[Cheap and Cheerful]: Cody ChesnuTT

cody-chesnutt-lo-res-press-photo-2“Know how to stay fly in the hardest times, But what we don’t know is that ain’t gonna be enough”

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

Seen most recently supporting neo-soul Q.U.E.E.N. and fellow Atlantan Janelle Monae on tour, Cody ChesnuTT has also been carving out his own distinctive brand of rock ‘n’ soul in recent years. After splitting from L.A. rockers The Crosswalk in 2000, ChesnuTT set up a makeshift studio in his bedroom and sequestered himself for several months with a handful of instruments and a 4-track recorder to produce 2002’s critically acclaimed double album The Headphone Masterpiece. A genre hopping gumbo indebted to a love of rock ‘n’ roll, The Headphone Masterpiece turned a lot of heads with its prodigious musicality and lo-fi aesthetic, landing ChesnuTT on tours with Erykah Badu and The Roots. A subsequent guest slot on The Roots’s Phrenology for their cover of ChesnuTT’s ‘The Seed’, an appearance in Dave Chapelle’s Block Party and electrifying live performances only added to his growing cult status, yet ChesnuTT would not put out his second full-length album for another ten years. Following a quiet period of family life and reflection, punctuated by the release of Black Skin No Value EP in 2010, ChesnuTT returned with the smoking hot Landing On A Hundred in 2012. True to his bedroom basics roots, ChesnuTT has now chosen to make the Kickstarter funded album available for free over at Noisetrade, parcelled up with guest remixes and juicy outtakes from recording sessions at Memphis’s Royal Studios.

Like its predecessor, Landing On A Hundred covers a wide range of musical flavours and life issues, from socially conscious jams like ‘Under the Spell of the Handout’s honky-tonk funk and the gospel redemption of ‘Everybody’s Brother’, to ‘That’s Still Mama’s inner city holler and the sweet Sam Cooke-isms of ‘Love Is More Than a Wedding Day’. Meanwhile, the B-sides and remixes reveal even further scope and depth. The softly caressing lullaby of ‘Listen’ is counterpointed by country-blues stomper ‘Gunpowder On The Letter’, featuring searing leads from Gary Clark Jr., while in the hands of The Roots drummer and frontman Questlove ‘What Kind Of Cool’s shuffling beat is slowed to a soporific haze and an Eddie Hazel-worthy fuzzed-up solo leads out of the fog. Make no mistake, it’s a headphone masterpiece worth checking out

Landing On A Hundred is out now through Vibration Vineyard/One Little Indian and is available for free download here. Cody ChesnuTT is currently on a European tour, find dates here.

Advertisements

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and The Doors

th21-record-player-music-flickr-stacey-d-630w

Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Let’s Shake Hands’ – The White Stripes
Not a B-Side, but given that only 2,500 pressings of this release exist and that it wasn’t featured on any of The White Stripes’s studio albums it certainly qualifies as rare. Landing in 1998 on a limited 7″ run of 500, this single marked The White Stripes’s first recording and as a statement of intent they don’t come more definitive than this. Racing along on Jack White’s frenetic riffing and Meg White’s relentless drum pounding before clocking in at just over two minutes, this is taut, visceral garage punk at it’s best. It was paired with their ragtime version of Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Look Me Over Closely’, showing that the band had more than one string to their bow and singled them out as one to watch

‘You And I’ – Arctic Monkeys Feat. Richard Hawley
Crediting themselves as The Death Ramps on the B-Side to 2012’s Black Treacle, a pseudonym the band had used previously to anonymously release limited singles, Arctic Monkeys shift into fifth gear on this speeding road anthem. Sheffield’s elder songsmith, Richard Hawley, gives his meanest whisky-and-cigarettes-stained vocal delivery before the band head full-pelt into some scuzzy and searing solos. The whole track drips with attitude and quite frankly blows A-side ‘Black Treacle’ out of the water.

‘Who Do You Love’ – The Doors Feat. Albert King
When you can tour with blues giant Albert King as your opening act, you know you must be doing something right. Although their live acts courted much controversy in the preceding year and Jim Morrison would suffer an apparent breakdown onstage later in the year, forcing the band as a live unit into early retirement, performing here in June 1970 in Vancouver it is impossible to deny the elemental force The Doors wielded onstage. With Albert King invited onstage to provide slide duties and powered by Ray Manzarek’s groovy organ hook, the band burn their way through Bo Diddley standard ‘Who Do You Love’. While during this period Morrison’s performances were something of a crapshoot depending on how intoxicated he was, during this concert he is at his roaring best, a blues shaman channeling energy from somewhere else. As one of the last recorded performances and with Morrison dead within a year, this concert remains a testament to The Doors’s short lived greatness live.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The National, Led Zeppelin & Michael Kiwanuka

th21-record-player-music-flickr-stacey-d-630w

Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Blank Slate’ – The National
Appearing on 2008’s The Virginia EP, a collection of extra material and live cuts from the Boxer recording period, this song actually began life some three years earlier as a B-side to Abel called Keep It Upstairs‘. While ‘Keep It Upstairs’ owed it’s slightly anaemic and meandering sound to the heightened introspection of its parent album Alligator, ‘Blank Slate’ rumbles headlong with the wiry tautness of Boxer‘s ‘Apartment Story’ or ‘Mistaken For Strangers’. Soaring and fuzz-laden, this could be one of The National’s few unabashed anthems.

