Sunshine, Sweet Breezes And Sour Grapes

I find myself playing the first two songs on Dennis Ellsworth’s latest record over & over. “Things I Want” and “Coke Machine Glow”. They’re smart & engaging & clever & real. And they stick. I’ve listened enough to both that I’m always gonna want to hear them back to back. They’d make a monstrous 45.
As a matter of fact, I think you should check out the whole album. It’s called “Hazy Sunshine”. I would have called it “Coke Machine Glow” but that’s my problem, not Ellsworth’s. Then again, hazy sunshine does have a Coke machine glow about it.

I’ve been asked many times what I think of “Foreverly” by Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones. I like it. A lot. It’s spirited and respectful. Although I find “Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine” a tad rushed and clunky, the rest of their interpretations add up to a great album.
I love how Norah takes the lead on “I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail”, with Billie Joe singing Phil’s part underneath.
Who would have thought?
Another thing that pisses me off;
Elvis Presley’s first record was called “That’s All Right”. NOT “That’s Alright Mama”. “That’s All Right” is the fuckin’ title! It’s like changing the name of The Titanic to “The Titanic, Mama”. To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t even have a blues band on deck, although the Blue Moon Of Kentucky was on the flip side of the sky. And unfortunately, there were plenty of Mamas on board.
As for random thoughts;
Dennis Wilson uses Carol Kaye’s bass like a double-half-time snare drum on “Little Bird”, from “Friends”, 1968. An amazing idea. That’s Dennis on drums too.
And those harmonies at the end.
What a piece of work.
Check out the piano at the start of “Only The Lonely” by Sinatra. Unbelievable, as is the song (written by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen, at the artist’s request) and Frank’s performance. Absolutely magnificent. And heartbreaking.
Frank enunciates every syllable to perfection. He always did so. I’ve heard hundreds of Sinatra records and I’ve never once thought “What did he say?”
For the record, “Only The Lonely” was written two years before Orbison’s song.
Here’s one to ponder;
Is “Sweet Breeze” by Vernon Green And The Phantoms in A major or A minor? Who knows? And maybe that’s the point.
It’s a little known Los Angeles R&B 45 from 1956. It was just too weird to make it, but it draws me in and takes me to a strange imaginary place. Anyone who asks the wind to bring his baby back is okay by me and Vernon sings like he means it. And The Phantoms really do sound like Phantoms.
Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan: “Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.”
At least she’s got the last line right. I say the rest is delusional shit of the highest order. What’s ‘authentic’ supposed to mean? And who chooses who’s ‘authentic’? Joni, I guess.
Here’s another of her brilliant observations: “I like a lot of Bob Dylan’s songs, but he’s not very musically gifted.”
Whoa! Do I detect the scent of sour grapes?
Can’t follow that…

A Good Laugh

First things first.  Last time, I wrote about The Groove.

I received this message from Dave McConnell, Groove Aficionado;

“The best test of real groove is kids between, say, four to eight.  When you hit the real groove, no matter how simple, they just start to go like little possessed spirits.  They can’t help it and you can trust them implicitly.”

Spot on.  Have you ever noticed that?  Thanks, Dave.

A little girl, maybe four, was in Taz Records with her mother.  She was dancing.  I complimented her.  She looked up at me and said “I like Ray Charles.  I really like his gwoove.”

I just about fell over.

I’ve actually witnessed a three year old girl dance with abandon to “Let’s Get High” by Rosco Gordon.  Rosco’s the Memphis R&B singer and piano player who was a huge influence on Jamaican Ska.  His records were sloppy, infectious and fun.  He also propped his pet rooster atop his piano at gigs for added effect.  Check out “Shoobie Oobie” or “Cheese And Crackers”, his double hitter on Sun from 1956.  If you don’t get it, you’ll still have a good laugh.

I was listening to Guitar Slim (Eddie Jones), a Mississippi legend who’d rig up a 300 foot guitar cord, jump on his valet’s shoulders and play on the street to draw a crowd into the club where he was gigging.  This was in the mid 50s.  With a red suit, red guitar and dyed red hair, it always worked.

