Tag Archives: Country

Rachid Taha – Zoom (2013)

Rachid Taha - Zoom (2013)

Rachid Taha is an Algerian singer based in France, who was at the forefront of the Rai n’ Roll movement in Algeria (Rai being a popular music in Algeria), heavily influenced by The Clash. He has been active since the 80s and this is his ninth solo album.

And it is an eclectic album to say the least!

Singing in French, genres covered include Gainsbourgeon Chanson (Wesh (N’amal) and  Zoom Sur Oum). Zoom Sur Oum (again), Jamila and Voila Voila are more electronically focused, reminiscent of David Bowie’s flirtations with electronic music, which seemed to miss the intended mark, but in doing so, invented something wholly new and exciting. The first is a tribute to Egyptian legend Umm Kulthum, sampling her voice for the track and singing a narrative style like Gainsbourg, while the Persian-style music sounds like Secret Chiefs 3, while Jamila is a more dubby number and Voila Voila is a little bit of an industrial-tinged remake of his own anti-racist anthem from 1993, here featuring Brian Eno and Eric Cantona (I kid you not).

It’s Now Or Never is a cover in English and Arabic of Presley’s version of the Neopolitan O Sole Mia, sang as a duet with Jeanna Added, a French singer and cellist. Presley is namechecked alongside Kurt Cobain and punk rock on rockabilly track, Les Artistes; this wearing of influences rather squarely on his chest is a feature of the album, as he goes on to explore the late British 70s on a couple of tracks which evoke The Clash: Fakir, a more punky track, and Algerian Tango, a more ska-infused track, which actually features The Clash’s Mick Jones. Finally Country is touched upon as well on tracks, Ana and Galbi.

It is testament to Taha’s talent and confidence that despite the input of these Western genres and sounds, this album is grounded in his Algerian heritage, with guitar and lute interacting beautifully. A totally eclectic mix of genres, pinned by an overwhelming sense of enjoyment and fun; Taha sounds like he is loving every minute, and I’m right there with him!

Favourite tracks: Wesh (N’amal), Jamila, Algerian Tango, Fakir, Voila Voila, Zoom Sur Oum

Spotify link: Rachid Taha – Zoom
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Hank Williams III – Long Gone Daddy (2012)

Hank Williams III - Long Gone Daddy (2012)

I’m in two minds about whether to review this after learning some details about the release. It seems that this album was released by Curb records after a seemingly acrimonious split with Williams. It contains outtakes from his first two solo records,  Risin’ Outlaw (1999), which WIlliams has all but disowned, and Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’ (2002), as well as cover versions scraped from tribute albums. Williams himself says that his fans shouldn’t purchase the album, but instead bootleg it.

Hank Williams III is the son of Hank Williams Jr and grandson of Hank Williams, who took up the country mantel after finding out that he had a son as a result of a brief fling, before that he had been playing in cowpunk and punkabilly bands, but needed to pay child support so went into the family business. His experience in heavy bands has meant that he has quite a diverse catalogue. I first encountered Williams through the Melvins’ album crybaby, on which he sings a Hank Williams track and a Merle Haggard track, after which I checked out his Metal band Assjack and then his second solo album Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’. When Straight To Hell (2006) was released, I listened to it almost constantly for a month.

There are certainly themes that run through Williams music, one main one is retrospection, either to failed relationships or the good ole’ days of *real* country music. He often cites his Country Heroes (as the song of the same name on Straight To Hell declares), Hank WIlliams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, David Allen Coe, Waylon Jennings. So the fact that this album contains a number of covers is fairly apt for Williams.

I’m A Long Gone Daddy is a Hank WIlliams track from a tribute album, which is a good cover and perfect material for Williams to play. I feel that Haggard’s The Bottle Let Me Down is not such a good track, Williams pushes the country inflexion in the vocals to almost parody level and it just doesn’t sound earnest. Wreck Of The Old ’97 is a Johnny Cash original and sings the tale of a doomed train engineer. As it moves from the slow intro into the upbeat mouth organ chugging out a train rhythm, it is an absolute joy. Neath A Cold Gray Tomb Of Stone is a cynical addition to the album by Curb records, coming off a previous album featuring all three generations of Williamses; it’s a good track, but doesn’t add anything for collectors. The Wind Blew Cold is an unusual cover to choose. It covers jazz-country singer Tomi Lunsford; lyrically, it’s more mature than other tracks by Williams, but is certainly treated well by him. Good Hearted Woman is Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson cover, very well done with some fantastic frantic fiddle playing, giving a well-received bluegrass edge. The final cover, This Ain’t Montgomery is a mournful cover of contemporary country singer Joey Allcorn, again citing Hank Williams, it is a beautiful country blues track.

The originals don’t really live up to the standard and don’t have the passion that I have come to associate with Williams III. The Sun Comes Up is fairly standard country, What They Want Me To Be is a reworked version of a more rock n’ roll track from Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’, and again a cynical inclusion by Curb. There is a certain irony with the inclusion of this track which includes the lyrics “But all I see in Nashville is a bunch of backstabbers takin’ you and me“, and “I’m so tired of this new stuff, they’re tryin’ to get me to sing”, which could easily be seen as Williams singing of his broken relationship with Curb records. The track highlights another of Williams . If The Shoe Fits is the final track, a remix of a track from Williams’ first (disowned) album, and I have to say is a great track. It is less straightforward than other tracks in his ouevre, and brushes towards an alternative territory.

I find that the album certainly has highlights, but I fear it will mostly only be of interest to collectors/fans. One thing this album has done has pushed me to see that Hank Williams III has released six other albums since Straight To Hell, so I have plenty to go back and listen to, and for that I am grateful!

Favourite tracks: Wreck Of The Old ’97, The Wind Blew Cold, If The Shoe Fits (Shuffle Mix).

Spotify link: Hank Williams III – Long Gone Daddy
Sneak peak: