The Freelance Mentalists.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
  Speculations,Notes on Three Songs of the Year (07)
SPECULATIONS, NOTES ON THREE SONGS OF THE YEAR (07)

Robert Wyatt's "Cancion de Julieta": built on, travels on an upright
bass riff, which carefully adjusts itself, then tilts forward, like a
rocking horse that almost gets stuck on a surreal extention of a bent
(fifth?) some blues note or I should say blu-u-ues note, groaning a
little, deliberately distended, before the last note, before
therocking horse pilgrim tilts back into place. And Wyatt sings the
same melisma, much higher, like a little old man with a hole in his
head and the air pushing out and in, which is true of course, like a
little old man in a poem or a play, under the radar or trying to be
that way, in his mask (from Comicopera, and Wyatt explains he means
that album's title in the oldest school sense, the other side of
tragedy, but useful, a working piece of uniform), his parody, with the
well-timed well-pulled tear in his blues, giving just enough pause to
the listener (and even a sympathetic listener can stop listening if
the music seems too familiar, like this track never does; I keep
listening to hear what happens next, even though I "basically" or
schematically know, but it's the feeling of the listening experience
that matters here, like it always should). Also, it's not just a mask
etc in the defensive sense, or defensive in the wait for 'em to come
at you sense; the little old rocking horse rider isn't just finding
away to keep his place, he's somehow pushing forward, each repetition
of the basic riff brings some other sounds too, which suggest he's
breaking into something, pushing forward, into wreckage, the hull of a
galleon maybe (kind of an underwater moonlit quality). The bass player
is also using his bow, and overdubbing violins, scrabbling at the
push, in the push. (Wyatt also plays some kind of keyboard,
percussion, pocket trumpet, all in the arc and pull and push of the
sway of the note). "Un mar de sue-eh-eh, no. Un mar de tierra blanca,"
so not just aquatic and doesn't just sound aquatic, but like he's
entering the water, rocking back and forth and farward. Just another
sleepwalker? They can do a lot. Leading where all listeners might be
led toward making their own connections, if they want, to any possible
deeper waters. Either way, the song will keep going (not too earnest,
no time for that). It's just the damndest track, is all, first listen
every listen.
Sort of with the same effect is Ultra Living's version of Ornette
Coleman's "Skies of America." Composed for symphony orchestra, here
it's transcribed in 6/8 for three-part harmonies of guitars, then
saxes; bass and drums come to lead the way, eventually, maybe always.
Nothing like any Prime Time track I've heard, although to play
Ornette's themes you have to use his pitches, so to that extent sounds
like him, but the guitars are fuller, more detailed in texture than
Prime Time, and more single-minded than Blood Ulmer's playing with
Ornette, but they do have some of Blood's rattling, once they stick
it in. The saxes have a hard-won fatalism that gets dirgey at one
point, but keeps building poise without letting go of any blues, or
going bravura on us (well not too much). Not just about paying those
dues and maintaining your gnarly cool though, because the bass and
drums, like the opening guitars, are gouging steps in the side of
something, a ravine, judging by the size and shape of echo.
Engagement, and roughness and enlightment and skills chopping
roughness, finding its own way forward, like Wyatt's song. (This one
is from an Anthology Recordings reissue of Ultra Living's
Transgression, first released in 2000.)
Zigmat's "Turn Out," from their self-titled, self-released debut,
also finds its own way forward, maybe toward the edge or center or far
wall of another ravine. Female vocalist and new wave combo, but they
seem to have learned what Blondie once knew from 70s crossroad of
arena (call it metal emphasis, more than rhetoric) punk, disco and
pre-disco girl drama—not "diva," she sounds plainer than that, not
"girl group," not much overdubbed harmonies, she's alone. She's
blurting out her story, and I find it hard to keep up, but got some
sense of it the first time that keeps me going with her, trying to put
together something that's way too clear to her: starts out muttering
about "couture," a chance to work, "a glimpse, a spark," she sounds
avaricious for, "Another chance to start, another mistake," but at
least another, not just one more of the same. But the work she's got
"cut cut cut cut turn it out, you know I wish I was cured, I wish I
was cured! (Turn on turn on turn out.) You make me feel assured. (Turn
on turn on turn out.)" Sounds like she's reading directions aloud on
the paren parts, in contrast to louder, earnest, desperate phrases.
"Assured," as pronounced here, is an implied play on "asheared," as in
"cut," asssheared," she's a sheep for a pimp who's assuring her and
turning her out like she turns out the couture? Is she whoring for the
clothes? But she also is distressed that his parents and sibs are
alarmed by her, and she speaks at times like he's her meat, or her
salvation, or both, another drug.The accent figures in too (class, and
musical associations, with Miami Freestyle as well as the above, so
enough diva for that, skills-wise) Sort of A Place In The Sun, and
she's Latina cross-projection of poor-boy, disorientingly elevated
Cinderfella Montgomery Clift, and his problematic factory girl? (For
some out-of-his-depth/put-upon preppy pimp who's also running the
family garment business?) She seems way more trouble than that,
because maybe dangerous only to herself, or maybe not. But something's
got to give, like something's got to get. These are songs in flight,
but finding, gathering their own measures of resolution, of
confrontation, while so much music runs in place, bumping against the
padding of pattern mining, in performance and listening: I know you
rider, just get along now. These songs won't settle for that, and
won't let me wave them by either. Their game is "CATCH!"
Don Allred

