Bongwater-Double Bummer

February 8, 2012

Bongwater

Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc 1988)

Disc One: http://www.mediafire.com/?o1wtzui2jj1

Disc Two: http://www.mediafire.com/?yyymyjzongu

Sprawling in every postive and negative sense of the word, Bongwater’s Double Bummer embraces excess and melodrama at each and every opportunity. If whittled down to a single album instead of a double LP with a later EP tacked onto it, Double Bummer would be hailed as an eccentric masterpiece instead of a nearly forgotten footnote in the unheralded Shimmy Disc catalog. It’s a symbol of all that was right and wrong with a label that seemingly operated in a cloud of marijuana smoke and never met an oddball it wouldn’t sign. For every stroke of genius like the Boredoms’ Soul Discharge, Ween’s The Pod, Damon and Naomi’s More Sad Hits and Shockabilly record, they released streams of utter shit like King Missle, the Tinklers and Captain Howdy. However, this erratic behavior and dalliances with questionable taste is what made Shimmy Disc and Bongwater so charismatic and intriguing to me during the early 90s.

Bongwater centered around the unlikely duo of Mark Kramer, who played with Shockabilly and Gong and produced Galaxie 500, Low and Half Japanese albums, and Ann Magnuson, a performance artist, singer and actress in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan. The partnerships was especially fruitful at first since Kramer’s drugged sound collages, love of drugged ambiance and knack for whacked guitar meanderings gelled perfectly with Magnuson’s quirky monologues about David Bowie and Iranian country clubs and gorgeous covers of Johnny Cash’s “There You Go” and Mike Nesmith “Just May Be the One” and Roky Erickson’s “You Don’t Love Me Yet.”  The album is a document of two kindred spirits going bonkers in the studio as they attempt to string together such disparate elements as a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” sung in Chinese with slow-motion psychedelic balladry like “Jimmy” where Magnuson channels Grace Slick and absolutely own every single note and becomes larger than life. Not surprising, since Magnuson is a mammoth presence here and effortlessly sheds one persona for another on each song and imbues the album with a theatrical, larger than life aura that propels Double Bummer beyond the stoned, unfocused mish-mash it should have been. Her powerful presence just makes Kramer’s tape loops and sluggish, hallucinogenic instrumentation work as a counterpoint to her fiercely melodramatic turns in the spotlight.

Double Bummer was the apex of their short-lived career because it allowed both members to let their freak flag fly simultaneously where later albums were a tug of war to see which member got the last laugh. Later albums saw Magnuson drink too much of her own Kool-Aid and shift the emphasis onto her increasingly slick, narcissistic  and indulgent point of view while Kramer’s welcome walks on the weird side became less and less prominent. They shaved away all of the lumps, misshapen bits and warts from the surface and the end result sucked the magic from their core. It’s a shame since Double Bummer isn’t quite like anything else I’ve ever heard. Any album that finds a common strain via covers of Gary Glitter, the Beatles, the Fugs, Roky Erickson, Mike Nesmith and Led Zeppelin amidst an eccentric fog of absurd monologues, gorgeous, slow burning guitar solos and an embrace of left-wing politics is alright with me until the day I die.

Shirl Milete-s/t

August 6, 2008

Shirl Milete

s/t (1969 Poppy)

http://www.mediafire.com/?mniatj73nwn

I cannot find much info about Shirl Milete and am curious about this guy’s career outside of the one album he released. He covers Townes Van Zandt on his self-titled debut, but that is all I could find on the internet. A friend sent me a vinyl rip of this last month and it has grown on me quite a bit.

I guess you could pigeonhole Shirl Milete as a part of the outlaw country movement, but there is a hint of flower power amidst the gruff tales of cocaine abuse, draft dodging and lives spent in poverty. Shirl’s voice sort of reminds me of a cross between Mickey Newbury and Johnny Cash and its kind of sad that he didn’t do anything after this impressive debut. I think I am drawn to the oddball psychedelic elements that seem so out of place on this good ol’ boy country album. He does a bizarro tune called “Love Child(Where will You Go” that has a soul chorus, piano vamping and orchestral crescendos as he bemoans the free love lifestyle of the hippies. However, he also pens a draft dodging ode called “I Wonder if Canada’s Cold” that attacks the Vietnam War and celebrates the strength involved in saying no to an unjust war. Whoever arranged the instrumentation on this album deserves an award since this is such a lush and subtly trippy album that isn’t quite country, pop or psych. It is all over the place and its eclecticism is what keeps drawing me back to this mysterious album. Feel free to fill in the banks if you know anything about Shirl Milete.

