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Play favorites with... Stewart Lupton of Child Ballads

Stewart LuptonLupton performs at Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday and the Velvet Lounge on Wednesday.

Stewart Lupton has managed to remain a Washington musical staple despite going a decade between albums. The late-'90s band he fronted, D.C.-bred Jonathan Fire*Eater, remains a cult favorite thanks to an album and handful of EPs of surging, organ-fueled rock. Lupton never stopped playing but only resurfaced on record recently with the Child Ballads, favoring ragged, frayed folk songs that put the focus squarely on his poetic lyrics. He'll tackle songs from both bands when he performs Saturday at Rock and Roll Hotel.

For this week's edition of Play favorites we asked Lupton about his favorite songs. His thoughts, sent via e-mail, are below.

Waylon Jennings - "I've Been a Long Time Leaving (But I'll Be a Long Time Gone)"
By '75 Jennings had blown the conventional templates of the Nashville sound to hell and high water by his insistent rhythm/bass grounded mid-tempo swagger. In Waylon's dirt-dinging hands, Roger Miller's Vitalis-slicked, gray-flannel suit traveling salesman wackadoo poetry of the '50s is hijacked by the long-legged, tall drink of water daddy. The metempsychosis results in a hybrid metabolic groove which undeniably leaves Waylon leading the new Nashville sound, not at all out of place somewhere on Side A of "Tattoo You."

(From Lee Perry to Mama Cass, after the jump.)

Thelonius Monk, "Rhythm-a-ning"
As Hentoff noted on the liner notes, probably one of the happiest jazz songs of all time. Never missing a beat or note, making new ones instead.

The Congos, "Fisherman"
Lee Perry's finest hour behind the consoles of the Ark. "Fisherman" transports three angel-throated, bush whacking singers with twigs in their dreads and dried fish hanging from their belts into post-curfew, ratchet-wielding Trenchtown. The resulting chemical equation is powered by Perry's Dr. Strange-comic-book-mysticism, lethally hypnotic, smashing through dub's glass ceilings with each verse. Listen to the instrumental passage about 3 minutes in, when Perry inhales the woofers and sucks all the bass out of the room, replacing it with celestial chimes and treble flashes of cut mirror brilliance, leaving the listener breathless, shoved out into space and the cold clarity of the cosmos before re-entering the throbbing jungle and waves and woes of the morning fisher-man.

Spiritualized, "200 Bars"
J. Spaceman's work has an unearthly quality of never letting us hear the hands behind the music akin to the taut skin of Ingres' "Tiny Bather." Never revealing the hands, the heart comes through in spades. Have you ever counted backwards to 200 with eyes closed? This exercise, recommended by medical professionals, safeguards the listener from the bends while securing head space worthy of an astronaut's equilibrium.

Mama Cass, "Rubber Band"
Piper at The Gates of Dawn goes to Malibu. We pan in. Syd Barrett, peacefully losing his mind poolside at The Chateau Marmont to the tune of half a ham sandwich and lemonade, frustrated, watching his band mates turning into narcissistic knob twiddlers, scratching furiously and humming on cocktail napkins. Enter Mama Cass, out of Bungalow 4. "Hey skinny, I got more of everything you need over here in my bunker before you turn lobster on me. They got lobsters over there? "

By David Malitz  |  December 30, 2009; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Play favorites  | Tags: Stewart Lupton  
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