Sunday, September 30, 2007

Farewell, Septabulous

OK so September is pretty much over and I am not going to make my one-post-a-day target. But I did OK. I hit a wall when uni deadlines started bearing down.

This essay won't write itself and bob knows I've given it enough opportunity to do so.

Having a semi night off for the rugby league grand final even though I hate both teams.

All I want to say about it is this:

And BOOOOO to the NRL for being a nark about the footage of the 1997 Knights win because otherwise I would be posting that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bettye, Then the Rest

Song of America is a three CD set exploring the byways of the great American songbook originating with none other than Janet Reno. I’ve only heard bits and pieces thus far, as is usual with projects like this some of it works and some of it fails to grab you BUT it has given me my favourite song of the year.

Bettye LaVette covering Bruce’s Streets of Philadelphia. You can hear it here.

I always thought that song never really got its due – oh, sure, it won an Oscar but that’s almost a reason to distrust its quality. Beautiful song and the subject of a couple of good covers. Marah did a nice one too, although I recall disapproving of their lyrics changes.

But none will top Bettye’s. I bet Bruce is delirious with joy over it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Procrastination Shuffle

1.Handle With Care -- Traveling Wilburies
2. Somehow, Someday -- Ryan Adams
3. Promised Land -- Elvis Presley
4. I'm Walking the Dog -- David Ball
5. Bethleridge -- Robbie Fulks
6. Find You At Last -- John Hiatt
7. Cold Irons Bound (Live) -- Bob Dylan
8. There's a Story in Your Voice -- Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams
9. She Knows Why -- Claude King
10. Fraulein O. -- James McMurty
11. Cipó de goabeira -- Silvério Pessoa
12. Rising Sun Blues -- Clarence Ashley and DOc Watson
13. Jesus is My Kind of People -- Etta James
14. Across the Great Divide -- The Band
15. In the Basement -- Etta James
16. The Captain and the Kid -- Elton John
17. Kaolock -- Thio Mbaye
18. Backwater Blues -- Chris Knight
19. Eyes on the Prize -- Bruce Springsteen
20. Blue Side of Lonesome -- George Jones

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meet Me in Thirty Odd Years

First live performance of Meet Me in the Morning, in Nashville. (with Jack White)

Tonight We Write

Well, I've missed a couple of Septabulous days on account of: essay. We'll make it up on the back end. Trying to avoid doing just YouTube posts but I'm not above it.

Dylan's Theme Time radio show is back tonight/today. Weee!

Lucinda Williams has been doing these series of shows where the first half she plays one of her studio albums song for song ( PDF of World Without Tears show in LA. PDF is irritating, but I suppse this is supposed to be her very own list? With tunings for the guitar nerds.) On various nights she did "World Without Tears", "Essence", "Car Wheels...", "Lucinda Williams" and "Sweet Old World." Then at the end of the show each audience member gets a CD of it, which was whipped up during the second set of the gig. A bit nifty. Niftier still, these will "soon" be available to download from her website. I'm also pleased they have revamped the website, removing the hideous picture that as there before. No Australian dates yet. Sigh.

Here she is in a quick snippet doing "Greenville" with Emmylou Harris recently. Control yourselves, boys.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cheap Sunday

Nowt to say except I added a Lastfm widget to the sidebar, below recent comments. Stickybeak away at what I'm playing on iTunes. It's all jazzed up today because that's what I put on when I'm in the other room writing an essay as I supposedly was.

You will see the new Moot Davis album Already Moved On appearing there in the coming days. It's really very good.

Went to Sydney Uni library today but got waylaid by the book sale in the Great Hall. Of musical note I got "Mister Jelly Roll" by Alan Lomax ($1), "Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz and American Pop" by Gary Giddins ($2) and "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music" ($3) which was published the year I was born. Not that I will ever get around to reading them but at least the Encyclopedia has pretty pictures, as above.

Friday, September 14, 2007


New Bob Dylan album in January ... with Rick Rubin and someone called Jacknife? I thought Bobby/Jack Frost had had his fill of celebrity producers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lost Highway ...

... has some audio up from the forthcoming Mary Gauthier record, Between Daylight and Dark. I'm loving them all.

Stars and Pinstripes

Off topic and originally posted at Sidelined.

The Bronx is Burning is a 2007 eight episode ESPN series (yeah, they make drama too. Who knew?) about the famous 1977 Yankees. Due to the tyranny of distance, my interest in baseball is casual but there's alot I find attractive about the game, and the mythology that surrounds it. By accident of birth I'm pouring over economy rates and not outs rather than RBIs and BB/Ks but I think the pall of being a long suffering Cubs fan would suit me fine. (Hey, give it time and the Newcastle Knights might yet build an equally impressive history of despair.) Like any show it may add something to be intimate with the subject area, but The Bronx is Burning is such good television, the less well-educated like me and even the sports-averse could go with the flow.

