These days everybody gives 110%. Aside from being unrealistic and mathematically impossible, its very tiresome. Back in the day, Moon Mullican thought giving 90% was remarkable enough to merit a song.
I couldn't agree more.
Moon Mullican – Nine Tenths Of The Tennessee River (buy album).
For more on Moon, check out Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
These days everybody gives 110%. Aside from being unrealistic and mathematically impossible, its very tiresome. Back in the day, Moon Mullican thought giving 90% was remarkable enough to merit a song.
Friday, March 28, 2008
When you are sad and lonely, and have no place to go,
Call me up, sweet baby, and bring along some dough...
Honky Tonkin' is a straightforward honky-tonk hit. One of my favorite Hank Williams songs. There's really nothing to the words, and the melody is very basic, but Hank still made it a classic.
Here are four cover versions of Honky Tonkin' and a live version by Hank:
Joe Ely - Honky Tonkin' (buy album).
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Honky Tonkin' (buy album).
Townes Van Zandt - Honky Tonkin' (buy album).
The The - Honky Tonkin' (buy album).
Hank Williams - Honky Tonkin' (Live) (buy album).
If you've got another cover version we should hear, send it along...
And now for some bonus coverage, here are three more versions of last week's "Hank" song, Lost Highway (words and music by Leon Payne):
Hank Williams - Lost Highway (Live Radio Recording) (buy album).
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Lost Highway (buy album).
Jason & The Scorchers - Lost Highway (Studio Version) (buy album).
Here are a few more tunes sent over by my loyal readers. Richard sent over this one from The Maddox Brothers & Rose:
Maddox Brothers & Rose – Honky Tonkin’ (buy album).
Robert sent one from Leon Russell:
Leon Russell – Lost Highway (buy album).
Lance suggested Doug Sahm’s live version of Honky Tonkin’ from the 1972 Thanksgiving Jam at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. The whole show can be found, in two parts, over at Captain’s Dead. Check out the great set list.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Here in Motown our mayor is in a bit of hot water for allegedly doing some bad things. The mayor claims that he will be fully vindicated and that the process is flawed. Here's a report about the whole mess. The jury will have to sort it out. Until then, here's some scandal-appropriate music:
The Prissteens - Scandal, Controversy & Romance (buy album). This one says it all!
The Vipers - Cheated And Lied (buy album). So does this one...
XTC - Mayor Of Simpleton (buy album). My favorite "mayor" song. The "hip hop" mayor was my favorite mayor until the recent scandal...
Candye Kayne - Tell Me A Lie (buy album). Here's an early alt-country tune from a great collection of Los Angeles artists.
Gram Parsons - How Much I've Lied (buy album). Gram is the man. How much Kwame lied is the question.
Shorty Long - Here Comes The Judge (buy album). If I were a judge, this would be my theme song. Great song!
Sufjan Stevens - Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!) (buy album). My city really needs some restoring now.
The Avett Brothers - The Weight Of Lies (buy album). These guys are great live and they are touring now. Try to get to a show.
Steve Goodman - Wonderful World Of Sex (buy album). Goodman was a natural entertainer, as this amusing live track demonstrates.
Billie Holiday - It's A Sin To Tell A Lie (buy album). Billie tells it like it is.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Here's a wistful Springtimey tune in which Michelle Shocked describes her slightly complicated relationship with her hometown (a rural town that is not located anywhere near the ocean).
Michelle Shocked - Memories Of East Texas (buy album).
Friday, March 21, 2008
Three post in one day??? What's going on? I don't know. I guess I'm just in the mood. And now I'm into the sauce--Guinnes Stout to be exact. Was just chillin' and surfing the web when I was struck by the very cool back-up singers on this song and the general jazzy mood of the whole thing. Great piano part. I'm really liking it, so why not share it with a thousand friends?
Check out this really great track from Nick Drake's second album, Bryter Lyter:
Nick Drake – Poor Boy (buy album).
I'm a little late to the Nick Drake party, but better late than never.
I just came across this extremely nice video:
Emmylou is so cool.
This classic song was written by a little-known, but very talented, man named Jimmy Work. Read his interesting bio at All Music Guide. Jimmy Work also wrote the song Tennessee Border, which was recorded by Hank Williams, among others.
Hank Williams - Tennessee Border (buy album).
You all know that Hank Williams was a top notch song writer. So it should come as no surprise that there are many great cover versions of Hank's songs. I was going to do a massive post of my favorites but decided instead to just let them trickle out one at a time. Friday seems like a good day for Hank covers, so let's get started with a real barn-burner from my favorite cow punk band:
Jason & The Scorchers – Lost Highway (Live) (buy album).
