musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Rosanne Cash’

Let Us Praise Guy Clark!

guyclark_somedays

The casualties in the music world continue unabated this year, with the deaths of Prince and Merle Haggard being among the most recent high-profile losses. But one death that many people missed — or perhaps one that didn’t ring a bell with the masses — and the one that saddened me the most, was that of Guy Clark on May 17.

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Okay, Guy Clark was far from a household name. But in certain circles of the music world (country, or “outlaw country”, folk music) Guy Clark was a legend, both a songwriting genius and an exceptional singer-songwriter in his own right. He hailed from Texas, running in the same musical circles as Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Willie Nelson. I first heard Guy Clark on an episode on Austin City Limits back in the late 1970s and was instantly smitten. I went out and bought his debut album from 1975, Old No. 1. That album featured classics such as “L.A. Freeway” (a song that was a hit for Jerry Jeff Walker), “Desperados Waiting for a Train”, “Rita Ballou” and other gems. Truly, that ranks as one of my favorite albums of all time. His following album in 1976, Texas Cookin’ was just as great, packed with more wonderful songs that other songwriters could only envy, or at least record their own cover versions.

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After those two albums for RCA, Guy Clark switched labels and started recording for Asylum Records. The next three albums (1978-1983) weren’t quite as strong as his first two sets (hey, it would be almost impossible to top those two gems!), but they still boasted classic songs such as “Homegrown Tomatoes”, “Randall Knife”, and “New Cut Road.” After leaving the major labels behind, Clark recorded a consistently good to great series of albums for independent labels in the 1990s and 2000s. His final album, 2013’s My Favorite Picture of You,” was a tribute of sorts to his late wife Susanna (who passed away in 2012) and ranks among his very best efforts. A truly moving collection of songs. Then again, you would expect no less from someone like Guy Clark. His style was far from the cartoonish, sappy country music that so often tops the charts. Instead his songs shone with honesty, emotion, and intelligence. Cerebral country?

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For a sample of how engaging he was in concert, check out Together at the Bluebird Café, a 1995 show held to benefit a dental clinic in Nashville that he recorded with Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. The set featured tender love songs, emotionally powerful tunes, and plenty of humor (thanks to some very entertaining “tales” the musicians told between songs); hallmarks of Guy Clark’s songwriting. For another fascinating look at the early years of Guy Clark, look for Heartworn Highways, which is both an acclaimed documentary (much of the footage recorded during live jams in Clark’s home) and a live album featuring Clark and the other musicians.

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Another “must listen” is an album of other artists performing Guy Clark songs, This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark. Among the participants on this musical love-fest from 2011 are Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Patty Griffin, Radney Foster, Jerry Jeff Walker, and many more. It’s a 2-CD set, so rest assured that there are plenty of great songs to he heard.

 

Meanwhile, here are the other CDs soothing my soul and getting heavy play at my home and bookshop recently:

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The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust

Hank Thompson – Vintage Collection

Eleanor Friedberger – New View

Jimmy Buffett – Coconut Telegraph

Pete Yorn – Arranging Time

 

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Dexter Story – Wondem

The O’Jays – Family Reunion

Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Pyramid

Cheap Trick – Bang Zoom Crazy Hello

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

 

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Various Artists – Angola 2: 1969-1976

Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night

Hank Crawford – Down on the Deuce

Jim Lauderdale – Soul Searching

Black Uhuru – Sinsemilla

 

 

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Various Artists – Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul Vol. 2

Little Barrie – King of the Waves

Johnny Hammond Smith – Legends of Acid Jazz

Cornel Campbell – Original Blue Recordings 1970-1976

Nektar – Sunday Night at London Roundhouse

 

idontcares

The I Don’t Cares (Paul Westerberg & Juliana Hatfield) – Wild Stab

Various Artists – Another Late Night: Kid Loco

Little Beaver – When Was the Last Time

Lee Michaels – Highty Hi: The Best Of

The Bats – Volume 1 (3-CD set)

 

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The Counts – It’s What’s In the Groove

Commodores – Live

The Toure-Raichel Collective – The Paris Sessions

The Posies – Solid State

Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger

 

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Various Artists – Harmony of the Soul: Vocal Groups 1962-1975

Waco Brothers – Electric Waco Chair

Dungen – Allas Sak

Tracey Thorn – Solid: Songs and Collaborations 1982-2015

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

 

morespecials

Specials – More Specials (2-CD Special Edition)

Harpers Bizarre – The Complete Singles Collection

Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon

American Music Club – Love Songs for Patriots

David Bowie – Blackstar

 

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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

 

Music for the Road

About two years I succumbed to the lure of taking along a portable music player in the form of an MP3 device when I went on trips outside the country. No, not an iPod, or any other sort of multi-tasking iThing, but simply a small device that played only music. Seeing as how I’m constantly listening to music when I’m at home or at work, I felt like I needed some tunes with me when I was on the road too.

 

I still bring paperback books along to read (no tablets or other “handy” reading devices, just real paper products, thank you) when I travel, but the music makes for a pleasing accompaniment, particularly when waiting around in airports, taking long walks or bike rides, or just relaxing in my hotel room (I can only stomach so much cable TV news, and have zero interest in watching vapid movies).

 

Music has become an inspirational soundtrack to my trips. When I think about cycling down a lonely dirt road in Shan State, hoping that I wouldn’t round a bend and run into a herd of cattle, I recall that I was listening to some vintage Springsteen tunes. When I was navigating the chaotic streets of Mandalay, Steely Dan kept a smile on my face. For my latest trip to Myanmar I stuck with some travel-tested favorites rather than put anything brand new on my MP3 player. I’ve found that trips aren’t a good time for “test driving” new music, but for enjoying the old familiar. I also included some music from Myanmar favorites such as Lay Phyu, Linn Linn, and Iron Cross, local tunes to make the atmosphere all the more authentic. Here are some of the albums that kept me moving and grooving on the road.

 

Rosanne Cash – Rules of Travel

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

Bruce Springsteen – Tracks (4 CD set)

Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi

Gil Scott-Heron – Evolution (and Flashback): The Very Best of

 

Curtis Mayfield – There’s No Place Like America Today

Joan Armatrading – This Charming Life

Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

Patti Griffin – Flaming Red

 

James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon

Al Green – Deep Shade of Green (3 CD set)

Atlanta Rhythm Section – Dog Days/Red Tape

Glen Campbell – Meet Glen Campbell

Love Tractor – Sky at Night

 

Poco – Head Over Heels

Carole King – Her Greatest Hits

Grant Green – Live at the Lighthouse

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

Bruce Hornsby – Greatest Radio Hits

 

Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man

Gabor Szabo – The Sorcerer

Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices are Now Habits

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

Tabu Ley Rochereau – African Classics

 

Drive-By Truckers – The Fine Print

Betty Wright & The Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie

UB 40 – Signing Off

Booker T. Jones – The Road from Memphis

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

 

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