Friday, June 30, 2006

Papa Nez

The liner notes to this tribute begin: "As much as anyone who ever drew breath on earth Robert Michael Nesmith is responsible for country rock. As much as Gram Parsons, as much as Gene Clark or the Lovin' Spoonful or Elvis on Sun Records, the Youngbloods, Chris Hillman, Rubber Soul, the Downliners Sect or anyone or anything." I don't intend to argue about that, but having skirted one controversy, let me say this: I like the Monkees alot more than the Beatles.

Nesmith himself is an interesting chap beside music and something of an unsung figure. I've got some of his solo work but not the stuff that really makes him a contender in the Father of Country Rocks stakes, another one for my to-do list. Details of this CD (from 1994) "A Loose Salute To Michael Nesmith" are on the Dren Records site and although many of the links no longer seem to work there are plenty of names to explore. I had really only heard of Last Train Home and Sid Griffin (producer of the recent Parsons doco Fallen Angel, he also wrote the notes quoted above) but there are some others who spark interest. The songs range from straight out honky tonk (Last Train Home's Good Clean Fun) through to the countryfied psychadelic and the pop (Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, 'Here I Am.") Even the songs that aren't my usual thing fit in rather seamlessly and the whole listening experience gets a big thumbs up. I don't know how easy it is to get, probably not very. I got mine when it showed up on eBay.

A few stand outs for following up:

The Rust Kings call themselves Appalachian Stompgrass, which sounds rowdy but they do some really beautiful slower numbers, which you can hear here. Noice!

Meredith Ochs
and her band the Damn Lovelys ("'70s left-coast-flavored twang-pop") does the Monkees' song Listen to the Band.

Buddy Woodward and the Nitro Express open the CD in appropriate 60's pop with banjo fashion. Not content to simpply cover Mike on a tribute CD, he also wanted to play him on TV. Music here also very much worth checking out.

The website for Sixty Acres at the Dren site is a dead end, this is the best I can do. Listenable guitary alt.twang.

Frog Holler's acoustic stylings on Different Drum is promising as is is the rest of their music, here.

Sid Griffin
, well, just go check out the website. Recently of the Coal Porters.

There are some more, but I need a few hours sleep before Germany-Argentina!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Well spotted by Shaun in a discussion of Jolie Holland. On her website bio La Holland opines “I don’t like Robert Johnson.” But wait, there's more.


Extended quote. “I don’t like Robert Johnson,” Holland says, “but I’ve got an awesome live recording of [singer-songwriter] Entrance doing “Love In Vain.” His version goes, “When the train left the station, there were two lights on behind/the blue light was the blues and the red light was my mind/is all my love in vain?”

I don’t know who Entrance is but his version is the same as the Johnson version. Sort of like saying “I’m not into Dylan but I have heard Hendrix sing ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and the lyrics to his version are incredible.”

Darrell Scott: A Distracted Review

The first line of the first song on this album is "In the early morning hours ..." and that's what Darrell Scott's voice always reminds me of. I haven't done a statistical analysis but alot of his songs seem to be set in the early A.M, heavy with brooding and the kind of harsh introspection that time of day brings. Especially if its 3am and you've had six beers and Italy have just scored a winning penalty in the 94th minute and ... talk about harsh introspection in the early hours. Anyway. No more soccer in this review I promise. Country Music and Soccer: The Connections, a post for another day.

Where was I? Darrell Scott. Yes. Let me start again. Many of you will know of Darrell Scott as Guy Clark's longtime sideman. And many of you will know his songs, which have been hits for a lot of folks. He's a killer multi-instrumentalist, Grammy winning songwriter with a hell of a voice and an independant spirit. That's the short version. For the long version, start with his first solo outing Family Tree, if "The Hummingbird" and "My Father's House" aren't two of the finest autobiographical songs you'll ever hear, then I'm Pele. (Oops)

Larry feels the album is over-produced and Nashvillian, he might want to expand on that but if he hadn't mentioned it I can honestly say those adjectives wouldn't have occured to me. It's true there are reverbs, echos, overdubs, backup singers, voice alteration and production trickery here and there, but to me it never sounds forced or unnatural. It's his versatility and willingness to explore in his solo work that makes him an attractive musical character to me. He brings depth to the country folk sounds of Guy Clark and does his one-take old timey collaborations with Tim O'Brien and others and if he wants to stretch his legs a bit in the studio, I'm all for it. So, this is not a front porch acoustic affair but I have a low tolerance usually for too much production busy-ness and I like these sounds. Your mileage will obviously differ.

