Saturday, March 21, 2009

Green: Bowling Green

The Everly Brothers: Bowling Green


Neko Case: Bowling Green


A quick post here at the buzzer to pay tribute to Orlando Mendez-Valdez and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and a valiant effort tonight against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. In the end, the Toppers came up just short in a very entertaining game.

Western Kentucky University is located in Bowling Green, KY. Bowling Green, Ky is the subject of this fine song originally recorded by the Everly Brothers. I've also included Neko Case's cover of the song as it is my favorite version and one of the first Neko Case songs I came to love.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Green: Green Lights

NRBQ: Green Lights


It's a little dated, production-wise, but everything I love about NRBQ is here: the no-frills bluecollar bar band sound, the wry, deceptively simple lyrics, the subtle pop sensibility. Totally danceable; absolutely summer.

Green: Mixed Greens

Simon and Garfunkle: The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine


Simon and Garfunkle are known for some wonderful songs, with poetic titles like The Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. But look at the track listings of the original albums, and you quickly realize one thing: it was the sixties, man. The title of this selection is a perfect example.

XTC: Green Man


XTC disappeared for seven years, before regrouping and releasing Apple Venus Volume 1 in 1999. After a second volume in 2000, the band broke up for good. Green Man shows that the breakup was not about any lack of musical inspiration.

Ian Siegal: Stranger Than a Green Dog


The sixties saw an outpouring of fine British blues musicians. The emergence of Ian Siegal in recent years shows that the Britain continues to produce fine blues musicians to this day. They just aren’t as fashionable as they once were.

Green: Green, Green Rocky Road

Dave Van Ronk: Green, Green Rocky Road


Dave Van Ronk had a voice like gravel. It’s not the sort of voice you would seek out. But Van Ronk knew how to put it to the best use. His voice was perfect for the blues and spirituals he loved and performed so well. And when he recorded folk songs, what came through was his personal warmth and good humor, as well as his love of the material. Green, Green Rocky Road is one of the songs I think of when I think of him.

The song itself is one of those strange folk songs that doesn’t seem to quite add up. What is it about? Is it possibly a love song? That doesn’t quite seem to work. This enigmatic quality may possibly account for the song’s popularity among folk artists. Many have performed and recorded it, and many still do.

It turns out that Green Green Rocky Road has its origins as a sung chant that went with a children’s game. The rules of the game are lost in the sands of time, but it appears to have been related to Duck Duck Goose, with possibly some elements of Red Light Green Light.

Announcement: Speaking of kid’s music, my review on Oliver di Place this week is the new album by Billy Jonas. Two of Jonas’ songs for grown-ups have appeared here previously, but he is best known as a kid’s artist, and the new album shows why.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Green: On the Greener Side

Michelle Shocked: On the Greener Side


I am a long-time fan of Michelle Shocked, starting with her *album*, The Texas Campfire Tapes... and segueing through CDs of her various incarnations of singer-songwriter... to swing jazz... to traditional twang - I admit I'm a few recordings behind... but I do see she has a new one coming out in May, and I'll attempt to catch up between now and then...

From Wikipedia:

...her 1989 album Captain Swing on Mercury Records was accompanied by a strong promotional push, including an MTV-aired video of the single "On the Greener Side." However, the label did not invest in further promotion, stating that she had "cut too good a deal" for herself. After litigation following her release of 1992's Arkansas Traveler, she extricated herself from the deal, citing a violation of her 13th Amendment constitutional right prohibiting slavery.

Okay... "Michelle Shocked' and "MTV video" are words I never thought I'd see in the same sentence - here is proof that it really happened!

Green: Down by the Greenwood Side

Kerfuffle: Down by the Greenwood Side

[purchase from Amazon UK, not available on the US site. Pricing in pounds sterling]

Down by the Greenwood Side is a variant on the Child Ballad Cruel Mother. Either way you sing it, the song tells the tale of a woman who becomes pregnant with twin sons. The pregnancy is unwanted, and she kills the boys at birth. Some time later, she comes upon two boys playing, and muses aloud about all the wonderful things she would do if they were her children. When the boys respond, it is clear that they are the ghosts of the children she slew, and they denounce her hypocrisy. There follows a ritualized recitation of the punishments she will have endure. This is a series of four transformations, each lasting seven years, concluding with “seven years in the flames of Hell“. The motifs of transformations and seven-year cycles are common to English traditional songs and tales, and can be traced back to pagan times. There is a good chance that, if you hear a Child Ballad with a crime that goes unpunished, it is because the singer has omitted the last few verses.

Kerfuffle is a young British folk group. Despite the fact that their youngest members are only just finishing college, they are already on their fourth album. Kerfuffle started winning youth folk awards in England before some of them started high school, and it seems likely that their commitments to their education have kept them from considering touring outside of England. I found this song on the sampler that came with the subscription copy of the latest issue of Dirty Linen magazine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Green: Elder Green Is Gone

Rory Block: Elder Green is Gone


If it wasn't for pure fidelity, subtle production dynamics, and that high, clear voice, it would be easy to imagine that this recording was older than the hills, from the early days of folk or "country" blues.

But this is no Lomax field recording. It's acoustic blues guitarist and five time WC Handy award winner Rory Block, who set out at fifteen to learn her trade from a set of dying old men, all she could track down -- Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and Son House among them -- before heading out into the folk scene in the early seventies.

