Thursday, May 28, 2009

#38: Honey Bee

Playlist for Sunday May 31, 2009
Hosted by Greg Denton with guest K. Jane Burpee


1. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt & His Texas Ramblers

2. Honey In The Rock - Blind Mamie Forehand
3. Honey Dripper Blues No. 2 - Edith North Johnson
4. Sweet Honey Hole - Blind Boy Fuller
5. My Honey Lou - The Carter Family

6. Honey Love - The Drifters
7. Honey Bop - Wanda Jackson
8. Honey Hush - Big Joe Turner

9. Somebody's Stolen My Honey - Ernest Tubb
10. Honey Now - Gillian Welch
11. Honey Bee - Lucinda Williams

12. Honeymoon Blues - Robert Johnson
13. Gringo Honeymoon - Robert Earle Keen
14. Outlaw's Honeymoon - Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
15. Honeymoon On A Rocketship - Hank Snow

16. Land Of Milk & Honey - Luther Wright & The Wrongs with Sarah Harmer

Monday, May 18, 2009

#37: The Best Of The Worst Of Bob Dylan

Playlist for Sunday May 24, 2009
Hosted by Greg Denton with guest Arthur MacInnes


Born May 24, 1941. It's Bob Dylan's 68th birthday!
The old guy seems at the top of his game these days with a string of sharp new critically acclaimed albums that hold up strongly against, some say supersede, the best work he's ever done. We thought it might be a good occasion, and fun, to visit some of Bob's more questionable moments.

1. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt & His Texas Ramblers

2. Careless Love - Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash
Recorded in the CBS studios in Nashville Tennessee, February 17 & 18, 1969. Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan got together in the studio with a backing band that included Carl Perkins on guitar. The sessions were very very casual, mostly consisting of first run takes on songs never played together before. Though they attempted a couple of Dylan songs (this session's version of Girl From The North Country opens Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline' album) most of the songs are either from Johnny Cash's repertoire or other folk & rockabilly classics. Johnny sings lead for the bulk of the tracks, while Dylan sounds very tentative and often limits himself to awkward attempts at harmony. His idiosyncratic timing has never lent itself to duet singing and here just sounds ludicrously off. Johnny often has to prompt Dylan with the lyrics. Of course, the casualness is part of the charm of these recordings. Here's a couple of music history legends sounding like a couple of amateur hicks unwinding on the weekend over a few drinks, definitely unpolished but having a real good time.

3. The Boxer - Bob Dylan
4. Blue Moon - Bob Dylan
Two tracks from Bob Dylan's 'Self Portrait' Album released June 8, 1970. Though titled 'Self Portrait' (the title doesn't actually appear on the album cover but only on the spine), it's a double album of mostly covers of other people's songs with a few disinterested renditions of earlier Dylan songs mixed in. The only new Dylan original on the album, the opening track, doesn't even have Dylan singing but a chorus of female singers chanting for 3 minutes along with a string orchestra: "All the tired horses in the sun, how am I going to get any riding [writing?] done". Greil Marcus' famous review published in Rolling Stone magazine simply stated "What is this shit?"
Dylan's own account in his 2004 memoir, 'Chronicles Volume One', claims he was attempting a career suicide to gain respite for himself and his family from an overbearing and intrusive press and public: "People think that fame and riches translate into power, that it brings glory and honor and happiness. Maybe it does, but sometimes it doesn't. I found myself stuck in Woodstock, vulnerable and with a family to protect...intruders started to break in day and night. Tensions mounted almost immediately and peace was hard to come by...Moochers showed up from as far away as California on pilgrimages...rogue radicals looking for the Prince of Protest...gargoyle-looking gals, scarecrows, stragglers looking to party, raid the pantry...Each day and night was fraught with difficulties. Everything was wrong, the world was absurd. It was backing me into a corner...After a while you learn that privacy is something you can sell, but you can't buy it back. Woodstock had turned into a nightmare, a place of chaos...We moved to New York City for a while in hopes to demolish my identity, but it wasn't any better there. It was even worse. Demonstrators found our house and paraded up and down in front of it chanting and shouting, demanding for me to come out and lead them somewhere - stop shirking my duties as the conscience of a generation...I couldn't just lie there, had to take the bull by the horns myself and remodel the image of me, change the perception of it anyway...What kind of alchemy, I wondered, could create a perfume that would make reaction to a person lukewarm, indifferent and apathetic? I wanted to get some...I released one album (a double one) where I just threw everything I could think of at the wall and whatever stuck, released it, and then went back and scooped up everything that didn't stick and released that, too...I had assumed that when critics dismissed my work, the same thing would happen to me, that the public would forget about me. How mad is that?"
Though hard to perceive as a "good" album in any conventional sense, 'Self Portrait', understood in this context, does come off as one of the most audacious, self-conscious, and witty concept albums to ever hit the market. And it's still way more listenable than Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music'.
'The Boxer' is credited as Dylan's first ever use of vocal overdubbing as he sings both the Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel parts of the Simon-penned classic, sort of. Some claim Dylan did this as a parody after Simon & Garfunkel taunted him that they had usurped his 'folk-rock' title. 'Blue Moon' was written by Rodgers & Hart in 1934 as a show tune and adapted as a rock'n'roll song by Elvis Presley in 1956 before becoming a huge Doo-Wop hit for The Marcels in 1961, the year Dylan first arrived in New York.

