The Fortnightly Playlist, February 28th, 2021

Another big list again this edition as there is a lot of great new music coming right now. As has become typical of the Fortnightly, this one covers a lot of ground stylistically, and hopefully brings some things to the surface that weren’t previously familiar to you.

Rick Holmstrom has not released a solo album for about 9 years, but he’s released plenty as guitar player and band leader for Mavis Staples. His new album, See That Light, gives a look at what makes Rick such a great artist himself. Listening to Rick has a throwback sound, but with a freshness not found with just any seasoned and skilled picker. Holmstrom had recorded and toured with various bluesmen and bands before spending the last nearly 15 years as bandleader for Mavis Staples, and becoming a big part of her tightknit and straightforward blues-gospel sound. His tremolo-drenched guitar sound reaches back to influences that would have to include Mavis own father, Pop Staples (who was well-known for heavy use of tremolo).

One of the more unusual artists included this edition is Senyawa. Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi formed the experimental group in 2010 in Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java. while having a modern, avante-garde, experimental aesthetic, the group also include various traditional instruments and vocal techniques, and often has taken on the descriptor “neo-tribal” along side “metalcore”. Unafraid to mix modern with traditional as well as blending edgy with atmospheric. Alkisah is their 9th studio album.

Other favorites in this edition include Fruit Bats, Black Thought, Flock of Dimes, and hey… how about that Tom Jones tune?

Rostam – These Kids We Knew
Fruit Bats – Holy Rose
Dinosaur Jr – I Ran Away
Black Pistol Fire – Pick Your Poison
When Rivers Meet – Walking On The Wire
Rick Holmstrom – Take My Hand
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – From the Streets
Black Thought, C.S. Armstrong, Angela Hunte – Welcome to America
Slowthai – focus
Valerie June – Why the Bright Stars Glow
Anisa Romero – Sliver
Julien Baker – Bloodshot
Cassandra Jenkins – Michaelangelo
Sun June – Singing
Midnight Alleys – Broken Ties & Stolen Lines
Wild Pink – Pacific City
Bow Thayer – Ata Ni
Flock of Dimes – Price of Blue
Tom Jones – Talking Reality Television Blues
The Hold Steady – The Prior Procedure
Senyawa – Alkisah II
Chihei Hatakeyama – Night Wind

Special Edition: Black History Month

It’s hard to know quite where to start or who to feature for Black History Month. You could focus on any era in recorded music, and include hours of music that shaped and changed everything after it. So where to start, where to end, the iconic or the understated influences? Nothing any of us listens to now is without a debt of gratitude to black artists. What would our musical tradition be without The Supremes, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix?

As someone who grew up in the a bubble of Christian music, my first breaking out of that bubble was Blues and Classic rock. I was led there by beginning to learn guitar in high school, and I was drawn to the notable guitar players. These days I find Classic Rock Radio to be one of the most intolerable things to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a lot of the music they play, but I find it to be one of the most whitewashed spaces you’re likely to encounter. Aside from a few Hendrix songs in regular rotation, you’ll not find black artists represented on Classic Rock stations. Prince will usually be ignored. Freddie King will be ignored. James Brown will be ignored. Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters will be ignored. They’ll acknowledge the influence, but not the actual music. It leaves you with the impression that black artists only affected the landscape of our musical tradition in an indirect way, and it drives me nuts. So, that’s my long-held rant that I needed to get off my chest.

I gathered over 6 hrs of music for this playlist before really starting to arrange things in some kind of order, and had to whittle things down. Being undecided over what criteria I was using, I tried to keep a mix of the iconic, the influential, the forgotten, the overlooked, the poignant, the past, the present. 65 songs, but it really is just skimming the surface in many ways and there is much more I could have included. Maybe you’ll find much of it familiar, and maybe you’ll discover something long-hidden. Enjoy!

