Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good Timing! - Merle's Tribute To "The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World"

Good things happen when you pay hommage to the King of Western Swing. Today, when I got home from work I was greeted by the new arrival, by mail, of Merle Haggard's 1970 tribute to Bob Wills, appropriately called A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World.

So consider this an extension of this afternoon's Western Swing post. Take it away Hag:

Merle Haggard - Right Or Wrong.

Merle Haggard - Take Me Back To Tulsa (buy album).

I especially like Merle's laid back vocal on the first tune and the fiddle playing on the second. A lot of the Playboys played on this record and its release apparently triggered a resurgence of interest in Western Swing. Maybe this post will do the same...

Here's a more proper album review.

Have a good night!

Ding Dong Daddy & Mean Mean Mama

Music used to be whole a lot more fun!
Case in point are these two Western Swing classics:

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys - Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas) (buy album) (1946)

The Light Crust Doughboys - Mean Mean Mama (From Meana) (buy album) (1940)

The Bob Wills' tune comes from Volume 3 of the Tiffany Transcriptions. For the un-initiated, the Tiffany Transcriptions is a famous ten-volume collection of radio recordings. The sound is clear and the band is lively. It's the best place to start your Bob Wills' collection.

My favorite is Volume 3, which highlights the jazzier side of the Playboys' sound. Read the AMG Review. You can listen to "Basin Street Blues" (also from Volume 3) in my previous post.

If you're looking for a starter Bob Wills' record, I'd suggest getting Volume 2, which is the "Best Of" the Tiffany Transcriptions. The song "Cherokee Maiden," which is currently posted in the sidebar, comes from this volume.

Some of the later volumes of the Tiffany Transcriptions are out of print, but you can download them all, DRM-free HERE. If you like Western Swing (and, c'mon who doesn't just a little bit?) this is great news!

Now read about The Light Crust Doughboys.

After listening to these songs, I wondered how far it would be to travel from Dumas to Meana. Problem was I couldn't find a town called "Meana" anywhere on the map. (I'm not from Texas, so maybe one of my Texas readers can enlighten me about the location of Meana?) The closest I could find was Bastrop, Texas, which used to be called "Mina". It's 600 miles from Dumas to Bastrop (formerly Mina). Considering the distance, it seems unlikely that the Ding Dong Daddy would meet up with the Mean Mean Mama. This is probably a good thing. Otherwise, somebody might have to write a song called The Big Bad Baby (From Bastrop).

If you're interested in exploring the genre beyond Bob Wills, I highly recommend purchasing the 4-CD box set called Doughboys, Playboys, and Cowboys which usually sells for less than $30.00. (buy album).

To learn more about Western Swing, check out this blog: Western Swing on 78.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Setting The Woods On Fire Hype Mix!

This week my blog was added to The Hype Machine. I knew traffic would go up, but I was surprised by how much.

So, to welcome all my new readers (and give you an idea about what's going on here), I present the Setting the Woods On Fire Hype Mix!

SIDE A - Country/Folk
Gram Parsons – Return Of The Grievous Angel (buy album)
Johnny Paycheck - Georgia In A Jug (buy mp3 album)
Townes Van Zandt - To Live Is To Fly (buy album)
The Country Gentlemen - Fox On The Run (buy album)
Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys - Basin Street Blues (buy album)

SIDE B - Rock/Jazz
Thelonious Monk - In Walked Bud (buy album)
The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset (buy album)
Big Star - The Ballad Of El Goodo (buy album)
The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait (Tim Version) (buy album)
Uncle Tupelo - Whiskey Bottle (buy album)

CD Only Bonus Tracks (from the patron saints of this blog)
Hank Williams – I Can't Help It (buy album)
Tom T. Hall - Don't Forget The Coffee Billy Joe (buy album)

Liner Notes: STWOF is currently in the middle of a series called "Those Jangly Eighties." (See the bottom of the sidebar for links to these posts). Once that wraps up, I'm going to start the search for the next Tom T. Hall. Also in the works is an Introduction to Jazz series, but that's a ways off.

Thanks for checking in!

