April, 2011 Archives
by Lefort in Music
Check out this great new song by Moby as performed on Leno last night. Sounding like the adopted son of Lou Reed and Matt Berninger (say what?!), Moby delivers the goods with strings and a chorus in all white featuring our friend, Angela Correa, taking a brief break from her impending, killer Correatown project.
by Lefort in Music
We grew up listening to Mickey Newbury’s masterpiece, “Heaven Help the Child,” at a time when, amongst other things, children were being drafted into war. The title song conveyed well the loss of innocence and a bit of the era’s angst, and it never fails to deeply affect us. And through that great song we came to know and appreciate Mickey Newbury, one of America’s under-appreciated songwriters who was revered by many, and in particular by his fellow songsmiths and singers (see tributes below). Unfortunately, Newbury’s output fell precipitously after attaining these lofty heights and, though he continued to release music, he gradually disappeared from the scene and passed away in 2002.
Heaven Help the Child was released in 1973 and was the exclamation point on a three-peat of albums that started with 1969′s “It Looks Like Rain,” and was followed by 1971′s “‘Frisco Mabel Joy.” He wrote subtly brilliant songs and was an extraordinary singer. Given his prodigious talents, we have never understood why he wasn’t as well-known as Willie or Waylon, or at least as well known as Kris Kristofferson or Townes Van Zandt. The mystery remains.
The original Heaven Help the Child album has never been released as a CD and went out of print. We have thankfully held on to our vinyl copy, though it’s a bit wizened. Fortunately for Americana music lovers, the smart citizens over at Drag City Records have finally realized the music-industry’s grave mistake and will re-release five of Newbury’s missing albums, including Heaven Help the Child, on May 17th. The re-releases are digitally re-mastered direct from the original analog tapes found in an Elektra Records vault (previously thought to have been destroyed by fire).
In the meantime, we’ve hacked into a digital turntable (if you will) and converted our 1973 vinyl to 2011 digital for your listening pleasure so you don’t have to wait until May 17th (pops, clicks, early stops and warts included–and all, gratis). Below you can listen in to a few songs off of Heaven Help the Child. Just like in some of Patsy Cline’s best recordings, the Nashville strings and choral treatment may strike you as too “smooth” or peg your “Cheeze-O-Meter.” We can’t quarrel with you at a certain level. But just like in Patsy’s recordings, Newbury’s stellar songs and singing overcome. It doesn’t hurt that the likes of Chet Atkins (guitar) and Vassar Clements (violin) play alongside the strings. And oh, the boy could sing. Oh, how the boy could sing.
Mickey Newbury–Heaven Help the Child
Heaven Help The Child, the title track, wins a poignancy prize with lyrics tagging Park Avenue in 1912, 1920’s Paris, the ubiquitous Newbury freight trains and, pertinently, war. This stanza always sticks with us:
“War is hell to live with
I said to the general
As we made the battle plan
Out for the day
This will be the last one
Only God be willing
We will go back home
This time to stay.”
Oh that it were so. Instead we war and fight still.
In addition to Heaven Help The Child, check out Newbury’s Sweet Memories and San Francisco Mabel Joy.
Mickey Newbury–Sweet Memories
In Sweet Memories, Newbury lamented a lost love, with this stanza resonating in particular:
“My world is like a river
As dark as it is deep
Night after night
The past slips in
Gathers all my sleep.”
We feel the pain.
Mickey Newbury–San Francisco Mabel Joy
And in San Francisco Mabel Joy, Newbury gave us a sordid, sort-of Romeo & Juliet saga, the entire lyrics of which are worth setting out below:
“Lord his Daddy was an honest man
Just a red dirt Georgia farmer
His Momma lived a short life
Havin’ kids and bailin’ hay
He had fifteen years
And he ached inside to wander
He jumped a freight in Waycross
Wound up in L.A.
