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Baker's Dozen

Beautiful Artefacts: Jon Spencer's Favourite Albums
Julian Marszalek , September 25th, 2012 11:41

The Blues Explosion frontman whittles down his favourite albums to a mean 13


Jessie Mae Hemphill - Feeling Good
This is an album that was recorded in the 70s by Dr David Evans who was a professor of music at a university down in Mississippi; I don’t have all the facts straight but I think he may have played second guitar or some percussion.

The album is mainly Jessie Mae herself playing these very hypnotic, incredibly soulful and very groovy and funky blues songs. For me, as I said, rock’n’roll was a real turn-off and a lot of the blues was a turn-off – shit like Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton – but discovering people like Jessie Mae and RL Burnside really blew my head off and they opened my mind. It’s the same with any kind of music; there’s some good stuff out there and she exemplifies that. She’s drawing upon a rich history – and it’s not just a history of where she’s from – but it’s also a family history. Her father was this fife and drum player and it’s incredibly personal and unique. The songs are unmistakeably hers.

And it’s not about flashy technique; it’s incredibly true and real.There’s a degree of honesty here but there are different types of honesty. You could hear a cute song about someone breaking up with his girlfriend or Lykke Li writes a song about breaking up with her boyfriend or Blixa Bargeld writes a song about doing too much cocaine and staying up all night or all week. There are different types of honesty and I don’t have a problem with artifice or show business or entertainment but the kind of honesty that’s more important to me – you could write about splitting up with your girlfriend or taking a trip to the moon – but what’s important to me is that your heart’s in it and that your soul’s in it. You can wear your hair like Little Richard and jump on top of a piano but you gotta mean it.