 
Sunday, February 03, 2008
 


(2012update: re ancient links to reviews of James etc., Voice long since changed its template, Paper Thin Walls long gone)
DON ALLRED'S NASHVILLE SCENE COUNTRY BALLOT 2007
(with Comments Pt. 1)
TOP TEN COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2007
(Just in the order they come to mind)
1. Elana James: Elana James (Snarf)
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0720,tracker_writer,76272,.html
2. Jason Isbell: Sirens of the Ditch (New West)
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0737,tracker_writer,77190,.html
3. Charlie Louvin: Charlie Louvin (Tompkins Square)
4. Amy LaVere: Anchors & Anvils (Archer)
5. Various Artists: Endless Highway: The Music of the Band (429/SLG)
6. Oakley Hall: I'll Follow You (Merge)
7. Bettye LaVette: Scene of the Crime (Anti-) (see comments below)
8. Drakkar Sauna: Jabraham Lincoln (Marriage)
http://www.paperthinwalls.com/singlefile/item?id=505
9. Protest Hill: The City Echoes Our Hearts (Latest Flame) http://www.paperthinwalls.com/singlefile/item?id=653
10. Pam Tillis: Rhinestoned (Stellar Cat/Thirty Tigers)
TOP TEN SINGLES OF 2007
1. Johnny Bush and Willie Nelson: "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (Icehouse) (comments below)
2. Speck Mountain: "Girl Out West" (Burnt Brown)
http://www.paperthinwalls.com/singlefile/item?id=984
3. The Mendoza Line: "Tougher Than The Rest" (Glurp)
4. Gary Allan "Watching Airplanes" (MCA Nashville)
5. Bobbie Nelson: "Down Yonder" (Justice) (see comments below)
6. Carrie Underwood: "Flat on the Floor" (Arista)
7. Dwight Yoakam: "(I Don't Care) Just As Long As You Love Me" (New West)
8. Blue Cheer: "Young Lions in Paradise" (Rainman)
9. Life On Earth!: "After A Few Years We Settled Down, Got Kids and
Bought Our First Car" (Subliminal Sounds)
http://www.paperthinwalls.com/singlefile/item?id=840

