Magicistragic Mix for November

http://www35.zippyshare.com/v/43584331/file.html (NEW LINK)

didn’t feel much like rambling tonight, so here is another mix that it wholly unrepresentative of the month in which it was sired. It’s an eclectic mish-mash of African funk, twee posturing, hippie sentiments, strange punk tangents and assorted odds and ends. I can only hope you enjoy, appreciate and send it along to those who bring a smile to your noggin.

Tanlines-Brothers

Dando Shaft-Coming Home to Me

I Faram I Gami-Mulatu Astake

Pastels-Million Tears

Failure-Submission

Luxury-Green Hearts

Rail Band-Maabayasa

Dororthy Morrison-I Can’t Go On Without You

Lennie Hibbert-Twilight Zone

Das Ding-HSTA

Gomez-Tijuana Lady

Grizzly Bear-A Simple Answer

John and Beverly Martin-John the Baptist

Bridget St. John-I Like to Be Out in the Sun

Michael Hurley-O My Stars

Lloyd Price-Coconut Woman

Mountain Goats-Shadow Song

Reilly and Mahoney-Wildman

Desperate Bicycles-I am Nine

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Virgil Caine

May 12, 2012

Virgil Caine

s/t (Fulcrum 1971)

http://www.mediafire.com/?bp5l6qqjn81xtj8

Most music junkies eventually fall into the trap of unjustly glorifying obscurity for the sake of diving headlong into something new to them.  It’s understandable since the internet has made it all too easy to paint oneself into a corner when downpours of discographies rain down upon the eager like manna from heaven. I come from the last gasps of a time when neglected classics were unattainable unless you had the good fortune to have an elder sage to take you by the hand and make cassette copies or burn a cd and pay it forward to the next generation. Thankfully, my social circles were populated by a few of these altruistic punks, hippies and burnouts and my eyes were opened to artists like Skip Spence, Ted Lucas and Michael Hurley that expanded my horizons beyond the indie rock cul de sac I inhabited. As I obsessively dug deeper and deeper into the cavalcade of wounded souls that recorded in the 60s and 70s, I found myself falling into the aforementioned trap of blindly embracing the obscure and viewed too many flawed albums through rose-colored glasses. I guess I became so addicted to the initial rush one gets when an album immediately embraces you and shakes your hand like an old friend at first listen. I just wanted all of them to be my companion and spent too much time justifying their faults.

However, I recently discovered Virgil Caine’s s/t debut and it sparked the same sense of awe and familiarity that the aforementioned artists once inspired in me and reminded me why music encompasses so much of my life. It is one of those small, but transcendent moments in life when you stumble upon such greatness and realize that you haven’t heard a damn word about in it’s forty year existence and it was just lying around unloved for so long until now.

There is no one named Virgil Caine in this trio. The name is borrowed from the protagonist in The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” which is fitting since their music is indebted to Dylan and The Band and sometimes reminds me a bit of a loopy, southern gothic cousin to The Velvet Underground’s minus all the pretensions. Honestly, drain all the bombast and grandeur from all three, mix it up in a pot and it kind of sounds like Virgil Caine.

What makes Virgil Caine more than a likable footnote in the annals of 70s folk and private press oddities is the Appalachian drawl and literary knack of guitarist and vocalist Roger Mannon who paints  a southern tableau populated with swamp witches, environmental destruction, small towns where everyone is welcome at the dinner table and mischievous barn cats who raise havoc to a Vaudeville soundtrack.  It’s an absurdist slice of the south depicted in the most endearing way possible as Mannon pays tribute to an America where pagans hide in the shadows and organized religion demands blind allegiance. Yet, Mannon romanticizes the concept of genteel southern hospitality and its genial smile as many of his songs glorify the humility and helping hands that drive the small towns that litter the landscape of his songs.

