So I've had a strange musical juxtaposition this week; from bang up to now, right this minute kind of thing and then back into time like some episode of Star Trek where the writers obviously wrote the whole thing on drugs.
First off the new opus from Mr Scruff, Ninja Tuna, available on the ever wonderful Ninja Tune label. A label so irredeemably lovely that they would have to release racist skinhead bands for me to go off them, or Clive Dunne's back catalogue. Whether or not the album is named in tribute to the label I dunno, but hey; who cares?
One of the things I like most about Mr Scruff isn't the music but the cartoons. Cartoons are great and the world needs more of them. That said the new album is as esoteric a mash up as you could imagine, veering between the almost soul-jazz of Music Takes Me Up (I know, I know - soul jazz *shiver*) and the hip hop shapes of the opener, Test The Sound, that should have stuck around for longer in my opinion. The Roots Manuva featured track, Nice Up The Function, is another treat but large parts of the record seem to drift off into wibbly wobbly shapes that might sound lovely in the background of a wine bar or something.......that said this track is scrumptious.
The other album that's been playing wildly in Suburban Mansions was last heard in 1951. Unfortunately I was only sent the available-only-in-Walmart shorter edition of the 3 CD box set of Hank Williams - The Unreleased Recordings. This is a fucking goldmine. The tracks were all recorded for an old radio show that was sponsored by a flour company for a radio station in mid-Tennessee; it's a snapshot in time and believe me, you don't have to be a god botherer to hear the absolute joy in tracks like Dust On The Bible. This particular track is a blue grass traditional that Hank makes his own but weirdly the lyric could have been written today with it's references to books and magazines and such. There's a lot of similarities between this breed of country and present day RnB with the constant referencing to god and the battle in the personality between doing the right thing and wanting the wrong thing (see Jerry Lee Lewis); but Hank was the daddy of them all.
There are tracks here that have never been available before, like Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and Cherokee Boogie, that make you wonder what the guy could have achieved if he'd lived longer than 29 years. Songs like The Prodigal Son and the lachrymous Searching For A Soldier's Grave might not be everyone's idea of cutting edge but you just have to hear the yearning in the strained voice, the bruises and callouses in every note and you start to realise why he died so young. Nobody can carry that much pain and emotion and be untouched. Hank Williams was the yardstick by which every modern country artist should be measured, and from where I stand most of them don't even figure.
In my humble opinion everyone who claims to love music should have at least on Hank Williams album in their collection. If you like RnB, if you like reggae, even if you like big rock then you will relate to Hank.
Hank is cool. Hats off to Hank. Watch this clip - it's awesome.