John Fahey

The Yellow Princess (Vanguard 1969)

http://www.mediafire.com/?nyiq2mhieod

There are so many facets of John Fahey’s career that it is hard to pick a favorite. I love Red Cross the best of his late period due to its exquisite mix of ambient smears and Gershwin and Irving Berlin Covers as well as the brass band excursions on Of Rivers and Religions. Of course, his early albums occupy a dear place in my heart due to their role in opening my eyes to the land of Folkways, Vanguard and a cadre of shaggy dog folkies and burnouts. However, The Yellow Princess is the one listened to most because it is positively overflowing with melancholy and members of Spirit are on hand to spin the bottle in some unforseen directions.

This rare collaboration pays dividends on “Dance of the Inhabitants of the Invisible City of Bladensburg” which begins with the crash of drums before transitioning into familiar finger picking until the coda breaks into a bluesy swagger. Spirit drummer Kevin Kelly also twists Fahey into new shapes on “March! For Martin Luther King” where a mournful, funereal beat keeps the time while a beautifully evocative series of strums pay tribute to a fallen hero. You can almost envision a casket being carried while the duo exorcised their sadness in song.

Fahey always had a predilection for odd musique concrete by way of the acoustic guitar. Some of my favorite tracks of America, Womblife and City of Refuge were his most unhinged, but “The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee” takes the cake. It sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the folksy meanderings, but a whistling refrain humorously mimics the cry of a train as spare percusssion mimics the chug of a broken down train. An ominous buzz hovers over the short instrumental and provides an eerie atmosphere to accompany the wholesome whistle that echoes throughout it. It ain’t much, but it has stuck with me long after it is removed from the stereo.

I guess The Yellow Princess stands out among the rest because it tackled new horizons for only a moment, but left me wanting so much more that was never fulfilled. Yes, he made countless other albums, but none quite like this.

Tim Hardin

This is Tim Hardin (Edsel 1967)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jjn1ml3htwm

My true love is the folk/psych/country scene of the late 60s and early 70s, but I haven’t really tackled much of it on this blog as of yet. However, I was listening to Tim Hardin tonight and figured that this is the time to usher in a series of posts devoted to the drug-addled and all-too sensitive souls who battled their demons in song. Tim Hardin springs to mind as my first post since his heroin habit cut short a career that should have wormed its way into more hearts and minds that it did.

Tim Hardin definitely falls into the esteemed camp occupied by Fred Neil and Tim Buckley. His bluesy, soulful and psychedelic take on folk is just as moving and soul destroying as Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson. History places too much weight upon the classic bluesmen and ignores the emotional depths that the fucked up detritus of the hippy-dippy hedonism of the 60s.produced. To be sure, these singers draw from a wholly different pool of pain than Mississippi Fred McDowells or Robert Johnson, but the end result is just as devastating to my biased soul. One party suffered from oppression, poverty and a variety of social ills and the other were just fucked up and a bunch of soft-boiled eggs, but the pain and emoting is equally resonant in both camps.

This is Tim Hardin is his second album and is mostly comprised of covers, but that doesn’t matter since tradition was the bread and butter of both parties. In light of his eventual overdose, his version of “Cocaine Bill” is especially poignant and heartbreaking in hindsight. His take on the tune is all too respectful as if he takes pride in the moments those late night mistakes where so much was ingested that self-destruction became romatnic. It is a paean to wrongdoing and the ignorance of consequence. Ignore the history of Tim Hardin and the subject material and it is sung as a love song to bad intentions.

Peel away the context and This is Tim Hardin is a showcase for a voice that was one of the most disctinctive and versatile of the 60s folk artists. Put the skin back on that onion and it is a devastation prelude to a genius who whittled away at his tool until there was nothing left but an empty legacy.

