Thinking of Charlie
First, it’s time for all good thoughts and good energies to be directed south, to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville where Charlie Louvin, the great Charlie Louvin, is about to undergo the long and complicated operation needed to try and remove the stage 2 pancreatic cancer that he was unexpectedly diagnosed with last week. For those who don’t know, Charlie, 83, was once half of the Louvin Brothers, who were and basically still are the greatest duo act in the history of country music. Charlie has experienced something of a late career comeback in recent years thanks to Josh Rosenthal and his Tompkins Square record label. His brother Ira, (who Charlie calls EYE-ree), the man responsible for the tire fire on the cover of the duo’s most famous record, 1959’s Satan is Real was a hellion of the first order and was killed by a drunken driver in 1965. Charlie, not surprisingly, has been nearly the opposite and is one of the sweetest guys it’s been my pleasure to meet. I particularly remember one night at the Rodeo Bar in NYC where the man had an endless store of really silly sex jokes. He’s says he expects to be back onstage a month after his surgery so we’ll see. Despite his health, he’s gonna be a trooper and play a previously scheduled Opry gig this Saturday which because of the recent floods is back in the Ryman Auditorium, which seems very fitting for this Charlie appearance. He goes on at 8:45 PM CDT. Listen at www.opry.com
Under the “Gee, I wish it sounded better category,” is the kicking new Black Keys record, Brothers that proves yet again that the slithery, weird as hell, buzzy as shit, Led Zeppy gutrock concocted by guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney is powerful stuff. While the sound is slightly disappointingtoo much squash and not enough dynamic rangeand Auerbach’s continued addiction to vocal processors is lamentable (as a spice I think it works, but as a sauce over almost everything, it’s too much), this new record is wonderful. For those wondering where rock music has gone, or where boogie blues rock went, this record will provide some answers. This one is also full of Sixties rock references galore.
And speaking of that decade and boogie blues, Grace Potter is so far ahead of the game at the tender age of 24 that it’s a shock. She’s a pretty polished performer, not to mention songwriter, keyboard player, strummer of Flying Vs, and schmoozer of crowds….and the list goes on. It’s the whole stand and deliver, Tina and Janis school of belters come back to life. With a little Bonnie Raitt thrown in. She’s even begun dressing like Tina. And now her band of intrepid Vermonters, The Nocturnals, who I recently saw again live, have turned into a really sharp live act thanks to endless touring that I hope doesn’t hag out her voice before its time. Her latest, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals with tunes like the anthemic, stop time, “Medicine,” the rocked up “Paris” and the obligatory reggae number, ups the ante and completes her transition from a sort of granola crunchy, Vermont hippie, jammy bluesy act to a big blues rock band who’s instrumentalism has shot through the roof and which has a sassy blonde whirling dervish at its center. Dammit, that girl’s got the legs and she’s got the screams. And she leaves it all on the stage. Yes, the music does appeal to an older crowd. Not many indie rock nerds in her audiences these days, but hey, oh well. Older music fans have more cash to spend anyway. Watching her, rocking the hell out of Webster Hall, it seemed to me like the trick now is not to burn out too quick. This woman has a future.