroyed Room rarities collection.) Overall, Washing Machine points to the more mature direction Sonic Youth would take in the early ‘00s.

One Day As a Lion – self-titled (2008) Well, this is it. The 20 minutes on this EP comprise most substantial release by Zack de la Rocha since the end of Rage Against the Machine at the end of the millennium. It boggles the mind how someone so politically aggressive during the Clinton administration could be so quiet during the Dubya and current administrations. If anything, you’d think de la Rocha would be out stumping for Bernie Sanders.

Brief as it is, the music here meets all expectations. It’s loud, combative and better than either of Rage axeman Tom Morello’s acoustic Nightwatchman full-lengths.

Andrew Hill – Point of Departure (1964) I discovered Andrew Hill about six months before he died. Even though I didn’t have a lot of history with his art, I was still deeply saddened by his loss. Selfishly, I had hoped that I would be able to see him perform at some point. I was also disappointed that such a monumental talent hadn’t achieved the renown and accolades Hill deserved.

It can be easy for pianists to get lost in the background when playing in larger groups, especially with reed-player Eric Dolphy in the mix. Hill’ steady hand is ever-present across this album, guiding every song and creating the spaces for Dolphy and saxman Joe Henderson’s solos (and delivering plenty of his own as well). “Dedication,” the final piece, is as beautiful a piece of music as you will ever hear.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Get Happy!! (1980) Elvis Costello has released so many great albums across so many styles it is hard to pin down a favorite. That said, of the four classics in his initial “angry young man” phase, this might be my pick as the best. Costello skitters across all forms of soul music in these 20 songs, moving quickly from Motown to Northern and blue-eyed soul. Ballads and Southern soul are also given their due. What reads like a dull, academic genre exercise on paper is a hoot to hear because of the Attractions manic energy – particularly Steve Nieve’s hopping organ – and Costello’s lyrics, that slash like a switchblade in an alley fight. You don’t realize how quickly they cut until they’ve moved on to the next victim. Best to keep dancing and sort it all out later.

Robbie Robertson – Storyville (1991) Anyone disappointed that Robbie Robertson’s debut album bore few traces of his time with The Band will find more to like with this sophomore effort. Although the performances are far more restrained and the production more polished than anything with his old group, it’s not hard to imagine Rick Danko singing on “Night Parade” (although he does contribute backing vocals on the gorgeous ballad “Hold Back the Dawn”). Taken on its own terms, this is still a very satisfying album. Neil Young stops by to help with “Soap Box Preacher” and the Neville Brothers appear on “Shake This Town,” recorded with Rebirth Brass Band, and “What About Now.” The spirit of New Orleans, where Storyville was made, also appears on “Go Back to Your Woods.” In a way, Storyville makes a nice companion piece to the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon, released the year before with Daniel Lanois, the man behind the boards for Robertson’s debut.

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five – The Golden Era Series, Vol. 1 (compilation) It blows my mind that these recordings are approaching their centennial. These are among Armstrong’s first sessions as a bandleader. His solos here went a long way establish jazz as an improvisational genre. Satchmo doesn’t sing on every cut, but when he does it is always memorable. The dozen cuts here are so celebrated and influential it is impossible to have a favorite, but I’ll share some of the titles to whet the appetites of the uninitiated: “Heebie Jeebies,” “Struttin’ with some Barbeque,” “Gut Bucket Blues,” “Hotter than That.” Just reading those titles, how can you not want to dive in?

The songs here appeared roughly the same time as George Gershwin’s compositions and significantly predate Aaron Copeland’s most celebrated pieces. This is the sound of America growing up and forcing its way on the world’s artistic stage well before it became impossible to ignore as a superpower.

Ben Folds – Supersunnyspeedgraphic, the LP (compilation) The first three sides of this two-record collection encompass highlights from the digital-only mini-albums Folds released in the early 2000s. It’s fun to hear Folds give the Cure and the Darkness his own demented spin. His potty-mouthed cover of Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit” is funny the first few times, but gradually wears out its welcome. In his memoir A Dream About Lightning Bugs, Folds recounts a stint opening for John Mayer where he would perform this song several times in a row relishing the jeers. I can relate to how that audience must have felt. Original songs including “Adelaide,” “Songs of Love” and “Still” more than make up for Folds’ West Coast rap mishap. The fourth side of this set is a real treat, too. We get a half-dozen cuts from the Over the Hedge soundtrack, including a great cover of The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” and an alternate version of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” with an epic William Shatner rant based on real events.