Henry Cowell-Piano Music

July 29, 2008

Henry Cowell

Piano Music (Smithsonian-Folkways 1994)

Link removed at the request of Smithsonian-Folkways

It is difficult, almost impossible, to redefine an instrument as familiar as the piano, but Henry Cowell did so by reaching into it and using the strings to manipulate his playing. His work with tone clusters and string manipulation inspired Bela Bartok to adopt his methods. In addition, John Cage utilized his methods to develop the prepared piano. His maverick ways led him to commission Leon theremin to create an instrument called the Rhythmicon that was later popularized by Joe Meek. Cowell even spent four years in San Quentin Prison on a “morals” due to his bisexuality and continued to compose and conduct the prison band until his pardon in 1942. After his release, his music became a bit more conservative, but he mentored such musicians as Lou Harrison and Burt Bacharach and served as a consultant to Folkways.

That is just a drop in the bucket in this man’s fantastic and creative career. There is something so powerful about how he strikes the keys. Sometimes he demands your attention with thick clusters of slammed keys, but he is equally magnetic when he plays in a more minimalistic style. It is hard to quantify the emotion spent by the striking of a key, but his playing truly leaves me in awe of how one person can transform a musical instrument into a magical one. There is something elegant, yet brutal and severe about how he approaches the piano. He turns the piano inside out as he uses every inch of his instrument to create a powerful, dynamic music that inspires and moves me like few others can. Since I’ve been rambling about phobias and the spiritual all evening, it is only fitting that I share some of the most heavenly sounds thine ears have heard. It isn’t always pretty, but it does hit upon personal chords that remind me that music can be a transcendent force in our lives.

Holy Modal Rounders

Live in 1965 Bootleg

http://www.divshare.com/download/4864210-f46

I was privy to a conversation between two gentlemen discussing the best fishing holes in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Personally, my misspent youth was spent at Penn Treaty Park catching Fishtown eels and bashing them against rocks for kicks. Before you groan, I now realize the evil nature of this activity, but the Delaware River most likely rendered them toxic waste. But I digress, they then began to discuss the pure joy to be found with a joint, a fishing pole and their favorite albums to listen to while fishing. The one gent argues for Agnostic Front which inspired the other to emphatically state that the Cro-Mags’ Age of Quarrel was the best album of all-time. Personally, New York hardcore is about as appealing as a hardy rash, but I do like some of it. What in the hell does this have to do with a Holy Modal Rounders’ bootleg? Well, nothing, but it got me thinking about albums that inspire such banter. If I had to pick one album that I’d rant about for hours, it would be the Holy Modal Rounders’ Have Moicy.

Since this bootleg is from 1965, this is a wholly different beast than the Michael Hurley infused edition that recorded the best country album this side of George Jones. However, Peter Stampfel leads the band at this point as they deliver a mix of comedy, pathos and psychedelic country that embodies all that was great about the 60s assimilation of country, blues and bluegrass. Much of it draws from their first two albums and it sort of reminds me of the Fugs at points, but is so much better than their sophomoric insanity. There’s even a version of “Indian War Whoop” on here and their utter joy and postivity bleeds into each song and results in an uplifting experience. I prefer Have Moicy by a mile, but this bootleg captures pure optimism in song.

Oh yeah, I saw the Fabulous Diamonds tonight. They were absolutely entrancing. The record doesn’t do them justice. Their recorded material reminds me of a droning Young Marble Giants, but they were a mix of Cluster, ESG and Mo Tucker in a live setting. Funky in a brain damaging sort of way. Pick up their album on Siltbreeze if you get a chance.

Lucinda Williams

Happy Woman Blues

removed by request of Smithsonian-Folkways

During my time in college, I knew a wonderful fellow named Chris Williams. Time has passed and senility has prematurely set, so my three prominent memories of the man are his endlessly cheerful demeanor, his shocking revelation that there was a sexual act called feltching and his the fact that he would always greet me with the chorus of Lucinda Williams’ “Hard Road”

Oh, Bill, I know how you’re feelin’
Your heart’s on fire and your head is reelin’
But with the spirit to guide you
And a friend beside you
You know you’ll win
If you’re only willin’

I must admit that each salutation raised my spirit even though I had never heard of this mystery woman, but fell in love with her country/folk tales of hard roads and tough love once I scrounged up a copy of this album. Admittedly, her later albums are better statements of purpose, especially Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, but Happy Woman Blues opened my punk and wussy pop eyes to the possibilities country. Many whiskeys and George Jones albums later, I feel like I need some eagle scout medals on this fashionable lapel. However, she was one of my first exposures to the genre even if it wasn’t necessarily the most pure entryway.

