Friday, May 08, 2009

Goodbye Joe, Me Gotta Go...

All good things must come to an end, or at least take an extended break every once in awhile. So that's what I'm doing. Long story short: My kids are getting older, my job is getting tougher, and I want to spend more of my free time outside. That means I can't keep Setting The Woods On Fire going at the level you expect.

You have no idea how much I've enjoyed putting this website together and meeting the people that I've met as a result of it. I hope you've discovered some new music to love. I know I've learned a ton from you guys. Thanks for all the great comments and e-mails.

Before I head down the trail, here's one last STWOF mix. You probably have all these songs already, but they go together nicely. They aren't rarities or little known gems, just a bunch of great tunes that will stand as my closing argument for the brilliance of old-fashioned country music. Most of the big names are here, with a slight tilt towards the Texas artists (naturally). It will fit nicely onto a CD for you to enjoy, or--better yet--for you to give to a friend to spread the word about the music we love.

This ain't "redneck" music.

STWOF Honky Tonk Heroes Mix:
01. Billy Joe Shaver - Honky Tonk Heroes (buy) - 0:00
02. Hank Williams - Why Don't You Love Me? (buy) - 3:01
03. Lefty Frizzell - Long Black Veil (buy) - 5:23
04. Patsy Cline - Walkin' After Midnight (buy) - 8:29
05. George Jones - A Girl I Used To Know (buy) - 11:00
06. Tom T. Hall - I Hope It Rains At My Funeral (buy) - 13:36
07. Merle Haggard - I Can't Hold Myself In Line (buy) - 16:59
08. Buck Owens - Under The Influence Of Love (buy) - 19:50
09. Doug Sahm - Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone? (buy) - 22:06
10. The Flying Burrito Brothers - Sin City (buy) - 25:06
11. Johnny Cash - Man In Black (buy) - 29:14
12. Steve Young - White Trash Song (buy) - 32:04
13. Loretta Lynn - One's On The Way (buy) - 34:51
14. Ernest Tubb - Walking The Floor Over You (buy) - 37:27
15. Bob Wills - Bubbles In My Beer (buy) - 39:29
16. Bill Monroe - I'm Going Back To Old Kentucky (buy) - 41:29
17. The Flatlanders - Dallas (buy) - 43:50
18. Townes Van Zandt - Pancho & Lefty (buy) - 46:35
19. Willie Nelson - Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain (buy) - 50:12
20. Jerry Jeff Walker - Redneck Mother (buy) -52:28
21. Waylon Jennings - Bob Wills Is Still The King (buy) - 56:40
22. John Hartford - In Tall Buildings (buy) - 59:55

You might remember that I almost quit once before because of an apparent change in policy from the music publishers. That didn't stick, but this time it's on my own terms.

I'll still keep doing the quick and easy posts over at Groover's Paradise and Star Maker Machine. If you're a subscriber here, please consider subscribing to--and commenting at--those sites.

Thank you, friends.

Friday, May 01, 2009

One Road More: The Flatlanders cover Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family

The album pictured above is "More a Legend than a Band" by The Flatlanders. Much has been written about this amazing and indispensible album. It was recorded in the early seventies by three soon-to-be legends of Texas country music, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, & Jimmie Dale Gilmore. It has a sound and feel like no other country album and its easily one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time (right up there with Pet Sounds and Highway 61 Revisited). You can read about it here, here, here, here, and here.

In addition to the stellar tracks on "Legend," The Flatlanders produced four more songs during the same recording sessions. For awhile, these extra tracks were available on on a collection called One Road More and then later on another collection called the Complete Plantation Recordings. As far as I can tell, both of these releases are now discontinued and out of print. That's a shame because these "missing" tracks are just as good as the ones that made the cut.

Here, for your listening enjoyment, are two of the missing tracks. The first is a fun cover of one of Jimmie Rodgers' most famous songs. The second dips into the Carter Family catalog. It's good stuff!

The Flatlanders – Waitin' For A Train
The Flatlanders – Hello Stranger

If you don't have it already, make sure you buy yourself a copy of More A Legend Than A Band.

