Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What I'm Thinking . . .

I can't wait to see their faces when I get the nerve to say...

Johnny Paycheck - Take This Job And Shove It (buy album)

Classic Country Research Department

Please assist the STWOF Classic Country Research Department by taking a moment to rate these versions of Crazy Arms according to your order of preference:

Ray Price – Crazy Arms (buy album)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Crazy Arms (buy album)
Patsy Cline – Crazy Arms (buy album)
Linda Ronstadt – Crazy Arms (buy album)
BR5-49 – Crazy Arms (buy album)

You may express your votes (and views) in the comments section below.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation. Your feedback will help this blog better serve your classic country listening needs.

UPDATE: The results are in. Jerry Lee was the run away winner. The others are in a statistical dead heat for second place. Of the runners up, Patsy Cline's version got the most first and last place votes. Love it or hate it, I guess. My own ranking would be: (1) Jerry Lee (I'm on a JLL kick lately), (2) Linda (I'm a sucker for that So. Cal. country-rock sound), (3) Ray (also a sucker for real honky tonk, but Ray isn't George Jones), (4) Patsy (I think the production fits her style, so it's a thumb's up, and (5) BR5-49 (a bit too derivative for a relatively modern act, but sounds good nevertheless).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who Invented Country Rock?, Part II

Remember my post from a month ago about Who Invented Country Rock? (If you missed it, here's a mix of some of the highlights.) Well, it turned out to be the most popular post I've ever done, generating lots of comments and e-mails. So now its time to tie up some loose ends based on all the great feedback resulting from my earlier country-rock post.


(1) Jimmie Rodgers

Some readers voiced the opinion that elements of country and rock were always intertwined and that "country rock" was, in some sense, "invented" before country or rock, or at least at the same time. It's true that elements of the "country-rock" style have been around for a long time. Here's one from oldtime favorite Jimmie Rodgers, a musical pioneer whose style pre-dated and paved the way for both rock and country:

Jimmie Rodgers – In The Jailhouse Now (buy album)

(2) Moon Mullican

In a similar vein, the author of the great blog Big Rock Candy Mountain argued that "Moon Mullican invented "Country Rock" all the way back in the late 30's through the early 50's." He cited the songs Cherokee Boogie and Seven Nights to Rock in particular:

Moon Mullican – Cherokee Boogie (buy album)

(3) Rex Griffin

Here's an oldtime rockin' country song that eventually made its way to The Beatles via Carl Perkins:

Rex Griffin – Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby (buy album)


(4) Wynn Stewart

In the first country rock post I gave a lot of credit to Buck Owens, as a representative of the Bakersfield sound, for adding electric instruments and a backbeat to traditional country music. Owens was the most visible proponent of this style, but since we are talking about firsts here, I would be remiss not to mention Wynn Stewart, the father of the Bakersfield sound and a prime influence on Owens:

Wynn Stewart - Big Big Love (buy album)

(5) The Osborne Brothers

In similar fashion, The Osborne Brothers turned up the volume (and popularity) of bluegrass music with songs like this 1968 hit:

The Osborne Brothers - Rocky Top (buy album)

(6) Clarence White

Along with Gram Parsons, Clarence White is probably the single most important person in the development of country rock. He started out as an accoustic bluegrass flatpicking prodigy and literally brought a country style into rock music when he went electric. LD's comment (on my last country-rock post) nails it: "Who do you think The Byrds hired to give their country-ish songs legitimacy beginning with the Younger Than Yesterday album? Clarence White. I'd go so far as to say that Clarence White's influence on the origin of country-rock is as underrated as Gram's is overrated." As I've mentioned before, I've got a big Clarence White post in the works. Until then:

Clarence White - Hong Kong Hillbilly (buy album)


(7) Mike Nesmith

Many of this blog's readers worship at the altar of Mike Nesmith, which caused me to learn a lot about his early country-rock contributions. (I already knew that his mother invented liquid paper and the he produced the greatest cult movie ever made). Here's one of his country-rock efforts that pre-dated The Byrds' Sweetheart album:

The Monkees – Sunny Girlfriend (buy album)

(8) The Beau Brummels

Brendan, from The Rising Storm, mentioned the Beau Brummels. In the comment section to the last post I included a tune from their album Triangle. Their next album, Bradley's Barn was recorded in Nashville in 1968 (the year of country rock):

The Beau Brummels – Turn Around (buy album)

(9) Stone Country

Reader Terry called my attention to the band Stone Country, whose members included country-folk singer Steve Young. Terry described their 1968 album as "country rock with a slightly psychy edge." That pretty much gets it. Here are a couple songs from that album that I've enjoyed discovering:

Stone Country – Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde (buy album)

Stone Country – Why Baby Why (buy album)

(10) Hearts & Flowers

Both reader Terry, and Jason from The Rising Storm, have recommended the band Hearts & Flowers, which I should have included last time around but left out because I was running out of steam. Here's a sample:

Hearts And Flowers – I'm A Lonesome Fugitive (buy album)

I Love To Sing-A

I saw this cartoon this morning and thought it was pretty funny:
I Love To Singa.

The owl's song really got stuck in my head! Here it is:

Al Jolson & Cab Calloway – I Love To Sing-A (buy album).

Get more info at Wikipedia.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hank Cover Friday: That Lonesome Whistle

Here are a couple of covers of one of my favorite Hank songs, (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle Blow. This song was co-written by Hank Williams and Jimmie Davis.

The Cash cover is the gold standard. Dylan's cover version comes from a radio interview he did in 1962 before his first album was released.

Johnny Cash – I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow (buy album).

Bob Dylan - Lonesome Whistle Blues (Note: The first few seconds are a poor recording, but the sound gets a lot better shortly after Bob starts singing.)

You can get the whole Dylan radio interview at the blog False 45th. It is very interesting and well worth checking out.

Also, I just found a great website for Hank covers: Hank Williams, Sr. - The Cover List. (Warning: Annoying background music.)

Here's a special sound effect for today's post: Steam Whistle

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I thank the lord for the people I have found

I had an especially crappy day at work today, so I decided to head over to the local Beer Garden to drown my sorrows in a couple of Spaten Lagers. Good idea?! I think so.

Anyway, I heard this song at the bar and it kind of cheered me up. So now you get to hear it too.

Elton John - Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (buy album).

Music is good.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Rosewood Thieves

The Rosewood Thieves are a "neo-retro" rock band from NYC. Their music is exceedingly catchy with classic rock fourishes and bit of country flavor. This year marks the release of the Thieves' first full length LP, called Rise & Shine. Here's the first single from the new one:

The Rosewood Thieves – She Don't Mind The Rain (buy album).

The Rosewood Thieves have previously released two six-song EP's called From The Decker House (2006) and Lonesome (2007).

Check out these great tracks from the EPs.

The Rosewood Thieves – Lonesome Road (buy album).

The Rosewood Thieves - Murder Ballad In G Minor (buy album).

For more on The Rosewood Thieves, check out Doctor Mooney's 115th Dream.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound

Photo by Stephen Cysewski

Neko Case - Thrice All American (buy album).

Is there anything wrong with this song?

If there is, I can't find it. I love Neko's voice. I love the arrangement--the wavering a capella start, especially, is powerful. And I love the lyrics and the way Neko loves the hidden charm of Tacoma.

I think I can related to this tune in a special way because I have the same feeling towards Detroit that Neko has for Tacoma (but I'm not at all worried about my town being discovered by Californians). Anyway, it really got to me today, so I figured I better post it here. Get yourself some Neko asap.