This one’s called “Bad Luck Blues”;

“bad luck is in my family

and it all have fell on me (twice, of course)

yes I’m the bad luckest fella, baby

that you most have ever see”

Top that.

Or Sonny Boy Williamson.  Rice Miller, the ‘second’ Sonny Boy.

“Have you Ever Been In Love”;

“the woman I’m talkin’ about, she’s specially built,

a heavied hipted woman, her shoulders are full filled,

she got knee action body, hydraulic hips,

air conditioned stomach makes her backbone slip”

Over the top.  From another era.  But I’m still curious about that woman.

Jimmy Reed decided he could do better with an education.

“Go On To School”;

“they got the readin’ and the writin’ makin’ rizzmatic”

At least I think that’s what he’s saying.  Good enough for me.

Jimmy Reed sold more blues records than anyone in the late fifties & early sixties, and he was up against Muddy, Wolf & BB King.  A solid argument for simplicity and economy.

Jimmy’s first two albums, “I’m Jimmy Reed” & “Rockin’ With Reed”, are still in print on vinyl.

They often sound out of tune because they usually are and Reed doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to change chords at the right time.  But this is highly addictive stuff.  Delightful.


Talk about East meeting West;

“Traces Of You” by Anoushka Shankar is a warm twister of an album.  It’s one of those records that’ll nudge you gently into another world, if you’ll let it.  Ask George Bauer, a born Music Man.

Anoushka is a master of the sitar and an extraordinary writer.  Her sister Norah Jones graces this album with some of her very best singing.  I must have played this record fifty times by now and it just keeps getting better.

I always feel settled after hearing it.


I rarely discuss guitar tones and techniques (Just bang the damn thing, I say), but Mac Demarco’s playing has gotten under my skin.  He’s a true original in a time when originality seems to be missing in action.  Very simple and very engaging.  “Salad Days” is his new LP and I like it.

However, he may have listened a little too closely to “Picture Book” by The Kinks.

P.S.  What’s another word for thesaurus?


The perfect groove is a rare and indefinable thing.  It just goes and it can’t stop.  It’s a locomotive.  It’s a leg mover.  It’s an aphrodisiac.  It can be fast, slow, in between.  Groove has nothing to do with tempo. It’s always live.  Live.  No cheating or fixing.  You’d never get away with it anyway.

Everything else is secondary to the groove.  Vocals, instruments, structure.  Mistakes and bum notes.  Actually, bum notes often improve upon it.

Follow me?

Okay, pretend you’re in the centre of a crowded dance floor, with the perfect partner, who sways like a careless angel…

Otis Redding – Sweet Lorene – Pure feel.  Al Jackson was a groover.

NRBQ – Want You To Feel Good Too – Only a band who’s played together a LOT could pull this off.  I get lost in this one.

Doug Sahm – Be Real  – The true country groove.  The endless waltz.  A romance of a song.

The Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke – Touch The Hem Of His Garment – Oh, Sam, who was that woman?

Sam Cooke – Chain Gang – Sam gets two.  A totally original record.  There’s still been nothing else like it.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On? – Masterful.  There’s been nothing else like this either.

Streets – Dry Your Eyes – This flows.  Anything but flawlessly.  If you haven’t been where Mike Skinner is, lucky you.  And poor you too.

Elmore James – I Can’t Hold Out (the Chess version) – Elmore sounds so satisfied.  Confident, as if he knows from the first second that he’s got it.  He has.

Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Lucky Lips – This one flows.  And that piano sneaking in at the ending.  Love that idea.

Sonny Burgess – Ain’t Got A Thing – Relentless.  It’ll pin you against the wall.

B.T.O. – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet – Just kidding.

Slim Harpo – I’m A King Bee – That snare (or whatever it is) is so forceful.  The simplest guitar solo, ever.  Even I can play it.

The Ramones – I Don’t Care – It sounds so bloody dumb & easy, and therin was their genius.  I mean that.

Chris Montez – Let’s Dance – No wonder the Ramones did it.