The cold nights had no pity
On that Waycross, Georgia farm boy
Most days he went hungry
Then the summer came
He met a girl known on the strip
As San Franciscos Mabel Joy
Born of an L.A. street called ‘Shame’
Growing up came quietly
In the arms of Mable Joy
Laughter found their mornings
It brought a meaning to his life
Lord on the night before she left
Sleep came and left that Waycross country boy
With dreams of Georgia cotton
And a California wife
Sunday morning found him standing
‘Neath the red light at her door
Right cross sent him reeling
Put him face down on the floor
In place of his Mable Joy
He found a Merchant mad Marine
Who growled, “Your Georgia neck is red
But Sonny, you’re still green”
He turned 21, in a grey rock
The ole judge had no mercy
On that Waycross, Georgia boy
Staring at those four grey walls
In silence Lord, he’d just listen
To that midnight freight
He knew could take him back
To Mabel Joy
Sunday mornin’ found him lying
‘Neath the red light at her door
With a bullet in his side, he cried
“Have you seen Mabel Joy’”
Stunned and shaken, someone said,
“Son, she don’t live here no more”
She left this house four years, today
They say she’s lookin’ for
Some Georgia Farm Boy”
We hope that you’ll visit Drag City and check out some of these great albums of Mickey Newbury’s.
If you won’t take our word on him, then check out the high praise of Newbury from some of our best below:
Steve Earle: “Mickey is the godfather of all of us Texas writers.”
John Prine: “Mickey Newbury is probably the best songwriter ever.”
Sam Phillips (Presley-style, not the chanteuse): “One of the greatest songwriters and performers… a rare talent.”
Willie Nelson: “He was one of the best writers we’ve ever had and one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Rodney Crowell: “When I first arrived in Nashville, I was really transformed by Mickey, and for many years, I emulated Mickey Newbury.”
Waylon Jennings: “If you don’t like to hear Mickey Newbury, you’re not American.” (Waylon also sang, in his great Luckenbach, Texas song, of “Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newbury’s train songs….”)
Johnny Cash: Mickey’s neighbor on Old Hickory Lake referred to Mickey as a “poet” and in 1971 on national TV, Johnny introduced him as “one of the finest writers in the country.”
Joan Baez: “There was something very special about Mickey. He wrote endlessly… beautiful, heart-wrenching, sad scores of music, and I’m not sure where all that came from; he was very pleasant. I just considered him a friend.”
Kris Kristofferson: “God, I learned more about songwriting from Mickey than I did any other single human being. To me he was a songbird. He comes out with amazing words and music… I’m sure that I never would have written Bobby McGee, Sunday Morning Coming Down… if I had never known Mickey. He was my hero and still is.”
R.I.P. Mickey Newbury.
And finally, check out this great video vignette below.
by Lefort in Music
During the years from 1971 to 1976, Joni Mitchell released a consecutive string of revelatory albums that will never be challenged artistically by another female artist. Ever. First “Blue,” then “For the Roses,” then “Court and Spark,” and then the great live album “Miles of Aisles.” And then she jazzed things up even further with “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and “Hejira,” the latter being her last great album. The compositions, complexity and lyricism were and still are unparalleled. Lady Shmaga!
We’ll write more about that string of albums another date, but we’ve become smitten once again with one of the great songs off “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”: Edith and the Kingpin. It’s a poetic short story of epic proportions, and we never fail to be blown away by the regal stature of the song. Check out her studio version, her live take at the Santa Barbara Bowl in 1979, and Elvis Costello’s great reading with Herbie Hancock’s musical lead on Costello’s spectacular Spectacle show. Tina Turner and many others have covered as well. Enjoy.
“The big man arrives
Disco dancers greet him
Plainclothes cops greet him
Small town, big man, fresh lipstick glistening
From victims of typewriters
The band sounds like typewriters
The big man he’s not listening
His eyes hold Edith
His left hand holds his right
What does that hand desire
That he grips it so tight
Edith in the ring
The passed-over girls are conferring
The man with the diamond ring is purring
All claws for now withdrawn
One by one they bring
His renegade stories to her
His crimes and his glories to her
In challenge they look on
Women he has taken grow old too soon
He tilts their tired faces
Gently to the spoon
Edith in his bed
A plane in the rain is humming
The wires in the walls are humming
Some song-some mysterious song
Bars in her head
Beating frantic and snowblind
Romantic and snowblind
She says-his crime belongs
Edith and the Kingpin
Each with charm to sway
Are staring eye to eye
They dare not look away
You know they dare not look away”
Joni Mitchell–Edith and the Kingpin
And below is a great live version by Joni at the Santa Barbara Bowl in September 1979 (from the “Shadows and Light” DVD) with Jaco Pastorius killing on bass:
Finally, below is Elvis Costello’s rendering backed by Herbie Hancock and his phenomenal band:
by Lefort in Music
That’ll do just fine.
by Lefort in Music
For you that didn’t have the time for the Broken Social Scene’s show at the “Majestic” (yeah, right) Ventura Theater on Tuesday, we’re not going to sugar-coat it (big surprise): you screwed up!!
Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff, Lisa Lobsinger (and her Bird-Nest-Medusa hairdo), and crew graced the grizzled grounds of the Ventura Theater on Tuesday, and majestic music ensued. The audience left completely satiated after the band’s impressive two-hour-plus set of old and new favorites, including songs off their phenomenal “Forgiveness Rock Record” from last year. In short: despite the humble environs and turnout, Broken Social Scene proved why they are one of our best live acts.
We had waited ten long years to see Broken Social Scene (always being at the wrong place at the right time), but our patience was finally rewarded by a quick drive to the south. We have gushed previously about the band and key members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Their songs are layered and labrynthine at times, and simple and mantra-monotonous at others. But the lyrics and melodies never fail to convey the good souls of each songwriter. This is a big-hearted band that delivers with passion and conviction.
Band leader Kevin Drew was engaging throughout the evening after getting off to a shaky start. The medium-sized crowd, dingy surroundings and a few too many shouted crowd questions inquiring of the whereabouts of Feist (who got her start in BSS) and J. Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) didn’t help. Drew was testy for a bit, but the crowd eventually won him over by about-shifting to attentive-and-involved mode. Drew frequently equated the Ventura Theater and the scene to a gymnasium and high school dance (later demanding that there be some slow-dancing pairs on Lover’s Spit). Drew’s surliness slowly succumbed as the devotees’ dedication crowded out the numbskull shouters.
The band came out and launched into its set with the rollicking Texaco Bitches. With its playful lyrics and intermittent screams and effects, the song was a gas-fueled drag-race that got the crowd running. As the set evolved, more and more members drifted onstage until the stage was packed ten-strong. Throughout the show the musicians musical-chaired ever-changing instruments, impressing with their varied and variegated virtuosity. Next up in their set was the driving, thriving 7/4 Shoreline, a clear crowd favorite. Between the guitars and horns they filled up all of the air in the house. After Forced to Love and Art House Director (featuring choreographed, Motown-esque dancing by the horn section), they raved into one of their great signature songs, Cause=Time. The song and its intricate guitar interplay were captured well at Coachella below.
The band’s 20-song set included great rockers such as Stars and Sons (with the crowd’s quick-clapping collusion), Fire-Eyed Boy (with its infectious chorus) and Superconnected. And there were plenty of sweet slow songs to counterbalance the uptempo such as All to All (with Lobsinger’s seductive vocals) and This House is On Fire (which smolders a la My Morning Jacket). And along the way we were treated to Brendan Canning’s song, Chameleon (with its clarion horns), Drew’s phenomenal, Feist-like song, Safety Bricks, and a rare cover of Apostles of Hustle’s Blackberry.
Eventually the band brought out the big song-guns and we were graced with World Sick (which was a perfect pre-Easter paean for our sick and, at times, sickening world). And then as can be seen below, following Drew’s demand for couples to slow-dance, the band quieted the crowd (except those that were so moved as to primally scream out) and anointed us with Lover’s Spit, which was embellished with harmonica, melodica, harrowing horns and piano. Canning and Drew were won-over completely during Lover’s Spit by the crowd’s slow-clap collaboration and reverence. There were a few moist eyes in the audience until Drew leavened the heaviness by transitioning into U2′s With or Without You and then inexplicably singing “Chaka Khan.” He then asked the crowd to “give it up for the boys” and thanked the slow-dancers. Beauty.
They then emphatically employed a four-guitar attack and interplay on the instrumental Meet Me in the Basement, before Drew tossed off his regrettable Me and My Hand. The band having never left the stage, Drew then announced that “that was the end of the show, and this is our encore.” And off they moved into a great cover of Modest Mouse’s The World at Large (see a rousing version below with both Isaac Brock and the meteoric Emily Haines joining).
They then made our night by playing Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl about which we have written previously. Lisa Lobsinger filled in well, the crowd whisper-sang and chanted along, the trombone broke hearts and a subtle “anthem” was graciously given. Perfect.