>>>If you like STWOF, don't forget to subscribe to the feed<<<

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P.S. If you're looking for music, don't forget to check Elbows too. They've had STWOF on board from the start.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Turn Me Loose and Set Me Free...

This track is a gem. Iris Dement puts her absolutely perfect country voice to Merle Haggard's "Big City" for an A+ cover.

Enjoy: Iris Dement – Big City (buy album).

I'm tired of this dirty old city
entirely too much work and never enough play
and I'm tired of these dirty old sidewalks
I think I'll walk off my steady job today

So turn me loose, set me free
somewhere in the middle of Montana
Gimme all I've got coming to me
and keep your retirement
and your so called social security
Big City turn me loose and set me free

I've been working every day since I was twenty
I ain't got a thing to show for anything I've done
Some folks never work and they've got plenty
I think it's time girls like me had some fun

So turn me loose, set me free
somewhere in the middle of Montana
Gimme all I've got coming to me
and keep your retirement
and your so called social security
Big City turn me loose and set me free
Big City turn me loose and set me free

-Lyrics by Merle Haggard

>>>Read about Iris Dement here<<< >>>Listen to more Iris Dement here<<<

Kinks Covers: The Jam, The Fall, and More!

For regular readers of this blog, its no secret that I'm a big fan of The Kinks. I'd call them a "thinking man's rock band." I guess that would make me a "thinking man," but so be it. I also like The Ramones. Let's not jump to any conclusions.

A fun way to way to explore the quality of a band's songs is by listening to cover versions. Here are some of my favorite Kinks covers:

The Jam – David Watts (buy album).
This song and the album from which it comes, All Mod Cons, are absolutely terrific. If you are a Kinks fan, I guarantee you will love this record. It has much of the same ethic and a timeless sound. Get it ASAP!

(Conversely, if you are a fan of The Jam and have not yet dug into The Kinks' back catalog, you have a fun project waiting for you.)

The Fall – Victoria (buy album).
A superb cover of one of the Kinks best ever songs!

Holly Golightly – Time Will Tell (buy album).
Holly's cover has a real nice retro feel.

Southern Culture On The Skids – Muswell Hillbilly (buy album).

This one takes the country leanings of the Kinks' version and turns them up a notch without losing anything in the process. Good stuff!

Flop – Big Sky (out of print).
This Seattle band was once the next big thing. Here is a rollicking and, perhaps, drunken version of one of the standouts from my favorite Kinks record (Village Green Preservation Society). More info HERE.

For a great fansite with lots of Kinks info, see HERE.

For an interesting article on Ray Davies lyrical themes, read this: Two Walters

What are your favorite Kinks covers? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Jones Street Boys - Overcome

The Jones Street Boys are a nice new country-ish group hailing from NYC. Prominent in their sound are the mandolin and harmonica.

My favorite part of their new record, Overcome, is an excellent cover of John Hartford's "Tall Buidings." I really like how they do the final verse a capella. I've already posted versions by John Hartford and Gillian Welch, but this new version might be my favorite yet. It really hits home for me since I've been spend way too much of my time in a tall building. (One of these days this song is finally going to persuade me to get out.)

Jones St. Boys - Tall Buildings (John Hartford cover)

Someday my baby, when I am a man,
and other's have taught me, the best that they can
they'll sell me a suit, and cut off my hair
and send me to work in tall buildings

and it's goodbye to the sunshine, goodbye to the dew
goodbye to the flowers, and goodbye to you
I'm off to the subway, I mustn't be late
going to work in tall buildings

when I retire and my life is my own
I made all the payments, it's time to go home
and wonder what happened, betwixt and between
when I used to work in tall buildings

and it's goodbye to the sunshine, goodbye to the dew
goodbye to the flowers, and goodbye to you
I'm off to the subway, I mustn't be late
going to work in tall buildings

- Lyrics by John Hartford

Another great song from Overcome features guest vocalist Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers).

Jones Street Boys - One Last Love Song

(buy album).

Listen to the rest of the new album at Jones Street Boys' Website.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Those Jangly Eighties, Vol 5: Jason & The Scorchers and The Beat Farmers

[For the background on this series, see here.]

Today’s featured style is cowpunk.

Pour yourself a cup of Old Grand-Dad (since 1882) and get ready for A COWPUNK SPECATCULAR!

In the 1980s, "alt-country" music used to be called “cowpunk.” It was a little harder than today's "No Depression" sound, which explains the “punk” part of the name, but nobody can explain where "cows" came in. The king of cowpunk bands was the legendary Jason & The Scorchers. If you like twangy music, you need to get to know this band. They took the hardest elements of country and rock and ran with them. Read bios here and here.

Let's start our Jason & the Scorchers tour with the excellent Fervor EP from 1983.

The first track is one of the all-time best Bob Dylan covers (perhaps eclipsed only by The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man and Jimi Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower, but I may be forgetting a few):

Jason & The Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie

In 1985, the band issued its magnum opus (and one of my top 25 albums of all time) Lost And Found. Check out these tracks:

Jason & The Scorchers – Shop It Around

Jason & The Scorchers – Broken Whiskey Glass

Jason & The Scorchers – Blanket Of Sorrow

Now listen to what they could do with an old country song:

ORIGINAL: Eddy Arnold– I Really Don’t Want To Know (buy album).

COVER: Jason & The Scorchers – I Really Don't Want To Know

Unfortunately, all of this stuff appears to be out of print, so you'll have to get in on e-bay. Just for fun, here's an absolutely killer Carl Perkins cover:

Jason & The Scorchers – Gone, Gone, Gone

Since this is turning into a covers post, it's time to mention my second favorite cowpunk band, The Beat Farmers. Read bios here and here.

My favorite Beat Farmers album is their debut, Tales From The New West, in part because of its excellent, countrified covers:

Beat Farmers – There She Goes Again (Velvet Underground Cover).

Beat Farmers – Reason To Believe (Bruce Springsteen Cover).

Tales of the New West was the Beat Farmers' twangiest record. Unfortunately it's out of print.

Flossie, the punk cow...


I should have put this up in the post before. Here's the great You Tube clip linked in the comments:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Morning Masterpiece: Shangri-La

Shangri-La, written by Ray Davies, performed by The Kinks:

The Kinks – Shangri-La (buy album).

Now that you've found your paradise
This is your kingdom to command
You can go outside and polish your car
Or sit by the fire in your Shangri-La

Here is your reward for working so hard
Gone are the lavatories in the back yard
Gone are the days when you dreamed of that car
You just want to sit in your Shangri-La

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You've reached your top and you just can't get any higher
You're in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-La

Sit back in your old rockin' chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can't go anywhere
Shangri-La, Shangri-La, Shangri-La

The little man who gets the train
Got a mortgage hanging over his head
But he's too scared to complain
'cos he's conditioned that way

Time goes by and he pays off his debts
Got a TV set and a radio
For seven shillings a week
Shangri-La, Shangri-La, Shangri-La
Shangri-La, Shangri-La, Shangri-La

And all the houses in the street have got a name
'cos all the houses in the street they look the same
Same chimney pots, same little cars, same window panes
The neighbors call to tell you things that you should know
They say their lines, they drink their tea, and then they go
They tell your business in another Shangri-La
The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car
Too scared to think about how insecure you are
Life ain't so happy in your little Shangri-La
Shangri-La, Shangri-La la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You've reached your top and you just can't get any higher
You're in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-La

Sit back in your old rockin' chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can't go anywhere
Shangri-La, Shangri-La, Shangri-La
Shangri-La, Shangri-La, Shangri-La

AMG song review.
AMG album review.

Just what is Shangri-La anyway? Look HERE.

Friday, January 18, 2008

STWOF Music Quiz: Featuring The Millennium & Beck

What do these two great songs have in common? It’s not too tricky if you listen to them, but I’m trying for a gimmick here, so please humor me.

Song No. 1: The Millennium – Prelude/To Claudia On Thursday (buy album).

Forget about the quiz for a second. This song is amazing! The drum sound is so modern that you'd think it came out in the hip-hop era. Actually, its from way back in 1968! Truly a lost classic. Read insightful reviews here, here, and here.

Song No. 2: Beck – Tropicalia (buy album).

I really like this track. Just more evidence of Beck's greatness.

Give up?

The answer to the quiz (and two more mp3s) are HERE (but make sure you listen to both songs before peeking).

By the way, if you come here to this site only because you like old time country music, don't dispair, it will be back soon...

[Note: This was originally posted over at Page 2, but since it was hard to get you all to click over there, I've decided to move it up here. Makes more sense anyway. So the "Page 2" experiment is now officially over.]

Super Quick Post: Why Can't I Touch It?

Pressure! Work's been killing me lately, but I feel the need to feed the blog, so it's time for a really quick post...

This brilliant Buzzcocks track was playing on my computer and it just sounded so good...

Dig it: Buzzcocks – Why Can't I Touch It? (buy album).

Wow! That was pretty fast. Only 15 minutes. Now back to work (or sleep).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Those Jangly Eighties, Vol 4: Green On Red

For the background on this series, see here.]

Although considered part of the "paisley underground," I think Green On Red are more accurately described as part of the second wave of Americana/alt-country bands, picking up where Gram Parsons and Commander Cody, et al., left off.

My favorite Green On Red album is the under-appreciated No Free Lunch, released in 1985. Here Green On Red sound like the perfect rootsy American bar band (and the year could be 1969, 1985, or 2008).

In keeping with my policy of leaving you wanting more (and hopefully buying the album), I'm having a difficult time choosing which tracks to feature. The record is uniformly solid. So if you like these, you're going to like the rest:

Green On Red – Keep On Moving
Green On Red – (Gee Ain't It Funny) How Time Slips Away

(buy album).

As much as I like Green On Red's cover version, you really can't top Willie's original:

Willie Nelson - Funny How Time Slips Away (buy album).

(This song is best enjoyed with Wild Turkey on the rocks.)

While I'm on the subject Green On Red, I need to give a shout out to ex-Green On Red guitarist, Chuck Prophet, who has released a string of high-quality rock albums over the past 15 years.

This track from his 2002 album "No Other Love" is one of the alltime best laid-back, summery rock songs. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of it.

Chuck Prophet - Summertime Thing (buy album).

Line that makes me laugh: "Go ask your dad for the keys to the Honda..." (Somehow it's just not the same as a T-Bird.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mollie McCarty And Ten Broeck

From The New York Times, April 3, 1878:

"Louisville, April 2.—Col. M. Lewis Clark, Jr., President of the Louisville Jockey Club, has perfected arrangement by which Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarthy are to run four mile heats at Louisville July 4 next, for the sum of $10,000. Two or three other races will be given at the same time. The owner of Mollie McCarthy thinks she can beat any horse in the country. The mare will be brought from California to Louisville in Budd Doble’s car, which has been chartered for the round trip, and will probably arrive here about the last of May to prepare for the contest. Ten Broeck was never in better condition than at present..." [download pdf].

If you know the famous bluegrass song inspired by this race, then you know that Mollie could not, in fact, beat any horse in the country, at least not in Louisville on July 4, 1878.

Here's a description of the race, according to Thoroughbred Heritage:

"They started evenly, and Mollie led for the first mile, 'with such a beautiful and apparently easy stroke, and the horse seemingly at labor, but really annoyed at restraint, that a shout went up that she had already beaten him.' Mollie led for the second mile, but after the quarter pole Ten Broeck drew ahead, and by the time they had reached 2-1/2 miles he was leading by a length, and at the third mile he was ahead by twenty yards. At 3-1/2 miles Mollie gave up the chase, and Ten Broeck cantered home easily in the slow time of 8:19-3/4. 'Such a shout as went up over the triumph of Ten Broeck, and such a scene of wild and extravagant excitement, I never saw before, and never expect to again, outside the impulsive state of Kentucky.' It was Mollie's first defeat, in fact, her first defeat in any heat at any distance. This race was Ten Broeck's last."

The impulsive excitement did not stop at the track, but instead inspired a famous musical tribute.

