Whether you think it’s a marketing gimmick or a day for independent record stores and labels to shine at what they do every day of the year, it’s hard not to love Record Store Day! It’s the time of year to hunt for the most exclusive, super-cool, you’ll-never-even-get-a-copy vinyl. Stores get to throw all-day parties with special live performances, and labels tout their latest innovations. There are a lot of special releases this year (full list here), but here are five things we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for on April 21st.
Luther Dickinson 78 r.p.m. 10”
The San Francisco-based Tompkins Square label is bringing back the 78 r.p.m. 10” for Record Store Day. That may sound almost as antiquarian as some of their reissues, but my turntable can actually play at 78 speed, as can many newer models. Looking kind of like a cross between an old Vocalion and Bluebird center label, the Tompkins Square 78s sound just about as old. Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes, son of legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson) fills up his b-side with a double tribute to bottleneck blues on the segue, “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen/Peace in the Valley.” If you’re worried you won’t be able to snag one of the 500 physical copies, you can give it a spin over here at the ultra-modern SoundCloud.
How many are there: 500
Don’t forget to: adjust your turntable’s speed
Buck Owens Coloring Book EP and 7” Flexi-Disc
In 1970, Buck Owens commissioned a coloring book. Here within, kids can experience the everyday life of a Bakersfield country singer. Buck gets up early to ride his horse, washes his car, plays golf, makes a recording, goes to the office, watches Hee Haw, and plays a rockin’ concert with the Buckaroos. No big deal. With this lovely piece of ‘70s kitsch comes a flexi-disc 7” of four songs recorded live at LBJ’s White House in 1968. (A full album from this special presidential concert is rumored for release on Omnivore in the future.) The Buckaroos never had any problem sounding absolutely on fire, and they weren’t fazed a bit playing for the President. “Tiger By The Tail,” “Act Naturally,” “Together Again”… you know the drill. Classic Buck-O.
How many are there: 2,500
Least likely to: let the kiddies color in this thing
Jack White “Sixteen Saltines” Liquid-Filled 12”
Third Man Records
Jack White may be the most important — certainly in terms of visibility and reach—supporter of vinyl. He recently described his fascination to the New York Times as such: “The left wall is the left channel, the right wall is the right channel, and you’re just dragging that rock through the groove. Watching it spin, you get a real mechanical sense of music being reproduced. I think there’s a romance to that.” He makes it sound down right sexy. If White is the high priest of vinyl, then his label Third Man is the pulpit from which he preaches. Their record shop in Nashville is the only place that you’ll find the liquid-filled 12” for “Sixteen Saltines,” the second single off White’s new solo album Blunderbuss. If the first single, “Love Interruption” was a slightly cringe-worthy Jack White mission statement, “Sixteen Saltines” is the skronking blues-rock that no one does better. Stop-start stammering electric guitar, double-tracked lead vocal, broken glass. If you have any questions, the song’s official video should answer everything.
Where to find: it’s only available at Third Man’s shop in Nashville
Just don’t call it: a comeback
Mickey Newbury/Bill Callahan “Heaven Help The Child” Split 7″
Drag City/Saint Cecilia Knows
Though not technically a Record Store Day release (it was came out March 27th), this is a unique one worth mentioning. It’s two Texans (Newbury was from Houston; Callahan is an Austin transplant) doing one of the great underappreciated American tunes. Newbury’s rendition—the title track from the third release in his famed trilogy of albums—opens with dual fingerpicked nylon-string guitars, and then the singer’s echoing “oooo”s. It’s unlike anything else coming out of early ‘70s Nashville, where Newbury moved in 1965 to become a staff writer at Acuff-Rose. I’d be lying if I said I knew just what this song is about. According to a news release, it’s something of a protest song, written in 1971 at the end of the Vietnam War. It offers vignettes—New York in 1912, Paris in the ‘20s—then, without seeming to answer its own questions (or perhaps not asking any questions at all), offers the almost-didactic chorus: “Heaven help the child/ Take him back to where he’s never been/We’re all building walls/They should be bridges.” In terms of production, it’s five minutes of sheer bliss. A little horn fanfare during the Paris verse; soaring strings on the chorus; country-rock drums and electric guitar on a verse about freight trains; harmonica and snare on the war general’s verse; bells and strings at the end… then “Auld Lang Syne.” It’d be hard to top Newbury’s production, but Callahan, a Newbury acolyte, does the tune plenty of justice. The slow narrative of the verses lends itself to Callahan’s speaking-singing approach. Atmospheric guitar tremolos eventually turn into crunchy rhythm guitar and drums, as Callaghan builds his own sonic arc. One song, two sides, six bucks: sounds like a steal.
Where to buy: it’s not a limited release, so check your local store
Also not to miss: Callahan’s video for “Heaven Help The Child”
Jonathan Wilson “Pity Trials and Tomorrow’s Child” 12”
We make no bones about our love for Jonathan Wilson’s analog world and vibey ‘70s rock and roll. The dude possesses some serious vintage mojo. In his increasingly spare, um, spare time (see also: upcoming European tour supporting Tom Petty) he’s also been behind the boards for some excellent albums—notably, J. Tillman’s (Fleet Foxes) new Father John Misty project. For Record Store Day, he tackles three covers, paying homage to three distinct sources. On “Isn’t It A Pity,” from George Harrison’s magnum opus All Things Must Pass, an acoustic guitar and keys begin a faithful ode to the quiet Beatle. George-esque guitar fills, Graham Nash high harmony (natch), and a synth-strings and slide guitar freak-out middle section round out the offering. It’s not the first time JW has sampled the Beatles’ catalog—on the unreleased Frankie Ray, the tape finds its way to a seemingly impromptu segue of “I’m Looking Through You.” The appropriately named “Trials of Jonathan” (written by songwriter, educator, and Dylan collaborator Happy Traum) is a slice of funky acoustic blues. Then, with a nod to the crate-digging ethos of RSD, Wilson tackles the Japanese psych-rock outfit Apryl Fool’s 1969 song, “Tomorrow’s Child,” an organ and fuzz guitar workout. The more I listen to Wilson, the more it I think of him more like a great filmmaker—an auteur with the total vision for his work. And you really don’t see that much anymore.
How many copies: Not sure (but we really want one)
Don’t confuse it with: A record that was actually released in 1973