This one really captures the attitude that made Hank so great:
"I was just a lad, nearly 22, neither good nor bad, just a punk like you, but now I'm lost, too late to pay, just a-travelin' down that lost highway..."
Here's an extra-special bonus cover of a Jimmie Rodgers' blue yodel:
Jason & The Scorchers - Jimmie Rodgers' Last Blue Yodel (Unplugged) (buy album).
It's a real train song from a guy wearing a real train hat.
"I love the women, and I love them all the same.
I love the women, and I love them all the same.
I love the women, but not enough to give them my name."
These songs come for the excellent Jason & The Scorchers collection called Wildfires & Misfires: Two Decades Of Outtakes & Rarities.
Make sure you check back here every Friday for a new Hank cover (while supplies last).
*UPDATE!: Major goof today. Turns out Hank didn't write "Lost Highway" after all. All these years I was giving him the credit that should have gone to Leon Payne. Thanks to Kylis for pointing this out. I'm still counting this as a Hank cover because I suspect Jason & The Scorchers had Hank in mind when they recorded it. Next time I'll try to do my homework.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
One of my favorite types of music is jazz, but it's not something I've really delved into much here at Setting The Woods On Fire.
This new series is for people who may be interested in jazz but don't know where to start. If you're used to hearing rock or country music, jazz can sound kind of odd. It takes some acclimation, but as you familiarize yourself with the style, your tastes will expand. What once may have sounded odd or unmelodic will begin to sound fresh and interesting. The hard part is finding a starting point.
Listening to jazz is not supposed to be hard work. It should be just as enjoyable as listening to your favorite pop song. I'm going to use this series to highlight the pieces that first caught my attention and made me love jazz.
First up is Donald Byrd's A New Perspective from 1963. Some criticize this LP as being too melodic or too simple, but I think they're missing the point. The appeal of this record is the feeling that Byrd puts into his playing and the mood that is created. The simplicity and the melody are what make this album attractive to new fans. While it may be simple, it's not plain vanilla by any stretch of the imagination. A New Perspective stands out from other jazz albums by Byrd's ingenious use of an 8-voice gospel choir. (Before you reflexively close this page, give it a chance. I'm not a huge fan of the use of choirs in popular music myself--You Can't Always Get What You Want, notwithstanding--but it really works here.)
Check out this bluesy number. I always thought it would be perfect for a movie soundtrack:
Donald Byrd – Cristo Redentor (buy album).
If you like this, the rest of the album won't disappoint.
So, what do you think? Should I keep including some jazz, or just stick to the usual formula here?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
This post is inspired by an e-mail from reader Tom who took issue with my off-the-cuff comment in an earlier post that Gram Parsons “wrote the book” on country rock. I had been referring to Parsons' work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, & as a solo act, and wrongly implied that Parsons invented country rock. Tom, who knows his stuff, pointed out that several country rock songs were released before The Byrds put country-rock on the map in the Summer of 1968 with Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
This got me thinking about who did invent country rock? Let's look back at the period between 1954 (when rock and roll was first popularized) through 1968 (Sweetheart) to see if we can find an answer to that burning question.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
Sweetheart of the Rodeo, released in the Summer of 1968, was the Byrds first and only LP made with country-rock icon Gram Parsons. While Sweetheart may not have been the first instance of country rock, its released marked the arrival of country-rock as a full-fledged "style."
Here is Gram Parsons' vocal and songwriting highlight from Sweetheart:
The Byrds - Hickory Wind (buy album) (1968).
Hickory Wind played a key role in the The Byrd’s legendary March 15, 1968 visit to the Grand Ole Opry. Read about it here.
Here's a video of The Byrds (sans Parsons) performing another song from the same album. On this cover of Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere, The Byrds are joined by bluegrass great Earl Scruggs:
Now let's turn back the years...
Rock and Roll’s Origins (Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, & Jerry Lee Lewis)
All music styles are combinations of earlier styles. Rock and roll is a mixture of country, blues and R&B. Country's influence can be heard in Elvis Presley's cover of this Bill Monroe classic:
Elvis Presley - Blue Moon Of Kentucky (buy album) (1954).
The Everly Brothers were another early rock group with a strong country element, and they also served as a key influence on The Beatles and Gram Parsons.
The Everly Brothers - When Will I Be Loved (buy album) (1960).