Just listen to the opener “The Great Lunar Oil Strike, 1976” and you gain immediate entry into Mannon’s sincere, yet tongue in cheek lyrical bent. Centered around a sloppily strummed guitar and messier backbeat, it’s a biting and bitterly sardonic commentary on the oil industry that is eerily prescient of what was to come in the future. It might be the first recorded protest against deep sea drilling and exploitation of the American wilderness by big business. It fittingly ends with the coda”You just can’t see the moon at night” as Mannon describes an America that doomed to be subjugated by its industrial master. It’s as timely today as it was in 1971.

However, my favorite song on Virgil Caine is “Swamp Witch” as Mannon cooks up some imaginary southern mythology about a swamp witch who beckons visitors with promises of armadillo meat and a place to lay your weary head in the mire. Mannon speaks of his desire to learn the voodoo arts, but has his mind torn apart and falls under the spell of this enchantress. These spoken word interludes are always broken up by a bewitching chorus celebrating this swap witch until Mannon jumps back in to depict the swamp an elemental force that has the power to literally rend him limb from limb. It all sounds so sinister if you listen to the lyrics, but the vibe of the song is so relaxing and inviting as if it were a song from a siren itself.

Ultimately, Virgil Caine’s one and only album is one of those rare albums that give birth to its own insular universe populated by a cast of paranoid crackpots, broken hearts, kind souls and simple folks who aim for nothing more than doing right thing in a world full of wrong. I revisit it often since each song is like a vignette that I want to obsessively read over and over again and linger upon each syllable and chorus.

 

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Cass McCombs-A

April 25, 2012

Cass McCombs

A (Monitor 2003)

http://www.mediafire.com/?m5vlzvrbccrtvds

On the surface, the tottering building blocks that lay the groundwork for Cass McCombs’ debut album seem all too predictable and safe for an indie-rock album circa 2003. The Velvet Underground, 4ad, Robyn Hitchcock and Syd Barrett spring to mind upon a cursory cruise through its eleven tracks. However, they years have slowly prodded me deeper and deeper into this lonely, lackadaisical and deceptively lush album and come to the conclusion that A is so much more than the sum of an easily solved equation. In fact, it might actually wind up being cited as a seminal influence all its own once the dust settles after his long and lonesome career is complete.

Many great artists are able to conceptualize their own insular universe over the course of an album. The Stooges inspire dread and nihilistic abandon. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless embedded you in the middle of a kaleidoscope of feedback. Michael Hurley whisks you off to a crowded campfire where the bottles are quickly drained and the bowl is slowly passed. Cass McCombs’ A isn’t quite a card carrying member of that hallowed crew, but it does inspire a lonely and lost vibe that makes you want to wear pajamas and draw the blinds on the sunniest of days. However, there is a sunny undercurrent that drags it above a self-destructive slog through the depths of depression. It’s one of the first things I reach for on those days where life should go absolutely nowhere for an hour and my hectic existence reaches a much needed standstill. It achieves stasis as it balances majesty and melancholy perfectly on the scales of my mind.

Supposedly recorded after a long, protracted nomadic existence spent bouncing from city to city and couch to couch culminating in a Greyhound bus retreat to a home base of San Francisco, A definitely feels like the work of a restless soul in search of anything that could possibly become familiar someday. “Gee, It’s Good to Be Back Home” is alternately sentimental and sarcastic about his travails as he sweetly sings of how it’s wonderful to be around old friends, but offers up the half-hearted description of his home as a place where you “don’t sleep, don’t eat and don’t drink the foam” as a sad acceptance of the futility of this dark place and the excess it entails.

His detached, kind of downtrodden sarcasm and bitterness raises its weathered and weary head again on “AIDS in Africa” where he paints a landscape where cancer and AIDS decimate the ranks of our beloved while folks praise a benevolent creator who utilizes these tragedies as part of some divine plan. The effect is multiplied by its reliance upon a wheezing, jittery church organ and angelic harmonies, but the message is succinct and decries all who ignore the misery around them and build cocoons in which their minds slumber until eternity calls their inevitable number.

“I Went to the Hospital” captures the transient nature of his life as he ponders the fragility of it all when you face your mortality. He talks of a bout with illness and embarks on a narrative detailing all of the thoughts we all have when the unknown looms large and casts shadow puppets of our regrets and missteps upon the walls of our examination room. It is a meditation on mortality and straddles the line between paranoia and confessional, but that wash of organ and gently jangling chords make it seem like a gentle jaunt once you soak in it a few times.

