Saturday, January 16, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: The Puppy Song

Harry Nilsson: The Puppy Song


Victoria Williams: The Puppy Song


On the surface, this early Harry Nilsson delicacy is a perfect slice of delicious 1969 poptimism, a fun little soft-shoe ditty about wishing for a puppy. Lift the sunshiny childlike innocence, however, and you'll find a subtle dig at the status quo in the narrator's longing for playful, eternal companionship away from the rules of society and crowds. The ever-sweet Victoria Williams gets the balance just right, too.

Four-Legged Friends: Howl at the Moon Edition

Cheryl Wheeler: Howl at the Moon


David Stocker: Penny the Moondog


Cheryl Wheeler is one of those artists who can have you laughing uproariously or crying inconsolably - this song, inspired by/written for James, her new-at-the-time border collie, has the latter effect on me...

David Stocker was a finalist in our South Florida Folk Festival songwriting competition in 1998 and 1999, and the tune above was one of his entries, which became a howl-along at every opportunity - David is now better known for his participation in the group One Drum...

Both of these songs remind me of my own dog Rocky (official name Rocky Raccoon, after the Beatles' song), who has slowed down considerably in his almost-15-years with our family - he is adorable, wise, affectionate and loyal. Rocky spends most days curled at my feet (if I'm on the computer) or following me from room-to-room (if I'm doing chores around the house)... yet he gets super-excited when one son returns from work... or the other comes home from college for the weekend... or as soon as I get back from my walk and take the leash out of the drawer for his own turn around the block - he is immortalized in the blogosphere here, when Christine Kane took a picture of him the weekend she played my concert series a few years ago and stayed overnight with us before driving to a gig in Tampa the next day...

Rocky is doing his doggie-dream hiccup, even as I type - "a tale of two souls, four paws, one heart" indeed...

Four-Legged Friends: Seeing Eye Dog

Ani DiFranco: Seeing Eye Dog


You can go away for a couple of days, and leave a cat to fend for itself. Not so with a dog. Dogs are dependent upon humans for their bodily functions, but the also require the company. A dog defines itself in terms of its place in the pack.

When you’re talking about a seeing eye dog, the dependency is mutual. Ani DiFranco uses a seeing eye dog as an extended metaphor, to describe a mutually dependent, and entirely human, relationship. As with a seeing eye dog and its owner, here two people together are greater than they could ever be apart.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: Palomar

Rheostatics: Palomar


Rheostatics were a unique, creative Canadian band that never achieved much success below the 49th parallel. I friend of mine slipped me a copy of their Whale Music album years ago, and I was immediately sucked in by the eclectic arrangements, offbeat song structures, and often inscrutable lyrics. But I still don't know how to describe them, other than "very Canadian".

"Palomar" is one of the more musically straightforward songs from that first album I heard (which, as it turns out, was actually their third). It's about a man and his dog. Or mankind's relationship with Man's Best Friend. Or about how men are like dogs. Something like that. As I said, their lyrics were often inscrutable.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: Four Legs Good. Two Legs Bad.

Christine Kane: Four Legs Good. Two Legs Bad.


I love this catchy, country-ish, cautionary tale about the importance of canine and feline companionship in our lives - literary bonus points awarded for Christine's nod to Animal Farm in her song title... :-)

Four-Legged Friends: Dog Gone Wrong

Freakwater: Dog Gone Wrong


To begin with I would like to commend the efforts of everyone involved in the disaster relief during the aftermath of the horrendous earthquake in Haiti. That said I would also like in particular to acknowledge the dogs and their handlers who have been and still are working feverishly to rescue survivors.

The old expression 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile' can appropriately be applied to dogs. Most of them will try just about anything that a dog can get away with at least once. But when a dog gets his of her first taste of blood, they become a different animal altogether. And just like people, should a dog fall in with a bad crowd, more often than not there is no turning back.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: 900 Dogs

The Carnivaleros: 900 Dogs


Chances are, most of you haven’t heard 900 Dogs. The song comes from The Carnivaleros’ album Happy Homestead, which I reviewed on my blog, Oliver di Place, back in September. You can read my full review here.

Gary Mackender is the songwriter of the group. Here he takes the idea behind the expression “dog eat dog”, and turns it into an extended metaphor. The song has a desert rock vibe, topped by a wailing sax, that only helps to make the point.

