Chuck Pyle
Romancing the Moment
Zen Cowboy Records

Jerry Jeff Walker, the late Chris LeDoux, Suzy Bogguss, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the late John Denver have all recorded songs penned by Chuck Pyle. But hearing the “Zen Cowboy” perform the songs himself is the real treat. Pyle’s live album, Romancing the Moment, sounds like Townes Van Zandt on Zoloft. The gentle and vivid songs focus on nature and the rich inner life of this western soul. While enthusiastically singing, Pyle fluently fingerpicks both rhythm and lead riffs on a 2001 Martin HD28-LSV guitar. Talented fiddler Gordon Burt accompanies Pyle in a sensitive and responsive style that never takes center stage, rather smolders while backing the guitar and vocals.

There’s one novelty song, “Yucki Sushi,” that borders on political incorrectness, but Pyle manages to pull it off without sounding too raw. Perhaps “Yucki Sushi” and Pyle’s stage banter between songs are included to portray the versatility and flexibility of the performer’s showmanship. Unfortunately, the humor ultimately dates the man. Not that a 60-something surfer/fisherman/cowboy/troubadour can’t be totally hip—we just don’t want to worry about him needing a hip-replacement. (Caroline Keys)

Chuck Pyle plays The Crystal Theatre Thursday, Oct. 27, at 8 PM. $12 at the door/$10 in advance. $2 off for members of the Missoula Folklore Society.

Danny’s Dilemma
Your Father Must Be Wealthy
Food Farm Records

Life is full of fleeting encounters, snippets of overheard conversation and photographic views from moving vehicles that disappear as quickly as you notice them. The album Your Father Must Be Wealthy by local band Danny’s Dilemma provides one of those ephemeral experiences because the songs aren’t linear narratives; they each render just a slice of a moment.

In the song “A Problem,” it’s made plain that “the problem” is someone named Eddie brandishing a revolver and the solution is that Eddie needs to relax. This revelation is followed by playful guitar picking and plucky “oohing.” In “Who is This?” singer Danny Bobbe warbles “keeping my bed bugs kissed at night/ I get so fright—ened by your face/leave this place/who is this?” Bobbe’s voice is seductively new wave but meanders into whinnying that is sparse enough to be likable.

Highlights include a hidden track of a creepy echo of “Who is this?” sped up like a demented chipmunk and interrupted by breaking glass, and “Feel Bad,” a tune that evokes the garage rock charms of Billy Childish.

It’s a promising album charged with mysterious fragments, and though perplexing at times, proves that less is at least more interesting. (Erika Fredrickson)

Scott Law Band
Liquid City Records

Is there really nothing new under the sun? What if you took the filling out of a Twinkie and replaced it with pesto? Would that count as something original? If you answered “yes” to the above question, then you are likely to believe that the Scott Law Band proves that there is something new under the sun. SLB is a sugary James Brown-type band that substitutes Scott Law’s contemplative white guy pipes where Brown’s gritty voice would normally come in. With Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band) on Hammond B-3 organ, these guys Deliver a danceable record.

But beneath the horns, organ and party-down bass, Law’s lyrics aspire to inspire. Maybe our image of “the funk” has been regulated by a handful of hard-living stars, but is the main idea of funk to ponder literate and philosophical lyrics? Or to abandon your ass to dirty music? With SLB, the listener gets to do both—if she dares to think and jive at the same time.

Scott Law has indeed created something new under the sun with this funk that makes you think—what do we call it? Fink? Thunk?—and no matter what the name, it’s worth exploring. (Caroline Keys)

Scott Law Band plays the Top Hat Friday, Oct. 21, at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

Fiona Apple
Extraordinary Machine

Fiona Apple’s voice is powerful, supple and variegated. Her vocal delivery on Extraordinary Machine, Apple’s recently-released third album, is sing-song syncopation dotted by sudden shifts in tone; her voice is mocking and playful, confident and careful, but infused with energy. Basically, it’s wonderful, and so is the album.

Apple’s lyrics are equal to her delivery—passable as poetry but illuminated by her elocution. For instance, during “Please Please Please,” Apple entreats, “Give us something familiar/something similar/to what we know already/that will keep us steady/steady/steady going nowhere,” turning the last phrase into a joke at the angst-rock genre by deftly shifting rhythms, setting the phrase down with a bump and subsequently declining to oblige expectations of familiarity.

Extraordinary Machine’s music is noteworthy but mostly as a platform for Apple’s vocals. The title track and “Tymps” draw on big band influences that seem unlikely for Apple, yet also appropriate as a showcase for her vocal vitality. It comes across again during the sparse solo piano piece, “Parting Gift,” a song that synthesizes Nina Simone’s tone control and vibrato with Joni Mitchell’s trick of straining of a song’s lyrics, then resolving that tension and elevating the track.

Simone and Mitchell are first-class female vocalists; Extraordinary Machine moves Apple into their ranks. (Jason Wiener)

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