This is one appropriately named recording. Guitarist/ vocalist/songwriter Buddy Blue’s latest CD is a dipsomaniac’s delight, a happy-hour smorgasbord of roadhouse blues, jump and jazz of the kind that goes down well with belts of Old Crow and an equal number of Pabst chasers (not that you need to be intoxicated to enjoy this band). The musicianship is solid among all of its wide-ranging titles: there’s Chicago-styled blues, a hillbilly-flavored period piece titled “That Yodelin’ Hateful Rag,” sophisticated jump, dreamy ballads, Robert Johnson-like laments, slide guitar (from guest Dave Alvin), and solo sax interludes. Blue, who frequently masquerades in these pages as music journalist/nouveau-swing critic Buddy Seigal, punches out lyrics with enough guts and cool to make you believe he’s a tough guy, though not the kind you’d keep your sister from dating. While most retro vocalists sound like they’ve been into the music for the past few months (and were into Simple Minds before that), you can hear in Blue’s voice a long relationship with the traditions he’s copping. Blue’s blues are genuinely out of the hepcat mold but hardly moldy. Sure, there’s a deep connection with (you might even call it “respect” for) the original jazz and R&B that inspires the retro-swing rage, yet there’s a modern influence as well. Blue uses words like “wussifyin’” and “wanker” in his lyrics, and he can be heard adding somewhat unusual harmonics as he strums guitar on “Monk Side Story.” “Fat, 40 ’N’ Flatulent” takes a clue from the South Park generation for its sputtering tongue humor. The disc’s most unusual number, the Asian-riffed “Lady Mekhong,” is a suggestive love song to a Thai liqueur. The band, featuring saxophonist Patrick Weil and trumpeter Sweetlips Mysterioso (really?), is tight, something unusual among today’s retro bands, but not squeakily so. Complimentary vocals from Romy Kaye bring a touch of class to the proceedings, and guest Billy Zoom adds a zippy guitar solo to “Kick, Bite and Scream.” Unmentioned in the playlist is Blue’s closing tribute to San Diego saxophonist Joe Marillo as Marillo’s tenor swirls impressionistically behind. And speaking of dipsomania, isn’t that the sound of clinking shot glasses at the very end of the program?
The Buddy Blue Band plays the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Thurs., May 25, 9 p.m. $6. 21+.
VARUNEE RECORDING GROUP
“Rap is poetry,” someone once told me, “and hip-hop is culture.” Critics—most of whom wouldn’t know a hip-hop poem if it popped a cap in their ass—are quick to disagree, denigrating the genre’s near unlimited potential as mere pop culture, trash music to eventually become as dead as disco and, in their opinion, none too soon. But then someone comes along like Massachusetts’ Corey Cokes, who steps in and shatters the unrealistic expectations of what’s “supposed” to be music and what’s “supposed” to be poetry. Some pieces, like the savage “The Okeydoke,” rip unrelentingly into the problems facing urban black America. Others, like the heartfelt “Fight the Fight,” backed by haunting acoustic guitar, are more sedate without losing the fundamental force of Cokes’ rage. “I fight the fight that my founding fathers fought,” he raps, “brought and bought from that land to this land of misery/Never quite made it ashore/Still stuck in the mid/Y’know, the Atlantic is the true Red Sea.” The nightmares and the horrors black America has faced throughout history, from the slave trade to the drug trade, are all here. Cokes pulls them out from the shadows and holds them up for everyone to see, so they can finally be laid to rest. (Victor D. Infante)
Corey Cokes plays at the Gypsy Den Grand Central, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840. Mon., 7:30 p.m. Free. All ages.