Being in the right place at the right time is a building block for career success. The unspoken parts of the advice are that when you are standing in the correct spot at the perfect time, you had better have everything you need to within arms reach so you don’t have to move. After hitting the Top Ten in early 1968 with “Dance to the Music”, Sly and the Family Stone consumer interest sink with their first three albums. For Sly Stone, everything lined up perfectly with the release of Stand!, and its semi-greatest hits package with the tracks on its April 1969 release. Two successful two-sided hit singles came from Stand! with the title track release offering B-side of “I Want to Take You Higher” following a 1968 release of “Everyday People” backed with “Sing a Simple Song”. Stand! hit the ground running, its songs and mood mirroring the cultural moments in which it was released. The career of Sly and the Family Stone entered the mainstream at an accelerated pace with the release of Stand!, the band and tracks achieving worldwide success with tour stop for the album including a performance at Woodstock within six months of its release and an infamous appearance on the Dick Cavett Show around the same time with the band becoming a live marching band in parade formation for “I Want to Take You Higher”.
Sly and the Family Stone counseled both the left and right on Stand!. After the #1 success of “Everyday People”, Sly Stone became a counterculture figure who looked at himself as an equal part of a global population. Once the band had everyone’s attention, they let go with the admonition “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” which took aim at both sides of the race divide. Stand! encouraged active participation in changing the world on its title track, and once it had people on their feet, nurtured them with the mantra “You Can Make It If You Try”.
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Los Lobos have never been a one-trick musical pony anymore than they are Just Another Band from East L.A., the compilation title that collects tracks the band’s releases as a package. The early output of Los Lobos added touches to traditional Mexican music with Rock’n’Roll, R&B, Rockabilly, and Blues as well as Tejano/Mariachi Folk music. Kiko arrived in 1992, almost a decade since their E.P. release, …And A Time to Dance since gave Los Lobos the ability to tour, and their mid-1980 releases, How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984) and By the Light of the Moon (1987) sealed the band’s fame on a worldwide level. While all of the 1980’s releases showcased diversity, it was Kiko that gave a glimpse into the depth of musical possibilities from Los Lobos. When main songwriters David Hidalgo (guitar) and Louie Perez (drummer) met in high school, the bonded of the more obscure talents of Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, and Fairport Convention. Kiko shows love for many styles as it exhibits the ability of Los Lobos to cross multiple musical soundscapes and never miss a step in their groove.
The Blues carves a path through the Cesar Rosas (guitar) co-write “That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” and colors the snaking swamp edge of “Wicked Rain” with Blue Experimental Rock. Second line drumming opens the album as “Dream in Blue” shuffles in while a ghostly big band plays tag back alley Jazz backs “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”, covers “Arizona Sky” a percussive Tex-Mex desert wind, and taps a toe for mountain music for “Two Janes”. Los Lobos stretch the boundaries of their own music as they push against the existing confines of rock and roots. Kiko delicately picks flurried notes for “Saint Behind the Glass”, kicks out street beats on “Angels with Dirty Faces”, and heads down “Whiskey Trail” on a Southern Rock road as Los Lobos shake out “Wake Up Dolores” on a snaggle of strings and rhythms and strum out a welcome “When the Circus Some to Town”.
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Hayes Carll – (from the album Trouble in Mind)
Album number three for Hayes Carll, Trouble in Mind, was his first album to be released through Lost Highway Records. Trouble in Mind fully stepped into the brand persona that Hayes Carll had been developing in touring and his initial album releases. His characters fully stretched into their collective skins, wearing the hard luck and good times found in questionable decisions and late-night rambles. Trouble in Mind wakes up with a co-write with Ray Wylie Hubbard on the first cut, “Drunken Poet’s Dream”. Katey sashays into “Girl Downtown” with goals set high for her future as a local musician plugs in and makes a wish on “I Got a Gig” and a young man goes to sleep armed with a ready-made dream in the Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan tune “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”.
