Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: A Dessert Sampler

Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley: Girl Scout Cookies

[live and unpurchaseable]

Sarah McLachlan: Ice Cream (live)


Crowded House: Chocolate Cake


Nellie McKay: Cupcake


David Wilcox: Wildberry Pie


It's a tradition of sorts here at Star Maker Machine to end the week with a "clearinghouse" post, one which throws a few disparate songs up to give a sense of the range of possibility still sitting on our "also ran" lists as the clock runs out.

Fittingly, I managed to come up with a few rare and delicious dessert selections for us to fill in the corners a bit as we transition to our upcoming theme; just as fittingly, this coming week's theme will give us a chance to offer up second helpings for those favorite songs which, for one reason or another, never really made it into the themes where they best belonged. Small portions only, folks; you're liable to burst...

The Bountiful Feast: Bread and Butter

The Newbeats: Bread and Butter


I know what you're thinking - why would a bread and butter song be posted in a Bountiful Feast theme? Did you know the price of wheat has doubled or more in just a matter of months? The Newbeats sing about a fellow whose baby feeds him bread and butter, cause he's her loving man. That is, before he caught her eating chicken and dumplings with some other guy, which of course is totally out of bounds. Now, it's all for the best - with the cost of wheat going through the silo roof, I don't think she could afford Jilted John anymore. Soon enough, bread and butter will be the providence of kings and queens!

The Bountiful Feast: Peaches

Kristen Hall: Peaches


Due to a corporate transfer, my husband, two children and I moved to Puerto Rico in early-1985 (our third was born there) – when we returned to Atlanta in mid-1989, I had lots of musical catching-up to do!

Having always had a weakness for smart lyrics and tight harmonies, I was immediately drawn to the Indigo Girls, whose Closer to Fine was emerging as an underground “hit”, on the radio and MTV - we were lucky to see them in some small venues in their early days…

But I digress – through Amy and Emily, I also became aware of the plethora of female singer-songwriters in the Atlanta area: Michelle Malone, Dede Vogt and Kristen Hall. I bought Kristen’s Fact & Fiction (cassette tape at the time), fell in love with every song… and wondered if she would have gained more recognition if her sound was not so similar to the Indigo Girls.

I was enamored with Peaches, a bouncy tune whose melody belies the poignancy of a long-distance relationship (I especially love her little sigh at the end) – one of the reasons I will *always* buy albums/tapes/CDs is for the liner notes…and this one listed vocals on Peaches by Michael Lorant (who many of us know better as Michael L. Stipe… from R.E.M.)

Footnote: Decades later, I heard about the country/pop supergroup Sugarland, a trio with Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush and Kristen Hall (who founded the band) – my Kristen Hall?!? Yes, indeed – although now, it seems, Kristen has left and filed a lawsuit against the remaining members…

The Bountiful Feast: Hot Potatoes

Kinks - Hot Potatoes [purchase]

Most Kinks aficionados end the band's classic period at 1971's Muswell Hillbillies. I humbly submit that the golden age should properly end with the following record, 1972's Everybody's In Showbiz. I admit that the album is flawed and doesn't do itself any favors by starting with 3 clunkers. But, beginning with the fourth track, this bluesy Ray/Dave quasi-duet about, well, hot potatoes, Showbiz steps its game up and pretty much stays up. Just sayin, if you're a Kinks fan and you haven't heard this one ... which I consistently find to be the case ... it's well worth checking out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: A Christmas Feast

If it hadn’t happened to you before now, and if you went anywhere at all today, you experienced your first assault for this year of Christmas music. Now, some of the best music of any kind ever written was written for or about Christmas, but, for the most part, that’s not what you heard. You heard grotesquely overproduced versions of familiar carols. You heard original songs that were corny/ maudlin beyond belief. And you heard arrangements of familiar holiday fare that were beyond ill-advised. And, if you were lucky, amidst the dross, you heard a tune or two you actually liked.

Certainly, this is what happens to me every year. And I cope with it by resorting to counterprogramming. I collect holiday-themed songs that are the furthest thing from any of the abuses described above, and often have a cynical edge. And it happens that three of my favorites have a food theme.

Riders in the Sky: Sidemeat‘s Christmas Stew


Riders in the Sky have made a career out of keeping cowboy music alive. And they have done it with a wonderful sense of humor. Here, they tackle the question, how does a trail cook produce a Christmas feast with the limited resources available to him on a cattle drive?

