charlie mcalister - "turn of the centruy photograph of"
dusty southern storysongs featuring an array of homespun goo, utilizing guitar, banjo, solvents, pots and pans, etc. true folkish genius and heartfelt home recordings circa the turn of the centruy.
"plantation of pain"
"girls in the big parade 1917"
"secret / go to hell"
"pale light / hair / wind / football"
"song x #2"
"battle of the mascots"
"fried sandwhich play"
out of some strange southern town, the ever-ecentric mcalister emerges with yet another batch of off-key quirk-folk ramblings. telling stories of a murdering bog man, plantation life, and yellow fever, these bizzare tunes annoy the hell out of most people but eventually grow on you if given the chance. this tape offers a well-edited and low-risk introduction to the mans fine work. - skyway
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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 Wump 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. - cassette gods
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Charlie McAlister has been creating "true American folk music" (not my words) since the mid-1980s. There probably isn't a single artist who has committed the majority of their catalogue to the cassette format and had their name whispered in mainstream circles. But if there was a list of potential candidates who might possibly, potentially, perhaps make that sort of breakthrough, McAlister's name would be at the top. Partially because of his longevity, partially because of his songwriting, partially because of his eccentricities. (From an email Kevin Greenspon, founder of Bridgetown Records, sent me: "By far one of the most boggling and incredible live sets ever. Real crazy guy ... He got a haircut during his set from his wife/girlfriend and it was being glued to his face or something. He's definitely a kind of savant or something.")
Turn of the Century Photograph Of is one of several cassettes McAlister cut for Unread Records. These releases represent just a tiny portion of his career. The tape features ditties like "Bog Man," which could be McAlister exploring themes on how time is cyclical or how we have a penchant for exhibiting relics of the past no matter how perverse they may be, but likely was written because the dude just wanted to sing about a bog man.
Songs like "Pale Light" (sample couplet: "There is a place I want to go / But I don't know where it is") give you the impression that each of these tracks are really 45, maybe 60 minutes long, that the banjo missing two strings and the broken guitar and the pots-and-pan percussion play on and on, and that the three minutes we are hearing were culled from McAlister's fleeting instances of sanity—those moments when his snow globe of a brain stopped being shaken and the snow settled and the miniature inside could be seen clearly. - pick the cats eyes out