9. New Earth Mud
[Photo by FiveLowNotes]
The knock on Chris Robinson’s Black Crowes hiatus band was that it sounded like a much more stoned version of The Band. To which I say: I agree. Sure, the psyche- and folk-toned New Earth Mud originals were super mellow at times, and couldn’t hold a candle to the Crowes at their blues-rockingest, but these shows – especially when Paul and Jeremy Stacey were in the band – often delivered the goods. It was great to see Robinson in small clubs again, too, even if songs like the lovey-dovey Katie Dear are queasier in retrospect.
8. Porter Batiste Stoltz (PBS)
It’s not like you won’t see these guys anymore. You’ll probably see them together again, too, in one of the endless combinations of world-class musicians the New Orleans music scene breeds on a nightly basis. But PBS, which according to Porter played its last official show in October 2009, had a tight-knit, yet laid-back chemistry that didn’t feel like just another supergroup getting together to jam for the millionth time on Look A Py Py or Big Chief (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Anyone else remember Oshe? When they were on, these upstate New Yorkers sounded like the Headhunters marinated in Radiohead and Pink Floyd. They could veer psychedelic – even ambient – but just as soon jolt you with a screeching guitar progression or get seriously groovy. I had these guys pegged as the next big fusion jamband. Alas…
6. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
The end of this strong chapter in the output of one David Ryan Adams is exacerbated by the recent death of bassist Chris “Spacewolf” Feinstein. Who knows what’s next for either Ryan or the band, but for a few fun years, the Cardinals seemed to “get” Adams better than any band he’s had in the past, at least since Whiskeytown. At the very least, they’re a crack country-rock outfit, though hardly limited to that idiom. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last, with Adams or without.
5. Steve Kimock Band
I love Crazy Engine. Love it. And I’ll open my wallet to see the protean Kimock even if his next project is playing children’s music on contrabassoon – every Kimock group has something resonant. But in the earlier part of the decade, the Steve Kimock Band — the Kimock, Rodney Holmes, Mitch Stein combo, with at various points Arne Livington, Alphonso Johnson and/or Jim Kost – was a spellbinding ensemble, towering in its musicianship and magical in its improv. Few shows have ever hypnotized me like theirs used to circa 2002-2004.
4. Derek Trucks Band?
We know it’s on hiatus, but is the Derek Trucks Band over and done with? A lot of insiders seem to be saying so, though neither Trucks nor his bandmates have confirmed as much. If it’s really the end, what a run it was. If the DTB could at times feel too clinical and even antiseptic, they could also dig deep – really deep — into any number of styles. With all due respect to singer Mike Mattison, it was often their dazzling instrumental showcases that had the most fireworks.
3. Addison Groove Project
I have a soft spot for Addison – they were my college band, on the up-and-up in local clubs during my years at Boston University, and gigging mostly on weekends – and bassist John Hall’s death in 2004 deeply affected me. I also still feel like they could have “made it”– they were just grabbing national attention around that time – but I’m content with happy memories. Among my fondest: numerous ragers at the Paradise in Boston (including 10/16/04, the night we thought all was lost for the Red Sox and the opening act was a just-arriving Hasidic Reggae Superstar), a 5/22/04 Hartford show with Hall joining in for the Beat Me Til I’m Blue encore in his last public appearance with the band, and the megawatt Vermont throwdown on 4/3/04 that drew in Trey, Fishman and Jen Hartswick as guests.
2. Phil Lesh Quintet
What heady times these were, the 2000-2003 run of the mighty Q: his Philness, uncle Warren, fleet-fingered Jimmy Herring, Molo on the kit, Barraco on the twinkling keys. I loved how streamlined it was, too: five members, those brilliant harmonies between Lesh, Haynes and Barraco, nightly journeys and plenty of head-cutting with the Herring-Haynes tandem, and some of the most flavorful excursions of the post-Jerry era of Grateful Dead music. Argue all you want: these guys were the best, and on a particularly good night, could hit the most fiery peaks and get into some deep, deep space. I savor my favorite Q bootlegs (4/29/01, 7/14/01, 11/21/01, 4/4/02 with Derek Trucks, 7/12/02 also with Derek, to name just a sampling) like drams of single malt scotch.
1. The Codetalkers featuring Col. Bruce Hampton
Quite simply one of the most musical, unpigeonhole-able and wonderfully quirky bands I’ve ever known. Bobby Lee Rodgers – a brilliant, criminally underrated and amazingly prolific songwriter and player – and Col. Bruce were a heavenly match. I think they lost a step after Hampton left the group; Rodgers was even better when he had an improvisational foil and didn’t have to carry the band on his own. When the band brought a-then-between-gigs Jimmy Herring on the road with them in 2005, it was a nightly master class, and I kick myself for not attending more of those shows.