After the peak of their popularity in the early 1960’s, the Everly Brothers re-located to California and, in 1968, released a great "lost" country-rock LP called Roots
Another early rock and roll great heavily inspired by country music was Jerry Lee Lewis. Check out this Hank Williams cover from Jerry Lee's incredible Live at the Star Club.
Jerry Lee Lewis – Your Cheating Heart (Hank Williams cover) (buy album) (1964).
Here's another Sun Record star, Johnny Cash, playing one of his greatest country/rock hits: VIDEO - Folsum Prison Blues (Live).
With country-influenced artists like Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly (who learned to sing copying Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues) present at the birth of "rock," it's easy to see why rock was such a fertile ground for the development "country rock" as a distinct style.
Beatles fanatics claim that the Fab Four invented pretty much every recent style of popular music from folk-rock to psychedelic to heavy metal. When it comes to country rock (another claimed Beatles innovation) they might have something of a point. Steve Earle called Beatles For Sale the “hillbilly Beatles record.” It's no question that The Beatles were fans of country music and incorporated some country sounds into their music. Their record contract apparently included a provision calling for them to receive advance copies of all Buck Owens’ releases. You can hear some Beatles' twang in this track from the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack:
The Beatles – I’ll Cry Instead (buy album) (1964).
More twangy Beatles' songs from 1964-1966 include I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins cover), I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (Rex Griffin cover), Act Naturally (Buck Owens cover), I’ve Just Seen a Face, Run For Your Life, and What Goes On.
Here's a video of Ringo doing his best Buck Owens: VIDEO - Act Naturally (Live).
The pre-Sweetheart Byrds
Interestingly enough, one of the most proficient country-rock acts before Sweetheart was The Byrds themselves. They exhibited a country influence from the very start of their recording career, primarily due to the influence of Chris Hillman, who later left the band with Gram Parsons to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Here are three country-rock songs from three albums released before Sweetheart.
The Byrds – Mr. Spaceman (buy album) (1966).
The Byrds – Time Between (buy album) (1967).
The Byrds – Wasn't Born To Follow (buy album) (1968).
The Byrds also covered the country standard Satisfied Mind on their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn! in 1965.
While Gram Parsons may have pushed The Byrds into making an entire album of country music, it probably took only a slight nudge, especially with Hillman's help.
Gene Clark & The Gosdin Brothers
Gene Clark left the Byrds in 1966 to pursue a solo career. His first effort was an excellent, but unappreciated, country-rock album called Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers. The Gosdin Brothers were a bluegrass duo who went on to record an important country rock album of their own in 1968 called Sounds of Goodbye. Also featured on Gene Clark's first solo album were Chris Hillman, brilliant country guitarist Clarence White, and Doug Dillard of The Dillards (later a collaborator with Gene Clark on The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark)
Gene Clark – Tried So Hard (buy album)(1967).
The Gosdin Brothers later recorded this killer country-rock track (which went unreleased until 2006):
The Gosdin Brothers – Georgia (buy album) (1969).
The International Submarine Band
Gram Parsons first release came as the leader of the International Submarine Band. ISB formed on the East coast as The Like and were coaxed by Parsons to move west where they eventually broke up. Shortly after they broke up, Parsons and guitarist John Nuese obtained a recording contract from Lee Hazlewood's LHI label and, with new member Chris Ethridge, recorded the country-rock album Safe At Home under the International Submarine Band name. Shortly after the album was released Parsons joined The Byrds, dooming Safe At Home to obscurity for years.
The music on Safe At Home is great country-rock. There are some great Parsons originals, such as Blue Eyes and Luxury Liner, as well as a number of well-played country covers, like Miller's Cave and Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome?
International Submarine Band – Luxury Liner (1968)
International Submarine Band – Miller's Cave (1968)
There is a good article about the International Submarine Band in Oxford American.
Ian Dunlop, an original member of the International Submarine Band is quoted in Ben Fong-Torres' book Hickory Wind saying that Ray Charles 1965 album Country and Western meets Rhythm and Blues was "key" in breaking the barriers between the band members and getting them "into this amalgram of truer country music, but with a rock or a slight rhythm-and-blues treatment."
Ray Charles – I've Got A Tiger By The Tail (Buck Owens cover) (buy album) (1965).
From the Country Side (Buck Owens & The Dillards)
Country-rock did not only develop on the rock side. Country music also changed in the 1960's as a reaction to the popularity of rock music. A number of acts added drums and became more electricfied. The leader of this movement on the country side was Bakersfield California's Buck Owens.
Buck Owens – My Heart Skips A Beat (buy album) (1964).
Here's a video of Buck Owens and Don Rich from 1966: VIDEO - Love's Gonna Live Here (Live).
