Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Got the tombstone blues

Tempus fugit. This day in 1971, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, just weeks before his 25th birthday. Brother Duane was a true master of the slide guitar. In his honour, here are two marvellous tracks from one of my fave Allman Brothers Band boots.

Allman Brothers Band - Trouble No More (live A&R Studios, New York 26-8-´71) MP3
Allman Brothers Band - Don´t Keep Me Wondering (live A&R Studios, New York 26-8-´71) MP3

On a different note: enjoy this blog while you still can. The music blogosphere is under attack at the moment; read all about it in this post over at Setting The Woods On Fire. Paul of that blog is both a lawyer and an American; he tells it much better than I ever could. Yesterday, those friendly people at Blogger bluntly removed a post of mine from Star Maker Machine. A post about a song by blues master Mississippi John Hurt, from the twenties, which came complete with a link inviting everyone to buy the album... 

Other music bloggers had the same problem with the so-called Digital Millennium Copyright Act the last few days. For some reason, the record industry is blind to the fact that blogs like this one actually make people go out and buy albums... If this goes on, I cannot do anything else but throw in the towel. Here´s hoping the whole thing blows over soon, but somehow I doubt it. So me? I´m in the kitchen. With the tombstone blues.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your friend, Bobb

It´s surely a mark of genius when you put the following text on the back of your album (and in 1980 at that!): ´Dear John, Paul, George and Ringo, if I´m a good boy and work real hard, may I please be the 5th Beatle someday. Your friend, Bobb.´ Thanks to a recent short but intriguing post over at the Starmaker Machine blog, I recently discovered Bobb Trimble, a typical outsider artist.

Wikipedia has a fine definition of outsider music for us. "Outsider music are songs and compositions by musicians who are not part of the commercial music industry, who write songs that ignore standard musical or lyrical conventions, either because they have no formal training or because they disagree with formal rules. This type of music, which is often bizarre and emotionally stark, has few outlets; performers or recordings are often promoted by word of mouth or through fan chat sites, usually among communities of music collectors and music connoisseurs. Outsider musicians usually have much ´greater individual control over the final creative´ product either because of a low budget or because of their ´inability or unwillingness to cooperate´ with modifications by a record label or producer." Prime examples of outsider artists are Daniel Johnston (see my previous post), Florence Foster Jenkins, Skip Spence, Syd Barrett and The Shaggs.

A small town kid from Worcester, MA., Trimble sure fits that category very well. He played in a band in high school, wrote a couple of songs and when he was 22 years old, walked into a studio one day in 1980 and recorded the bulk of what turned out to be Iron Curtain Innocence. Luckily the engineer, a certain Don Christie, dug what Bobb was after and added many a fine effect tot Trimble´s songs. The result: intense neo-psychedelica, clearly influenced by the Beatles and Syd Barrett´s Pink Floyd, but also bringing Peter Hammill or Robyn Hitchcock to mind at times. When The Raven Calls is a fine example of that session. "When the raven calls, that´ll be World War 3..." Heavy stuff. But the fragile One Mile From Heaven, which was recorded at an earlier session and with a lot less sound effects, to me is the absolute highlight of the album. The impressive Killed By The Hands Of An Unknown Rock Starr (note the double R; this guy really had a Fab Four fixation...) stems from that time as well.

Trimble had about 300 copies of Iron Curtain Innocence pressed, but found there wasn´t a lot of interest in his particular brand of music at the time. Over the years, its legend slowly but surely grew though, and at one point vinyl copies went for ridiculous prices on Ebay when Bobb decided to sell the remainder of them, probably straight from a dusty box under his bed. A few semi-bootlegs did the rounds until Secretly Canadian records finally did the right thing in ´07 and released a proper version of Iron Curtain Innocence, with 3 home demo´s added on. Trimble made one more album by the way, Harvest Of Dreams, with a band called the Kidds (which was indeed made up of 12 and 13 year old kids), which I´m sure to be hunting down soon.

Bobb Trimble - One Mile From Heaven (Long Version) MP3
Bobb Trimble - Killed By The Hands Of An Unknown Rock Starr MP3
Bobb Trimble - When The Raven Calls MP3

Friday, October 24, 2008

Evol Yenoh - the Burt Walters story

Burt Walters was discovered by upcoming reggae producer Lee ´Scratch´ Perry when singing barefoot on the streets of East Kingston, Jamaica. Not much is known about him, although he is said to have been somewhat unstable mentally. In ´68 Perry produced two tracks by Walters and released them on his brand new Upsetter label. The Drifters cover Honey Love is ok but nothing to write home about really, but flipside Evol Yenoh provides a stunning example of Scratch´s budding revolutionary genius. By simply playing the entire vocal track backwards over the same rhythm, Perry creates something very special. It´s bizarre but it works, and I´ve never heard anything even remotely like it. Walters sounds like he´s singing in tongues, or has just been flown in from some faraway planet. Burt phone home: very spooky indeed. It´s funny to note that where Honey Love is credited to McPhatter/Wexler, and rightly so, Perry claims the writing credits for the B-side for himself...

