A random sampling of inspiration from the weekend….

Robert Johnson: The Centennial Collection:The Complete Recordings (Columbia Legacy). Yes, this material has been issued and reissued endlessly, in budget and boxed set form and every way in between. This iteration is, from an audio perspective, the best ever – the transfer is startlingly intimate and full of energy. The performances, well, you should already know about those. (If not, check 1000 Recordings, page 404.)

Eric Erlandson: Letters To Kurt (Akashic Books). I haven’t read all of these searching, angry and appropriately diffuse “letters” to the late Kurt Cobain., written by the bassist and co-founder of Hole, Eric Erlandson. There are 52 of them, each one a twisted elegy to the Nirvana guitarist and reluctant grunge poster boy. They may never wind up being considered great literature, but the language has the restless staccato heave of great rock, and the descriptions (of orgasms and syringes and a “ginger cayenne jalapeno enema”) offer a window into not just a mind but a mindset – and by extension, a scene. Here’s how one missive ends: “I hear vinyl’s back in. Suffering never goes out.”

Heartless Bastards: “Only For You” from Arrow (Partisan Records). Speaking of suffering, there are few voices in current rock who manage to communicate the endless permutations of heartbreak the way Erika Wennerstrom, the frontwoman of Heartless Bastards, does. This song is one of several from the new Arrow that describe, both in words and languidly arching melodies, those tentative first steps back from the brink. It’s a flat-out astounding vocal performance. I covered this record for NPR a month ago (review here), and I’m still obsessing.

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#1 from Mike, Maryland - 03/19/2012 11:01

Have you read “Everybody Loves Our Town” by Mark Yarm? For a guy who grew up listening to “grunge” (I was a young teenager when “Nevermind” came out) it was eye-opening to hear about the Seattle scene from the mouths of the people who were there. Very cool book, I couldn’t put it down. I’ll be sure to check out “Letters to Kurt” next.

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