In the meantime, The Dillards were experimenting with a combination of blue grass and folk/pop/rock. Here's one from their masterpiece Wheatstraw Suite:
The Dillards – Reason To Believe (Tim Hardin cover) (buy album) (1968).
Bob Dylan was heavily influenced by Hank Williams and famously recorded a number of songs with Johnny Cash. He was also a major innovator during the Sixties. So it’s not surprising that he was involved in the birth of country rock when he released the LP John Wesley Harding in late 1967:
Bob Dylan – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (buy album) (1967).
Here's a gum-chewing (?) Bob Dylan with Johnny Cash: VIDEO - One Too Many Mornings.
Pioneering Sixties Rock Bands
The Byrds and The Beatles were not the only major 1960s rock bands to dabble in country sounds. Here are four more bands from the same era:
The Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats (buy album) (1966).
I just love this tune. It's a grower, but a quick one. After a few listens I was completely hooked. I especially like the line: "Well there's 1,352 guitar pickers in Nashville, and they can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee anthill. Yea, there's 1,352 guitar cases in Nashville, and anyone that unpacks his guitar can play twice as better than I will...."
Buffalo Springfield – Go And Say Goodbye (buy album) (1966).
Neil Young's, Steven Still's, and Richie Furay's first band is probably second only to The Byrds as a driving force behind country rock.
Moby Grape – Ain't No Use (buy album) (1967). (The extended remastered version is out of print as a CD, but still can be downloaded from Amazon.)
For more about this great album see here.
The Band - Long Black Veil (buy album) (1968).
The Band had been mining American roots music for years while working as The Hawks and backing Bob Dylan. Their first album, Music From Big Pink, released within days of The Byrds' release of Sweetheart of the Rodeo, included this cover of a Lefty Frizzell song.
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Sin City (buy album) (1969).
Special thanks to The Rising Storm for having so much great material to link to in this post.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
I love Ireland. Eight years ago this Spring, my wife Maureen and I spent our honeymoon driving the narrow roads (and stopping at the occasional pub) from Ennis to Galway to Dingle to Kenmare. The scenery was beautiful, the people were gracious and fun, the Guinness was creamy, the food was surprisingly delicious, and the music was pretty good too. In anticipation of St. Patrick's Day, this post celebrates my favorite traditional Irish music.
I'll start with seven songs that go well with a delicious Guinness down at the local pub:
The Dubliners – Black Velvet Band (buy album)
The Dubliners are one of the two great Irish drinking-music bands. This song is a staple of the Irish-drinking genre.
The Dubliners – Whiskey In The Jar (buy album)
This is one of the best Irish drinking songs. You may know the Metallica version.
The Dubliners With The Pogues – The Irish Rover (buy album)
This has always been my favorite Irish drinking song. Maybe I like the idea of a boat with seven million barrels of porter. Anyway, it's great to hear The Pogues paired with The Dubliners.
The Pogues - A Pair Of Brown Eyes (buy album)
I love the Pogues and this tune, especially, is sublime. Peter Case does a decent cover too.
Liam Clancy - Dirty Old Town (buy album)
The Clancy Brothers are the other great Irish drinking-music band. They also do some nice traditional Irish folk music. Here's a solo effort from youngest brother Liam. You probably know the Pogues version of this song, which is also excellent.
Liam Clancy - Rocky Road To Dublin (buy album)
Liam Clancy's solo album, Irish Troubadour, is a simple classic. I've previoulsy blogged about the song Patriot Game.
The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem – The Parting Glass (buy album)
Wow. This one gets me every time...
The next six songs were all purchased on the Dingle Peninsula and remind me of that special place:
Catherine Merrigan - The Water Is Wide
I bought this album from the singer herself at the pub in Dingle located next to Doyle's Seafood Restaurant (a great place to eat, by the way). It's become a favorite of mine, but I don't know if its available anywhere. Probably the best CD I ever bought at a pub.
Catherine Merrigan – The Lakes Of Poncha Train
This is an old American folk tune from the Civil War era. Hank Williams recorded his own version called On The Banks Of The Old Pontchartrain.
Davy Spillane - Atlantic Bridge (buy album)
Davy Spillane, master of the Uilleann Pipes, combined traditional Irish music with bluegrass on this album (other players include Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Albert Lee). It's kind of a countrified River Dance.
Donal Lunny – The Mouseskin Shoe & Dancing In The Allihies (buy album)
Donal Lunny is one of the great traditional Irish guitar players. I really enjoy his solo album called Coolfin.