As the men and women in the tales walk the story halls of Trouble in Mind a cast of players joined Hayes Carll to instrumentally back the tracks as Will Kimbrough, Fats Kaplin, Dan Baird, Al Perkins, Darryl Scott, George Bradfute, and a steady stream of talent unpacked gear in Nashville and Austin recording studios. Trouble in Mind pulls into “Beaumont” with Houston memories, sighs “It’s a Shame” on a Country shuffle, and makes promises to both angels and devils with “Wild as a Turkey” and “Willing to Love Again”. Hayes Carll received a nod from the Americana Music Association in 2008 when it made “She Left Me for Jesus” Song of the Year. The tracks joins the batch of tracks on Trouble in Mind that have made themselves a soundtrack for lives as “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” doubles down in a stormy romance while “A Lover Like You” sees trouble walking its way.
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Various Artists (from the album Swampland Jewels available on Yep Roc Records)
An audio makeover presents Swampland Jewels as a new listen for 2017. Yep Roc Records offers the compilation as the first full-length of their partnership with the Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Southern Folklife Collection, with the re-issue produced by Steven Weiss, curator at the Southern Folklife Collection. The recording represents music from East Texas and Louisiana, taken primarily from studio work of the 1950’s and 1960’s, with some material recorded in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The collection features twelve cuts from the original 1991 release as well as seven newly discovered tracks with updated liner notes on Goldband Records label, who originally put out Swampland Jewels and label founder Eddie Shuler. Marquee names such as Boozoo Chavis, Sidney Brown, and Jo-El Sonnier appear alongside regional superstars mixing Zydeco, Cajun, Rock’n’Roll and Rhythm & Blues into the music.
Eddie Shuler built the studio that housed the hits next to his radio shop in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the music recorded in a space that measured eight feet wide but eighteen feet long and twelve feet high. In that room, he put to tape the soaring vocals of Leroy Broussard on “La Valse de Bo Sparkle”, the Cajun accordion of Jo-El Sonnier alongside Sidney Brown on “Fee Fee Poncho”, mixed Cajun with Delta in “Good Morning Blues” from Cleveland Crochet and Jay Stutes, covered a Louisiana anthem with “Bon Ton Roulet” by Herman Goulee, and let traditional fiddles and accordion vie with rock’n’roll guitar licks in Joe Bonsall’s “Creole Song”. History is showcased on Swampland Jewels in both the songs and studio environment, producer Steve Weiss filling in each portion, stating that ‘I researched the Goldband collection to find the original single or session masters for all the songs. It was a thrill hearing the raw recordings with studio talk, count-ins, and unissued takes that captured the way Eddie worked and the immediacy of studio recordings in the 1950s and ‘60s. The original tapes also captured a strong sense of place’. Boozoo Chavis opens Swampland Jewels with his tune “Paper in My Shoe” as Jo-El Sonnier puts a little Country into his reading of “My Blue Letter” and Latin rhythms dance with an Acadian twist for Joe Bonsall’s take on “La Cucaracha” with his version, “La Cuca Rochman”.
Joy of Cooking (from the album Joy of Cooking)
Joy of Cooking choose to expand music over a Folk-base of sound that added elements of Jazz, Scat Singing, Blues, gospel shaking the mix as a rock’n’roll concoction served up on a self-released album in 1970, followed with a few early 1970 recordings and still releasing music under the band’s name. The Berkley-based California band benefitted from the free love of all forms of music that was in the San Francisco Bay air in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Coming out of a Folk revival bands were using acoustics as a sponge for electric instruments to bleed into, and a jumping board for stretching campfire jams into a full-on blaze of danceable beats.Jam bands were a future term, the phrase was a hold over from the ‘let’s jam’ Jazz days. Joy of Cooking certainly were forerunners of jamming though on album, and in live performance, they didn’t get bogged down in the jam, they cooked.
