Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Josh Caterer "The Hideout Sessions"


(Pravda, 2021) Pravda is one of my favorite Chicago labels, and not just because they gloriously refuse to die. When I was a teen my neighborhood band, The Farmers, was on the label. My musical hero, Andre Williams, was welcomed with open grooves. Their series of live albums with outsider musicians (Tiny Tim, Cordell Jackson, Hasil Adkins) were some of the first concerts I attended that were immortalized with releases. Their retail space (when it was by the Music Box) was friendly, had great punk singles, and generously sold me many, many good records. When the New Duncan Imperials were funny it appealed to my dementoid novelty DNA, and when their jokes were corny, awkward and fell flat it had a satisfying Dick DeBartolo MAD movie parody thud. Chicago off center legends like the C*nts and Cheer-Accident made the label historically crucial, in an asterisk way. And the label's inkling to lean into fun rootsy rock & R&B every so often is a repeated reminder that their sensibilities line up with mine. Musically they have been so all over the place for the last 35 years it is hard to compare them to other labels (except maybe Cash Money, if you're taking Trump pardons into consideration), but while that variety may have kept them from having the success that a narrowcasted label might achieve, it sure kept things fun. I am also a Hideout superfan, and no Chicagoan needs to hear justification for digging that gem. I am not particularly invested in the Smoking Popes, so take away the Kenn and Tutten connections and maybe I come in cold on this one, but factoring those in I went in with open ears, and was pleasantly rewarded. Obviously I am not going to complain about any record with a sincere Sammy Davis, Jr. cover, but I waas also delighted by the sincerity, simplicity, and grace Caterer and the rest of his trio (the always classy bass of John San Juan and the tastefully forward-in-the-mix drumming of John Perrin) bring to standards, while never dipping into lounge schmaltz or even nostalgia. This is a low key slice of calming loveliness, which is a nice treat after the last million years we went through in the last twelve months.

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