Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers: The Rooms My Mother Made

Carrie Newcomer: The Rooms My Mother Made


As we journey through life, and as we journey through this week’s posts, we experience a variety of emotions about mothers. From the unconditional love we experience in early childhood, through the resentful feelings that some experience in their teenage years, and on to a bittersweet appreciation and acceptance that hopefully comes in later life, feelings about motherhood are complicated. In The Rooms My Mother Made, Carrie Newcomer doesn’t shy away from any of these feelings and more, But acceptance is her theme, and she expresses it beautifully. So this seemed to me to be the perfect song to bring my posts for this week to a close.

Mothers: "Baking Serving Caring Listening" Edition

The Roches: I Love My Mom

[purchase] - out of stock on their own website

Susan McKeown: Mother of Mine


Rachel Bissex: Dancing with My Mother


Annie Gallup: Blue Dress


I have been a mess for the last week, in anticipation/dread of this holiday that is everywhere (television, radio, newspaper, magazines, e- and snail-mail solicitations promoting gifts and flowers, department stores)... but that pains me so much this year, because it is my first Mother's Day without my mom - she passed away July 19, 2009 and her absence remains heartbreakingly fresh...

I really just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head... but my own children need me, so I will attempt to be the best mother I can be under the circumstances, and they completely understand - inside, I feel lost and frightened and empty (who do I call/mail a card/send flowers to now?)...

I know Mom is with me in spirit, I retain indelible memories and she lives on in my character traits (the good and the bad) - I dream of her often and I realize she'd want me to move ahead and through rather than stay stuck and wounded...

I meant to post these songs throughout the week but it just seemed less wrenching to do it all at once (the band-aid removal theory, you know) - the last one, by definition of our terms (post songs with a word for "mother " in the title) is cheating, but it so suits the intention of the theme that I hope I'll be forgiven...

Mothers: I Had A Good Mother And Father

Washington Phillips: I Had A Good Mother And Father (circa 1928)


Kate Wolf: I Had A Good Mother and Father (1979)


Palace Brothers: I Had A Good Father And Mother (1993)


Gillian Welch: I Had A Real Good Mother & Father (2003)


Newcomers to the folkworld may believe this song is a Gillian Welch original, and it's true that Welch and her partner David Rawlings have a powerful tendency to make the songs they perform their own. But older folkies like myself know it as an old gospel spiritual, first recorded and possibly penned by Washington Phillips in the midst of the Great Depression, which flows down to us through the folkways in many hands and voices, and with variation in the title.

Kate Wolf, for example, takes Phillips' own listing and makes it her own through gentle, loving acoustic treatment in her inimitably beautiful voice. Meanwhile, the Palace Brothers reverse the titular parents and twang it up a bit, adding old timey banjo and slide over guitar strum patterns more akin to that of Phillips' original handmade chord-zither. Alongside these, Welch's slow-picked dustbowl rendition aches with yearning for the promise of Heaven's reunion.

Mothers: Does Your Mother Know

ABBA: Does Your Mother Know


Damn, this is my fourth post this week.

And I'm gonna use it to force some cheesy, ultra-commercial pop down your throats. Pop music of a kind not seen very often on this blog.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mothers: A Mother's Cry

Loosegoats: A Mother's Cry


A baby bird has left its nest
Staggering like they always do
A mother's cry can cut through any man's chest
And it does
Yes it does

Sometimes I wish that it would be a little easier
'Cause the hardest fall comes when you're on the ground
Sometimes I wish that it would be a little easier
On you
On me

In the evil I see good
Easy to find but often so misunderstood
A mother's cry can cut through any man's chest
And it does
Yes it does

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mothers: Mother Russia

Renaissance: Mother Russia


Tracks like "Mother Russia", from Renaissance's 1974 Turn of the Cards, are why punk rock had to be invented. This is not music that will make you want to join a band. This is music that will turn you into an egghead. Bathe in its orchestral rock excess! I love it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mothers: Mama Didn't Lie

Doris: Mama Didn't Lie


Doris Svensson became something of a cult figure in Sweden a few years ago when the TV show Musikbyrån did a half hour special on the music scene in late 60's/early 70's. Before the show, very few had even heard of her, and suddenly her only album Did You Give The World Some Love Today, Baby (1970) sold like crazy.

It was reissued on cd in 1996 with a number of bonus tracks, including this Curtis Mayfield penned number, originally recorded by Jan Bradley and The Fascinations in 1963. There was also a cover of The Band's Whispering Pine, which can be checked out here.

Mothers: Mother's Spiritual

Laura NyroMother's Spiritual


This song comes from one of Laura Nyro's later albums, recorded in 1984 when she was a single mother of a 2-year-old boy. By then, she'd moved away from the jazz and soul–drenched pop that often defined her earlier songs (and made big hits for artists like The Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat and Tears). Recorded in her Connecticut home studio and using only a piano and her compelling voice, the title song is a poetic ode to motherhood. And although I love her Brill Building pop sound (she did an entire cover album in 1971 with LaBelle just full of gems from the likes of Martha and the Vandellas, Curtis Mayfield, and Ben E. King), I also love her heartfelt ballads like this one.

Guest post by Geoviki

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mothers: My Mother’s Keeper

Laura Siersema: My Mother‘s Keeper


One of my great pleasures in running Oliver di Place is discovering artists who are new to me. I feature their most recent work, and that usually means I don’t get to share them with you here. That’s because, at Star Maker, we have an informal rule against posting new music. But lately, I have begun to get from my Oliver artists some of their older work. Laura Siersema is one of these, and the first one I am sharing here.