The group married two tunes on Joy of Cooking. The Berkeley California band put the Blues of Furry Lewis (Brownsville) with the traditional Folk (Mockingbird). The song, and the vocals, for Joy of Cooking were locked harmonies backed with a three-piece rhythm section. The band wasfronted by two women, Terry Garthwaite (guitar), Toni Brown (piano). A river rhythm leads “Too Late But Not Forgotten” on a solid support beat for the tale of a woman left with young baby and old memories. One voice sets the stage as two vocals play tag to find out a little more about what is happening in the bright lights with “Did You Go Downtown”. Terry and Toni stretch their vocals out on the tunes in a combination of salvation (“Children’s House”), and call and response Folk jamborees (“Hush”).
Toni Brown’s piano leads into the Jazz inflected territory in “Down My Dream”, who share arrangement as well as composer credits on the album, adding in turn on the steel guitar, kalimba, with vocal mate Terry Garthwaite taking the lead on her tune that toasts with “Red Wine at Noon”. Joy of Cooking have released their early album, including Joy of Cooking. The songs came out in a time when women voices were rising up those of being the victim. Toni Brown goes beyond surface scruff in her songs, teeling the story of a time when sexes shared emotions, as well as being equal decision makers in the comings and goings of a relationship.
There are many factors that go into forming a band---shared musical tastes and family members becoming official after years of singing and playing together are just two of the many ways. For Joe Cocker, the impetus behind forming Mad Dogs and Englishmen was contractual obligations…..hey, whatever it takes. From 1966 through 1969, Joe Cocker had released two albums with The Grease Band. After grueling tours in support of the albums, and a stint at Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, Joe and the band split amicably. Joe set up camp in L.A. to get some rest in 1970. The most popular legend is that Joe's manager, Dee Anthony, had booked a seven-week (48 nights in 52 cities) tour set to kick off in one week. He further dropped the bomb that should Mr. Cocker choose not to tour, the Musicians' Union, immigration authorities and concert promoters would not allow him back in the U.S. for future touring.
Local L.A. musician, composer, and producer, Leon Russell, saw a way to help his friend and his own career and, acting as band leader, guitarist, pianist and musical director, he pieced together a group. Using former Grease Band members and various musical friends from Russell’s native Oklahoma and nearby Texas, Mad Dogs and Englishmen were born, the title coming from a 1931 Noel Coward song. Logging in a few ten-hour rehearsals, the band hit the road, gaining both momentum and members as they stretched from opening night in Detroit and tours end two months later in San Bernardino.
The live recording of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen is plucked from a four-show, two-night run at New York City’s Fillmore East on March 27 and 28, 1970. Leon Russell took some knocks from period press about using Joe Cocker as a stepping stone for his career but looking at the band members, it is tough to cite many that did not go on to more after then they had before. A few immediately joined up with The Rolling Stones and Derek and the Dominoes when the tour ended. The musicians and band members for the traveling show featured additional vocals by Don Preston, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Donna Washburn, Claudia Lennear, Denny Cordell, Daniel Moore, Pamela Polland, Matthew Moore, Nicole Barclay and Bobby Jones. Leon joined Don Preston on guitar and Chris Stainton on keyboards. Drummers included Jim Gordon, Chuck Blackwell, Jim Keltner and Sandy Konikoff, saxophones from Bobby Keys and Jim Price on trumpet.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen gathered a few songs from Joe Cocker albums but let the remainder of the 61 tracks from the Fillmore East spread equally over rock (The Rolling Stones, Traffic, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen) and soul (Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes). The collective hit a chord on many levels beside music. The tone of the times was freedom and Mad Dogs and Englishmen went beyond the traditional touring. In some ways, they were taking what artists like Delaney, Bonnie and Friends had been working on with big rock and soul shows for a white audience. Mad Dogs and Englishmen is the sound of community. It is top shelf playing from musicians that were a part of a family as much as they were part of a band.