And now check out a couple versions of "Molly and Tenbrooks" from proud Kentuckians Tom T. Hall and Bill Monroe:

The first comes from Tom T. Hall, with special guest Bill Monroe on the mandolin. Hall downplays Tenbrooks' homefield advantage, saying that the horses "met half way." Actually, Ten Broeck only had to travel from Lexington to Louisville, while poor old Mollie had to ride the rails all the way across the Rocky Mountains, but I'm not going to hold that against Tom: Tom T. Hall – Molly And Tenbrooks (buy album!).

And here's a nice live version by Bill Monroe taken from a Grand Ole Opry broadcast: Bill Monroe – Molly And Tenbrooks (buy album).

For another cool version of the song, check out "Legend Of Ol' Tenbrooks" by Hearts And Flowers over at The Rising Storm.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Those Jangly Eighties, Vol 3: Guadalcanal Diary

[For the background on this series, see here.]

Guadalcanal Diary were the quintessential '80's jangly rock band. Not only were they really jangly, but their music had that wonderful '80s sense of fun. They never got famous (most likely due to their unmarketable name or quirkiness), but they meant a lot to me.

If it weren't for Guadalcanal Diary I might never have become such a music-obsessed kid. This would have caused me to receive better grades in college, which in turn would have caused me to miss out on five accomplishment-free post-college years working in bars and record stores while playing the electric bass in obscure rock bands.

So, thank you Guadalcanal Diary...

Although they released four albums, the first two, Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man (1984) and Jamboree (1985) are stand outs.

I can still remember the day I picked up Jamboree from Schoolkids Records (my then-future employer). It was a muggy July afternoon in Ann Arbor and a thunderstorm was kicking up. I had to run back to my old car in parked in front of the Hill Auditorium to avoid getting caught in the downpour. There aren't many albums can I remember purchasing (down to my parking place) twenty-three years later. But this was an event.

Now for the music. I'll start with two highlights from Jamboree:

Guadalcanal Diary - Michael Rockefeller. This song is about Michael Rockefeller, the youngest son of Nelson Rockefeller, who may have been eaten by cannibals (if not sharks or crocodiles) in 1961.

Guadalcanal Diary - Jamboree. My favorite GD song. Not really sure why, but for some reason it really evokes fond memories of my carefree college days bumming around Ann Arbor.

The band's most critically acclaimed album was their 1984 debut, Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man. Here are two from that album:

Guadalcanal Diary - Watusi Rodeo. This song really displays the band's quirky sense of humor, complete with surf guitar. It's about some cowboys who decide to stage a rodeo in the congo: "Oh they look like cows but they're water buffaloes, ropin' and a-riding in the Watusi Rodeo..." They don't write 'em like that anymore.

Guadalcanal Diary - Pillow Talk. This is a funny song about some poor guy who sits up at night and listens to his girlfriend talk in her sleep about all the other guys in town. He's bummed because she never mentions him, even out of "common courtesy."

One more quick story. A problem faced by Guadalcanal Diary, who hailed from Marietta, Georgia, were comparisons to R.E.M. This was probably due, in large part, to the fact that they came from the same state. Anyway, I feel a bit guilty because the only time I met Guadalcanal Diary (outside of Traxx Nightclub in Detroit, before a show they were playing with the True Believers), I was wearing an R.E.M. T-shirt. Nervous talking to my favorite band, I blurted out that I was a big fan of R.E.M. while pointing to my shirt. Duh! I wish I had explained to them that I only liked R.E.M. because they sounded like Guadalcanal Diary. Oh well.

Although the original vinyl is long out of print, you can buy both of these albums as a two-fer CD package here. It's well worth it, especially for the song "Trail of Tears," which I've left for some other day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Yahoo Music Player

I’m trying a new system for playing music on this page. As before, there are "play" buttons located next to each track. You can use these to start the player with your selected song. Once it ends, the next song will start automatically.

You'll also notice a gray "player" box in the lower left corner of the page. You can hit the play button there to start the music. Or open up the pop-up menu to find a list of all mp3s on this page. If you select a song from the pop-up menu, the player will play that song and then continue right on down the list.

Warning: If you click on the song name in the player next to the speaker icon, it will stop the music and take you to a Yahoo search page. If you don't want this, then just click on the titles in the pop-up menu instead, or use the small "play" buttons in each post.