I want to tell you about my hometown
It's a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound
Well the factories churn and the timbers all cut down
And life goes by slow in Tacoma

People they laugh when they hear you're from my town
They say it's a sour and used up all place
I defended its honor, shrugged off the put downs
You know that you're poor, from Tacoma

Buildings are empty like ghettos or ghost-towns
It gives me a chill to think what was inside
I can't seem to fathom the dark of my history
I invented my own in Tacoma

There was nothing to put me in love with the good life
I'm in league with the the gangs guns, and the crime
There was no hollow promise that life would reward you
There was nowhere to hide in Tacoma

People who built it they loved it like I do
There was hope in the trainyard of something inspired
Once was I on it, but it's been painted shut
I found passion for life in Tacoma

Well I don't make it home much, I sadly neglect you
But that's how you like it away from the world
God bless California, make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don't find you Tacoma

Check out these Tacoma pix.

Check out these Detroit pix.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Those Jangly 80s, Vol 8: Southeast Edition

The Southeastern United States was the epicenter of jangly 80s music, in particular Georgia and North Carolina. Here are some of my favorites from the great Southeast.


The grandfathers of jangly 80's rock, R.E.M. got their start on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens. Their first single was released on the independent Hib-Tone label in 1981. It included two songs that were re-recorded for release two years later on their Murmur LP. Here are the original Hib-Tone versions:

Side A
R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe (1981 Hib-Tone version)
Side B
R.E.M. – Sitting Still (1981 Hib-Tone version)
(buy album)

One of my favorite R.E.M. releases was their first EP called Chronic Town from 1982. R.E.M. really hasn't done much for me over the last twenty years, but their early stuff was some of the most original sounding pop music ever, inspiring countless imitators and giving a major boost to the 1980's jangle rock era. This song really captures their early sound:

R.E.M. – Carnival Of Sorts (Box Cars) (buy album).

Here's a live version of a song off R.E.M.'s first LP Murmur (1983) that starts off with one of the better jangle-rock riffs:

R.E.M. – Talk About The Passion (Live) (Get the whole show here).

Here's a live version of one R.E.M.'s twangiest songs. The studio version comes from my no. 1 favorite R.E.M. ablum, 1984's Reckoning.

R.E.M. – (Don't Go Back To) Rockville (Live).

I didn't get around to seeing R.E.M. live until the Fables of the Reconstruction tour in 1985. My high school buddy Eric Toennies slept through most of the show at Detroit's Fox Theatre, but I thought it was pretty good. The opening band was The Replacements, who were very drunk. In this next song, which features another great jangle-rock riff, Michael Stipe explains that the power lines have floaters so the airplanes won't get snagged:

R.E.M. – Driver 8 (buy album).

Another of the many great Athens bands was Pylon. They were a big inspiration to R.E.M. and they had a killer bass sound. Their first album, Gyrate, plus some extra songs, has just been re-released and comes highly recommended:

Pylon – Feast On My Heart (buy album).

Finally, my personal favorite jangly 80s band, Guadalcanal Diary, hailed from a suburb of Atlanta. They've already been featured in this space.


The other great Southern alternative rock scene during the 1980's was located in North Carolina. The first North Carolina band that comes to mind are The dB's, who I've already blogged about.

Winston-Salem's Mitch Easter was the producer of R.E.M.'s first Hib-Tone single and the Chronic Town EP and Murmur. He also produced Chris Stamey, The Windbreakers, and Game Theory. Most importantly, Mitch Easter was the front man for the great jangle-rock band Let's Active. Here are a couple of my favorite Let's Active songs:

Let's Active – Every Word Means No (buy album).
Let's Active – Fell (buy album).

Don Dixon was Mitch Easter's co-producer on a number of projects. As a performer he recorded one of my alltime favorite off-beat eighties "hits" (and one of the greatest pop songs with an insect theme):

Don Dixon – Praying Mantis (buy album).

Marti Jones released a few nice adult-alternative jangly albums in the 1980s. My favorite was 1985's Unsophisticated Time, produced by husband Don Dixon:

Marti Jones – Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)
Marti Jones – Follow You All Over The World
(out of print).

One of the more interesting 1980's bands was Fetchin' Bones, whose funky rock style kind of anticipated the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (without the mega success).

Fetchin' Bones – Things Are Happening (out of print).
Fetchin' Bones – I Dig You (out of print).