Kila - The Compledgegationist (out of print)
Kila combines traditional Irish music with Middle Eastern and African elements for an interesting effect on the album Lemonade & Buns. This particular track, however, is fairly traditional.
Geantrai – St. Mary's Abbey (out of print?)
Great example of the pipes here. It really gets my blood moving.
Here is the definitive version of Danny Boy from a great Irish tenor plus a couple of movie clips:
Frank Patterson - Danny Boy (buy album)
You might remember this tune from the film Miller's Crossing.
Now go enjoy a "black beer" with John Wayne...
The Quiet Man Soundtrack - Galway Bay (buy album)
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY! (I know I'm early, but I want to get you all in the mood.)
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Yesterday's post on For The Sake Of The Song told the unfortunate story of a man under a court order to buy 124,000 roses for his wife. After reading the post I was surprised to find 47 different rose songs on my i-pod. No other flower comes close, not even "flower" itself.
Flower = 24
Daisy = 5
Lily = 4
Blossom = 4
Orchid = 3
Tulip = 1
Dandelion = 1
Violet = 1
Obviously the rose is a popular symbol--especially in country songs. Maybe it has something to do with the thorn? Anyway, here are eight more "rose" songs with a country flavor:
Waylon Jennings - Black Rose (buy album).
Here's one from my all time favorite country LP. Waylon sings Shaver.
George Jones - Wine Colored Roses (buy album).
A classic George Jones weeper. "When she sees the wine-colored roses, they'll tell her I'm still on the wine." Do ya think?
Merle Haggard - I Threw Away The Rose (buy album).
Hag's cautionary tale about the perils of social drinking.
Bob Wills - San Antonio Rose (buy album).
This version comes from Bob Wills last album, a feel-good reunion with the old Playboys in the early 1970s.
Bill Monroe - My Little Georgia Rose (buy album).
Here's a good one from the father of bluegrass.
Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or A Rich Man's Gold) (buy album).
Patsy faces a tough choice: Love or money.
Emmylou Harris - Roses In The Snow (buy album).
I just love Emmylou.
Lucinda Williams - Like A Rose (out of print).
Here's one from Lucinda's superb (and out-of-print) self-titled album. If you are a fan of songwriting, this one's a must have.
UPDATE! – Thanks to suggestions from Brendan, Cato, and Robert, here are three more great rose songs:
The Kinks – Rosemary Rose (buy album).
This one comes from the deluxe three-disc version of The Village Green Preservation Society, which is probably one of my top five albums of all time. GET IT!
Neil Young – Love Is A Rose (buy album).
Linda Ronstadt had a hit with a cover version of this tune.
Nick Lowe – The Rose Of England (buy album).
I just love this song. Nick Lowe knows how to write a catchy pop tune.
[Check sidebar for more mp3s.]
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I heard this song on my snowy ride home from work and it really blew me away how good it is:
Joan Baez – House Of The Rising Sun (buy album).
At the time of this recording, in 1960, Joan Baez was only 19 years old! What an incredibly powerful and mature voice to be coming from a teenager. I really love her take on this song and the rest of the album too.
Here's another entertaining version of the same song from Joan's folk-singing pal, Bob:
Bob Dylan – House Of The Risin' Sun (buy album).
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Caitlin Rose has a lot going for her. She’s only 20 years old with a killer country voice. As if by instinct, she puts just the right amount of twang in just the right places. Add to that an engaging attitude and a familiar way with words and she’s really onto something.
While her new EP, Dead Flowers, is an ejoyable listen in its own right, its real charm lies in the promise that it holds for the future. In seven diverse songs—five original compositions and two covers—Caitlin Rose displays all the necessary elements of a country artist that matters (voice, attitude, writing), which is a pretty rare find these days.
Here’s a song-by-song mini-review.
1. Shotgun Wedding (mp3): This slightly rushed song about a “forced” wedding might be the best evidence of Rose’s songwriting promise. The tale of two who “meet, conceive, and marry” really captures the feeling of the event, from the sacrifices (“There’s no time to fool around because you have no choices now”), to the setting (“Flowers in the backyard with the family gathered ‘round”), to the pressure (“It’s the right thing boy, put that ring around her finger, and don’t you stop to worry that the feeling won’t linger”), to the lost opportunities (“Light yourself a cigarette while writing invitations, she knows this matrimony won’t meet childhood expectations”), and finally to the inevitable conclusion (“The world won’t end when you throw in the towel”). All in all, a well-described slice of life.