5. If Dogs Run Free - Bob Dylan
Released in October 1970, just 4 months after the 'Self Portrait' album, 'New Morning' was widely heralded as Dylan's return to form and received very positive reviews to contrast with the earlier album. In retrospect, critical consensus holds the album to be a relatively uninspired one. And despite the positive reception the album received, one song, 'If Dogs Run Free', still rankled some listeners. "Some fans react more violently to this than anything on 'Self Portrait'," says Brian Hinton's 'Bob Dylan: Complete Discography'. 'If Dogs Run Free' has Dylan reciting beatnik style jazz poetry to piano and guitar accompaniment interspersed with female scat singing. The lyrics and vocal performance might have come off as a goofy lark if they had been presented in the context of something like 'The Basement Tapes' but here seems just weirdly pretentious, ridiculous, and silly.

6. Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Bob Dylan
7. Sarah Jane - Bob Dylan
8. I Can't Help Falling In Love With You - Bob Dylan
9. Big Yellow Taxi - Bob Dylan
Four tracks from the November 1973 album simply titled 'Dylan', released by Columbia after Bob had left the label and was wooed briefly to Elektra/Asylum by David Geffen. When Dylan returned to Columbia he had them delete it from the catalog. CDs were issued in Europe in 1991, but it's never been on CD in the U.S. The album is comprised of out-takes from the 'Nashville Skyline' & 'Self Portrait' sessions which according to Dylan were only recorded as a "warm up" and "not to be used". Brian Hinton's discography quotes the Michael Gray 'Let It Rock' review asserting that the album was mixed by "some anonymous apeman who plainly has the hots for all the girls in the chorus" ... "a very muggy, boomy, indistinct sound, yet the girls come in clear as a bell. You can almost hear the click as they're switched on at the start of each chorus." Rolling Stone magazine said the album was "guaranteed to net only horselaughs". From the 'Complete Discography' here are Brian Hinton's notes on the songs:
Spanish Is The Loving Tongue (Traditional) - "Dylan's voice is properly up in the mix, he sings over finger-picked guitar stylings like the kind of waiter who serenades you over dinner hoping for a gratuity. The the backing singers drown him out and the only response is hilarity."
Sarah Jane (Dylan) - "The one Dylan original here, and absent from his book of collected lyrics. By any critical standard, this is woeful, like a witless parody. The backing singers are indeed louder than Bob, as suggested by Gray"
Can't Help Falling In Love (Creatore/Peretti/Weiss) - "Made famous by Elvis, Dylan might be singing this in his sleep. There is something stately in the way he croons these platitudes and actually imbues them with some meaning. The backing track is strictly painting by numbers."
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell) - "An emotionless run through a paean to ecology, set to rinky-dink organ - 'Like A Rolling Stone' this is not, and if this is Al Kooper he should be ashamed. This is so bad, you really can't blame the mix, bad as it is. Joni would have the chorus girls here shot for less."