Block didn't really hit her stride until she was picked up by Rounder Records in 1981, who convinced her to go back to her blues roots. Her catalog after that is plentiful and stunning. This deep cut - a Charlie Patton cover - comes from Blue Horizon, her second Rounder album.

Green: Bein' Green

Tony Bennett and Kermit the Frog: Bein' Green



This felt-covered creation of Jim Henson coined the phrase, "It's Not Easy Being Green," in a song he first performed on "Sesame Street." You can watch the lovable frog sing his signature song on YouTube. In it, Kermit laments about how hard it is to be different, only to have an epiphany that being different can be a good thing, too.

Green: Green Apples

Chantal Kreviazuk: Green Apples


This is one of my favorite love songs. Chantal is a Canadian singer-songwriter and this is from her 1997 debut "Under These Rocks and Stones".

The song is pretty simple. She goes through a list of reasons why she knows the man she loves is the one she wants to spend her life with.

You're sweet as green apples
You must be the one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green: Green

Edie Brickell: Green


This song by Edie Brickell, formerly with New Bohemians (remember Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars?) and wife of Paul Simon (they now have three children), from her first solo album Picture Perfect Morning released in 1994, sounds to be a modern take on the "grass is always greener" theory...

I want to laugh the way they laugh.

See all my blues get back up in the sky.

If only we had what they had.

We'd never worry and we'd never cry for... green.

Have you seen green?

Have you seen grass?

So green... grass.

So green.

I'd like to be like that.

Green: Jack-in-the-Green

Jethro Tull: Jack-in-the-Green


Green. As in Irish, of course. But also as in the first tender shoots of spring. The calendar still says winter, but the first shoots of flowering plants are emerging in our garden. Soon enough, there will be flowers.

Jack-in-the-Green is the personification of this promise of spring. And the song, for my money, is one of Jethro Tull’s best.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Green: Dunlavin Green

Karan Casey: Dunlavin Green


A traditional Irish song in the hands of a fine Celtic folk singer.

Karan Casey's performance pulses quiet like the waters, a sweet voice floated over light piano and a subtle string arrangement. But underneath the stillness and surface beauty is the song itself, which tells the tale of The Massacre of Dunlavin Green, a public-square execution of 36 Irish prisoners of war and suspected rebels during the early days of the Irish Rebellion of 1778.

Green: Cramps edition

In tribute to the late great Cramps vocalist Lux Interior (´46-´09). File under sacred music.

And as a bonus, here are the rather obscure originals that inspired Lux & co back in ´81. Green Fuz is ultra lo-fi, but please don´t let that scare you off. It might just be the rawest piece of sixties garage rock you´ll ever hear.

Green: Sea Green, See Blue

Jaymay: Sea Green, See Blue


The green and blue of Miles Davis got me thinking of a more recent green and blue. Jaymay is a contemporary singer-songwriter of the Ingrid Michaelson ilk, who sings slightly off-kilter folk music.

Her song "Sea Green, See Blue" is from her album "Autumn Fallin'", and is a portrait of someone she once knew and now misses. When our lives lead us towards our goals and dreams, sometimes they move us away from people, places and memories we wish could have come along for the ride.

Green: Blue in Green

Miles Davis: Blue in Green


Miles Davis was a musical genius. I do not use the term lightly. But Miles had the ability to hear in his head music that no one had ever heard before. And he did this at least three times in his career. First, he heard cool jazz when everyone else was blowing hot. Next, he created an acoustic jazz sound where the structure of the songs was implied rather than stated. And finally, and most radically of all, Miles, for better or worse, created fusion jazz. And remember that, regardless of what fusion became, the electric music of Miles Davis was a true fusion, representing the full potential of what electric jazz could be.

Kind of Blue was the album that represented the epitome of Miles Davis’ cool jazz sound. In contrast to the loud and showy hot jazz of the day, the music of Kind of Blue is quiet, and emphasizes the ensemble sound over soloing. The solos are there, but they arise organically out of the group sound. And, in the midst of this, there is the song Blue in Green. Here, for my money, is the perfect jazz ballad. I could possibly say more, but it isn’t necessary. The song says it all.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Green: Green Onions

Booker T. & the MG's: Green Onions


Because it has placed prominently in soundtracks from American Graffiti to Quadrophenia to Get Shorty to The Sandlot, and because it gets played at ballparks and on commercials a bunch, most people recognize this funky 1962 soul instrumental immediately when they hear it.

But in my experience, hardly anyone (except perhaps our own beloved LD) knows the song by name, or knows that it was the house band for Stax records -- yes, those guys playing behind Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers, and a holy host of other Stax superstars -- who first recorded it and made it famous.

Perhaps folding it into this theme will help you find it when you need it. Because when it's time to get down to it, we all need to know where it's at.

Green: Green Cheese

Merle Travis: Green Cheese


In this charming little ditty, country music's greatest guitar player, Merle Travis, ponders a love metaphor gone bad (and does a little picking too).

Green: Big Green Country

Neil Young: Big Green Country


Let's get this week going with a little shot in the arm. Remember when Neil Young and the guys from Pearl Jam were best pals? Well, during that time they recorded Mirrorball together in only four days of studio time. Most of the songs, all except two, were actually written and recorded inside of that four day window! The songs were played live in studio for the album.

The cool thing is, live and freshly-written is exactly how the album actually sounds. Neil Young said, "Recording Mirror Ball was like audio vérité, just a snapshot of what's happening. Sometimes I didn't know who was playing. I was just conscious of this big smouldering mass of sound."