Johnny London – Drivin’ Slow – The second Sun record was this stark alto instrumental.  A smooth, shimmering, full Friday night waltz.  It’s not bad on Saturday morning either.

Dion – Love Came To Me – A heroin-induced dream dance.  Whatever works.

Bob Dylan – Lonesome Day Blues – Unstoppable.  Is that why it fades out?  I remember a friend, lying on my bed, yelling “I don’t believe this!”

Phil Phillips with The Twilights – Sea Of Love – Auto-tuning would absolutely destroy this Louisiana treasure that sounds like it was recorded in a swamp.  Huge in 1959.  Couldn’t happen today.

Desmond Dekker & The Aces – It Mek – He actually managed to follow “Israelites”.

I’ve never danced to this.  Ladies?


Think about it;

Elvis Presley.  Artist.

Go on.  Laugh.

But picture this…

From ‘54 to ‘58, Elvis was perfect.  No such thing as a bad record.  Unthinkable, actually.  And then, in February ‘59, in an alternate universe, Elvis was on tour in the frigid midwest, in a bus with a broken heater.  He was so fuckin’ cold & sick & tired of it that he decided to charter a plane to the next gig.

And Elvis Presley was frozen in time, with a perfect track record.

Holy shit, would he be viewed differently.  No jumpsuits.  No dyed black plastic hair.  No jelly doughnuts.  Not one shitty record.

We’d likely be saying “Just think of what he’d have done.”

Like we do with Buddy.


In other news…

When some idiot belittles Ringo Starr, as in “He wasn’t a very good drummer”, (Translation:  He wasn’t busy & he had taste.), I tell them to listen to “Day Tripper”.

Wanna know about the tambourine?  “Day Tripper” again.

Or the toms on “A Day In The Life”.  Someone should steal those.


One more thing… the opening guitar riff on “Shelter Song” by Temples is really friggin’ good.


Don Everly once said to Rodney Crowell; “Want to get rid of your vibrato?  Try singing with my little brother Phillip.  Singing with him is like singing with a laser beam.”

I get it.  One listen to “Cathy’s Clown” and you’ll get it too.  What a respectful and revelatory quote.  It explains a large part of the Everly musical dynamic.

Don sang like a free bird, often outside the lines, all over the map.  As soon as Phil appeared, two voices synchronised into one.

Phil always stayed inside the lines.  The lines that defined The Everly Brothers’ “sound”.  Hell, he DREW the lines.

Then there’s DNA, that sibling blend.  Genetics.  Ask Brian Wilson.

As for two part harmony in rock & roll, The Everly Brothers set the bar and no one’s ever raised it.  They’ve never quite been taken as seriously as many of their peers, from Buddy Holly to The Louvin Brothers.

Yet, among their successors, they’re revered as the trailblazers they were.  Ask Norah & Billie Joe, Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie Prince Billy, Gram & Emmylou, The Byrds, Stones, Hollies, Rockpile and, most obviously, The Beatles.

Who else had the nerve to release an album of “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” in 1958, at the dawn of their career?  Or 1968’s “Roots”, a forward-facing country record that beat “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” by six months.

Talk about taking a walk on the wild side.

They got knocked for recording Tin Pan Alley standards like “Don’t Blame Me” (exquisite) and “Temptation” (ingenious), but they came from a time when the aim was to make it in ‘show business’.

It’s unfair to condemn them for singing the very same style of material that we praise Sinatra for singing.

No one knocks James Brown for doing “Prisoner Of Love”.

The Everlys stopped recording in 1988.

Don, 1993;  “You can’t cut records unless you can sell’ em.  It gets self-indulgent”.

That’s a shame.  I’d always hoped that someone like Rick Rubin would helm one last great Everlys album.

As for “like singing with a laser beam”?

Provided you’re Don Everly.

Don’t miss;

Sleepless Nights (1960) – The definitive version.  And they’ve got the chords right.

I’m Afraid (1963) – Minor key paranoia at it’s prettiest.  Written by drummer Jim Gordon, who wrote the second half of “Layla”.  He also killed his mother.