Robert Johnson – Terraplane Blues
Lead Belly – Midnight Special
Muddy Waters – I Just Want to Make Love to You
Jimi Hendrix – Bold As Love
LL Cool J – Rock The Bells
Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar – Freedom
The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go
Freddie King – Going Down
Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay
Billie Holiday – Yesterdays
Charlie Parker – April in Paris
The Meters – Cissy Strut
Nina Simone – Wild is the Wind
Mississippi John Hurt – Louis Collins
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
The Staple Singers – Why? (Am I Treated so Bad)
Sam Cooke – A Change is Gonna Come
Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Moses Sumney – Rank & File
Baby Huey – Hard Times
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Steal Away
Aretha Franklin – Spirit in the Dark
Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
Isaac Hayes – Our Day Will Come
Wu Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
Bad Brains – Banned in D.C. 
Afrika Bambaataa, The Soulsonic Force – Renegades of Funk
Sly & The Family Stone – I Want to Take You Higher
Childish Gambino – Boogieman
Ray Charles – Let the Good Times Roll
Magic Sam – Sweet Home Chicago
Little Richard – Long Tall Sally
Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour
Etta James – Fool That I Am
Bill Withers – Use Me
Fela Kut, Africa 70 – Zombie
Sinkane – Passenger
Funkadelic – Can You Get to That
Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
Ibibio Sound Machine – Just Go Forward (Ka I So)
Grace Jones – The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game
Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different
Queen Latifah – Nature of a Sista’
Public Enemy – Bring the Noise
Songhoy Blues – Voter
Kele – Between Me and My Maker
N.W.A. – Express Yourself
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode
James Brown – The Payback
Nas – N.Y. State of Mind
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans – Blue in Green
Duke Ellington, John Coltrane – In a Sentimental Mood
A Tribe Called Quest – Check the Rhime
Sudan Archives – Pay Attention
Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Waiting In Vain
Stevie Wonder – You are the Sunshine of my Life
Ann Peebles – Run, Run, Run
Meklit, Preservation Hall Horns – You Are My Luck
Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Rapsody, Mereba – Myrlie
Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody – Complexion (A Zulu Love)
Mavis Staples – I’ll Be Rested
Elmore James – The Sky is Crying

The Fortnightly Playlist, February 14th, 2021

There’s some new songs here that have me really excited. Those sort of songs that you can listen to over and over, and that you can really feel. New releases have really picked up quick, and here I am with the second list in a row that is a full hour and a half long. I took a look back this weekend as well. As of 2 weeks ago, I’ve been making these Fortnightly Playlists for 5 years. I didn’t start writing here until toward the end of the first year when I decided I wanted to write a little more for my year-end favorites in 2016, but the first Fortnightly Playlist appeared on January 31st, 2016. I don’t know if I expected to do it so long, but I’m still very much enjoying it.

I wanted to draw attention to Valerie June. This song, “You and I”, that opens the playlist this edition is one of my favorite songs right now. It hit me immediately when I heard it earlier this week, and I immediately wanted to hear it again. Valerie June has appeared here before with her 2017 album, The Order of Time, and I’m very excited for her upcoming release, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers. 4 years since her last full-length release, but June has clearly been busy as she has an upcoming book release as well.

My favorite instrumental release so far this year has to be Sitka Sun’s All The Way West. It’s not a long record. 6 tracks clocking in at just over half an hour, but it has really grabbed and held my attention. I sometimes find it hard to explain why a particular record does this, and especially so with an instrumental album. Sitka Sun brings us this well-constructed jazz album with a firm rhythmic structure, Central American flair, and a little psychedelic improvisation mixed in. When an instrumental record captures me this way, I’m sometimes struck by the ability music alone has to make you feel something.

Other favorites in this edition are Wild Pink, Anisa Romero (Sky Cries Mary), Femi Kuti, and We Are KING.

Artwork from songs by Adrianne Lenker

Valerie June – You and I
Bomba Estereo – Agua
Hannah Jadagu – Think Too Much
Middle Kids – Questions
Julien Baker – Favor
Wild Pink – The Shining but Tropical
Dry Cleaning – Scratchcard Lanyard
Foo Fighters – Cloudspotter
The Lounge Society – Burn the Heather
Ayron Jones – Mercy
The Hold Steady – Spices
Balmorhea, Lisa Morgenstern – The Myth
Anisa Romero – Borrowed
London Grammar – Lose Your Head
Flock of Dimes – Two
Echo of the Low Light – Afterlife
Bicep – Sundial
Yuno – Somebody
Femi Kuti – As We Struggle Everyday
Jay Gonzalez – Sunspot
Adrianne Lenker – anything
Saintseneca – All You’ve Got Is Everyone
We Are KING – Space Oddity
Sitka Sun – Long Shadow