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The February Rotation

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In my previous post, I tried fighting off the February blues with an Andres Torres sighting. This morning I tried imagining Brandon Belt singing "Feel Like Makin' Love." That helped a bit more. But to beat the blues, you have to join them. Which leads me, for the first time in a year, to my personal rotation. I've got four aces on staff right now. Let's start with the wily vet who always has nasty stuff.

Elmore James / The Sky is Crying

I've known since my misspent youth that without James, there would be no Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and so on. But stupidly I never paid attention to the real deal. Now that Elmore James has my ear, I can't even listen to this compilation all the way through. It's too much. Too much slashing slide guitar, too much punch in the horn arrangements, too much shout and grumble in James' vocals, too much barrelhouse piano. So much packed into every number, like Delta tinctures stored in tiny Mason jars. Four minutes of Elmore James contains multitudes. Not to mention some excellent advice: If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree.

Belle and Sebastian / Tigermilk

Like the Smiths, their songs capture the workaday discomfort of unpopular youth, sort of Donnie Darko distilled into four minutes of Scottish rhythm and harmony. And like the Smiths, B&S can be sly and darkly funny, as in the first cut:

Even with this, their 1996 debut, B&S figured out the balance between muscular rhythm and feather-light instrumental touches. It's nearly punk and often pretty: I can go days without being able to get the flute solo of "We Rule the School" out of my head.

T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonu / Kings of Benin Urban Groove 1972-1980

You love Afro-pop? You probably have this. If not, get it. You don't know much Afro-pop, but love American funk? Get this. Big hat tip to @bonanos for turning me on. The "T.P." stands for "tout puissant" -- all powerful. Yep. Here's a more recent incarnation of the group, making beautiful acoustic music around a table.

Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos

marc-ribot-cubanos-postizos.jpgTwo of my favorite aural pleasures: landscapes of guitar noise and unstoppable Latin rhythm. Marc Ribot has figured out how to blend them seamlessly, tipping the scales back and forth but always with a buzz. This is no nostalgia trip. I love this album, which I actually bought walking out of this concert last month. With the Border Music Project, David Hidalgo added a third favorite pleasure of mine to Ribot's mix: His voice, one of the most enjoyable rock-and-roll instruments ever. It hasn't changed a bit from the early '80s, and it added a layer of warm East LA soul to the New York-Miami-Caribbean axis of Ribot's electric Latin groove. I can't find any clips out there that display the full force of the Border ensemble, but here are Ribot and Hidalgo in the acoustic part of the show doing a Merle Haggard tune. You're welcome.

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