SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
July/August 2000

Ray Condo and his Ricochets - High & Wild
Joaquin Records JR2507, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
****

More western than swing or vice versa? The decision is yours to make with High & Wild, the mixed-marriage product of Ray Condo and his Ricochets, who infuse their twang with plenty of rockabilly energy and jazz improvisation -- and some smokin' playing. Lester Young, Mose Allison and Cole Porter supply tunes -- the whole thing is a collection of covers -- that get admiring workups, Condo on sax and vocals, the band providing upright bass, steel guitar and drums. Highlights include the infectious "Done Gone" and "I Can't Find the Doorknob," both of which you can dance to. The sound is a bit distant and soft, all the better for turning the music up. I bet these guys would be a hoot live; you'd want to dance, but you'd rather not miss the show. But there are always CDs, which you can find out about (concert dates too) at raycondo.com....Marc Mickelson


Masters of the Steel String Guitar
Arhoolie CD 485, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
***1/2

Not enough guitar in your life? This CD will cure what ails you. Masters of the Steel String Guitar chronicles a live performance of accomplished but little-known musicians (at least to me) whose feel for their idiom is what Nashville could use a lot more of these days. If you're a technique, genre or instrument hound, you'll find flatpicking, fingerpicking, country, bluegrass, blues, dobros and lap steel all represented. The performances are uniformly good, but Eddie Pennington steals the show, first with his audience-engaging playing and playfulness on "Lost John" and then on "Eddie's Medley," which manages to be bouncy and dreamy, recognizable in spots and exploratory throughout. The recording could have benefited from some added intimacy and a little more snap to the strings, but this is a CD for guitar lovers and not necessarily audiophiles....Marc Mickelson


Bad Livers - Blood & Mood
Sugar Hill SUG-CD-3905, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
***1/2

Ex-SoundStage! music writer Craig Schilling first told me about Bad Livers, but it's their musical schtick that hooked me. Imagine crossing Doc Watson with the Clash and then sprinkling the product with a bit of Sublime and They Might Be Giants and you get an idea of what Bad Livers are about -- bluegrassy punk with an urban edge and some too-smart-for-their-own-good attitude. Blood & Mood is the Livers third release on Sugar Hill, and I can't say it's their best or worst -- it's just theirs. "Fish Magnet" is hip-hoppy and wry, a collection of bemused observations, while "I'm Losing" sounds like Devo via George Jones. "Itty Bitty Town" tells a story about small-town life -- and it's bor-ing. Bad Livers would get run out of Nashville, but they're perfect for Austin, Texas, the only town I know of where a song like "The Legend of Sawdust Boogers" and its radio clips would be appreciated. Blood & Mood is a great choice for the musically adventurous....Marc Mickelson


Paul Simon - Greatest Hits: Shining Like a National Guitar
Warner Bros. WTVD 47721, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
****1/2

Paul Simon has been one of the 20th century’s most prolific and consistent pop singer/songwriters, and this single-disc greatest-hits package is a fitting tribute to his talent and will appeal to a wide audience. Spanning 1972 to 1997, crossing various musical styles, there’s "Graceland," "Mother and Child Reunion," "Slip Slidin’ Away," "Kodachrome," "Loves Me Like a Rock" and 14 others that most will know well. The sound is exceedingly clean with an abundance of detail, perhaps just sliding to the side of being a tad too crisp, but splendid overall. If you’re a fan of Paul Simon but don’t necessarily want to buy all his albums (or a boxed set), or perhaps you just want to own the latest remastering of his work, this is a must-have disc....Doug Schneider


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