Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

There’s been a lot of ink spilled (font characters typed? what’s the digital analog for that phrase?) about this new record from Fiona Apple released last month.

It’s a fucking masterpiece.

I am not aiming to add more to that public record with this post. People who actually get paid for writing about music (unlike me) have got it covered. Check here, here, and here.

I’m writing about it here because I love it. And, y’all should listen to it. *Really* listen to it. The music is arresting; both stripped down and elaborate at the same time. Raw and rugged and heavy on the minor chords in ways that sound exactly like Apple’s other work without sounding redundant at all as it veers woozily from influences of drum-and-bass, delta blues, spoken word, and classical piano arrangements. The mark of a classic; instantly recognizable, but new and fresh all the same.

And, lyrically. I mean, damn. Apple’s lyrics are deeeep and real; an artist creatively wrestling with herself and her time in ways both exceedingly personal and universal.

Shameika and Heavy Balloon are two standout tracks for me, but this is a record to be listened to in full. Over and over and over again.


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Gary Clark, Jr. — Things Are Changin’ (Live) [Solo Acoustic]

In the spirit of this blog’s name, today’s post is not a new discovery or a recent release. It’s a song that has been on my mind and in my ear for much of this week, stirring up a bunch of emotions and thoughts, and I just feel like sharing it. Plus, it’s a grey, Friday morning here in Maine at the end of a long-feeling week; a ripe moment for some blues.

gary clark jr bright lights ep

I woke up to this song today. It’s my alarm ringtone now, so I’m being reminded daily how much I love it. How much I respond to Gary Clark, Jr.’s simple electrified picking and his plaintive voice. How much I like stripped-down Gary Clark, Jr. and the sparse version of this track versus the polished, produced version on his full-length debut record Blak and Blu (a common refrain among blues ‘purists’ and Gary Clark, Jr. fans and critics alike, but I’m not getting into that now).

Most of all, I respond to the varying moods the melody evokes. It’s just such a soulful, beautiful track. The song pulls me along through the 4+ minute run time; never bored, because Clark is always playing with the syncopation or throwing in a quick, improvised riff, and never once feeling like he’s finished exploring the depths of emotion he can create with his guitar and voice.

Enjoy the weekend, y’all.

Featured Image by Jonathan Mannion

 

 

Fantastic Negrito – Bad Guy Necessity

Yikes, July up and ran away from me. After a brief, unannounced hiatus (oops, sorry y’all. #nonmonetizedsidehustle), In My Ear is back! And, we’re going to crush it this week with three new posts to make up for the three weeks of lost time.

First this week was the funk stylings of The Internet. Second, an intimate, hushed single from singer-songwriter Damien Jurado. And, now…the blues of Fantastic Negrito.

If you don’t know it already, Fantastic Negrito’s story is pretty amazing. The hero’s journey. Success followed by failure and then re-birth. Creative death and then actually near-physical death. Street busking to winning a Grammy in less than a year. All of this, perfect fodder for the brand of fiery, raw, Delta blues that Negrito channels.

He released his second full-length album, Please Don’t Be Dead, in June and it’s a barnstormer. Sonically cohesive. Lyrically potent and political. A shot across the bow of the so-called American Dream and the state of the country — and us a people — at this dangerous moment in our history. Stories of lost hope, but also redemption.

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And, that’s all great. But, I’ll be honest, I almost don’t care what the lyrics are when the music is a good as this track Bad Guy Necessity. The heavy beat, snarled lyrics, and smokey guitar riffs sound…perfect. It’s a Saturday morning, so no need to go deeper than that. Just jack this song up and feel your face grimace in appreciation as Negrito wails.

Concert Special! – Shemekia Copeland

This past weekend, I finally got to cash in a long-promised-since-April birthday gift — a live show at the uniquely intimate Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. Finding the rare weekend show at SMAC that matched up with our busy end-of-school-year-into-summer schedules, the babysitting grandparents’ schedules, and my musical preferences was a trick for my wife.

But, she chose well with Shemekia Copeland.

I knew the name and that she was a blues singer, but I didn’t know much more than that. I didn’t know, for example, that she was the daughter of a career bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland. Or that she sang on stage with him at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club at age eight. Or that she released her first solo album at age 18. Or that she is as steeped in roots rock, country/bluegrass, Americana, and gospel as she is the blues.

Shemekia-and-her-dad-Johnny-Clyde-Copeland-©-Family-Archive-520x412Shemekia and her father, Johnny Clyde Copeland © Family Archive

And, I certainly didn’t know the sheer, awesome force of her voice. So powerful and resonant, it seems to come from her toes and be as natural to her as breathing. My word; at one point in the show, she walked off-stage and around the SMAC venue — a gorgeous, 200-seat, two-level post-and-beam barn — and continued singing without amplification. No problem; heard every word and note.

It was a good show and she is a great front-woman; engaging with the audience, funny, and clearly in command of that stage. The highlight song for me was Devil’s Hand, a song recorded by her father that she covers and that is pure fire played live.

(Featured Image: © Marilyn Stringer)