My Mother’s Keeper is from Siersema’s debut album. The song is a beautiful portrait of women who go out on their own, only to discover that they must return home to care for their mothers in later life. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe the song is about women who find echoes of their mother’s behavior in themselves as they get older. This is one of those lyrics that will start conversations about its meaning. I don’t think there is a single right answer. And it is very difficult to write a lyric like this.

Meanwhile, Siersema sings this one in an intimate alto, although she sings in a warm soprano elsewhere. For accompaniment, there is just Siersema’s piano, but that is all the song needs. You can hear more of Siersema’s early work here. With her latest album, Siersema says she has found her sound. It is built from what she was doing on her debut. You can hear what she sounds like now here.

Mothers: Night Time Was My Mother

Driver Quartet: Night Time Was My Mother

[out of print]

For a few years in the late '90s, Driver Quartet were making interesting sounds in downtown NYC. Bandleader David Driver's mannered vocals were the obvious focus of the group, but the rest of the band were all master musicians, so the backing by keyboardist Fil Krohnengold, woodwind/accordion player Peter Kiesewalter, and bassist Adam Bernstein (yes, him again) was always more interesting than simple backing.

They specialized in digging up obscurities from the American Popular Songbook, and sprinkling them with originals (often from bassist Bernstein), as well as a few more well-known songs. (There reworking of "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" is sublime.)

"Night Time Was My Mother" is one of the obscurities. Written by Connie Pearce and Arnold Miller, the liner notes to the Driver Quartet CD Night Time state that the song was "[o]riginally recorded by June Christy in 1958, in an arrangement by her longtime collaborator Pete Rugolo. We have yet to find another version." (I've recently discovered that another artist has since recorded it.)

The band must have really liked the song. They only released one EP (Big and Strong and Lonely) and one full-length CD (the aforementioned Night Time), yet both discs took their titles from its dark lyrics. Both discs also open with a version of the song. I've chosen to share the slightly longer second version, from Night Time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mothers: Every Mother's Son

Chris Smither: Every Mother's Son

[out of print; purchase used here]

Today's post marks the fifth Chris Smither post since this blog's inception, though only my second since the man himself moved from his long-time home of Woodstock to our own local area, and I think it's fair to warn all our readers that just as I plan to see him another three dozen times or more before I die, I plan to keep posting and promoting the undersung folkblues poet until I've converted everyone within earshot.

Smither's performance and songwriting prowess have matured and mellowed with age, but this early track from 1972 sophomore release Don't It Drag On is a personal favorite: deep and blue, pensive and peaceful, yet elegantly simple in its structure and lyric. There's also a great live version on his 1991 comeback album Another Way To Find You.

Mothers: Mother of Earth

Mick Harvey: Mother of Earth


There's a story that Billy Idol heard the Gun Club playing Mother of Earth, tried to copy it and came up with White Wedding. Former Bad Seed Mick Harvey simply decided to cover the song. Think of this as a prayer by a man who has used up all his chances. Think of Edward Weston's photograph of a dead drifter he stumbled on in the desert. Think of John Fante's "Ask the Dust" if you want but try not to think of White Wedding. You'll be receiving all the wrong messages.

The 2005 album, One Man's Treasure, slipped under too many radars, maybe because Harvey was covering songs, maybe because it wasn't quite what Bad Seeds fans wanted. Too bad. There isn't a dull moment on this album.

Guest post from John. His blog is One Man’s Treasure. Coincidence?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mothers: The Bob Dylan & The Band Edition

Bob Dylan & The Hawks: Tell Me Momma


Bob Dylan & The Band: Tough Mama


Bob Dylan & The Band: It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding


Tell Me Momma was the opening song of the second half of Dylan's set during the controversial electric rock band tour of 1966. This take is from the infamous "Judas gig" in Manchester on May 17. The Band, or The Hawks as they were still known from their hellraising years with Ronnie Hawkins, are all present on this track, sans drummer Levon Helm who had chosen to leave the tour because of the overwhelmingly negative response from the audience, and been replaced by Mickey Jones.

Tough Mama is taken from 1974's Planet Waves, the only proper studio album Dylan and The Band recorded together. They had collaborated on Blonde On Blonde in 1966 (again without Helm), but only guitarist Robbie Robertson appeared on the finished album. And of course they had the legendary sessions in Woodstock in 1967, eventually released as The Basement Tapes in 1975, which wasn't originally intended for release but played a big role on Dylan's John Wesley Harding (1967) and The Band's debut album Music From Big Pink (1968).

Following the release of Planet Waves, Dylan and The Band went on tour - Dylan's first in eight years. Before The Flood was recorded during this tour, and it's from this live album the incendiary rendition of It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding is taken. Although I confess it doesn't entirely fit into this post, as Dylan did it by himself and doesn't feature The Band at all. But it's the only song on there that references a mother in the title, so I'm shoehorning it in.

Hats off to Darius. Photo by Neil Preston.

Mothers: Mother Stands For Comfort

Kate Bush: Mother Stands For Comfort


A mother’s love is a thing of great power. You hear of mothers who are suddenly able to lift cars, because they believe their child lies beneath. As Kate Bush sees it here, a mother protects her child, no matter what he may have done. “Mother will hide the murderer. Mother will hide the madman.” Bush apparently meant for this song to be taken literally.

The melody and some of the instrumental lines have a hymn like quality. But other parts are disorienting. There are odd sound effects, and the music overall has an otherworldly feel. This all creates a dramatic tension that is very powerful.

Oh, before I leave you, let me take a moment to thank David and Geoviki for answering the call, and making sure I had this to post.