Let's finish off this post with the Mississippi-based power pop band The Windbreakers. This has always been one of my favoite jangly 80s songs. It comes from their Easter/Dixon produced 1985 album called Terminal:

The Windbreakers – All That Stuff (buy album).

I know I've left a lot of great Southeastern jangly rock bands out of this post, but this isn't supposed to be my full time job. So if you have any other favorites, list them in the comment section. Or better yet, send along an mp3 for all to hear.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hank Cover Friday* - You Win Again

Here's another one of the great Hank songs. The first version is by Johnny Cash, who needs no introduction:

Johnny Cash – You Win Again (buy album).

The second version is courtesy of Tim, who sent this over to me earlier this week. Jerry nails this tune:

Jerry Garcia - You Win Again (buy album).

(*I'm a day late posting this because I had to clean out my garage, but I got a few good post ideas listening to music while sorting out that mess, so stay tuned.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Record Currently Blowing My Mind

Tonight I drank a little wine and took my dog (and my i-pod) for a walk along the tracks. It was a warm spring night, after dark, and my mood was perfect for Jerry Lee Lewis's double country CD Another Place Another Time/She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye.

Damn! Jerry Lee can lay down some hard country music. I know I just posted about the Killer, but I have to come back to him again. This record is incredible. If you don't believe me, take it from a professional: All Music Guide Review.

Seriously, there is not a bad track on this thing. Right now it's residing in the number one spot on my turntable (figuratively speaking) and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you love real country music you need to own this disc. That's all.

Jerry Lee Lewis – Waiting For A Train

Jerry Lee Lewis – Once More With Feeling

(order it now).

If it's not working for you right now, drink some wine and take you dog for a walk along the train tracks. Context can be everything.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jazz 101: Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder

Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder (buy album).

If I had to pick just one track to introduce jazz to fans of rock/pop music, this would be the one. It's funky and extrememly listenable, with great playing by young guns Lee Morgan (age 25) on trumpet and Joe Henderson (age 26) on tenor sax. You'll be hooked almost at once.

Lee Morgan began professional career while still a teenager. He played with greats like Art Blakey and John Coltrane (check out the trumpet solo on Blue Train). After its release in 1964, The Sidewinder registered on the pop charts, a rare accomplishment for a jazz single.

Tragically, Morgan's career was cut short in 1972 when Morgan (at the age of 33) was shot by his common law wife during a scuffle at Slug's jazz club. A court determined that the shooter was insane.

Read more about Lee Morgan at All Music Guide.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Original Almost Blue

In 1981, British rocker Elvis Costello went to Nashville to record a country covers album called Almost Blue. I wrote about it in an earlier post.

I recently picked up a copy of George Jones' 1965 album Trouble In Mind, which contains the original version of Brown To Blue that Elvis later covered on Almost Blue. This gave me the idea to put together all of the other "original" versions of the songs that inspired Costello. In some cases, the versions below are not truly the "original" versions (example Emmylou Harris, Johnny Burnette), but I think these are the versions that most influenced Elvis.

It turns out to be a pretty good collection of country tunes. Right now I'm really enjoying Sittin' And Thinkin' by Charlie Rich.

1. Hank Williams - Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)? (buy album)
2. Patsy Cline - Sweet Dreams (buy album)
3. Loretta Lynn - Success (buy album)
4. The Flying Burrito Brothers - I'm Your Toy (Hot Burrito No. 1) (buy album)
5. Merle Haggard - Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down (buy album)
6. George Jones - Brown To Blue (out of print)
7. George Jones - Good Year For The Roses (buy album)
8. Charlie Rich - Sittin' And Thinkin' (buy album)
9. George Jones - Colour Of The Blues (buy album)
10. Emmylou Harris - Too Far Gone (buy album)
11. Johnny Burnette Rock'n'Roll Trio - Honey Hush (buy album)
12. Gram Parsons – How Much I Lied (buy album)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hank Cover Friday - I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)

If you pinned me down and made me name my all-time favorite Hank song, I'd probably come up with this one. I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) is one of Hank's most elegant and heartfelt compositions.

