Friday, April 27, 2012

Song Chain : Responsible

When The Silos broke up, co-founder Bob Rupe kept busy as a member of the indie supergroup Gutterball, as bassist for seven years with Cracker and by making guest appearances on albums as diverse as Daniel Johnston's Hello How Are You? and Freedy Johnston's 1992 album Can You Fly?. ( No, they're not related)

   A Kansas native who literally sold some of the family farm to finance the recording of Can You Fly?, Freedy was joined on the record by a who's who of indie rock legends including Marshall Crenshaw, Chris Stamey ( The dB's), Kevin Salem (Dumptruck), Dave Schramm ( Yo La Tengo), Jane Scarpantoni ( who's played with 10,000 Maniacs and Richard Barone) and Rupe among others.

  Freedy's gamble paid off. Robert Christgau called Can You Fly? "a  perfect album" and Rolling Stone named Johnston songwriter of the year.

Song Chain: Caroline

The Silos: Caroline

There seem to be many songs with “Caroline” in the title, but when I saw the previous song, I immediately thought of this one by The Silos. I love the way the singer just yells out the name before the music starts.

So, when did alt-country music start? Who knows, but as much as I love Uncle Tupelo, they clearly weren’t the first alt-country band. The album that this song comes from was The Silos’ third, and was released months before No Depression. It’s a silly argument anyway, just as trying to figure out what the first rock and roll song was.

The Silos' first few albums were a great mix of country and rock, with great songwriting and playing. They have gone through lots of members, and their recorded output is inconsistent, but on this track, they rock, and I strongly recommend this album, and the one that preceded it, “Cuba.”

Song Chain: Caroline

MC Solaar: Caroline

 I was cool, sitting on a bench.  It was springtime.  For a genre so dependent upon lyrics, not many rappers have the nerve to be lyrical.  There are, to be sure, many MCs who are possessed of a deft turn of phrase and verbal skill, but true poetry is a little harder than that.  The blame can't really be placed at Hip-Hop's door: popular music isn't really about literary cleverness, after all.

Perhaps it's something to do with the nature of the language in which he raps, but MC Solaar has always been a little different.  This tale of amour fou begins with him watching lovers gather daisies, gathers pace through the reminiscence of an obsessive, doomed love and ends with slightly rueful hope (against hope) for a future reconciliation that won't happen.  The tale is grounded upon two central metaphors: the addictive nature of obsessive love, as made plain by the fact that the object of our hero's affection's name is also slang for cocaine (as in the English 'Charlie,') and that of the relationship as game of chance.  Je suis l'as de trèfle qui pique ton coeur - he is the ace of clubs who trumps her heart, or indeed her diamonds ('caro').  At least that's what he tells himself, but in the casino that is Paris he knows he has already lost. C'est la vie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Song Chain : Reconnez Cherie

Decades before marrying Amy Rigby, Wreckless Eric recorded some of the great Stiff Records punk-pop singles of the late 70's including "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World", "Veronica" and "Reconnez Cherie". As he details in his autobiography, A Dysfunctional  Success -The Wreckless Eric Manual, he eventually lost everything he earned to the bottle and moved to the French countryside for ten years. In his book you meet all kinds of famous characters including Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Huey Lewis ( the tea boy at Stiff Records office the day Eric wandered in).

Song Chain: All I Want

Amy Rigby: All I Want


Money may be what the Beatles and the Flying Lizards want, but in her song "All I Want," Amy Rigby longs for something more basic: "Just a little something to show me that you care whether I live or die." On her first records (this one is from 1998's Middlescence), Rigby specialized in these working class love-on-the-rocks songs, some with an alt-country sound, others -- like this one -- with a '60's girl-group feel. Amy Rigby (nee McMahon) launched her career in the aftermath of her divorce from dBs drummer Will Rigby. Though she's never quite broken out as either a singer or songwriter, she released a series of very enjoyable records in the late '90s and aughts, including a couple of duet albums with her second husband, the artist formerly and still known as Wreckless Eric.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Song Chain: Money (That’s What I Want)

Flying Lizards: Money (That‘s What I Want)


The rules of our game this week are to post the first song that comes to mind based on the previous post. Kkafa‘s post made me think of Beatles remakes, and Money (That‘s What I Want) immediately came to mind. It‘s not a pure Beatles remake, because the Beatles were themselves covering the song. The original version was by Barrett Strong, and it was the first single released by the Motown label, in 1959. By the time we get to the Flying Lizards’ version heard here, we are firmly in the territory of 80s remakes. Perhaps no other reinvented the song to the extent this one did. Some people would probably regard this as a destruction of the song. All I know is that it always brings a smile to my face when I hear it.