10. Blowin' In The Wind - Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ron Wood
The infamous July 13, 1985 JFK Stadium, Philadelphia LIVE AID concert appearance! After being introduced by Jack Nicholson as "the transcendant Bob Dylan" and having performed a sloppy version of 'The Ballad of Hollis Brown' Dylan notoriously made a somewhat garbled statement: "I hope that some of the money ... maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe ... one or two million, maybe ... and use it to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks." Though the controversial comment did inspire a series of 'Farm-Aid' concerts to raise money for American farmers, it seemed to most people a crass and inappropriate remark to make at an African famine-relief benefit.
After performing 'When My Ship Comes In', Dylan ends his set with 'Blowin' In Wind'. The performance of the whole set was a shambles. He introduces Ron Wood and Keith Richards who seem to have disappeared momentarily - Dylan looks a bit confused, says, "I don't know where they are.", and starts looking over his shoulders. As Blowin' In The Wind starts Dylan's voice breaks into a half-laugh at the end of the opening line - according to Paul Williams' book 'Bob Dylan: Performing Artist 1974-1986', the stage monitors weren't working properly. Maybe. On video you can see Keith Richards raising the sound hole of his acoustic guitar up to his ear like he was trying figure out if it was his instrument that was out of tune. Dylan calls out for Richards to do a solo, which doesn't amount to much more than a few ornamental hammer-ons. More eventful is the three guitars losing the rhythm with each other briefly and then a string breaking on Dylan's guitar. Both he and Ron Wood stop playing as Wood unstraps his guitar and hands it to Dylan. Dylan pulls the cord from his guitar which causes the PA to pop and creates a short feedback squeal, and Wood passes the unplugged guitar to a stage hand. Though the video documentation fails to catch it, Ron Wood then stands on the stage empty-handed, shrugs, and starts playing air guitar, mimicking Pete Townsend style windmill strums with his arm until the stagehand brings him another guitar. Wood trys the guitar at his ear to test the tuning, manages to prod a body behind the backing drapery which prompts a head to pop out, and then digs in his pocket for a slide bar but before he can really start back in to playing the song, the set has come to a close. Then Lionel Richie marches onto the stage triumphantly to congratulate and hug everybody. "Transcendant"! Indeed.

11. Sally Sue Brown - Bob Dylan
From the May 1988 album 'Down In The Groove', the only album other than 1973's 'Dylan' to have the honor of being deleted from the Dylan catalog. With a total playing time of 32:07, it's a very short album. And like 1970's 'Self Portrait', it's mostly cover songs. Dylan admitted that songwriting didn't come as easy as it used to for him, but asserted that interpretations of songs can be creative too: "I'm not saying I made a definitive version of anything with this last record, but I liked the songs." Brian Hinton's 'Complete Discography' quotes a few reviews from 1988: "continued silence would have been more dignified than this," and "Why! There must be a reason for Dylan's new album. So tell us, Bob, what is it?". Sally Sue Brown (written by J Alexander, E Montgomery, & T Stafford) features the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones on guitar, The Clash's Paul Simonon on bass, a male chorus singing "ba-room ba-room", and has Dylan's lead vocal distractingly doubled but not synchronized by a wailing Madelyn Quebec. "A track of no quality," according to reviewer Ben Cruickshank.

12. They Killed Him - Bob Dylan
I think this is maybe the worst of the best of the worst. From 1986's 'Knocked Out Loaded', this overwrought song of social conscience was written by Kris Kristofferson. We learn about the killing of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Jesus Christ with a nodding trumpet leading the melody into a deep well of reverb, a robust and startling gospel chorus driving the moral home, and in case we're a little too jaded to actually get the message, there's a child choir (or are those chipmunks?) to soften us up and move the whole ordeal into the realm of camp?...parody?, sheer embarrassment.

13. Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go) - Bob Dylan
A Boudleaux Bryant song that I take to be the keystone of the 'Self Portrait' album, and a suitable closer for our 'best of the worst' show here: "If you can't overlook my faults, forget me. Take me as I am or let me go."

Happy Birthday Bob!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

#36: Cemetaries Downtown

Playlist for Sunday May 17, 2009
Hosted by Greg Denton with guest Douglas Davey


1. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt & His Texas Ramblers

2. The Funeral - Hank Williams
Recorded by one of the most important of the "white" country singers in 1950. A very "white" salesman from the north visits a "colored" church in Savannah while a "colored" couple mourns out front, and he sits in a "colored" pew while a "colored" preacher with "simplicity and shrewdness in his Ethiopian face" (showing "the wisdom and ignorance of a crushed and dying race") delivers a sermon at the funeral of a little "colored" boy. The "white" man can picture the "colored" boy living with his "curly hair and protruding lips" easily, since he's seen thousands of them in his "hurried southern trips". The "white" man learns a thing or two from this "colored" sermon, namely that the Lord giveth many comforts and thus has the right to take away the lives of children whenever he wants to. Clearly recorded for a 1950s "white" American audience, I guess he wants to pass this "colored" learning on to other "white" folks. I'm sure it was an important contribution to the civil rights movement.

