Good Bread Alley

B000FDEU4Y.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_V62622762_.jpgTitle: Good Bread Alley
Artist: Carl Hancock Rux
Label: Thirsty Ear
Catalog No.: THI-57168-2
Date: 2006

Carl Hancock Rux, who in 1994 was named by the New York Times as “One of 30 artists under the age of 30 most likely to influence culture over the next 30 years,” is well on his way to fulfilling this prediction. The recipient of a score of art and literary prizes and commissions, this author, poet, playwright, and performance artist shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Rux has dabbled in a wide range of projects, including collaborations with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co., and Urban Bush Women, and he recently performed in the title role of the Robert Wilson/Bernice Johnson Reagon opera The Temptation of St. Anthony. On the horizon are two operas (he’s writing the librettos) including The Blackamoor Angel, based on the life of an ex-slave and companion to Mozart, and Makandal, about the Haitian slave uprising with music by Daniel Bernard Roumain.

Good Bread Alley is the third CD in the Rux oeuvre and is more musical than his previous efforts. Often compared to Gil Scott-Heron, Rux’s verse is also full of political and social commentary, but on this album he sings his own lyrics more frequently than he raps, and the musical accompaniment samples just about every genre. From the opening title song set over a bluesy background, the tracks run the gamut from hip hop to jazz to R&B and everywhere in between, finally settling on a gospel-tinged cover of Bill Wither’s anti-war song, “I can’t write left-handed” (the only song not written by Rux). Notable tracks include “Lies,” co-authored by Vernon Reid (founder of the Black Rock Coalition); “Black of My Shadow,” which weaves together fragments of spirituals and Billie Holiday’s “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” in and through Rux’s haunting lyrics; “Living Room,” a commentary on domestic violence; and perhaps thrown in just for fun, “All the Rock Stars (for Kurt Cobain).”  Impossible to classify, this CD is both thought-provoking and mezmerizing, definately worth repeated listenings and comtemplation.

Oh, and did I mention that Rux is also a novelist? His most recent book, Asphalt, was described by the LA Times as “a hallucinatory journey of a displaced DJ, set in a sooty, just-a-day-after-tomorrow future.” Wait, there’s more. Rux’s oratoria, Mycenae, loosely based on Asphalt and his epic poem Mycenae, will be premiered this October at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As described in the press release, the oratorio “draws its dramatic frame from Jean Racine’s retelling of the myth of Hippolytus on the road of Mycenae, as well as from 20th-century dream theory [and features] ritualized choreography and dynamic streams of images set to Rux’s hypnotic rhythms (Jaco van Schalkwyk, who was responsible for the samples on Good Bread Alley, is listed as the video designer). Carl Hancock Rux is definitely an artist to watch.

we’ll retire ourselves to the belly of the beast
and lease our flesh and bones for naught
ought we divorce ourselves
from the governments who
sent their-sent us
our own demise?
Watch them as they feed and swell
Quell their hunger as warmongers
They’ll feed on flesh and bones there-
We divorce ourselves from spirit and flesh
Did we not see it comin’?
(from Good Bread Alley)

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss