Monday, October 31, 2011
When I was younger, so much younger than today, my musical pantheon consisted of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. The fourth artist to make it into that exclusive club was Elvis Costello, whose spitfire singing and melodic range and sneering Buddy Holly persona were like a rock star I would have created in a science laboratory if I had one. I was still at the peak of my Elvis Costello fanhood when the albums Imperial Bedroom and Punch the Clock came out, though the latter album probably marked the start of his decline from deity to talented artist.
Suzanne Vega and Ron Sexsmith are also very talented artists, and here they each cover a song from one of the aforementioned albums. Give 'em a listen.
Beyond Belief - Suzanne Vega (London, 6-1-90)
Everyday I Write the Book - Ron Sexsmith (McCabe's, Santa Monica, 10-12-96)
Sunday, October 30, 2011
As I've written here before, Crooked Still is the most exciting bluegrass band in the world today. This fall they're celebrating their tenth anniversary with the release of a new CD, Friends of Fall, and a west coast tour, followed by some dates in their native northeast. After that, they say, they'll be taking a hiatus in 2012 to work on individual projects. Singer Aoife O'Donovan, in particular, has a lot going on: she was on the Tonight Show last week with Yo-Yo Ma, and she sings two songs on his new Goat Rodeo CD, and she has previously recorded two CDs with the side project Sometymes Why. Is it wrong to hope that she won't become a huge star during her break from Crooked Still, and break up the band like Jenny Lewis did with Rilo Kiley? Listen to a couple of covers (Bob Dylan's "Oxford Town" and Paul Simon's "American Tune") recorded October 5 at Higher Ground in South Burlington, Vermont and decide for yourself. And if you get a chance to see them before they take their break, don't miss out.
Check their website for tour dates and to buy their new CD. Thanks to whynotus at etree for the recording. And don't forget to leave a comment below.
Friday, October 28, 2011
|Shawn Colvin with Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow at the 1998 Grammy's|
Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Don't forget to drop by the comments area to say hi so I know you came by.
Ah, the Kinks. Who doesn't love the Kinks? What we have here is a 1977 radio appearance by lead Kink Ray Davies, chatting and playing a few of the band's songs on the DJ's acoustic guitar. Ray appears to be either jet-lagged or substance-lagged, but his mellow state only adds poignance to a brilliant off the cuff performance.
Thanks to Dave at Dime for sharing this long lost archival gem!
KFWD-FM 102 STUDIOS,
1-AD FOR APRIL 6 CONCERT
3-LIFE ON THE ROAD
5-WELL RESPECTED MAN
6-HERE COME THE PEOPLE IN GREY
7-20TH CENTURY MAN
8-ACUTE SCHIZOPHRENIA PARANOIA BLUES
FM UNKNOWN LINEAGE
Monday, October 24, 2011
I had dinner with a couple of Canadians the other night, and mentioned I had been listening to Ron Sexsmith. They thought I was talking dirty or something. Apparently, even in his own country, Sexsmith is not that well known. It's a damn shame, because his lonesome, melancholy music is really great, and who doesn't get lonesome and melancholy sometimes? He even makes other people's music sound lonesome and melancholy, as he does on these three songs from the radio show Idiot's Delight with Vin Scelsa, recorded on August 15, 1995.
Crying, Waiting, Hoping
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
After you've enjoyed these, buy some of Ron records and go see him in concert. h/t to starsonesp for sharing.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Aoife (that's EE-fuh) O'Donovan is one of the Americana world's great singers. Her voice reminds me a little of Ben Webster's saxophone: her tone is pure and clear, but there is a hint of breathiness in there that adds emotion and authenticity to the sound. I've seen her with Crooked Still a couple of times and was blown away by the band's interplay and artistry, but it's O'Donovan's singing that makes them the most magnetic bluegrass group out there. Aoife is about to tour the west coast without Crooked Still, but with her friend Christina Courtin. Check out the dates and her cover of Neil Young's "Don't Let it Bring You Down" here: http://aoifeodonovan.tumblr.com/.
Below is her cover of Bob Dylan's gently apocalyptic "Farewell Angelina" and her own song "Too Repressed," played by her side project Sometymes Why, which features one of the most hilariously obscene lyrics you are likely to hear in a folk club. If you see her on tour this month, be sure to request it.
"Farewell Angelina" - Aoife O'Donovan and Chris Thile
"Too Repressed" - Sometymes Why
Thursday, August 4, 2011
As I mentioned earlier, Amy Winehouse passed away on the same day as the great folksinger Bill Morrissey. But my praise of Bill should not be taken as veiled criticism of Amy. Why veil criticism, after all? Frankly, I find "Rehab" to be one of those annoyingly catchy songs that gets stuck between my ears for too long whenever I hear it. Her other music made no great impact on me: I found her vocal style overly affected--it distracted me from the songs she was singing. And her personal problems were of no interest to me at all. On the other hand, I am a big fan of Bob Dylan, whose song "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" she covers here with Paul Weller and Sam Moore. And I am also a big fan of Emmy the Great, who was inspired by Winehouse's premature death to sing "Back to Black" at a recent coffee house show in her native Hong Kong (that's Emmy's native Hong Kong, not Amy's). So consider this my tribute to Amy Winehouse: she died too young, but will live on in our iPods.
