Neil's version of the Silhouettes' "Get a Job" is funny enough--I guess he couldn't find a Stephen Foster piece about unemployment--and I like how "This Land Is Your Land" includes Woody Guthrie's fantastic couplet about the No Trespassing sign, "and on the other side, it didn't say nothing/that side was made for you and me." Young made sure that verse was in there... twice. As a whole, Americana is a bit of holding pattern: rowdy, somewhat repetitive.
Tweed Funk--Love Is (Tweed Tone): It's easy to tell that this is no big budget LP, but what's wrong with that? Love Is is full of passion and rocking funky grooves from the Milwaukee band. You've got tough and then smooth singing from Tweed Funk frontman Smokey, tight horn charts, a call to strut your stuff in "Dancemaker" and even a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "A Real Mother for Ya" to make it all worthwhile.
Rachel Harrington--Makin' Our House a Honkytonk (Skinny Dennis Records): The followup to Harrington's wonderful Celilo Falls is problematic. Where the previous album was full of little victories in the face of tough times, Honkytonk features a few too many sunny, 1950s-style songs that pale next to the real thing. "Get You Some" (where the prominent character unlocks the front door and is ready to put on some records because her "cool rockin' daddy" is arriving) is, sonically speaking, a terrific and haunting track, but it's rather tepid underneath. Makin' Our House a Honkytonk is a Rachel Harrington record that is less arresting than her other albums.
Dan Bern with Common Rotation--Doubleheader (Dan Bern): I thought I'd lost all interest in Bern (saw him when he only had a couple of records out), but here is a collection of baseball songs with more pathos and melody than both Baseball Project albums (and I love the Baseball Project, the group led by Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey). Bern always threatens to get a little too clever, yet when he deftly balances the extremes of emotion (as when a dying Babe Ruth is visited by someone who is thankful for all the thrills Ruth brought to his life) with heartfelt singing and fine playing from Common Rotation, he is captivating--like seeing a doubleheader in Detroit in the 1960s when you know that part-timer Gates Brown will be in left field for game two.
Can--The Lost Tapes (Spoon/Mute Records): One of our KAOS programmers (Aaron Kruse) used to say that life is too short for prog rock, yet Can (who are mainly from Cologne, Germany) is one of the few bands to transcend the genre. If you're not one of their rabid fans, that may happen after you've heard 1971's Tago Mago, or the new three-disc The Lost Tapes, a superb collection of their studio work and live performances. Think of it as experimental music with a sense of drive and even swing, with strange and exotic tone poems and a hypnotic barrage of sound. Disc two includes some remarkable tracks, such as "Dead Pigeon Suite," several minutes of stately music played on what sounds like multiple recorders before it morphs into a James Brown-ish funk rhythm. Although they practically lived in their studio in the 1970s, Can played bold, inventive music onstage, as evidenced by "Spoon" and "Abra Cada Braxos," both lengthy, well-received pieces. Disc three is for those who love moody and atmospheric touches. This group knows no borders; indeed, Can transcends prog rock the way Hendrix transcended psychedelia and the way the Allman Brothers Band transcended the jam genre.