For my older readers: If the player is open and blocking the text, you can minimize it by clicking the little triangle on the right edge. The music will still play while the player is minimized.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. (I like it better than the old system because I don't have to insert any playlists. It's all automatic.) Thanks for reading. Here's a tune to try out on the new player:

Charley Pride - Kaw-Liga (Live) (buy album).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why I Love Country Music, Vol 1: Lefty Frizzell

Sometimes people ask me why I like country music and I have a hard time answering the question. I know I love it more than any other kind of music, but I can't put my finger on exactly why. Believe me, it's a lot easier to explain your love for "Kind of Blue" or "Odessey & Oracle" than to put your admiration for George Jones into persuasive words.

And then an old country song comes around on my i-pod that just makes me say "wow". So I decided that whenever that happens I will just stop everything and do a quick post here to let the music do the talking for me.

Here's tonight's installment of Why I Love Country Music:

Lefty Frizzell - Always Late (With Your Kissess) (buy album).

Am I crazy, or is this sh*t crazy good?

P.S. I'm not a talker. Maybe you are? If you can explain why old country music is so good, please do so in the comments. I eagerly await your contributions....

P.P.S. I also love both "Kind of Blue" and "Odessey & Oracle."

P.P.P.S. I was drinking wine when I wrote this post. I like wine.

P.P.P.P.S. I must be kinda drunk because "Sweet Child O' Mine" just came around on my i-pod and it really made me say "WOW". It's a great song! Peace.

Where do we go now?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Beaucoup Cuckoo

Townes Van Zandt had a pretty good sense of humor, as shown by this live track:

Townes Van Zandt - Cuckoo Song.

This comes from a 1978 show recorded in East Lansing, Michigan. Unfortunately, he kind of botches the start of one of my favorite lines: "Well it's bacon when I'm hungry, and it's whiskey when I'm dry..." But I think the humor makes up for the mistake.

Speaking of cuckoos, here's another Townes Van Zandt song featuring the bird. This one comes from his self-titled album released in 1969 which is A MUST OWN CD:

Townes Van Zandt - I'll Be Here In The Morning (buy album).

Seriously, if you don't own this CD, get it asap. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Those Jangly Eighties, Vol 2: The dB's

[For the background on this series, see here.]

Today's featured jangly rock band are The dB's of Winston-Salem, North Carolina (in particular, the Peter-Holsapple-era dBs).

The dB's formed in the late 1970s and released four nice power pop albums before disbanding. Key member Chris Stamey departed after two albums to pursue a solo career and produce records. This left a bigger role for Peter Holsapple as the new frontman. Holsapple created a poppier sound that I really enjoy. (He later went on to be part of R.E.M.'s touring band and contributed significantly to R.E.M.'s hit album Out Of Time.)

Read more about the dBs at all music.

My sentimental favorite dB's album is Like This from 1984. Check out this standout track about a hard-luck breakup:

The dB's - Amplifier (buy album).

I love how that one starts.

Similar in style was 1987's The Sound of Music, which is now out of print. Objectively, this album is probably even better than Like This, but I always seem to favor the first album I hear from a band. Try these tracks:

The dB's - Molly Says
The dB's - Never Before And Never Again (Guest vocals by Syd Straw. Also guesting on the album is the legendary Van Dyke Parks.)
The dB's - Working For Somebody Else

These lighthearted, catchy pop songs are what "indie" rock sounded like back in the 1980s. I like it a lot better than most of the dirge-like, self-important indie music we get these days.

Hopefully somebody will reissue The Sound Of Music. It deserves to be heard.

(I've got a vinyl copy autographed by the band at a 1987 show at Rick's Cafe in Ann Arbor. Holsapple wrote "Paul B. Careful" on my copy, which makes me think I might've been drinking at the time....)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Song Of The Day: Crow Black Chicken

I woke up this morning and started humming this song about chicken pie. I don't know why.

Check it out:

The Bad Livers - Crow Black Chicken (buy album).

This tune comes from the Bad Livers' 1992 debut album, Delusions of Banjer, which is a one-of-a-kind, irreverant bluegrass record. The Bad Livers weren't your typical bluegrass band. They had a "punk" attitude and were musically innovative (as evidenced by the slightly "avante garde" instrumental break starting at about 1:45 of Crow Black Chicken). For more info, read the AMG review, with which I am in complete agreement.

