The Austin Chronicle

Goodnight Irene

All times through paradise and even 2015

By Raoul Hernandez, January 1, 2016, Music

On Sept. 18, exactly three months before his 72nd birthday, Keith Richards released Crosseyed Heart. Two decades-plus had elapsed since his sophomore solo quake, Main Offender. As Netflix tie-in Keith Richards: Under the Influence informs to the guitar god himself, he's now outlived the bluesman whose song "Rollin' Stone" titled his UK combo – Muddy Waters.

Balladry from "Ruby Tuesday" to "Beast of Burden" remains Richards' compositional specialty, so Crosseyed Heart countrifies new backstabber "Robbed Blind" and calls in Norah Jones for a lovelorn reality check, "Illusion." Neither holds a candelabra to "Goodnight Irene." A traditional folk-blues, Louisiana-born, Texas-bred recidivist Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter made it his own in 1933.

Where fellow Sixties big banger Bob Dylan inhabits Sinatra on Shadows in the Night from the far end of a May/December timeline, Richards rockets back 40 years to one of the blackest chapters of his Life. Detained in Toronto for hoarding heroin, the poster Brit for rock & roll's bumper sticker slogan faced certain jail time. To cope, he holed up in a studio with sixth Stone Ian Stewart.

Everly Brothers ("All I Have to Do Is Dream"), Tammy Wynette ("Apartment No. 9"), Jerry Lee Lewis ("Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On") survive in Richards' trembling tenor on public domain bootlegs. A vulnerability first recorded on his solo vocal debut for 1969's apocalyptic Let It Bleed ("You Got the Silver"), the Rolling Stone hemorrhages naked fear and loathing via canonical lullabies. Bloodletting.

In fact, "Goodnight Irene" skirts a half-century of Marlboro abuse back past even his late-Seventies incarceration scare to some musical immaculateness. Teenhood revisited somehow. Keith Richards through all time in a single tune.

When Swedish death metal art merchants Tribulation spooked Mohawk the week after Fun Fun Fun Fest, best hair-raiser "Melancholia" summoned Seventies UK bullet train UFO as sure as Odin ordered Scandinavian church burnings. That proved a synchronistic bookend to the OBN IIIs on the same stage days earlier during a FFF Nites opening slot for which they flexed new fusillade "Let the Music," perfect paean to Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott.

Did Courtney Barnett reincarnate a sliver of Cobain? Will Kendrick Lamar be to hip-hop what Miles Davis was for jazz – fusionist? Can Grupo Fantasma become Tito Puente worldwide?

No great act creates any art other than its own, but root circles remain unbroken in the grimacing face of pop vacuity and global calamity.

Top 10 Austin

1) Shinyribs, Okra Candy (Mustard Lid)

2) Grupo Fantasma, Problemas (Blue Corn)

3) Moving Panoramas, One (Modern Outsider)

4) James McMurtry, Complicated Game (Complicated Game)

5) Bright Light Social Hour, Space Is Still the Place (Frenchkiss)

6) All ATX Vol. 3: All Along the Moontower (Odyssey)

7) Cherubs, 2 Ynfynyty (Brutal Panda)

8) Sweet Spirit, Cokomo (Nine Mile)

9) Joe Ely, Panhandle Rambler (Rack 'Em)

10) Carson McHone, Goodluck Man (Good Horse)

10 Locals You Didn't Hear

1) Grace London, Brains

2) Gloves, Get It Together

3) The Lonesome Heroes, Can't Stand Still

4) The Happen-Ins, Glamour Shots (Fuzz Recordings)

5) Charlie Pierce & Choctaw Wildfire, Nowhere (Young Cubs)

6) Kinky Friedman, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A/Thirty Tigers)

7) Kiko Villamizar, La Remolacha (Discos Peligrosa)

8) Knest, Honorary Bachelors of Arts (Self Sabotage)

9) Abram Shook, Landscape Dream (Western Vinyl)

10) Crooks, Wildfire (Seafoam)

10 Pieces of ATX Vinyl

1) We Jam by Condos (Monofonus Press)

2) Survive, HD015LP/540-046/LLR010 (Holodeck/540 Records/Light Lodge)

3) The Chumps, ... Gimme Headache (Super Secret)

4) OBN IIIs, Worth a Lot of Money (12XU)

5) Xetas, The Redeemer (12XU)

6) Blood Royale, The Blood Royale

7) Boan, Mentiras (Holodeck)

8) Ghetto Ghouls, Collisions (Monofonus Press)

9) Nazi Gold, Climbing the Tower (Super Secret)

10) Lochness Mobsters, War Tuna (Austin Town Hall)

Top 10 National

1) Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

2) Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope)

3) Keith Richards, Crosseyed Heart (Republic)

4) Horrendous, Anareta (Dark Descent)

5) Tanya Tagaq, Animism (Six Shooter)

6) Julieta Venegas, Algo Sucede (Sony)

7) Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)

8) The Libertines, Anthems for Doomed Youth (Harvest/Virgin EMI)

9) Tribulation, The Children of the Night (Century Media)

10) Bob Dylan, Shadows in the Night (Columbia)

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