Tag Archives: Rebel Montez

Village Voice Pazz & Jop

One of my favorite things every year is contributing my “best of” list to the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, a compilation of the opinions of seven hundred music critics. I consider it an honor as well, and I’m happy that the albums I vote for at least get a little bit more attention. I don’t keep track of favorite songs closely enough to always do the singles; last year I figured that Ce Lo Green’s “Fuck You” was so dominant that any of my other nominations would concede defeat, so that’s exactly what I wrote down when I submitted my ballot. And the song, as expected, took the top prize.

What did surprise me was how much of my ballot placed me on a deserted island. While I thought these artists released incredible efforts, in most cases I was the sole person to nominate them. I’m well aware that my preference for powerpop, glam, rock and blues doesn’t endear me to a world of rap, shoegazing indie pop and ludicrous Autotune warriors. But where are my brothers and sisters who celebrate this music, despite its low profile?

Each year a brilliant data analyst named Glenn McDonald produces some amazing metrics regarding voter centricity – whose ballots were the most consistent with the results, and whose were in the stratosphere. According to the 2010 report, I’ll need an oxygen mask and a very long cord.

 Here is my top ten, in order, along with the number of votes each album received in the poll. If that number is one, that means I am the only Pazz&Jop critic who voted for it.

Len Price 3 – Pictures (one)

Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez – The Deep End (one)

The Jim Jones Revue – Burning Your House Down (two)

The 88 – The 88 (two)

The Grip Weeds – Strange Change Machine (two)

The Mother Truckers – Van Tour (one)

The Sights – Most of What Follows Is True (four)

Edward O’Connell – Our Little Secret (one)

The Greenhornes – Four Stars (one)

Farrah – Farrah (one)

Now some of these I can understand. Farrah is all but unknown in the USA; O’Connell is a DC musician making a debut album that’s self-promoted and self-distributed. But Ohlman and The Greenhornes have history and a strong legacy; Len Price 3  and The Grip Weeds were getting a massive push from Little Steven and The 88 are well-known from their film and TV work.

WTF, people?

Click here for a trove of comments and essays along with the final results.

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #2

It’s not often that a veteran artist belts one out of the park deep into their career; most tend to hit the heights early on and then survive on reputation. Of course there are many who are consistently good over many years (although the musical landscape doesn’t really permit that anymore unless you are bringing in the coin). Tom Petty, U2 and Bruce Springsteen can write their own ticket, but artists less familiar who don’t sell big numbers have a tougher road to hoe.

Christine Ohlman, a/k/a The Beehive Queen, has survived that tough road for a long time thanks to an unwavering committment to follow her instincts and ignore musical fads and trends. As a walking musical encyclopedia with a ten-star voice and an ability to channel soul and passion through her music, she’s made several great records. But with The Deep End, she stepped up to the plate and crushed that fastball. Crack musicianship, first-rate songwriting, a dazzling array of guest artist collaborators, and – most importantly – the soul of Christine Ohlman fusing it all together.

Video: inside take on The Deep End

I had the great pleasure of seeing the band play two sets this past Summer, and had a brief audience with the Queen afterwards. While that has nothing to do with my feelings about this album – I had already made that clear in April – I was thrilled to find that she was every bit the delightful, witty and appreciative musicologist that I hoped she’d be (bee?). If you’ve been a fan over the years you already know what a great album The Deep End is. But if you are new to Christine and her catalogue…and I suspect many of you are…man, do you have some sweet moments ahead of you.

Listen to clips at Amazon

The Beehive

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New Album! Christine Ohlman

All Hail The Queen!

Fifteen years removed from her debut album, The Hard Way, the Beehive Queen has not only recorded her strongest effort to date, but an album that should pepper several best-of lists in December. The songs on The Deep End draw as much upon gospel and urban doo-wop as they do blues and Americana, perhaps reaching the apex on the hypnotic title track.

Ohlman and her band Rebel Montez (now Michael Colbath, Larry Donahue, Cliff Goodwin) are rock-solid, and if you’ve not heard Ohlman’s gripping vocals before, I can’t totally blame you. Despite enough industry cred to fill multiple warehouses, she might best be known for being a long-time member of the Saturday Night Live band. Of course, you’d have to be attending the taping to hear her; seldom will you see any of the non-sax playing musicians get highlighted.

I first discovered her thirty-odd years ago when I was enamored with the cast and crew at Big Sound Records, whose albums featured stellar musicians like G.E. Smith, Jon Tiven, Mickey Curry, Ivan Julian, Roger C. Reale and Ohlman, among others. Producer extraordinaire Thomas “Doc” Cavalier had a golden ear for quality, and his work on Big Sound was the stamp of approval for me in the same way that Motown or Stiff were when in their prime. Sadly, just about all of that music is out of print.

I like all of her solo work, but this one really speaks to me. Ohlman suffered two big losses in her life recently – guitarist Eric Fletcher and Cavalier are no longer with us – and the ache resonates in her voice. Stellar guests like Dion, Eric Ambel and Al Anderson provide great support, and Ian Hunter producer Andy York continues his string of sympathetic collaborations with his artists. But Ohlman and her band had this one nailed from the jump.

Read my review of this album at PopMatters.

VIDEO: “Like Honey”

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