Ultimately, A is an album full of dread about what has already happened and what may come. He puts on a straight face and conjures a narcotic and dazed aura around each song, but dig beneath the surface and there are countless ghosts that haunt every track. A puts on a brave face, but the fractures reveal themselves with time and make it one of those albums that you listen to when you want to enshroud yourself in defense of your own woes.

Music for Melancholy Moods: Part Deux

One of the most popular posts on this garbage heap was Music for Melancholy Moods, a mix of songs designed to drag you into the dumps. The original was conceived amidst a heap of beer bottles and sour intentions and its sequel will be no exception. Being the predictable soul I am, the previous collection stopped at the letter M once my sobriety wore thin like cheap toilet paper. Hopefully, this one will strike the same dour chord.

1. Whiskeytown-Sit and Listen to the Rain (From the Fucker demos)

http://www.mediafire.com/?y0jykjzyn3n

Never cared much for the band, but like some of Ryan Adams solo debut, but the tape hiss coupled with a hushed ode to ennui and rainy days occupies a dear place in my heart. I love few things more than the greyness and incessant drip of a rainy day in spring. These are moments where you ponder your navel while enjoying the mist and drip.

2. Unrest-Imperial (from Imperial fffr)

http://www.mediafire.com/?lxrxwqntm14

This is the song that makes sense of Unrest’s eventual association with the 4ad label. Instead of ethereal balladry ala This Mortal Coil’s take on “Song to the Siren” and Lisa Gerrard’s “Sanvean” we get a pasty indie-rocker who somehow channels the majestic grandeur of the label at its finest. An epic eight minutes that should last so much longer, “Imperial” breaks my heart in all the right places. Awkward falsettos never sounded quite so sublime.

3. Michael Hurley-Tea Song from Blueberry Wine

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

Never has a song about brewing tea and preparing a meal of honeydew achieved such pathos. His tender description of this snack seems to be the only thing holding together as he speaks of a relationship gone wrong. He tries to play it cool, but this daily ritual of drinking tea along is the only thing tethering him to earth while his emotions are run into the dirt. I had never heard this song until five years ago when I had the pleasure of seeing him live. It left me dumbstruck and found it to be the most moving tale of a man who hugs his humble comforts and sense of humor in times of trouble.

4. Terry Allen-“Cortez Sail” from Juarez

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

Someday I will pay tribute to this lonesome country concept album. This is not the time for such things. However, “Cortez Sail” is awash in folklore and apocalyptic tales of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. There is something chilling about his portrayal of Cortez as he prepared to attack and something hopeless about the depiction of the Aztecs watching the conquistadors sail onto their shores. It then jumps to a narrative concerning the album’s  protagonist as he attempts to escape his own inescapable fate. The song reminds me that certain outcomes simply cannot be avoided no matter how hard we wish otherwise.

5. Neil Young-“Comes a Time” from Comes a Time LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?wxhvcxjc4it

This ong reminds me of chances missed and those that were taken. The intrsumentation is simple, but perfect as fiddle and a string section duke it out while Neil Yound tackles a moment where life could go horribly wrong or end in happiness. Depending on your mood, you can choose your own adventure with this song.

6. Sunny Day Real Estate-“Every Shining Time you Arrive’ from How Does it Feel to be Something On

http://www.mediafire.com/?m1mtmwcwmil

Don’t laugh. I always loved this album because it is so troubled and in search of meaning in the world. Many of the lyrics seem so naive and innocent in the face of a world that is quickly becoming claustrophobic. This one sticks with me the most because it mirrors the moment I bought it. I had just broken up with a live-in girlfriend and bought every depressing album that my grubby mitts would hold. I immediately bonded with this song because it dealt with a relationship that nudged a boulder up a hill only to have it roll backwards at the last moment.

7. Steve Young-“That’s How Strong My Love Is” from Rock Salt and Nails

http://www.mediafire.com/?se9n3wlkynn

Sometimes it’s just as simple as a perfect country rendering of a soul classic. No explanation is needed.

