My Favorite Picture of You

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I was trying to fulfill just a part of my domestic obligation by folding some laundry this morning, and, because laundry foldin’ also just happens to be one of the most opportune times to really listen to music, I fired up the new Guy Clark record, My Favorite Picture of You. Now, I’m only one listen through, but I can tell you that if you’re a fan of great, evocative songwriting, quality finger picking, and well crafted acoustic folk/’country’ tunes, then pick it up (it is Guy Clark after all, the legend).

It was song number two into the album, the title track, that really perked my ears – a melancholy, wistful ode to his favorite picture of his girl. In this case, the girl is his wife Susanna, who lost a battle with cancer just last year at the age of 73. Put into that context, the words that Guy put to paper for this tune are all the more heartbreaking and beautiful.

I found this video tonight, with Guy alone in his home explaining (and showing) the picture behind the song before singing it. It’ll put a lump in your throat. Bet on it.

Dreaming My Dreams With You – Jamey Johnson

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Jamey Johnson is a big bad bearded, former Marine country singer from Alabama. He’s only 37, but leans toward the old school “classic” country sound of Waylon, Willie and George. Now I love my twang, and there’s little I find to appreciate in the mainstream country that Nashville churns out these days. But always lurking in the shadows are artists like Jamey keeping that old school tradition alive – and I’m always happy to stumble across them.

His 2008 debut album, That Lonesome Song, makes its way back into my rotation every so often. It’s a laid back, back of the bar acoustic guitar and pedal steel ride that is great all the way through.

I always like the quieter moments, and Jamey knocks it out of the park with his cover of “Dreaming My Dreams With You”, an absolutely gorgeous tune written by songwriter Allen Reynolds for Waylon Jennings’ 1975 album, Dreaming My Dreams

I also recommend Jamey’s latest release, Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran. He duets with the likes of Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and others.

Willie’s Spirit

Since stumbling across it on Rdio yesterday, I’ve become quickly enamored with Willie Nelson’s Spirit album. “She Is Gone” is the only song I was really familiar with from the record. It’s a sparse, heartbreakingly gorgeous tune – one that I moped along to in the late 90’s during a breakup or two. But I had no idea it was nestled into an album of equally sparse and beautiful songs, and also no idea that the song that comes before it – the album opener and instrumental “Matador” – actually enhances the beauty of “She Is Gone”. It serves as sort of an introduction to the song – and to the album as a whole.

Spirit is a somber affair, to be sure – the theme heartbreak and loss – but oh the delicate beauty of it.

Excuse me while I jump back in…

Let Him Roll

Guy Clark hit my radar after I got into Steve Earle in the 90’s. I started digging deeper into the “outlaw” singer/songwriters from the state of Texas. People like Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, and Townes Van Zandt. I still have a long way to go with exploring the rich catalogs of these guys. My most recent pick-up on eMusic was The Essential Guy Clark, which I will make a point of spending plenty of time with in the near future.

I heard “Let Him Roll” on Sirius a while ago, and was struck – as I always am with these guys – by the vivid, colorful, and genuine imagery in the storytelling….

Like:

It was white port that put that look in his eye,
Grown men get when they need to cry.
We sat down on the curb to rest,
And his head just fell down on his chest.

He says: “Every single day it gets,
“Just a little bit harder to handle and yet. . .”
Then he lost the thread and his mind got cluttered,
And the words just rolled off down the gutter.

It’s a tale of a down on his luck wino – in love with a prostitute from Dallas. He’s at the end of his road, and the narrator tells the story of his sad demise…

Guy Clark – Let Him Roll (mp3) –  from The Essential Guy Clark

Sea of Heartbreak / Rosanne Cash + The Boss

“Sea of Heartbreak” is one of those classics you recognize when you hear it, you enjoy it, but you really know nothing about the history or origin of the song. Well, that’s my experience anyway. After hearing Rosanne Cash‘s new version, with Bruce Springsteen on harmonies, and listening about 5-6 times in a row, it was time to hit All Music and get to the bottom of it.

