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Beyond Genre: Willie Nelson's flourish, Futurenot's musical mayhem & more

The latest Beyond Genre column highlights releases by Willie Nelson, Futurenot, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, Charlie McCoy and others that resist categorization.

 

FUTURENOT Greatest Hits Cover

     It’s a Seattle thing. The Pacific Northwest has engendered a slew of pioneering musicians from Hendrix, Heart and Pearl Jam to Nirvana, Queensryche and Soundgarden. Greatest Hits (Color Red), by Futurenot, hits all the bases. It's a culmination of 13 years of constant reinvention in a myriad of bands that horn men Jason Cressey and Peter Daniel lovingly toiled in. Add more locals with similar credits on keyboards, drums, guitar and bass and you’ve got a simmering, boiling pot of effervescent, cinematic gumbo, an infectious brand of totally out-of-the-ordinary musical mayhem. Now add rapper Moe Betta and soaring sax man Skerik. This futuristic pastiche of oddball funk, soundtrack absurdity, undefinable delicious grooves tickles the ear with the kind of precision and stop-on-a-dime exactitude that makes it a keeper for the ages. In other words, this doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard!

Futurenot is much more than the sum of its parts. 

Futurenot is much more than the sum of its parts. 

     

8 and a half Souvenirs

     You cannot place a genre on the self-released At The Movies by 8 ½ Souvenirs. It’s sung in French, Italian, Spanish, English and Portuguese. It fuses elements of Old-World Euro Café Society, Hot Club, Circus Swing and Alt-Pop. You’ll hear kazoo, all sorts of tricky percussive toys, guitars, synthesizers, oud, Bouzouki, mandocello, whistles, piano, accordion, Hammond B-3 organ, contrabass and drums. It was produced by longtime Dylan sideman Charlie Sexton. There is no describing it. Put it this way: If gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt had lived past his mere 43 years and moved to Austin with Nino Rota (who did all those film scores for Fellini art films of the ‘60s), their imaginary band together might sound something like this.

Charlie McCoy

     Charlie McCoy, 81, was born where Hank Williams died: Oak Hill, West Virginia. This Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist for Elvis, Waylon and Dylan, a Country Music Hall of Famer, may be known for his 37 albums and as part of “The Nashville A-Team” on over 400 recordings, but, in the ‘60s, as a young man, he was a stone rocker. Now Bear Family Productions has released those early sides in a 29-track doozy, Screamin’, Shoutin’, Beggin’, Pleadin’: The Rock’n’Soul Recordings From 1961-1969 by Charlie McCoy & The Escorts. It’s a post-rockabilly time trip. Lean and mean, it's a trip through time with some wailing harmonica, mean guitar, stuttering sax and snarly vocals.

Willie

     Willie Nelson’s 17th album in the last 10 years came on his 89th birthday. A Beautiful Time (Sony Legacy) is absolutely sterling. His consistency of excellence is a damn stone marvel. (Maybe we should all be smoking as much pot as Willie.) Whether interpreting Lennon/McCartney (“With A Little Help From My Friends”) or Leonard Cohen (“Tower Of Song”), his cracked jazz-voice where he lags just an instant behind the beat, and his Django Reinhardt-inspired lead guitar are things to savor. As if to cement his rep as one of America’s greatest living songwriters, he’s composed five new tunes with producer Buddy Cannon including album highlights “I Don’t Go To Funerals” and “Don’t Touch Me There.” Willie hired harmonica man Mickey Raphael when he was 18. He’s now 70 and still adding those beautiful flourishes.

Willie, courtesy Maria Malta

Willie, courtesy Maria Malta

   

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It was a teenaged Jackie Wilson who came out of Detroit to replace Clyde McPhatter in 1953 as lead singer in Billy Ward’s Dominoes. He had charisma and star power when he went solo to energize soul music with such pioneering, revelatory tracks like “Reet Petite,” “Lonely Teardrops” (the tune he was singing at an oldies show in New Jersey when he lapsed into a coma onstage) and “Baby Workout.” Producers didn’t know how to properly adorn his operatic tenor yet he battled through kitchen-sink arrangements with sheer force…just like he did in life. Someday there’ll be a movie about this pivotal larger-than-life figure but for now, Spotlight On Jackie Wilson: Mr. Excitement (Koko Mojo Records) will have to do.