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Reviewing Bo Diddley's own genre, Beth McKee's complex emotion and more

Bo Diddley is his own genre and Beth McKee throws genre out the window! Also, dare to go to Transneptunian Planets on RareNoise Records? And enjoy the delights of Sadie's Gentlemen's Club while meeting Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters.


Bo Diddley

     That rhythmic thrust of Bo Diddley is a sub-genre all its own. It’s been copied far and wide. Everyone from The Who (“Magic Bus”), Buddy Holly (“Not Fade Away”), Johnny Otis (“Willie and the Hand Jive”), Dr. John (“Storm Warning”), Rolling Stones (“Mona”) and dozens of other artists have taken what one Elias Bates—born in 1928 Mississippi—invented. In its latest Rocks series, Bear Family Records presents these original Bo gems from the Checker label in Chicago. It’s all here: “Bo Diddley,” “Pretty Thing,” “Say Man,” “I’m A Man,” “Diddley Daddy,” “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” and 22 more. Bo died in 2008 at 79. He was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Beth Mckee

     There’s really no musical precedent for what esoteric singer-songwriter Beth McKee is laying down on her wonderful new self-released six-song EP, monday after sunday. Maybe Rosanne Cash. Like Cash, McKee has traversed the Southern iconography from “cosmic drifter” (which features Orlando rapper E-Turn) and the irresistible opening track “strange cookie” to the title tune and her experiences “down south” and on “railroad ties.” She’s harbored illusions—and resentments—from Mississippi and Austin to New Orleans and North Carolina. This inherent geography manifests itself in complex emotion. Plus, McKee can pound that piano, Rhodes, Wurly, organ and accordion, and her voice is warm and inviting. Call it Southern Gothic Americana. I’d follow her anywhere.

Beth McKee (courtesy of the artist) 

Beth McKee (courtesy of the artist) 

J. Peter Schwalm and Stephen Thelen

     What does genre mean anyway? Ask that question to German synth-whiz/electronic percussionist/programmer/composer J. Peter Schwalm or Swiss guitarist/composer Stephan Thelen and they’ll tell you that genre means nothing. Their Transneptunian Planets (Rarenoise Records) confirms that. Is this rock? Classical? Jazz? Ambient? Fusion? It is all of that and none of that. Now add Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, British bassist Tim Harries and Swiss drummer Manuel Pasquinelli and you’ve got a musical gumbo of international proportions. “Combining my architectural way of using polyrhythms with J. Peter’s dystopian soundworlds,” says Thelen, after they met in Frankfort to define this project, and it’s like “putting together two opposite worlds.” The result is like nothing anybody has ever heard. Grinding industrial rhythms make “Pluto” come alive when “enshrouded by ethereal atmospherics and mechanical eruptions.” “GongGong” has a distinct techno/trance feel. But mere words are insufficient to describe “MakeMake,” "Quaoar," “Orcus” or “Eris,” and they like it that way.

Sadie's Gentlemen Club

     Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club (Atomicat Records) is sure to titillate, entertain, provoke and rock your world with pre-’63 tracks by the likes of Dinah Washington, The Drifters, Ray Charles, actress Marilyn Monroe, Chubby Checker, Ike Turner, Nina Simone, BB King, Otis Rush and 21 others. From Ernie Freeman’s “The Stripper” and Otis Riley’s “Little Miss Bibbity Bobbity Boom” to The Hollywood’s “Chicks Hey Little Gigolo,” these tracks have been remastered in Texas by this Irish label that never fails to get a rise out of me.


Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters

     Indiana’s Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters break all the Americana rules on Heavy Denim (sonaBLAST! Records). Nick’s a solid singer, producer, writer and multi-instrumentalist who takes what Grateful Dead started in 1970 with Workingman’s Dead to expound upon themes like convicts, serial killers, victims, civil unrest and escape from your humdrum existence. He adds drum machines, synthesized loops, alt-country shuffles, post-punk attitude and pedal steel country moments to confound and confuse while all the time maintaining a GROOOOVE of infinite proportions. “Doing Wrong For All The Right Reasons” and “Things Are Getting Strange” may be the highlights but every track holds forth with grit and whiteboy soul.

Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters (courtesy Steve Labate)

Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters (courtesy Steve Labate)