Song Chain: I Don't Want to Spoil the Party

Nu-Utopians: I Don't Want to Spoil the Party
[free download at Beatles Complete on Ukelele]

Time to get out of the TV funk we've been stuck in for some time now. I admit I am not much of a TV person, nor am I a party type, either. Having said so, let's use J David's reference to TV parties to move on. Now, it's not my intention to spoil anyone's party. I am, however, a die hard Beatles fan and a Creative Commons buff. I know, I have previously brought you something else from the Beatles Complete on Ukelele project, but all the same, in the interest of moving on ...

The Nutopians are dedicated to keeping the music of John Lennon alive. Rex Fowler, previously of Aztec Two Step, is one of the band members. As with all the songs at the Beatles Complete on Ukelele, you'll hear some ukelele on this fine rendition of  a not-so-well-known Beatles hit from the mid 60s.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Song Chain: TV Party

Black Flag: TV Party

We seem to be in sort of a television phase here. Here is a fun, kind of sloppy song by Black Flag, called “TV Party.” This album came out just after I graduated from college, and I pretty much missed it when it came out. But it has a number of great songs on it.

This one, which really does sound like a bunch of friends singing about watching TV and having a few beers, has a certain charm. I particularly like that these guys mention Hill Street Blues, which was one of my favorite shows at the time.

I’m one of those people who think that there is actually a great deal of good things to watch on TV, and most nights, I’m having a little TV party of my own.

Song Chain: All The Young Dudes

David Bowie: All the Young Dudes

Geoviki's mention of a strange dream/nightmare combined with the mention of a television, brings to my mind this song that Bowie wrote for Mott the Hoople. Here, Bowie performs the song. He sings, "Television man is crazy saying we're juvenile delinquent wrecks", and take us from dreams of fame and fortune in the name of Jesus to the fame and fortune of various personalities of the 70s glam rock scene with much that is likewise disquieting.
(tip of the hat to Bert: I see belatedly that he sent the Mott the Hoople version your way a while back)

Song Chain: Antichrist Television Blues

Arcade Fire: Antichrist Television Blues


Joe Ross' post had a vivid description of a scene by someone who grew up in a Christian church, son of a minister. It brought to mind this story, much more disquieting, of a man who badly wants his young daughter to pursue fame and fortune in the name of Jesus. His dream, he realizes, is becoming a nightmare for her, and yet we get the impression that he won't stop with his heartless quest.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Song Chain: Dust on the Bible

Blue Sky Boys: Dust on the Bible


For a song chain theme, one writes quickly and posts the first song that comes to mind. When I heard the beautiful silky smooth voice of Loreena McKennitt singing “All follow this and come to dust,” it made me think of the Blue Sky Boys (Bill and Earl Bolick) harmonizing on “Dust on the Bible.” It’s one of those sweet traditional bluegrass gospel tunes that comes from the brother duos of the 1930s and 1940s. We like to pick and sing the song with my own band here in Oregon, the Umpqua Valley Bluegrass Band. The song has a message which is still relevant today.

The song was written by Walter and Johnny Bailes. Walter once said, “I was born and raised in West Virginia in an area now considered a part of Charleston. My dad, being a minister, and my Christian mother led us children to believe in Christ and go to church. It was in church while in my late teens that I found the origin for ‘Dust on the Bible.’ A young minister by the name of Willard Carney came there and started a church in store basement. Since our parents had always taught us respect for all Christ-believing churches, I started attending Brother Carney’s church pretty regular. In one of these services, I heard him relate this experience of going into a home to visit, which story is told in this song. I just put his story in song and bless him for it. I believe him to be a very sincere minister of Christ!”

Song Chain: Cymbeline

Loreena McKennitt: Cymbeline


Have you ever played Word Association? It’s the game where one person says a word, and the next player has to say the first word that comes into their head. The results can be funny, revealing, or just wonderfully odd. This week, we will be playing a musical version of that game, and forming a song chain. Each song will have something, anything at all, to do with the last one. To start off, here is the first song that came to mind when I saw Mt Vernon Mike’s post of The Reduced Merle Haggard.

So how did I get to Loreena McKennitt from Merle Haggard? Mike mentioned Shakespeare. Now, if I were normal, I would have posted Romeo and Juliet. But no, I had to think of one of the Bard’s most obscure plays. Cymbeline can only be regarded as a history if you regard the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth as being more historical than folkloric. In any case, it is clear that Shakespeare expanded the plot of Cymbeline with material that came not from Geoffrey at all, but rather from the Bard’s own mind. Loreena McKennitt uses Shakespeare’s own words from near the end of the play as the text for her song. The result is a beautiful lament for a pair of doomed young lovers.