3. Funeral Hearse At My Door - Rocky Fuller
4. Lincoln's Funeral Train - Norman Blake & Tony Rice
5. Lonely One Car Funerals - Willie P. Bennett
6. Your Funeral And My Trial - Sonny Boy Williamson

7. Graveyard Dream Blues - Bessie Smith
8. Graveyard Blues - Hobart Smith
9. Graveyard Blues - Roscoe Holcomb
10. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean - Blind Lemon Jefferson

11. The Little Grave In Georgia - Earl Johnson
A 13 year old girl name Mary Phagan was raped and murdered in Marietta, Georgia in the Spring of 1913. The trial generated a lot of attention. Leo Frank, who ran the pencil factory where Mary worked, was found guilty and convicted, though he professed innocence. And then when his death sentence was commuted, the KKK operating under the name "The Knights Of Mary Phagan" stepped in. They kidnapped Leo Frank (he was Jewish), tortured him, and lynched him. Years later, in 1982, a former factory office boy confessed on his deathbed to giving false testimony against Frank - he had actually witnessed the building janitor dragging Mary Phagan's mutilated body and even heard him admit to the crime. I guess the office boy figured it was a worse crime to be Jewish in 1913, but by 1982 was maybe rethinking things.

Earl Johnson penned and recorded this song in October 1927:
"Little Mary is in Heaven, she's there for the golden shore
We'll all praise God to meet her, where there'll be no murder no more."

12. Graveside Song - The Stevens Sisters
13. She's In The Graveyard Now - Earl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug Band
14. Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down - Bozie Sturdivant

15. Cemetaries Downtown - Old Man Luedecke

Friday, May 8, 2009

#35: Sick, Sick, Sick

Playlist for Sunday May 10, 2009
Hosted by Greg Denton with guest Glenn Valliere


1. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt & His Texas Ramblers

2. Memphis Flu - Elder Curry
Recorded on December 16, 1930. Elder Curry sings about the Memphis Flu epidemic of that year. According to him, it was a demonstration of how we're all equal in God's eyes:
"North and South, East and West

Yes, you see! Yes, He killed the rich and poor
And He's going to kill more
If you don't turn away from your shame."

3. When You're Sick With The Blues - The Mississippi Sheiks
4. Sick, Sick, Sick - Freakwater
5. Sick, Sober And Sorry - Lefty Frizzell

6. Lonesome Homesick Blues - The Carter Family
7. Subterranean Homesick Blues - Tim O'Brien
8. T. B. Blues - Jimmie Rodgers
9. Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas And The Sinus Blues - David Lindley

10. Fever - Wanda Jackson
11. Trailer Fever - Tom Heinl
12. Hillbilly Fever - Little Jimmy Dickens
13. Boogie Woogie Fever - Gene O'Quinn

14. Love's Worse Than Sickness - Texas Gladden
15. Love Fever - Oakie Jones
16. Lovesick Blues - Emmett Miller

17. Don't Let Us Get Sick - Warren Zevon

#34: Cats & Dogs

Playlist for Sunday May 3, 2009
Hosted by Erin Crickett & Steve Mason

1. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt & His Texas Ramblers

2. Pussy, Pussy, Pussy - The Light Crust Doughboys
3. Dirty Dog Blues -Modern Mountaineers
4. Cat's Got The Measles & The Dog's Got The Whooping Cough - The New Lost City Ramblers

5. My Name Is Buddy - Ry Cooder
6. Theres Cats Everywhere - Norm Hacking

7. Woody - Hayden
8. He's A Good Dog - Fred Eaglesmith

9. Egg Sucking Dog - Johnny Cash
10. Call Me A Dog - Ramblin' Jack Elliott
11. My Old Dog & Me - Ramlin' Jack Elliott
12. Howl & Cry Like A Dog - The Salt Lick Kids

13. Dog - Bob Snider
14. Cat Man Blues - Blind Boy Fuller
15. Black Cat Blues - Jolly Joe's Jug Band

16. Yukon Women - Susan Ellerton

17. The Cat Came Back - Cornell Baker