8. Stephen Stills-Change Partners

http://www.mediafire.com/?myt9df7ibw3

He uses a debutante ball as a metaphor for the restless nature of relationships. Love is temporary because eventually someone taps you on the shoulder and your love is dancing with another in front of your eyes. His reassurances that this is natural provide little comfort.

9. Songs Ohia-“Back on Top” from The Lioness

Suppressed violence and testosterone lurk beneath the surface of this one. It deals with a man tortured by the glimmers of hope he sees in his lover’s eyes and the mere sight of her body. He cannot have what he once had, so he keeps reiterating that he will show her when he is back on top again. It is a battle for superiority in a relationship where both parties view love as a competition instead of a collaboration. There is something about that concept that bums me out.

10. Sibylle Baier-“Tonight” from Colour Green

http://www.mediafire.com/?jgmbxf4dqcy

Not much to this but a woman coming home from work to sit with her lover as they gaze at the moon, but there is something spooky and melancholy about her delivery. It reminds me of lying on a roof and gazing at the heavens because it seems like there is nothing more fruitful than simple observations next to the one you love.

11. Scud Mountain Boys-“Scratch Ticket” from Massachusetts

http://www.mediafire.com/?1x3lmd1ejf2

Instead of wasting money in juke joints and barrooms galore, this character wastes his money in a far less hedonistic fashion. The Scud Mountain Boys recast the country weeper and replace whiskey with the scratch ticket as the bane of the working man or woman. Bleary eyed drunks are replaced with desperate souls with quarters instead of shot glasses.

12. Richard Thompson-“Beat the Retreat” from Small Town Romance

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

Masochism at its finest. It is a song about a man who destroys all he treasures just so he may retreat home to the one he supposedly loves. On one hand, it is a testament to the love of a woman who will harbor her troubled husband no matter what, but it is also about a man who creates a tempest as an excuse to feel needed. From reading about Richard Thompson’s life, I’d bet the house on the latter.

13. Richard and Linda Thompson-“Calvary Cross” from I want to See the Bright Lights Tonight

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

Well, let’s see where this give and take began. I see this song as a bit of a parable for Richard and Linda Thompson’s troubled relationship. This song touches on some of the same themes as “Beat the Retreat” as Richard Thompson again deals with a similar situation where one wrongs the other, but Christian principles are expected from the offended party. There is one line in the song which sums up this fucked affair. He states that “I’ll hurt you til’ you need me” and talks of someone who remians at the station, but refuses to board the train. He almost seems proud of the mistreatment and confuses need with love.

14. Phil Ochs-“I’ve Had Her” from Pleasures in the Harbor

http://www.mediafire.com/?c13jzuy3unc

I almost hope this song is ironic. “I’ve Had Her” alternates between one man’s romantic perspective of a certain lady, but switches to that of another man who coldly proclaims that “i’ve had her, she’s nothing.” I cannot figure out if it is a condemnation of misogyny or a narrative of love gone horribly wrong.There is something cruel about this song that sticks in my craw. It is orchestrated as a dreamy melody, but the sentiments are so ugly.

15. Antony and the Johnsons-“hope There’s Someone” from I am a Bird Now

http://www.mediafire.com/?bml0mxbft1y

This song unsettles me as it forces you to deal with your last moments and who you would choose as your last visitor. It is a plea for relief and comfort in your dying hours.  I first heard it while walking to work and it made me teary-eyed as thoughts of mortality intruded upon my every thought. Not a great way to start the school day, but a necessary evil as the years march onward.

16. The Mountain Goats-“Sahdow Song” from The Coroner’s Gambit

http://www.mediafire.com/?g1cmxelbbyu

This one reminds me of a time when a relationship cracked, but hope remained that crazy glue and good intentions would reinforce mere shards. It is a song where hope attempts to outdistance the reality of love’s slow demise. Part of me admires its optimism, part of me gets depressed by the reality of the situation.