10. The Raincoats: "Monk Chant" (Play Loud!) http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0724,allred,76904,22.html
BEST REISSUES:
1. Various Artists: Schultze Gets the Blues: Original Soundtrack
(Normal/Filmkombinat import)
2. Arthur Alexander: Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter (HackTone)(comments below)
3. Ananda Shanka: Ananda Shankar And His Music (Fallout)(comments below)
4. The Staple Singers: The 25th of December (Riverside)(comments below)
5. Various Artists: The Art of Field Recording Volume 1 (Dust-To-Digital)
MALE VOCALISTS:
1. Willie Nelson
2. Arthur Alexander
3. Gary Allan
FEMALE VOCALISTS:
1 Mavis Staples
2. Gretchen Lambert
3. Carrie Underwood
LIVE ACTS:
1. Willie Nelson
2. Michelle Shocked
3. Gretchen Lambert
BEST SONGWRITERS:
1. Jason Isbell
BEST DUO:
1. Drakkar Sauna
BEST GROUP:
1. Oakley Hall
2. The Sadies
3. Charlie Daniels Band
BEST NEW ACTS:
1. Speck Mountain
2. Sunny Sweeney
3. Fire On Fire (comments below)
Comments:
Honorable Mentions: Bobbie Nelson, AudioBiography (Justice); Johnny
Bush, Kashmere Gardens Mud (Icehouse); Charlie Daniels, Deuces (Koch);
Sadies, New Seasons (Yep Roc); Sunny Sweeney, Heartbreaker's Hall of
Fame (Big Machine); Various Artists, The Sandinista! Project
(Megaforce); Various Artists, Silver Monk Time: A Tribute to the Monks
(Play Loud!); Billie Holiday, Rare & Live Recordings: 1934-1959
(ESP-DISK) (comments on most of these follow)
Pisser: Ashley Monroe's Sony debut album, Satisfied, sent back for
fine-tuning, still unreleased, what, two years after the first or
perhaps last sessions? And somebody fumbled with her singles-- but
hopefully she's gotten some money from co-writing Carrie Underwood's
single, "Flat on the Floor," and Kellie Pickler's album track, "I'm
On My Way." Plus, she reports on her Myspace page that she's recently
written with or for Miranda Lambert, and indeed, "I have been writing
almost every day!" So maybe she'll be the next Matraca Berg or
Bobby/Bobbie Braddock, even if she doesn't get a chance to see how far
Satisfied's ghostown stalker-waif /diarist next door/grievous
hitchhiker-angel in the back of "Hank's Cadillac"might get, with an
officially issued ticket. ( Her good, if somewhat [appropriately]
subdued/abashed demo version of "I Can't Get Past You" is featured on
the Myspace page of her publisher, Wrensongs).
New Hope Partlow tracks, credited to the Love Willows, can be heard on
the Love Willows' MySpace page: unmastered excerpts, so far, and maybe
a little too buttery with the New Wave settings, but Hope's moody
pop-country lasso is sailing again (full-length songs from her '05
debut are on her own solo MySpace.) Thanks for Frank Kogan for the
tip.
Fire On Fire are added, with reservations, to this year's kiss-o-death
Best New. As with Oakley Hall, several members have disembarked from
heavier, freakier, rocker bands, and also like Oakley Hall, they have
a real and still sufficiently electric feel for deep hills of
ensemble, reverberant chamber psych-folk ballads. Unlike Oakly Hall,
they even have a sense of humor.A guy advises, "You've just got to
have someone, lay the right and pull the way…even the hangman has
friends. (female voice affirms, "oooo, lalala"-she might be interested
in being a friend). But several tracks on their self-titled EP have
really overloaded lyrics. Still, when Colleen Kinsella sings
lead,especially here and on their YouTube shots (oh man, wish I'd made
that wedding), all is groovy, as the sparks flie upward, and here's
hoping for their debut album, coming this spring, apparently.
A lot of no-show promos from Nashville this year, but it's all right,
I've just gone a little further afield than usual. For instance, The
Sandinista! Project: produced by Jimmy Guterman, covers of the
entire 3-LP set on 2 CDs, by Jon Langford & Sally Timms, Katrina of
Katrina And The Waves, Wreckless Eric, Camper Van Beethoven, Amy
Rigby, Jason Ringenberg & Kristi Rose, Steve Wynn, Willie Nile, Mikey
Dread, Sid Griffith's Coal Porters, Ruby On The Vine (feauturing
Myrna Marcarian of Human Switchboard), and a lot of people I never
heard of, many of whom also do some startlingly good stuff, so it's
not just Indie Big/Heard Of Name Placebo Effect, I don't think
(Although some of the no-name people are a little too reverent to the
wordiness of the texts or slowness of The Clash's own performances,
so it's not just lower case no name placebo effect either.) Feeling stuck in the spotlight and the perfectly sealed over image of rebellion,The
Clash tried to break on through to the para-punk world, much of it in living color, but they did so with the limited skill sets of themselves and their tiny coterie, for whole teeming subcontinents of soundmasses, dub etc. The Project's bands wisely delve into one song each. But such rich material, and it's not just,. maybe not mainly the writing, but the groove too, implied and/or realized, to whatever degree: The Clash's version of post-punk goes past the bounds of the recent trend,
