Tom Waits (from the album Heartattack and Vine)
The dawn of a new decade signaled a change in the musical weather for Tom Waits. He delivered his final album on his Asylum Records contract with Heartattack and Vine. The title became a mainstay on album charts for three months and his best selling album to that date. Heartattack and Vine was the last release from Tom Waits to fully feature the cast of characters that roamed through his previous six album releases. The songs of Tom Waits experienced an urbanization post-Heartattack and Vine, his heroes still host to left-of-center stars seen through the noir night vision of his album cycles that began with debut release Closing Time. Tom Waits career has spanned multiple decades, his songs cherished for sonic innovation, his releases touchstones for museum quality music.
Transient humans populated the songs of Tom Waits in the 1970’s, beginning with his 1973 debut before moving on to new territory after Heartattack and Vine. The album tenderly cradles Tom Waits’ patented hoarse growl, rocking “On the Nickel” gently in its lullaby string swells and lightly touched piano rambles, using the rhythm of jungle drums to chase the night with “’Til the Money Runs Out”. The title track welcomes as album opener, Tom Waits shaking hands all around and introducing his street corner buds, warning that ‘this stuff’ll probably kill you, let’s do another line’ and testifying that ‘there ain’t no devil that’s just god when he’s drunk’. Heartattack and Vine follows “Mr. Siegal” as he sashays across the Nevada line, rings church bells in a sleepy town with “Saving All My Love for You”, finds salvation in the horns wrapped in “Ruby’s Arms”, and rumbles like a subway car heading into “Downtown”. Bruce Springsteen took a tune from Heartattack and Vine, making it his own as part of his live show with his cover of the Tom Wait’s track “Jersey Girl”.
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The Old 97’s (from the album Too Far to Care)
The lovable loser that is a recurring guest in the songs of The Old 97’s rolls and tumbles over chord crunched beat, walking down “Streets of Where I’m From” content in the with the measure of the journey used as an album title on the band’s third album release, Too Far to Care. The Old 97’s took a big step forward with Too Far to Care, their first release on a major record label (Elektra). Too Far to Care moved their music beyond the Texas scene stronghold the Houston band had carved out with their first two releases, The Old 97’s music branded by their ability to give a diss with a smirk in their stories as they wove Country licks over a rock’n’roll backbeat. Happy birthday wishes travel over 1800 miles, sent from a traveling musician setting up to play in one more “Niteclub”. Los Angeles, CA punk Exene Cervenka (X), grabs a microphone and raises her voice above the heavy-breathing guitar distortion revving its engine in “Four-Leaf Clover” while The Old 97’s find their own way to the Golden State on the wagon-wheel rattle rhythms of “Just Like California”.
A nervous lover timidly poses commitment questions with “Melt Show” as a door opens in a hotel room off of Times Square for “Broadway” and The Old 97’s bow on a reverb string bend for “Curtain Calls”, fall into “Big Brown Eyes” on a Country ramble, and walk out into the moonlight, spitting out a Country rock’n’roll kiss-off for “Salome”. The Old 97’s took their first solid step into the musical career with the release of Too Far to Care, creating a foundation that would support them well into 2018 with little signs of wear. Well-loved cuts from The Old 97’s were the first two shots heard on Too Far to Care as the then-needle hit the groove on opening track “Timebomb” leading into “Barrier Reef”.
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New Riders of the Purple Sage (from the album NRPS)
Jerry Gracia steered the psychedelic ship as Captain Trips, driving the wheel of the Grateful Dead as the band made their way out of the San Francisco music scene and into history. Never complacent with his playing, Jerry Gracia juggled multiple projects, each with its own sound as he offered outtings with a string band (Old and in the Way), Blues (with Merle Saunders), and unique takes on cover tunes (Jerry Garcia Band). His interest in playing pedal-steel guitar led Jerry Garcia to join forces with John ‘Marmaduke’ Dawson and his vision of psychedelic Country. The pair added another longtime Bay Area music scene compatriot with David Nelson on guitar, performing as New Riders of the Purple Sage. Former Jefferson Airplane drummer, Spencer Dryden, was the drummer for the group’s self-titled debut, the only album featuring Jerry Garcia, who was replaced by Buddy Cage in the band.
New Riders of the Purple Sage were in the right musical spot for the late 1960’s move towards Country Rock that came in with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Dillards, and other SoCal Country Rock’n’Roll bands. The NRPS debut featured all tracks written by lead vocalist, John Dawson. Psychedelics stretched the possibilities of the Country Rock’n’Roll that New Riders of the Purple Sage wore like a second skin. Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel is prominent, skipping with a playful romp in “Whatcha Gonna Do”, catching air like the spreading wings of “Last Lonely Eagle” as his playing freckles the air around honky tonk piano rambles, and sighs like the breaks coming to a tour-stop for “Portland Woman”. The wry sense of humor in the words of John Dawson are the language of hippie-era average man, as NRPS introduces an old-school drug-runner as it watches “Henry” hurdle through the mountains of Mexico, picks up the pace on a rapidfire string band push for “Glendale Train”, and dreams a cowboy tale on the waves of sound rising like heat off a desert floor in “Dirty Business”.
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