* * * *

Of course, no masterpiece can please everyone. Check out what one 1-star Amazon reviewer had to say about "More a Legend than a Band":
"Didn't know what a musical saw was, but henceforth I will be on the lookout. Unless you like an eerie wail floating over most of the tunes, this album is nigh unlistenable."
OK, you have been warned.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It could be that the good Lord likes a little pickin' too...

LD from The Adios Lounge sent over this great Tom T. Hall video:

The Year Clayton Delaney Died is the quintessential Tom T. Hall story song.

Tom T. Hall - The Year Clayton Delaney Died (buy)

As Tom notes in the video, the inspiration for the arrangement came from Jimmie Rodgers' guitar stye, which fits the song perfectly:

Jimmie Rodgers - Blue Yodel No. 8 (Mule Skinner Blues) (buy)

Yesterday's Gone

R.I.P. Vern Gosdin, 1934-2009.

Here's a good one from old Vern, with a big assist from Emmylou.

Vern Gosdin & Emmylou Harris – Yesterday's Gone (buy)

Also check out Brendan's post about Vern Gosdin at Groover's Paradise.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Has Sprung (You Can Feel The Magic In The Air)

The music selection: SDQ

This past Friday night was the first warm evening of the year up here in Michigan, so I decided to light the charcoal and enjoy some fermented malt with hops (and a slice of orange).

I'm writing this post because the evening's music selection, the Sir Douglas Quintet, hit a perfect note for my Spring time festivities. As I kicked back on the patio in my shorts, while taking in the laid-back tones of the SDQ (along with my delicious Bell's Oberon Ale), I realized that it was time to put another bug in your ear about them.

Give these tracks a spin. If they move you, put some SDQ in your collection. You won't be sorry...

Dinner on the grill. Mmmmm.

The Sir Douglas Quintet – She's About A Mover

Dinner on the plate. Tastes better that way.

The Sir Douglas Quintet – Be Real

Buds along the fence line

The Sir Douglas Quintet – Nuevo Laredo

My dog is a big SDQ fan

The Sir Douglas Quintet – Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day

Bell's Oberon Ale. Extra delicious with a slice of orange.


Life is good.

For more about Doug Sahm, check out Groover's Paradise

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Is The Most Underrated Rock Band?

Not these guys

Music bloggers are always labeling bands as "underrated." I do it all the time. Probably because attempting to right the injustices of popular recognition (or the lack thereof) is one of the main reasons why fans want to spread the word about their favorite artists.

Today the question occurred to me: What is the most underrated rock band?

This one's a natural to put before you, my highly intelligent readers. Tell me, in your opinion, what rock band (not artist) suffers the injustice of having the widest gap between Factor A (Actual Quality & Influence) and Factor B (Level Of Recognition & Acclaim)? Extra credit for having an out-of-print masterpiece.

Please give my your answer and any reasons in the comment section. Thanks in advance!

By the way, I'm pretty sure that the answer to this question is not the Kinks. While that may have been the case 5 or 10 years ago, I think The Kinks are now starting to get the level of recognition they deserve.

The Kinks - A Well Respected Man (buy)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Me And Jesus

Over the years, Jesus has made his way into a ton of songs, many of which are on my i-pod today. Here's the official STWOF Jesus mix:

01. Talladega Nights – Baby Jesus Grace
02. Ernest Tubb - What A Friend We Have In Jesus
03. Tom T. Hall - Me And Jesus
04. Kinky Friedman - High On Jesus
05. Paul Newman - Plastic Jesus
06. The Bad Livers - Jesus Is On The Mainline
07. Loretta Lynn - I'd Rather Have Jesus
08. Bobby Bare - Dropkick Me, Jesus
09. Bobby Charles - Save Me Jesus
10. Help Yourself - I Must See Jesus For Myself
11. The Byrds - Jesus Is Just Alright
12. Buck Owens - Bring It To Jesus
13. Billy Joe Shaver - Jesus Christ, What A Man
14. Johnny Cash - It Was Jesus
15. Emmylou Harris - Jerusalem Tomorrow
16. John Prine - Jesus The Missing Years
17. Lightnin' Hopkins - Jesus Would You Come By Here
18. Tom T. Hall - One More Song For Jesus