Four-Legged Friends: Beware

"You better beware of the dog that brings the bone,
she´s only trying to break up your home..."

This one´s dedicated to the great Willie Mitchell of Hi Records fame, who passed away last week at 82. Only one out of countless southern soul gems that Mitchell had a producing hand in, Beware shows that there´s much more to Ann Peebles than just her famous million-seller I Can´t Stand The Rain.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: Furr

Blitzen Trapper: Furr


I hope it's OK to post a fairly recent tune but Blitzen Trapper's Furr is a song that tells a story of a young man who joins in with a pack of wolves. More than a simple dog, or in this case wolf song, it's also the story of a young man's quest for his identity. I might be pushing the envelope some here but since all dogs came from wolves I think they deserve a nod. As does Blitzen Trapper for this wonderful song.

Four-Legged Friends: Drive By

Glen Phillips: Drive By

My New Year's Resolution is to once again become more active on this site and try to post at least once each week with each new theme. It starts today.

This one comes from Glen Phillips' first solo album after his departure from Toad the Wet Sprocket. It's a character study of a child struggling with trying to be a "good boy" in the face of being forced to participate in a heinous act.

Glen's character wants to please his father... even during his misguided attempt to murder the neighbor's dog. He, however, wishes no actual harm to come to the dog so he prays to The Father to stay his father's hand.

In the end, God comes through and answers Glen's prayers... even though Glen can't keep the promises he made.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: My Dog and Me

John Hiatt & The Goners: My Dog and Me


This week’s theme is challenging for me for a couple of reasons. Not long ago, I posted a set of dog songs at my place, and I don’t want to repeat myself. Also, I am a cat person, and dogs are not really my thing. Still, duty calls.

Actually, if I was ever going to change my mind about dogs, this might be the song that would do it. John Hiatt describes a peaceful day with just him and his dog, and it sounds wonderful. I remember when this album came out that some reviewers hated this song. They were looking for a jaundiced view of the world, and clever word play, and Hiatt is often the best place to look for both of these things. But here, he plays it honest and straight, and keeps it simple, and it works. To me, it just shows another side to his talent.

Four-Legged Friends: Police Dog Blues

Jorma Kaukonen and Tom Hobson: Police Dog Blues


This old "Blind" Arthur Blake tune, first recorded in the early days of the country blues, tells a pretty typical tale: rambling man meets Tennessee girl, girl passes him up because she doesn't like his tie, guy drops the issue before her crazy "police dog" can take a bite out of his pants. Irony alert: the dog's name is Rambler, too...

Blake was king of the ragtime guitar; this acoustic blues version from Jorma Kaukonen and Tom Hobson is a whole mess whiter. Still, the early stuff from these bluesfolk princes has a gentle, bittersweet soul of its own.

PS: I've been on an acoustic blues kick lately; if you like this sort of stuff, why not ramble over to Cover Lay Down for more?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Four-Legged Friends: Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne

Jim Stafford: Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne


This week's theme is something I hold dear to my heart. I've been a dog guy since I was a kid and have never been without at least one. We currently have two.

Jim Stafford's song Spiders And Snakes was a novelty tune from the 70s. It was a pretty good tune at the time but a friend of mine told me to listen to the whole album, that there were a number of other songs on it worth checking out. I took her advice and bought the LP. Turned out she was right, so when Stafford came out with his next album, Not Just Another Pretty Foot, I snapped it right up. Many of my favorite songs by Stafford, though humorous, also have surreal, dreamlike story quality to them. A perfect example would be Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne. Personally I would've thought a bulldog would prefer beer but the song set me straight.

Four-Legged Friends: Hot Dog Boogie

[alas, no purchase possible]

Four-legged friends, huh? I´m more fond of cats myself, but if you want dogs, I give you dogs. Singing dogs...

The follow-up to a barked version of Jingle Bells, this weird gem stems from 1956. In our computer age a record like this would probably be easy to make, but back in the fifties it must have been quite a feat.

I found this a while back on a fanmade collection of the favorite tracks of avid record collectors Lux & Ivy of Cramps fame, and it quickly became a firm fave of my eight year old daughter. Woof!