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Posts tagged ‘Little Feat’

Jesse Winchester Tribute

One of the most gifted singer-songwriters in American music, yet one of the most unrecognized over the past several decades, is Jesse Winchester. His songs have been covered by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Wilson Pickett, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Ian Matthews, Nicolette Larsen, the Everly Brothers, and many others. Winchester is a talented performer in his own right and recorded several highly acclaimed solo albums. Back in the 1970s, a review in Rolling Stone magazine even called him “the voice of the decade.” Yes, he’s that good.  

 

Winchester has always comfortably straddled different musical styles, from folk and country to pop and R&B, but he never really broke out of the “critic’s favorite” corner and achieved mass success. One problem for him was the inability to play shows in his native United States during the prime of his career. For most of the 1970s, Winchester could not even set foot in the USA due to his status as a draft resister. In 1967 he had fled to Canada to avoid the US draft, and a subsequent stint in the Army, which at that time would have meant fighting in the Vietnam War. You have to admire someone like Jesse Winchester who stuck to his principles and refused to join the ranks of those fighting in yet another ill-thought US-led war. Even to this day, there are frightening numbers of misguided people who still believe they are “protecting people’s freedoms” by going off to war and fighting for their native country. The government, of course, loves subservient mindless patriots like that. I could go on and on about such patriotic nonsense, but I’ll save that diatribe for another day.

 

Winchester’s decision to move to Canada, naturally, was a big, big deal at the time. Being a notorious “draft evader” caused him no small amount of grief and verbal abuse and there were more than a few idiots who accused Winchester of not being patriotic, or worse. It wasn’t until 1976, after receiving amnesty from the government, that Winchester was able to return to the US and finally tour for the first time. But by that time, the golden era of the singer-songwriter had started to fade, and Winchester’s relatively gentle tunes were overpowered by the onslaught of the disco craze and the rise of pop-rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and Boston.

 

After his impressive run of studio albums in the 70s, and the solid Talk Memphis in 1981, Winchester lost his major label recording contract and has only recorded a handful of albums since then. Last year Winchester was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and the outlook looked grim indeed, but after undergoing radiation treatments and surgery he has been given a clean bill of health by doctors and is once again playing live club dates. Excellent news!

 

To help pay for Winchester’s medical care, his buddies Jimmy Buffett and Elvis Costello came up with the idea of doing a tribute album. The result is Quiet About It: A Tribute to Jesse Winchester, an excellent 11-song collection of tunes from James Taylor, Rosanne Cash, Buffett, Allen Toussaint, Vince Gill, Mac McAnally, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Little Feat, Costello, and a duet from Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris. That’s as stunning a collection of living musicians as it gets, and if that doesn’t get you excited, you just don’t recognize good music. But due to changes in the music industry, not to mention the aging of the music-buying population, the release of an album chock-full of big names like this has barely made a ripple. I only found out about it while surfing online late one night. Whoa … what’s this!? The fact that the CD was released on a small label, Mailboat Records, doesn’t help matters either.

If you’ve heard Jesse Winchester’s music in the past, it should come as no surprise that his songs positively shine in the hands of the gifted artists on this collection, all of whom are devoted fans of Winchester. In Bill Flanagan’s excellent liner notes for the album he writes: “Elvis Costello points out that it is quite remarkable how every song on this collection fits the style of each singer so well that you could swear he or she wrote it.”

And that’s definitely the case. These artists take Winchester’s songs and put a distinctive personal stamp on them. Listen to Rosanne Cash easing into “Biloxi”, Lyle Lovett’s distinctive take on “Brand New Tennessee Waltz”, or Lucinda Williams putting everything she has into “Mississippi You’re On My Mind.” This is beautiful, emotionally powerful music. My favorite cut on the album is Mac McAnally’s tender cover of “Defying Gravity,” a song that Jimmy Buffett also recorded many years ago on his wonderful Havana Daydreamin’ album.

Tribute albums can often be hit and miss affairs, but each and every song on Quiet About It is a winner. Track this one down and buy it … and enjoy it!

http://www.jessewinchester.com/index.html 

http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-About-Tribute-Jesse-Winchester/dp/B00936A2YQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1351842478&sr=1-1&keywords=jesse+winchester+tribute

 

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Disc Battles

Are vinyl records really making a comeback? More and more, even here in Bangkok, I hear people talking about collecting records, and raving about the superior audio quality of vinyl versus that of compact discs. I used to have a sizeable record collection when I lived in Florida, but once CDs became the format of choice in the mid 1980s, that’s pretty much all I bought and listened to the rest of that decade and beyond. When I moved to Thailand in 1996, any records I still had were given to friends.

 

Despite the larger artwork on record covers and the general consensus that vinyl sounds better, I really don’t miss my old records. It was always annoying when records would accumulate scratches so easily, were prone to warping, took up lots of space, and were damn heavy when you boxed them up. I’m no audiophile, so the “superior sound” of vinyl records goes right over my head … or in and out my ears. Some people might wish for a return to the glory days of vinyl, but I’ll stick with CDs, thank you. I don’t doubt that there’s a difference in sound quality, but I don’t notice it enough for it to factor in my own listening habits. For me, the bottom line is the music. It doesn’t matter if I listen to the songs in mono, stereo, or on a cheap unit with a single speaker. I’m more moved by the rhythm, the lyrics, or the emotional impact of the recording rather than sonic resolution or high fidelity dynamics. And don’t even get me started on the subject of downloads. I realize that many people enjoy the convenience of mobile devices nowadays — or are just addicted to those devices — but how could anyone be passionate about collecting sound files? If you can’t touch it or sniff it, why bother?

 

Keeping the music theme in today’s post, here are the CDs getting the most play at my place lately. As usual, it’s a hearty diet of tunes covering various genres; some new releases, many old gems, and a few compilations and live recordings.

 

Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man in the Universe

Lou Ragland – I Travel Alone

Robert Forster – I Had a New York Girlfriend

Ian Gomm and Jeb Loy Nichols – Only Time Will Tell

Gene Ammons – Live in Chicago

 

Kelly Hogan – I Like to Keep Myself in Pain

Stanley Turrentine – Don’t Mess with Mr. T.

The Waterboys – In a Special Place

Redd Kross – Show World

Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful

 

Little Feat – Rooster Rag

John Hiatt – Mystic Pinball

Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – Rock Art and the X-Ray Style

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Mark Knopfler – Privateering

 

Father John Misty – Fear Fun

The Diggers – Mount Everest

The Black Keys – El Camino

Cannonball Adderley Sextet – Dizzy’s Business

The Magnetic Fields – The Charm of the Highway Strip

 

Shoes – Ignition

Paul Kelly – Deeper Water

Eddie Henderson – Heritage

Joe Walsh – Analog Man

The Neville Brothers – Live on Planet Earth

 

Jacobites – Robespierre’s Velvet Basement

Baby Face Willette – Face to Face

Duke Ellington – Money Jungle

Steve Goodman – Artistic Haircut

Ike & Tina Turner – Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter

 

Lee Morgan – Search for the New Land

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue

Mitty Collier – Shades of Mitty Collier: The Chess Singles

The Sound – From the Lion’s Mouth

The Pale Fountains – Pacific Street

 

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: A Red, Black & Green Production

The Cramps – Off the Bone

Les McCann & Eddie Harris – Swiss Movement

Belle and Sebastian – Push Barman to Open Old Wounds

Small Faces – Ultimate Collection

 

Willie Wright – Telling the Truth

Primatons – Don’t Go Away: Collected Works

Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch

The xx – Coexist

Black Heat – Keep on Runnin’

 

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