The Gift of Gab
4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up
The Gift of Gab, the MC half of Blackalicious, ventured north from his Bay Area home and musical partner, Chief Xcel, for this debut solo album. Relatively unknown Seattle producers Jake One and Vitamin D share production credits on 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up.
It must have taken a truckload of restraint on a fledgling producer’s part to leave out some of the shiny bells and whistles endemic to hip-hop technology today. The truckload of restraint that Jake One and Vitamin D display in laying out the stripped-down sound of FDRSGU would have the Washington State Patrol licking their chops at the weigh station.
Given the busy over-production that Chief Xcel brings to Blackalicious’ Blazing Arrow, it’s refreshing to hear GoG’s introspective, uplifting, and sometimes funny rhymes sprayed over the mellow jazzy backdrop that his new Seattle cohorts smooth out for him. On “Flashback,” shag carpet-worthy R&B groove backs up a stream-of-consciousness list of GenX nostalgia and illustrates best the chemistry of these collaborators.
As for the name? With nary a literal rocket ship appearing on the record, the listener is left wondering why Gab chose such a complicated title for such an uncomplicated album. (Caroline Keys)
The Gift of Gab and Lateef the Truth Speaker perform Wednesday, March 23, at The Other Side. Tickets cost $12/advance, $15/door, available at Ear Candy Music and Rockin Rudy’s.
Uprite Dub Orchestra
Dub is a primarily instrumental offshoot of reggae characterized by long, trippy tracks. Lyrics aren’t important in dub, which means it’s easier to get lost in the pure music, or something like that.
Most of the tracks on the Portland, Ore., band’s debut disc are recorded live in various pubs. The sound quality is rich and full, the bass is deep, the horns are hoarse and the guitar is occasionally out of tune. The six Uprite Dub dudes blend traditional dub, as pioneered by Lee “Scratch” Perry, with ska and elements of dancehall. “Latin Goes Ska” is an example of the latter—too much snappy dancehall for some tastes, but there are nine other punchy tracks to listen to. “Business as Usual” features vocal shouts and a rigorous arrangement. The horns are tight and the beats are energetic—refreshing in a genre often associated with the slowed heartbeats of gregarious ganjafarians. Another ska-shaking track with similar qualities is “Blonde Dready.”
Uprite Dub Orchestra also treats Duke Ellington’s seminal “Caravan” to a revamp, with break beats allowing the band to switch gears between dub, funk and ska.
Dubrite is a fun disc for occasional play, perhaps better suited for ska fans than dub dudes. (Eric Segalstad)
The Uprite Dub Orchestra performs at 10 PM Monday, March 21, at The Top Hat. Cover TBA.
Rock That Babe
The kids have got pedigree, what with Ruth Ungar, fiddling daughter of Grammy-winning fiddler Jay; Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, grandson of folkily ubiquitous Pete; and resident pop songcrafter Michael Merenda—the irresistibly hook-saavy Sting of the group, if Mammals were Police, as it were.
There’s a good amount of neo-old-timey NPR fodder, however pleasantly done, until an unforeseen Cuban groove and a moaning violin stretch out into “Chan Chan,” an apparent classic from the Mammals’ live set, and one of Rock That Babe’s several standouts.
It’s the very presence of standout tracks—you’ll hear the other two or three—that makes the album as a whole, the band’s third as a group, stand out in an increasingly crowded crowd of scratchy folk/old-time/post-bluegrass whomevers.
“Bad Shoes Blues”—now with Ruth vocalizing— is a good example of how the Mammals use tricks they picked up from rock and roll (is that really a fuzz bass?) and there’s a version of “John Henry” here that you could see coming from a mile away, if only for all the dust it kicks up. Track 10, “Pearls,” is where a creeping Grateful Dead echo starts to make itself heard, only to prove in the end that, speaking sonically, you can salvage just about anything with a properly placed fiddle. (Brad Tyer)
The Mammals play Saturday, March 19, at The Other Side. Doors open at 8:30 PM. Tickets available at Rainbow’s End.
Raven’s Wing Records
Is she really the small-town South Dakota girl from her song “Away”? After spending the 50 minutes of Deliverance with Amy Martin, the listener will not necessarily know Amy any better than before. The listener will, however, have met an array of characters created by Martin (who’s actually from Iowa).
Each of these songs comes from such different perspectives. Handclaps on a capella number “Born in the Country” make it feel primitive, like an Allan Lomax recording. Martin’s fictional characters reveal their stories with sincerity, from the troubled religious missionary of “Amazon” to a single woman running down her checklist in the search for Mr. Right on “Man.”
The tie that binds this array of gracefully crafted songs is musicianship. Martin, a fine guitar picker herself, has chosen some of the best acoustic musicians in the Missoula area to accompany her. Mason Tuttle, eternally appropriate, plays guitar, mandolin and bass throughout. Michael Blessing lends his percussion skills, Jennifer Slayden plays cello and Ellie Nuno fiddles. Lilting above this tasteful ensemble, Amy Martin narrates stories crafted with compassion for even the foulest of her characters. (Caroline Keys)
Amy Martin performs at events with activist Kathy Kelly Friday, March 18, at 12 noon on the UM campus Oval and again at 5 PM at the Wilma Theatre.