The Freelance Mentalists.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
 
Don Allred's Country 07 Comments Pt. 3
Arthur Alexander's Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter features his
'60s Muscle Shoals/Memphis studio-rat compadres like Dan Penn, Donnie
Fritts, Reggie Young, and later A-list Nashville Cats like Gary
Nicholson. It's an aptly expanded reissue of his '93 comeback/farewell
album (he died soon after). According to the new notes included,
nobody had any idea how sick he was, certainly no evidence of it here,
unless you count the sometimes almost mystical way he contains pain
(not just of romance, turns out), but that's never far from the chill
of his lucidity, meeting the neon shadows of his rolling country blues
latin rock r&b vitality, that thing that
(Sam Cooke and Doc Pomus and Leiber & Stoller and early Charlie Pride
and Stoney Edwards and )Arthur passed along to some who covered his
songs, like Elvis, and the early Beatles, early Stones (Arthur's very
live versions of "Anna" and "You Better Move On,"recorded by the
Beatles and Stones, respectively, are among the bonus tracks) The Sir
Douglas Quintet, mid-60s Dylan, Johnny Rivers,also in shared some of
this sensibility(and even Neil Diamond: turns out Arthur's cover of
Neil's "Solitary Man" fits perfectly with his own songs, especially
the poise of the verses times the micro outburst of the bridge)but the
unself conscious ethnic inclusiveness of this meld ( of musical
connections already there for the making, of course) seems the more
startling when I read that the beaches in L.A., for inst, weren't
integrated til '63, even aside from the South (or South Boston, where
there were riots vs integration in the mid 70s) For whatever reason,
though younger artists have tried, this musical crossover sensibilty
was most convincing back then (seems like Bill Withers, Garland
Jeffrys, Bob Marley were the youngest to really represent and play it
forward). Arthur's idiosyncratic yet effortless way of stretching some
syllables to make them fit the groove, then suddenly almost stopping,
he's so intently flattening another word, but it fits too: that's like
Willie Nelson and Dylan too, but especially '50s/'60s Nelson's gothy
tonk conversations, with the reasonable way a guy in a bar might
suddenly introduce startling information and then leave you to fill in
the gaps, as he sways on towards the swinging doors (who was that
masked man?) The sway's just a bit toward menace, as he, "just a
brother from Arkansas," politely informs "Mr. John" that the brother's
fallen comrade didn't die with a grudge against the man who forbade
him to put a ring on the finger of "his baby" (The speaker is
persistant about wanting to see said "baby," referred to as his
friend's baby and Mr. John's baby, before he moves on)(I guess he's
leaving, but his tone makes me wonder where he's going and where he's
been, were he and his friend in some warfare that was sanctioned, and
if so by whom). Also, speaking of rings, he nobly declares that "Anna"
must go to the one she now loves, just as soon as she gives him back
the ring. (And he knows if she really wants to go, she's already gone.
He's sad, but he knows. So: she should listen and feel bad, then the
rock, please, and then adios).
Even more from Rejected Pitches:
Michelle Shocked's ToHeavenURide is a live set from Telluride, and
she didn't know it was being recorded, so maybe that's why it seems so
un-self-consciously stageworthy, so glidingly tensile (like the
Staples with the Hi Rhythm Section, but it's just Michelle and church
friends from L.A.). So enjoying the open air, without spacing on the
altitude. She and the other singers are a call-and-response community
that draws the audience in, to add more call and response, though not
to hadda-be-there extent; just occasional deft commentary and comments
and wisecracks, but noever sermons or tirades, or over-extended music
(Michelle knows she's no virtuoso, doesn't push her luck. Material's
not too familiar: Sister Rosetta Thorpe's "Strange Things Happening"
investigates everyday mysteries, applying twang as a ready instrument
and test, which fits with a re-worked "The Weight," as easefully,
miraculously non-anthemy as most Endless Highway: The Music of the
Band, but here there are also re-castings of "Wade In The Water," and
"Uncloudy Day," speaking of Staples Singers. Good tension and release,
in boom-boom and humor and other stuff, and might be a true sequel to
The Texas Campfire Tapes ; maybe all her albums should be live,
instead of the complicated studio projects.
12/07: Caroline Kennedy's new Christmas book includes a response
from JFK, to a letter from a little girl (hopefully also included in
Caroline's collection). She's worried about Santa getting nuked over
the DEW Line, apparently. JFK: "I just spoke to Santa, he's fine!
(Quoted by Barry Goldwater, during Cuban Missile Crisis: "So you want
this fucking job.") Ho-Ho-Ho, 1962 was a fine time to be a child, to
be anything! Like the hovering tremolo of Roebuck Staples' guitar,
of his, Mavis's, Yvonne's, and Pervis's blues gospel harmonies, with
spare usage of Maceo Woods' organ and Al Duncan's drums, on the Staple
Singers' re-issued The 25th Day of December. A moment of respite,
surveying what they're in the midst of : foreboding, knowing and some
joy; the pleasures of warmth in winter, and the clarity of its light,
even under solid cloud, where you'll also so behold the slowest,
spookiest, most savored-by-Mavis "Go Tell It On The Mountain" ever.
Get it while you can, though good to know they'd be around for quite a
while ( and Mavis had a Ry Cooder-produced set in '07; haven't heard
it, stupidly enough, but reliable sources say "Yay!") Their music
would take some creative and hit-making turns, too, but right now,
this is right, in a solstice way. Several p.domain songs I hadn't
heard, arr. by Roebuck Staples, who also carefully adjusts "Silent
Night" and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," Thomas Dorsey's "The Savior
Is Mine," and R.Staples/W. Washburn's "There Was A Star." (Pt. 6
follows)
 
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