Archive for April, 2009

coupla more gems

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

earnest folk revival folkie (white)
penned “bottle of wine” (included in albums of his in station)
–rightly famous, his loosest, catchiest tune to my knowledge
as far as subjects go, drinking has a tendency to bring out the best in stiff folkie folks
(curious listeners will also seek out the porter wagoner cover on porter’s “skidrow joe” concept album)
not a big tom paxton fan


curated by mr. jon langford of the mekons (those country-lovin’ brits), these compilations were all about ending the death penalty in illinois in the early 2000s blah blah blah and thus feature plenty of Chicago country stars singing songs about death
also: these were some of my first favorite country music albums
and though they were admittedly a weird entry point into the world I love so passionately these days, they are also v. v. good
murder ballads galore! both new and old
I cannot recommend these enough (esp. if you are afraid of lovey dovey country schmaltz – none of that here)
the back-up band is pretty standard rootsy but the wide variety of songs and singers let them stretch in interesting ways
healthy dose of 90’s cowpunk but also pretty, traditional


traditionalist bluegrass couple
they thankfully seem to lack the kinda common 2nd/3rd wave emphasis on virtuosity and technique
though of course these folks are no slouches when it comes to pickin and pluckin
requisite high lonesome singing style, but more tuneful in their case than it can sometimes seem
unafraid to incorporate specifically none-bluegrass traditional country into their repertoire
obv. on account of my bias I tend to prefer these (slower numbers, esp.), but they’re all good
other albums in the stacks of a similar, consistently good quality
“the light of day” is beautiful

this one is good

legendary picker shows off his skills!
mix of acoustic and electric numbers
eddie mostly sticks to merle travis-style thumb-picking
and some might say he out-travises merle (he may be the master of the style)
some cuts exhibit a distinct atkins slicker swingy style and a couple (esp. the bluesier ones he sings) lean toward piedmont blues thumbing
don’t worry if that all means nothing to you
he fills his measures to the brim – as thick as any fahey/kottke, any heavy metal shredder
but it’s also all about the fuckin melody!
these are virtuosic, show-offy studies that you can hum along to


she is a lesbian folk singer with a crewcut
who strums power chord political folk
we have lots of her albums
I met her when I was a little kid (name drop)
the review comments are better-written than her lyrics
but you might as well listen to a song or two

this album is wonderful, through and through
a live recording of some very distinctly hillbilly zydeco
evangeline boys got a real tight rhythm section and goddamnit if those twosteps and waltzes don’t make you wanna grab your sweetheart and swing
steel guitar on some tracks adds to distinct country flava
“jolie blonde” (his version of the standard) goes up there with the best versions of all time
listen to this album, seriously


john prine writes some of the best songs ever but kwur’s selection of his records unfortunately does not represent this well
this album features only one original song, for instance
but it’s also really good, so that’s okay
a collection of classic country duets, some of the best-ever love and loss songs
straight-up close country harmonies featuring iris dement, lucinda williams, patty loveless, et al.
listen to “(we’re not) the jetset” (originally by george and tammy) if you’ve ever fallen in love on the open road
“there’s no riviera in festus, missouri” — it’s true!
the one original tune (title track) is classic prine:
(iris singin’:)
“he ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once sniffin’ my undies
he ain’t real sharp but he gets things done
he drinks his beer like it’s oxygen
he’s my baby
I’m his honey
I’m never gonna let him go”

the father of country music and her first true star
aka the blue yodeler (not yet called country songs, he called them blue yodels because he played the blues and then ya know he yodels!)
these are from his discovery sessions in 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee (the same sessions that discovered the Carter Family, Country Music’s 1st Family, naturally)
many of his songs were adapted from tin pan alley pop or just written by vaudeville songsmiths
and that high drama yodel comes from vaudeville (used in lots of blackface routines, actually)
of course jimmie rodgers was an incredible singer, fucking tremendous yodeler
and whoever strung these folk strains into pop songs (sometimes it’s jimmie, sometimes a ghost writer or a credited songwriter) was a pop lyrical genius, a direct predecessor of the chuck berry school of humble, rabid-fire, allusive and specific details
he already had tuberculosis when these were recorded so he was a martyr before he died and his pr men totally milked this for implied gravitas btw
these songs are all classics so listen to them