The song was written by Hal David and David Hampton. Far as can tell, it was originally recorded by Don Gibson in 1961. Rosanne’s old man Johnny covered the song on his 1996 Rick Rubin-produced album Unchained, an album that features Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the session band.

It’s the first single from Rosanne’s forthcoming album The List, due out October 6th. The story goes that Johnny gave Rosanne a list of 100 essential country songs when she was 18 years old. Juuust a few years later, she’s taken a handful and made The List.

I think Rosanne’s voice is flawless. Love it. And add the Boss to the mix? Sheesh. Fuhgetaboutit.
I think I’ll listen to it 5-6 more times…

Buy the single on Rosanne Cash - Sea of Heartbreak (feat. Bruce Springsteen) - Single

Visit: Rosanne Cash’s Official Site

New Video: Ryan Bingham’s “Snake Eyes”

Anyone catch Ryan Bingham on Austin City Limits recently? A great set, and it made me lament the fact that I missed him when he came through town in July. He’s got an awesome voice, and the kind of swagger on stage that I admire.

Here’s the new official video for “Snake Eyes”, one of the introspective slow numbers from his latest record, Roadhouse Sun.

RIP Les Paul

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Legendary guitarist, inventor, songwriter and overall pioneer Les Paul has passed away at the age of 94. The debt that popular music itself owes to Les is immeasurable. From his part in the creation of the solid-body electric guitar to the first multi-track recording in history his contributions are endless. As a performer, solo and with his late wife Mary Ford, he had scores of top-ten hits and sold millions of records. This particular recording, from the Chester & Lester recording sessions, has long been a favorite of mine.

Chet Atkins & Les Paul – “Over the Rainbow” (mp3) (from Masters of the Guitar: Together, 1978)

Ick’s Pick: Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day

Deer Tick is a band that I tracked down because of all the buzz – on the blogs, on Twitter, in the pages of Rolling Stone. I guess I assumed they’d be too “indie” for my tastes, but never judge a book by its cover. What I found instead is the best damn country album I’ve heard all year. No, not Country with a capital C, but country in a raw, dirty, gritty sense – stripped down and real.

The deal sealer for me is the raspy voice of one John Joseph McCauley III. Yeah, I’m a fan of the raspy voiced singers – the Bruces, the Prines, the Earles (and add to the list lately Mr. Ryan Bingham). So hearing a new band that plays with some kick and some twang, with a lead singer that’s anything but smooth & polished – but rough around the edges – that’s always what I’m happy to find.

McCauley and his band mates are only in their early 20’s – but the feel of their latest record, Born on Flag Day, sure doesn’t sound like it came from a bunch of guys fresh out of their teens.

With new music, you tend to have those “oh, this sounds like ___” moments – and this record certainly does have its derivative moments: “Houston, TX” has a bass line reminiscent of the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”. “Song About A Man” brings Dylan to mind. And the gorgeous 60’s style ballad “Stung” sounds like a country cousin of “You Belong To Me” – if the cousin drank whiskey and raised hell.

There are a lot of standout moments for me on this album…

The opener, and maybe the most “mainstream” of the songs, is “Easy”. Feedback gives way to a twangy guitar solo, the first verse, and lets loose with an explosive chorus: “And you don’t know how easy it is / No you don’t know how easy it is / You were never there/ No never there”.

The late night tavern feel of “Little White Lies” – starting off with a slow tempo, the lazy pedal steel, and launching into an uptempo stomper. Great harmonies by Liz Isenberg.

“Friday XIII”, a catchy shuffle of a tune with some great vocal tradeoffs between McCauley and Isenberg – that traditional banter a la classic Johnny and June Carter Cash. The effects on McCauley’s vocals make me visualize one of those classic old mics from the Elvis days. In fact, those vocal effects show up throughout the album. Sort of a distant echo.