Here are two well-done covers for you to enjoy. First check out Linda Ronstadt's version from her country-pop years (with Emmylou singing backup).

Linda Ronstadt – I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) (buy album).

Next listen to Willie Nelson's superb reading of the song. He really gets everything out of this one, without showboating. He just lets the song do the work for him, nice and easy:

Willie Nelson – I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) (buy album).

Both albums featured today are good all the way through.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

As of this moment, I am that second mouse

Reader Robert from Reno sent over a couple of Van Morrison cover versions of recent songs featured here at STWOF. They’re both from Van's 2006 foray into country music called Pay The Devil. I think these tracks are pretty darn good:

Van Morrison – There Stands The Glass

Van Morrison – Your Cheatin’ Heart

(buy album).

Thanks Robert!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Random Icon Tuesday

Audrey Hepburn - Moon River (buy album).

Frank Sinatra - Come Dance With Me (buy album).

Check the Comments to play Cultural Icon Seek And Find.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Whose Barn? What Barn? My Barn!

They don't call him the Killer for nothing. Here is a killer take on a killer tune. I love the hair-flyin', foot-stompin', knee-knockin' thing that he does:

Not that you're warmed up, here's a great track from Jerry Lee's classic live album, Live at the Star Club:

Jerry Lee Lewis – Money (buy album).

Don't say Jerry wasn't versatile. Here's one of the best all-time country drinking songs (and country song titles):

Jerry Lee Lewis – What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) (buy album).

If you haven't already, get some Jerry Lee in your collection today.

To sample a few more, check out Outlaw Blues.


Snuh's comment reminded me of the Hank Thompson version of What's Made Milwaukee Famous:

Hank Thompson – What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) (buy album).

I believe Jerry Lee's version is the definitive version. It was released first and I hear it more often.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Coming soon to The Aorta Bar (Detroit's main vein)...

Photo by Michael Hyatt.

I'm going to see the band X on my birthday. I know they're old, but so am I. And they're not as old as Bob Dylan (who I'd still pay to see).

Here's a great live version of my favorite X song, followed by the studio version (which somebody recently asked me to re-post).

X – The Have Nots (Live) (buy album).

X - The Have Nots (buy album).

Here's another great X song. This one, penned by The Blaster's Dave Alvin, has a real Americana feel:

X - 4th Of July (buy album).

Check out a few more versions of this tune over at Boogie Woogie Flu.

John Doe went on to record a country-ish solo album in 1990 called Meet John Doe:

John Doe - Knockin' Around (buy album).

Any other X fans out there? What's your favorite X song?

Get this over with I tee off in an hour!!!

I think this is what rock and roll is supposed to sound like:

The Replacements - Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out (buy album).

Here's another one from the same classic album:

The Replacements - Unsatisfied (buy album).

Everyone who likes rock music needs to own a copy of The Replacements Let It Be. But if you've already waited this long you might as well hold out for the forthcoming DELUXE re-issue due on April 22.

Go to Sound Opinions for a classic-album-dissection podcast about Let It Be.

Hank Cover Friday - Your Cheatin' Heart

Enough with the niche artists! If I want to take this blog somewhere, I'm gonna need to bring out the big guns. So here they are. Three legends singing Hank's biggest hit:

Elvis Presley - Your Cheatin' Heart (buy album).

Patsy Cline - Your Cheatin' Heart (buy album).

Ray Charles - Your Cheatin' Heart (buy album).

I like all three. What's your favorite cover version of this song?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Webb Pierce - There Stands The Glass

Webb Pierce knew how to live like a honky-tonk star. He owned a guitar-shaped swimming pool and a silver-dollar studded convertible complete with saddle-leather and bull horns on the grill. (Read about his car here.) His biggest hit and best work was this classic country tale about the protagonist's dedication to booze.

Webb Pierce - There Stands The Glass (buy album).

There stands the glass, fill it up to the brim,
'til my troubles grow dim, it’s my first one today…

The steel guitar intro is great, but it's note-for-note the same as the intro to Lefty Frizzell's Always Late With Your Kisses.