until this gets annoying… folk stax contd

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

he wrote “up against the wall redneck mother” woo!
and I fucking bet he never pictured the UT fratboy singalongs
back when he was a legit s. texas cosmic cowboy, one of jerry jeff walker’s lost gonzos
as far as his representation in the KWUR stacks goes, LOST TRAIN OF THOUGHT serves up some crisp (sterile?) neotonkabilly with mixed results
but by the 2000s we find mr. Hubbard has discovered The Blues (esp. evident in THE GROWL), replete with murky muddy swampy production, courtesy Gurf Morlix
dig for the hooks

here’s the famous one [embedding disabled]

theoretically these folks play gospel bluegrass (bluegrass gospel?) but the gospel tracks tend to not really sound very much like bluegrass
instead, this very traditional, straight gospel in the close-harmonied men’s group tradition
white gospel, sure, but not especially country-sounding gospel (as country as it is bluegrass—and both connotations only make sense in terms of the spare acoustic guitar accompaniment)
that said, these albums are very well-executed, nice primers for folks interested in digging into white gospel proper


the meat purveyors play their bluegrass fast and dirty
they don’t play loose with the style too much – pretty strictly quick flatt ‘n scruggs style romps
but they are undoubtedly one of the more mean-spirited, unsentimental bluegrass bands around
this album has some of their best knockout gems—quick daggers of songs
“hey little sister” is about suspected domestic abuse:
“I seen that bruise on the back of your arm
if I find that man’s been doing ya harm…
I’ll cut him down!”
the heartbreak numbers have an exquisite and almost psychotic despair to them
dig “circus clown” in that respect (“does this look like a painted on frown to you?”)

this is probably my favorite discovery from the cd stacks
listened to the album on repeat for days after
so, mr. neely tried real hard to make it as a songwriter in country music (nashville)
but no luck
these are his 1970s home-recorded demo takes
some of the best unknown country songs around – heartbreak and redemption songs both
as far as demos intended to sell songs go, the quality of these performances is really astounding
pitch-perfect and emotionally-resonant
the man’s got a lovely warm drawling voice and he sings these in a bluesy, pre-honky-tonk style
(I guess he was a couple decades too late)
in “on a blackland farm” he describes meeting Jimmie Rodgers and learning how to play from him and I certainly would believe it
his gospel songs, esp. – “satan’s burning hell” are fierce stuff (sit up there with louvins’ best)

listen here


willie nelson is the proud owner of the most affected/affecting singing style in this solar system – equally aggravating and endearing, obnoxious and moving
he plays guitar like if django reinhardt only had one finger (I am quoting somebody on that last bit)

this one’s great great

Everybody Loves Free (as in ‘freedom’) Music

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Freeform favorites, WFMU, finally launched their Free Music Archive site. Think of it as a hip audio section built on newer web technology.

All the music on the site is easily searchable, streamable, and downloadable for your pleasure. More importantly (like, all the music is licensed under the Creative Commons. Therefore, you can download it freely, use it non-commercially, and in some cases, modify the music and share it also.

This is good ’cause WFMU now regularly posts in-studio appearances and sponsored live shows. Additionally, they’ve partnered up with a bunch of other like-minded media outlets (KEXP, KBOO, dublab) who are curating their own sections. Maybe KWUR should look into getting in on this…

To get into the spirit, I highly recommend starting off with this live Oh Sees recording from the site launch party which was last Saturday.

Also highly recommended are two volumes of “WFMU’s Free Music Archive Sampler” put out last year as a little pre-launch site preview.

Finally, you can thank former New York governer Eliot Spitzer and the New York State Music Fund for providing grant money to seed this operation…


more of the same, folk stax contd

Friday, April 10th, 2009


freakwater is the best band to come out of that early 90’s cowpunk mess
(I don’t care how much the ghosts of kwur’s past love uncle tupelo)
also they are still around, which makes them one of the best country bands extant gee whiz
this 93 album is real good, but you honestly oughta play them all (or at least as many as we have here – 2?)
the sound at this point is acoustic, stripped-down, laid-bare, all that good stuff
but it’s clear from any track that these ladies are no revivalists, they just write honest-to-god wonderful country songs and sing them with the prettiest close harmonies around
dig “drunk friend,” “are you ready”
“dream girl” is almost always stuck in my head:
“I may not be the girl of your dreams
dreams aren’t always pretty, anyway
just like me they’ll be gone in the morning
they just don’t make sense in the light of the day
you are not the first love I’ve known
we both know that is right
darling, you might be the last love for me…
if I die tonight”
“you’ve never been this far before” is a conway[kanye] twitty cover – man oh man I love this band