"I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party..."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sweet Dreams Of You

Sweet dreams of you
Every night I go through
Why can't I forget you and start my life anew
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

You don't love me, it's plain
I should know I'll never wear your ring
I should hate you the whole night through
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

Sweet dreams of you
Things I know can't come true
Why can't I forget the past, start loving someone new
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

Don Gibson – Sweet Dreams (buy)

Faron Young – Sweet Dreams (buy)

Patsy Cline – Sweet Dreams (buy)

The Everly Brothers – Sweet Dreams (buy)

Tommy McLain – Sweet Dreams (buy)

Elvis Costello – Sweet Dreams (buy)

A recent commenter caught me being a bit lazy with the "original" Almost Blue post. I used Patsy Cline's version of Sweet Dreams which really isn't the original, or even necessarily the best version, just the most popular. We here at STWOF like to remedy our mistakes when possible. Hence, this post about the song Sweet Dreams.

The simple, yet effective, song was first performed by its writer, Don Gibson, in 1956. That same year, Faron Young (pictured top) had a No. 2 hit with the song. I really like his honky-tonky version.

Sweet Dreams is a perfect example of how Gibson described his own writing style:
"My songs are simple, and just about all of them are about love. I write about people, not things. I never had a lot of education, and I don't feel easy with words. Most of the words to my songs are real simple. I just make them up to put to some tune on the guitar I've come up with. It's the sound of the guitar that I've always been interested in."
Patsy Cline's crossover hit version of Sweet Dreams was released posthumously in 1963, months after she was killed in an airplane crash at the age of 30. That same year, The Everly Brothers recorded a version for their album The Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits.

Three years later, in 1966, Tommy McLain's "swamp pop" version sold three million copies. The liner notes to Almost Blue suggest that this was the version that most directly influenced Elvis Costello's 1981 recording.

Other notable recordings of the song include Emmylou Harris (1975), Loretta Lynn (1977), and Reba McEntire (1979).

Which is your favorite version, and why? My vote goes to Faron because I love that honky-tonk feel.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I like my lovin' country style...

...I'm only in the city for awhile.

Wanda Jackson - Lovin' Country Style (buy)

This fun tune comes from Wanda's pre-rockabilly country phase (mid-1950's). It's good for dancing around the living room and embarrassing your children.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Great Blog: The Old, Weird America

As an enthusiastic music blogger, I spend a lot of time throwing around conclusory superlatives. Everything is "great" or "amazing" or "brilliant." (Remember, I'm not a critic--just a guy trying to point you to some good things.) So get ready, it's time for more gushing!

Today's post is about a brilliant newish blog called The Old, Weird America. Simply put, this blog is an amazing resource. The writer, a 33-year-old man from France, is using Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music "as a roadmap to explore American folk music and maybe other countries traditions along the way."

What that means is that each song from the Anthology is used as the starting point for a separate post about the song or the style. Not only do you get an informative description about the specific song from the Anthology, but you can also download and listen to other songs by the same artist and--even better--several other variations of the same song by different artists.

While you might think it would be tedious to hear 32 different versions of Froggy Went A-Courtin' (or 100 different performances of John Henry) that's not the case at all. There is a great variety of styles and structure from song to song, and the recordings span a number of years up to the present time. It's interesting to hear the differences as the songs evolve over the years (and sometimes split into two entirely separate songs). Give it a try.

Here are a few tracks I downloaded this week from the post about Song No. 8: King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O (a.k.a. Froggy Went A-Courtin'):

The first is a funny song about Kansas by Chubby Parker, the performer on the Anthology:

Chubby Parker - In Kansas ("The girls are fat as pigs in Kansas...")