The Supremes – At their Best (compilation) Conventional wisdom holds that the Supremes were over once Diana Ross left. True, Ross had much greater success as a solo artist than the Supremes did without her, but they were still a potent force. The group had six Top 40 hits in the post-Ross era and several more hits on the R&B charts. Many of those tracks are included on this 10-track collection, which spans 1970 to 1976. “Stoned Love” and “Up the Ladder to the Roof” are as good as anything the Supremes released in their prime years. “I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” and “You’re My Driving Wheel” update the group’s sound with elements of funk and disco. The Supremes were always a better singles act than album artists and this anthology is a fitting encapsulation and the final chapter.

Social Distancing Spins, Day 9

By Joel Francis

A 30-day lockdown in my hometown of Kansas City, Mo. was announced today. It looks like this trek through my record collection will continue a while longer.

Bruce Springtsteen – Western Skies (2019) The Boss made his legion of fans wait five long years between releases before dropping Western Skies in the middle of 2019. The first few times I listened, I didn’t like it at all. The songwriting was good, but the strings were too syrupy and heavy-handed. Even though I couldn’t get into the album, when I saw it on sale online the completist in me pushed the buy button. I don’t know what changed, but something happened when I played it this morning. I heard everything with new ears and finally heard what Springsteen was trying to accomplish with the orchestra. I can’t wait to dig into this one again.

Neville Brothers – Yellow Moon (1989) The highs and lows of this album come in rapid succession at the end of side one. Aaron Neville voice soars cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Going to Come.” The civil rights hymn is accented by producer Daniel Lanois’ tremelo guitar and guest Brian Eno’s ethereal keyboards. The civil rights theme takes an uncomfortable turn with the next song, “Sister Rosa,” a well-intentioned by horribly awkward rap tribute. Fortunately the ship is righted with Aaron Neville back in the spotlight with a tender cover of Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side.” Elsewhere, the album explores cajun and the brothers’ native New Orleans on songs like “Fire and Brimstone” and “Wild Injuns.”

Kelis – Food (2014) Her milkshake brought the boys to the yard, but Food is a full meal of biscuits and gravy, jerk ribs and cobbler. Working with producer Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, Kelis’ most recent album to date rejects contemporary production and attempts at Top 40 success. The organic arrangements with live instrumentation make this a Kelis album with the singer in firm control, rather than a vehicle with her voice slotted into other producers’ ideas. The relaxed comfort of the sessions comes through in the songs. “Cobbler” opens with gales of laughter as a slow Afrobeat groove slowly builds. Those same horns also pop up in “Jerk Ribs” and “Friday Fish Fry,” propelling everyone straight to the dance floor. “Bless the Telephone” might be my favorite moment on the album. It’s also one of the most basic –Kelis and Sal Masakela sound so honest and vulnerable singing over a gorgeous acoustic guitar line. Then the party roars back to life.

The Flaming Lips – The Terror (2013) The Terror isn’t my favorite Flaming Lips album by a long shot, but it felt the most appropriate right now. Half the band was in a bad way when this album was being made and it shows. Singer Wayne Coyne’s longtime romantic relationship had ended and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd relapsed into substance abuse. There aren’t any hints of the magic and wonder fans got from the band’s breakthrough albums. Instead there are songs like the seven-plus minute “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die,” which sounds like the dawn of a nightmare in some post-apocalyptic desert. But hey, when you haven’t left the house in more than a week and have just been alerted your entire city is on lockdown for the next 30 days, sometimes even cold comfort is comforting. Happy spring, everybody!

Son Volt – Straightaways (1997)

Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne (1993) The first time I saw Son Volt was in support of Straightaways, when they opened for ZZ Top at Sandstone Amphitheater. The venue was your typical outdoor shed and my friend and I were miles away from the stage, out on the lawn. Frontman Jay Farrar was never known for his onstage energy and the songs sizzled out well before they reached us.

Oh to have seen Farrar just a few years earlier. If I could build a time machine, one of the first places I’d go would be to an Uncle Tupelo concert. Hearing Farrar’s voice pair with Jeff Tweedy’s on the chorus of “Slate,” the first song, always sends me to a happy place. While the sessions for what would be the pair’s final album were acrimonious – at least from Farrar’s viewpoint; Tweedy has said he had no clue of his partner’s hostility and disillusionment – the result is a timeless slab of alt-country goodness.

