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Musical round-up time here at RDR

Merge Records
New album cover art for the re-release of the 1994 album "Vee Vee" by Archers of Loaf
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While your Red Dirt Reporter sadly missed Anoushka Shankar’s recent Dallas concert, we are hoping to make up for it sometime soon with a possible trip out west to hear the sitar-playing daughter of Ravi Shankar. She is currently on tour in support of her new album Traveller.

Anoushka Shankar’s unique pairing of a classical Indian instrument like the sitar with more Spanish musical styles like flamenco make Traveller absolutely intoxicating. A track like “Buleria con Ricardo,” featuring the Spanish percussion of Juan Ruiz, is a cross-cultural gem. And a dreamy song like “Krishna,” with the voice provided by Shubha Mudgal, brings you back to ancient India. Shankar shines on Traveller.

And speaking of the sitar ( this reporter will soon be working on a book taking a closer look at that amazing stringed instrument), the absolutely mind-blowing collection in the newly-released Electric Psychedelic Sitar Headswirlers Vol. 1-5, put out by a label called Past & Present, is worth every penny. It includes sitar-tinged songs by everyone from the Chocolate Watch Band  and The Pretty Things to The Ugly Ducklings and (the late) Ananda Shankar, a relative of both Anoushka and Ravi.

Some other recent discs that have crossed the desk here at Red Dirt Report headquarters includes a collection of songs that were previously only available at their concerts. I’m talking about the Tucson, Arizona-based “desert-rock” band Calexico. They are one of our favorites here at the ranch and the disc I speak of is Selections from Road Atlas / 1998-2011.

The songs are culled from eight tour-only discs (eight!) that give further musical insight into this terrific band – one of America’s best, in our estimation. “Glowing Heart Of the World” has a moody atmosphere that brings you to the border – a thunderstorm in the distance. And the band’s Joey Burns, playing nylon guitar, brings an eerie, Southwestern feel to “All the Pretty Horses.” This is one to pick up, for sure.

Remember back in the mid-90’s when music magazines predicted Chapel Hill, N.C. would be the next Seattle? It never quite happened but that city, home of the University of North Carolina, did produce some fine groups like Dillon Fence and Superchunk. One of our favorites was Archers of Loaf and their old label Merge has not only reissued their underground favorite, Icky Mettle, but also the one I tended to prefer – Vee Vee, from 1994.

Dig on “Harnessed in Slums,” a spot-on Archers song. It has that Chapel Hill, slacker-rock riff thing going on, with the obtuse lyrics and subtly-angular chord changes that reflect that time. Reminded of that new track "Astral Projections" by The Cranberries (which we reviewed here), we especially like "Floating Friends" with the line: "All of my friends have floated away / Connect the valley to the astral plane." Far out! Oh, and I can't resist the irony of one of the song titles - "Nostalgia." Got that right.

Vee Vee comes with a bonus disc and features odd radio mixes, demos, unreleased stuff, out-of-print stuff and a B-side I always dug called “Telepathic Traffic.” Man, these guys are good.

Another one we have been enjoying here at RDR is Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball. This release is the latest in a line of 2000’s-era Boss releases that show the New Jersey native still has it. We loved Working on a Dream and Magic before it and folk-influenced sing-alongs like “Easy Money,” down-on-your-luck folk ballads like “Jack Of All Trades” and gospel-and-Celtic tinged pop-rock like “Land of Hope and Dreams” show Bruce is still that optimistic guy we always knew him to be.

Here is Oklahoma we are pleased to see Oklahoma City-based neo-psychedelic, alternative-rock band Junebug Spade is making waves – following that trippy musical trail blazed by their elders in the Flaming Lips. We caught them a while back opening up for The Lemonheads over at The Conservatory. Gentlemen all. We have both Fashion & Fame and their newest disc – the five-track EP Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Zowie! These guys are good. No, make that great. One music lover – Kramer – described Extra Virgin Olive Oil as “fucking superb.” A video of the heavy, psych-rock number “My Lover” is making the rounds while “Public Display of Affection” is a bit more on the catchy, indie-rock side of things.

The lyrical flow of the druggy song “Slow Your Roll” is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s 1964 track “Motorpsycho Nitemare,” a particular Dylan fave of mine. You’re in good company, boys.

My fave – “She’s Mine” – is basic garage rock, ripped from the 1966 model embraced by dinosaurs from another era, like Count Five and The Standells.

One site described Junebug Spade thusly: “They blend the cynical enthusiasm of the Kinks, Pixies, and Built to Spill with classic Jagger/Richards riffs.” Sounds pretty wicked in our book and absolutely accurate. And we see they’ll be opening up for Built to Spill and doing more touring about. We think Junebug Spade (a name shared by one of my cats, quite coincidentally) will make fine musical ambassadors from Oklahoma.

Quite by accident, while shopping at our friendly, local Guestroom Records, we noticed a CD on the “new” rack featuring an album (recorded in mono) by Karen Dalton simply titled 1966. Since your Red Dirt Reporter also happens to be working on a book about music from that year, we had to pick it up.

We were surprised to learn that Karen Dalton is a native of Enid, Oklahoma (also hometown of the late “heavy mental” guitarist Michael Hedges) and although she passed away in 1993, the country-folk songs, which feature “the windblown Oklahoma plains in her voice” – a voice described as a mixture of “fragility and strength” – are worth listening to. Some are traditional (“Cotton Eyed Joe,” for instance), others were written by known songwriters like Fred Neil or Tim Hardin, and others.

Fans of Woody Guthrie, classic Oklahoma Red Dirt music and alternative country will need to get their hands on Karen Dalton’s 1966, released by the Delmore Recording Society.

And finally, there is a new singer-songwriter out there making the rounds in living rooms across the United States. His name is Nick Flora and he is a talented singer-songwriter and guitar player based in Nashville who, at one time, called Noble, Oklahoma home.

We caught Nick Flora’s solo, acoustic show at a friend’s home in Norman and he put on a great show. He talks to the audience, shared funny stories from the road and from his past and even had CD’s for sale. The disc, Hello Stranger, is in that quirky, literate prep-pop style favored by guys like Ben Folds and Barenaked Ladies. Songs like “Temp Job” and “Guilty As Charged” are fine examples of a singer-songwriter who has learned from his elders and is following the beat of his own drummer (that would be Paul Eckberg, btw). Helping him with the recording was former Normals/Caedmon's Call member Andrew Osenga. Check Nick Flora out at may be singing in a living room near you!

If you have a music tip or any albums that you feel we need to listen to and review, just email me at

Copyright 2012 West Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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