2. Answer In One Of These Bottles: While it is a bit odd to hear a 20-year girl sing about drinking her problems away, this catchy tune shows that Caitlin knows how to write and sing in the authentic honky-tonk style. She’s got a bit of Merle in her.
3. Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray (Patsy Cline Cover): This track, which is pretty faithful to Patsy Cline’s original, is a nice showcase for Rose’s solid-gold country vocals.
4. Docket: I’m not exactly sure what the “docket” is, but it doesn’t matter, because this tune is all about attitude, which it has in spades.
5. Gorilla Man: This is the first of two tambourine and vocals only breakup songs. It’s quite spunky and fun.
6. Dead Flowers (mp3): You all know how I feel about this one.
7. T-Shrit (mp3): Here’s another one suggesting Rose has what it takes to be a great songwriter. With just her voice and a tambourine she completely nails the complex emotions involved in a breakup. “Baby, I’ll go now, ‘cos I thinking I’m starting to know how, I got my feelings hurt, but you got my T-shirt. For her sake let’s keep that on the low down.”
You can buy Caitlin's new EP for a nice price. (Be forewarned that the "Caitlin Rose" who sings "country" on i-tunes is somebody else.)
Let me know what you think! And read the great Caitlin Rose interview in the post immediately below...
What makes our favorite new country singer tick? Check out the first-ever STWOF interview to find out...
Setting The Woods On Fire (STWOF): Hi Caitlin, thanks for agreeing to be part of the first ever interview on Setting The Woods Of Fire! Let’s get started with your records, can you tell us a little about what’s available now and what will be released in the coming months?
Caitlin Rose (CR): Well, this first EP, Dead Flowers, has its official release next week. I worked on it with my friend, Andrija Tokic, over at Bombshelter studios in East Nashville. We recorded it back in November and only spent two days tracking the whole thing. It was originally just meant to be a small release for some dates I was playing in Boston, but it was so small that I ended up selling out so we decided to do a re-issue make a big stinkin’ deal about it.
I've got a 7-inch coming out in March. It's got the whole gorilla man saga, with a title to match. It's also got a cut from the full length and a dancehall western kind of music row players version of "Answer In One Of These Bottles"... They actually were music row players. Including Dan Dugmore, who has played on some of my favorite Linda Ronstadt tracks. I was kind of star struck that day.
This summer I've got a full length coming out, which was actually recorded last summer. It's engineered and produced by Jeremy Ferguson at BattleTapes studios with help from Joel J. Dahl of awesome groove master dance band De Novo Dahl. It's a raucous, rambunctious, ridiculous half hour of fun and what better time for fun is there than the summertime? There are so many great players on it, but what's so great about it is it sort of became this local brainchild. We basically just paired my songs up with the musical genius(es) of the Nashville music scene. There are so many talented folks here and I'm so grateful for their contributions to this record.
STWOF: How would you describe your style of music? Is it country? Or alt-country (whatever that is)?
CR: The term alt-country really turns me off. It feels like a sort of immature betrayal. Like when you're a kid and you're just too cool or too embarrassed to go see a movie with your parents. I can definitely understand it though. It was only a few years ago that I was still refusing to hang out with my own mom in a mall, but you get over it. I really love country music and don't mind being identified as such. I don't think I'll end up on CMT anytime soon, but I don't enjoy most of what I see on there anyway. Gram Parsons said he made Cosmic American Music. I think that's a brilliant way to put it, but I don't really do drugs so it's a little harder for me to relate.
STWOF: You’ve got a great list of “influences” on your MySpace page (including a ton of Setting The Woods On Fire favorites like Gram Parsons, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, The Band, and Loretta Lynn). One that struck me as interesting is Neil Diamond; how has he influenced your style?
CR: I used to roll joints on his greatest hits album.
STWOF: And the Waffle House?
CR: I've been hanging out at the same Waffle House since I was 15. I don't really know what it is that keeps me coming back. The coffee, the roaches, the dingy yellow lighting. I'm really just a moth to a flame, but I ought to explain that there's only one WAHO I frequent. Before I knew every one in there I would write, but I can't do much of that anymore. I read a lot. Or I chat with familiar faces and drink some seven or eight cups of coffee. Sometimes I even bring a scrabble board. It's the only place I don't feel rushed. I'm kind of an old man at heart. The old man that comes in around 5 with his overalls on and his newspaper rolled up and just sits for as long as he feels like.
STWOF: I hear a lot of Iris Dement in your voice, is she an influence?