jimmie’s got one of the best voices out there
though I confess it’s probably a love it/hate it kind of thing
very distinct, instantly recognizable pinched, warbly drawl
jimmie’s from lubbock (like his compadres joe ely + butch hancock)
and you can just about hear the huge sky and wide open spaces in his big spare songs and the dryness of his singing
AFTER AWHILE is the critical favorite and best showcase for his writing (we have this too)
but as far as introductions go, I think this album does a fairly good job, emphasizing his considerable skill as an interpreter
because of this, it is less far-out new agey than some of his albums but also maybe a bit too straight-laced (nit-picking now)
he can even get away with singing a standard like “I’m so lonesome, I could cry”
if you hear these songs and his voice hits you right, it will hit you hard and you will never forget it

if you are truly new to country music (which is okay, really)
then you might not be familiar with merle’s songs
everyone else should know at least a couple
over-sung in karaoke bars across the country
lyrics of pro-vietnam war anthems, for instance, making liberal kids across the country wince and cringe
merle’s a great craftsmen as far as writing goes – he’s written in just about every popular country style since the early 60’s (for instance, he just released a bluegrass album a couple years back)
suitably, he’s got a range of singing styles, with his catchy pop numbers calling for a different sort of articulation, as you might expect, than his slower ballads, bakersfield and traditionalist stuff
this album (1969) is merle’s ode to jimmie rodgers (see: jimmie rodgers), the first hero of country music
all of the songs on here were ones jimmie sang
and though he does not try to emulate jimmie’s style, he makes some nods in that direction
for instance, I think it would be hard to find many other instances when merle haggard yodels
the instrumentation nods more to jimmie’s final recordings than his famous solo acoustic 1927 ones
and as such feature lovely, hokum-y, dixieland arrangements, full of dobro and horn flourishes
wonderful versions of “jimmie’s texas blues,” and “peach picking time down in georgia” to get you started

lovely, low-key affair, the debut release (way back in 1974) on the mighty flying fish label
western swing revival, featuring famous jazz fiddler vassar clements
tight group covers the bases with requisite bob wills, spade cooley, et cetera numbers
take a lot of liberties with the standard pop swing sound of, say, the aging 1970s texas playboys, working toward an honest, jazz-based expression using country songs as heads (basically)
an influential album, I recommend this to all sorts of dj’s


it is really difficult to describe this man’s music, even for far more articulate folk than myself
these songs are really weird
and also really intense in a way that is easier heard than described (cop out?)
the year he learne d to play banjo, he learned 400 tunes and considered it a gift from god
he moans, accompanying himself with banjo, harmonica and a guitar he would fret with a knife
a lot of the songs are standards, but many of them do not sound standard when he sings them

mo stack lee

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

was back in thirty-two when times were hard
I had a sawed-off shotgun and cold deck a cards
wore a brown squire suit and a big beaver hat
and if you motherfuckers ever saw me I was dressed like hat

wore brown suede shoes and a diamond-studded cane
had a twelve-inch peg with a be-bop chain
now times turned hard and the weather grew cold
my old lady kicked my ass out said her love had grown old

so I took me a walk down to rampart street
where all the bad motherfuckers are supposed tomeet
I walked through six inches a shit and ten inches a mud
to a place they call the bucket of blood

called the bartender to give me a bite to eat
he gave me a muddy glass and a tough piece of meat
I say “say sonuvabitch don’t you know who I am?”
he said “frankly mister I don’t give a damn”

he said “I’ve heard of you down the way
I meet you raggedyass bastards damn near every day”
well the motherfucked never said much more
for one of my bullets laid the bastard dead on the floor

a lady walked in said “oh god please”
I said “speak softly ma’am his mind is at ease”
she said “please don’t tell me my son is dead”
I said “if you don’t believe me cunt look at the hole in his head”

she said “I’ve heard of you you bastard your name is STACK
but you better not be here when billy lion get back”
“I’ll be here when the time comes and pass
and fuck your billy lion right dead in his ass”


judge said, “well now stack you’ve led a simple life
fucked your sister and killed your wife
there’s only one thing left for me to that’s give you twenty years time”
I said, “well fuck judge that’s nothin my mother’s doin’ twentynine”


I had a planned to write a real response/continuation to brent’s stack lee post
but it just got away from me you know

and then HERE HERE HERE there’s this great free zip comp of some of the best versions
so I suggest you head over there and check those out