Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

365 Days of Album Recommendations – March 23

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

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Hands up for who has an original pressing on vinyl! Yep, me too …

So, the thing is, this isn’t his best album. In some ways, it’s barely even tangentially related to the material he earned his Nobel for.

All the same, you simply can’t fully comprehend the full measure of the man’s achievement without absorbing this debut.

And that said, many of the performances here DO rank high on the list of Dylan’s major accomplishments—Song To Woody, one of only two “originals” on the release, remains one of his greater songs, even in the context of everything that’s come after.

His performance of House of the Rising Sun, despite being arguably lifted right off of Dave Van Ronk’s plate, is incomparably beautiful, and his take on Baby, Let Me Follow You Down ranks as one of the better ones historically (tho some would say he “borrowed” the arrangement here as well!).

Spoiler alert: If Dylan’s rather singular approach to the harmonica ain’t your thing, this album may drive you crazy—it’s everywhere, in all its bovine, major-chord glory.

All in all, it’s not an album to listen to through and through, every day. But it’s  an album you must listen too, through and through.


On The Eve Of The Songwriter’s Showcase Finals, A List Of 23 Genius Songs We All Wish We’d Written, But Didn’t

Tuesday, May 5th, 7-10pm, Britannia

Tomorrow night, it’s the finals of the 13th Annual Songwriter’s Showcase (sponsored by Mars Studios, and hosted by the Britannia Arms in Capitola, CA), and I am to be a judge. Which is very exciting for me, and an honor I accept with the utmost seriousness.

Because said event is nigh, I have songwriting on the brain.

Now, in re: said event, based on what I know to date about the competitors, I think it is safe to say that we are not working with the broadest definition of singer-songwriter (i.e. anyone who sings a song they have written), but rather, we are operating within the more precise realm of the “Singer-Songwriter”; that is to say, within the folk-troubadour tradition. Operators within this space may claim as their ancestors and inspirations the likes of, say, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, or Joan Armatrading; James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, or Townes Van Zandt; Bill Withers, Billy Bragg, or Neil Young; Tracy Chapman, Dolly Parton, or Nick Drake; Elliot Smith, Patti Smith, or Carol King; Phil Ochs, Suzanne Vega, or Ben Harper; Greg Brown, Indie.Arie, or Bruce Springsteen; Kris Kristofferson, Sam Cooke, or Ani DiFranco, or even, yes, John Lennon and Jerry Garcia. This IS Santa Cruz County, after all.

The point being, there is singing a song one has written, and then there are “Singer-Songwriters.” For this event, I think it is safe to say we are considering the latter.

And so, bearing that in mind, I have elected, almost strictly for personal kicks, to assemble a list of some of the greatest songs (fundamentally — with just a couple stretches– in this mold) ever written, songs that you and I both wish we’d written, but didn’t.

With no apologies for what I’ve left out or what I’ve included, and in no particular order, I proffer the following:

1. Willie & Laura Mae Jones, by Tony Joe White.
Dear ALL aspiring political songwriters. This is how you handle racism in a song. Funkily, powerfully, honestly, and narratively. A masterpiece.

2. The Ballad of Hollis Brown, by Bob Dylan
Devasting. One chord. That is all.

3. Here Comes A Regular, by Paul Westerberg (The Replacements)
If you understand the difference between this and “Piano Man,” you’re on to something. If you don’t, you’re not.

4. Grandma’s Hands, by Bill Withers
Can YOU be this powerful, soulful, beautiful, muscular, and emotional, while singing about YOUR grandma? Yeah …

5. In the River, by Michael Been (The Call)
White gospel, from an 80s indie band. Incredible.

6. Straight To Hell, by Joe Strummer (The Clash)
Just an unbelievably great song; epic, monumental; spooky, depressing; vivid, political, social, emotional, gut-wrenchingly raw, pathotically weird and funny and sad and strange and perfect. And so cool …

7. Glory Box, by Beth Gibbons (Portishead)
Incredible lyric movement, traveling from the personal and idiosyncratic, to the most fundamentally raw, sensual, and real. Killer … And that melody line, over that bass line? Killer …

8. Red Dirt Girl, by Emmylou Harris
As good a “story song” as any ever written, coming from out the folk-blues-southern thing …

9. Our Mother the Mountain, by Townes Van Zandt
Because if you write this …

Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you’ve found
You fool, it’s only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another.

… then your s&%t is amazing.

10. Four Women, by Nina Simone
Because if you can powerfully and successfully address sexism AND racism in a song with a final line of “My name is Peaches,” and not only get away with it, but kill it? Then your s&$t is amazing.

