California Dreaming

February 17, 2009

A musical ode to California

There was a thread on a message board which invited readers to suggest songs from the late 60s and early 70s that were devoted to the beatification of the state of California. This spun the hamster wheel that fuels my brain since there were so many odes to the apex and aftermath of free love and hallucinogens. Some of these songs embrace the innocence of bursting through social norms, others pay tribute to the majestic scenery of its cities and rural enclaves while others bemoan the loss of innocence in the wake of addiction and the realization that love is anything but free. Anyhow, I figured that I would share my contribution here. Here is the tracklisting that I intended, but somehow my upload rearranged its order. Anyway you slice it, it is still a delicious pie.

Sir Douglas Quintet-Menocino

Moby Grape-Hey Grandma

John Phillips-Topanga Canyon

Guy Clark-LA Freeway

Terry Melcher-Beverly Hills

Neil Young-Revolution Blues

Shirl Milete-Love Child

Robert Charlebois-California

Mickey Newbury-San Francisco Mable Joy

Michael Nesmith-Hollywood

Lee Hazlewood-LA LAdy

Laura Nyro-California Shoeshine Boys

Jim Ford-Working My Way to Los Angeles

Jack Nitzsche-Lower California

Jesse Colin Young-Ridgetop

Flatlanders-San Francisco Bay Blues

Flying Burrito Bros-Sin City

David Crosby-Tamalpais High(At about 3)

Terry Allen-Cortez Sail

Mickey Newbury-Frisco Depot

Knife in the Water

Red River (Overcoat 2000)

Named after a Roman Polanski film, Knife in the Water are an Austin band whose music owes much to country and western, indie-pop and moodier moments of Ennio Morricone. Actually Knife’s Aaron Blount and Laura Krause’s mournful harmonizing reminds me of Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parkers frigid, unemotional approach to singing. Both bands also share a love of slow, lonesome tunes, but Knife in the Water lean more towards dramatic alt-country balladry.

There is little optimism in Red River’s ten tracks. Songs are populated by depressed souls who seek redemption in their next score, fearful lovers paranoid about imminent betrayals and scorned women ready to murder their deceitful partner. Red River is a bummer to be sure, but its narcotic country tunes are more about detachment and apathy instead of wallowing in misery.

“Party for the People of the Open Wound” sums up Knife in the Water’s lyrical point of view: “Well we went to a party on Friday night at a house on the east side of I-35
We were dizzy from the pills that the Kennedy gave
Oh but the speed wasn’t fast enough to wash the blues away

We used to love ourselves what happened to us?
Now we walk like victims of mutual disgust
Here at the party for the people of the open wound if we don’t look like them right now
You know we will real soon

This bitter air of regret and longing for innocence permeates each track. Well, not each track as there is a boring cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Sundown, Sundown” that sucks the life out of the original. However, the other nine tracks gently nudge you further and further down in the dumps.