CR: Had I heard of her before this year, she certainly would have been. I recently got my hands on that gospel album of hers, "Lifeline". In December I was playing some shows up in Boston at Club Passim and heard the same comparison from several different people and they all seemed kind of shocked that I hadn't heard her yet. The last night I showed up to play there was a big ole envelope addressed to me and it was from a couple at the show from the previous night. That album was in it along with a very sweet note. I think it was their personal copy that they just grabbed from their car or something. Instantly, I heard a real honest excitement in her voice. Like she was singing just because it made her happy. Anyway, I listened to the album all the way through again and again and again and I still can't take it out of my cd player. There's a real purity about it. Anyway, it's a real compliment.
STWOF: What makes for “good” country music?
CR: "Three chords and the truth," at least that's what Harlan Howard said.
STWOF: Is it possible to be musically-innovative as a “country” artist, or is “country” music kind of played out?
CR: Country music is no where near played out. Anyone making good country music, is innovative enough for me. Example: A mainstream guy like Dwight Yoakam, he's older, but he's got this coolness radar that not many other mainstream country artists have. "Dwight Sings Buck" is a class act! His version of and video for "Close Up the Honky Tonks" helped me understand just how all the ladies felt when Elvis came around. He reworked that song into something totally new and fresh (and incredibly sexy). To me, he's one of the prime examples of keeping country cool. These days any 6'5" stud with a nice smile can sing a shitty song and get airplay cause it's such a tacky industry. The fact that he can reinvent that old Bakersfield sound without making it sound dated or turning it into a novelty and on the other hand, not exclude the prime listeners of the genre by being totally pretentious about it shows that anyone with a real love and appreciation for country music can keep their integrity and still make a ripple, if not a freaking tidal wave, in a very scummy pond.
STWOF: Your EP has two excellent covers, Dead Flowers and Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray, how did you pick these songs?
CR: I had wanted to cover that particular Stones tune for a while after hearing that inspiring live version by Townes Van Zandt. The Patsy song was a bit of a mystery. I frequent a website called "Patsified" and there's a section of the site called "Patcidents" which are strange Patsy Cline related incidents. I think that's what this was. I was sitting outside smoking and stressing over what other cover to do since we had this great mandolin player, Bob Grant, over at the time. And it just came to me (PATCIDENT!), like she whispered it in my ear and thumped me right on the head. It was obviously the only song I wanted to do, I already knew it by heart, I just couldn't think of it.
I asked Bob if he wouldn't mind sticking around to figure it out. He didn't. He charted the whole thing down in about 15 minutes did and we did about 3 takes and that was it. For something that I had been so ill at ease about, it turned out to the easiest part and I'm almost as proud of that as I am of the whole EP.
STWOF: Can you describe how the songwriting process works for you?
CR: It's stubborn. I can't write a song to save my life. Well, I can, it just takes forever. Sometimes I just think a line/hook and sing it over and over for weeks in the car or when I'm alone and eventually I'll believe it's a good enough line to build an entire song for, but then I have to think up lines good enough for the one that inspired the damn thing and that's where it gets really tricky. Honestly, I think I need a new process.
STWOF: Is there a story behind Gorilla Man?
CR: I've been trying to convince people it's about James Taylor.
STWOF: Have you got anything special planned for SXSW?
CR: I've got a couple shows set up. On the 12th I'm playing a Theory8 showcase for RedGorilla along with Forget Cassettes and The Nobility. On the 14th there's a Next Big Nashville day party and I'll be playing around 1:00pm. On the 15th there's a party on South Congress called Four on the Floor and I'll be playing a show with my buddies, De Novo Dahl along with the Nobility again.
STWOF: Do you read music blogs?
CR: Just recently. I felt really out of touch with new music to the point where I was resenting it until I remembered that I'm new music and that I was just being stubborn. I've been surfing The Hype Machine a lot trying to find some real good new music. I actually found yours by looking for old music though, it was a Hank Williams song!
STWOF: Do you have a day job?
CR: Lately I've been singing cheesy music row demos, but I go back to my burger joint on March 1st. It's called Bobbie's Dairy Dip and it's basically the goodness vortex of the universe. In extreme heat or cold it's actually kind of an awful because the building's not very sealed up and everything is on the fritz except the grill, but I'm always happy to be there.
STWOF: Favorite movie?
CR: I could watch Robert Altman's 'Nashville' every day of my life. I love everything about it. Especially those songs. My mom actually had the original soundtrack in her record collection which is what sparked my interest in the first place. I'm also a real big Woody Allen fan. 'Annie Hall' is another one that I could watch pretty much any time.
STWOF: Favorite late night snack?
