Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lion/Lamb: Leo Kottke

purchase some essential [ Leo Kottke  ]

Seems to me that the jump from Lion/Lamb to Leo is perfectly reasonable for our current theme, considering the derivation of the two.

Leo Kottke has always held me in awe since I first heard him back in the 70's.
There is something different about his style - a not necessarily visible "attack" to the strings of his guitar. An approach more felt than seen. Not quite as removed from a standard chord progression as John Fahey's way out there style, but still verging in the same dissociation from the expected. He hits notes unexpected, but they fit in in their own way.

Kottke has influenced no small number of musicians. It's hard to have heard him and not been affected by his style: the ring of the strings, the repetition ...

One of my favorites of Kottke's works is his interpretation of Bach's <Jesu Joy>.
I took a moment to go off on a tangent from this, remembering that Bach has various references to sheep in his work (You know .. Jesus as pastor of his flock.  And in fact, there are Bach "lyrics" of that sort:  ... while we like sheep ...

But I couldn't locate any Kottke video to back this up.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Uncertain whether I would be lion enough to manage this, given I have spent the last five days driving from my home, in the middle of England, to Sweden, via (a ferry to) Holland, Germany and Denmark. And now, a return journey. No, not escaping the shitstorm of Brexit, even if I'd like to, delivering instead my son to his girlfriend, and a new life, in Malmo. But, no lamb me, here I sit, in the cold, literally, light of early morning, tapping away, making me feel, in the middle of Westphalia, quite the adventurer. Which is a clunky way of introducing this tune and the band that play it, Australia's the Waifs, australians seeming always the most inveterate of travellers. (As they display with this early number.)

This song is from their sixth album, 'Temptation', in 2011, by which time they had moved from becoming world famous in their homeland to slightly known elsewhere. A support slot with Bob Dylan clearly did no harm, transporting them from his 2003 tour of Oz to the north american continuation thereof. I had come across them from appearances on the UK festival circuit around that time, liking the rootsy sounds, amalgamating bits of folk with blues and country. Consisting of two sisters, growing up with their dad's record collection, and a busker they met, asking him to join their band within hours, or so the story goes, a name was steadily built.

What's it about? I guess it sounds a standard gospel/blues standard; indeed, I thought it was. Actually it was penned by Josh Cunningham, the aforesaid busker, and stems from his becoming a born-again christian. Round about the same time, one of the sisters, Donna Simpson, got sober, with some of the other songs recounting that journey. I have no record of what the other sister/other member Vicki Thorn was going through at the time, but it is a fine, if sometimes galling, record.

Two records have followed, in 2014 and 2017 respectively. The title track of the latter, 'Ironbank', effectively offers an explanation of how and why they still exist. I'm glad they do.

Moses & the Lamb, here

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lion/Lamb: Mary Had a Little Lamb

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Mary Had A Little Lamb

Ultimately, what underlies this blog, over its long history, is recorded music. And while Edison may not have been the first person to figure out how to record stuff that could be played back (that achievement is currently credited to Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, who invented the phonoautograph in the mid-1850s, but never profited from it), he was the one who popularized it, and in the technology world, the glory often goes not to the first, but to the best or luckiest marketer.

The first thing that Edison recorded in 1877 was the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” That original recording has been lost, but a recording of the rhyme on an Edison machine in 1878 by Thomas Mason, a St. Louis newspaper political writer, still exists, and you can hear that here, after some music.  (It is wrongly attributed to Edison, as you can read here.) In 1927, at the Golden Jubilee of the Phonograph ceremony, Edison recalled that fateful day, and you can hear that here. And if you are interested in the disputed history of the writing of the original rhyme, the Wikipedia article is here.

Although there’s sort of a sing-song tune that goes along with the rhyme, we are not going to discuss that, even though it is probably already lodged in your brain right now.  Sorry.  Instead, we will jump ahead to 1968, and an album by soon to be Blues Legend Buddy Guy, A Man and the Blues, on which he recorded a fun, bluesy version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” throwing in a little “A Tisket, A Tasket,” for good measure.. (In 1990, when my son was all of two months old, my wife and I brought him to Central Park to a free Buddy Guy show. We did stand in the back—somewhere in this picture, maybe--but Buddy jumped off the stage and ran through the crowd playing, and came right up to us. Begging the question whether we were very good or very bad parents. I don’t recall whether he played “Mary” that day, because I was enthralled by his playing, and was worried about my infant son and his mother, considering that I had been a father for all of two months and had no clue what I was doing.)

Frankly, though, I first became aware of the tune from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version on his debut album from 1983, Texas Flood, which spawned the better known singles "Pride and Joy" and "Love Struck Baby," and the great live version on Live Alive. There’s really not much more to say about it—it was clearly a goof when Guy recorded it (if brilliantly done), and Vaughan seemed to regard it similarly, but also as another showcase for his incendiary guitar playing.

OK—one more thing. This article, which discusses the song, posits that Guy swiped the song, knowingly or not, from Freddie King’s instrumental “Just Pickin',” which itself may have been nicked from another bluesman, Earl Hooker, whose song “Two Bugs and a Roach” sounds similar. Who knows?

No one, though, seems to have sued anyone over the royalties.