Gone, Gone Gone (1964) – Written by Don & Phil, this should have been Number One.  It pulsates.  Formidable rhythm guitars.

The Price of Love (1965) – Another perfectly constructed Don & Phil original, and another hit that wasn’t.  Huge in England, where people weren’t as obsessed with all things British as we were.  When it comes to guitar intros, Don is the master.

Love Is Strange (1965) – A shade hokey, but the guitars and vocal interplay win out.

It’s All Over (1965) – Don at his bleakest.  So dark that it feels like a secret.

Empty Boxes (1968) – Sounds to me like Simon & Garfunkel with soul.  Nice.

Asleep (1984) – I can think of no other song that captures the feeling of escape-into-dreams like this one does.

Why Worry (1986) – Sublime.  Mark Knopfler must be proud.

Amanda Ruth (1986) – What an intro.  Maybe their hardest rocker.  Glorious harmonies.  Listen to them stretch “Amandaahhh…” into the stratosphere.

Born Yesterday (1986) – Don’s story of broken relationships in a desolate and unforgiving town.  Heartbreaking.

The Slow Burner

Laura Merrimen & The Hard Tickets – Midnight Roll (2012)

Every once in a while, I love an album on the first listen.  Then by the third or fourth, I’m floored.  I’ll stash it for a bit, and come back to it later, repeating that little time trick at scattered intervals, for maybe a year.  For this ridiculous quirk, dear readers, I apologize, for that’s where “Midnight Roll” has been hiding since its release over a year ago.

Laura Merrimen’s writing is creeping into the strangest places.  Smart strange places.  “Hard Fall” sounds like freedom.  “So Long” is an earthquake.  That just about covers everything, doesn’t it?

Her singing sounds bare, assertive and often painfully open.  She always gets the point across.  “Morning Light” engages from the get go.  What a memorable opening lick.

This album rocks, in a loose and righteous way, but it rolls too, a trait too often ignored with digital recording.  You can’t ‘fix’ something while it’s rolling or it’ll stop!  Merrimen starts it up and rolls on through, showing no hint of hesitation, on every song.  Check “Midnight Roll”.  You’ll get it.

This is a stark, hard sound.  Ryan Stanley’s guitar is tasteful and righteous.  What strong slide work.  Bass player Tom MacGillivray cruises & anchors this record in perfect synch with drummer Brian Murray, who adds touches of vocals, pedal steel, guitar… whatever works, and he always seems to know what works.

Merrimen produced this album with Murray, a splendid timekeeper with an extraordinary ear.  Maybe they bounced their ideas of darkness back & forth.  I don’t know.  This record sure sounds that way.  I’ll stand by it.

Things That Piss Me Off

– “Covers” – I’ve grown to despise that word;

Les Paul

Louis Armstrong

Elvis Presley

John Coltrane

Jeff Beck

Frank Sinatra

As good as it gets, right?  And they weren’t songwriters.  They were interpreters, of the highest order.  At the top of their games, they picked the best songs by writers who couldn’t sing worth shit, and the combination of the best of both worlds made for some amazing records.

Okay, Frank wrote “I’m A Fool To Want You” and Elvis & the rest dabbled a bit but you get the picture.

My point is that no one said a bloody word about “covers”.

In today’s climate, a “cover” (I’ll always put it in quotations so that it won’t enter my vocabulary) is frowned upon, as in “Oh, it’s only a cover”.

Too bad.  Great writers who aren’t good singers come to mind.  So do some fine singers who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag, but insist on trying to do so.

Like I said, too bad.

– I’m REALLY SICK of duets albums.  Actually, I was really sick of them ten years ago, but the fuckers won’t give up!  I haven’t heard the John Fogerty album.  It’s disrespectful on principle alone.  I refuse to listen to Bob Seger doing “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and “Born On The Bayou” does not bring Kid Rock to mind.  And “Almost Saturday Night” with Keith Urban?  Jesus Christ!

