The cover of the Nils Økland Band album Kjølvatn

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Peter Margasak, Reader staff writer

Blind Joe Taggart, A Guitar Evangelist: 1926 to 1931 (Herwin) During the four years I worked at Jazz Record Mart, I bought loads of used vinyl, much of which took years to finally listen to. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get to this collection of gospel-blues from South Carolina-born singer and guitarist Blind Joe Taggart—the album compiles eight rare 78s he cut for Paramount and an earlier single for Vocalion. His voice was more mellifluous and measured than that of fellow guitar evangelist Blind Willie Johnson, and some tunes bear the distinct influence of white country music.

Nils Økland Band, Kjølvatn (ECM) Norwegian violinist and Hardanger fiddler Nils Økland leads a new quintet with saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nylstrøm (of new-music heavies Poing), harmonium player Sigbjørn Apeland, jazz bassist Mats Eilertsen, and percussionist Håkon Stene. Norwegian folk pulses at the heart of Økland’s compositions, which are as varied as the lineup, but he explores other traditions too (Arabic, Balkan) and borrows the improvisational dynamic of jazz. The total aesthetic, though, belongs to Økland alone.

Jurmo, Gnistor, Irrbloss 1:2 (Sing a Song Fighter/Ausculto Fonogram) Jurmo is a beguiling new project from Swedish reedist Johan Arrias, who blew my mind 16 years ago with his delicate trio Gul 3. Here he fronts a group employing drums, trumpet, trombone, and tuba that zigzags between sound-­oriented abstraction, European military brass, woozy ballads, and art-pop songs (two tracks feature great Swedish singer Nicolai Dunger).

Peter is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Vladimir Vysotsky
Vladimir VysotskyCredit: Creative Commons

Sima Cunningham, solo artist, half of the duo Homme

Vladimir Vysotsky, “Koni Priveredlivye” I was introduced to singer-songwriter and poet Vladimir Vysotsky in 2011 with this video of him performing “Koni Priveredlivye,” which translates as “Capricious Horses”—I’ve been told it’s about his struggle with heroin addiction. Vysotsky was a tragic Soviet hero, and he absolutely transfixed me. In a record shop in Seattle, I found a reissue of a 1967 live recording from the 21-album series At Vladimir Vysotsky’s Concerts. I don’t understand Russian, but his wit and the vigor of his words cut through the language barrier. He drags out his consonants and ends the songs before you know what’s happened. The other day I was blasting the record, and the masons who were tuck-pointing the house next door got all excited and started singing along.

YouTube video

Seval, “Details” Sofia Jernberg‘s voice is one of the greatest instruments in the world. I caught Seval’s set at the Umbrella Music Festival a few years back and bought the quintet’s second album, 2. I love the arrangements on the record; Fred Lonberg-Holm’s cello is masterful throughout. “Details” I enjoy for its lyrics—”I listened to your story / I heard it with all the gory details”—and for Jernberg’s dazzling, incredibly nimble vocals.

YouTube video

Randy Newman, Little Criminals Randy Newman doesn’t need any more accolades, but I was a latecomer, and I’ve been listening to him on repeat. He makes me want to be bolder and to fearlessly embrace the singer-­songwriter inside me, even if a little cheese seeps out.

Sima is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Casio SK-1 keyboard
Casio SK-1 keyboardCredit: Vlad Spears / Flickr

Peter Cottontale, producer, musical director of the Social Experiment

Small keyboards I’ve been into smaller keyboards and synths recently. They’re easy to transport and usually have interesting functions. A few examples are the Casio SK-1, Yamaha CS01, and Roli Seaboard.

CDs It’s a funny thing that I’m “into” CDs right now, when they haven’t been a necessity for the past decade or so. I’ve stumbled upon some great CD sets recently (one in particular called Rhapsodies in Black contains four discs of music and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance era, reissued by Rhino in 2000) as well as old mix CDs that my friends and I made, where I’ve found many forgotten 90s and early-2000s jams.

Pete Nelson, Be in a Treehouse It doesn’t have much to do with music, but it’s been inspiring my music lately. This 2014 book shows you current tree houses all around the globe. Some are for rent, and they all look like great places to make music in.