17. George Jones-“She Thinks I Still Care” from The Spirit of Country Compilation

http://www.mediafire.com/?99udzdxdy44

Where do I begin with George Jones? All of his music has been a destructive buddy in my hours of drink. However, this one is timeless and captures the essence of his masochistic tendencies. There’s plenty of sadism in his love as well, but George does more sulking and sipping than focusing on revenge. However, there is a cruel tinge to his mourning.

18. John Martyn-“Go Easy” from Bless the Weather

http://www.mediafire.com/?wk1nmsygcdy

I remember the day I bought this album and put it on the stereo. Rarely has an album begun in such a vulnerable position. John Martyn is a fucking wreck. His bouts with addiction and ruined relationships have left him a mere eggshell to cover his heart. The song is a plea for all involved parties to take it easy for a bit because his heart simply cannot take much more. The chorus begs for life to go easy on him, but the optimist in him still hopes love won’t pass him by. Another talented masochist whose losses created great music, John Martyn takes 70s folk to some really painful places.

19. Bauhaus-“All We Wanted Was Everything” from The Sky’s Gone Out

http://www.mediafire.com/?j5b5m5tfino

During my teenage years, I sent a package to my girlfriend and wrote the chorus of this song on the envelope. It read “all we wanted was everything, all we got was cold.” The postal service worker stopped me to remark on how she thought the phrase was a witty one. I claimed ownership of this Peter Murphy chestnut, smiled and walked on my merry way. I felt shame afterwards and it saved me from quoting Nitzer Ebb and KMFDM on future letters.

20. The Ink Spots-“I’ll Never Smile Again” from Original Decca Recordings

http://www.mediafire.com/?bwmnt1tv4xl

Every Ink Spots’ song sort of sounds the same, but this one suits this collection best. Lonesome harmonies, pledges of sadness, old-timey innocence and a belief that heartbreak is terminal make this song one where you hang on every sullen word. There is no irony or wit, but a wholehearted belief that this love was the last to be ever experienced. Plus, the baritione breaks down love in such a simple fashion that i cannot believe I was such a conniving clod.

Wrist and Pistols

Wristopolis (Unreleased 2006)

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

Have you ever heard a song that speaks to you in such a way that it seems improper to ever stop listening to it? Most of the songs that fall into this category are very familar ones like Michael Hurley’s “Tea Song”, COB’s “Let it Be You”, Antony and the Johnsons’ “Hope There’s Someone” and the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” This is why it is so wonderful to hear a friend’s band record a song that speaks to me in such an intimate manner. There are certain songs in one’s life that feel more like companions instead of a collection of notes and chords and it goes beyond your ears and settles in a heart where thousands will never tread. There is a song on the Wrist and Pistols’ Wristopolis that will remain in constant rotation until the day I shuffle my scruffy coil.

The song in question is cover of the folk standard “Willie o’ Winsbury”  Meg Baird of the Espers makes a guest appearance here and adds a grace that perfectly suits this ode to fairness and chivalry. The ballad details a situation where a king wants to hang his servant for getting his daughter pregnant. He rethinks this path when meeting the servant and realized he is a good match and allows them to run off and elope. The imagery of this song sticks with me because the daughter is ordered to strip naked before her father to discern her physical state while he slowly becomes dejected at the revelation it was no lord, duke or night, but a servant who has impregnated his child. He immediately calls for the man to be hanged, but reconsiders his decision once he lays eyes on this handsome gent clad with a blonde mane clad in red silk. His appearance and demeanor disarms him to the point that he realizes that he is man worthy of his daughter’s hand. It’s a fairy tale about the power of love. Her version in her debut album is wonderful, but this version captures the simple romanticism that the song deserves. It shouldn’t be produced, it should humble and rough.

My appreciation for this album may be colored by my friendship with many of the involved parties, but my musical judgment tells me that it’s pretty great no matter who was involved. Wrist and Pistols are an offshoot of the Lucky Dragons and count Brendan Greaves, Pablo Colapinto and William Pym as its members. Part if its charm is derived from living next doo from their practice space where I heard multiple red-hot messes progress to sketches and bloom into song. Plus, there was the occasion where I waltzed in unannounced to convince them that a song should be written from the perspective of a stern disciplinarian. However, that was just another in a traffic jam of bad ideas fueled by a few too many beers. The rest of Wristopolis is great as well. Friendly folks exploring their folksy loves. I won’t lie. That one song eclipses the rest, but it is a gross oversight to ignore the rest of this album.