The Mighty Quinn - Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller, and Sam Moore
Back to Black - Emmy the Great
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I went into a record store the other day--yes, they still exist--and at the cash register spoke to the clerk (a job I once held myself), who mentioned that Amy Winehouse's CDs had all sold out. I asked if Bill Morrissey's CDs were selling out too, and she replied, "Bill Morrissey?", obviously thinking I was referring to the Smiths singer by the wrong name. I said, "Yeah, he's a folksinger," and she said, "Oh, probably not then, we don't have much of a folk section." Reminds me of something Bill once said in concert: "Folk music is to be endured, not enjoyed." Bill's music doesn't make you want to dance or sing along like Amy Winehouse's does. Bill's music makes you think. And that explains their relative notoriety: a lot more people would rather sing and dance than think. Sometimes I wish I was one of them.
Anyway, here are a couple more live MP3s of my two favorite songs by Bill. "Last Day of the Last Furlough" got its title from one of J.D. Salinger's best uncollected stories; in the story the characters are about to go off to war; I guess maybe that's how Bill saw love. "The Man From Out of Town" is, to me, the best example of Bill's ability to write short stories in the form of songs. If a tribute album gets done, Steve Earle should do "Last Furlough," and Springsteen was born to sing "Man From Out of Town."
Last Day of the Last Furlough (1/6/1990, Iron Horse, Northampton, MA)
Man From Out of Town (5/17/2001, Barnstormers Theatre, Tamworth, NH)
Monday, July 25, 2011
As I detailed in my earlier post about Jeff Tweedy's I'm Not There outtake of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," I came into possession of a collection of MP3 rough mixes from that film while it was in production. Some of it ended up on the soundtrack, some didn't. And some of it was poorly labeled, including this version of "Highway 61 Revisited," which does not name an artist on the tracklisting. It is not the version by Karen O and the Million Dollar Bashers that is on the soundtrack: this version features a male vocalist. I have no idea who it is.
This is where you come in, dear (ahem) readers. Download it, give it a listen, and see if you can identify the artist in the comments section. The correct answer will be chosen by acclamation. First person to get it right gets the honor of being the first person to get it right. Good luck!
UPDATE: Apparently, this is Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth; the first person with the correct answer prefers to remain Anonymous (and probably Masked ).
Also included this time out is a cover of "In the Summertime" by reader Ron Freeman and his band the Revelators. It was recorded for a Dylan cover contest at the time of I'm Not There's release, but according to Ron the contest website disappeared before the prize was ever awarded. Anyway, it's pretty darn good, and a song (from Shot of Love) you rarely hear covered--so give it a shot (of love).
Highway 61 Revisited
In the Summertime
Sunday, July 24, 2011
But you could write an ironic novel tracking two characters like Winehouse and Morrissey, their divergent careers and their problems with substance abuse (Morrissey was an alcoholic). In the first chapter, they could be on the same airplane, her in first class, him in coach. Later that night, she plays Madison Square Garden and he's at the Bitter End. You could set another scene at the Grammy Awards, with Winehouse sitting front row, taking home a handful of trophies, while Morrissey (nominated for Best Folk Album for his Songs of Mississippi John Hurt) sits in the back and goes home empty handed. Near the end of their lives, she cancels an arena tour after a drug-addled, incoherent performance; he overcomes his alcoholism, deals with his depression, and goes on tour for a series of house concerts. Then, on the same day, she dies of a probable overdose, while he passes away in his sleep, his body simply shutting down.
Morrissey was one of my favorite folksingers: his albums Standing Eight and Inside were masterpieces of small town life and working class poetry. The song "Last Day of the Last Furlough" is one of the most heartbreaking ballads I've ever heard. I can't even listen to the song "These Cold Fingers" anymore; it's too damn painful when he has to put down his dog. He wrote an excellent autobiographical novel about a folksinger, Edson, that had the same virtues as his songs. His concerts were low key, intense, and occasionally very funny. I'm sad to learn he's gone, but glad to hear he was dealing with his issues and had found a measure of contentment in the last year of his life. On one of his later albums, he wrote a song called "Letter From Heaven" about the afterlife--let's hope he was telling it as it is:
“And me, I couldn’t be happier
The service here is fine
They’ve got dinner ready at half-past nine
And I’m going steady with Patsy Cline
And just last night in a bar room
I bought Robert Johnson a beer
Yeah, I know, everybody’s always surprised to find him here."
If you don't know his work, you should seek it out. You can start with these two live Dylan covers:
Thursday, July 14, 2011
These songs (as well as the picture of Gillian Welch) were taken down after I was served with a DMCA notice. It seems strange to me that Ms. Welch (and/or her emissaries) would find their inclusion detrimental, rather than beneficial, to her overall career, but there it is. Don't worry, Gill, I still love your music!