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Kiss my ass, or in U.K. terms, kiss my arse. The phrase was the calling card that introduced the world of radio to The Pogues. The band formed in 1982 under the band banner of Pogue Mahone, the phrase was an Anglicized version of the Gaelic Póg mo thóin. Censorship from the BBC after listener complaints forced shortening to The Pogues. The new name and music from the group’s career are represented with the honor they deserve on the ShoutFactory release, The Very Best of The Pogues.
The first single to hit the airwaves was the band’s self-released “Dark Streets of London”. Punk, the attitude and lifestyle, not the three chord electric attack of punk rock, has always been at the heart of The Pogues sound and delivery. History began to take shape in 1977 when group members Shane McGowan (vocals) and Spider Stacy (tin whistle) met in the men’s room of The Roundhouse in London during a Ramones gig. The pair played in an occasional band, The Millwall Chainsaws, in the late 70’s with Pogue member Jem Finer (banjo). James Fearnley (accordion) was added for live shows and Pogue Mahone took to the stage for the first time on October 4, 1982 at The Pindar of Wakefield in Kings Cross, London. “Streams of Whiskey”, included on The Very Best of The Pogues was the first song the group played live. The group’s line-up expanded for the first single with Cait O’Riordan (bass) and Andrew Rankin (drums) coming on board. The group moved from pubs and clubs in Central London to an opening slot on The Clash 1984 tour. Stiff Records was impressed and Red Roses for Me was released as the band’s first album effort.
Phillip Chevron (guitar) came into The Pogues for their second album; the Elvis Costello produced Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. The title was a nod to the supposed Winston Churchill comment used to describe the true traditions of the British Royal Navy. The album was a commercial success, taking the band across the ocean to America where they were equally embraced by fans of traditional Irish music and U.S. punks, making for very interesting mosh pits. Rum, Sodomy & the Lash brought more original material into The Pogues repertoire, thanks in great part to the word skills of lead vocalist Shane McGowan. The disc offered music that started the deep, deep love that Pogue fans would carry to their collective graves. Songs like “The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn”, The Old Main Drag”, “A Pair of Brown Eyes”, “Dirty Old Town” and “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” were favorites on first listen.
Relations with Stiff Records stalled when The Pogues refused to record a follow-up, offering the E.P. Poguetry in Motion. Artist’s career decisions can swing momentum in either direction, good or bad. Add an Irishman’s alcohol intake to the mix and the decisions become more momentaryreactions rather than a calculated plan. The Pogues frontman, and main songwriter, Shane MacGowan was a man whose demons did as much to tip him over the edge as they guided his pen.
In early Gaelic and British culture, a bard was the term used to describe a professional poet. William Shakespeare became known as The Immortal Bard. The Irish writing traditions were original lyric poetry and versions of ancient prose tales. William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw are hallmarks of the Irish literary output but Shane MacGowan’s natural writing talent seemed to use authors such as James Joyce, who developed the stream of consciousness writing that makes its way into the songs of The Pogues, and Brendan Behan, whose poetry and short stories brought IRA politics into his verse and tales.
The characters and story lines that Shane MacGowan created are full of life. The lives laid bare in his songs have demons and dreams rolled together. “Streams of Whiskey” was a dream where Shane met his literary hero Brendan Behan. “The Boys From County Hell” and “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” are tales rife with a characterization of Irish pub life as seen through the Irish of a punk. The words are fast paced and direct. Alcohol flows through the songs of The Pogues, and its characters partake in amber poison as if every day brought a ghost to toast at a Wake. Though still possessed of a mighty dose of liquid refreshments, tenderness finds its way into The Pogues songs through Shane’s pen and growl on songs such as “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Rainy Night in Soho”. Pain is a part of the Irish spirit and the nations spirits fuel the sadness as much as inspire and Shane tunes like “The Sunny Side of the Street” and the Christmas duet with Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York” manage to balance the hard times and inherent survival gene shared by Irish expatriates worldwide. “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” brings the other Irish brand that serves to take down the nation not unlike alcohol, Catholicism.