“Wristopolis” is a digital nest for several separate wobbly records: “Blessings” (2003 CD), “Apologies” (2003 7″); “Choke at Will” (2005 unreleased); “E Pluribus Unicorn” (2005 7″); and Lakeside demos (2006 unreleased.) Interested parties check in here for more Wristoleros:

http://deathrayboogie.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/wristopolis/

http://www.wolftype.com

http://www.thevanities.org/vanity13.html

I’ve been pondering the posting of lists. This will be the first in a series of thematic collections relating to floats my boat. Today’s list was inspired by a humid drive into the barren heart of Delaware County where Peter Jefferies’ depressing Electricity album placed me in one of those pensive moods that went perfectly with the blur of chain restaurants dominating my horizons. Therefore, this led to this list of songs that always make me feel like a maudlin chump. Sorry that these are individual tracks, but I broke it up so you may pick and choose. There will probably be a sequel since I gave up at twenty.

1. Skip Spence-“Broken Heart” from the Oar LP

-he sounds broken down before his life even began. There are many worthy choices on this album, but this captures the weight of love gone wrong.

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

2. Beck-“Lost Cause” from the Sea Change Lp

-he has devoted so much time to being the most wiggity-wack Scientologist in the club that you forget how great he can be without the fixins’. A vivid snapshot of regret, lost friendships and the worry that goes along with new beginnings.

http://www.mediafire.com/?2tst2o2jbts

3. Bread-“Look What You’ve Done” from the On the Waters LP

-a soft-rock classic where the protagonist is pitiful and pissed at the same time. Who knew Bread had such issues with passive aggressive behavior?

http://www.mediafire.com/?nfzg1c4gg91

4. Camper Van Beethoven-“All Her Favorite Fruit” from Key Lime Pie LP

-domesticity gone awry.

http://www.mediafire.com/?r69tkztryc2

5. Codeine-“3 Angels” from the Frigid Stars LP

-I could probably pick any of their songs, but this one crushes you more than the others.

http://www.mediafire.com/?3005tccwn42

6. Galaxie 500-When Will You Come Home” from Peel Sessions

http://www.mediafire.com/?mauo9b1cnem

An old chestnut that deals with those times you miss the company of other humans.

7. Gary Stewart-“She’s Acting Single(I’m Drinking Doubles) from The Essential Gary Stewart

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

-Oh Gary, lemme give you a big old hug. Nevermind, let’s finish the bottle.

8. Gene Clark-“Life’s Greatest Fool” from the No Other Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?39z1yp4mmog

-an exploration of powerlessness, then hope. Actually, this is kind of uplifting in its own way.

9. Go-Betweens-“Dive For Your Memory” from 16 lovers Lane LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?ify3xjmnyyw

-A man willing to do anything to regain the past. Kind of romantic, but tragic.

10. Graham Nash-“Military Madness” from the Songs For Beginners LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?hiyftjm9pdn

-Sad only because its Vietnam era warnings seem relevant again.

11. The Jayhawks-“Take Me With You When You Go” from Hollywood Town Hall

http://www.mediafire.com/?1tcummrzuyd

-I always imagined this to be about Mark Olson’s worries about his wife’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

12. Kristin Hersh-“Beestung” from Hips and Makers Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?pqdg46mvcky

-I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, but it seems to deal with her struggles with mental illness and her pleas for a lover to assist her.

13. Lisa Gerrard-“Sanvean” from Live in Dusseldorf bootleg.

http://www.mediafire.com/?ndelmnjn9an

-I hope these are the sounds I hear as my life enters its last minutes.

14. The Magick Heads-“Before We Go Under” from Before We Go Under Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?lmy9qzbtgzo

-A song about drowning from a side project of Robert Scott of The Bats.

