Saturday, December 12, 2009

CHARLIE McALISTER
"Turn of the Century Photograph"
(Unread Records) C30

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UPDATE: 3/10/10 - I am pleased to announce that a handful of songs from this cassette will be coming out on Charlie's first release for Feeding Tube Records: "Country Creamed/Victorian Fog" LP.

I first heard Charlie McAlister on a mix tape. "What is this demented rockabilly jam with all that fucked up banjo"? Sounded straight out of a "God knows when" time vortex. "A Hasil Adkins outake"? "Oh this was made last year"? Cool! The next encounter was the song "Sleep Walking" from an obscure 7" from the once published Whump Magazine that also featured Caroliner and a bunch of other great 90's stuff. Even cooler! Pop music with absolutely crucial organ sound and reedy vocals. Thus began the search to aquire more of the records and tapes McAlister has made throughout the years, and continues to make to this day. Many of these remain in print.

I'm choosing to review the decade old "Turn of the Century Photograph" tape because it offers a solid introduction to the McAlister catalog. It doesn't go as far out as some of his more collage-based recordings, but it has some really amazing skewed-pop gems. "Bog Man" has a mummy coming back to life to terrorize a small village, "Girls in the Big Parade 1917" has a wonderful WWI feel, and "Plantation of Pain" is just pure postbellum magic. If you haven't figured it out yet, McAlister creates true American folk music. It is the way he twists old stories and symbols into nearly incomprehensible new versions that has made him a legend of underground music for the last couple decades. The tape also has a very long and bizarre play about fried sandwiches at the end of the B side.

When I finally met the man, outside of his "Fire Ant Mound" in Charleston, SC, he took me 45 minutes down some railroad tracks and then told me and my compadre that he was going to cut our heads off. C. McAlister has a thirst for blood and it shows in his desperate recordings and works of art, which all come highly recommended.


"Turn of the Century Photograph" available from
http://www.unread-records.com (catalog #12)

You can get much more of Charlie's work at his website:
http://www.zen-grafix.com/charliemcalister/