To complete the Burt Walters story: Perry later released one more track by Walters, on the flip of his own People Funny Boy hit. His take on Blowing In The Wind must be one of the funniest Dylan covers ever. The wind doesn´t blow, it howls like a hurricane in the background. I bet you a bottle of Red Stripe that Scratch had just discovered the wind effects button there... As far as I know, Walters drifted straight back into obscurity after this outing, never to record another note. Find these tracks - together with many more early Perry gems - on the People Funny Boy compilation (Trojan records).

Burt Walters - Honey Love MP3
Burt Walters - Evol Yenoh MP3
Burt Walters - Blowing In The Wind MP3

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walk with me in the morning dew

I don´t know if anyone here has read The Road, the most recent novel by one of my favorite authors, Cormac McCarthy? An incredibly bleak but very moving account of a father and son travelin´ down the road in a post-apocalyptic landscape after a nuclear showdown. Soon to be a motion picture, I guess only one song fits as the perfect theme song. And that´s Morning Dew, a fine piece of cold war paranoia written by folk singer Bonnie Dobson in ´62. In an interview she once remarked her song was based on a movie too by the way: On The Beach, a ´59 flick starring Gregory Peck, and based on the novel by Nevil Shute.

"Take me for a walk in the morning dew my honey, take me for a walk in the morning sun my love... You can´t go walking in the morning dew today, you can´t go walking in the morning sun today...." Bonnie´s version is apparently a live take, but that´s often said to be fake. Whatever the case, she sounds extremely vulnerable here. "Won´t you tell me where have all the people gone? Oh don´t you worry ´bout the people anymore..."

The first ones to cover Dobson´s composition were Greenwich Village folkies Fred Neil and Vince Martin, who rearranged it for their Tear Down The Walls album (´64). A nice interpretation, though just a little bit too stiff. Singer/songwriter Tim Rose based his ´66 cover of Morning Dew on the Neil version and added himself as a co-writer in the process. Through a loophole in American law, he even managed to get royalties this way. Bonnie Dobson has always protested this, but hey, what can you do... Fact is that Rose´s menacing full-band version has a lot of power. "What they were saying all these years is true, ´cause there´s no more morning dew..."

Subsequently, Morning Dew has been covered by loads of bands: Nazareth, Jeff Beck, and the Allman Brothers to name a few. The Grateful Dead´s jam version is probably the most well known. Goes on for ages too... Lee Hazlewoods take is interesting, especially because of that swirling psychedelic piano. But the only interpretation since Tim Rose that really blows one away must be credited to German noisemeisters Einstürzende Neubauten. Listen to their Morning Dew (from ´87) and you can almost hear the four riders of the apocalypse approaching... Blixa´s guitar is sharp as a razor here. If I directed The Road, I´d play the Neubauten version as a starter, and Rose´s one when the credits finally roll.

Bonnie Dobson - Morning Dew MP3
Fred Neil & Vince Martin - Morning Dew MP3
Tim Rose - Morning Dew MP3
The Grateful Dead - Morning Dew (live ´73) MP3
Lee Hazlewood - Morning Dew MP3
Einstürzende Neubauten - Morning Dew MP3

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Mosby Show

Over at the excellent Setting The Woods On Fire blog, Paul recently drew my attention to a hot honky tonk duo I hadn´t heard of before: Carl and Pearl Butler. They recorded the original of We´ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning, that great song later made famous by Gram and Emmylou. Paul´s got two tracks up (check them out here) and I´ll add one more: Don´t Let Me Cross Over, their first release as a duo and a big hit in ´62. A real discovery.

But then we move on to the other twosome on the cd I just bought, Best Of Butler & Mosby - A Family Affair, which is Johnny and Jonie Mosby. They´re not as sharp as the Butlers, but it´s clear they weren´t called Mr. and Mrs. Country Music in their heyday for nothing. Jonie met Johnny when she auditioned for his band in Los Angeles back in ´56, and before she knew it she had landed both a job and a husband. 

They enjoyed many a hit - the Harlan Howard-penned Don´t Call Me From A Honky Tonk was the first in ´63 - until they split up in ´73. We can only hope their divorce proceedings went just a little bit smoother than the ones pictured in their wonderful courtroom drama Who´s Been Cheatin´ Who... "The custody of the family will go to me or you, but in the end it´ll all depend, on who´s been cheatin´ who..."