Mick Moloney and Eugene O‘Donnell: Miss Fogarty‘s Christmas Cake


Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donell are Irish musicians whose musical careers have developed entirely in the United States. O’Donell is a wonderful fiddler, while Moloney sings and plays guitar and bouzouki. I had the great pleasure of seeing them perform a few years ago, and I recommend it highly.

A short time ago, we were cleaning out a part of our house that had not been used in many years. To our great surprise, we discovered a fruitcake that must have tucked in the back of a drawer around 1965, still in what was left of its tin. The tale told in “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” is not nearly that drastic, but it captures the fruitcake phenomenon perfectly. If anyone knows of other fruitcake songs, I’d love to hear about them in the comments

The Chieftains with Elvis Costello: St Stephen‘s Day Murders


By now, the Chieftains are well known for their collaborations with seemingly most unlikely musical partners. The Bells of Dublin was the first album where the Chieftains did this. Of all the artists who participated, only Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne contributed original songs.

If you enjoy the arrival of swarms of relatives for the holidays, but wonder what you were thinking when they are all still there three days later, you may enjoy Elvis Costello’s unique, (I hope!), solution to the problem.

The Bountiful Feast: Know Your Chicken

Cibo Matto: Know Your Chicken


You are what you eat, so - what's up with your chicken? As Cibo Matto explains, it's very important to know your bird. Considering the band's name means "crazy food" in Italian, you best listen to them.

The Bountiful Feast: Leftovers

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit: Leftovers


A taste, ironically, of what is to come...

Leftovers is what I want
Don't need no fine cuisine
Give me a dime for bacon rind
Or slip me some of that old sardine...

I was introduced to London-based Johnny Flynn via two geographically disparate music blogs: the ever-excellent UK-based Song, By Toad, which covers the best of the new and burgeoning britfolk movement, and the sadly-defunct To The Dogs...or Whatever, which was based out of Australia. I haven't seen him mentioned much elsewhere, but I'm happy to do my part to spread the word about this stellar artist with an eye to the past, especially because, as a coverblogger, I would do almost anything to be able to be in London this Monday to attend the upcoming tribute to long-gone Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny, which will also feature Martin Carthy and other members of the UK neotrad scene.

Flynn's MySpace page claims Country/Blues/Folk in that order, which will probably make more sense to ears from that side of the pond more than it does to my own: his work with and without the Sussex Wit isn't what most Americans consider folk, but then, Americans tend to forget that they didn't invent the stuff. The fiddles and Pogues-gone-acoustic arrangement of Leftovers, which frames the image as metaphor for a self-depreciating girl on the rebound, are indeed a stellar example of what counts for folk in the rest of the English speaking world, and much of his other work calls back to various slices of the pubfolk and tradfolk traditions. Shades of the Kinks in there, too. Great stuff, and - lest we forget - as rooted in the British past as the Pilgrims themselves.

Our coming week's theme will be Leftovers; our intrepid contributors will be posting songs which fit previous themes here at Star Maker Machine. This song would have fit in several previous themes, including Johns and The Bountiful Feast.

The Bountiful Feast: Mac & Cheese

Mary Prankster: Mac & Cheese


With a name like Mary Prankster, you can bet that the music is going to be fun. Mary Prankster makes rockin' music with a sense of humor. Those songs often also happen to be off color, like her song "Tits and Whiskey" which uses the F-word thirteen times despite clocking in at under two minutes.

This song, despite its name, isn't solely about macaroni and cheese. The song is about many foods, and more importantly, finding a guy who'll make them for you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Chicken Cordon Bleus

Steve Goodman: Chicken Cordon Bleus


We’re doing Thanksgiving at my brother’s house tomorrow. He and his wife keep a kosher organic vegetarian household. But, out of deference to the family, they’re making chicken. So it won’t be nearly as bad as what Steve Goodman describes here.

(Actually, Bro and Mrs. Bro are great cooks. I’m looking forward to it.)

The Bountiful Feast: Uncle Dave’s Grace

Herdman-Hills-Mangsen: Uncle Dave’s Grace


Happy Thanksgiving to all – what better way to begin than with Grace… although not so amazing when it’s offered up by Uncle Dave!

