DJ End-of-Year Picks

Check out our DJs' recommendations
for great music gifts this year!

huey piano smith

HERE ARE TWO LISTENING RECOMMENDATIONS from your Music City/Crescent City connection. First up is some classic New Orleans R&B, “This is Huey ‘Piano’ Smith” (Music Club Records, 1998) by Huey and various incarnations of his band the Clowns. It’s chock full of essential hits, near misses, and a couple oddities, including “Don’t You Just Know It,” “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” and “High Blood Pressure.” Hard swinging good-time music, lots of sly humor; Dr. John famously covered several of these medley-style on his own classic “Gumbo” for damn good reason. 

Next is one of Allen Toussaint’s best latter-career records, “The Bright Mississippi” (Nonesuch, 2009). Renowned for his songwriting, production, etc., this time out the Saint of New Orleans does a straight-up jazz record featuring loving interpretations of trad standards by the likes of Ellington, Monk, Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet. He gets some amazing contributions from his stellar backing band, which includes first-call players like Don Byron, Nicholas Payton, and Marc Ribot; Joe Henry’s relaxed but strong production hand helps make this one a sublime treat.


Arbina by Noura Mint Seymali (Glitterbeat Records)
Released Fall 2016, Seymali’s Arbina is my top-of-the-heap 2016 album. So deftly do she and her impressive outfit combine so many disparate sounds on this record that I must declare there isn’t another out there released this year with such strength and fluency. Her album Tzenni, also released in 2016 I thought was likely untouchable, but lo and behold, the Saharan magus from Mauritania has outdone herself.

I Don’t Remember/I Don’t Want To Talk About It by John Bender
[re-issue (Superior Viaduct)]

Originally written and released between 1978 & 1980, I Don’t…/I Don’t… is a much needed re-issue by the great Superior Viaduct label; one which fills a gap in the early, lo-fi electronic world which would’ve very likely remained gaping without their effort. His self-run label Record Sluts intentionally produced very limited runs of his releases, leaving the hermit-like visionary’s oeuvre teetering on the edges of oblivion. With this release, and the subsequent re-release of his Plaster Falling, we can follow even more accurately the developments of early electronic music.


Feel Like Going Home: The Songs Of Charlie Rich
(Memphis International Records)

Tribute records can be hit or miss for me. Within the first few seconds of the opening track, I was hooked. It has veterans such as Jim Lauderdale and Shooter Jennings to newcomers like Holli Mosley and more. Charlie Rich Jr. also plays piano on the tracks and does a blistering version of "Break Up". Plus, he's playing on the same piano and recording in the same studio that the originals were recorded (Sam Phillips Recording Services in Memphis). It's rare that I get a project like this and love every track but that's exactly the case here. I was hearing these songs in a new way which made me listen to Charlie's originals in a new light. It hit me that Charlie Rich was Americana long before it was a term. This tribute project stands on its own in the quality of the recordings and performances and it also wins by making me dig out the originals to hear them in a new way. My eyes are open and for good reason!


The Explorers Club: Together
(Goldstar Recordings)

I play a lot of tunes from The Beach Boys on Catching A Wave. I pretty much have to include one on each show. I love all aspects of their career and often feel like the late '60s through mid-'70s output from the band is often overlooked. The Explorers Club have a sound that fits right into that time period. They make no bones about their influences but they aren't a tribute band. While they would have fit perfect in that time period, they also bring a youthful freshness to their approach. This is their third album and they keep getting better.  

--JAMES RILEY, "CATCHING A WAVE," Saturdays 11 P.M.- 1 A.M.