– Aside from Parsons, my favourite Emmylou Harris duet is “Everytime You Leave” with Don Everly, and it isn’t on her “Duets” collection.  That’s absurd.  Don’s at his stoned-droney best.  They seem to cry in pitch.

– People who write off entire musical genres.  “I don’t like classical”.  “I don’t like rap”.  Good thing The Beatles didn’t think like that.

– “Cuddle Up” isn’t on the new Beach Boys boxed set.

– Old people who only listen to old music.  “They don’t make good music anymore.”  Bullshit.  Open your ears!

– On a lighter note, you know how McCartney’s always going on about who did what and blowing his own horn?  Now he’s SINGING about it!

“Everybody seems to have their own opinion

who did this and who did that

but as for me I don’t see how they can remember

when they weren’t where it was at”

The sorely missed Weekly World News once did a cover story about how John Lennon taught his parrot a number of “unreleased Beatles songs”, in anticiption of being shot, and apparently forgetting he had a tape recorder.  The cover photo of John with the poor parrot was hilarious.  Parrots live to be very old.  Maybe this one could teach McCartney how to write decent lyrics.

– “Bonus tracks”.  If you’ve got fifteen songs in the can, must you put out a 12 track album and a 15 track version with “bonus tracks”, often a month or two later?  What a blatant money grab.  If they’re as good as the stuff on your album, put them on there.  If they’re not, who needs them?  Show some respect for your fans.

– I wish Stompin’ Tom had recorded one last album with Rick Rubin.  Or with Dale Murray.

More to come…

Tuck & Johnson: Blues In Abundance

Al Tuck – Stranger At The Wake

 – Cameron House Records (2013)

Why did Al Tuck wait until now to record the best album of his career?  Beats me.  You’d have to ask him.  And I’ll bet he doesn’t know.

It’s early, I know, but “Stranger At The Wake” feels like one of those albums that’s always gonna be there.  Few & far between.

As for the songs…

“Stranger At The Wake”.  A song for all times and for all time.

“We Didn’t Dance”.  George Jones would have nailed it.  Deceptively simple and right.

“There Is A God”.  I’m at a loss here because I really can’t begin to give it justice.  Take it any way you like, but hear it, if only for that endearing bass note.

This is a thought-provoking, thought out & thought through album.  Thoughtless too, in a thoughtful way.  Maybe the trick is to make it sound thoughtless, in just the right fashion.

Thanks for the gift, Al.

Robert Johnson – The Centennial Collection

– Columbia Records (2011)

I won’t waste your time blabbering on about Robert Johnson’s music.  It’s absolutely right, scary at times, and it’s never been bettered.  The difference here is in the sound.

I’ve never heard these songs sound so clear and present.  I’ve no idea how Columbia pulled this off but I’m grateful that they did.  I thought I knew Johnson’s stuff backwards by now, but I’m hearing subtle bits and nuances I’ve never noticed before.

Everything Johnson recorded is here on two CDs, in chronological order, with the 1936 San Antonio master takes on disc one, followed by the alternates, and the 1937 Dallas sessions on disc two, in the same format.  If they’d asked me to program this set, I wouldn’t change a thing.

In my experience, you either get Robert Johnson or you don’t.  If you can’t get past the sparseness of the recordings, that’s your loss.  These songs are a window into the soul of a brilliant musician and writer.  Seventy-five years on, they just keep getting better.

Treat yourself.

