Screamin' Bloody Live (TKO Records)
On the night of June 6, 2001, I was torn. Hickoid behemoths Antiseen were set to take the stage at the Ash Street while Dead Moon was over at Satyricon, setting fire to the Western World. Early in the evening, Solomon-like, I decided to take advantage of geography and pinball back and forth between the two clubs. That's when I thought I had a choice. That's before I saw Antiseen.
South Carolina's long-running hillbilly stormtroopers hadn't assaulted Portland in more than eight years (they actually seemed just too unpleasant to me back then). The band's patented "destructo-rock" made them out to be every bit the scary, possum-eating, beer-swilling, shotgun-blasting, wrestling-loving, bad, bad, badasses their records promised. Imagine a Jim Goad fantasy band of repressed Southern crackers, mercilessly bushwhacking elements of Skrewdriver's fascist skinhead soul, Molly Hatchet's Southern rock battle cry and the hardcore heaviness of Poison Idea, with trucker country and Ramones covers thrown in for good measure. A few minutes in, I knew there could be no division of loyalty that night.
Burly lead singer Jeff Clayton captured the essence of the evening best near the end of set, his face a crimson mask of blood from a self-inflicted razor swipe across his forehead. "You're looking at 18-year heavyweight champions of rock 'n' roll!" he roared--like anyone was going to give him an argument. Then he spit a thin red stream onto his trademark aluminum washboard where it lay on stage. Earlier, he had viciously strummed the hayseed instrument between massive forearms strapped in heavily studded leather gauntlets. This was pure Dixie dynamite.
And, remarkably enough, it's nearly all on the well-recorded live CD Screamin' Bloody Live. The first 17 of 24 blistering tracks are taken from the Ash Street inferno in question. Yes, on the heels of R.L. Burnside's Burnside on Burnside, Portland makes live recording history south of the Mason-Dixon Line once again. Screamin' amply demonstrates how this largely unnoticed band has been shattering the underground rock world for years, outpunking the punks with big hair, big waistlines and bigger attitudes. Why, the boys even go high-tech, offering a glimpse of Antiseen's live fury to anyone who's PC- or Mac-compatible. Like the night a year ago it documents, Screamin' is very much the real deal. Sam Dodge Soule
Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music (Vanguard)
This beautiful collection truly deserves better than to be sullied by the "tribute album" tag, but so be it. I have a hunch it has the potential to do for the Cajun genre what the you-know-what soundtrack has done for bluegrass, or you-know-which-club did for Cuban music. Truly exceptional singers line up, one by one, to take a tilt at the romance and rhythm of Acadia.
John Fogerty goes back to the bayou. Linda Thompson returns from a long recording silence sounding as tough and lovely as ever. Patty Griffin, David Johansen, Nick Lowe and Rodney Crowell all turn in exceptional performances, and Linda Ronstadt sounds like she was born to sing with Cajun star Ann Savoy. Maria McKee's two vocals are among her most satisfying ever. And Richard Thompson's solo voice-and-guitar piece, "Les Flammes d'Enfer," peals forth with amazing fingerpicking feats and evident affection for the form. His black humor fits perfectly with a tale of a man condemned to Hell, begging for mercy from, of all people, his aunt.
Far from a half-baked collection of tossed-together tracks, this album is a rich gumbo (if you'll forgive a painfully obvious culinary metaphor), in which all the individual flavors blend into a heady broth that transports you to another time and place. Jeff Rosenberg
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Medicated Magic (Ropeadope/Atlantic)
No one looks to the Dirty Dozen for flights of innovation--if anything, much of the New Orleans band's appeal rests on its connection to the Easy's old-fangled traditions. So in a big way, it's good enough for Medicated Magic to be a salty, greasy, drunk-in-the-afternoon summer party album, which it is. The band goes for artistic bonus points by roping in DJ Logic (alongside much more predictable collaborator Dr. John) for a couple of tracks. The wax-master's scratching blends well with the band's muscular second-line funk, but, as always, the broad-shouldered horns drive this sucker home. Zach Dundas