yet loops through the experiments of Wilco and The Mekons, back
through the studio-as-instrument stuff to the country and punk phases,
back to Englishmen who were kids in the 60s, and their take on
skiffle, ska, various New Orleans (incl urban cajun), and rural parade
beats, and yeah nascent hip-hop, dub; but where The Clash's vocals and
production could blur into an atmosphere too thin and thick at the
same time, and too tenuous, technically(at least on the original vinyl
and cheap speakers), other artists have picked up where they left off,
without surpassing the basic strengths of these songs, which are
mostly rejuvenated here, and fairly often in a countryoid way. Not
just in terms of energy, or different drugs, but the Clashian
combination of stylistic elements, with transitions in and between
tracks, and the way the album loops back to pick up an earlier
approach, and develop it further (true in the original, but this trib
makes it clearer to me), and their characteristic combination of
seriousness and humor, linear development and dubwise ricochet,
kinetic mass and leaves of grass, as honored here in spirit and
appropriate adaptation, makes them sound at least as right and ripe
for the Double 0s as for the 80s. (Maybe not if this album had come
out in the 90s, which seemed like Austin Powers' preferred memory of
the 60s, at least for lucky millions; sucked to be other billions, but
there you go-go.) Example of how one track builds on another: was
thinking I'd like to hear more of that bluesy fiddle bouncing along
under Jon Langford and Sally Timms's "Junco Partner." Which is a much
better track, all the way through, than the perky-on-cue rhythm, I
mean "riddim" mocking Strummer's dry, take-it-or-leave-it emphasis got
to be (too conceptual, after more than a few minutes, it seems; we get
it already). But in a much quicker already, I'm wanting more from
Langford and Timms, cos this new version is so good, that they've
shown me could be even better.(After writing this, I realized that
the point is in the degree of restraint: the sly old partner knows
he'll never get out of his street beat alive). But then the very next
track does bring out the fiddle's blues and fun more, as Jason
Ringenberg and Kristi Rose get a lot more subtle than they usually do,
by winding with the fiddle, through the long lines of "When Ivan Meets
G.I. Joe," way after the pinball machines have been shut down, no
attempt to improveon 80s sound EFX here, just ease us through the
shadows, til we reach the international tough guy stuff , on passing
posters and screens, and start another turn. (This really seems like
the centerpiece of the whole Project, speaking of those time/style
loops, even though it's only Track 4.) Wreckless Eric's "Crooked
Beat" combines modern technology and 25 years of practice for inspired
woodshed electronics (which sound Orwellian in Bee Maidens' "Mensforth
Hill", like what's probing Winston and Julia's love nest, back in
1984, but also turns out to be the old man's story from "Something
About England," just recognizable as it [life and history] disappear
backwards over said hill, sucked in like spaghetti, or like gristle
between teeth, all of which is country enough for me.) The Lothars'
name might come from 60s' group Lothar And The Hand People, in which
Lothar was a theramin, because a whole patrol of are we not theramin
keep patrolling "The Call Up, " which is a bit like Devo's version of
"Workin' In A Coal Mine" and Neil Young's Trans, but eerier (and more
foregone, far-gone rural-industrial) than either. Speaking of
versions, Tim Krekel's "Version City" is the post-alt.country
mainstream-accessible triumph, pop train song with doppler shift
horns, like Mr. Krekel, a regular Kentucky-to-Music Row commuter,
probably is familiar with, and fans of Tim McGraw's rusty-vocodered
"Fly Away" really really should hear it too. Sally Timms & Jon
Langford return with "Version Pardner," which seems like mostly
acoustic dub, until tape Sallys sally back again, and one of her has
one hand waving free ("He-e-ey," even if she's still falling forward
and around with that ol' Partner man again).And that's just one more
upside down moment folded into a bouquet of dub, which is still just
trying to take country's ID crisis on a seismic cruise, oowee baby.
(Meanwhile, over on Silver Monk Time: A Tribute To The Monks, certain
mid-60s, ex-G.I., U.S. Midwest-to-Germania boneyard sparks get lured
and railroad-guitarneck-jerked through "Monk Chant" and 'round the
mountain by the Raincoats, as 5.6.7.8. spins "Cuckoo" into the peak
and on its beak.)
Neither of those albums sustains (or tries for) a country-related feel
(remember, can't get too conceptual) all the way through, that's why
they're Honorable Mentions. (Pt. 2 follows)
 
