Charlie McAlister – “Mississippi Luau” LP (Catsup Plate Records 1997)

Living in New York City you are kinda spoiled having so many great musicians right at your finger tips, but growing up in South Carolina there aren’t quite as many (but we do have some gems). That brings me to a musician and “living legend” from my home town, Charlie McAlister. McAlister started out, or at least people started to notice his work, in the mid-nineties when he was putting out a whole bunch of cassette tapes. McAlister continues to make music/art/whatchamaycallit, and ended up with a bunch of tapes, a couple proper albums (on Catsup Plate), and is still playing the occasional show.

While I lived in Charleston I started booking and promoting shows (originally punk rock), but I hadn’t done it in a couple years and while I was working at Fifty Two Point Five Records I booked (with the help of Clay) Charleston’s first ever Mountain Goats show. Years later I was involved with the album release show for The Sunset Tree. This show was booked at a really wonderful art space called REDUX. In the process of getting the show set up Charlie McAlister contacted me, and asks to play the show….I really didn’t know what his deal was(and this wasn’t my call…it was the Goats), but John Darnielle ended up being a really big fan. John had Charlie open for him, and it was truly amazing. Charlie’s band played a really unconventional and astonishing set with a really interesting collection of people, instruments, and tools (really I mean it…saws and hammers, ect). While talking to John at the show he told me if I could get a copy of Charlie’s Mississippi Luau (on Catsup Plate) to check it out, because it was one of his favorite albums of all time (and that is a really big statement for someone like John to make).

After the show Charlie told me that he would bring a copy of it by the record store for me, but that unfortunately never happened. This was back in 2005. Now this brings me to my personal experience with Mississippi Luau.

So three years later I no longer live in South Carolina, and I was record shopping at Academy Records in Brooklyn. It was a Sunday and I was waiting for friends to get ready for bagel brunch at Brooklyn Ale House. I was taking my time browsing the used LPs, and I finally got to the “M” section. Charlie McAlister wasn’t even something I was looking for (because I was pretty convinced that I would never find any of his records…even though I read that they are not that hard to come by), but I was flipping through all of the used records and I had one of those moments where I actually said “Holy Shit!” out loud. I had found a copy of McAlister’s Mississippi Luau on LP! The reason I was so surprised was that there are only 350-400 copies that were collaged/painted/screen printed. And this was one of them (there were only 500 copies ever made).

As a big fan of The Mountain Goats (and most things that are low-fi and folky ) this record has quickly become one of the prizes of my collection and all around favorite (I find when I listen to it I have to listen to it at least twice in a row), but I think that I will let others describe it for me (because their descriptions are so spot on):

PopSheep.com says about Charlie:

“So John Darnielle , Guided by voices and Daniel Johnston walk in to a bar. They hash it all out and create a large venn diagram. From this diagram they find the point that their three sensibilities intersect. They call this point Charlie McAlister, lyrics like Darnielle, exploring the possibilities of the 4 track like GBV and as crazy as Johnson.”

Secondly, as I said before, John Darnielle is a big fan and after he played the Charleston show with Charlie he wrote on his website:

“Charlie’s music could probably be described by any number of not-quite-right music terms: it’s back-porch jug band stuff, sorta, but it’s got a real affinity with guerilla noise warfare, and also with actual gorillas, who nine times out of ten will make the guerillas look like amateurs. It’s got that organic Neutral Milk Hotel feel, but its spiritual side isn’t the transcendent schtick that Jeff Mangum mastered and then put behind him; Charlie’s spiritual kin are the mediums who charge you a quarter for an hour’s worth of Ouija board in a shack down the highway near some southern beach town, and you think they’re maybe fulla shit but then they hit that huckster vein where it’s not really a con any more because everybody’s agreed to just ride the moment out even if it did start out phony. Charlie’s the wizard in Kansas without any MGM sanitization. He likes rum.”

Please read John’s full post about Charlie here at Last Plane to Jakarta!

Needless to say I think my best record find of the year was made on January 5th (only five days into it). I am excited to have this wonderful record in my collection, and hope you enjoy checking Charlie out.

I am also very excited. Charlie McAlister only has two shows scheduled right now, and one of them is August 8th at The Stone in the East Village (this night, I have been told, is being curated by Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas). All though not that many people know about Charlie he definitely fits into the freak-folk term pretty well…I hope people come check him out. I will definitely be there.

Here are a couple MP3s off of Mississippi Luau:

“Island of the Robot Building Monkey”

“Darla Comes Down From Jackson”

Download all of the CD-R I’ll See you in Hell. From Tape Mountain!

Charlie also does a really crazy zine called Sardine…which you can mail order from him for $3 or $4 dollars at Charlie McAlister P.O. Box 24, Johns Island, SC 29455.

his new address

Charlie Mcalister
(International Beachball International/Sardine Magozine)
PO Box 20095
Charleston,SC
29413

Photo of Charlie from Wolfie Whitman’s flickr

(Tom)

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7 Responses to “Charlie McAlister – “Mississippi Luau” LP (Catsup Plate Records 1997)”

  1. Amazing! I never took home a copy of that record. Typical of me. Now I regret it. I love the Sardine Mag-O-Zine.

  2. charlie mcalister Says:

    hello tom.. is that right?
    this charlie ..it really is..im at the library on calhoun street
    also i can prove it cause that photo was taken at a party in riverside
    in november 2007.. that is my now x-girlfriend sitting on the floor.i wish
    my strings had broke and poked out her eyez! thanks for sayin all that nice stuff and including sardine magozine i wanted to give you
    the right mailing address for it
    Charlie Mcalister/International Beachball International/Sardine Magozine
    PO Box 20095
    Charleston,SC
    29413
    sorry about not bringing that record by…send me your address and
    i’ll mail you a new 10″ that just came out

  3. criticalreviews Says:

    Charlie,
    Thanks for the update on the address I edited the post! I am excited to see you play again when I am not in charge of running the show!

    Cheers,
    (Tom)

  4. Here’s another free download of a Charlie Mcalister tape “Sardine In Bastard Suit”: http://www.duckhugger.com/pdr/tape08.html

  5. kevin t. Says:

    mississippi luau was recorded during the time when charlie took up residence at my house on cottingham dr. in mt. pleasant, sc. i wouldn’t trade those times for nothin’… not even a can o sardines! good goin’ Tom!

  6. i used to live in charleston and now live in brooklyn, who writes this
    i have some of his records for sale on ticktockrecords.com

  7. Junk Fidelity Says:

    Oh man, I was living in Charleston during that time and totally went to the show at Redux.(Also the other show at that sports bar in Mt. Pleasant, heck I think I went to all of them the time I was living there.) Charlie was great. And I’ve tried to keep up throughout the years since.

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