The Freelance Mentalists.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
 
Don Allred's Country 07 Comments Pt. 4
Go way into town, but only to where the streetlights haven't been shot out yet,
and in the nimbi of yon streetlights, amidst the mists, behold Miz Pam
Tillis, with her big, dark green eyes, her long, dark brown hair, her
small, calm, brave face (cute not zombie, yet almost totally
re-constructed after a wild child car crash at 16, as she'll tell
you).On Rhinestoned, her A-list Nashville Cats provide the perfect
settings for lush, overcast, ruefully lucid musings, not too
chairbound, either: "Life has Sure Changed Us Around" is a chance (?)
encounter with John Anderson on the sidewalk, musical traffic going
about its business (oh baby), as they get het up and cautiously check
each other out, while referring to days and nights when they were much
younger, much less responsible (or with much fewer responsibilities).
Followed immediately by "Someone Somewhere Tonight," as she suddenly
sits up, all too awake, and sees very far in the dark (whoever she's
talking to is probably sleeping like a baby on the next pillow, and
not like it's a ballad of bravura pathos to wake his ass up, she knows
better than to believe in such). But it's my idea of what a pop
country hit album should sound like, one idea anyway, aothough
ultimately she's maybe too much the victim; should turn the tables
and/or have more ambiguity, ambivalence at times (though there is one
where she's mentally explaining to a guy that she's always been the
one left behind, and now she doesn't seem that thrilled to find out
he's apparently not leaving; doesn't fit her expectations/plans). And
there are a lot of good variations on familiar themes, like a waitress
telling 'bout how she learned not to trust her car or her heart to a
certain someone, certain kind of anyone. Another good
should-be-more-popular pop country (with soap opry, somewhut proggy,
[but only like the early solo albums of Scott Walker, if he'd stayed
in the States] cowboy) album is that by Protest Hill, but don't get me
started, just check the link in Top Ten above, to review and
song-stream, please!
Past the possibilties of that "Band In The Window" Pam's intrigued by,
and those "Matches" behind the mirror Protest Hill's looking for
(well, in something that opens uplike a rusty little medicine cabinet,
the kind with old snapshots curled up behind the bottles with the
faded-to-invisible prescription labels), the cowboy-slash-farmer finds
a nice hallway, where Bobbie Nelson's AudioBiography rolls solo piano
every evening, with guest appearences by Willie's vocal and guitar,
with Jody Payne, second guitar on the first and last tracks. She does
a standard ballad ("Crazy," "Stardust," etc) then a boogie-woogie (or
related), but for the most part, it's the ballads that really get me
("Stardust"!), because of the way her momentum and lyricism reinforce
and build on each other. So she doesn't really need the up-tempo
stuff, but it's good too (keep the customers moving right through
Silver Ceety), and "Down Yonder" is certainly as much of a trip as I'd
always hoped, after reading Tosches and vainly searching for a
playable record of it by Jerry Lee's earthly inspiration, Del Wood
(hey Mr. T., I'd even settle for that "Psychedelic Mockingbird" of
hers you seem to warn us of).
Johnny Bush's Kashmere Gardens Mud: A Tribute To Houston's Country
Soul is just like it's billed: the poignantly straightforward title
track, memoir of a house that was bleak enough even before Mama left
Daddy (and the kids? He doesn't say—a kid who thought it was his fault
for the split?) is followed by several honky tonkers who gain by
"Kashmere Garden Mud" 's implied contextualization (can see that it's
the son or jilted husband, or maybe the runaway wife or her intended,
further down the line, who might be tossing down another, while
tossing off, "So I'll sail my ship alone, and if it goes wrong, I'll
blame it all on you.") But there's a tendency to old-school
enunciation and evenness of tone and cadence, to a formalism, which
can overtake the earned stoicism and poise. Despite and in part
because of his careful baritone (and the fact it is a baritone, so
gravitas sometimes seems like gravity, with no rainbows in any useful
place). Especially when applied to a museum jukebox full of chesnuts.
So yeah, A Tribute to Houston's Country Soul (including big band
blues, which he rides very correctly, tall in the saddle). And Willie
Nelson steals the show on "Send Me The Pillow," but Johnny's somehow a
little more evenly matched with the pre-Willie-quirky Floyd Tillman on
"They Took The Stars Out Of Heaven," and both tracks are def keepers.
Even more somehow 'bout it, Johnny and Willie's verson of "Pancho And
Lefty" gets me much more focussed on that song than the Willie's
previous hit take. Willie times Merle times Townes times Pancho times
Willie times Federales times Cleveland = too much charisma in one
track for plain ol' me. But Johnny's journeyman equivalent of this
"transparent prose" some speak of thins the atmospherics just enough
to clear my ears. And certainly the musicians (like Buddy Emmons on
steel guitar) do their bit: dig that jaunty stagger-step on "I'll Sail
My Ship Alone." And actually, the song-choices aren't all familiar,
but they're all apt: "I Want A Drink Of That Water" ("that He turned
into wine") syncretizes the Saturday night and Sunday morning themes
(not that the latter isn't usually closer to gentle regret than
outright repentance). Welcome in, it's one heck of a museum to sail,
at least (and Mr. Bush makes sure you won't have to sail it alone).
(Pt. 5, the last part, follows)
 
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