11. Amsterdam, by Jacques Brel
Epic in every sense of the word. Dirty, seedy, and romantic; beautiful, tragic, and raw. And it ends with an image of pissing. Such an achievement … just towering.

12. State Trooper, by Bruce Springsteen
Simply one of the best road songs ever. And that’s saying something.

13. Death Don’t Have No Mercy, by the Reverend Gary Davis
It’s admittedly hard to concede ACTUAL songwriting credits when it comes to the “shared” folk-blues-gospel cannon, but this is pretty close to clear, so I’m just going to say it’s Davis’ song. I played a version of this recently, and someone from the audience spoke to me afterwards, referring to this song as “dark gospel, but true gospel.” To which I say, yes.

14. Psalm, by John Coltrane
There are technically no lyrics to this song, but if you know the story of this song, then yes there are lyrics. And this song is INCREDIBLE. Listen to this while reading the “lyrics,” and you’ll have one of the most moving poetry/music experiences of your life …goose bumps. Forever.

15. 16 Shells From A Thirty Ought Six, by Tom Waits
Because Tom Waits should be on this list somewhere, and because for my money, it was with this song that Waits not only created a language all his own, but became a genre all his own.

16. Back Home In Derry, by Christy Moore
No one does homesick like the Irish, and few do it better than Christy Moore with this song.

17. Fairytale of New York, by Shane MacGowan (The Pogues)
Ditto the above, except way, way, way sadder and more f&#*ed up …

18. Washington D.C. Hospital Blues, by Skip James
Most country blues artists didn’t really “write” songs in the way we think of it being done, and few if any wrote any new material later in life. The eerily excellent Skip James is the exception; he not only wrote brilliant songs of his own, he wrote NEW songs of his own post his “re-discovery.” This is one such song, and it’s utterly, totally brilliant for capturing in a single story (being sick in the hospital), and in a single couplet (I’m a poor man, but I’m a good man, you understand) an entire universe worth of the relationships between pride and shame, poverty and pride, and everything else about what it means to be both strong in, and at the mercy of, the world.

19. Diamonds and Rust, by Joan Baez
Any song that can sound amazing as sung by both the composer (Baez) and Judas Priest, HAS to be incredible …

20. I Shall Be Released, by Bob Dylan (The Band)
Is it possible someone actually sat down with pen and paper and just WROTE this song? Not possible …

21. Think, by Aretha Franklin
Yeah, she wrote it.  Well, co-wrote it. But she wrote it. And it’s so, so, so badass. It’s like singer-songwriter soul haiku, distilled down to the resonant power of just two words: Think. Freedom.

22. Cities In Dust, by Siouxie Soux
Apocolyptic, graphic, poetic, with a hook from the gods. One of the greatest songs from a great era, transcends all boundaries to simply be great, resonant, and powerful. Just play it on acoustic, solo. It swings so hard, and runs so deep …

23. Go Tell Aunt Rhody, author unknown
I don’t know who the hell wrote this lil’ lullaby of Gothic Americana, but it’s a monster lesson in The Weird Old America … Possibly the first song I ever learned, and possibly the song I’ve been trying to write my whole life …

~

Here’s to tomorrow night, and discovering something new to add to this list!


#SauceAndASideOfSlide

Truth be told, my steady at the BBQ is fast becoming one of my favorite gigs I’ve ever had.

AptosStBBQ
Don’t get me wrong, those days on stages in front of 200-person audiences, 2000-person audiences, even the occasional 10,000-person audience; those days are something to remember, and to treasure.

I’ve been very, very, very lucky in that regard.
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Imagine, I turned 30 on stage in front of some 1000 Londoners as the opening act for Shane MacGowanl! I played the San Francisco Blues Festival with John Lee Hooker as the headliner! I toured 17 countries with Eagle-Eye Cherry! I played Glastonbury, and got to see my name on the same poster with Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Portishead! I’ve played Sonny Boy’s in Helena, BB’s in LA, and Buddy’s in Chicago!

I tell you, I’ve been lucky.

But in all honesty, the music I grew up on, the music I learned by, the music I still play today, the music I will forever return to when I’m lost, it didn’t grow up in clubs. It didn’t grow up in theaters or arenas. It didn’t grow up at festivals. It didn’t grow up on radio, or tv, or the internet. It didn’t even grow up in concert. It grew up in backyards, on porches, in fields. It grew up around food, around drink, around people. It grew up on chairs, in corners, on the floor. It grew up in places just like Aptos St. BBQ, where people of all kinds come to eat, drink, talk, and listen to music.

