Yazan -Howlin' (EP) – 2015

yazanhowlin

Last year I sprinted home (took a few trains and walked a few miles) from a show and straight to the internets to tell y’all about a guitarist I’d just seen named Yazan. His live show was an electric psych-blues thunderstorm, whereas his last album turned out to be an equally restorative, world-resetting series of acoustic showers. This new effort, The Howling EP, hones in on the flash flood fallout of his live shows. Torrential Listening.

Yazan is joined on these numbers by drummer Kris Kuss of the best band ever, Pile. Yazan has been touring with Pile as a guitarist for a good many months, and it’s a thrill to have this record of that collaboration.

This is some sticky, loud shit. It’s got beats. It’s got licks. Every song has a derivation of “babe” or “baby.” It’s so loud! It’s a perfect spike of rusty iron blues to nail the coffin shut on this winter.

Tell Me Baby

I Get High

I don’t think Benjamin Booker or Jack White have anything on Yazan. Please give it a shot–stream Howling at his bandcamp and name your price for a download. Or get the 10″ for only FIVE DOLLARS.

The Howling EP is Essential Listening.

DONNY DINERO – GATES ON GATES

donnydinerogates

said you’d love me for a week or more 

that’s a week I cannot afford

There’s a high-profile release coming down the pipes wherein a bunch of pale dudes take unrecorded Basement-Tapes-era Dylan lyrics and make new songs out of them the way Bragg & Wilco did with Guthrie. The Basement Tapes (and the entire Band catalogue) was one of the first pieces of music that held The Big Mystical Sway over me growing up. The Old Weird America, Greil Marcus called it, and that phrase alone was enough to detonate my puny imagination. I grew up in the South, I saw snippets of weird America day-to-day, but was it in music anymore? I pursued many contemporary bands based on media comparisons to The Band and most of them sucked. Some of them were good on their own merits, like My Morning Jacket, but their Band-ness was so far removed, or so mischanneled, that it hardly seemed worth mentioning. I imagine it’s hard convey The Band because that entails conveying five distinct musicians and their specific relationships to each other. I think Band-ness works well when new bands isolate one of those elements and try to further that: Glossary’s “Little Caney” is the best example for me, the organ line resembles stuff Manuel and Hudson played on organ.

It doesn’t really matter whether those pale white dudes make a nice record or not because another Bob Dylan and/or Band tribute will be out next year. There’s a recent tribute dedicated solely to 80’s Dylan, which is exactly up my alley, but that still seems so fleetingly interesting and mediocre when compared to this group of musicians I’m supposed by talking about in this review. I’ve mentioned the band Mail the Horse in two recent reviews, Yazan and Doolittle & the Raiders, and it is these same guys who are behind Donny Dinero. The motherband, Mail the Horse, features Donny Amidon and Michael Hesslein on songwriting/singing duties, backed by William Lawrence, Chris May, and Brendan Smith. In their solo projects, Donny Amidon is Donny Dinero and Michael Hesslein is Mickey Doolittle. Is the lineage clear now? Anyway, this album is by Donny Dinero. Doolittle serves up Band-like organ lines in the opening track “Thought You Were a Woman” and from there on the album’s a dusky hour in weird america.

I raised all that Band-ology stuff in order to talk about why Donny Dinero and the Mail the Horse guys are more Band-like than other bands, how I think their modern conveyance of The Band is more wholistic than any I’ve heard, how this feels like Danko getting to lead The Band for an extended set, but now that I’m at that point I don’t want to get into it–because who am I to say what is and isn’t Band? Let’s say Band is a state of being and these guys are in it. Five charismatic musicians who display a lovely relationship to each other on all the projects they collaborate on. This Donny Dinero album is a fucking great set of songs.

Thought You Were a Woman
Letters
Silverado

Stream and savor and buy Gates on Gates at Donny Dinero’s bandcamp. Here’s Mail the Horse. Here’s Doolittle & the Raiders again (they already put out another single since my last review). Track Donny Dinero on Facebook.

 

YAZAN – UNDRESS MY MIND (2013)

yazan-undressmymind

The other night I saw Yazan, a solo artist I’d yet to hear of, open a bill I was really excited about. I got to the bar early and listened to the Brooklyner sound-check and then transition humbly into his actual set, in front of a few fans and other musicians, saying “Actually, the empty room is pretty integral to my sound.” It was just Yazan’s voice and electric guitar (for a few songs he was joined on drums by the drummer from Mail the Horse) and he sure as shit filled that room. Not to privilege my words over his, but these are some of the notes I wrote down about experiencing his music live, for the purposes of showing how much he blew my mind: Milky way marsh honky tonk, sermon-cry, muskrat colossus, gem-toned sidewalk-dirge. Blunt, twinkling, liquid timbres. Skull-tickle haircut. Nights apart, nights in fits, nights rigid, nights swaying on your lower cache of joints. Touch-and-go lullabies, hammerheaded hymns, sternums set to hummingbird, ears set to galactic gauges, heart-to-foot nerves in overdrive.

Which is to say he killed it! I love bands that can cover a lot of ground on one guitar, and it’s not overstatement to say that Yazan covers ground, space, and skin like a hydrogen blanket. His show is expansive and incendiary, reserved when needs to be and otherwise totally gnarly.

So I rush home to download his studio album and am surprised to find that it accomplishes all of the above with acoustic guitar. It still blows my mind but eventually the shock settles down in my ribs and obliques and gives a glorious, gracious, hug. The album, Undress My Mind, is mantras and parables fed through a country-blues engine. The lyrics trace a meditative trajectory from distress to undress, from

The world is an oyster / tight and unkind

to

I feel so alive / like a flower petal / spiraling down / toward the ground / that never arrives.

He’s got such an affecting sound–stripping down the songs until the music and vocals recall pre-Vietnam stuff like Brownie McGhee and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as Bearsville folk revival stuff, but maintaining this future-facing Hendrix-like creativity and personality. It doesn’t feel like much is held back on this record, so after listening to it, you can’t help but feel refreshed yourself. I can’t recommend it enough–it’s Essential Listening and you can name your own price for it on Yazan’s bandcamp.

I Wanted More of You
Oh Paul!
Terran Holiday

Download Undress My Mind from Yazan’s website, where you can also order it on real pretty vinyl. Keep up with the project on Facebook.