The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – Axels and Sockets (Glitterhouse Records)


Axels and Sockets is the third and final volume of the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project series. If you haven’t been keeping score, the project was started by Pierce’s old friend Cypress Grove after finding a cassette of the dead-too-soon Gun Club singer’s unfinished sketches, with the intention of having Pierce’s friends, influencers and influencees bring the songs to fruition. Axels and Sockets features a lot of the usual suspects from previous volumes (Mark Lanegan, Deborah Harry, Nick Cave and many other Bad Seeds past and present) but it also makes a concerted effort to bring the next generation into the fold by including relatively new British acts Honey and Black Moth (both at the behest of British rock scribe Kris Needs). Honey give The Gun Club’s “Thunderhead” a NY Dolls-ish gutter-punk attack, while Black Moth bring a surprisingly metallic level of bombast to “Just Like A Mexican Love”. Interestingly, both bands are led by female vocalists. In fact women are well represented here, with nine of eighteen songs featuring female leads. It shows just how malleable Pierce’s songs were. Opener “Nobody’s City” fleshes out a skeletal Jeffrey Lee Pierce guitar riff into a full song featuring some heavy hitting names (Iggy Pop, Kid Congo Powers, Nick Cave and Thurston Moore). These days Iggy maintains a pretty adversarial relationship with on-key singing, but the song is spirited enough that you can forgive him. It’s Iggy Pop for chrissakes! Other highlights include Primal Scream sounding better than they have in a decade on Andrew Weatherall’s dub-electro remix of “Goodbye Johnny”, Nick Cave and Deborah Harry’s tender duet on “Into The Fire” and former Bad Seed Hugo Race’s darkly enthralling “Break ’em Down”. All in all, it’s a varied and effective tribute to a great talent. Buy it.

 

Oh, and bonus points are in order for this great painting of Pierce on the back cover by Mekons singer Jon Langford:

 

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The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – The Journey Is Long (Glitterhouse Records)


Jeffrey Lee Pierce was one of the great unheralded talents of the American Underground. Whether part of The Gun Club, or working as a solo artist, Pierce’s shamanistic performances and brilliant songwriting combined the best parts of punk, blues, early rock and jazz into something that still sounds vital decades later. He was also his own worse enemy, with a demonic penchant for drink and drugs that led to an early death from a brain hemorrhage in 1996, at the age of 37. That’s where this album comes into play. On the surface, The Journey Is Long seems like a tribute album, but it’s actually made up of previously unreleased material Pierce left behind on a series of cassettes, brought to life by an impressive line-up of friends, peers, and artists he influenced. While the album is best appreciated by Pierce’s fans, Nick Cave fans (and there’s probably a lot of crossover between the two groups) should seek this out as well since Cave performs two songs, and a parade of Bad Seeds (Hugo Race, Warren Ellis, Kid Congo Powers, Mick Harvey and Barry Adamson) show up as either solo performers, instrumental contributors to other people’s songs, or both. The fact that a many artists pop up repeatedly throughout the album should not be overlooked since it gives the project a more close-knit “family” feel than the typical “let’s get a bunch of well-known bands to play another well-known band’s most popular songs” approach that you usually find with tribute albums. The album also features a few snippets of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s own guitar playing wherever it was possible, which adds to an already spooky collection of haunted blues (“I’m Going Upstairs” by Hugo Race and “L.A. County Jail Blues” by Cypress Grove), punk rock howls (“Zonar Roze” by Thalia Zedek & Chris Brokaw and “Ain’t My Problem Baby” by The Jim Jones Revue) and mournful ballads (“The Breaking Hands”, recorded twice – once by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell and the other by Nick Cave and Deborah Harry – and “Sonny Boy” by Mick Harvey). It’s uniformly great, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the third volume in this series, titled The Task Has Overwhelmed Us, slated for release later this year.

Tracklisting:

1. CITY IN PAIN – NICK CAVE

2. I’M GOING UPSTAIRS – HUGO RACE

3. FROM DEATH TO TEXAS – STEVE WYNN

4. THE BREAKING HANDS – MARK LANEGAN & ISOBEL CAMPBELL

5. THE JUNGLE BOOK – THE AMBER LIGHTS

6. ROSE’S BLUES – BERTRAND CANTAT, PASCAL HUMBERT, WARREN ELLIS, CYPRESS GROVE

7. ZONAR ROZE – THALIA ZEDEK & CHRIS BROKAW

8. L.A. COUNTY JAIL BLUES – CYPRESS GROVE

9. I WANNA BE YOU – BARRY ADAMSON

10. SONNY BOY – MICK HARVEY

11. BOOK OF LOVE – VERTICAL SMILE

12. BODY AND SOUL – ASTRO-UNICORN

13. THE BRINK – LYDIA LUNCH

14. THE BREAKING HANDS – NICK CAVE & DEBORAH HARRY

15. IN MY ROOM – TEX PERKINS & LYDIA LUNCH

16. THE JUNGLE BOOK – TAV FALCO’S PANTHER BURNS

17. ST. MARK’S PLACE – MICK HARVEY

18. AIN’T MY PROBLEM BABY – THE JIM JONES REVUE