Friday, April 1, 2022

Shelter: Gimme Shelter Covers


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Shelter without the elephant in the room? Well ... Jordan *did* once bring it up with a post about the one and only Merry Clayton, who did the incredible backup ... nay ... co-vocals with Mick Jagger on Gimme Shelter (from Let It Bleed) - screenshot above. Myself? I am such an old Stones man that in one of my classes today, the first thing that came to mind was to play <Out of Time> when the clock ran out on my students' quiz time .  ("Baby, baby, baby, you're out of time ...") And yes, I've been known to post here about the band on occasion [ here and here and more ]

Gimme Shelter certainly ranks among my favorites - not just Stones favorites. I can't help but stomp  my feet when I hear the song kick in full force. Certainly it has something to do with classic Keith style: the songs  just reeks of Richards' guitar. Probably the reverb on the intro riffs? And then there's the message in the lyrics. Again, so Stones: murder, rape, shot, flood, fire, storm, war ... a kiss away. Shelter from a kiss, or war is just a kiss away? I tell ya, I'm gonna fade away if I don't get some shelter.

So ... without the elephant, some covers below:

You want more?


 At times of terror and turbulence we, as humans, often seek solace or succour from a higher power, quite whatever that might be. And, no, this isn't extending a troll to the many millions who hold dear such an idea, certain of the reality. I get the need, sure, I get the need, even often wishing I could accept what I can't fully embrace. But I don't believe, arguably more agnostic than atheist, but fully respect the want of others to have a faith. So much so that I can absolutely love the musical convictions offered by those with belief and surety. Religious music can move me to tears and frequently does. Here, as the ravages rained down upon Ukraine fill our 24 hour rolling news channels, I feel sure, were I in the maelstrom of Mariupol, that it would be songs like this that would be filling my head.

One could easily assume the above, as performed by Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit, to be an ancient spiritual, handed down from generation to generation, even brought over on the slave ships, so earthy, rugged and real the entreaty. I certainly assumed so, Benoit having the knack of uprooting the overlooked and arcane to cover for his repertoire of authentic sounding country blues from the bayous. Having a voice like an earthquake and adept workmanlike precision on his guitar certainly hinders little. Hell, if you forgive the use of the word in this context, he just makes you want to believe in his God. (Or, at least, to take the Marc Cohn option, "Ma'am, I am tonight!")

But it isn't an old hymn, as I discovered, coming from a much more recent source. Here, above, is the original version, as appearing on Buddy Miller's 2004 album, Universal House of Prayer. I sometimes feel an overt Christian faith is deemed as disadvantageous in the world of rock and roll, not least as the Devil is said to have the best songs. Well, if that is the case, someone forgot to tell Buddy Miller, hotshot guitarist and record producer, who has played alongside both Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris, and produced, amongst others, Richard Thompson and Patty Griffin. This is as well as having his own solo career and that as a duet, with his wife, Julie, who actually wrote the song featured. Below is a live version, Buddy with three of his famous friends, Emmylou, Patty and, also a recipient of his production work, Shawn Colvin.

Quite apart from the couldn't be clearer lyrical thrust, is the odd fact that this self same song was used as the theme of a TV reality show in the U.S. Named Sons of Guns, it was about the life and business of a gun dealership. Which sorta sits uncomfortably. So, get rid the thought of it selling guns, and concentrate on applying it to losing the guns, and tanks, and bombs, from Ukraine, or, at least, from the hands of Putin's "military exercise". Maybe offered up as a prayer?

Have a last version, this time from Canada's excellent Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, joined here by no less than Mrs Springsteen herself, Patti Scialfa:

Shelter Tab, Buddy and Blackie's.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Shelter: Inshallah


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We are thinking about refugees this week: people seeking shelter. Sadly, issues like this come to the forefront when there are wars, when in fact, they are on-going problems that the world faces  and often turns a blind eye to on a daily basis. Something is koyaanisqatsi. Maybe many things?