The next two are modern variations on the primary song used on the Anthology:

Red Allen - Froggy Went A-Courtin' (buy)

Flat Duo Jets - Frog Went A Courtin' (buy)

Friday, April 03, 2009

That's the spirit, Woody

If you've been paying attention to the news, you may know things have been pretty rough here in Detroit lately, and they're probably about to get rougher. I don't want to be too doom-and-gloomy, but it's looking like the "Dust Bowl" of the 1930s may be replaced by the "Rust Bowl" of the 2010s

If the U.S. automakers start going through bankruptcy, a lot of people around here are going to be looking to relocate, but its not clear where they'll be able to go, or what they'll leave behind. Anyway, it's got me a concerned (and listening to Woody Guthrie).

Like the protagonist in Woody's song, we Detroiters are going to have to try to keep a positive attitude and perservere:

Woody Guthrie - Dust Can't Kill Me (buy)

Talk about a tale of woe...

The photos used in this post come for a recent photo essay appearing in Time magazine.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

There is moonlight and moss in the trees...

Sorry things have been so quiet here lately. The ideas aren't flowing, but I do have a few projects in the works. Stay tuned for posts on Doug Sahm and Cowboy Jack Clement (a great songwriter and producer who worked with Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Young among many others).

Lately, I've been raving about Steve Young over at Groover's Paradise. Check out this post for details. Steve Young is so good he deserves a mention here too. (Also, with today's post I'm testing out the new Disqus comment feature here. Let me know what you think.)

This is a 1981 re-recording of the title track of Steve Young's second album (recorded for use on the Rounder reissue).

Steve Young - Seven Bridges Road

A different version also appeared on his debut album. I'm told the Eagles did a cover version as well. The seven bridges road refers to the road outside of Montgomery, Alabama that leads to Oakwood Annex Cemetery and Hank Williams' grave (Wikipedia). (Incidentally, in the second song on the album, Montgomery in the Rain, Young sings about going out to "Hank's tombstone.")

There are stars in the southern sky,
Southward as you go
There is moonlight and moss in the trees
Down the seven bridges road...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Writer's Block: A Good Year For The Roses

Last night my fortune cookie said "Success Is In The Details."

The author of that cookie fortune probably works part time as a country music songwriter, because the advice is dead on. When you want to write a song about a break up, you don't want to come right out and say: "You broke my heart and now I'm sad." It's much better to show it. And the best way to show is with poignant details.

This evening's case in point:

George Jones - A Good Year For The Roses (buy)

The author of this tune is Jerry Chestnut, who in 1996 was elected into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall Of Fame. The performer, of course, is the great George Jones, as fine an interpreter of country songs as has ever lived.

I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick
On the cigarettes there in the ashtray
Lyin' cold the way you left them,
But at least your lips caressed them while you packed

And a lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee
That you poured and didn't drink
But at least you thought you wanted it
That's so much more than I can say for me

It's been a good year for the roses
Many blooms still linger there
The lawn could stand another mowin'
Funny, I don't even care
When you turned to walk away
As the door behind you closes
The only thing I know to say
It's been a good year for the roses

After three full years of marriage
It's the first time that you haven't made the bed
I guess the reason we're not talking
There's so little left to say, we haven't said

While a million thoughts go racing through my mind
I find I haven't spoke a word
And from the bedroom the familiar sound
Of our one baby's cryin' goes unheard


Like the very best country songs, this one's slightly pathetic ("But at least you thought you wanted it; that's more than I can say for me."). As a married-with-children suburbanite, my favorite line is the one about the lawn needing "another mowing." I know the feeling. Suddenly such typically important tasks like lawn care don't matter anymore. But the lingering rose blooms represent a minor victory amid the chaos of the crying baby and the broken home.

Well done Mr. Chestnut and Mr. Jones.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Heart Blue Note Records

[Editor's note: I'm double posting this at Star Maker Machine as part of their "Record Labels" theme week. If you've already seen this there, then just skip down to the bottom of this post where I've added one extra track. If you haven't been to Star Maker Machine lately, you should go check out the other "Record Labels" posts, covering labels such as Twin/Tone, Apple, and Revenant. And while we're talking about posts elsewhere, I think you'll like what's happening over at Groover's Paradise, which is my latest blogging endeavor.]

Blue Note Records
is one of the preeminent labels in jazz history, known mainly for its hard bop releases, a style that combined bebop with elements of soul and R&B. Blue Note recording artists include Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, and Donald Byrd.