‘White Summer / Black Mountainside’ – Led Zeppelin
Fuelled by their own creativity and momentum in pioneering hard-hitting blues-rock, the band were on a prolific high in their early period and their live shows quickly gained a reputation for their intensity. Recorded at a 1969 show in London between the release of Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, this arresting guitar instrumental signposts Jimmy Page’s emergence as a striding guitar hero. Flying solo with occasional help from John Bonham to up the drama, over eight searing minutes Page fuses Arabic scale influences with a rather untraditional, vamped up take on the traditional Irish folk song ‘Down by Black Waterside’ (although Page’s version actually owe’s a lot to Bert Jansch’s arrangement).

‘I Need You By My Side’ – Michael Kiwanuka
A perfect song to greet Sunday morning, this track from the I’m Getting Ready EP sees Michael Kiwanuka donning his musing-folky cap. When this EP and the Tell Me A Tale/Isle Of Wight Sessions EP landed in 2011 they garnered Kiwanuka a lot of attention, and from this song it’s easy to see why. Centred on his economical guitar and moving vocals, with tasteful horn and vocal accompaniments, ‘I Need You By My Side’ evidenced newcomer Kiwanuka’s skill as a soulful and mature songwriter. Above all though, it hits the heart first and the head second.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Eels, The Rolling Stones & Tom Waits

th21-record-player-music-flickr-stacey-d-630w

Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Your Mama Warned You’ – Eels
A funky slice of ska influenced rock n’ roll appearing on the deluxe edition of last year’s aptly titled Wonderful, Glorious. Vitriolic and spitting feathers, E delivers a gruff reprisal against a backdrop of snarling guitars and pounding drums.

‘No Expectations’ – The Rolling Stones
Hard to believe this was ever pitched as a B-side to ‘Street Fighting Man’, for me it is one of the most enduring and emotive Stones songs. Brian Jones’s slinky and resonant slidework here is one of the last contributions he made before quitting the band and his death which swiftly followed, giving added poignancy to the line “Our love is like our music, it’s here and then it’s gone”.

‘I Want You’ – Tom Waits
Appearing on the Early Years Vol. 2 collection, which compiles glimmers of Waits’s early Kerouacian balladry that didn’t make the grade, ‘I Want You’ is a short and sweet throwaway ditty. It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, for Waits distills into just over a minute what centuries of artists have spilt gallons of ink, paint, sweat and tears over. Tender, sincere and utterly sublime.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Bruce Springsteen Special

bg-postcard_1119104652755“Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, / But maybe everything that dies some day comes back”

It looks like Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes, a collection of session outtakes and unreleased material from the millennium years, is set to reach the No.1 spot, making it Springsteen’s tenth No.1 album. I am very partial to a bit of Brooce and his unreleased tracks are often beauties, but unfortunately after a few listens High Hopes falls just a bit short for me and I think I may have narrowed down the reason why. Springsteen’s previously released four disc collection of B-Sides and rarities Tracks (which was out of print for years, but has recently been reissued) covered a good thirty years from his early days as a New Jersey bar bandleader in the seventies right on through to the years in the wilderness without the E Street Band during the nineties. As such, the collection reflects a variety of periods and styles of Springsteen’s career as a maturing musician and songwriter. Compared to Tracks, High Hopes has a relatively meagre selection to draw from, with only thirteen years and four albums (seven if you count the solo and Seeger Session Band releases). This is Springsteen as a fully matured songwriter and while each of the four E Street Band albums is compelling in its own way, there is a clear oscillation in tone between bristled outrage (Magic, Wrecking Ball) and enduring hope (The Rising, Working On A Dream) in reaction to what was going on at the time (Bush administration; Post-banking crisis and recession blues; Post 9/11; And Obama’s rise to power, respectively). This means that while there are some fine moments on High Hopes, it just doesn’t have the gamut and variety of Tracks. With that in mind, I thought this seemed a prudent time to pull up some of Springsteen’s finest diamonds in the rough for a Cutting Room Floor special.

The Fever
An early cut from 1973, first recorded during the sessions for The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle and performed many time since then, but only officially surfacing in 1998 on the 18 Tracks compilation. In the meantime, Springsteen gifted the song to his Jersey Shore friend and contemporary, Southside Johnny, for his 1976 debut album I Don’t Want To Go Home. It kickstarted the career of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and Springsteen and other E Streeters have performed in the band with him down the years. The song itself is a slow bluesy ballad of longing with the E Street Band creating simmering tension while Springsteen’s croon is on smouldering form.

