Third Eye Weekly Listening: 5/26/23

One of the great things about having a remote, white-collar job is the staggering amount of music I can listen to. My job is such that I can put plenty of stuff on in the background on low or high and zone out as I work. That’s part of the reason I’ve been able to write about so much music recently, which I love.

In this week’s installment of psych-jams of the week, we once again tap into a legendary artist of the past, listen to the neo-psychedelic sounds of a band from Northern Italy, and travel back to those primitive times of 2014 to hear a band once at the center of Nashville’s psychedelic scene. Enjoy!

Psych Jams of the Week

Okie by J.J. Cale

One legendary musician I’ve begun getting into is J.J. Cale, the American guitarist, singer, songwriter, and sound engineer. Cale, who passed away in 2013, avoided the limelight throughout his career but greatly influenced rock music. He’s widely acknowledged by other musicians like Neil Young and Waylon Jennings, and Eric Clapton once described him as one of the most essential artists in the history of rock ‘n roll.

Cale is one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a loose genre that draws on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz. Cale was smart because he wanted money without fame – and that’s what he got. His song After Midnight was recorded by Clapton and became a Top 20 hit, and he scored another windfall after Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded his song Call Me the Breeze. The royalty money enabled Cale to record music and tour however he wanted. Cale said in 2013, “I knew if I became too well known, my life would change drastically. On the other hand, getting some money doesn’t change things too much, except you no longer have to go to work.” That sounds damn smart to me!

Okie is the album from Cale I’ve been listening to lately, released on April 20, 1974. Okie blends several genres in Cale’s signature idiosyncratic sound, including gospel and straight country songs. Some songs, like Crying, even have tinges of reggae, and a few instrumentals are on the record, too. The title track of Okie is an instrumental that was recorded on the back porch of Cale’s Tulsa home. And some songs are just so damn funky and groovy, such as Cajun Moon and Everlovin’ Woman. The record is short, but it’s god-damned delicious.

Rituals by Thomas Greenwood

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans are a four-piece psych rock band from the hills of Bergamo, Northern Italy, that makes music that combines neo-psychedelia and acid rock. I’ve heard a lot from Italian bands that their country is not a place well-suited for rock ‘n roll, but I wonder about that because I’ve been finding plenty of good bands from Italy.

Rituals was this band’s debut album, released in 2022 and then re-issued by Echodelick Records in February 2023. The band brings a blend of melodic surf-rock choruses with mystical, warm guitar tones that are good for fans of another Italian psychedelic act, Giobia.

The songs on Rituals have a really haunting quality to them. One of my favorites is the last track on the record, Valley of the Sun, which combines excellent acoustic guitar playing with mesmerizing lead vocals. Acid Man is another great track, a real throwback that harkens back to the Sixties sound. And then there’s Whisperer of My Dreams, a song with an excellent mix of guitar tones, sounds, and echoed vocals that call from the other side. Overall, Rituals is a great album and evidence that Italians can do psychedelic rock just fine, no matter what they may say.

Let Everything Come Through by Ttoals

Ttoals is a psych rock trio that formally started in Nashville but now based in Los Angeles. I started listening to these gents because I was looking for more Nashville psych bands, but alas, they’ve fled the coop (or so it seems to me). They create “dynamic rock ‘n roll that seeps through minimal grooves and expands as revelatory croons.” Let Everything Come Through is their debut full-length album that was released way back in 2014 (in the pre-Trump days, imagine that).

Let Everything Come Through has an experimental sound that’s partly noisy and mellow at the same time, if that makes any sense. The opening track, Take Care of Me, throws plenty of distortion at us and a little saxophone, too, from what I could tell. The vocals on the record have a shoegaze quality, as they’re off in the background and delivered in a flat, somewhat ominous tone. In songs like Life Thus Far-Out, the shoegaze is also noticeable in the distorted guitar tones.

The band says they use blues music as a launchpad to explore a blend of traditional and experimental sounds that they call The Outer Blues. And since they have been around for a while, their sound was crafted before streaming was widely available and popular. They also say they were once kicked off a stage in Knoxville, Tennessee, for being too loud, so that’s something to be proud of in a rock band.

I’m not sure what Totals is up to today, but they were once pillars of Nashville’s indie psych-rock community, so I’ve been brushing up on their music. Hopefully, they’re enjoying the California sun, and, who knows, maybe they’ll drop into their old Nashville haunts for some shows in the future.

It’s Bandcamp Friday, so you know what that means – head to the site, support some of these hard-working artists, and spread the news! J.J. Cale’s Okie isn’t available on Bandcamp, but you can find the work of Ttotals and Thomas Greenwood, so go give ‘em a listen!

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