It wasn't long ago that I was joking with Andre Ethier about his secret career as a major league baseball player, since there happens to be a Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder with the same name.
It turns out he may a have a new job in baseball after all. Evidently, someone in the Dodgers organization also noticed the kooky coincidence and invited the former Deadly Snakes frontman over to Chavez Ravine to sing the Canadian national anthem for a home game against the Blue Jays on Saturday, June 9. What an amazing set-up for his charming campfire strum of an acoustic folk album, On Blue Fog, released this week on the Blue Fog label, appropriately enough.
Also just out on Blue Fog is the latest work from Elevator's Rick White, called Memoreaper. The cover artwork suggests that White has been spending his time in dark forest hollows communing with deer, but don't let that fool you. This is actually the closest to punk rock that White's ever come without leaving the couch. www.bluefogrecordings.com.
On a tour of New York State college campuses back in 1966, Sun Ra had the idea of asking his band members to pick up various exotic stringed instruments they'd never played before and use them in the next Arkestra studio session, an experiment that's been called a study in ignorance.
The resulting album, aptly named Strange Strings, has just been reissued by Atavistic, and it's a sharp departure from the conventional Arkestra big-band freakout. The unusual juxtapostions of assorted stringed devices being plucked, bowed and thrashed creates a unique and captivating cacophony of buzz that's unlike anything else in the Sun Ra canon.
Those who own the original LP or the vinyl reissue of dubious origin should note that in addition to the three lengthy tracks from the entrancing El Saturn LP, there's an extra unreleased song, the spooky Door Squeak, recorded at around the same time in 1967. On this potential horror film cue, Sun Ra literally plays a squeaky door accompanied by some odd zither scratching. www.atavistic.com.
Memphis folk cult hero Bob Frank, sometimes called the Southern Bob Dylan, is a man of many skills, but glad-handing self-promotion isn't among them. As the story goes, Frank showed up loaded for the release party for his self-titled Vanguard debut album back in 1972 and proceeded to play every tune he knew that wasn't on the LP.
When puzzled label boss Maynard Solomon loudly asked to hear a song from the record, Frank fired back, "If they want to hear that shit, they can buy the fucking album." Frank was canned and wasn't heard from again for the next 30 years, and his Vanguard album has never been reissued.
But Frank never stopped writing, as John Murry discovered when he located our man in Oakland and cajoled him into recording World Without End (Bowstring), a set of chilling murder ballads based on the real-life accounts of crimes committed between 1796 and 1933. It's a stunning comeback that would've delighted Harry Smith.
Just don't count on Frank to be playing the stuff on tour any time soon. www.bowstringrecords.com.