Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Robert Sarazin Blake With Jefferson Hamer and the Powderkegs: Put It All Down in a Letter [Same Room, 2011]
This poetry-with-rock as poetry-with-jazz leads with the associative 17-minute narrative "I Didn't Call You From Philadelphia," over a quarter of the CD's full length, and if you shrug and decide Blake's tour of West Philadelphia eating and music spots w/ Luddite assessment of telephonemetry could just be worth the price of admission by itself, you may well be making a rational economic decision. Inexhaustibly, it cuts everything else here, including the unmailed 16-minute love letter "Magic Hour on Baltimore Ave." But not by as much as everything else here cuts the doleful recorded-in-Belfast (apparently in the same year, 2011) A Long Series of Memorable Nights Forgotten. Partly it's the band, and partly too Anaïs Mitchell's Child ballad helpmeet Hamer, because they groove, inducing Blake to bop like Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the funk rather than moan like Bob Geldof with catarrh. But mostly it's the songs. If the weary realism of "Planned Parenthood Waiting Room," "The Little Disappointments We Swallow," and the sexually explicit "We Can Roll Down Tonite" don't live up to the lead track, that's just more evidence of what a stroke that shaggy dog song is. A-