I’m very, very lucky to have this gig, and I’m proud to share some music with you from my shows there. Please see below, and I hope you enjoy!

~

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Preacher Boy | The National Blues

http://preacherboy.com/
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https://preacherboyblog.com/


Preacher Boy: FAQs

Q: Where does the name Preacher Boy come from?
A: Well, it started out essentially as a demi-derisive nickname a good friend used to call me when I’d get to soapboxing too much; sort of a Hazel Motes call out.

Q: How many Preacher Boy albums are there?
A: 6, if you include the 4-song Tenderloin EP:

 

Q: Best gigs ever?
A: Too many to count! How about favorite acts I’ve gotten to perform with? Some highlights:

  • Opening for Taj Mahal in Denver, Colorado
  • With Los Lobos at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, and then with JJ Cale at The Catalyst
  • Opening for Shane MacGowan (The Pogues) at his annual X-mas show in London, ON my 30th birthday!
  • The San Francisco Blues Festival, the same day and stage as John Lee Hooker
  • Guesting in the set with Eagle-Eye Cherry, for his live concert film at Shepherd’s Bush, in London
  • Opening for Clarence Gatemouth Brown at The Great American Music Hall
  • With Sonny Landreth at The Great American Music Hall
  • 4 different shows at Slim’s in SF, opening for Bob Geldof, Peter Wolf, Jimmy Vaughan, and The Texas Tornadoes
  • With AJ Croce at Moulin Blues in The Netherlands
  • Opening for Cracker at The Warfield
  • Playing the Glastonbury Festival on the same bill as Portishead, Nick Cave, and Bob Dylan
  • Opening for CJ Chenier in LA, and for Buckwheat Zydeco at Bimbo’s in SF
  • Opening for Chris Whitley in Portland, OR
  • Playing opposite Chris Isaak at The Paradise Lounge in SF
  • Opening for Charlie Musselwhite at The House of Blues in New Orleans

PreacherBoy_TheNationals

Q: How old is your National?
A: 1936! And actually, I’m so fortunate, I have two now, both from 1936!

Q: What tunings do you use on your Nationals?
A: Well, as I said, I have two, and I use them differently; what I call “The National” (the one my Grandpa gave me) is my slide instrument, so on that one, I use primarily Open G and Open D, and the minors of each as well. My second National (the one that belonged to my Grandpa, and was passed down to me when he passed) I keep mainly in standard, though I’ll occasionally do Drop D or something like that. I have one tune for which I use a really strange tuning (Open C, essentially, but with no 3rd: CGCGCC), and I generally do that on this second National as well.

Q: What do you think about all the Tom Waits comparisons you’ve received over the years?
A: Well, two things, I suppose: 1) High praise, and 2) A lot of people need to go listen to Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, Charley Patton, Dave Van Ronk, Lemmy, Louis Armstrong, and Captain Beefheart.

Q: What’s the most successful song you’ve ever recorded?
A: Depends on the criteria for judging, really, so, four answers:

  • If you ask my bank account, it’s “Long Way Around” which I wrote with Eagle-Cherry. We recorded it at The Magic Shop in New York with Rick Rubin producing, and Eagle-Eye’s sister Neneh sung on it, and it went on to be certified Gold in Europe.
  • If you ask iTunes, it’s probably the version of “Old Boyfriends” I did for a Waits tribute album. Per the question above, I was a little put out by the request initially, but decided to do it as I found what I thought was a clever way to circumnavigate the vocal comparisons; Waits never sung “Old Boyfriends,” Crystal Gayle did, on the One From The Heart Soundtrack. So that’s the one I covered!
  • If you ask my discography, it would probably be “I Won’t Be There” from Gutters & Pews, as I think that’s the one that’s been anthologized the most. Or perhaps “This Is New York,” because that made it onto the Approaching Union Square soundtrack.
  • “Dead, Boy!” Because that was the first “professional” song I recorded with my National, and it was for my debut album, for my first record label! Thus, the beginning of it all …

Q: What got you into this music in the first place?
A: Simple. Side 1, song 1, of a Vanguard Twofer that collected all the great country blues performers who had performed at the Newport Folk Festival in the 60s. I put it on my record player with NO idea what to expect, and along came the first song: Mississippi John Hurt playing “Sliding Delta.” And that was it, man. I heard it, and I said, “I’m sorry Joe Strummer, but THAT! I want to be able to do THAT!”


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