Skeletons in the jukebox

“Skeletons” provides a forum for local musicians, artists, record-store owners, etc., to erase cool points by expressing their unseemly affection for an unhip album from their past.

Billy Joel Glass Houses, by finger-style guitarist Patrick Fitzsimons

The cover says it all. Billy with a rock in his hand about to chuck it through a big, shiny window. What a liberating sight for a 9-year-old! Hell, what a liberating sight for a 29-year-old! Slap it on the turntable, place the needle in its groove and the first thing you hear is breaking glass. Then comes the rock & roll: “Friday night I crashed your party, Saturday I said I’m sorry, Sunday came and trashed me out again.” Nicholas, Louise, and I in our jammies dancin’ around, acting the fool! “Should I try to be a straight ‘A’ student? If you are then you think too much.” That pretty much summed it up as far as I was concerned. It was “still rock and roll to me” too!  My brother, sister and I spun that LP over and over again, we knew every word, every change … Then came hip-hop, and we scratched the $?!@ out of that thing.

CD reviews

Blake Burris, Shake it Like a Caveman: Three Stars

• Genre(s): Hill-country blues reinterpreted by a one-man band.

• You’ll like it if: You enjoy the blues getting a tongue-in-cheek revamping.

• Defining song: “Work Van”—A quirky number full of odd warnings like “don’t go fishing in the quicksand.”

Blake Burris is a do-it-all musician, equally at home on guitar, harmonica, drums, samples, and whatever else he can pull out of his ice-age hairdo. Looking like he stepped off the set of “Quest For Fire,” Burris plays a guitar that looks even more primal than his own appearance. Culling a sound reminiscent of the late great R.L. Burnside, Burris’s debut, Shake it Like a Caveman, is a ragged beauty. It’s the sort of impromptu blues you hear at a picnic adorned with corn liquor and a pork buffet. Sweaty indulgences like the preacher wishing for his own heaven on “Preachin Blues,” and employee entanglements on “Love in the Workplace,” show Burris instilling humor in a genre that desperately needs a laugh. It’s a great album for listeners who aren’t so black-and-white about their blues.

CD reviews

Mary Alice, Miss You: Two Stars

• Genre(s): Singer/songwriter, Americana.

• You’ll like it if: You take a shine to stories of cornbread, disdain for a Yankee town, and pining for a loved one.

• Defining song: “We Don’t Pray”—Prying herself away from the stereotypical Southern themes that threaten to drown the rest of the album, Alice cleverly cautions, “watch out for the snares of River Jordan’s eddies.”

Mary Alice’s Miss You is crisply produced, with the sort of songs that would be at home on the Songcatcher soundtrack, but it sounds like a slew of other albums reflecting the Appalachian sound. Alice’s “sweeter than molasses” voice and minimalist acoustic guitar is complemented by “ringer” musicians (including Grammy winner Stacy Phillips and Yale historian Brian Noell) who bring their usual mountain weapons—banjoes, fiddles, and mandolin. The usual themes of “birds singing,” “biscuits and gravy,” and “if I die” tunes are covered here. Venture down this trail only if you like your songs worn and easily navigable.

[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]


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