The songs on The Invisible Man chart alot of the same territory as previous Scott albums. Every mirror is an opportunity to look at your face and see all the mistakes made, the silence of your house at night just makes the ghosts speak louder. Even when he sings about his wife and children, Darrell Scott is always a solitary figure in his songs, an everyman struggling though with "a song in my head and my head in a song."

But there is also a balance in his songs: that introspection and musing about past mistakes but with an anthemic payoff that things are generally alright, or will be. Or can be. A couple of songs dabble in politics with some effectiveness. I don't know that there are any stone cold classics on this album, but the quality I think is uniformly above average and follow on from each other as a theme. Listen while driving the highway at sunset or at dawn in the dark, in a mood to face your demons.

Crossposted at HickoryWind

Oh Well. Bring On 2010.

I have cracked one smile this morning, at the Herald's expert analysis of the Socceroos' first goal against Croatia. Heh. Music blogging resumes later today.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My sister discovers the Mountain Goats.

Tonight while up for the football I plan on writing about the new Darrell Scott CD. He has played for yonks with Guy Clark, who also has a new one on the way. It seems to include "Out in the Parking Lot" co-written by Scott and previously only on Guy's live album Keepers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006


Craig also gave me a run down on a couple of local Melbourne outfits you might want to check out, in person for Bleak City residents and cyberly for the rest of us.

Another band I recommend to you is "Because We Can" they are an acoustic country band originally from Ballarat but now live in Melbourne. They are fronted by two sisters one of them plays acoustic guitar the other plays mandolin, both of them sing. They are backed by bass, drums and fiddle. They write their own songs and do a small amount of covers including
"Rawhide" and "Jackson" (which they changed the name to "Frankston" for some funny reason). They are getting quite a following here in Melbourne. If they tour in Sydney please make sure you catch them.

Their websites:
Because We Can
My Space site
There are lots of songs of theirs to download on their main site.

Another band from Melbs I recommend is
"The Bitter Sweets" a trio: Dave Doolan on Maton acoustic guitar, Jen Land on vocals and Chris Taylor on acoustic and electric guitars and banjo. They do a mixture of originals and covers of country and traditional folk tunes, including "A Bible and A Gun".


Tonight is the Balmain Ukulele Klub meeting, see gig guide, and also the Dylan meeting -- The Abercormbie, cnr Abercrombie and Broadway. In the beer garden.

Regular reader and commentator, muso Craig Pittendrigh has a new website where you can sample his wares and check out upcoming gigs around Melbourne.

World Cup Editorial:
Happy with the Brazil result this morning, we had our chances but if you don't score you can't win. You especially don't win if you don't score with an open goal in front of you coughharrykewellcough. We had always factored in a loss to them and a decisive confrontation with Croatia in the third match. We need a draw and there's nothing scary about Croatia, except their check shirts on your eyesight. I'm not one of those who claims soccer is about to take over league and AFL as our tribal ball game of choice. Being a Winter game domestically and an unrivalled international programme, I reckon we can all co-exist happily. What annoys me in reading international comments about Aussies embracing the world game is that "rugby" (rugby union) is always included in the list of sports Australians care about more than soccer.

Like, so not.

Of all the football codes, yawnion has the most to lose and I would argue is already significantly behind soccer -- OK, its a shit game followed solely by toffs, we all know that. But look at it dispassionately, just on the numbers. In its first season Foxtel viewing figures for the A-League pretty much matched Super 14s. First season, big gamble. Same ratings as an established international competition. Hello?

The big word is potential. The first Australia-England rugby Test last week was played on a Sunday night to avoid the league/AFL and therefore hopefully get penetration into a non-traditional rugby market like Melbourne. What happened? Rated well in Sydney and Melbourne, as you'd expect. Rated poorly, as you'd expect, in Melbourne. The city that packed 90,000 into the MCG for the Aust-Greece match a couple of weeks before.

Rugby has already had its World Cup in Australia and its associated popularity bump. Where now is growth going to come from? Even in Sydney if people aren't already rah rahs, what's going to suddenly convert them? The Federal Govt is doing its best to up the demographics with all that private school funding but rugby has had its chance. Where is there for rugby to go? Nowhere. Support for rugby is static.