A nice piece of country trivia for last: in ´92, Jonie Mosby became famous once again as the oldest woman in the US known to have given birth to an in vitro-fertilized baby. She was 52 at the time.
Carl and Pearl Butler - Don´t Let Me Cross Over MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - Who´s Been Cheatin´ Who MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - Don´t Call Me From A Honky Tonk MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - How The Other Half Lives MP3

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Summer Live Adventures pt. 2: Dylan (Of Course)

It was a long and hot, but very scenic drive from my home town to the fair city of Cuenca, where Dylan would perform yet another concert in the umpteenth leg of his Never Ending Tour on the first of July. In Estadio La Fuensanta to be precise, the pretty ramshackle but funky local football stadium. Dylan was in a good mood and in fine form throughout, with the songs from his last studio album Modern Times as stand-outs by far. And that´s probably because he recorded these with exactly the same group of musicians he´s touring with. Not a bad bunch btw, but I have to say they don´t really do it for me on the whole. Bass player Tony Garnier is always ok in my book (hey, he´s played with Dylan without interruption since ´89, the guy´s practically a legend), but I miss the fluid creativity of - for instance - the Charlie Sexton/Larry Campbell line-up. Compared to them, the current trinity of Denny Freeman, Stu Kimball (both on guitar) and Donny Herron (pedal steel, banjo and violin) sounds just a little too bland.

Halfway through the concert the beer ran out. In most European countries this would cause a full-blown riot, but the Cuenca crowd just shrugged and hit the harder stuff. Way cool. They served enormous whiskeys for two beer tokens only... Around that time, Dylan performed a majestic version of the old warhorse Masters Of War, a song that will never lose its relevance I´m afraid. "You play with my world like it's your little toy, you put a gun in my hand and you hide from my eyes, and you turn and run farther when the fast bullets fly."

I saw Dylan lots of times (and in six different countries, a tally that surprised me too) and this wasn´t the most memorable one artistically, but a grand time was had by all. And let´s face it: to be in the presence of the ´poet laureate of rock ´n´ roll´ is always something special. Next time he plays within reach I´ll see him again of course.

Bob Dylan - The Levee´s Gonna Break (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3
Bob Dylan - Rollin´ And Tumblin´ (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3
Bob Dylan - Masters Of War (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Food Is Good

Had a delicious lunch today in what´s probably my favorite eatery in all of Barcelona: La Freiduria de Pauli, a mere five minute walk from my home. Started out with my Catalan dish of choice, fideua, which is basically noodles in a paella stylee, eaten with that great garlic sauce called allioli. Main course was grilled merluza, which translates as hake, a lovely fish indeed. Wash that down with some dry white wine and... did I mention I was sitting outside? 24 degrees centigrade and plenty sun today, not too shabby... The accompanying song by that great California punkband the Descendents is shorter than the time it took me to finish my café solo, but just as strong.

Descendents - I Like Food MP3

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Summer Live Adventures Pt. 1: Waits

Got a little catching up to do after my blogging hiatus, so here goes. Saw two great gigs this summer. First one was Tom Waits in L´ Auditori Del Forum, a rather plush concert hall with pretty good acoustics in the northern outskirts of town. Barcelona had been waiting for Waits for ages, and it showed. People were already visibly excited standing in line... Lots of beatnik hats and goatees around too.

With a minimum of stage props, a very simple lightshow and a great band which included his son Casey on drums, Waits had everybody eating out of his hands from the get-go. The ridiculous ticket prices were soon forgotten by all when Waits worked his magic in a good mix of old and new material. One of the best shows I´ve ever seen, and that´s saying something, believe me.

Many thanks to the taper of course, but the audience recording of this show doesn´t even remotely do it justice. I´ll Shoot The Moon (with Waits giving his telephone number in Spanish and a wonderful sax solo towards the end) and a particularly impressive Hold On still sound pretty cool though. Check ´em out. Great souvenirs of a night I won´t soon forget. Stay tuned for pt. 2 in this series: Dylan in Cuenca.

Tom Waits - I´ll Shoot The Moon (live Barcelona 15-7-´08) MP3
Tom Waits - Hold On (live Barcelona 15-7-´08) MP3

Saturday, October 11, 2008

32-20 Blues vs. 22-20 Blues

I´m all immersed in the new installment of Dylan´s Bootleg Series at the moment. Another treasure trove from the archives, with quite a few songs even hardcore Dylan collectors hadn´t heard before. Dreamin´Of You, Marchin´To The City, Mary And The Soldier, Red River Shore, Can´t Escape From You... Very very nice. By the way: as so many other Bobcats I know I bought the 2 disc version and downloaded the - ridiculously priced - third disc somewhere. If Sony might ever decide to release the third disc on its own with a more or less normal pricetag, I´ll be the first to pick up a copy.

Anyway, one of the tracks on Tell Tale Signs that immediately caught my fancy was 32-20 Blues, an interesting leftover from the ´93 World Gone Wrong album. Heavy lyrics, sung with conviction: "If I send for my baby, 
man, and she don't come... all the doctors in Hot Springs 
sure can't help her none... If she gets unruly, thinks she don't wan´ do... take my 32-20 now and 
cut her half in two."

