Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International
Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter


A previously unreleased piece by Woody Guthrie will appear on singer-songwriter Ellis Paul's new album, "The Speed of Trees," scheduled for a Sept. 10 release on Philo/Rounder records. "God's Promise" is a newly discovered Guthrie lyric adapted by Guthrie in 1955 from a popular hymn called "What God Hath Promised," by Annie Johnson Flint (1919).


At the invitation of Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, Ellis set "God's Promise" to music.

On "The Speed of Trees" Paul collaborated with guitarist Duke Levine and included special guest performances by Lucy Kaplansky and Jennifer Kimball. The rest of this Boston-area band consists of Kevin Barry joining Levine on guitars, Paul Bryan on bass, John Sands on drums and Tommy West on Hammond B-3 organ.

Over the past 10 years, Paul has received numerous accolades. In his hometown of Boston he is a 12-time Boston Music Award winner -- topped only by Aerosmith. He's appeared on soundtracks with songs in two Farrelly Brothers films, "Dumb and Dumber," and "There's Something About Mary."


Filmmaker Peter Farrelly calls Paul "a national treasure" and has become one of his biggest fans. Beginning Sept. 7, Paul will kick off a nationwide tour to support the release of "The Speed of Trees."


The Village Voice reports actor Wesley Snipes is laughing off Michael Jackson's charges of racism in the entertainment industry. Snipes told Voice columnist Michael Musto he hasn't encountered a lot of racism. Snipes responded to Jackson's charge that his record wasn't promoted because he was black by saying: "And that wasn't a joke? And everybody didn't break out laughing? Maybe he's on such a different level now that he knows things we don't know and sees things we don't see. Maybe he has to go in the back door of hotels and we don't even know about it!"


Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame is set to release his third solo album, "The Ragpicker's Dream." The album, produced by Knopfler and Chick Ainlay, is scheduled to come out on Warner Bros. records Oct. 1. Knopfler's band on the album is made up of keyboardists Guy Fletcher and Jim Cox, guitarist Richard Bennett, bassist Glenn Worf and drummer Chad Cromwell.


"The record has a kind of an acoustic feel," Knopfler said. "I find myself writing about work, ordinary people and what they do, changes to places over time, and songs about leaving. I've always been interested in the fact that music travels so it's a sort of transcontinental blues... The music has traveled to the States and come back again -- Irish songs, Scottish songs, English songs, and European songs, too."

Knopfler plans to tour in support of the album in the spring of 2003.


Dweezil Zappa has decided to put a guitar twice set on fire by Jimi Hendrix on auction next month. The guitar, a Sunburst Stratocaster that Hendrix doused with lighter fluid and lit up during a 1967 London show, then again in 1968 at the Miami Pop Festival, is expected to draw $600,000 when London auctioneers Cooper Owen put it up for sale. Hendrix gave the guitar to Zappa's father Frank, whose band, The Mothers of Invention, also played at the Miami festival. The younger Zappa found the guitar in pieces under a stairway in his dad's Los Angeles studio, and put it back together.



Nonesuch Records is launching the complete re-release of its landmark Explorer Series. The original series--issued on vinyl between 1967 and 1984 -- was a turning point for what later became known as world music.

While a few of these recordings were reissued on compact disc over the years, this is the first time the entire series -- 92 recordings in all -- will be released on CD.

"Africa: Music from the Nonesuch Explorer Series" contains 13 titles collected from the series. The 13 titles reissued Aug. 27 included "Drum, Chant and Instrumental Music," "Witchcraft and Ritual Music," "Animals of Africa: Sounds of the Jungle, Plain, and Bush," three mbira (thumb piano) recordings from the Shona people of Zimbabwe, and Hamza El Din's "The Water Wheel."

A compilation CD will follow on Sept. 24. Nonesuch will issue the CDs grouped by global region, beginning with the African recordings. January 2003 will see the release of 10 titles from Indonesia and the South Pacific, including "Music from the Morning of the World."

Subsequent releases over the next three years will group titles from Tibet/Kashmir, Latin America/Caribbean, East Asia, Central Asia, Europe, and India. The 13 African releases originally were issued between 1969 and 1983. The music comes from Ghana, Nubia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Uganda, Zaire, Kenya, and Tanzania.


Western audiences heard many African instruments for the first time: the marimba of Tanzania and the dzil or Ghanian calabash-xylophone; Zimbabwe's mbira and Burundi's sanza, both thumb pianos; the talking drums of Niger and Burkina Faso, whose pitch is shifted through changing the tension of the drums' membranes; and dozens of other flutes, fiddles, horns, drums, musical bows, zithers, and lutes from across the continent.

Latest Headlines