Friday, October 29, 2004

Mojo Part Two

Had a chance to peruse the Mojo mentioned yesterday. First the CD. There are 15 tracks, five of them specially recorded for the project:

Worried Man by Jeb Loy Nichols
Dark as a Dungeon by Sparklehorse
I Still Miss Someone by Willard Grant Conspiracy
Get Rhythm by Jawbone
When the Man Comes Around by Knife in the Water

Shrugs shoulders. The soupy reggae of Nichols is kinda seductive, and appropriate on the song but the others inspire mostly indifference in me. I try to like the hip slacker end of but sometimes I just want to scream Stop whispering damn you! The Ye Olde Rusticness gets old (old in a bad way not old in a good way) for me real quick. And they way they sing/speak as if there is a full stop (Americano: period) after every third word. Anyone want to set me straight? My proletarian tastes, I guess. Michelle Shocked doing One Piece at a Time is fun, virtually the same as the original. Waylon Jennings' Folsom Prison Blues is very laid back, ol' Waymore doesn't sound too fussed about getting out at all. Hardin Wouldn't Run is Steve Earle at his best. Tom Russell's Bacon Rind, Chief Seattle , The Ballad of Ira Hayes captures perfectly the spirit. Put Giant Sand in the hip-and-I-should-like-it-but-really-its-kinda-hohum category above. Nick Cave and the Seeds are included with The Singer, saw them do it at the Enmore in January, he dedicated it to Johnny and June. One of my gig-going highlights.

The feature article is essentially a well done revisiting of the familiar story of Johnny's life. The Depression-era New Deal upbringing, death of brother Jack, cotton fields, singing hymns, air force, first marriage, Sam Phillips and so on. It doesn't mention the story about him being the first American to know Stalin had died when he was intercepting Soviet morse code in Germany. It sounds too good to be true, and probably is.

The most interesting parts are Sylvie Simmons' recollections of her time spent with Johnny (in the house featured in the Hurt video) in the few months before he died. The contrast of his fading body ( "confined to a wheelchair ... half blind from glaucoma, his face both swollen and sunken, his body battered by diabetes, assorted surgeries and neurological illness" ) and the mind and spirit still intensely driven is partially painful but at the same time reminds me of what has always drawn me to him. And that never fails to make me glad. Bootleg recordings of his final live shows at the Carter family home in Virginia have this effect also - the frailty of his speaking voice is deeply shocking but the conviction of his singing voice is transporting.

Also excellent are the bite-sized flashes of Cash's life and work: his relationship with Bob Dylan, his coversion moment at Nickajack cave, the making of At Folsom Prison, his ABC show. Good is the piece on his 60s concept albums like Bitter Tears, Blood Sweat and Tears, Ride This Train and Songs of the True West. It says little is heard of them these days, not at Chez Mule, Bitter Tears for one is on high rotation.

Anyway, it's good. About $16 air freight in Australia, if you wait a few weeks you can get it for $10.

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