Five elements power the story. The first has to be the rhythms of baseball itself, including the obligatory dug out blow ups, the slides and collisions on bases, the tense innings where everything is in slow mo, punctuated by bursts of chaos. If you've seen any baseball film you know them.

Three characters set the pace. Oliver Platt is George Steinbrenner, Yankees' owner, and John Turturro is Billy Martin, Yankees' manager. Both in real life is seems are/were, at any one moment, about fifteen seconds from throwing someone, anyone, out a window. If you just imagine the actors -- all solicitous curves versus all crazy eyes and grinding jaws -- that tells a story in itself and both actors are as you would expect, pretty perfect. Steinbrenner developed a habit of firing and re-hiring Martin over their long association, a history turned to the noble use of selling cruddy beer in this ad. (YouTube)

Into this already rather volcanic mix is thrown the person of Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata, unknown to me before this but more than holds his own. Extremely unfortunately he's a 9/11 conspiracy kook in real life which prevents me from being too enthused about him but he is, I begrudgingly admit, good in this.) The swaggering and mercurial hero brought in by Steinbrenner to put "meat in the seats", which he does but with many headlines and bruised egos along the way.

Then there is New York City itself, which you could argue is always the main character of any film, TV show, book or song set there. The ball game is the majority of the story, with cameos from the other parts of a city fraying at the edges economically and socially: the Son of Sam murders, issues like frequent power outages and the mayoral race. The police investigation and media treatment of the Son of Sam is the main b-storyline, and the dramatised scenes are woven powerfully with evocative archival footage. Although I don't like to use the word "entertaining" to describe things about David Berkowitz, it has to be said the contemporary vox pops on the streets of NYC are fascinating.

Every half-decent sports film ever made is fully about the sport but also about much more. The Bronx is Burning satisfies on all levels and, if you can find a copy in Australia, comes heartily recommended. And it's based on a book, which I really must seek out.

Not alot on it from YouTube, except this "sales Tape" promo thing:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Things I Don't Get #5467798


Why do people download ringtones when you can just load your own MP3s into your phone?

Mine is "Like A Rolling Stone" and I didn't pay no stinking $5.95 or whatever for it.

Oh OK I guess what you might be paying for is the right -- although I don't see why you should need extra permission, any more than to play it on your car stereo with the windows down -- to use it as your ringtone but since the market of the ringtones is the same market that does the most illegal downloading I still don't get it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ex Tempore - Johnny Irion

An intensely lovely collection of early Neil Young meets early Elton John with a cosmic American sheen. The sort of music you would hear on the radio for the first time but be sure you'd been listening to that song all your life.

Some tracks on his MySpace page -- particularly check out Eyes LIke a Levee and Roman Candle.

Monday, September 10, 2007

YouTube Sunday on Monday: Scialfa Family Edition.

Nothing groundbreaking with the new Bruce single but just hearing the E Street sound is enough for some of us. Go, Clarence! I can't imagine Bruce really thinks in terms of singles anymore, they chuck out this middling rocker for the pack and keep the best for the album. Can't remember what the "leaked" single for Devils and Dust was but it was the same for that. Wait for the album. October 2.

E St's red headed woman's new record is also getting good reviews.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

File Under: Not As Awful As You Totally Expect

On Upfront and Down Low, below, Teddy Thompson does a heart-rending version of Dolly Parton's "My Blue Tears."

For the only one that I have ever loved has gone away
An' I'm in no mood for the sunshine today

Know who else has recorded this track?

Goldie Hawn, that's who.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: APEC Edition #2

Sharon Jones, & the Dap Kings.

MP3: This Land is Your Land, Sharon Jones &the Dap Kings.

Soul/funk outfit discovered by me only recently and this song is about perfect for the day. "This Land is Your Land", yes that one, from the recent album Naturally. Woody Guthrie meets Detroit, and while that might sound iffy to some I can say No! It really works. Very hot, soulful, funky (they're a soul/funk outfit, you see), irresistable horn section.

From a profile of Daptone Records:

Jones is Daptone’s starpower at the moment, with a new album — 100 Days, 100 Nights — ready to drop to its knees and shout please please please, capping a long gestation period that has seen her growing in assuredness and maturity. Not that she came to Daptone wet behind the ears. Singing since the '70s, when the prospects for classic funk seemed on the far side of possibility, Desco found her working as a prison guard. I was captivated after seeing her for the first time, when Andrew “8 Track” Burns took me to the Mercury Lounge for a Daptone revue. 2002’s Dap Dippin’, her debut album release, contains some of the above singles, such as “What Have You Done for Me Lately” and “Got a Thing on My Mind,” and also allows her to stretch out: a steamy track like “Make It Good For You” melts buttahhhhh….

