365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 7

Mance Lipscomb – Vol. 5, Pure Texas Country Blues

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As far as I’m concerned, every single thing Mance Lipscomb ever recorded was perfect. And his “oral autobiography” I Say Me For A Parable is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

So I’ll get around to recommending pretty much everything of his if I can manage it.

But today, I caught myself thinking about this particular album, and so I’m recommending it!

I was thinking about it today because: a) the version of “Evil Blues” that I recorded for The National Blues is based on his performance from this album, and b) because this album features one of the simplest songs ever in the history of country blues music, that also happens to be awesome. It’s called “I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry.” And it’s awesome.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 6

Buddy Holly – A Rock & Roll Collection

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More proof that the vinyl buyer skills I built up while working at Rasputin’s 1000 years ago have still not atrophied. I got this for $2 just last weekend! I mean, I grew up with this double album, man!

Honestly, of all the artists we’ve lost young, Buddy Holly, even more so than Jimi Hendrix, is the one I really, really, really wish would have lived long enough for us to find out what else he was going to do. He was just SO young, but had already showed creative mastery over SO much.

SO sad.

Contrary to Don McLean’s claim, the music didn’t die, but it took a horrible, horrible hit from which it’s never quite recovered.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 5

Beth Gibbons – Out of Season

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Honestly, not a week goes by where I don’t both marvel and lament at the fact that so few people seem aware of this album. If even one person listens to this album for the first time because of this post, I feel I’ll have done something important for the soul of the world.

This is an utterly beguiling, fascinating, harrowing, gratifying, and deeply moving album. It is smart, sensitive, lyrical, intricate, eccentric, and powerful. It is crafted to perfection from top to bottom—the lyrics, the structures, the melodies, the arrangements, the production; it’s just all fantastic.

If you’re like most folks, you probably know Beth Gibbons as the voice of Portishead, whose album “Dummy” is unquestionably one of the great albums of our modern era.

This album is something else altogether. The songs here are each some sort of 21st century iteration of the torch tradition; they are weary, and heartbroken, yet they strikingly retain some bemused but unshakeable hope within their melodic logic.

Gibbons is a vocal shape-shifter, some sort of neo-noir folk-torch impressionist who occupies these songs like a ghost does an Irish story about hills, and death beyond life.

Above all else, what emerges here is Beth Gibbons the songwriter. Consider “A Funny Time of Year,” the song from which the album takes its title, as but one example. Consider it, then consider every other song on this quietly staggering feat of musical artistry.

Turning now I see no reason
The voice of love so out of season
I need you now
But you can’t see me now
I’m travelling with no destination
Still hanging on to what may be

It’s a funny time of year
I can see
There’ll be no blossom on the trees
And time spent crying has taken me in this year
Oh it’s a funny time of year
There’ll be no blossom on the trees

Falling like a silent paper
Holding on to what may be
It’s a funny time of year

I can see
There’ll be no blossom on the trees
And time spent crying has taken me in this year

It’s a funny time of year


365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 4

Gillian Welch – Hell Among The Yearlings

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If I could blame Gillian Welch and David Rawlings for all the horrible “I’m not a folk musician, but I play one on TV” music that’s emerged in their wake, I would, because lord knows I want someone to blame.

At the end of the day though, this is just an irrefutably powerful album. If it’s a movie being delivered by actors, then it’s a really, really good movie. And if it’s real, then it’s all the more astonishing.

Some of the songs here are devastatingly intense. Caleb Mayer in particular. Others are a bit too self-conscious: My Morphine and Miner’s Refrain being two examples. But to Welch’s credit, even the flawed songs SOUND amazing, tho much of the credit probably goes to Rawlings, whose playing is literally holy.

One Morning and Rock of Ages are other standout tracks. Lyrically, they’re simple, arguably derivative, but they’re perfectly constructed, and sonically, they’re gorgeous.

As with seemingly all really great albums, there is of course also a crucial mistake. In this album’s case, it’s the song “Honey Now.” This is sort of Welch’s “Castanets,” that ghastly song that spoils the otherwise unbelievable “A Man Under The Influence” from Alejandro Escovedo. It’s a wasted track, but that’s ok. The rest of the album more than redeems this mis-step.

If this sounds like a conflicted review, it is; slightly. With regards to Gillian Welch the artist, I’m still on the fence. But with regards to Hell Among The Yearlings the album, I’m firmly on the side of love. I do love this album. I may love it like a sibling that I sometimes get mad at, but I love it all the same.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 3

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

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If Curtis Mayfield had never recorded this soundtrack, he still would have been a legend several times over.

