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Listed: Human Bell + D. Charles Speer

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Baltimore guitar duo Human Bell and No-Neck alumnus D. Charles Speer.

Listed: Human Bell + D. Charles Speer

Human Bell

You can forgive Human Bell for their awkward moniker. They aren't part of the horrific trend of godforsaken band names; David Heumann and Nathan Bell simply attached their last names. Sorta like Hall & Oates. But our duo doesn't write radio-ready jingles. Heumann and Bell opted to keep quiet and let their guitars do all the talking. This is a switch for Heumann, who leads the band Arbouretum, but not as much for Bell, who played bass in Lungfish for eight years. While significantly less hip than most of the noisemakers from Baltimore right now, Heumann and Bell may have trumped all of them in 2008 with their Thrill Jockey debut, a steady yet salient display of dueling guitars that (at the risk of sounding rockist) deftly combines technique, songwriting and a healthy dose of patience. Heumann and Bell took part in this week's Listed.

1. Ennio Morricone - Crime and Dissonance
For being an enthusiast at heart for the sound-track of daily life, Crime and Dissonance in the iPod sets the score. Preferred listening while in transit. (NB)

2. The Pupils - "The Mind is a Hole in the Body"
To my ears, this is as good as an electric guitar has ever sounded. The lyrics are brilliant, cerebral perfection. (DH)

3. La Monte Young - The Well-Tuned Piano
This album to me is the perfect example of pushing a musical tool to sharpen one's own creative edge. By tuning a piano into 5th's, La Monte Young discovered a whole new realm of creating a "3rd" octave by playing two separate octaves. Truly inspirational as well as just a deep listen. (NB)

4. Ostad Elahi - Oraison Mystique
To me, his playing on the tanbur sounds like gently undulating ripples or perhaps the movements of charmed vipers. I recently read that Elahi had also written some books pertaining to spiritual subjects. He was said to be from a line of Persian mystics dating back to the 10th century. (DH)

5. Miles Davis - Live Evil
Because it's Miles Davis doing what Miles Davis did so well. Also, it's live with a stellar line-up. (NB)

6. Jerry Garcia - Garcia
"To Lay Me Down,” particularly this version, is capable of melting away any trace of cynicism one might possess. Gorgeous. (DH)

7. Brian Jones - …presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka
This music is a straight-up "put on your mental safety belt and let loose" listen. The very heavy drum rhythms are very spiritually uplifting as a tribal reminder of just how old music has been appreciated. (NB)

8. P.G Six - "The Dance"
There are some songs that one does not tire of hearing, and for me, this is one of those songs. Sometimes this song plays in my head for the better part of a day. (DH)

9. All the music from any Tony Gatlif films
I regard Tony Gatlif as a true genius of his work. All of the folk-gypsy music in all of his films really paints a perspective of what music really is and should be about. Folks loving music in its purest form. (NB)

10. Earth - Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions
Music for two guitars that is quite different from the music for two guitars that Nathan and I make. I got into the later Earth stuff first and bought this one fairly recently. It was a total mind-blower when I first put it on the turntable, like discovering a long-lost missing link.

D. Charles Speer

D. Charles Speer is one Dave Shuford, a member of New York's No-Neck Blues Band and a number of its off-shoots. While all individual parts get lost in the NNCK maelstrom, this Speer thing is all Shuford. He writes the songs (yes, songs) and sings the vocals, while the Helix -- another bunch of NNCK members -- play boogie in the background. Shuford's romps channel both dusty open spaces and cramped dim places, scars and bars from the Deep South and Old West. His first record, Some Forgotten Country came out last year and surprised the shit out of those that heard it. He's back already with After Hours on Black Dirt/Sound @ One, and it's another doozie. Shuford took part in this week's Listed.

No need for ordinal positions - these cats are numberless...

  • Bob Mosley
    Founding member of the Frantics, who eventually became the ill-fated legends Moby Grape. One of rock's great voices (sounds like a huge Bobby “Blue” Bland obsessive to me), a phenomenal bass player, and an incredible songwriter – the man could do it all. Plus he had the strange ability to alternate between writing the most hard-rocking pieces (“Trucking Man,” “The Joker” from his solo album) and very delicate psych damaged numbers (“Rose Colored Eyes,” “Bitter Wind”). The fuzz bass on “Hoochie” is a wall of menace. As much a crazed head as the more often celebrated Skip Spence.

  • Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story by Nick Tosches
    This is a true tour-de-force of music biography. Not an exhaustive, day-by-day account that drains the lifeblood out its subject, Hellfire retains the indomitable, dangerous spirit of its subject. The story of Jerry Lee’s “birthday party” during which his bass player is shot in the chest speaks volumes about the standards of Southern decorum.