This tune was written by Lou and Peter Berryman, a formerly-married, still-writing-and-performing-together duo who are the mistress/master of comedy in the folk/acoustic world – here is the version (a cover for BH) by Priscilla Herdman/Anne Hills/Cindy Mangsen from their At the Turning of the Year holiday recording…

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Animal Crackers In My Soup

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple: Animal Crackers In My Soup


When deciding which song to post for this week's theme, I found myself drawn to older songs of the 50's. Songs about food were plentiful back then for some reason. But as I rolled even further back, I realized that a certain curly-haired child-star had a few songs to choose from too.

In 1935, Shirley Temple performed one of her best known songs, "Animal Crackers In My Soup" for her 30th film appearance, Curly Top, a movie which featured the young actress as an orphan who charms her way into the heart of a wealthy bachelor.

The lyrics are sugary, of course, but befitting of both Temple and the time period. And it's Temple's precociousness and precision as an entertainer that made many of her films and songs so memorable.

For a video snippet of Temple's performance of "Animal Crackers In My Soup" in the film, click here.

The Bountiful Feast: Cornbread

Band of Heathens: Cornbread


Skavoovie and the Epitones: Cornbread


Tim O'Brien: Cornbread Nation


The house is starting to fill up with the smells of thanksgiving preparation: right now, there's butter and onions in the frypan, pecans and apples chopped fine beside 'em, and a bowlful of cornbread crumbled on the counter, all of them ready to be turned into the very best kind of stuffing. To honor my favorite part of the coming feast, here's a few great cornbread songs: bluesy americana from The Band of Heathens, fine slow-cooked ska from Skavoovie and the Epitones, and Tim O'Brien with some signature bluegrassy funk, all in tribute to this most earthy and old-school of southern soulfood staples.

PS: In the name of full disclosure, I should point out that my brother was the trumpet player for Skavoovie and the Epitones.

PPS: on a related note, head on over to Cover Lay Down for a second helping of Tim O'Brien, plus a few more coversongs on harvest, farming, and other elements of pre-table food production.

The Bountiful Feast: Boiled Potato

Blake Babies: Boiled Potato


The Blake Babies were college music darlings in the early 90s. Their jangly rock style paired with the the girly and sweet vocals of Juliana Hatfield made them stand out from the grunge scene. As many will know, Juliana Hatfield went solo after a few albums with the Blake Babies and became another college music darling in her own right over the years.

This song is sung like a love song to a potato. If you replace all mentions of potato with a name it becomes a lot less odd, so it does seem like it could most certainly be a love song had they not chosen to use the words "boiled potato" instead of someone's name. But the content goes much deeper than that. Though the song is cute and jangly, you get this whole new view of it when you hear a re-worked version of it off a b-side single from Juliana's first solo record a few years later. The song, then called "Feed Me", shares the same tune and many of the same lyrics, except now instead of "boiled potato" she simply says "oh baby", and it's much more sad, and it is quite clearly about dealing with an eating disorder. I find it hard to ever hear "Boiled Potato" the same way after hearing "Feed Me".

Juliana herself has dealt with an eating disorder off and on for most of her adult life, and just recently finally went to a rehab program to try to get better. You can read about her experience on her blog where she talks about her song "Universal Heartbeat". And I have uploaded "Feed Me" here as well.

Juliana Hatfield: Feed Me


The Bountiful Feast: One Meatball

Johnny Neel: One Meatball


I first heard the song “One Meatball” sung by my father as he shared a fond memory from his younger days. For this reason, I always assumed that the song originated in the Great Depression. As it turns out, that is not the case at all.

The original version of the song dates from 1850, and became variously known as “One Fishball” or “The Lone Fishball”. The melody was not the one we know now, and the metamorphosis into a meatball was still years away, but the story was essentially the same. The song was adapted into a comic opera in 1862, called Il Pesceballo. I found a review of the opera which tells how the song came to be written:

“Il Pesceballo is a nineteenth-century American pasticcio opera written by Francis James Child, a Harvard English professor and opera lover. The text was originally inspired by an incident which occurred to a colleague of his. One evening Martin Lane was trying to make his way to Cambridge, MA, from Boston. He discovered that he had only 25 cents, which was not enough for both supper and the fare need to get to Cambridge. As he was very tired and hungry, he stopped at a local diner and asked for half of a serving of macaroni. After he had recounted the story to his friends, he wrote a comic ballad, called the "Lay of the One Fishball." A fishball was a fried New England concoction made of potatoes and fish stock, and usually eaten for breakfast. The ballad became very popular with Harvard students, and inspired Child's opera.” *

From there, the song kicked around for many years, occasionally being collected in songbooks. The fact that the fishball was a regional dish, virtually unknown outside of New England, limited the song’s appeal. In 1944, Hy Zaret and Lou Singer created the version we are familiar with today, and the fishball became a meatball. Early recordings of “One Meatball” included one by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. The folksinger Josh White Jr. began performing the song, and became its greatest popularizer.