But the fact is, he DID record this soundtrack. And thus, he is one of the greatest of them all.

Funky, soulful, smart, lyrical, melodic, visionary.

Dare I say it? Superfly.

Can you dig it?


365 Days of Album Recommendation – June 2

Leon Redbone – Champagne Charlie

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I picked this up on vinyl this weekend at a local LP sale for $2! This, and the previously recommended On The Track. Man, I am a happy guy!

This is #3 in the long, strange, and delightful saga of one Leon Redbone.

Objectively, it is neither as brilliantly conceived as On The Track, nor as song-strong and eclectic as Double Time, but it carves an important niche for itself all the same, and is probably the most charmingly, self-consciously, and romantically “old-time” of his early releases, evoking barbershop and vaudeville as much as it does blues, jazz, and ragtime.

It’s probably also his most croonerly release as well, as is comparatively light on the vocal noisemaking that features more prominently on other LPs.

“Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” and “I Hate A Man Like You” are the stand-out tracks for me, tho his mournful take on Jimmie Rodgers’ “T.B. Blues” is epic as well. Highly recommended listening!


365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 1

The Original Sonny Boy Williamson

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Next to Hammie Nixon’s performances with Sleepy John Estes, the original Sonny Boy Williamson’s work on the early Bluebird recordings may be some of my very favorite blues harmonica tracks ever. These re-mastered tracks here sound glorious; warm, clear, and vibey …

Sonny Boy’s original version of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl has yet to be matched, despite all the excellent renditions that have come since … you’ll love it here when you listen …

We lost him on June 1, 1948. He was killed in a robbery. In Chicago.

For this post, on this June 1 nearly 70 years later, we’ll remember the original Sonny Boy … and be grateful his extraordinary music was preserved for our edification …

RIP Sonny Boy


365 Days of Album Recommendations – May 31

Skip James – Greatest of the Delta Blues Singers

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This is a KILLER 180g vinyl reissue of some of Skip James’ very first recordings after being “rediscovered” in the 60s.

The recordings were made in 1964 in the home of Richard Spottswood, and the album features a song that is a REALLY important one in the history of country blues music.

The song is generally titled Washington D.C Hospital Center Blues (tho variations exist on different compilations), and if ever you doubted that country blues musicians were great songwriters and composers, or if you ever thought that no new material was being written after the “rediscoveries,” then this is the song that will prove you wrong.

It was a new song, an original song, and it spoke directly to Skip’s life and experiences at the time. On top of that, it’s bloody brilliant, and beautiful.

In the hospital, now
In Washington D.C.
Ain’t got nobody
To see about me
But I’m a good man
But I’m a poor man
You understand

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – May 30

The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope

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I’ll ultimately recommend EVERY studio album by The Clash. Because they’re the best.

This is #2.

I’m recommending this on May 30th, because that’s the day Topper Headon was born. And he’s the best.

This album contains one of my favorite Clash tracks of all time, “English Civil War.” It’s the best.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – May 29 [Memorial Day Edition]

Phil Ochs – A Toast To Those Who Are Gone

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A Toast To Those Who Are Gone

Many’s the hour I’ve lain by my window
And thought of the people who carried the burden
Who marched in the strange fields in search of an answers
And ended their journeys an unwilling hero

Here’s a song to those who are gone with never a reason why
And a toast of the wine at the end of the line
And a toll of the bell for the next one to die

Back in the coal fields of old harlan county
Some talked of the union, some talked of good wages
And they lined them up in the dark of the forests
And shot them down without asking no questions

Here’s a song to those who are gone with never a reason why
And a toast of the wine to the end of the line
And a toll of the bell for the next one to die

And over the ocean, to the red spanish soil
Came the lincoln brigade with their dreams
But they fell in the fire of germany’s bombing
And they fell ’cause no one would hear their sad warning

Here’s a song to those who are gone with never a reason why
And a toast of the wine at the end of the line
And a toll of the bell for the next one to die

In old alabama, in old mississippi
Two states of the union so often found guilty
They came on the busses, they came on the marches
And they lay in the jails or they fell by the highway

Here’s a song to those who are gone with never a reason why
And a toast of the wine at the end of the line
And a toll of the bell for the next one to die

The state it was texas, the town it was dallas
In the flash of a rifle a life was soon over
And nobody thought of the past million murders
And the long list of irony had found a new champion

Here’s a song to those who are gone with never a reason why
And a toast of the wine at the end of the line
And a toll of the bell for the next one to die


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