Bleached – Welcome to the Worms (2016) Centered around sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, Bleached operates somewhere between Blondie and the Donnas. I first saw the band at the now-shuttered Tank Room on Halloween night with Beach Slang. The sisters, along with bass player Micayla Grace, all performed in costume. These songs were a little more garage-y in concert, but it is still great girl-group rock however you slice it.

Ahmad Jamal – Inspiration (compilation) This 1972 collection finds jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal primarily working in a trio format with bass and drums. The assemblage hops around from the mid-‘50s to the late ‘60s in both studio and club settings. Several of the songs are augmented with a string section, which can be a little jarring, since Jamal isn’t know for orchestral work. Despite the seemingly hodgepodge nature, the four sides make for a generally cohesive play. Jamal made a ton of records and none of them are very expensive. Any good music shop will have at least five or six inches of his platters to choose from in the stacks. This isn’t a bad place to start.

Emmylou Harris – At the Ryman (1992) Emmylou Harris was coming off the worst-performing album of her career to date when she stepped onstage at the storied Ryman Auditorium for three nights in the spring of 1991. Backed by her new bluegrass ensemble the Nash Ramblers (lead by Sam Bush), Harris tackles several hit songs associated with other artists. While her versions of Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Mansion on the Hill” or John Fogerty’s “Lodi” won’t make you forget the original performers, Harris puts her own distinctive stamp on them. One of my favorite singers of all time, Harris’ voice is particularly affecting on the a capella “Calling My Children Home” and a medley of Nanci Griffith’s “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” and “Abraham, Martin and John.”

The Temptations – “Ball Of Confusion”

The Temptations – “Ball Of Confusion,” Pop # 3, R&B # 2

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Clocking in at over four minutes, “Ball of Confusion” was an epic by Motown standards. The arrangement and themes, however, were very much in line with the top-shelf, psychedelic social commentary songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield had been consistently turning out.

Sonically and thematically, “Ball of Confusion” doesn’t stray from the formula Whitfield developed for the Temptation in 1968 with “Cloud Nine.”

If Sly Stone were Martin Luther, this is how he would have delivered his 95 Theses. In a cadence cribbed in Bob Dylan’s delivery from “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Dennis Edwards lists his grievances: “segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation.”

The arrangement is just as claustrophobic and frustrated as the lyrics, with nearly every instrument – electric organ, wah guitar, drums and vocals – threatening to strangle each other in the mix. Brief bursts of harmonica or horns provide the only moments of relief. Edwards handles the lion’s share of the singing, but once again the other four members tag-team lead duties. Bass singer Melvin Franklin memorably punctuates each verse with the adage of complacency – “and the band played on.”

“Ball of Confusion” isn’t exactly a fun song, but it is a lot of fun to listen to. The song was the Tempts’ second strong single of the 1970s, landing in the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts. It also marked their third straight solo Top 10 hit.

The complex number isn’t easy to replicate, but that hasn’t stopped others from trying. Shortly after the Tempts’ number had dropped in the charts, Berry Gordy handed the tune to another Motown group, the Undisputed Truth, to try their hand. A generation later, pop band Duran Duran and metal outfit Anthrax both released covers in the 1990s. The 21st century also saw a resurgence of interest in the song, with the Neville Brothers, Widespread Panic and Tesla all releasing covers.

The song also appeared as a centerpiece in the film “Sister Act Two: Back in the Habit” (featuring a young and then-unknown Lauryn Hill). It’s biggest distinction outside of Motown, however, is in kick-starting Tina Turner’s solo career in the early ‘80s. Turner’s reading appeared on a 1982 tribute album, it wasn’t a big hit in the United States or United Kingdom, but it did hook her up with the songwriters and producers who helmed Turner’s multi-platinum comeback effort, “Private Dancer.”

Lanois + Raffi = Eno

(Above: Raffi was a staple of The Daily Record’s early childhood. The oft-spun LP remains in its archives.)

By Joel Francis

Like many adolescent males in the mid-‘60s, Canadian Dan Lanois pined for a guitar. But he didn’t just want to make music, he wanted to record it, too.