15. Michael Hurley-“Sweedeedee” from Armchair Boogie(the best album ever made)

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

-another tale of lost love and the attempts to regain it.

16. Mickey Newbury-“The Future’s Not What It Used To Be” from ‘Frisco Mabel Joy

http://www.mediafire.com/?lxmd2y1ddij

-a man discovers that travel and booze won’t solve his problems. Go figure.

17. Peter Jefferies-“Scattered Logic” from the Electricity lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?el1jtm1ej3n

– my favorite song at the moment. A heart-wrenching three minutes.

18. John Cale-“I Keep a Close Watch on My Heart at Night” from Music for a New Society

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

-somebody not only broke this dude’s heart, but squashed it into a pulp.

19. Peter Hammill-“Been Alone So Long” from the Nadir’s Big Chance Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?semmnz2ejsd

-This is a close second to the John Cale song in terms of crushing hopelessness. A song about a man who has been isolated so long that he’s forgotten how to relate to humanity.

20. Marc Ribot-“Saints” from the Saints Lp

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

-let’s end on a wordless note. His cover of Albert Ayler’s “Saints” is a dark, moody end to this self-indulgence.

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.

Cat Power

Clear the Room

http://www.mediafire.com/?novjxkydtx1

I don’t even know where to begin with this ridiculous photo, but I guess that I picked it to point out how far this artist has gone astray. Her last album of originals, The Greatest, features one of the best things she has ever written. The title track is a moving tribute to Muhammad Ali that transforms Chan Marshall into an honest to goodness soul singer. Now, many of her songs have soul, but this one smoothly became a paean to the power of determination in the face of adversity. This one song made me believe that this woman really could be a more ragged Dusty Springfield.

Sadly, the rest of the album was kind of disappointing. The followup to The Covers Album, Jukebox, was a red hot mess. If you take a closer look, all of her albums are a mix of excellence and mediocrity. However, there a few songs on all of her albums that achieve brilliance. She always had a charismatic voice and a knack for examining the more depressing points of our existence, but it never added up to a great album. However, I always loved her husky, knowing vocals and it served her well on The Covers Album which allowed her the opportunity to deconstruct tunes by Michael Hurley, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Everything is slowed to crawl and she wrenches every ounce of emotion from this established material. It wasn’t an easy task, but she did it with grace and innovation.

I picked this collection since it echoes the successes of The Covers Album and includes versions of Oasis, Thurston Moore and Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes. Some of these are from Peel sessions and I prefer this bootleg to a few of her actual albums. It is a loosey goosy run through her favorite songs and includes unreleased tracks as well. It’s a bit messy, but her performances are earnest and on point.

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.

Jeffrey Cain

Whispering Thunder (Raccoon 1972)

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

Not much is known about Jeffrey Cain other than the fact that he released two albums, For You and Whispering Thunder, for Jesse Colin Young’s Warner Bros. imprint Raccoon records. the Raccoon label was responsible for some of the greatest sides of hippie soul and country folk released in the 70s. It boasted a roster of Jesse Colin Young, Michael Hurley and the Youngbloods. (Note: if anyone has any music by other Raccoon artists Banana and the Bunch, Joe Bauer, Kenny Gill or High Country, email me at magicistragic21@yahoo.com)

This is his second album and it should appeal to fans of Loudon Wainwright’s early work since both artists use country and folk as a canvas for their own bitter, biting observations. Bob Dylan and the Youngbloods are also strong influences although he is more enamoured of southern-fried rock and roll licks on many of the tracks. He is at his best on the opener “Soul Train” which is blue eyed soul by way of Nashville. Love this track and it stands as one of the best twangy tracks of the early 70s. “Pack Up Your Sorrows” is a heartbreakingly simple tune that offers a sentiment straight out of a Hallmark card. However, his request that a lover pack up her sorrows and share her burden with him just gets me all choked up. On a slightly negative note, I get the sense that his odes to moonshine and farming are somewhat tongue in cheek, but that is just my own paranoia. Like down home country by way of Woodstock? Whispering Thunder is right up your alley.