Nowadays, the song tends to be regarded as a kid’s song, which sometimes means that it is given a syrupy production. But version heard here avoids those pitfalls, even though it comes from an album of food songs that Disney crassly released as a tie-in with the movie Ratatouille.

* This text comes from a thread found on The Mudcat Cafe. This is a wonderful resource for researching folk and blues songs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Jimmy Buffett - Cheeseburger in Paradise


I hear the collective groan coming from the readers. I hear it loud and clear and to you I say, "Fuck You". I am a native Floridian. I've heard Jimmy's songs since the day I was born and at 35 years old I am old enough to not need to look cool so I can say that yes....I do like Jimmy Buffett. I like him a lot and while this particular song isn't one of my favorites it's topical and probably one the flagship "food songs". So to all you me (pun intended).

Sadly, I've been allergic to dairy for so long I do not even remember what a cheeseburger tastes like. Nor a milkshake. I miss the hell out of real Ice Cream Sandwiches...I miss them so very much.

The Bountiful Feast: Pork N' Beans

Left Lane Cruiser - Pork N' Beans


Left Lane Cruiser self-describe their sound as "a shockwave through a big ol’ buttcheek". I describe it as "a blues-fueled, rock-driven sound on the verge of a whiskey rage". No matter how you describe it, "Fucking Awesome" is what it reduces down to.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Johnny Saucep'n

Moxy Fruvous: Johnny Saucep’n


I’m thinking my two-fer of songs here is a perfect segue from Ramone666’s serving… of food and… um… Bill…

Ten 10 years ago, a friend (who at the time was a record store manager) enticed me with the “if you like Barenaked Ladies, you’ll love Moxy Fruvous" philosophy – he was, of course, absolutely right and Live Noise was my first purchase, which remains in my car and is an Absolute Must for any more-than-two-hours road trip my family and I undertake. My children were raised to chime in on “don’t mention Lisa”… and even my husband, Neil Young/James Taylor devotee that he is, appreciates the a cappella version of Gotta Get a Message to You…

Boyhowdy waxed most poetically about the group a few weeks ago during our Aristocrats theme – since we’re both Falcon Ridge attendees, wondering if he, like me, secretly wished to hear Johnny Saucep’n performed at the festival. Every song on every stage is signed by ASL interpreters – this fast-paced ditty would have been quite the challenge even for Jody, the most experienced!

My aforementioned friend was devastated when the group announced a split… and still thinks they’re “on hiatus” – as with Santa, I’d prefer to continue believing as well…


And... as a ginsu knife/bamboo steamer bonus, I’d like to offer up a tune written by Maggi, Pierce and E.J., a delightfully talented and eclectic group from the Philadelphia area I hosted in house concerts a few times, and booked gigs for – they wrote this song (not available on any official recording) as an homage to Fruvous... about a different sort of cooking (shades of Joni’s “sittin’ on my groceries”, eh?)…

Maggi, Pierce and E.J.: Saucy Johnny

P.S. BH, check out their Live Covers CD...

The Bountiful Feast: Senegal Fast Food

Amadou & Mariam: Senegal Fast Food


After starting the week with three square meals, I thought we could all use a snack.

“Senegal Fast Food” fits our theme because of its title. The song is mostly in French, with a few lines in Amadou and Mariam’s native language, Bamako. So I have no idea what the song is about. I did find a bad translation, posted by a fan who apparently spoke English as a second or third language, but I really couldn’t make sense of it.