Writes Larry ´Ratso´ Sloman in the booklet accompanying Tell Tale Signs: "In Dylan´s memoir Chronicles - Volume One, he describes the staggering impact Robert Johnson had on him when he began to write songs. Here, for the first time, we have an official release of Dylan singing Johnson. The track reminds us of what a great white blues singer Dylan remains. ´Ah baby, where you stayed last night?´ cuts to the bone and makes the imminent use of his 32-20 all the more believable."

Ok, I´m with you, Ratso, but... 32-20 Blues is of course Robert Johnson's version (from ´36) of the song Skip James wrote and recorded in ´31 as 22-20 Blues. Johnson changed the reference to Wisconsin throughout the song to Hot Springs, Arkansas, except in the third from last verse, where he forgot to do so and used Skip's original lyric instead. A good example of an early case of ´Love & Theft´... Why not mention this fact? Sloman should know. And I´m pretty sure Bob knows... His publishing company isn´t called Special Rider Music without reason. Yup, that´s after Special Rider Blues, by the same Skip James.

Skip James - 22-20 Blues MP3
Robert Johnson - 32-20 Blues MP3
Bob Dylan - 32-20 Blues MP3
Skip James - Special Rider Blues MP3

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bonnie Does Bob

Over at Star Maker Machine, a music blog to which I´m a proud contributor, the theme of the week is Dylan covers. Now we all know nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, as the old slogan from his record label famously proclaimed, but that sure doesn´t mean all Dylan covers are superfluous. Jimi´s All Along The Watchtower is the most fitting example of this theory of course, but let´s not forget the Byrds, Fairport Convention or all the indie acts who contributed to last year´s impressive She´s Not There soundtrack.

Dylan´s influence on the music of Bonnie Prince Billy has always seemed obvious to me, but so far he only covered His Bobness two times in the studio, both for last years Lay & Love single. Somehow I´ve got the feeling that these were originally recorded for the soundtrack of the aforementioned She´s Not There movie, but then again I haven´t got a clue why they weren´t used eventually, as they´re both top notch.

Señor (the original is found on the underrated Street Legal album from ´78) gets a very serious, intimate treatment, which fits the song very well. Dark, stark and way different from Dylan´s own gospelly version, which is exactly what I like in a good cover. Going To Acapulco (from The Basement Tapes) is a way over the top interpretation of what is a rather wacky song in the first place. Featuring trombone, tuba, sax and clarinet, no less. ´Well it´s a wicked life but what the hell... everybody´s got to eat and I´m just the same oh! as everybody else, when it´s comes to scratching for my meal.´ Great fun.

I also checked the database over at the ubercool BPB Royal Stable fansite and found that the Louisville bard played a grand total of three Dylan songs in concert so far: Minstrel Boy, Is Your Love In Vain? and New Pony. Haven´t got the first ones alas, but I can provide a fittingly ramshackle version of the bluesy New Pony (also from Street Legal incidentally, Oldham must love that album), recorded live on September 2, ´94 in Het Patronaat in Haarlem, Holland. A show I was lucky enough to see btw. ´I got a new pony, she knows how to foxtrot, lope and pace...´ Oh yes. Good memories.

Bonnie Prince Billy - Señor MP3
Bonnie Prince Billy - Going To Acapulco MP3
Palace Brothers - New Pony (live in Haarlem ´94) MP3

Stop press: thanks to reader Marius writing in, we now have a fine live version of Will doing Is Your Love In Vain? The original can also be found on Street Legal. The completist in me is wide awake now: has anyone got a version of Minstrel Boy?

Will Oldham - Is Your Love In Vain? (live unknown location ´00) MP3

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back In Your Life...

A.k.a. the boy is back in town. Yup, I´ve finally returned from my summer hibernation... Sorry I´m a little late, had a great time thank you very much. Now it´s back to the grindstone of the blogosphere to bring you loads of musical goodies I just know you´ve been craving. Stay tuned, many a great tune in the pipeline.

Let´s start off with the first song from the Mega City Four´s excellent Tranzophobia debut (´89). Short but sweet, as punkpop should be. Start!
Mega City Four - Start MP3

Next up is good old Jojo, with that great title song from his Back In Your Life album (´79). ´What once was a puppy is now a dog, what once was a piglet is now a hog´. The man´s a genius, ain´t no denying.
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - Back In Your Life mp3

The best rockband ever to come out of the Emerald Isle was of course Phil Lynott´s Thin Lizzy. Boys Are Back In Town just can´t be beat, no matter how many times you hear it. Find it on the Live And Dangerous album (´78).
Thin Lizzy - Boys Are Back In Town MP3