Armed with an instrument and a cheap, tiny cassette recorder, Lanois and his brother Robert started recording anything they could find. They soon found manipulating the results was almost as fun as making and capturing the sounds. The siblings eventually invested in a four-track recorder and set up a small studio in the laundry room of their mother’s Ancaster, Ontario home.

The domestic facility was named MSR Studios, and the brothers advertised that for $60 they would not only record a band’s demo, but arrange, play on and compose the tracks as well. A short time after MSR Studios opened for business in the mid-‘70s, the Lanois brothers’ ad caught the eye of Egyptian immigrant Raffi Cavoukian.

Cavoukian was a veteran of Toronto’s folk circuit, but his 1975 album, “Good Luck Boy” generated little heat. Cavoukian’s mother-in-law encouraged him to write and record some songs for the children at her preschool. Aided by his wife, kindergarten teacher Debi Pike, Cavoukian recorded a tape that was so successful other schools started requesting copies.

MSR Studios was everything Cavoukian was looking for. Cheap, efficient and local it even came with its own musicians. In 1976, Cavoukian borrowed $4,000 from a bank recorded his first children’s album, “Singable Songs for the Very Young,” at the Lanois brother’s small home studio. Dan Lanois also played mandolin, recorded, mixed and engineered the album.

The easygoing, folk-flavored “Singable Songs for the Very Young” was a smash that ranked among top children’s album more than two decades after it was released.  Boosted by sessions with Cavoukian, by now going by simply Raffi, Doug McArthur, another Toronto folkie, and rock band Simply Saucer, the Lanois brothers soon had enough money to move their studio to better quarters. In 1978 they purchased a Hamilton, Ontario house on Grant Avenue, which became, naturally, Grant Avenue Studio.

Raffi was one of the first artists to use Grant Avenue Studio. By now he and Dan Lanois had collaborated on two albums and would go on to record two more together. Their body of work together comprised Raffi’s first four children’s albums. Grant Avenue also boasted sessions by singer/songwriter Ian Tyson and new wave band Martha and the Muffins.

The Muffins had just come off a commercially successful tour opening for Roxy Music, but they lost two members in the process. When the remaining quartet decided to carry on, one of the new musicians they recruited was bass player Jocelyne Lanois, sister of Dan and Robert. The Muffins got permission from Virgin to make an album with Dan Lanois with the stipulation that they operate on a miniscule budget. This was no obstacle for Lanois, and the resulting album “This is the Ice Age” generated a Top 40 Canadian single.

The band and album didn’t do much outside of the Great White North, however, and they were dropped by Virgin. The Muffin’s relationship with Lanois, however, flourished through two more albums. Their 1984 album, “Mystery Walk,” featured guest drummer Yogi Horton. Horton was a veteran of the 1981 experimental album “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” and was recommended by his boss during those sessions, Brian Eno.

Eno, of course, had cemented his legendary reputation with his work in Roxy Music and the solo albums he released in the first half of the 1970s, and his production work with Devo, David Bowie, Talking Heads and the “No New York” No Wave compliation in the second half of the decade. By the mid-‘80s, Eno and Lanois were longtime associates.

Lanois’ tape and recording manipulations first caught Eno’s attention in the late ‘70s. Although embroiled in producing the final chapter in Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” and on albums with both the Talking Heads and their bandleader David Byrne, Eno and Lanois met at Grant Avenue to experiment with sound and recording. In 1979, Eno recorded “The Plateaux of Mirror,” the second installment in his ambient series, with Harold Budd at Grant Avenue. Although they did not produce the album, “Bob and Danny Lanois” are thanked in the album credits.

In 1982, Lanois co-produced and played some on the fourth installment of Eno’s ambient series, “On Land.” The following year, Lanois received cover billing for his musical and production contributions to the “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.” One of the album’s tracks, “Silver Morning,” was essentially a Lanois solo performance.

When U2 asked Eno to produce their fourth album, “The Unforgettable Fire,” in 1984 Eno brought Lanois with him. The next year, Eno recommended Lanois to Peter Gabriel to help with the “Birdy” soundtrack.

Ten years after opening MSR Studios in his mother’s laundry room, Lanois was an A-list producer. He and Gabriel collaborated on several landmark albums, including “So” and “Us.” Eno and Lanois also repeatedly re-teamed with U2 for “The Joshua Tree,” portions of “Rattle and Hum,” “Achtung Baby,” “All that You Can’t Leave Behind” and the Irish quartet’s most recent album, “No Line on the Horizon.” Lanois has also worked with Emmylou Harris, the Neville Brothers, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Hothouse Flowers, Willie Nelson and released several solo albums.

