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2009: Kevin Macneil Brown

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Dusted senior writer Kevin Macneil Brown highlights the old sounds that caught our attention in 2009.

2009: Kevin Macneil Brown

I can offer no particular reason for it, but there’s no doubt that my listening habits in 2009 tended more toward sounds from the past than to those of right now.

Thus, I found some resonance with that in the fact that two of my favorite contemporary composers released albums balancing their old works with the new. John Luther Adams, on The Place We Began, took a box of tapes of his earlier compositions and sculpted their sounds into evocative new pieces; Chas Smith’s Nakadai set rescued and restored recordings of some almost-lost early work by the inventor/composer/steel guitarist alongside equally deep and resonant recent work. Though these two composers don’t much sound like each other, they both create spacious music that is alluringly tactile and spectral all at once (and both albums are on Cold Blue).

The CD may be in its death throes, but for now, anyway, it seems to have become an ideal carrier for anthologies of rare vintage music that have been lovingly assembled by passionate record collector/curators. Shining examples in 2009 included the collation of deep and transcendent roots gospel tracks on Fire in My Bones (Tompkins Sqaure) and the simmering stew of funk and lilt found on the previously- little-heard tracks of Legends of Benin (Analog Africa). Ghana Special (Soundway) offered a generous travelogue of gritty, ebullient 1960s and ‘70s guitar-band highlife sounds (and, at the time of this writing, is No. 1 on the Dusted Top 40 college radio chart). Spiritual Jazz (Now-Again) presented a revelatory plethora of cosmic post-Coltrane improv and interplay culled from small labels and self-releases.

Also inspiring to me was the Texas Troubadours’ (above) Almost to Tulsa (Bear Family), a very welcome collection of instrumental tracks from Ernest Tubb’s band, the country-jazz dream team that included guitar monster Leon Rhodes and pedal steel pioneers Buddy Emmons and Buddy Charleton.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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