By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Closing with Billy Joe Shavers’ invocation-of-Hank classic “Tramp on Your Street,” Jones shows he’s still one of the very finest American singers — a redneck Sinatra. (Jonny Whiteside)
THE LEAVING TRAINS Emotional Legs (Steel Cage Records)
This is the Trains’ first alb in six years, and it comes across like an aerosol can in the fireplace: extremely flammable, contents under pressure. The band, under the guidance of longtime helmsman and Weekly contributor Falling James, has been consistently active during the interval, but a changing scene and the decline of the underground ol’-school punk-label network has kept the Trains offa the racks. This has got to be beyond frustrating for James, who had consistently cranked out close to a record a year since the Trains’ debut, Well Down Blue Highway, in ’84. After a nine-record run with SST, the band is back on Philly true-blue dirt-punk label Steel Cage, home to heathens like Antiseen, Limecell and the 440s.
Emotional Legs, produced with an unrefined clarity by Andrew Buscher, kicks off like a somewhat typical three-chord punk stomper but gradually unfurls into something more cinematic, though no less vitriolic. The feel begins to broaden with a well-chosen cover of the Urinals’ moody “Black Hole.” In James’ own melancholic, wistful “Dumb as a Crayon,” the singer defends his looked-down-upon girl, chiding the naysayers, “I shoplift at your daddy’s store,” and reassuring his girl, “I like the way your smile implies a crime and says, ‘Let’s get out of here.’” On the other side of the coin, drummer Dennis Carlin’s “Judy Don’t Mind” comes off like an update of the Monkees’ theme. The aptly titled “New York Is Gone” begins with a riff straight from Television’s debut, and seemingly bemoans declining urban music scenes in the U.S.
Over an hour in length, this pressure cooker blows off six years’ worth of steam with wit and finesse. (S.L. Duff)
THE SWAN SILVERTONES Saviour Pass Me Not (Collectables)
Of the hundreds of musical instruments used to make music, one — the human voice — remains the most powerful. And nowhere are vocals more moving than in spiritual music. While gospel has always nurtured the most gifted singers (who’ve often gone on to secular music), the Swan Silvertones, formed in 1938 in the Appalachian coal fields, boasted some of the best vocalists ever to stand behind a microphone.
This twofer reissue includes a pair of the group’s most enduring efforts, 1959’s The Swan Silvertonesand 1962’s Saviour Pass Me Not. Both feature the group at its inspirational best, in performance and sound quality; this is some of the most stirring “soul music” (in more ways than one) you’ll ever hear. Beginning with the group’s biggest hit, a silky reworking of Inez Andrews’ “Mary Don’t You Weep,” the voices — Claude Jeter’s cooing falsetto, Louis Johnson’s gritty asides, Paul Owens’ crystalline tenor and William Conner’s rich bass — are nothing short of angelic. Backed by Linwood Hargrove’s solo guitar (Ã la Pops Staples), a snare drum played with brushes, and an occasional bass, the singing is incredibly rich, full and, in these strange times, comforting. (Check out the messages in “Saviour Pass Me Not” and the doo-wop-style “Brighter Day Ahead.”) One of Jeter’s asides in “Mary” provided the inspiration for Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”; Simon later tapped Jeter to sing on “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” (from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon). James Brown’s “Baby Don’t You Weep” was little more than a secular reworking of the tune heard here. The rolling “Take the Lord With You” and the oft-covered “How I Got Over” are soulful hand-clappers; “That Day on Calvary” is a beautiful spiritual, while “Sinner Man” and “My Rock” are jubilee-style barnburners. The complex arrangements and nimble vocals on “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Amazing Grace” are years ahead of their time.
With so many musical “advances” focused on technology instead of content, listening to these records is likely more of a revelatory experience now than it was then. (Michael Lipton)