CR: I've been living off of pastrami and cream cheese for about a week now. That includes after hours, I guess.
STWOF: Favorite song of all time?
CR: Probably Jealous Guy by John Lennon. I love it just as much as the first time I ever heard it. I have a soft spot for apologies and whistle solos. This has both, but it's the whistle solo that always breaks my heart. Especially in the Elliott Smith cover.
STWOF: Merle Haggard or George Jones?
CR: George Jones. I'm sure Merle would agree with me on that one, they seem like good buddies. Really, they're both great, but the influence that the Possum had on Merle's sound is pretty apparent. George Jones is easily the greatest voice country music ever heard. I read that somewhere credible too.
STWOF: Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch?
CR: Emmylou Harris, hands down. She's one of those artists that rips my heart out regularly. I might have a little crush on her. [Ed. note: So do I.] In fact, I think having a crush on Emmylou Harris runs in my family. My dad's been fawning over her since the 70's. Sometimes those offbeat multiple harmonies on her records freak me out, she's got a lot of spunk though and I think that's what keeps me so wrapped up. There's that '73 video at Liberty Hall with her and Gram doing "Big Mouth Blues" where she's dancing like somebody's drunk mom at a wedding, flipping her long hair like she's at a psychedelic freak out and shakin her butt like it's nobody's business. It's just amazingly charming. There's no bad in her attitude. I like that.
STWOF: What record have you been loving lately?
CR: Definitely Bill Callahan's "Woke on a Whaleheart". I just started listening to it. He really has a wonderful voice and some beautiful things to say with it. Particularly the track "A Man Needs a Woman or a Man to be a Man" it blows my mind every time I hear it. It's got kind of a western flare which obviously doesn't hurt, but it's this perfect combination of imagery and emotion. The lyrics read like this weird streamline thought full of longing and excitement that explode into this fireworks-show vision of gold lions, blue bears and green dragons...and that's almost a direct quote. It just floors me. I'm actually opening a show for him tonight (2-27) so I'm pretty excited/nervous about that. Also, as a rule, I've got Linda Ronstadt's two disc set The Best of the Capitol Years that I keep on me at all times.
STWOF: How does it feel to be Number 1 on the “Lust List”?
CR: It feels funny. I did have an awesome experience while shooting the photo. I met the photographer at a local soda shop and we talked a little bit about Gram Parsons. He asked if I knew anything about the Road Mangler and of course, the "Road Mangler" is the infamous Phil Kaufman, Gram's tour manager and also the man who set his casket on fire in the middle of the California desert. I learned that this photographer was Phil's old roommate. I gawked about it for a minute and he asked if I would like to speak with him. He busts out his cellphone and after thinking he lost the number, soon realizing it was under "R" for "Road Mangler", he calls him up saying, "Hey Phil, I got a friend who wants to talk to you! She's a musician and she just thinks you're great and blah blah blah." talking up a storm until finally he hands the phone to me and I finally put it to my ear and hear in a low growl...."What're ya wearin'?" It was a pleasant conversation and basically the best thing that's happened to me this year. I told him I'd buy his book if he bought my album, to which he agreed as long as I promised to tell anyone he owes money to that he's dead.
So, if anything, lust list provided me with the best 5 minute phone call of my life.
STWOF: And now the mandatory question for all Setting The Woods On Fire visitors: Do you love Tom T. Hall?
CR: Oh, I sure do now. I hadn't heard him before. I listened to the mp3 you had up though, "I Hope It Rains At My Funeral" and He kind of reminded me of a more hardass John Prine. I also just recently learned (thanks to STWOF) that he wrote Harper Valley PTA which I have always loved!!! That song is hilarious. I used to sing it at my mom.
STWOF: Thanks Caitlin! Good luck with the new EP.
See the post immediately above this one for a review of Caitlin's new EP, which you can buy HERE. (Notice: the "Caitlin Rose" who sings "country" on i-tunes is somebody else.)
From the looks of her interview, Caitlin might have a future as a music blogger. Here are some of the songs/artists she mentioned:
Linda Ronstadt - Willing (buy album).
Dwight Yoakam - Close Up The Honky Tonks (buy album).
Iris Dement - Our Town (buy album).
George Jones - You're Still On My Mind (buy album).
Emmylou Harris - Two More Bottles Of Wine (buy album).
Gram Parsons - Big Mouth Blues (Live) (buy album).
Elliott Smith - Jealous Guy (Live)
Neil Diamond - Solitary Man (buy album).
Bill Callahan - A Man Needs A Woman Or A Man To Be A Man (buy album).