One of my favorite music labels, the Chicago-based Numero Group--the folks behind Eccentric Soul, Cult Cargo, and Wayfaring Strangers series--recently launched LOCAL CUSTOMS, extending their brilliant curatorial and restoration work to the mid-American basements, woodsheds, and living rooms of the ‘60s and ‘70s where, “entrepreneurs in nowhere towns documented the recordings of their fellow citizens.”
Their first release, Downriver Revival, chronicles the life work of producer/music historian Felton Williams and his recording studio, Double-U-Sound in Ecorse, Michigan that did double-duty as his family’s basement rec room. With gospel, Motown-influenced R&B (Detroit is just upriver from this tiny town), funk, garage-punk, and jazz influences shining through these recordings, this album captures a time and place where friends and artist rolled through a friend’s basement studio for jam sessions and practice outtakes that doesn’t seem so far away. Using his experience
as an electrician for Ford Motors, Williams’ custom built studio contained, “homemade amplifiers and hand-wound guitar pickups” with very little store-bought equipment giving his recordings a soul that only a DIY-aesthetic could capture. This debut release off the Local Customs series also includes a DVD of over 200 sound recordings culled from hundreds of Williams’ recordings between 1967-1981 and a 30-minute documentary on the making of Downriver Revival. (Release 03.03.09)
And if that’s not enough good music news for one day, Numero Group has started a second series of releases under the Numerophon LP-only imprint. Carrying over the beautiful package design their previous series have been known for (and a classic font for the royal purple label on the vinyl), the Numerophon series kicks off with, Songs of Leaving , the complete songbook of New York City folkie, Niela Miller, and cut at Variety Recording Service in 1962. A “Bleeker and MacDougal scenester,” she wrote, “Baby Don’t Go To Town,” a song that boyfriend Billy Roberts would steal and rewrite as “Hey Joe,” with versions from Hendrix, Love, the Byrds, the Creation, and Wilson Pickett later went on to cover. Now heres your chance to hear the original!