Shane MacGowan owns the bulk of the words in the songs of The Pogues but he shares writing credits with other band members on a number of the groups more famous tunes. A mournful guitar and harmonica open “Dirty Old Town”, a 1949 track written by Ewan MacColl, father of “Fairytale of New York” duet partner Kirsty MacColl. Group members Spider Stacy (“Tuesday Morning”), Jem Finer (“Misty Morning, Albert Bridge”) and Philip Chevron (“Thousands Are Sailing”) all have tracks included on The Very Best of The Pogues.
“Thousands Are Sailing” is a history lesson that boards ships in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Londonderry, Waterford, and Liverpool. Estimates tell that close one and one-half million Irish left their native soil between 1845 and 1851. “Coffin ships” were the cheapest way to cross the Atlantic; mortality rates of 30% aboard the vessels were common. The Pogues honor both those that lost their lives and the ones that made it through in “Thousands Are Sailing”. The combination of trial and triumph again weaves in and around the lyric content.
“Thousands Are Sailing” is one of the tentacles that The Pogues continue to wrap around the world. DC Comics recently launched a graphic novel, Gone to Amerikay. Written by Derek McCulloch and illustrated by Colleen Doran, Gone to Amerikay was inspired by Thousands Are Sailing, Philip Chevron's ballad about generations of Irish emigrants travelling "across the western ocean to a land of opportunity. "What I think Gone To Amerikay does well is set an interconnecting tale, a sort of ghost story, in three separate eras," said Chevron. "It's a fairly audacious undertaking and I'm delighted to have helped inspire or influence it."
Musically, The Pogues have never really stopped the sound that first has continues to be important from those notes that hit back in 1982. The band recently celebrated a 30th year anniversary at the Olympia Theatre in Paris with a live DVD of the show. James Fearnley has written the memoir Here Comes Everybody – The Story of The Pogues, and continues to release solo music. Spider Stacy can be seen in the role of Slim Jim on HBO’s Treme, Shane MacGowanpops up at numerous guest appearances and Philip Chevron’s musical project, Radiators from Outer Space, has recently released an album honoring the rock, blues and beat tunes from Irish artists in the 1960’s. Jem Finer follows a path to art’s cutting edge with a recent art installationwith a giant screen projection of 18,000 images taken in a forest using a solar-powered camera and recorded through a specially designed computer program. Musically, he has conceived and composed Mobile Sinfonia, an indeterminate musical composition scored for mobile phones. It is propagated through the free distribution of especially composed ringtones. Each ringtone is a ‘voice’ in the composition, and together they make a global orchestra of electronic instruments.
The Very Best of The Pogues will be released on SoundFactory on January 22, 2013. The album fully captures the excitement that The Pogues weave into every song. That feeling is not diminished by the passing of years, the songs whine like freshly minted.
Etta Baker was born in 1913 North Carolina. Etta played Piedmont Blues for ninety years, beginning before she could hold the guitar her dad gave her at age three. Her father, Boone Reid, taught his daughter the Piedmont Blues that he played, with Etta learning six-, and twelve-string guitar as well as banjo. Etta Baker stuck more to the guitar, becoming a key component of the Piedmont Blues scene and tradition in North Carolina, though she did not begin recording until 1956 when she and her father met Folk musician Paul Clayton.
Music Maker Relief Foundation reissued the Etta Baker disc, Railroad Bill, to re-acquaint the music of Etta Baker, whose legacy spans decades of American music from nineteenth century parlor songs through post-World War II electric Blues. Etta played every day, arranging and fine-tuning music. One sotry of her life tells about a twenty-one year old Bob Dylan visiting fellow Folkie Paul Clayton where he met and heard Etta Baker, returning to his NYC home to write “Don’t Think Twice”.
