Author: Alban Nuhiu

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Strange Things Happening Every Day

Rock ‘n’ roll was bred between the church and the nightclubs in the soul of a queer black woman in the 1940s named Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was there before Elvis, Little Richard and Johnny Cash swiveled their hips and strummed their guitars. It was Tharpe, the godmother of rock ‘n’ roll, who turned this burgeoning musical style into an international sensation.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Tharpe was always surrounded by music growing up. Born Rosetta Nubin in Arkansas to Willis Atkins and Katie Bell, Tharpe came from a family of religious singers, cotton pickers and traditional evangelists. She picked up the guitar at four years old, and at the age of six she accompanied her mother to perform with a travelling evangelist troupe in churches around the South. By the mid-1920s, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, where they continued performing spiritual music. As Tharpe grew up, she began fusing Delta blues, New Orleans jazz and gospel music into what would become her signature style.

Although Tharpe’s distinctive voice and unconventional style attracted fans, it was still the mid-1930s. Female guitarists were rare, and even more so was a musician who pursued both religious and secular themes, a fact that alarmed the gospel community. But Tharpe — young and innovative — was determined to keep experimenting with her sound. Her persistence and grit paid off, and by 1938, she had joined the Cotton Club Revue, a New York City club that became especially notable during the Prohibition era. She was only 23 at the time, a feat that was only amplified when she scored her first single, “Rock Me,” a gospel and rock ‘n’ roll fusion, along with three other gospel songs: “My Man and I,” “That’s All” and “Lonesome Road.”



The Fat White Family – Touch The Leather

The band, fronted by Southampton-born and Huddersfield-raised Lias Kaci Saoudi, formed in 2011. Lead guitarist Saul Adamczewski was previously the frontman of indie pop band the Metros, which also featured Fat White Family’s original bass player, Joseph Pancucci-Simpson.

They released their debut album, Champagne Holocaust, in 2013, on UK label Trashmouth Records. It was released in 2014 in the U.S. on Fat Possum Records. The band released Fat Whites/Taman Shud, a split EP with Taman Shud, on 11 December 2013 on Trashmouth.

On 10 March 2014, Fat White Family issued their first single, “Touch the Leather”, on Hate Hate Hate Records.

In early 2014, the band launched a PledgeMusic campaign to fund their show at the South by Southwest festival, with a subsequent US tour. Pledgers were given the self-released EP Crippled B-Sides and Inconsequential Rarities. Next was the single “I Am Mark E Smith” (referencing singer Mark E. Smith of the Fall), released 15 December 2014.

Their second album, Songs for Our Mothers, was released in 2016 by the Without Consent label. It was promoted with a single for “Whitest Boy on the Beach”,which was later chosen for the closing credits of the 2017 film T2 Trainspotting.

Getatchew Mekurya – Almaz Yèharèwa

Mekurya was born on 14 March 1935, in Yifat, Ethiopia. He began his musical studies on traditional Ethiopian instruments such as the krar and the masenqo, and later moved on to the saxophone and clarinet. Upon reaching adolescence, he began his professional career in 1949 as a part of the Municipality Band in Addis Ababa. In 1955 he joined the house band at Addis’ Haile Selassie I Theatre, and in 1965 joined the famous Police Orchestra. He was also one of the first musicians to record an instrumental version of shellela, a genre of traditional Ethiopian vocal music sung by warriors before going into battle. Mekurya took the shellela tradition seriously, often appearing onstage in a warrior’s animal-skin tunic and lion’s mane headdress. He continued to refine his instrumental shellela style, recording an entire album in 1970, Negus of Ethiopian Sax, released on Philips Ethiopia during the heyday of the Ethiojazz movement. Mekurya continued to work alongside many of the biggest orchestras in the Ethiopian capital, accompanying renowned singers Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Beqele, and Ayalew Mesfin.

Kevin Morby – Harlem River

Before heading out on his own as a singer/songwriter, Kevin Morby was best known for his work with two different Brooklyn bands, the Babies and Woods. Based in Los Angeles, Morby originally moved from his native Kansas City to Brooklyn in the mid-2000s, eventually joining the noise folk group Woods on bass. While living in Brooklyn, he became close friends and roommates with Cassie Ramone of the punk trio Vivian Girls, and the two formed a side project together called the Babies, who released albums in 2011 and 2012. Following his move to L.A., Morby recorded a collection of songs with Babies producer Rob Barbato that was intended to be an homage to New York City. The new songs represented a stylistic shift into a more roots-oriented indie sound and also featured Babies drummer Justin Sullivan along with several other guest artists. Released in 2013 by Woodsist Records, the eight-song collection was called Harlem River and became Morby’s debut as a solo artist.

In August of that year, Morby relocated from his Brooklyn dwellings to Los Angeles, quickly beginning work on what would become his second solo album, Still Life. The album was released yet again on the Woodsist label in late 2014. His next record was informed by two developments: he moved to a house with a piano; and he played in the Complete Last Waltz, a group formed to pay tribute to the music of the Band. The first changed the way he wrote songs; the second meant he hooked up with fellow bandmate Sam Cohen of Yellowbirds and the two began collaborating. The recording of Morby’s first album for his new label, Dead Oceans, took place in Woodstock, New York and featured appearances from keyboardist Marco Benevento and Quilt’s John Andrews on musical saw. Singing Saw was released in April of 2016. The following year, a companion-piece album, City Music, was released. Recorded at the analog-centric Panoramic House studio in rural West Marin, California and prominently featuring its 19th century pump organ, the album saw Morby channeling Lou Reed and Patti Smith in a collection of introspective vignettes.

Annexus Quam – Osmose

Annexus Quam’s first record, originally released in 1970, is a peculiar mix of psychedelic rock and jazz, one of those distinctly Krautrock records from that era. There are plenty of spacy sound effects as well as drugged-out vocal moaning, while primitive rhythms pound away with savage ferocity, especially on the second track. The longer third cut slows things down slightly, with plenty of soloing of guitar, keyboard, and more vocal moaning over the rhythmic washes of sound and ragged percussion, and then adds in some cosmic electric guitar riffing toward the end. The side-long fourth track is far mellower, as a piano leads into a relaxed but swinging number that is far jazzier than the rest of the disc, though still based more in underground rock than jazz. The piece soon takes on the psychedelic weirdness of the earlier tracks as it starts to sway off kilter with more wordless vocals and studio effects and many transitions of sound. Annexus Quam (Osmose) is not quite rock and not quite jazz, but is a very nice listen for more adventurous listeners from either school, especially in the light of more recent post-rock developments.