Saturday, February 02, 2008
 
Don Allred's Country 07 Comments Pt. 2
Ditto Billie Holiday's Rare & Live Recordings 1934-1959, clipped from
a thousand tapes, smokey and succinct, expressive and reticent,
brooding and shiny, romantic and austere, waiting for the right
connection, like the shadow of an old car, passing over whatever
condition the country road's in: however far the rest of the car may
or did make it, the shadow's still passing, still waiting. (And I'm
still listening: three discs in, several hours of my life, years of
hers, and she still doesn't sound mannered or wasted.)
But today I'm in the diner, finally getting what I'm always being
served, which is the nasality-as-gentle-astringency (previously
perceived as "an industrial-strength solvent"), the
everywhere-at-once, yet tastefully compressed hardshell hardsell: the
tirelessly, carefully flattened, signature hills of Sugarland. Today,
it's a little closer to home, like tabasco on a spud, which is home on
the range, the range of everyday, homely extremes. Can't remember the
name of the song, which is one of the ways I know I'm in Sugarland,
served up just right, by the shining morning face of Jennifer Nettles,
although that smiling busboy's hat has something to do with it too,
and today I'm glad to see them both.
Jason Isbell sounds to me like the offspring of Warren Zevon and
Eudora Welty, with both folks' appetite for words, beats, detail,
atmosphere, and hooks. But minus Warren's lapses into
"Carmelita"-style tearjerking, and plus a sense of justice for his
characters, of empathy, sympathy, distance (the last needed for
perspective, and for room to move on, to the next item on the docket,
and the menu). And nobody can find all that in his genes, or
anybody's.
Possibly doomed in part by heredity (cursed with tenacity, vitality
or at least endurance, under no matter how much stress), Bettye
LaVette's character on Scene of The Crime uses all the artist's own
post-nuclear cockroach tendencies (re improbable return to record bins
the past few years, and not even posthumously). She is one half of the
old school Thing That Will Not Die, one of those couples, probably
preserved in alcohol, who draw the world into their drama, for all the
world's the dark end of the street, and we are just players, so get
your helmet, for they're in LOVE. Except that she's not too
self-absorbed, or just enough, to be scared, when she sees what she's
about to do in another round of "Jealousy." Yet terror's just part of
another Happy Hour, like that laugh, that cough, that drunken listener
she's accosting, in "Old Talking Soldiers, " an Elton John song she
somewhat asymetrically transforms, typically enough. Ol' Doom making
the rounds, and the other shapes, stirring the pile: that's country;
creativity stirring the stirrer, that's country too (okay, art country
too, but tell it to John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, and get another
bar breath nebula from Bettye, with Spooner Oldham on the pianoforte,
Drive-By Truckers picking up).(Pt. 3 follows)
 
 
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)
 
 
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)
 
