By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
DEKE DICKERSON kicks my ass! Not only is he among the best guitarists you'll ever see (Joe Maphis lives!), but his albums are so much fun they make me feel like diving naked into a pool filled with blue Jell-O. I have no idea why this occurs to me, so don't ask. Dickerson just holds mystical powers that compel you to perform unnatural acts with cool, refreshing dessert products.
Dickerson's new album, More Million $eller$ (yeah, right!) ought to remind all rockabilly fans that you don't have to pose as a scowling, greasy badass to have fun with the music. Deke's a clean-cut feller with a 2,000-watt smile, and he's single-handedly bringing a badly needed sensa yoomer back to the 'billy scene. Lessee what's on here: Dickerson imports world-famous midget Billy Barty to recite musician jokes ("What's the difference between a guitar player and a savings bond? A savings bond eventually matures and starts to earn money!" "What does a drummer say when he steps up to the microphone? 'Would you like fries with that?'"). He sings a double-entendre-filled duet with 82-year-old Hadda Brooks that's raunchy enough to launch your lunch (the sound of an octogenarian imploring him to "give it to me, daddy" somehow creeps me out), even though Brooks is a legendary R&B diva. He closes out with Jerry Scoggins, the voice of the original Beverly Hillbillies theme song, singing the tune with new lyrics imploring you to buy more copies of the CD ("Deke needs a new pair of shoes!").
But the meat of the album, of course, is all the great picking, singing and songwriting in between the n'yuk n'yuks. Although his renowned skill as a hotshot guitarist often obscures Dickerson's other talents, he's also among the best singers on the circuit. Dickerson possesses a strong, playful instinct for melody; his pleasant tenor has just a hint of a yodel, and his pitch always remains dead-on accurate. As a songwriter, Dickerson's bemused outlook shines through the limitations of genre structure—his wordplay is at once goofy and clever. Bonus: Billy Zoom turns in a scorcher of a guitar solo on the Blasters-esque "Nightmare of a Woman."
For all the guests he rounds up to help him out (former Big Sandy pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, steel guitarist Jeremy Wakefield and former Unknowns guitarist Mark Neil—who also produced—are among those onboard), this album still belongs to Dickerson and his rockin' backup combo, the Ecco-Fonics. I demand that you purchase More Million $eller$ at a record store near you and check out Deke and the Ecco-Fonics when they play the Blue Cafe on Sunday night. So it has been written; so it shall be done!
The name YNGWIE MALMSTEEN also makes me snigger, but it does not make me want to dive into a pool full of blue Jell-O. It doesn't make me snigger just because the name itself is so dorky—the guy can't help it if he's Swedish, after all—but because Malmsteen himself is such a quintessential dork. Say the name Yngwie Malmsteen, and visions of Spinal Tap and Wayne's World dance merrily in my head.
Back in his mid-'80s metal heyday, Malmsteen was briefly anointed the prodigious shredder guitar guy of the hour—an anointment he loudly concurred with. But in the ensuing 15 years, his brand of play-thousands-of-notes-per-second-and-throw-in-a-bunch-of-pseudo-classical-bombast has fallen from favor, and the once arena-packing attraction is now reduced to playing clubs and theaters. There's something at once sad, quaint and amusing about the spectacle of a self-proclaimed heavy-metal genius on the downslide, girlie-man hairdo all-a-twitter as he endeavors to survive off the fumes of a reputation that lasted about 15 seconds a decade and a half ago. While it's true that Malmsteen remains an amazing technician, the real reason to check him out at the Galaxy Concert Theatre on Wednesday is to have fun thrusting your Bic skyward at the conclusion of every grandiose solo and to shout requests for "Big Bottom" until the notoriously hotheaded Malmsteen blows his stack. Dood!
I wasn't familiar with JANIVA MAGNESS until she turned in some excellent vocal work on the recently released Kid Ramos album. Now I have her debut, My Bad Luck Soul, and although I was a bit disappointed with it, I still feel safe in saying that the LA-based Magness can sing up a righteous hellstorm of blues fury. The problem with the album isn't in Magness' performance, but rather in the inferior recording and production (I hope producer Joe Morabia has a secure day job).
But the dull, flat sound can't obscure the fact that this gal is a superfine talent. Gorgeous, meaty tone and very nimble passages hallmark Magness' style. Her phrasing, while steeped in '60s soul music, switches easily into the realms of gutbucket blues and, on occasion, sophisticated jazz. Magness didn't write any of the tunes on her album, but she tackles Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday with equal aplomb while mimicking neither; she always remains true to her own sound, which is saying quite a bit indeed. Saxophonist Jeff Turmes also blows a mean-assed baritone (although he'd be well-advised to stick to horn playing in lieu of his inferior vocalizing), and guitarist Enrico Crivallero is a major find as well. Bonus for sexist pigs: Magness is one fine specimen of womanhood who looks as good as she sings. Check out the Janiva Magness Band Thursday night at the Blue Cafe.