Right on Lefty
Some consider Hank Williams Sr. the greatest-ever honky-tonk singer, but an equally solid case could be made for Corsicana-born Texas hotshot William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell. He also had a tragically short run that ended at the age of 47 in 1975, and, incidentally, he was right-handed.
Frizzell’s hedonistic hillbilly houserockers about drinking and carousing left an indelible impression on every country singer who matters, including Willie Nelson, George Jones and Merle Haggard, who made his stage debut playing Frizzell’s signature 1949 Gibson J-200. Bear Family’s swankly packaged 35-song Steppin’ Out CD, part of the label’s fab Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series, collects the rootin’-tootin’ best of Frizzell’s uptempo tunes cut for Columbia in the 50s.
Without Frizzell’s weepers, which you can hear on the comprehensive Life’s Like Poetry 12-CD box if you’ve got the money and the time, you get a skewed view of his prodigious output, but Steppin’ Out makes for a helluva party platter loaded with jukebox faves and rare rave-ups like the recently uncovered title track. Coming soon to a backyard BBQ near you. Bear-family.de.
Steppin' Out by Lefty Frizzell
Just Can't Live That Fast (Anymore) by Lefty Frizzell
The current work of Gilberto Gil may be jarringly hip for a high-ranking Brazilian government official who turned 66 in June. But as impressive as Banda Larga Cordel certainly is, the album doesn’t really stack up against the creative invention and spirited kicks of the stuff he cut in his 20s while living under the brutal military dictatorship that jailed and exiled him.
For the sake of comparison, the Water label has thoughtfully reissued three of Gil’s early classics, his two self-titled corkers arranged by the great Rogério Duprat – one from 1968 backed by Os Mutantes and the engagingly experimental 1969 follow-up – along with his cosmic 1972 comeback album, Expresso 2222.
Tropicalia lovers will dig the witty and whimsical 68 set, which comes with four dope bonus tracks, although I’ve always been partial to the thrillingly twisted “futuristic” excursions of his Cérebro Eletronico period, circa 69, which foretold the prog-tastic cross-cultural dabbling to come with the heady Expresso 2222. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Marginalia II by Gilberto Gil
Cerebro Eletronico (Electronic Brain) by Gilberto Gil
Call them Bruce
Admittedly, the whole notion of a bunch of cardigan-wearing indie hombres banding together church-choir-style to take swings at negro spirituals and prison songs learned from reissued Alan Lomax field recordings wasn’t initially appealing.
But Neil Haverty’s 11-piece Bruce Peninsula isn’t your average alternative gospel choir, and their spirited updates of Washington Phillips’s Lift Him Up, That’s All, and the ancient traditionals Rosie and Jack Can I Ride on their self-titled 7-inch EP for Escape Goat Records are delivered with genuine verve, free of the annoying tongue-in-cheek foolishness that often sinks similar projects.
Only 500 have been pressed, so don’t wait until they play at the WhipperSnapper Gallery (587A College) on August 9 to get a copy. escapegoatrecords.com.