After Anthems, Drew said “people usually end their shows with an exciting new song, but we’re not going to do that. Some people like to end shows with a song off their latest album… but… we aren’t going to do that either. We are going to end on a song we’ve been playing for ten years.” He then stated the obvious, which comforted in these trying times: “We are playing for a long time because you paid for it.” And then they dedicated their 20th song (see setlists below) to a Santa Barbara couple who were long-time-fans and moved into their ending song this night, the rousing Pavement-with-horns of KC Accidental.
Kevin then prompted Andrew Whiteman to end the night with a joke, which he did, and then we left in the mist to head back to Santa Barbara. It was our second great night of music in a row. It doesn’t get much better.
You can watch a great 2-hour-plus video of the band’s recent Terminal 5 show in NYC here:
Below is a picture of the Ventura setlist and then below that a full setlist that shows how they improvised on that list.
by Lefort in Journalism
Best Dang Photo Ever by Greg “The Heart of the Matter” Lawler
We live in an era of Minutemen and similar attention spans. If instead you love in depth reportage and if you like truth (or fiction, as you may occasionally assert), you have got to check out the well-culled and highly calibrated works collected over at Longform.org.
Longform.org posts “new and classic non-fiction articles, curated from across the web, that are too long and too interesting to be read on a web browser” (they recommend enjoying them using read-later services like Instapaper and Read It Later that feature buttons to save articles with one click).
Book and bookmark that one because the folks over at Longform are synthesizing the best of journalism. It’s a SERVICE they’re providing. And it’s the real deal.
by Lefort in Music
Photos by Lefort
The great young British band, Mumford and Sons, came to the sanctuary of the hallowed Santa Barbara Bowl last night and tantalized the crowd with its tent show revival. They played with infectious joy and it wasn’t long before that fecund rapture raised the crowd right out of their seats. The band was in constant movement and played as if end times were upon us.
Though there was only occasional drumming (several times played well by leader, Marcus Mumford, as seen below on Lover of the Light), the band pounded out a relentless beat interspersed with dynamic downshifts, only to shift back up to stomp-down. Winston Marshall banged and body-rolled his banjo, Ted Dwayne beat up the bottom end on bass, the three-horns hectored, and Ben Lovett played the keys with flair and an unflappable smile.
But if there’s one image that captures the Mumford experience, it’s of Marcus strumming his guitar at the speed of sound to propel the proceedings. It brings the house down every time.
The band repeatedly lauded the Santa Barbara Bowl and Santa Barbara, and they’ll be back. Don’t miss it next time.
Below is the long setlist (they claimed their longest ever), which included a bunch of new songs and an Old Crow Medicine Show cover.
If you weren’t there, below is a good sample of the Mumfords live from Coachella on Saturday. Check out Little Lion Man, The Cave (typical set closer), and great new song Lover of the Light.
As for The Tallest Dylan Impersonator we’ll have to admit that he presents himself better live than on record. He’s a very adept finger-picking guitar player and has some interesting things to sing. And he covered John Hartford’s oft-covered (most famously by Glen Campbell) chestnut, Gentle on My Mind. We just wish we hadn’t heard it all before by the master himself. TMOE should invite that stellar female harmonist on stage more often. With some added elements and some Dylan-downplay he could grow a bit.
Finally, we admit that we were one-upped last night by a couple of enterprising lasses (Hannah and Chloe) who, at the end of the Mumfords last song, literally ran to their car and (carefully) raced out to UCSB to catch Ellie Goulding’s show at the UCenn. Rave reviews followed. Hats off on the Double.
by Lefort in Music
Any doubters about Broken Social Scene might want to take a look at this video of the band at Coachella below. Ventura Theater. T0morrow night.
by Lefort in Music
We’re a little slow, but just figured out that the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival is being broadcast on YouTube live each day, starting at 4pm. Today’s lineup: The National, Mumford and Sons, PJ Harvey, Angus and Julia Stone, Foster the People, to name a few. Check it out here.
Below is Warpaint doing Undertow.
by Lefort in Music
Today is Record Store Day around the globe. Santa Barbara’s Warbler Records is open today from 10am-6pm, and is having a free in-store at 4pm by local band, Cruiseship.
Artists around the world are propping and propping-up local record stores in various ways. Radiohead (yeah, heard of ‘em) today released a 12-inch with two new songs (“The Missing Limbs”?). Here in the ole U.S. of A., you can’t get the vinyl yet but you can get the digital version. Check the two new songs out below. The melodious Supercollider has us particularly energized, with The Butcher bearing some bounteous beats.