Amadou and Mariam are a blind couple, originally from Mali, who moved to the Ivory Coast to take advantage of that country’s superior recording facilities. Their blindness is more than just a marketing point; they met at an institute in Mali that helps blind people, in part by encouraging musical expression. Their musical style is Malian blues, thought by musicologists to be the African precursor of blues as we think of it in the United States. On this track, the traditional style is melded with musical influences from other cultures by producer Manu Chao, resulting in a fine example of what is called World Beat. World Beat is a strategy used by many traditional artists who seek to introduce their music to a global audience. And in this case, the introduction is most welcome.

I have been posting a lot of world music lately. I’m not planning any more for the rest of this week, but, if anybody thinks it’s too much, let me know in the comments.

The Bountiful Feast: Weinerschnitzel


Welcome to Der Weinerschnitzel
May I take your order please?

Yeah, I want:
Two large Cokes, two large fries,
chili-cheese dog, large Dr. Pepper,
Super Deluxe with cheese and tomato...

You want Bill sperm with that?


13 seconds of lipsmackin´ fun. It should spell wienerschnitzel of course, but the Descendents were probably afraid of a lawsuit by the fastfood chain of the same name. And now, for the million dollar question... what on earth is Bill sperm? Answers on a postcard please.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Lunch

Muckafurgason: Lunch


It seems like most songs about food are pretty silly, and this song is certainly no different. Muckafurgason is a band of comedians, or at least, they appeared on a Friday Night Comedy show at one point and are definitely funny. In fact, one of the guys dated Janeane Garafalo for quite a while and even wrote a song about her for one of their albums.

They opened for They Might Be Giants back in 2002, which is how I know of them. As soon as they started playing I loved them. Their brand of humor comes in the form of singing songs that sound serious and rockin', but are also about absurd things, like being afraid of bees, your favorite childhood video game systems, and in this case, singing a white boy rap about your favorite meal of the day.

The Bountiful Feast: Fish For Supper

Bob Dorough: Fish For Supper


The name may not ring a bell, but children of the seventies and eighties know both the songs and the voice of bebop and cool jazzman Bob Dorough through Schoolhouse Rock, a series of shorts which ran on network television throughout my childhood and theirs. But there's much more to Dorough than Three is a Magic Number -- the inaugural song for what would become a seminal childhood experience for an entire generation -- and the fifty other tunes he penned and performed during the twelve-year run of the "Schoolhouse" series.

In the jazzworld, Dorough is known for his influence on (and work with) over a half century of pianists and other jazzmen from Blossom Dearie to Mose Allison. His early gigs included tap dancer accompanist, mid-set performer for genre-stretching comedian Lenny Bruce, and musical director for the song and dance revue of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, and any jazzfan with even a basic familiarity with his work can hear the influence of all three -- tap trope, comedy timing, and song-and-dance -- in his later work. As co-writer of Comin' Home Baby, he was responsible for Mel Torme's Grammy nominations; he is especially noteworthy, in fact, for being the only "halfway decent singer" to appear on a Miles Davis album.

Dorough's solo work is often overlooked amidst his influence, but I find it delicious and delightful. Here, Dorough turns his distinctively pinched half-scat vocalese and playful sense of humor to Fish for Supper, one of my favorite tunes from my absolute favorite Bob Dorough album, Too Much Coffee Man. The song, like the album overall, features bouncy sax and hi-hat, cool bebop piano, and wryly inane lyrics sung practically in tune, and in homophonic parallel with the lead instrument. If you only introduce yourself to one new jazz musician before the century is over, make Bob Dorough the one...and start with Too Much Coffee Man, purchasable above.

The Bountiful Feast: Breakfast Blues

Trout Fishing in America: Breakfast Blues


Good morning! – let’s start our Food Week with the most important meal of the day, shall we?

“Trout Fishing in America is the long-standing musical partnership of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet. The name, taken from a Richard Brautigan novel, seems almost as incongruent and intriguing as a picture of this musical duo - Ezra Idlet (guitar) stands six feet nine inches and Keith Grimwood (bass), five feet five and one half inches. What is more intriguing is the musical career these two have carved out in nearly three decades of writing, recording and performing together.”

More here

I’ve heard the song covered by Zoe Lewis and Mindy Simmons… but I always thought it was written by Ezra and/or Keith - upon googling for the lyrics, I see it was penned by Ronnie Levine, a Pensacola, Florida singer-songwriter (the tune is on his songlist… so it must be the same guy!)...

If you’re craving sticky puns, this tune-uh is chocolate full of them – orange you glad I’m finished with this gruel and honey-usual punishment? (groan)…