Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Clay Harper: Old Airport Road [Terminus, 2013]
In which the Atlanta restaurateur and one-time Coolie hires a female rapper, a blueswoman, an Arabic-singing massage therapist, and Colonel Bruce Hampton to deliver "beautiful songs with a despairing look at the world." In 1986 I called the Coolies "a glaring example of the postmodernist dictum that art about art is boring but junk about kitsch isn't," but although it could be said that all the guests add up to a single distancing technique, they're really there to furnish a fullness of feeling, different in each case, that Harper knows his own vocals aren't up to. Over just half a song, the massage therapist is the show-stopper. But for a restaurateur to let a rapper rhyme the praises of Red Lobster is a sure sign that he's grown in spirit. A-