Guy Clark-Old No. 1

July 14, 2008

Guy Clark

Old No. 1 (RCA 1975)

http://www.mediafire.com/?5tzrzerdqmy

There are certain eras and places which are forever associated with the heyday or a particular genre. From the 60s British Invasion to the NYC and British punk scenes of 77-82, there are certain times in which there was an electricity and excitement that a new day was coming. In my opinion, country music has seen a few heydays from the Appalachian folk of the Carter Family to the heartbreaking schmaltz of the 60s, country assimilated Americana and cast itself in a new image. Sadly, Americana ain’t what it used to be and we are stuck with country’s assimilation of Bon Jovi and American Idol. Things ain’t what they used to be.

However, my favorite era of country is the outlaw mystique of the 70s where country artists soaked up all of the weed, LSD, psychedelia and rebellious attitudes of the 60s and spat it back out. You can hear the echoes of the Grateful Dead, Haight-Ashbury and psychedelic soul of the era and married to the past and it resulted in a period which I hold dear. Just off the top of my head I can name David Allen Coe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Michael Hurley, Jerry jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark as individuals who pushed the enveloped of country music.

Guy Clark wrote “L.A. Freeway” for Jerry Jeff Walker and it was a hit that led to RCA signing him up to the label for his debut Old No. 1. He assembled a band that included Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and David Briggs. They provide a gorgeous canvas for Guy Clark to paint tales of leaving town for good, honkytonk hoochie mamas, intrepid hitchhikers and the perils of nostalgia. The album has little to do with outlaw imagery. This album is almost pathologically obsessed with loss and new beginnings. What makes it so sad is that he puts up this front that these new directions will be positive, but you get the inkling that he knows it will end in failure again. There is even one track “Old Time Feeling” that reminds me of Cat Stevens tacking a country tune for the Harold and Maude soundtrack. There is a fear of the future which permeates the album and it echoes a desire for things to remain the same. Lost opportunities and bad luck abound in Guy Clark’s lyrical world and it bums me out to no end. However, it is so damn gorgeous that it always ends in a draw.

David Allan Coe

Longhaired Redneck/Rides Again (1976 & 1977, reissued by Bear Family in 1993)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4727672-671

Lordy, Lordy, David Allan Coe conflicts my PC soul. He has included racial epithets in his country tunes and there are some youtube interviews that reveal the ugly side of the man’s soul. However, it is very hard to deny the brilliance of his unflinching take on outlaw country. He is a thoroughly honest songwriter that documents an element of American culture and does it in a heartbreaking and tragic manner.

It isn’t too hard to see what made him such a squirrely individual. He was in and out of reform school, correctional centers and prison on and off from age 9. He claims to have spent time on death row for murdering a fellow who requested oral sex and when questioned about the authenticity of his penal claims, he responded by writing a musical tirade entitled “I’d Like to Kick the Shit Out of You.” Before outlaw country was just a twinkle in a marketer’s eye, Coe already sported multiple tattoo and long hair and rose around on his Harley. This made him a perfect foil to Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and others lumped into that rowdy wagon.

He already had many albums under his belt as well as a hit song penned for Tanya Tucker by the time these albums were released in 1976-77. By this point, he seemed frustrated by the outlaw country tag, but embraced every element of it as well. The title track of Longhaired Redneck sees Coe rebelling against his pigeonholing by critics and DJs while embracing “true outlaws” as he sings:

Country DJs knows that I’m an outlaw.
They’d never come to see me in this dive.
Where bikers stare at cowboys who are laughin’ at the hippies.
Who are prayin’ they’ll get out of here alive.

The loud mouth in the corners getting’ to me.
Talking about my earrings and my hair.
I guess he ain’t read the sign that says I’ve been to prison.
Someone ought to warn him, ‘fore I knock him off his chair.

‘Cause my long hair just can’t cover up my redneck.
I’ve won every fight I’ve ever fought.
And I don’t need some turkey telling me that I ain’t country.
Sayin’ I ain’t worth a damn dog, ticket that he bought.

‘Cause I can sing all them songs about Texas,
And I still do all the sad ones that I know.
They tell me I look like Merle Haggard,
And sound a lot like David Allan Coe.

Overall, he was the epitome of the genre, but George Jones’ troubled songs of addiction, anger and wasted opportunities are a better parallel than the more sensitive, radio-friendly voices of his contemporaries. By no means, were they purveyors of pop, but Coe and Jones are kind of repellent characters who aren’t just telling a tall tale. They lived what they wrote and pursued paths which were sometimes a source of personal ruin. Plus, I always enjoy his incessant jabs at hippies. They really bother the man. His salute to the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers on “Willie, Waylon and Me’ also lifts my weary soul.