Richard Buckner

Devotion and Doubt(Fontana/MCA 1997)

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

Yeah, anyone can sing a sad song, but some folks are so bruised that theirs wrap their arms around you and suck every ounce of empathy and rapport one can have with lyrics and a chorus. Ultimately, this is a subjective crapshoot since I once found the Ink Spots to be the saddest outfit in the known universe while others may sink to the bottom of their well whenever muzak plays in the elevator. Therefore, the following sentiments will most likely be tacked onto any number of albums in my future, but something keeps me coming back to Richard Buckner’s Devotion and Doubt these days. It’s like watching a disaster occurring in slow-motion on a static-ridden television.

Sadly, it was released during a time when the world hatched a genre called alt-country and a flock of earnest souls channeled their favorite country singers through the prism of indie-rock, punk and folk. To be honest, I still love Neko Case, Robbie Fulks and the first Ryan Adams album, but those are momentary passions that fall fainter by the year. However, the voice of Richard Buckner never fails me. Sometimes the instrumentation plays it safe, but he always suckers me in when spins a yarn about lost chances and grievous errors. Devotion and Doubt is full of these, and his romanticism about slowly spinning down the drain is kind of spell-binding.

The opening lines of “Roll” speak volumes about his mindset as he sings “We can rent a car tomorrow/and roll through all the thoughts we keep/but we’ll just end up disheveled/and and acting like we both don’t know/but as I go down please take care.” It is a celebration of bad decisions, yet he captures the tragedy to be found in one who embraces and woos the error of his or her ways. “4 am” adds to the hubris as it opens with Buckner singing “It’s a bruised and fallen sky/pressed all up against us/and its just as true far away/but I can be there by breakfast/if I just drive through to you/so as the past goes breaking by/where are you tonight?” There is an element of optimism and good intention, but it is balanced then toppled by a sense of abandon and a revelation that this ain’t going to be good for anyone when all is said and done. Then again, Devotion and Doubt chronicles his divorce from his wife, so these things are to be expected.

In short, he continues the legacy of his Lubbox, Texas idols: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen and their spiritual neighbor Townes Van Zandt, but does so with bit more brooding, spit and polish. It is a meditation on accepting the last gasps of love and the awkward things we do to maintain a flame that has died a premature death.

California Dreaming

February 17, 2009

A musical ode to California

http://www.divshare.com/download/6573926-7ab

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

Terry Allen-Juarez

October 28, 2008

Terry Allen

Juarez (Fate 1975)

http://www.mediafire.com/?w93ibjujmni

It is a wonderful problem to have in this troublesome world, but sometimes it is hard to pick the next album for this lowly blog. Over the years, so many albums have wormed their way into my heart. Some have been my best friend at 4am when the whiskey wears thin and soothing sounds are required to ease me into the next day. Some are forever associated with moments of sheer ecstasy where life was absolutely electric. Others lack an association with a particular moment, but they still remind me of why I spend so much of my time listening to the albums which litter my home. There is a massive mental list of albums that I would like to share, but Terry Allen’s Juarez was always near the top of the list. However, a fella can’t give it all up on the first date, so you had to wait a few months before I slipped off my granny panties and revealed what is in store for you.

Terry Allen may be one of the most unsung voices in country music and Juarez, his debut album, might be the first I would grab if ordered to take one with into the next life.  He never received the same accolades as Lubbock, TX contemporaries like Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, but only the Flatlanders debut can match the brilliance of his opening salvo. Juarez is a concept album, but dispel all notions of Yes and ELP’s prog manifestos since this concept is noirish at its very core. It documents the dark tale of an alcoholic couple on a bender who get involved in murderous sojourn through a Southern California desert by way of Mexico. It is more than a great album, but a well-crafted story complete with spoken word interludes that introduce the characters in a colorful fashion. The story is the linchpin that draws you into the world of Sailor, Spanish Alice, Jabbo and Chick Blundy as they drink, fuck, get married, escape, the law, honeymoon and meet ther eventual demise. Each song is another step in a narrative about adventure, bad decisions, love and a surrender to impulse. I cannot think of another album that works so well as both a story and ode to the tragic nature of the outlaw in country music.

The best moments are the most sparse. When it is Just Terry Allen and a piano, it reminds me of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush or Tonight’s the Night, but with less rock and roll at its core. “Cortez Sail” is the pinnacle of the album as it may be one of the most lonesome songs about leaving a town for a new beginning. A storm accompanies their departure and it serves as a metaphor for all of the shit that is about to go down, but amazingly shifts into a vivid description of the Aztec persepctive as Cortex arrived to conquer and colonize a foreign land. It is an odd juxtaposition, but one that truly spooks me to my core. When he yodels “Pachuco” it sends chills up my spine. Plus, any song that includes the lyrics “see how the lightning makes tracks in your air, tearing the clouds in and closing the tear, but you’re not surprised anymore, you’re going home” is ok with me. It foreshadows doom, but the protagonists are ok with their fate because their is a certain beauty to the idea of home.

If there is anything you cherrypick from this ramshackle collection of musings, please make Juarez your first destination. It is an album rarely cited as a classic, let alone mentioned outside of country aficionados and deserves much love and respect from all who encounter it.

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.