Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tales From the Barbary Coast

by The Shotgun Wedding Quintet

Imagine if, as a younger man, Tom Waits had eschewed whatever prodigious amounts of drinking and smoking did that to his voice, and instead decided to write intelligent, narrative-based songs for a smaller, jazzier incarnation of the Roots.  That's pretty much the best way I can think of to describe The Shotgun Wedding Quintet's Tales From the Barbary Coast.

Lyricist Dublin rules on the eleven tracks that make up this brilliant little album.  He writes some great stories about wild nights out, being Shanghaied, and hipsterism.  His band, which has a lot of brass, back him perfectly.

The music fits nicely in the tradition started by the Roots, and carried on more recently by bands like Atmosphere, of having live, impressive music for the MC to work with, but there is a literary quality to Shotgun's music that is lacking pretty much anywhere else in hip-hop today.  'White Night Riot' and 'Vertigo' are prime examples of just how smart this album is.

Even though this came out in 2011, it is easily one of my most favourite albums this year.  When people complain that nothing new is happening in hip-hop, this is something to give them.

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