Thursday, September 06, 2007

APEC MP3 Edition

Yes, I am posting today, although I am loathe to push Teddy down the page because SERIOUSLY! I LOVE IT. Actually, I already know what I'm doing for tomorrow. Suck on that.

Picked up last month's Uncut today. Has an A-Z of Dylan People. I think I've said before somewhere here -- who can keep track -- I recently discovered Bob Neuwirth's latter career as a singer-songwriter, a very nice Guy/Townes/InsertTexasIdentityHere line. And not just that kinda annoying Dylan hanger-on ...

So here's some Bob Neuwirth. From the album 99 Monkeys. It was going to be more APEC-y, he has a song on there called "Ancient Questions (War & Peace)" which isn't nearly as awful as it sounds. But, meh. I feel like these instead.

MP3s: Biding Her Time and Biggest Bordertown.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Teddy Thompson: Upfront & Down Low

Prior to Monday at around 3pm I had been listening almost non-stop to the Dylan, Norwegian stuff and Begonias of previous Septabulous* posts. Since then, post-visit to Egg Records in Newtown, it has been All About Teddy. All about Teddy, and his new long player Upfront & Down Low.

OMG YOU GUYS! This is brilliant. The SMH review is good for background, saving me the bother. Good boy, MSM! You're not totally redundant yet, bless.

So. Teddy. I think I saw him at the Leonard Cohen thingo at the Opera House that one time. Being only a casual-though-academically-appreciative Richard Thompson person he didn't set off many lights. This has changed. We are lit up like a Christmas tree now, we are.

The way the Brits mail ordered the blues, took it apart and sent it back to the states is well known. The tradition of them doing it to country is much, much smaller of course. Much more obscure, in "side projects" and generally dribs and drabs over the decades rather than a Generation Defining Movement. But there's still probably a BBC audio documentary in it. I will listen to the most derivative and unoriginal country music and love it because ... the original is so good, why wouldn't I want to hear a copy? Low rent romance, second rate pastiche. It works.

However. Bringing something new to a familiar tradition can thrill. Upfront & Down Low is a totally gorgeous album of only the absolute richest of countrypolitan sounds, but with subtle and alluring touches. The strings are Nashville but sometimes very much not, those are very English violins. Just a hint, here and there. Lyle Lovett is a name mentioned in many reviews but surely we must also nod to Nick Lowe.

The Teddy tenor sells it all with heart rending sorrow and the band is perfect (including Marc Ribot and Thompson pere). Iris DeMent, Tift Merrit and Jenni Muldaur on harmonies. Some of the songs are the most familiar in the canon, like "She Thinks I Still Care" -- hard to do badly and of course he doesn't. The "secret track" is for mine the killer: "Don't Ask Me to Be Friends." Recorded by the Everlys and Cliff Richard in the 60s. and apparently no one else. Having sought out all extant versions on iTunes I can tell you Teddy's is the definitive and lifts it from poppy B side to First XI. Seriously, I've still got the stitches where it ripped out my heart and bounced it off the walls.


No? Allow me to continue then. The other killer. "Down Low" is the only Thompson original and it perhaps has a vibe which stands out it its modern type of brooding fatalism but fits in with in the classic type of brooding fatalism which runs through country. Whipping out the Bob Luman novelty "Let's Think About Living" feels like a friendly in-joke. Chet Flippo says "the song rejects" Teddy's version of "(All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers" but, that's in the ear of the beholder and for mine, that song not only copes but positively prospers in this arrangement. It isn't a "British drawing room arrangement" actually, but someone needs to tell him your average British drawing room holds more perverted secrets, thwarted desires and unspoken despair than a David Lynch box set.

Last year Van Morrison released a country album. I didn't like it much, although a lot did. This is was hoping for, all that and more.

I'm also pleased this has fallen upon us since I'll be out of the country from early November and so any Best Of '07 will have to be an early one. Like, in October. Looking back, I won't be lacking for a top ten.

* Septabulous is the official name of my campaign to post once a day this month.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Norway or the Highway

Tom Russell's The Man from God Knows Where is a must have for all and it features a couple of Norwegian singers, Sondre Bratland and Kari Bremnes. Thanks to the miracle of eMusic, I recently started exploring their original Norwegian catalogues. I no speakee the Norskee and the lyrics are usually the main focus for me but I find I like their voices, delivery and the music so much I can’t stop listening.