 
Don Allred's Country 07 Comments pt. 5
At my aunt's memorial service, the program included an
African-American-sounding hymn (ca. late 18th, mid-19th Century
transcription? Or later, probably, transcription-wise), "Come Away To
The Skies": "Come away to the skies, my beloved arise, and rejoice in
the day thou was born." Piano, vocals, slight trills, suggesting
wings. "Wast"? Never heard that, or any of this song before; amazing
(and graceful). She was once referrfed to as "the Dolly Parton of
classical and Baptist music." Meant as a compliment, and rightfully
so. Recalled the pastor, who also has a bluegrass band," She played
forte. A member complained, and she asked what she should do. Ah told
her, 'Play louder.' "
The Charlie Daniels Band's Deuces is Charlie's duets album, with his
stalwarts serving here as first-class bar band, hoisting a set of
covers and re-hashed personal chesnuts. No Z Z Top numbers, much less
guest shots, alas (see CDB's Tailgate Party for the former, and other
good cover versions)(for a contrast/compare session with Z Z and CDB's POVs, please see my "Sharp Blessed Men" archived at villagevoice.com) But "Jackson," with cool-wailin' Gretchen
Wilson, has a sleek stomp and kick, somewhut a la Z Z. Descending
porch bass notes are greeted by wristwatch-tapping rhythm guitar, in
"Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours," with Bonnie Bramlett. Even the
lesser tracks are rattled along by the characteristically, expertly
harnessed speediness, which sometimes gets looser and surfaces as
anxiety in his manifestos. But on this album, "Let It Be Me" (with
Brenda Lee) is more poignant for its briskness, its flexing: the
female duet partners, especially, know how to soothe him (and the old,
familiar songs) just enough, to bring out the brio over the
brittleness. Without undue earnestness getting in the way---like Vince
Gill does on "The Night The Drove Old Dixie Down." (Contrast with the
Allman Brothers Band's version on Endless Highway: they don't allow
themselves to solo much, much less over-emote—Gregg doesn't even
groan! But he's appropriately unhappy.) The Scruggs brothers whine
their way through "Maggie's Farm"; they should please shut up and
pick, like Daddy Earl does. Still, Charlie and Darius Rucker have a
fine time zinging the hapless, right through "Like A Rolling Stone,"
like Perez Hilton and Michael Musto with better material. The joke's
on Charlie in "Evangeline" ("I hear your laughter in the rain"), where
he's ably assisted by the Del McCoury Band (haven't yet determined
whether CDB also plays on the tracks featuring guest instrumental
chunks), and Del himself sounds swell, in homage to Elmer Fudd (a
supporting role, and he's fine with it, as always; suits him better
than solo spotlights). "What'd I Say" is filigreed with the curly
burly slightly furtive sub-Ray intonation of Travis Tritt's trivia;
"Daddy's Old Fiddle" doesn't have enough of Charlie's old fiddle or
Dolly Parton's old schtick (she's expressing interest like a
politician on an off day); "Long Haired Country Boy" is best of the
superfluous, with Brooks & Dunn clapping along and staying out of the
way of the song's long-lidded, don't-tread-on-me undercurrent. Charlie
don't "take a toke" here no more, but the line about the TV preacher
stays, despite his own return to the fold, and it foreshadows the
advent of "God Save Us From Religion," with Charlie's fellow deacon,
Marty Stuart. The title is the sumna of a "barroom philosopher,"
who's mainly building a castle of bottle caps, but Charlie and Marty
are surely with him. Charlie and Montgomery Gentry are all big,
high-strung, hit-the-note guys together on "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye,"
and finally, we get an actual instrumental, "Jammin' For Stevie," with
Charlie and Brad Paisley trading well-considered, enterprising guitar
stunts, proving that Southern Rock can still be more than a museum.
Nice vapor trails and aftervibes to end the album on a peak; as
Paisley would say, it (and at least 60 %of the CD) is "time well
wasted," to say the least. (I'm under-rating a little, in honor of Charlie's
currently evident allegiance to "Always leave 'em wanting more.")
PS: listening to a song on the radio: haven't quite yet got who's
doing what to whom, but it's a quietly shapely tune, passing through
stoned beauty, way under the saucer, under the formica tabletop, in
the slightly blurred, burred chorus, the soothing monotony, and Paul
Newman's just met Piper Laurie, they're sitting in a booth in a bar in
the gray daylight, and he's watching her talk just a little too
carefully, as she gets wasted (he's trained to watch people, no matter
what). Although she's dedicated to getting her courage up, stoned song
baby's been there done there. ("Morphine" something, by Gillian Welch
and David Rawlings, on a live broadcast; they're always better live,
breathing better, reaching, finding an audience in front of them, and
something else I can't see, can Paul? Does it and how does it matter,
considering what will happen? It makes some kind of difference,
differences, to the audience, while the scene continues, and sometimes
after the show's over)(ebba debba th-th-th-that's all foldkz!)

.

 

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