The Plagiarist & The Percussionist

So here I am, on vacation, a thousand miles from home, and what am I doing?  Writing for you, my friends.  Why?  Because I miss you.  I’d send a postcard but I forgot your address.  So I’ll ramble because I’m ramblin’.  And Rollin’ and Tumblin’.
Speaking of…  Robert Johnson records “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”, which he likely learned from “Minglewood Blues” by Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers and/or from “Roll & Tumble Blues” by Hambone Willie Newbern.  (I wish someone would call me Hambone Willie.)  At any rate, Robert takes writing credit for it.  Then Sonny Boy Williamson records it and takes credit.  Then Muddy Waters, then Elmore James, and on down the line, dozens of artists claiming to have ‘written’ their version of the same song.  No one has a problem with that because it’s a blues tradition.  Take an existing song and ‘adapt’ it.  I can’t think of a blues artist who hasn’t done so.  Like “Dust My Broom” or “Bo Diddley” or “Matchbox”.
Then Bob Dylan takes “Rollin’ & Tumblin'”, rewrites 90% of the lyrics, giving the song an entirely modern feel, and what happens?  People call him a plagiarist!  Know what I think?  His skin’s the wrong colour so the ‘purists’ automatically condemn him.  The very same purists who couldn’t write their own way out of a wet paper bag.  Dylan IS a blues artist, in every sense of the word, endlessly reinterpreting his own songs, night after night, and few have done as much as he has to draw attention to the rich tradition that is the blues and to many exemplary artists who might otherwise have been forgotten.  Ask Jack White.  So leave Dylan alone!  Hats off to you, Bobby.
Know what else gets on my nerves?  I’m sick of hearing about how Elvis ‘stole’ from black artists.  It never happened, folks.  Presley recorded “Hound Dog” in 1956, three years after Big Mama Thornton had a hit with it.  The same goes for “That’s All Right”, “One Night”, “I Feel So Bad”…  Elvis never took a current record by any artist, black or white, and ‘covered’ it to get a hit single.  He always waited until the original had run its course, and you can bet that the artists who wrote those songs were damn well delighted when their royalties came rollin’ & tumblin’ in.  James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Fats Domino and many others have gone on record and praised Elvis Presley for enthusiastically supporting black artists throughout his career.
I’ve often wondered what perception we’d have of Elvis if he’d gone down in that plane in 1959 with Buddy Holly.  He’d never have made a bad record or a mindless movie or turned into a fat, jump-suited, drugged-out parody of himself.  He’d be remembered as a young, wild, rockin’ rebel who made perfect records and broke all the rules.  A guy who was more responsible than anyone for ‘inventing’ rock & roll as we know it and bringing it to the masses.  Because that’s exactly what he did.  And yes, he also ‘produced’ every one of his post-Sun 50s classics.  Who ever mentions Elvis as a maverick record producer?  Who listens to “All Shook Up” and marvels at that cool percussion effect that he got by slapping the back of his acoustic?  And who listens to “Mystery Train” and thinks “What a great rhythm guitar player!”.  I do.  And now you will too.
Elvis Presley was an artist who honed his craft.  Listen to “Treat Me Nice”, the version in the “Jailhouse Rock” movie.  Then listen to the 45 version, recorded five months later.  During those five months, he played with the song, slowing it down, lowering the key, slapping that acoustic again, until he came up with the perfect Elvis record.  He does not falter.  It’s a performance so strong and self-assured and playful that you don’t even consider that he COULD falter.
A true artist at the peak of his powers.
Damn purists.


Rhymes.  I love ‘em.  Don’t wanna be above ‘em.  Why?  Because they rhyme.  Stop me on a dime.  Often divine and sometimes sublime.

My favourite, at the moment, was written in 1955 by Arthur Hamilton and delivered impeccably by the lovely Julie London.  “Cry Me A River” is a perfect record.  Accompanied ‘only’ by Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on bass, London’s vocal oozes sultriness.  What a stark, enveloping sound, with plenty of space to let your imagination take hold.  That echo on the vocal mic at the fade!  It was a huge hit.

Inexplicably, London then proceeded to record mainly with overblown orchestras for the remainder of her career.  That’s a shame.

But I’m digressing.  I mentioned rhymes.

Check this;

“told me love was too plebeian, told me you were through with me and…”

I recommend hearing it in context;

Ray Davies knows the trick too;
“and he plays at stocks and shares,
and he goes to the Regatta,
he adores the girl next door,
‘cause he’s dying to get at her”

Certainly well respected in my book.  And Ray’s classic lead-in rhyme in Autumn Almanac;

“ohhh, my poor rheumatic back,
yes yes yes, it’s my autumn almanac”

Let’s not forget Session Man;

“he’s a session man,
a chord progression,
a top musician”

Chuck Berry was thinking outside the box way back in 1955;

“gonna send out a world wide hoodoo,
that’ll be the very thing that’ll suit you,
I’m gonna see that you be back home in thirty days”

Even the two ‘that’lls’ are great.  (I use no apostrophe because ‘that’ll’ isn’t possessive, although a word with two apostrophes would be cool).