Norwegian folk is not a million miles removed from the rhythms of, say, Celtic (memo: look that up) so it’s familiar enough to be immediately accessible and of course they just love their American country. Every roots/blues/country/folk mailing list I’ve ever been on has a high percentage of Scandinavians who have an encyclopedic knowledge of every B side and backing band line up change, as well as the most awesome collection of bootlegs and rarities. Want to find that only known copy of a 1983 college radio Steve Forbert interview? Ask a Swede.

Kirkelig Kulturverksted (translates as "Christian Arts Workshop" apparently,) the label The Man From ... is on, turned up on eMusic recently which allowed me to go to town. First I checked out Bratland and Bremnes since those were the names I knew. And then a whole heap of other albums were added including the " Norsk" series. Norwegian tributes to Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Hank Williams Norsk
(at eMusic. at KKV. ) features Sondre Bratland, Vibeke Saugestad, Jonas Fjeld and Gunn Heidi Larsen and is currently my favourite, although there is much goodness on the others. On Hank, they stick pretty close to traditional sounds -- and when the lyrics are in a foreign language, you can really hear the simple beauty in familiar melodies. Sondre Bratland's "Eg Er Einsam Med Min Gråt" (I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry) in particular lingers. I don't know what "Styla Lada" means but its definitely the tune of "Jambalaya" and Gunn Heidi Larsen's icy crisp voice could cut glass. The spoken word track "Folk Med Knuste Blikk" (Men with Broken Hearts, I believe) loses a bit through the language barrier but, hey, that's my fault not theirs.

It's legally digitally downloadable from the above sources, although through the KKV its DRM'd and locked to Windows Media (which leaves out me on a Mac). If you object to downloading (FXH!), good luck finding a hard copy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

Well Bob has been and gone.

Your puny hu-man language has no words.

MP3: Nettie Moore, Sydney, 15th August.

These were my first live shows since '01 (behind the iron curtain of no-one-good-ever-tours-russia-ness in '03) but they still open and close with two extraordinary moments. Sure, the music in between is ineffable but I go to be In The Presence and the intro and the band farewells are where you find you get those hilarious Bob moments.

The introduction which was adopted a while ago and is taken pretty much verbatim from some newspaper review. Can't remember the name of the journo now, but he wrote a slightly mortified response after it started being used.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,Please welcome the poet laureate of rock and roll,
The voice of the promise of the ‘60s counter culture,
The guy who forced folk into bed with rock,
Who donned makeup in the ‘70s, and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse,
Who emerged to find Jesus,
Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the ‘80s
And who suddenly shifted gears,
Releasing some of the strongest music in his career beginning in the late ‘90s,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Columbia recording artist,
Bob Dylan”

A brain numbing cut and paste job, a collection of cliches hypnotic in their blandness and hilarious when Bob co-opts them to open the show. Heh @ Bob.

Listen: Dylan Intro. (starts about 30 secs in)

And then the line up at the end -- as shown in picture above, taken by my mate Raymond. They just .... stand there, staring at you. A new addition (for me) was the toreador arm Bob sports. Some described it as a royal wave. People whinge that there's no audience interaction. The band comes to the front of stage and just ... stares at you. That's too much audience interaction baby. It does weird things to you.

Something More

Two years late on this one but I've just discovered one of the best albums
of 2005: Begonias by Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell. Cary is the girl
singer from Whiskeytown but Thad is totally new for me. Modern traditional country duets which are a mix of the 70s Gram/Emmylou, an older Nashville tradition plus your modern sensibility. Thad sounds remarkably like Gram on one song ("Party Time"), and a dead ringer for Ryan Adams on another but you never the impression of pale imitation. The pleading quality in Cary's voice does wonders on an unrequited lurve heartbreaker like "Something Less":

Ride to places where I shouldn't
Just so you'd see me passing by
I know you're not there in the window
I guess it never hurts to try

Sniff. Not that I've ever done that. Just, sniff. "Coversations About A Friend (Who's In Love With Katie)" breaks the mould in being more than 7 minute long, but it sustains it and I always smile at this bit:

I heard her family didn't like him
Well its only chance they ever met
Her daddy said he talked like Nixon
Now there's a line I can't forget.

I love it all.

My faves aren't on YouTube but Please Break My Heart and Second Option (the very Ryan-y one) are not too shabby for a taste.

The Guru

Long NYT magazine article (may have to sign in) on flakey genius Rick Rubin.

And just to remind you not everything he touches turns to gold : Charmed Life, Mick Jagger. Listen if you dare! Funny how no includes "Wandering Spirit" when they're reeling off all Rubin's masterpieces. Heh.