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Jack Carneal is a Towsonprofessor and resides with his family in Baltimore. He runs Yaala Yaala Records. This year he released a terrific album by renown Malian hunter’s musician Yoro Sidibe, who I was lucky enough to have interviewed. That album is one of my favorites of the year. Carneal digs it too.
Carneal took some time from turning in his students’ final grades for the semester and made up his own mini-list of top record discoveries:
1) Bonnie Prince Billy, Lie Down in the Light, Drag City Records
This one is easy for me. I first heard “Ohio River Boat Song” in 1992 or 91 before it had come out; Will sent a rough cassette to his big brother Ned, my bandmate at the time, and we listened to it in Ned’s car. I just don’t think anyone’s really able to get their heads around how influential Will has been over the nearly two decades since that first single. But one day everyone will recognize that he’s made better, more interesting records for an extraordinarily long period of time, with really no sleepwalkers, and his work will be noted by future human beings as high points of pre and post-millenial recorded music. This record is perfect.
I first heard Yoro singing from a boombox in 1999, Bougouni, Mali. He was singing a song called ‘Dougouni Yala” which, as I understood it, is a song about bird hunting. Dougouni is some kind of pigeon while Yala, taken from the Arabic “to go”, mutated as it entered Bamanan in that wonderful way that language tends to mutate, becoming a word that, again as I understood it, means to ramble, wander, trek rather than simply ‘to go’. We borrowed the word and the idea, used a more official Bamanan spelling, for our label. I still get chills every single time I hear this music. Every time. Without fail.
3) Surasama, s/t, Drag City
I don’t know much about this one except that when I play it I am instantly relaxed. It was on my record player pretty much all summer: windows open, breezes, that sort of thing.
I think everyone should listen to Gerry Mulligan. Being no jazzbo, I believe the West Coast jazz scene was less hard than NY, ergo the moniker ‘cool’ pinned on Chet Baker, et. al. (though if you’ve seen video of Dave Brubeck, particularly the incredible drummer Joe Morello, you begin to wonder about that adjective being applied to too many jazz musicians). While much bop can be frantic, skittering and nervewracking, much of the West Coast jazzers tried to mine steadier, calmer grooves; ‘Art Pepper Meets the Rhythmn Section’ is another great example.
5) Gang Gang Dance St Dymphna & Raw War
A lot of early GGD was interesting, said in that ironic way that infers some chin-rubbing element that may preclude actual goodness. Not their last two releases, the EP ‘Raw War’ and the full-length St Dymphna. There is something strange and moving about Raw War, a tribute to musician Nathan Maddox who was struck by lightning as he lay on a Manhattan rooftop; similarly, St Dymphna is moving for entirely different reasons, an almost perfect combination of improv inscrutability, hip-hop sensibility and a mysterious odd glittery pretzel and street- smelling kind of evocation of Manhattan that has a huge amount of power to wring many lost memories.