Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eating The Animal Kingdom: Catfish Blues

David "Honeyboy" Edwards: Catfish Blues


My wife's diet changes in the past year or so have meant that we are eating a lot more fish than we used to. We live on the water, so fish is plentiful and cheap. Where I live, you don't need no fishing license - you can feed yourself for free. Just dangle a line over the edge (if you are brave enough to eat the fish from a waterway that supports 16 million people!)  But we ain't got no catfish in these parts - far as I know.

The catfish has a venerable heritage. They say it can reach impossible proportions: 150 lbs? They say it was once a staple of the folks who played the early blues. They say that Robert Petaway wrote a song that Muddy Waters adapted and that many others heard and copied. It appears it isn't all that clear who took what and who did what with the conceit, but there are many folk who have a song called Catfish Blues.

Lightnin' Hopkins has a version, B.B. King has a version, Canned Heat has a version and so does Jimi Hendrix. Taj Mahal sings Catfish Blues, too.

Of the many versions I have, "Honeyboy" Edwards, whose version is showcased here above, does the best true blues: just the right number of notes. The wait-time between the notes is just what you want from the blues. You've got the harmonica, guitar and vocals that "hit' it just right to give you the feel - 'most like the catfish itself.

Eating The Animal Kingdon: Ham 'n' Eggs

A Tribe Called Quest: Ham ‘n’ Eggs

So, when was the last time you heard a rapper worrying about cholesterol?  Back in the days when Hip Hop was both funky and fun it was more than okay just to talk about what kind of food was palatable or otherwise, and being a "finger-lickin' winner" just meant that Q-Tip enjoyed his KFC.  No gold, no diamonds, no pretensions toward mafia-chic or the accoutrements of political clout: just beef jerky and asparagus tips.  But by all means, no ham and eggs.  They kind of smell bad, plus, you know, fatty blood.

And I wonder: were we really ever that young?  The hope and fun, the ramshackle sense of enjoyment: all of these things are missing, not just from Hip-Hop but from just about every genre of popular music.  We can do earnest - we're pretty good at that, and nowadays very few 'serious' artists arrive with chins unscratched and navels un-contemplated - and we can certainly still do throwaway, but everything just seems so premeditated, so calculated.  Every rhyme, every run, every Auto-tuned coo has been A&R-ed and focus-groupped to death, even in these days of waning record company power. And who knows, maybe the Tribe were too.  They just sounded like they weren't, and that's all that matters in the end.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eating the Animal Kingdom : Enchanted Pork Fist

Meat Puppets: Enchanted Pork Fist


Before Star Maker Machine looks like a series of Yesterday and Today Butchers Cover outtakes, I thought I'd offer some simple cover art with my entry. "Enchanted Pork Fist", from The Meat Puppet's 1985 album Up On The Sun, shows off Curt Kirkwood's Allman-Brothers-at-double-speed guitar chops before the boys sing about pistachios and getting back to bed.

 When the Puppets follow-up, Out My Way , came out in 1986 I got a phone interview with Curt and asked how he learned to move his fingers so quickly. In his laconic drawl, Curt said when you live in the Arizona desert there's nothing to do but jerk off and play your guitar and he's had a lot of practice at both.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Eating The Animal Kingdom: Praying Mantis

Don Dixon & Marti Jones: Praying Mantis
[purchase studio version]

I just finished spending the day smoking a pork butt, creating some delicious pulled pork, so I’m going to head off in a very different direction. There is a sense of recycled-ness to this week’s theme—we are extending last week’s theme, and this blog has already done a food theme, but a long time ago in Internet terms, and in any event before I was part of this community of music obsessives. So, in keeping with this overlay to the theme, I am writing about a song that was posted back in 2009 by Darius, our fearless leader. But to liven things up, so to speak, I am posting a live version.

“Praying Mantis,” by Don Dixon, is a great, twisted pop song, by a performer who is not widely known, and known if at all for being a producer of little known acts such as R.E.M., The Smithereens (the New Jersey band founded in 1980, not the Northampton, Mass. a capella group founded in 1945), Marshall Crenshaw, and his wife, Marti Jones. Dixon, as a songwriter and performer, reminds me of people like Nick Lowe and John Hiatt.

This track is from a live “official bootleg” that was, I believe, available for purchase at some point, but no more. I originally downloaded it from the music blog Popdose, which states that Dixon and Jones permitted them to post the show for download. It was recorded on May 11, 1990 at the 1313 Club in Charlotte, NC. It is still up and you can hear the entire show here: [Live from the 1313 Club]

It appears, however, that the story that the female praying mantis always eats the male after mating isn’t true. [Snopes Article] So, if any male praying mantises are reading this blog, you may be able to rest easily, and should get out of your house, or nest, or wherever praying mantises live, and try to meet a nice girl.

Eating The Animal Kingdom: Pigmeat

Ry Cooder: Pigmeat


A belated start to this week's theme, but not as late as all that, really, given how closely connected it is to our previous conceit - the difference here is, instead of merely celebrating fauna in all its forms, we find ourselves going for the gastronomical. In doing so, we retroactively include this morning's post featuring Little Feat classic Dixie Chicken, or at least the image accompanying it. Expect more of the same lip-smacking imagery as we move forward into June. Vegetarians, we apologize in advance for any distress.

This mess of a tune - originally by Huddie Ledbetter, swung here by master guitarist, composer, and one-time Rolling Stones studio sideman Ry Cooder - is a perfect thematic reboot, and not solely for the barely buried innuendo it hides under its sloppy, juicy performance. Pig meat, indeed. See also Cooder's One Meat Ball (pasted below), a tin pan alley cover from the same self-titled debut solo album, for thematically related though sonically distinct thrills.

The Animal Kingdom: Dixie Chicken

Little Feat: Dixie Chicken

While we're stuck on the animal kingdom and temporarily focused on fowl (and the plural is fowls?), allow me to once again plug both one of my favorite bands and one of my favorite resources (poignantly appropriate at this point in time)

The original studio version (purchase link goes there) is from the 1973 album of the same name. This embedded link is from the legal/free repository at where it is labeled as a 1976 live recording from the Warner Theater. I think you'll agree that it is pretty crisp (all around) for a live recording. ( I hear something "funky" happen to the recording at about 9'30", but it doesn't detract much from the overall value. Am I wrong? Do you hear it, too?)

Please pardon my irreverance as to the image choice for "the animal kingdom", but I kind of wish that it might provoke a remark about what it is that we do to our animal brethren.