  • Bessie Smith - “Gimme a Pigfoot & a Bottle of Beer”
    The Empress of the Blues tackles a Wesley Wilson song with her irrepressible enthusiasm. Recklessness, late night foibles, immaculate musicianship: the spirit of old Harlem will never die!

  • Gary Stewart
    I had never even heard of Gary until I stumbled across this posthumous tribute piece by Jimmy McDonough, the cat who wrote the massive Neil Young bio, Shakey. He was truly a revelation to me, as I thought ultra-hard honky-tonk expired after the early years of Johnny Paycheck. But Gary was one of a kind, with a voice that could wither an evergreen. Despite some uneven production jobs (I’m looking at you Chips Moman!), his vibe is loud and clear on everything he did. If you like honest, tough-luck, hard-living country singing, then Gary is one of the last outposts. These present TNN douchebags need to go back and drink some gasoline. Just go get his records and breathe deep.

  • Keith Hudson
    The Dark Prince of Reggae, the Ghetto Dentist – he should be enshrined for his nicknames alone. But his music seems to emanate from a shadow world that reaches beyond the usual limits of music into supernatural persuasion. As a producer he was a surefire hitmaker, and helped popularize the deejay style of Dennis Alcapone, U Roy, Big Youth, precursors of the modern MC. His solo albums and dubs are shuddering slabs of bleakness – not as spare as Niney, not littered with crazy sound effects like the Upsetter or Joe Gibbs, yet somehow more striking than all. The atmosphere, the musicians, and Hudson’s unique and far-from-polished singing coalesce into records that transcend the realm of genre into a kind of personal sound that is the goal of any serious artist.

  • Rita Abadzi
    Also known as Rita Abatzi. Possibly my favorite female singer of all time. A member of the 1930s generation of rembetiko musicians, she became one of the greatest Greek prewar singers after she was forced from her home in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) during the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922. Her voice conveys the fullest range of emotions, from joy, exuberance, absolute sassiness, frivolous mirth, coyness, and curious flirtation to solemn reflection, doped out nonchalance, mild regret, anger, fear, utmost despair, and a colder kind of disembodied perspective of the dead. She has soul for miles. One of her most anthologized works, "Gazeli Neva Sabah," consists of these haunting lines stretched out over three and half minutes: "A person must give some thought to the hour of his death; when he will go down into the black earth and his name will be erased." Thankfully for us, her name has endured.

  • Straight Records
    Curated by Frank Zappa and his agent Herb Cohen, the releases on this label were often much weirder than the ones on the sister label, Bizarre. Pretty much every release is a mind wipe, including stone cold classics from Tim Buckley, Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart, erstwhile Zappa bassist Jeff Simmons, Henske and Yester, and Tim Dawe. The last two feature stunning futuristic production values from the inimitable Jerry Yester, who’s still kicking it strong in Arkansas. Let’s hear it for ring-modded voices sent into a grand piano for fractured harmonic reverb. I mean what sounds more interesting, somebody who made keyboards and drums sound like the mid-’80s in 1969 or some schlub in the 2000s pumping out “killer retro new wave stylings”? I think Jerry will stand the test of time. The teeming hordes can have their moment and fade…

  • Stalk-Forrest Group - St. Cecilia
    Perhaps the best rock album never released. This is a record laid down by a primordial Blue Oyster Cult for Elektra in 1970, but left unreleased for decades in a typical miasma of label, artist and agent conflict. Totally burning psych leads by a certain Don Roeser (soon to be dubbed Buck Dharma) and a hefty batch of lyrics from Richard Meltzer make for a fantastic listen throughout. It is a much more west-coast leaning sound here than the actual BOC, almost like Help Yourself on more speed, or Quicksilver transplanted to Long Island.

  • Contemporary guitar mangling and caressing
    I’ve spent my fair share of time listening to pure noise, but at a certain point I realized that I like the leeway allowed by traditional instruments to speak in their conventional voices and then splinter off into realms beyond. As a string enthusiast, I can always dig a master of the craft, whether that chosen approach is utter mayhem or more considered latticework. So here’s to a small cross-section of killers: the late Jutok Kaneko, the Bad Trips (all hail Grady Runyan!), Sir Rick Bishop, Sightings, Wooden Shjips, Jack Rose, Mick Barr, Billy Bao, Rick Tomlinson, Paul Metzger (I know it’s a banjo now), Doueh, and on and on…

  • Leo Fender
    For giving us a world we can love.

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