“The Ghost” has one of the more classic country vibes. The rhythm and vocal delivery are punchy and fun. One of my favorites right now…

Hidden in the latter half of the last track, “Stung”, is an intimate, impromptu version of “Good Night Irene” (starting around the 6:00 mark). Beer cans are crackin’, rowdy friends are hollerin’… but the by end, everyone’s singing along, enjoying themselves – and McCauley has them right where he wants them. A lot like the album…

Hear: The Ghost (mp3)

Buy this album: Born On Flag Day

Randoms:

  • Deer Tick has has been covering John Prine’s “Unwed Fathers” (including this week’s stop in Phoenix, which I missed). And I hear they cover the Boss too.
  • I think I’ve nailed down McCauley’s voice: a mix between Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers and Serge Bielanko, (formerly) of Marah. Anyone?

100 Words on “Rattlin’ Bones”

One rattlin' bones's too many, and a hundred's not enough.There is a misnomer that the sugar laden pop with a twang that passes for country music these days is the real deal but leave it to a duo from far across the pond to serve up a reminder of what ‘real’ country sounds like. Husband and wife duo Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson deliver stunning vocal harmonies from the shuffle of “Sweetest Waste of Time” to the wistful “Wildflower” there is an honesty in both the recoding and material that is hard to deny. The title cut is scathing dirge which I implore all of you to check out.

Kasey Chambers and Shane NicholsonRattlin’ Bones (MP3)

Purchase Rattlin’ Bones: Amazon | iTunes

Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace

ACL Highlight: Rodney Crowell

The first full set I caught at this year’s Austin City Limits festival was Rodney Crowell. It was 12:30 in the afternoon on Friday. Maybe it was the combination of a sunny day, a cold beer, good friends, and the opening day of a great music festival in Austin, but Crowell’s set was a thing of beauty.

Crowell, accompanied only by Will Kimbrough on guitar, and Jenny Scheinman on violin, delighted the crowd with some great tunes. Thing is, Rodney is such a great storyteller, he has a way of keeping you on the edge of your seat, anticipating where the story is going next. All the while, these stories are embedded in the sorts of wonderful, rootsy melodies that Crowell has been creating for decades.

There were a few highlights for me. First was Scheinman on violin, who got to showcase her stuff in her own tune, and launched into a killer violin solo – yes killer violin solo – on “Wandering Boy”, also with some great interplay with Crowell’s acoustic…the ending violin strokes had the entire crowd entranced.

Crowell’s “Earthbound” was another favorite, but it was two sublime new ones that stood out this afternoon… consider the first verse of the closing song, “Closer to Heaven”…

I don’t like humus
I hate long lines
Nosy neighbours and the nation blind
Chirpy news anchors alter my mood
I’m offended by buzz words
Like awesome and dude
I look like a trainwreck
I feel like a blob
Till you get to know me
You may think I’m a snob
But I’m closer to heaven
Than I’ve ever been

It’s lyrics like these interwoven in a beatiful song that is the magic of Rodney Crowell.

The other song that affected me was “Moving Work of Art”. It has that Townes Van Zandt / Steve Earle finger pickin’ ballad feel (both Townes and Earle spent a lot of time with Rodney back in the day) – and the love-lost lyrics hit you right where it hurts…

Time is jammed and flying fast
the brakes are bad and the potholes rough
I’m out here running from the past
What we had was not enough
Heard she just touched down in Hollywood
And her friends all say she’s looking good
I saw it coming from the start
She’s a moving work of art

Beautiful stuff. The studio version is great, but doesn’t hold a candle to seeing and hearing Rodney perform the song live. He’s out on the road supporting his latest record, Sex and Gasoline (awesome cover!). Rodney Crowell is one of those underrated living legends, and I recommend the show…

Rodney Crowell Moving Work of Art (mp3)

From:

Rodney CrowellEarthbound (mp3)

From Fate’s Right Hand

Links: Official Site | MySpace

Set List
Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design
I Want You #35
Moving Work of Art
Sex & Gasoline
Earthbound
U Don’t Know How Much I Hate U
I Wish It Would Rain
Wandering Boy
Untitled Julie Scheinman Cover
Fate’s Right Hand
Closer to Heaven