Tangeant time again.  I work in a busy record store.  I talk with customers about music.  Eight hours a day.  People who love Ray Davies, Butch Hancock, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan.  Clever, intelligent lyricists.  Yet Chuck Berry is viewed by many as ‘simple’ or ‘primitive’.  Open your ears, people!

Speaking of Bob, let’s have a few laughs.


“the clouds are turnin’ crimson,
the leaves fall from the limbs an’”


“the host was pouring brandy,
he was goin’ down slow,
he stayed right to the end, he,
was the last to go”

And my favourite, Po’ Boy;

“Othello told Desdemona ‘I’m cold, cover me with a blanket,
By the way, what happened to that poison wine?’
She says ‘I gave it to you, you drank it’”

Rodney Crowell can be dark and silly too.  Life Is Messy;

“life is messy, it’s starting to repress me,
life is messy, it’s starting to distress me,
life is messy, it’s trying to depress me,
life is messy, I feel like Elvis Presley”

Poor Elvis.  He should have listened to Frank (lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman);

“the problem now of course is,
to simply hold your horses,
to rush would be a crime,
‘cause nice and easy does it every time”

Mickey Jupp tells us all about love in Switchboard Susan;

“when I’m with you, girl, I get an extension,
and I don’t mean Alexander Graham Bell’s invention”

That one was interpreted expertly by Nick Lowe, who has his own bag of tricks.  Raging Eyes;

“well she ain’t such a beauty, hardly a Juliet,
but she can roll a Romeo in to do his duty,
with those raging eyes”

And the crown jewel, Nick’s brutal homage to poor Rick Astley on All Men Are Liars;

“well, do you remember Rick Astley?,
he had a big fat hit, it was ghastly”

Can’t top that so I’ll wrap it up.  Time to play some NRBQ.  Maybe “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Workin’”.


I’m in the mood for babbling so babble I will.  First off, in my raving about “No Reply” last month, I neglected to mention McCartney’s extraordinary harmonies.  So bloody strong and, as always, the perfect counterpoint to John.  Sorry Paul.

So who listens to Doug Sahm?  Talkin’ ‘bout  Sir Douglas, master of the groove, be it blues, R&B, rock & roll, real country, tex-mex, conjunto, honky-tonk, garage rock, psychedelia, jazz, funk.  The most unaffected artist this side of Jimmy Reed.  Doug made consistently great records over a forty year span.  Incredible, precious records.

So I’ll tell you who listens… Dale Murray, who breathes taste and savours happy accidents, just like Doug did – Chris Martin, a tasteful & humble guitar man – his cousin Christina, an R&B belter who doesn’t know it yet – Peter Halpin, CBC Christmas host, who still believes that Doug MUST have recorded a yet-to-be-discovered Christmas song – Marc Kielley, renowned Newfoundland groovester – and Bob Dylan, who wrote “Doug was like me.  His was a big soul.  Doug had a heavy frequency and it was in his nerves.  I miss Doug.  He got caught in the grind.  He should still be here.”

“The Mono Singles ’68–’72” (Sundazed) is a great place to start.  This is music from the heart.  Texas Soul and a whole lot more.  “Mendocino” will have you dancing on the ceiling.  I promise.  And it’s available on vinyl.

Al Tuck’s a Doug-head  too.  Speaking of Al… and Dylan… I’ve heard “Tempest”, the song, maybe 75 times now.  Mr. Tuck then pointed out that Dylan wrote a fourteen minute song about the Titanic and never mentions an iceberg.  Just the wizard.  Wow.  Thanks Al.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing “There Is A God”, an astonishing song from from Tuck’s next album.  An a cappella wonder with an edge.  Watch for it.