As great as the music was, Blue Note is perhaps equally lauded for its contribution to the graphic arts. Cover artist Reid Miles developed a distinctive style that used black and white photographs with limited color palettes to great effect. There simply aren't any cooler album covers. See more here and here. Now enjoy some great jazz music!

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Moanin' (buy)

John Coltrane - Lazy Bird (buy)

Jimmy Smith - Back At The Chicken Shack (buy)

This last one's "hugely" angular, but it works, especially on a warm, rainy night:

Eric Dolphy - Stright Up And Down (buy)

What is your favorite Blue Note cover?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sorry You're Sick

Well folks, that's it for the drinking songs. Another box checked off the STWOF to-do list...

I know I missed some good ones, but I'm all out of booze (and out of steam), so the rest will have to wait for another day. Right now, I just need some sleep!

Until we meet again, enjoy these tunes:

Ted Hawkins - Sorry You're Sick (buy)
Lefty Frizzell & Johnny Bond - Sick, Sober & Sorry (buy)
George Jones - Heartaches & Hangovers (buy)
Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down (buy)
Hank Thompson - Hangover Tavern (buy)

I'll be back when the cuckoo wails and the lonesome blue jay cries...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

You know what to do.

The Pogues - The Parting Glass (buy)
The Pogues featuring The Dubliners - The Irish Rover (buy)
The Dubliners - Whiskey In The Jar (buy)
Liam Clancy - All For Me Grog (buy)
The Clancy Brothers - Finnegan's Wake (buy)

This one's too good for just one version:

The Clancy Brothers - The Parting Glass (buy)

Today's drink, of course

Monday, March 16, 2009

Photostory: Georgia In A Jug

Johnny Paycheck - Georgia In A Jug (buy)

Mason jars on the dresser filled with dollars and quarters,
Savin' em' for our trip around the world,
But now that you changed your tune, there'll be no honeymoon,
So tonight I'm going there without you girl...

I'm going down to Mexico, in a glass of tequila

Going down to Puerto Rico, in a bottle of rum

Going out to Honolulu, in a Mai Tai mug

Then I'm coming back home to Georgia, in a jug.
We'll never ride that bus to Mexico City, that's a pity

We'll never sail our ship into old San Juan

You'll never walk with me, on the beach at Waikiki

And we'll never share that brick suburban home

Today I'm taking that money out of that jar
Tonight I'll by my "ticket," at the corner bar...

* * * * *

Here's another version that I enjoy.

Read about it before listening:

Eugene Chadbourne - Georgia In A Jug (buy)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Whiskey whiskey on the shelf, you were so quiet there by yourself...

Things were fine 'til they took you down, opened you up and passed you around.

When the talk turns to drinking songs, Wynonie Harris is a name that can't go unmentioned. Harris was a blues "shouter" who recorded in the 1940s and 1950s. His upbeat jump blues style (which didn't shy away from sex and booze) was an important precurssor to rock and roll. My eyes were opened up to Wynonie through coverage on Big Rock Candy Mountain (a great blog). Here are some of my favorites:

Wynonie Harris – Quiet Whiskey (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Don't Take My Whiskey Away (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well? (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Drinkin' Sherry Wine (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Wine Wine Sweet Wine (buy)

Enjoy your Wynonie Harris with whiskey and wine, of course.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tonight in a bar alone I'm sitting...

If I were sent to a deserted island and was told that, for music, I could bring only the complete catalogs of two artists, I'd probably pick two Bobs: Dylan and Wills. Each has a catalog that is deep, varied, and capable of holding up well after repeated listens.

(If a third artist were offered, I might take Miles, but that would mess up the Bob theme. Which two or three artists' catalogs would you take?)

The point is that the Texas Playboys' music is near and dear to my heart. Tonight's post features two great versions of one of my favorite Bob Wills' songs, which also happens to be about drinking, at least indirectly:

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys – Bubbles In My Beer (buy album)

One more time:

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys – Bubbles In My Beer (buy album)

Drink it all in... With a beer, of course.