In honor of this great show, I dug up three Welch/Rawlings covers: "White Rabbit," Paul Simon's "Gone at Last" (originally a duet with the recently departed Phoebe Snow), and Bob Dylan's haunting "Oh, Sister" from 1976's Desire.
P.S. If you dig Gill but aren't familiar with Crooked Still and singer Aoife O'Donovan, check out my recent post Aoife Sings Simon and the Stones; you'll be a convert.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Emmy the Great's new album, Virtue, is my favorite album so far this year, just as her debut, First Love, was my favorite of 2009. Emma-Lee Moss, the woman behind the humorously grandiose name, has a voice of breathtaking, bell-like clarity, and her songs are wildly imaginative, emotionally incisive, and melodically gorgeous. Emmy also enjoys playing the occasional cover song: below is a version of Sleater-Kinney's "Modern Girl," performed on the BBC with Tim Wheeler of Ash.
By strange coincidence, this song originally appeared on Sleater-Kinney's album The Woods, and Emmy has a song called "The Woods," the 2006 demo of which is also below. Perhaps not so coincidentally, this song has the feel of a fairy tale, and fairy tales are also an inspiration for much of Virtue. Now that we've come full circle, you may enjoy the music.
Modern Girl - Emmy the Great
The Woods (demo) - Emmy the Great
There is a cool video of the official version of "The Woods" on You Tube, featuring Lightspeed Champion. Check it out before or after you buy a copy of Virtue.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Aoife O'Donovan (she's the one in the middle) grew up in the Boston suburb of Newton, but her voice evokes the wide-open spaces of rural America. While her band, Crooked Still, is a virtuoso string combo as good as any in the Newgrass movement, Aoife (pronounced EE-fuh) has crossover star potential: she projects an airy, unguarded intimacy that is equally gorgeous singing the old folk tunes her band specializes in, rock standards, and the original singer-songwriter material she performs in her side project, Sometymes Why.
Below are two tracks, a cover of Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" that she posted on her website, and a splendid Crooked Still live version of the Rolling Stones' "You Got the Silver" from the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington, Vermont, on May 20, 2010.
Hearts and Bones - Aoife O'Donovan
You Got the Silver - Crooked Still
After you've heard these two, search You Tube for Sometymes Why's hilariously steamy "Too Repressed," and treat yourself to a copy of the uncensored "Black Album" that features the original studio version of the song, not to mention Crooked Still's latest, Some Strange Country.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Levon Helm has lived quite a life. He founded Levon and the Hawks, then left the band when they were backing up Bob Dylan because he couldn't handle getting booed on a nightly basis. He rejoined the group at Big Pink and kept The Band's beat through The Last Waltz. He played Loretta Lynn's father in Coal Miner's Daughter. He reformed The Band and lived through the untimely deaths of Richard Manual and Rick Danko. He published an autobiography, This Wheel's On Fire. He survived throat cancer. He appeared as the old blind man in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. He got enough of his voice back that he started singing again, and began hosting all star Midnight Rambles at his home studio/barn.
Last March 12, while on tour with daughter, Amy Helm, and Donald Fagen he sang "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and "I Shall Be Released" at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey. His voice was ragged but his spirit was right. Give 'em a listen:
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
I Shall Be Released
Comments are encouraged.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Some background: in 2007, a good friend of mine was working on Todd Haynes' brilliant Dylan non-biopic I'm Not There. Knowing my intense interest in all things Dylan, she sent me a disc of MP3s (which were all she could get) containing rough mixes of music intended for the soundtrack, on the condition that I keep them to myself. As it turned out, much of this music wasn't used in the film or released on the soundtrack CD. Recently, I asked if it was okay to share now, and she said it was.
Jeff Tweedy's cover of "Simple Twist of Fate" made it onto the soundtrack; his version of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" did not, and I don't believe this outtake has made it into circulation; nor can I find any live Tweedy or Wilco performance of this song. It's a straight take-off of Dylan's original arrangement, with a typically sweet Tweedy vocal.
I'll be sharing other rarities, covers and the like in this space, so check back. Comments are encouraged and will help me gauge whether there is enough interest to keep this going.
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Jeff Tweedy
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Mother - Lou Reed
The second is a cover of the John Lennon/Yoko One classic "Woman is the Nigger of the World," played live at the Henry Ford Theatre in Los Angeles on July 6, 2003. If this were released today, it would be called "Woman is the N-Word of the World." That's why I love political correctness.
Sadly, RK seems to have split up, and neither Jenny Lewis nor Blake Sennett's subsequent work has been up to snuff. Come back, Rilo Kiley, all is forgiven! And Jenny, please wear your short shorts.
Jenny You're Barely Alive - Rilo Kiley (acoustic)
Woman is the Nigger of the World - Rilo Kiley (live)