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more of the same, folk stax contd by

April 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments


freakwater is the best band to come out of that early 90’s alt.country 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

4 responses to “more of the same, folk stax contd”

  1. DB says:

    Roscoe Holcombe freaks me out so much. Utter genius.

    “Ain’t got no sugar baby now” is so haunting that I’m scared to sleep in the same room as the CD,

  2. The Intern says:

    You into this Felice Brothers stuff, Zak?

  3. ZM says:

    DB: he is surely a terrifying gentleman. have you read in the liner notes in the cd at kwur where they excerpt letters he wrote? his halfformed grade school scrawl and weird spelling, the way he starts off about music but it always turns to “please send me money I am sick and near death”…

    Dylan: I haven’t listened to so much I admit– but from what I’ve heard I’m not totally sold on their shtick. they ride that The Band influence pretty hard. dude’s voice grates too, esp. on the halfass ballad types.

    that said, I got a big round soft spot for lazy sloppy drummin (always a big part of the appeal of folks like The Band and sir douglas quintet, for me anyway). tracks with pseudo boogie piano clomps, bar mitzvah band sluggy bass and organ noodles are good too, I think.

    the fact that this drummystrummy gypsy folk is a thing right now bugs me to no end, I admit…

    I think there was better CMT country this year, honestly

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m digging the guide so far. Keep it coming.

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