This one comes with STWOF's highest seal of approval!

Those Jangly Eighties: Lone Justice

About this series: When it comes to music, the 1980s don't get much respect. The 1950s saw the birth of rock and roll. The 1960s saw Dylan, the British invasion, and the Summer of Love. The now-fashionable 1970s saw glam rock, Zeppelin, and the punk revolution. Even the 1990s, the decade when most music bloggers came of age, saw grunge and the explosion of hip hop into the mainstream. So what do the 1980s have to offer?

Quite a lot, actually.

For starters, the 1980's gave us a bunch of fun pop acts like Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, Men At Work, Men Without Hats, Toni Basil, Flock of Seagulls, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, and Duran Duran. The top 40 was a wacky place back then! The 1980s also gave birth to rap music (Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Public Enemy) and a handful of pop superstars (U2, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince).

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. This series is about my favorite part of the 1980s musical map: jangly rock. By this I mean rootsy guitar bands like The Replacements, Lone Justice, Hoodoo Gurus, Guadalcanal Diary, The dBs, R.E.M., The BoDeans, Green On Red, Jason & The Scorchers, X, Los Lobos, Wire Train, The Rave Ups, The Blasters, Camper Van Beethoven, Marti Jones, The Plimsouls, The Long Ryders, The Windbreakers, Rank & File, and The Beat Farmers. These bands fall into a number of discrete sub-genres with names like Jangle Pop, Cow Punk, Paisely Underground, Power Pop and College Rock, but I like to lump them all together as "jangly rock."

If you were to travel back in time to a college town like Ann Arbor or Athens circa 1985, you'd hear stuff like this "left of the dial." But jangly rock never got very popular. (The hits of R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, B-52s, and the Bangles came after those acts softened their sound.) Still, it was good stuff, and important too. The 1980s roots rockers were influenced by great artists like The Byrds, The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Gram Parsons, Big Star, and The Sex Pistols. While most of the American jangly rock bands failed to reach the critical and popular heights of their influences, they paved the way for the more popular alternative (Pixies, Flaming Lips, Pavement, Nirvana) and alt-country (Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Old 97s) styles of the next decade. So jangly rock deserves attention. Plus, it's a lot of fun!

But enough of my yacking, let's get to the music.
The first featured band is Lone Justice from Los Angeles. They're not the most important band from the era, but they're a good example of the style I'm talking about (with a little extra country flair). The lead singer and star of the band was a young lady named Maria McKee (whose older half-brother penned the brilliant song "Alone Again or" for the band Love). Read about Lone Justice here.

Check out these tracks from their 1985 debut album, which was their best effort and is well worth owning:

Lone Justice - Pass It On (written by Maria McKee)
Lone Justice - Don't Toss Us Away (written by Bryan MacLean)

(buy album).

In addition to fronting Lone Justice, then 19-year old McKee also wrote a great pop song called "A Good Heart," which became a hit for Feargal Sharkey (ex Undertones). Here's a recent live version by Ms. McKee.

Maria McKee - A Good Heart (Live) (buy album).

If anybody has a copy of Sharkey's version, I would love to post it here. It's out of print now, but I remember it sounding pretty good to my young ears. [***Update: I found a copy. It REALLY sounds dated. All the 1980's cliches. Yikes!***]

Check back soon for Vol. 2! Also, I'm working on an exciting new feature called "Searching For Tom T. Hall..."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Robert Earl Keen: We had a wonderful time “in the Willie way”...

It's about 20 degrees up here in Michigan tonight, so I'm spinning a Summer song to get my mind off the weather. This is the great Robert Earl Keen, Jr. performing one of his best to a rowdy bunch in Texas.

The highlight is the five-minute introduction in which Keen tells a funny story about the first time he met Willie Nelson. (Thanks to Matt for turning me on to this record.)

Check it out!

Robert Earl Keen - The Road Intro

Robert Earl Keen - The Road Goes On Forever

To hear the encore, buy the album.