Soccer, on the other hand, has a million miles of blue skies ahead of it. Yes, the hype will die away after the Cup. But Australia has Asian Cup qualification ahead -- regular quality matches with high(ish) stakes which is something we've never had. A reborn domestic league which hasn't put a foot wrong. (Yet.) Huge junior participation across demographics, and with the A League a realistic route for those players to take to the big time. Of course this is Australian soccer we're talking about -- disaster is never far away but its really time to stop talking about it being a second class sport here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sydney = Perfect Honeymoon Destination

This will disappoint alot of people I know. Well, two anyway. Lucinda is getting married.

Let's hope this "Tom" person thinks touring Australia will be good for her career.


Hi, I'm Amanda. You might remember me from such blogs as Flop Eared Mule. No sooner had I stopped being absorbed by university, I started being absorbed by the World Cup. I blogged previously about my devotion to the Australian soccer team. And here we are, gearing up for the historic match against Brazil this time tomorrow. DEEP BREATH! It's 12.14am and Portugal vs Iran is on. I hate Iran, see previous link. I, however, do heart Martin Tyler. Luis Figo is old and slow but still a spunk. How shite are England. Verily yea, alot.

You know. Australian soccer is like Johnny Cash, bandwagon wise. No one cared and suddenly .... Kochie and Mel are wearing 'roos scarves, there are 8 pages of soccer/football in the papers every day where previously
you were lucky to find a few paragraphs and everyone's an instant expert on midfield organisation and the jogo bonito. In a music shop the other day some women were browsing the Johnny section looking for things "with that chick, his girlfriend." Dear reader, was I wrong to want to punch them?

Anyway. I went to a function tonight -- on the other side of the bridge, where I never go -- and on the way back on the train I listened to Dylan's radio show on the topic of Jail. How busy have I been? So busy, I have the last four radio shows here but haven't listened to them. Bobby plays alot of old blues and stuff which is great but it is intriguing to hone in on the newer material. The post-Dylan material, in other words. In "Jail" he plays John Prine, "Christmas in Prison." Prine is of course one of the many dozens (hundreds??) of singer-songwriters named the "new Dylan." Re-listening to this early song it's actually not hard to see why, even though its a loathesome and lazy tag. Quite moving really, Bobby here paying tribute to those who came after him and who have quite a debt to him. Not in a crappy, shallow Voice of the Generation bestowing favours on the acolytes way, but a humble, serious, music nerd (Bob) to music nerd (me, you) way. Sweet.

He starts the show with Folsom Prison Blues and doesn't mention it but there's another historical touch -- Johnny Cash of course saved Bob's career. After his first album tanked at Columbia he was close to being let go but Cash, a bone fide star, fought for him and he stayed to write the songs that made him famous and to record Freewheelin'. On the Cash tribute he plays on he acknowledges this saying "thanks for standing up for me way back when." He also says on the radio show something about Kris Kristofferson not replying to his letters. I'll have to listen again, there must be a joke in there somewhere.

This week I've been listening to Dave Alvin's new one, West of the West. It's him covering his favourite California songs. As the website says: "West of the West mixes much loved songs by Merle Haggard, John Fogerty, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne, Jerry Garcia, Kate Wolf, Robert Hunter and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Louis Perez, with unearthed gems from such previously overlooked talents as Blackie Farrell and Jim Ringer." It's Dave Alvin, I hardly think you need more recommendation.

I also got around to getting (from emusic) Dion's new album Bronx in Blue. Yes Dion. The 60s pop bloke. Top few releases of 2006 thus far. He has a bloody great voice, you know? And covering blues standards you can hardly go wrong. I'm loving it. Sean's review at HickoryWind back in March for more.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Oi x 3

Thoughts are squarely on Germany this week as the most important sporting event in the world kicks off. I'm excited, not least because Australia will be there for the first time in 32 years. To make it easier for heretical refusniks in the USA to understand I prepared a brief musical World Cup Guide. Feel free to add any of your own comparisons in comments.

