Ice Cube-Stir Cove-July 14th, 2023
Ice Cube made his second trip to the Stir Cove at Harrah’s Casino, ten years after his first. The first time was on the Kings of The Mic tour with Public Enemy, De La Soul, and LL Cool J. This time it was just him, and we got many more songs than the last time, around 24 or so in all. These songs were mostly truncated versions that he and hype man WC kept flowing with a lot of talking in between. The talking was fine, as it was more of a history lesson, and Ice Cube has a lot of history to talk about. He covered his entire career, doing stuff for his prime era of solo recording and tracks from albums from the last fifteen years as well. He did N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” and “Gangsta Gangsta” followed by the highlight of the night “No Vaseline”. Before that song, he talked about the online debate on whether it was the greatest diss song of all time. He and WC concluded that it was. He also talked about an online debate on whether he or Notorious B.I.G. were better storytellers. His take was that B.I.G.’s output was a small sample size, and Cube actually writes stories in the form of hit movies. He of course closed his 70-minute set with “It Was A Good Day”. It was a fun show, with a lot of talk that you know is the exact same thing they say every show. I feel like a lot of it is what he said when I last saw him ten years ago. He still comes off as a larger-than-life figure on stage and can entertain and deliver at 54 years old.
Colter Wall’s Little Songs, released July 14th, 2023
It is easy to just write off Colter Wall albums as cowboy songs by an actual cowboy. I have done it. And while songs like “Cow/Calf Blue Yodel” and “The Coyote & The Cowboy” certainly do nothing to move one away from using that narrative, there is more happening here also. Wall puts out music and tours when he is not working cattle. His albums are short and not full of filler. He has put out five albums in less than ten years, which one would think would be more than enough, but his fans certainly want more from him. Little Songs is very satisfying, with some great storytelling, lyrics, and playing. The songs vary a bit and make for a very easy-to-swallow half-hour of music that is easy to hit the repeat button on. You have the western swing of “Honky Tonk Nighthawk”, the classic Faron Young style country of “Standing Here,” and the previously mentioned prairie rancher songs. His lyrics are not just trite cowboy or country lyrics, he gets deep and personal, and in some songs, he really lets us know his thoughts. You can almost see him alone in a field or a bunkhouse pondering as he sings, “I might get to thinkin’ that might could quit drinking, but then what else is there to do? And it’s this conversation, with the ceilin’ that I’ve been talking to, if I keep my hands workin’ it holds off the hurtin’ for the work is all but true” on the wonderful “Corralling The Blues” Wall’s deep voice and sing-talk style of delivery work perfectly on the title track and on Marty Robbin’s like “The Last Long Words”. If you are a fan of all of the amazing country and Americana music being made right now, you are probably aware of Colter Wall and probably already own this album. If you are wanting to dip your toes into the genre, this is a pretty pure album to do so with. There are not a lot of bells and whistles, but a lot of lyrics and simple and nostalgic music and melodies that one should find appealing.
ANOHNI and the Johnsons-My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross, released on July 6th, 2023
Formerly Antony and the Johnsons, this project won a lot of critical acclaim with their debut album “I Am A Bird Now” and also the coveted Mercury Music Prize. It won me over as a lifelong fan. ANOHNI went solo and really explored and experimented with her sound in many different ways. Now the project is back, and I guess one could call this a blue eyed soul album. Raw and soulful are the two words to describe this album. Past albums were full of strings, chamber production, and meticulousness. This album is stunningly gritty and raw, and there just does not seem to be a lot of fuss made to pretty it up. The opening track, “It Must Change,” is just a pure classic soul track that aches in ANOHNI’s vocals. Then this gritty track “Go Ahead,” which is a minute and twenty of guitar and feedback, and ANOHNI shout singing the lyrics, “You are determined to take me down; I won’t stop you, I won’t stop you, Go ahead and burn it down, Go ahead and kill your friends. You are an addict, Go ahead and hate yourself. I can’t stop you. I can’t stop you.” For some reason, it reminds me of the end of “The Temple” from Jesus Christ Superstar.” “Sliver Of Ice” is about a conversation she had with Lou Reed before he passed. “Can’t” is a beautiful song musically that slowly swings with a soulful jazzy yet raw guitar and heartbreaking lyrics that again ache with grief in ANOHNI’s vocals. This may be the strongest song on the album, as it crescendos with ANOHNI pleading with herself manically before coming down and then back up again. It’s one hell of a track. I have to be careful, as I just want to type out all the lyrics and describe every little nuance of every track. There is so much happening here, and while the lyrics are not pleasant, they do have an effect, and “Scapegoat” is one of the best examples of that. “It’s My Fault” is a short sing-song track with layered vocals and a simple guitar track that just…I want to use the word ache a lot, as that is what I hear in her voice. “Rest” is a soulful, rock and blues torch song that possibly best showcases the band. It blisters in places. “There Wasn’t Enough” might be the closest to “classic” Johnson’s material, taking on a more chamber pop sound, albeit much more raw than would’ve been allowed previously. “Why Am I Alive” is the centerpiece song on the album and is a string-filled, soulful statement on the world we currently live in. I have seen comparisons to Marvin Gaye’s more social commentary work, and I guess it makes sense. Certainly has that vibe. I can’t recommend this album enough, and right now it is in my Top 3 albums of the year. It is an honest, genuine, and immediate work of art that I hope people take the time to listen to.