by Dan Ferguson
L.A. based indie Anti Records has terrific balance. It's a label that pays heed as much to the old sages (Tom Waits, Ramblin' Jack Elliot) and pioneers (Bettye LaVette) as it does contemporary movers and shakers (Neko Case). Most importantly, the label demonstrates vision unafraid to trot out new talents. Several recent releases display Anti in all its flying colors.
From the sage side, there is the first release in a dozen years from jazz great Mose Allison. Into his 80s, The Way of the World finds Allison in terrific voice and as cagey as ever on the lyrical side. Produced by Joe Henry, it is a potential comeback of the year. Also in the running for comeback of the year is True Love Cast Out All Evil from psych pioneer Roky Erickson. The singer behind the blood curdling scream of the ‘60s nugget "You're Gonna Miss Me" from The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Erickson's comeback from mental issues has been well chronicled. With True Love Cast Out All Evil, the comeback appears complete. On it he teams with Austin-based indie faves Okkervil River working a mix that draws from past favorites and introduces ear-worthy new originals.
In New Orleans based Galactic, Anti has themselves one of the hottest acts on the live circuit. Ya-Ka-May is the band's latest and most far reaching. In large part, it is a homage to the diversity of talent that makes New Orleans the unique entity it is. The lineup joining Galactic is impressive spanning legends like Irma Thomas, Big Chief Bo Dollis and Allen Toussaint to newly established youngsters like Trombone Shorty and John Boutté to trailblazing newcomers like Cheeky Blakk, Big Freedia, Katey Red, and Sissy Nobby. Ya-Ka-May = multi-flavored gumbo. ‘nuf said.
Soul diva Bettye LaVette turns to the British rock songbook on her latest called Interpretations. Few can take a song and make it their own like LaVette and she works her interpretive powers to the hilt on songs from the catalogues of The Who, The Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, and The Moody Blues, to name just some. Right there with Ms. LaVette's is the latest from Mavis Staples. Produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, You Are Not Alone is a stirring collection of spirituals and secular from the mighty-voiced Staples.
Philadelphia-based ensemble Dr. Dog is a newcomer to the Anti roster. A band with a large live following, debut Shame, Shame is a spirited collection of songs and music where the influences are plenty. Visit www.anti.com.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)