Born In The U.S.A. (Demo)
Probably the most well known and most commonly misunderstood of Springsteen’s songs. Like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, where the causticly anarchistic message is thinly veiled behind a plaintive piano melody and uplifting chorus, ‘Born In The U.S.A.’s heavy irony has often been misconstrued by casual listeners who only hear the militaristic fist-pumping beat and the refrain “I was born in the U.S.A.”. In other words, they hear a call to arms rather than the cry of desperation and sorrow of a disillusioned Vietnam War veteran with “nowhere to run, nowhere to go”. The song was famously appropriated in a jingoistic way by Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential reelection campaign. Had they first heard the original version of the song, birthed during the sessions for Springsteen’s starkest record, Nebraska, they might not have been so keen. As the song pounds along on Springsteen’s jittery acoustic rhythm the wiry twang of an electric guitar rises in the distance like helicopters over Vietnam. From the breathless desperation of Springsteen’s delivery and his high and lonesome cries there is no doubt that this is about a man being hunted down; running, but with nowhere to run to.

Murder Incorporated
A rollicking barnstormer of a song, which rose to prominence during the E Street Band Reunion Tour in the late ‘90s. Describing the everyday dangers and pressures of living in New York during the Murder Inc. period of organised crime, it is the little vivid observations such as keeping “a little secret deep inside your dresser drawer” that make Springsteen such an accomplished songwriter. Recorded during the Born In The U.S.A. sessions, Springsteen even considered naming the album after the song before cutting it from the tracklist and going with Born In The U.S.A. instead. What a different album it would have been with that title.

‘Swallowed Up (In The Belly Of A Whale)’
And to finish where we started, here is a bonus cut from Springsteen’s last album, Wrecking Ball. Although there is a lot of rage and darkness on Wrecking Ball there is also a lot of hope, and ‘Swallowed Up’ must have been left off for fear of overtipping the balance towards the former. While bitter anthems on Wrecking Ball like ‘Death To My Hometown’ or ‘Jack Of All Trades’ had moments of galvanised rage or redemptive hope, ‘Swallowed Up’ is consumed by a resigned sorrow as Springsteen envisions the world swallowed whole by a dark beast and the bones of the dead sailors that lie within its guts, despite the true courses they held. It is allegorically bleak and without a sliver of hope seeping through into the belly of this beast.

This is just a small crop, but if you want to go further into Springsteen outtakes then I suggest checking out ‘Fire’, ‘The Promise’, ‘Iceman’, ‘Wages Of Sin’ and ‘Sad Eyes’. Also, if you liked this Bruce Springsteen special, why not check out last year’s Neil Young covers special?

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Pearl Jam.

th21-record-player-music-flickr-stacey-d-630w

Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And while the internet has made this search far easier it is still the case that sometimes X marks the spot exactly, and sometimes it just doesn’t. But, every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. Of course B-Sides once used to serve the purpose of being where artists could experiment on a format which would not effect popularity (as A-side singles do) or stick out like a sore thumb in an album’s track list. But, these happy accidents still have the power to add immense value and enrich your life. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun’ – Jeff Buckley

Presided over by his mother, Mary Guibert, Jeff Buckley’s legacy has been kept in safe hands since his death nearly twenty years ago, and the steady stream of bonus material that has surfaced since then has only served to cement his status as an effulgent talent. From the rough, but sophisticated eclecticism of incomplete sophomore album Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, to golden throwaway moments on the expanded edition of Grace and stunning recordings of his café days on Live at Siné, all of these recordings prove that Buckley exuded the kind of creative gold dust that plenty of musicians would trade their own mother for. Here is a deep, deep cut that points to a possible collaboration with Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins that may possibly have gone down in history. Buckley is a perfect foil for Fraser’s quavering siren call, duelling perfectly with his own shimmering and elastic croon. The music strikes a nice middle-ground between Buckley’s innovative musicality and the dream-pop sojourns of Cocteau Twins, providing a mutual space for these captivating vocalists to meet.

‘Come Into My Sleep’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 

To be found on the mammoth, if literally titled, three disc B-Sides & Rarities collection, ‘Come Into My Sleep’ originally appeared as the B-side to ‘(Are You) The One I’ve Been Waiting For?’. I can certainly see why this track wouldn’t fit on the introspective tone of The Boatman’s Call, but it certainly offers a seductive remedy to its caustic A-side. It is a metaphysical serenade of sorts, with Cave petitioning his lover to sail through seas of stars into his dreams. A simple xylophone melody invokes intrigue while Cave’s vocals glide over them amongst dreamy strings. Stunning.

‘Drifting’ – Pearl Jam

This song was allegedly written on the back of a plane ticket after Eddie Vedder spent a night over at Neil Young’s house, and the vagabond spirit which has permeated both musicians’ work is certainly at the fore here. Unlike some of the sprawling, anthemic songs Pearl Jam have made, ‘Drifting’ centres on Vedder’s searching, soulful vocals and laid back acoustic strumming as he extols the virtues of untangling yourself from the complicating excesses of a materialistic lifestyle and hits with the force of a simple truth. It’s a lovely, carefree ditty which offers a precursor to his later soundtrack for Sean Penn’s film Into The Wild.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.