Most definitions of the word inshallah combine a mix of fate/kismet and hope. The word allah is clearly embedded inside and the meaning is: if God wills it so. I would guess that the average speaker of Arabic/Turkish utters the word every day.

it shouldn't be a great surprise that Sting chose it for one of his songs: he is no foreigner to Arabic/Islamic culture (see:  Desert Rose), and he comes across as sensitive to multi-culturalism. He himself is an immigrant (see: Englishman in New York)

The song is about refugees coming to Europe from Islamic countries: but he also notes that the sense of "I hope" is an everyday occurance in Western culture - if we are attuned to it. He notes that when you cross a busy intersection in the city, you would be wise to say "inshallah, I'll make it to the other sidewalk". There is an element of fate and luck every time you step off the sidewalk.

And then I try to put myself in the shoes of a refugee (of a war, of hopeless poverty, homelessness), where it's not just a search for protection from tonight's rain or snow, but the longer-term need for a place that's safe. And I can't do it. Sure - I've been without shelter in various bad weather. Short-term, all. But not without hope. And that's where inshallah comes in.

Sting isn't the only one to include inshallah in his lyrics, but it comes as no surprise to me that most other examples are not from US musicians. My better half has on occasion suggested that I refrain from using the word in our private conversations when we are in the US - for example in a mall - because of the unwanted attention it might draw. (I did say that people from this part of the world utter the word frequently every day) suggests about 500 songs with the word, and the artists are primarily European resident Arabic rappers. No big surprise.

Inshallah, you'll enjoy the song. Inshallah, you'll put yourself in the (mental) shoes of someone seeking shelter - and do what you can. As Sting says in French "I hope this songs engenders your empathy" (my liberal translation) And of course ... the venue for the clip above adds to the poignancy.

Blvck Oreo (Vibes & Inshallah) :

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Shelter: Shelter

The Dexateens: Shelter

I seem to be writing about my song selection process a lot lately, which may mean that I’m trying to fill space because I’m running out of songs that have particular meaning for me. I hope not, because that would be bad for a blogger who mostly responds to theme prompts, but we’ll see—and maybe I need to take another short sabbatical to recharge. I’m spending a good deal of time these days working on projects directly or indirectly related to my 40th college reunion in May, which I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to write about down the road, and that also explains why I’ve been writing once per theme more often than twice these days. Also, there’s work and family. And good TV. 

So, when I heard the theme, my first thought was a King Crimson song, but seriously, who really wants me to write about another King Crimson song, and an instrumental, at that? (The volume of my Crimson-related posts surprises even me, considering that they are not my favorite band. What is my favorite band? I really don’t know.) My second thought was to pick the obvious Rolling Stones song, but I’ve written about that before. There’s also a Dylan classic, but writing about Dylan can be heavy lifting, and I don’t have the patience for that right now. 

Which inevitably led me to an iTunes library search, where I landed upon today’s feature song, “Shelter,” by The Dexateens. Is it a great song? No. Is it a good song by an underappreciated band in the vaguely Americana genre? Yes. Which means that it’s a good one for me to write about. (Although having finished this post, I realize that I mentioned the band a few years ago).

The Dexateens were formed in the late 1990s in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, featuring singer-songwriters and guitarists Elliott McPherson and John Smith, with drummer Craig "Sweet Dog" Pickering and bassist Matt Patton. If that last name seems familiar, we’ll get there. Their name came not from the same source as Dexys Midnight Runners, but instead from a guitar pick that Smith’s brother had gotten signed by Dex Romweber, a musician that you might have heard of. Or not. Although he’s pretty good and it is a memorable name. Mixing punk with southern rock, The Dexateens’ self-titled debut album from 2004 is excellent—raw and rocking, and “Shelter” is a Stonesy-stomp. 

I’m not sure when I first heard about The Dexateens, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was in 2007, when their fine album Hardwire Healing was released, and it was co-produced by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers and David Barbe, who has worked with the Truckers (as well as playing bass in Sugar). I suspect that this was the hook that got me to check out the band, which has de-emphasized punk over the years. After some personnel changes, the band broke up in 2010. Patton joined the Truckers on bass (and as the occasional Ramones cover singer), and also plays with The Dexateens, which re-formed in 2013. And, he co-owns a recording studio in Mississippi (where part of the Ramones cover video in the link was shot). Busy man. 

 So, check out The Dexateens if you aren’t familiar with them.