Another story told that Etta’s husband had traditional views of women in the home and refused to let her travel and perform away from home while another version says that Mr. husband was afraid of his wife’s beauty leaving his four walls. Etta never stopped playing her music. Taj Mahal cites that ‘This gracious grandmother was the source of a great deal of joy and surprise when I found that she still played guitar after I had heard her early recordings from the 60s. One of the signature chords of my guitar vocabulary comes from her version of "Railroad Bill". This was the first guitar picking style that I ever learned’.
Etta Baker has a light touch on the strings. There is gentleness in the high notes she coaxes from her guitar, while her bassline is sturdy, it’s strength supporting the playful fingerpicking. That style lies in the traditions of Piedmont Blues, a way of playing with an alternating thumb bassline keeping the rhythm against a more syncopated treble lead, in the style of ragtime music.
Railroad Bill offers the fingerpicking style of Etta Baker. The title track for the album holds hints of riffs and playing style that seem familiar, airing the depth of Etta Baker’s mark on music with her sound. The album features traditional tracks that have become an audio fabric covering the American Roots landscape with “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”, and “Don't Let Your Deal Go Down”. Etta Baker picks with an ease that blends the intricate stylings into one mood of sound. Etta Baker’s fingers take control of the tunes as they fly over “One Dime Blues”, duetwith a songbird outside the window while recording “Carolina Breakdown”, gusts with the breeze from “Chilly Winds”, shine and strum on “Sunny Tennessee”, and become the strong current carrying “Cripple Creek”.
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Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs (from the album Never Did What I Shoulda Done) - The Last Frontier that became the breeding ground for the songs of Nellie Clay was not made of stars or outer spaces. Quick summers, and long winters filed with ice and snow created the solitude on what might have sometimes seemed like the end of civilization. The environment provided the turmoil and triumphs that gave Nellie the stories for Never Did What I Shoulda Done. The album was produced by James Frazee, with recordings taking place in Anchorage, Alaska at Studio 2200. Nellie Clay was born in Oklahoma, spending eight years in Alaska, a time she credits with her musical rebirth, with songs stacking up in the corners of a small rustic cabin with no utilities that was often her home.
Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs stay warm as Nellie puts flames to the snow in “Burning Fires”, wonders on reasons as she utters a late warning to “Sweet Elizabeth”, rides a hard beat “Into the City”, quietly beds down in tougher times with “Sleeping on Floors”, and taps out the message “That Cookin’ Up That Love” sets the kitchen to dancing. The album opens using rhythms as soft breezes that blow through “Oklahoma”. Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs presents tales that show spirt bending though no breaks fracture the resolve Nellie venomously spits at a sister-in-law in “9 Kinds of Hell” while she boards the bus with the band vowing “Ain’t Dead Yet”.
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Sultans of String (from the album Subcontinental Drift) - Sultans of String offer ragas, reels, and rhumbas in a joyful celebration of song as Subcontinental Drift. The Canadian-based band brings in sitar master Anwar Kurshid, creating a bridge for world rhythms to cross freely. The Sultans Chris McKhool (bandleader/violinist) felt that ‘there is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East’. The music of Sultans of String is a melting pot of cultures, and within the space of a song melodies shift and re-form ranging from the soft rhythms that cradle the man looking for “A Place to Call Home”, gentle sighs over bubbling notes with “Parchan Shaal Panhwar”, creating a trance calling “Ho Jamalo”, and merging airy Celtic tones over Indian percussion with “Rakes Of Mallow - Rouge River Valley”.
When Chris heard the rumba rhythms in the guitar work of Kevin Laliberté, the Sultans of String were born. Traveling as a duo and band, the group has garnered Juno nominations and Canadian Folk awards with Chris McKhool receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. Subcontinental Drift opens its doors with a first track welcome of “Enter the Gate” as the notes slowly rise and blend, as the album re-envisions Bob Dylan’s “Blowin' In The Wind”, and travels on a cut from the pens of both Sultans of String and guest Anwar Kurshid with “Journey to Freedom”, the story telling of the sitar player’s trip from Pakistan to a new home in Canada.
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