Pick Six is a half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view.
David Murphy of Bloomington:
1 “Picture Show: A Tribute Celebrating John Prine.” Produced by his widow, Fiona, on YouTube, this celebration brought tears of joy to fans new and old: Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Sturgill Simpson and a moving version of “Angel From Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt. Even a surprise appearance by Bill Murray.
2 Blue Ox Virtual Music Festival. A virtual version of this annual Eau Claire, Wis., festival featured great performances by Sam Bush, Charlie Parr, Warren Haynes and, of course, hosts Pert Near Sandstone. Well done, boys.
3 “There Was A Time: James Brown, the Chitlin’ Circuit, and Me” by Alan Leeds. This excellent book gives a complete historical picture of the Godfather of Soul. Leeds, of Edina, was front and center for much of Brown’s career in the 1960s and ’70s. This is a great read in these times, comparing what Brown experienced to our modern-day godfather of soul, Prince, along with George Floyd and others. #BLM.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Sounds of Blackness, “Sick and Tired.” The mighty Grammy-winning Twin Cities choir is usually on the optimistic tip, but on this terrifically potent new single they’re fired up, with horns ablazing and Jamecia Bennett’s fervent, roof-raising voice echoing the words of activist Fannie Lou Hamer, George Floyd and others. This is the (protest) song that Minneapolis — and the world — needs right now.
2 Terrace Martin, “Pig’s Feet” video. With the help of Denzel Curry, Kamasi Washington and others, this L.A. rapper pairs enraged words with raging videos and photos of recent police brutality and unrest, with some scenes from Minneapolis. Hip-hop hasn’t sounded this urgent and intense in a long time.
3 Bettye LaVette, “Strange Fruit.” The new single from her August album, “Blackbirds,” couldn’t be more timely — a hauntingly spare reading of the Billie Holiday classic about lynching of black people. No one summons hurt in song like LaVette with her deeply emotive, profoundly pained voice.