Concert Review: Wakarusa Music Festival (2008)

Above: The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize” at Wakarusa 2008.

By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Arrested Development – Friday afternoon, Revival Tent

The sound of Arrested Development warming up was funky enough to send a crowd scrambling to the Revival Tent and its ankle-deep mud, but the group had trouble keeping them there.

The group’s Afrocentric rap harks back to De La Soul’s daisy age and capped a three-act run of hip hop in the Revival Tent, including Blackalicous and Del tha Funky Homosapien. Their low-key approach had difficulty translating to the half-populated tent, but part of the problem could have been the 15-plus years since the band last hit the area.

Flanked by two vocalists and backed by a guitarist, DJ and rhythm section, MC Speech warmed the crowd up on a couple newer numbers before heating the crowd up with “Fishin’ 4 Religion” and a spirited gospel arrangement of “Tennessee.”

Fans who weathered the bass solo were treated to a karaoke romp through “Billie Jean” and a full-band cover of “Redemption Song.”

Although the set’s energy lagged at times, the greatest hits still sounded, well, great. “Mr. Wendall” is still as fun and timely as it was nearly 20 years ago. The closing one-two of “Mama’s Always Onstage” and “People Everyday” had a sea of smiling faces hoping it wouldn’t be another half-generation until the next show.

Flaming Lips – Friday night, Sun Down Stage

The Flaming Lips performed nearly the same show at their Wakarusa debut two years ago. Damn if it didn’t work just as well the second time.

Flanked by a horde of Teletubbies, the band took the stage as front man Wayne Coyne rolled over the crowd in a giant hamster ball. “Race for the Prize” kicked off the night as confetti, streamers and smoke snowed over the crowd.

It would be easy to get lost in the spectacle of a Flaming Lips concert and forget about the band onstage if the music wasn’t so good. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” rocked so hard that Coyne himself called it “glorious.” The group funneled their anger and passion for a better America after the November elections into a devastating version of “The W.A.N.D.” that was prefaced by an anti-war airing of “Taps.”

The quartet also got some help from their fans. Coyne encouraged the crowd to get naked during their cover of “The Song Remains the Same” and a half dozen women jumped onstage and took him up on the offer. Spontaneous fireworks from the back of the lawn punctuated the trippy “Pompeii am Gotterdamerung” and heightened the atmosphere of “Vein of Stars.”

The night ended with “Do You Realize.” A million pieces of yellow and orange confetti falling from the sky created a nice cinematic moment that made the song sound even more majestic than usual.

Set List: Race for the Prize/Free Radicals/The Song Remains the Same/Fight Test/Mountain Side/Vein of Stars/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (pt. 1)/Pompeii am Gotterdamerung/The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/Taps->The WAND/She Don’t Use Jelly/(encore:) Do You Realize

“Christmas On Mars” – Friday night, the Flaming Lips tent

The chance to catch a band-hosted screening of the Flaming Lips’ seven-years-in-the-making movie “Christmas on Mars” overpowered the need for sleep for many Wakarusa campers.

Shortly after the Lips’ spectacular set on the Sun Down Stage, 200 fans lucky enough to snag a free ticket earlier in the evening were ushered into the band’s large “Eat Your Own Spaceship” tent. Inside, it felt a lot like summer camp. Everyone sat on long wooded benches and roadies handed out popcorn.

After a short personal introduction from lead Lip Wayne Coyne and a longer recorded interview, the film finally started around 1 a.m.

The movie follows the descent of paranoia and psychosis on a crew of astronauts in their Martian space station on Christmas Eve. Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd plays the main astronaut while Coyne portrays an emerald-hued, antennae-sporting Martian who swallows an asteroid, is detained by the space crew and then forced into the role of Santa Claus.

The results are pretty much what you’d expect from a group with no acting or screenwriting background, paying for their production as they go. Fans started sneaking out almost as soon as the rock-show volume movie started. When I finally succumbed an hour into the movie a herd of fans were seated on the ground outside the tent for the next showing. Live and learn.