Happy Woman Blues was released in 1980 on Smithsonian Folkways and it captures Williams at her most simple and homespun. Somehow, I like her better this way instead of the overproduced and overthought efforts of recent efforts. Her voice lacks the pathos of a Dolly Parton or Tammy Wynette, but her lyrics and lazy drawl deliver the emotional breakdowns we secretly desire. Tales of one stands and drunken cries at unresponsive moons populate her songs and her quirky approach to country place her firmly inside the country canon while her legs drunkenly dangle off the sides of the wagon.

Michael Hurley

Bavarian Radio

http://www.divshare.com/download/4701611-23a

More in the promised series of Michael Hurley bootlegs. This is special since you get to hear him explain the inspiration behind “The Werewolf” and other songs. In addition, he covers the Woody Woodpecker theme song and delivers really heartbreaking performances of his greatest hits. He also explains that “O My Stars” is inspired by Hilary Clinton. Who knew?

Michael Hurley

7/18/1976

http://www.mediafire.com/?jjnn0mtxgi1


I told you all about him this evening, but here is a bootleg of his show the next night. I also meant to include an embarrassing story about myself that is directly liked to Mr. Hurley’s wiles and charms. I knew that I needed to remain clean as a whistle before a physical to confirm my employment. I don’t smoke the magical fruit much at all, but I occasionally partake in a few nibbles. I remained loyal and faithful for months and had arranged an appointment at the doctor’s office where my mother worked as a secretary.

However, friends alerted me to the fact that Michael Hurley was playing in town. I insisted on resisting the urge beforehand and declined all requests for illicit activity. Hurley was absolutely amazing that star-crossed evening as he belted out “Tea Song” among other all-tinme favorites. It was one of the few times where an artists literally could have asked me to serve as an indentured servant and I sould have wholeheartedly followed along with the farce.

The ugly part came when I was a few malts to the wind and a friend somehow talked me into peeing into a tupperware container and smoking while my personal items lay on my sink. A good time was had by all. The next morning was a different story as I realized that I must hide a tupperware container of cold urine in my pants, pour it into a vial and hope no one notices its lukewarm qualities. Thankfully, it all went swimmingly and I am still gainfully employed until the very day.

Michael Hurley

June 8, 2008

Michael Hurley

7/17/1976

http://www.mediafire.com/?aw91dmmx2jz

I discovered the genius of this man in the most unlikely of places–a Spin Magazine Guide to Alternative Music. I was bored as hell in Western Pa one humid afternoon and rallied my friends to visit the newfangled borders that had just opened near Greensburg. I didn’t plan on purchasing the Holy Modal Rounders’ Have Moicy described in the book, but once I saw the cover packed with insolent wolves, thrown beer bottles and a lonely leopard sipping a beer in a disheveled corner, I knew I had to heed the recommendations of the godawful rag.

Have Moicy isn’t a Michael Hurley album, but he painted the artwork of rowdy animals and sang many opf my favorite tracks on what quickly became one of my favorite records of all time. I’ll post this one later, but this is a bootleg of Michael Hurley during the Have Moicy! days.

How do I describe one of America’s unsung creative gems? Although he recorded for Smithsonian Folkways before the eve of psychedelia and the hippie way of life, Hurley was down with the cause before it even had a name. Songs about werewolves, marijuana, fellatio and disappearing hamburgers populate his fantastic world of characters and far-flung locales. In addition, he possesses one of the most individual voices in the past 30 years. There is something about Snock that makes you appreciate the bittersweet occurrences and oddball excursions we all become a part of during our fleeting time on this planet.