Randy Newman.  Deranged, inescapably musical, brief, and so funny.  The guy knows how to edit.  Ever listened to “Marie” from “Good Old Boys”?  You should.

I thought I’d try something.  I’ll write about five favourite guitar solos, in no particular order.  The first five that come to mind;

The Nazz Are Blue – (The Yardbirds, 1966) – Jeff Beck, inventing a modern psychedelia.  Uncharted territory.  The way he sneaks up to the solo is amazing.  And it’s so funny.  Beck once said that there’s a direct line between Indian sitar and blues.  I get it.  His rhythm in the verses is impeccable.  And he sings it too.

Free As A Bird (The Beatles, 1995) – George Harrison.  This solo rips!  A first rate Lennon song, completed brilliantly by McCartney.  But Harrison owns the record.  I like to think of it as George’s Revenge.

Race With The Devil (Gene Vincent And The Blue Caps, 1956) – Cliff Gallup.  Last run of the first solo.  How to turn a Telecaster into a rocket ship.  The original 78 sounds amazing but I’m not lending it to you.

If You Can’t Rock Me (Ricky Nelson, 1957) – Joe Maphis.  The rocket crash lands in the first run of the first solo.  Only a schooled country guy could come up with this.

Goodbye To Love – (The Carpenters, 1972 – no shit) – Tony Peluso who, according to Wikipedia, was “a renowned electric guitarist”.  I’m clueless as to who he is but the idea was Karen’s and Tony nailed it!  This is perfect madness.  Absolutely insane and over the top. Stick it out to the fade.

Maybe next month I’ll write about Abba…


KawajaBear – The Taking Things Slow EP (Digital Download)

What a fabulous way to start a cold winter’s day.  I was humming again when I woke up this morning.  It’s been the same song for a couple of weeks now.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  Even better when it’s a new song that floats your way, unexpectedly.  It’s called “Astronaut” and it’s by Taryn Kawaja & KawajaBear.  You can find it and buy it, delivered impeccably, right here;

I made this delightful discovery a few weeks back.  Friends told me this song is ‘really good’.  They’ve got that right.  It’s simple and tasteful.  The piano intro is gorgeous, beautifully played by Kawaja with an intuitive touch.  Natural, yet well thought out, like all two hundred and twenty-seven seconds of this compelling song.

I must have listened to “Astronaut” a dozen times before I braved on to “Untitled” and “No Sounds or Gestures”.  They passed the test.  But that’s another story, of another morning.  Two actually.

The Beatles – Beatles For Sale (Parlophone)
Employees of a local cafe passed the time one morning by asking customers their favourite opening LP track.  Marvellous idea.  “Taxman”, I replied.  Then “Rainy Day Women”.  And “Blue Suede Shoes” (well itsa one for the money), you know, the first Elvis album.

Well, I forgot one.  Did I ever.

“No Reply”.  A thick, double-tracked Lennon declaring “this happened once before, when I came to your door, no reply-i-i-iy”.  Perfect intro, perfect song, and one of John’s best vocals.  The voice on that guy!  “I’m A Loser” is next, declaring this to be ‘Lennon’s album’.  Then “Baby’s In Black”, John & Paul locked in two part harmony throughout.  Lennon slays us with “Rock And Roll Music”, making it forever his song, much to Chuck’s money-obsessed delight.

This is one of my favourite Beatles albums.  I grew up with “Beatles ‘65”, which luckily starts with those same four songs, and I still feel the same rush every time I play it.

“Beatles For Sale” was recorded on the fly in seven days, between tour dates, and these guys never sounded more settled as a working band.  The energy!  McCartney owns “Kansas City” on the first take.  And, speaking of making a song his own, Harrison ambushes Carl Perkins’ “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”.  It’s one of George’s shining moments.  Ringo Starr’s inventive playing anchors every song with finesse and restraint.  I’ve never heard a more musical drummer.

Fourteen glorious Beatles songs, now available again on an LP!  This is intuitive music.  Flawed and flawless.