Read the rest at HickoryWind.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bet You Didn't Think it Could Do That

A word about the Balmain Ukulele Klub:

The first meeting had 26 people there and it was a lot of fun ... very social and we all learned a lot from Tony Larwood's great teaching skills. Each meeting you will get the opportunity to learn something new ... new tunes and techniques and some revision as well. If you haven't got an instrument you can pick up a Mahalo for about $20. There are also free handouts provided by the Guitar Factory @ Gladesville. There is no admission. Just turn up at the Gladstone Park Bowling club in the park alongside Balmain Hospital. The next meeting is Monday, June 19 2006. (always the "teen" Monday of the month).

To inspire you, a cool video (thanks to Michael).

While My Guitar Gently Weeps. In Central Park. On the ukulele.

This ain't no Tip Toe Through the Tulips ...


Hello to visitors from normblog, where Norm was desperate nice enough to include me in his series of blogger profiles. Thanks Norm. I've linked to these a few times before, but Norm also does a great series of "Momma 'n' Daddy" songs, lots of good stuff therein.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Every Time I Think I'm Out ...

... they pull me back in.

After whining yesterday about the lack of extras on the iTunes version of the new Bruce vs the store-bought one ...

A reliable source informs me that Springsteen's version of Pete Seeger's antiwar tune "Bring Them Home" (see the item below) will be released as a track on an expanded version of his recent Seeger Sessions album. And it will be available soon on iTunes.

Michael Gray, blogger.

Points to anyone who finds a tenuous connection with an obscure Byron poem in any of the posts.

Heh - just a good natured jape, I do like that book , am looking forward to his forthcoming Dylan Encyclopedia and the blog looks promising. Do like the "Deleted photos" posts of things he couldn't fit in the new Encyclopedia. Big Publisha and blogging hand in hand! See comrades, it doesn't have to get ugly all the time.

UPDATE: Following a link there I came across 33 1/3 which has this competition if you know any music nerds under the age of 21.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Love & Fear

Crossposted at HickoryWind.
This album comes courtesy of Yesterday and Today Records in Parramatta, go and spend alot of money there. Believe me, that is easy to do.

Tom Russell
Love and Fear

Tom Russell can be counted on to deliver you something different each time. The last few have been back and forth over the border with a harder edged putting-the-western-back-into-country-and-western sound. I've mentioned this before but despite his somewhat serious artist/tough guy persona he often injects a wide streak of sentiment and softness into his songs. One minute it will be a song spitting in the face of some hypocrite or about pillaging and robbing your way across 19th Century California, and next it will be about ponies or rocking horses, the soft glow of the moon and lost loves. He can pull it off, because he's a great songwriter who knows the line to walk and because his voice can crackle in these songs in a way you can't dismiss.

Putting aside the Bukowski bravado of the last few outings, Love and Fear is all about introversion and emotion. It's a 3AM album. Scotch, I think, would most likely be involved. The first songs act as a summary. "The Pugilist At 59", being a portrait of a heavyweight champeen getting on, all those "little devils of alcohol and caffeine" catching up with you. This here Blogger At 29 can sympathise. And "Beautiful Trouble", semi-spoken, which is haunted by desire, which he knows will probably work out badly. The ambient Lanois-esque echos I thought might be due to his recent parting with long time ace sideman Andrew Hardin, but he's listen on the album. "Stealing Electricity" is more upbeat but rather macacbre (some might think, too much so) take on the dangers of love. "Old Heart" is a rather jazzy torch song and closes the album on an appropriately melancholy note. I'm not overly convinced by one or two songs in between ("Four Chambered Heart" -- modern society is going to hell! Heard it all before brother) but for Russophiles it's an interesting look into the mind of an always intriguing artist.

The Road Diary at his website is always a good read too.

We Shall Overpay

As an experiment I bought Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions off iTunes. Just to see how I took to the experience. Not so well. It came with a "digital booklet" and one video, of the recording of O Mary Don't You Weep. For $16.99. In a shop you can buy the CD for $21 ($25 max) and not have to squint at a PDF if you want to know who played banjo on track 7. I don't think the black writing on orange background will print so well. And if I print it, what do I do with it? And the dual disc CD comes with FIVE videos. So ... duh. Now I have to go buy it again, for real this time.

I got over my initial underwhelmery with the album and am now thorough digging it. I don't suppose there is much hope of seeing the current hootenanny tour in the antipodes, but the experience as described by the Washington Post sure makes me hope ...