[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.

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[Cover Me]: Josh Ritter, Jeff Buckley & Julia Holter

There are good covers, and there are bad covers. These are some I think belong in the former category.

Josh Ritter – ‘The River’ (Originally by Bruce Springsteen)
Simply one of the best songs ever written, this rendition was one of the first tracks that turned me onto Josh Ritter and marked him out as one to watch. Capturing the broken and forlorn spirit of the song, Ritter’s plaintive cries send a shiver up the spine. I saw him perform this at his show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam last year and it was spellbinding, where time seemed to stand still for the briefest of moments.

Jeff Buckley – ‘If You See Her Say Hello’ (Originally by Bob Dylan)
Found on the extensive and unparalleled Live At Siné, this recording sees Jeff Buckley in his element performing in his café stomping grounds before the release of Grace. Buckley covered many of Dylan’s songs, seeing him as a songwriting muse in some respects, but as ever he left his indelible mark on this slide-driven version of the Blood On The Tracks highlight. He didn’t just play songs, he inhabited them, and the emotional intensity of this song (and many others) remains an indisputable testament to his effulgent talent.

Julia Holter – ‘Hello Stranger’ (Originally by Barbara Lewis)
Virtually unrecognisable from the original, Julia Holter definitively updated the R&B hit on last year’s Loud City Song, taking the fifty years since it’s release in one giant leap. Stripped of the “shoo-bop-she-bop” vocals and jaunty organ, ‘Hello Stranger’ drifts amongst textural soundscapes and Holter’s reverberating vocals, becomeing less a chance meeting in the street and more of an intense channeling, like meeting someone from across the years in a dream.

[Artist Spotlight]: Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley“I thank you for helping me carry on … through the storm”

My last few posts have been quite singer-songwriter/folk oriented, so I thought I would take things up a notch with some new soul, and what better man to crank up the mood than the ‘Screaming Eagle of Soul’, Mr. Charles Bradley?

Along with Lee Fields and Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley forms part of a rearguard of soul music: artists much neglected for most of their career but who are finally getting the attention they deserve with their old-school R&B sound. Bradley’s career in particular is a real underdog story, chronicled in the recent documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America, which unfortunately has yet to see British release. Similar to the documentary Searching For Sugarman that centred on Sixto Rodriguez, with whom Bradley recorded a split 45 last year, Charles Bradley: Soul of America talks about a diamond which was not fully unearthed until way down the line. From leaving his Florida home at the age of 14 Bradley has struggled, living hand to mouth and often in harsh conditions. However, his undiminished ambition to make it as a singer, which persisted through years in mismatched appointments including an extended stint as a James Brown impersonator under the name Black Velvet, finally came to fruition when he teamed up with the Menahan Street Band and Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth to deliver his debut record at the age of 62. Indeed, the title of that album, No Time For Dreaming, could be the injunction Bradley aimed at himself for finally telling his story. If that’s the case then Victim of Love could certainly be Bradley’s response and gesture of gratitude to the overwhelmingly positive public and critical acclaim that No Time For Dreaming has received. 

‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ is a moody and funky track, which showcases Bradley’s hard-hitting delivery and his irrepressible wails. As Bradley struts his stuff, co-writer and guitarist Thomas Brenneck chucks out a percussive guitar rhythm and displays a screaming, fuzzed up solo towards the song’s close. Meanwhile, horn blares from Dave Guy and Leon Michels punctuate Bradley’s preaching vocals and Homer Steinweiss’s outstandingly funky drum part makes sure the song hits you square in the guts. It is one of the standout tracks from the album for me and I strongly recommend you to go out and buy it. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed and you will be supporting an artist whose time may have finally come.

Victim of Love is available now through Daptone Records.