Ozomatli – Saturday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Listening to Ozomatli is like flipping through a National Geographic. The L.A.-based band deftly mixes traditional South American music with African rhythms, hip hop, rock and a splash of Indian raga.

Opening with consecutive songs in Spanish could be an obstacle for some bands, but Ozomatli’s groove needs no translation. Although a moderate crowd had gathered on the lawn in anticipation of the set, each song saw more arms raised as the multitude grew.

The septet kept the energy high for all of its 90-minute set, from the Indian-influenced improvisation on “Believe” to the straight hip hop of “City of Angels” and vibrant African rhythms of “Como Ves.”

Ozomatli is not only proficient with different styles of music, but its members all play more than one instrument. This broadens their palate even further. The clarinet solo introducing gave “Cumbia de los Muertos” a Yiddish flavor, while the horns on “Magnolia Soul” added a New Orleans feel.

The appearance of Tre Hardson, aka Slimkid3 of the Pharcyde, who has been touring with the band since last winter, was an unexpected treat. He led the band through a great cover of “Passing Me By” that drew big cheers from the crowd.

Porter Batiste Stolze – Saturday afternoon, Sun Up Stage

Porter Batiste Stolze was more than 30 minutes into their set when Ozomatli wrapped up. I entered just in time to hear the band roll into a faithful cover of “Like A Rolling Stone” with a sidestepping backbeat that definitely gave the drummer some.

In front of me a father and son stood with their arms on each other’s shoulders, belting out every word with absolute delight. Proud mom looked on, her face radiant.

The Dylan cover gave way to the booty-shaking, Bo Diddley beat of “Not Fade Away,” which, in turn, fed into “Little Liza Jane.” No matter how many gnarled honky tonk guitar licks Brian Stolze threw at his band mates, George Porter, Jr.’s bass kept things funky while drummer Russell Batiste, Jr. shuffled the beat like a Vegas card dealer.

The New Orleans-based trio honed their chops together as in-demand session musicians, and worked Art Neville as three-fourths the Funky Meters until 2005. PBS’ three-part harmonies and musical sensibilities sounds like The Band filtered through Kool and the Gang and given a late-night run on Bourbon Street. They touched on nearly every style of American music in the half hour I heard, and could groove on them all.

Jennie Arnau – Sunday morning, Sun Up Stage

From a distance, Jennie Arnau sounds a lot like Kathleen Edwards. Both have mournful country vocals supported by muscular rock hooks. Up close, however, Arnau’s alt-country sound is less plaintive than Edwards and owes as much to Fleetwood Mac as it does to Emmylou Harris.

Backed by a four-piece band, the blonde South Carolinian performed four songs from her latest album, “Mt. Pleasant,” and one song from each of her last three.

While Arnau’s “Float On” is not a Modest Mouse cover, its buoyant melody should please fans of Edwards, Neko Case and Caitlin Cary. Set closer “You’re Not Alone” is the type of song that Sheryl Crow should be doing. It ended the show on a strong note.

While late morning, closing day festival gigs are never coveted, the two dozen folks who showed up for Arnau’s set seemed genuinely appreciative of the music and pleased by the 45 minute performance that held nothing back. Hopefully Arnau will be invited back at a better time slot and in front of the bigger audience she deserves.

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Dumpstaphunk know how to ride a groove and aren’t afraid to hop on at a moment’s notice with several hundred hip-shaking hitchhikers in tow.

Opening with the aptly titled instrumental “Stinky,” the band quickly drew a dancing crowd to the lawn in front of the stage. By the time their hour-long set reached its midpoint the congregation had easily doubled.

With staccato riffs from his Hammond organ, Ivan Neville led the quintet through songs like “Shake It Off” and “Ugly Truth” that sounded like a streamlined, less bizarre P-Funk.

While vocal responsibilities shifted, they were always soulful. Between songs, Tony Hall would sometimes abandon fellow guitarist and Ivan’s cousin Ian Neville, and drop one string and several octaves to add another bass guitar and even more bottom to the sound.

Dumpstaphunk aired their views on the handling of their native New Orleans in “Meanwhile.” Easily the most fun Hurricane Katrina protest song to date, the band’s philosophy was summarized with the chorus “might as well have a good time/it might be the last time.”

Although, many of its members have worked with Ivan Neville’s father Aaron and the Neville Brothers, Dumpstaphunk is firmly rooted on The Meters side of the family tree.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2005)