Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bob Dylan – Isis (Desire,1976)

I married Isis on the fifth day of May
But I could not hold on to her very long
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong
I came to a high place of darkness and light
The dividing line ran through the center of town
I hitched up my pony to a post on the right
Went in to a laundry to wash my clothes down
A man in the corner approached me for a match
I knew right away he was not ordinary
He said, “Are you lookin’ for somethin’ easy to catch?”
I said, “I got no money.” He said, “That ain’t necessary”
We set out that night for the cold in the North
I gave him my blanket, he gave me his word
I said, “Where are we goin’?” He said we’d be back by the fourth
I said, “That’s the best news that I’ve ever heard”
I was thinkin’ about turquoise, I was thinkin’ about gold
I was thinkin’ about diamonds and the world’s biggest necklace
As we rode through the canyons, through the devilish cold
I was thinkin’ about Isis, how she thought I was so reckless
How she told me that one day we would meet up again
And things would be different the next time we wed
If I only could hang on and just be her friend
I still can’t remember all the best things she said
We came to the pyramids all embedded in ice
He said, “There’s a body I’m tryin’ to find
If I carry it out it’ll bring a good price”
’Twas then that I knew what he had on his mind
The wind it was howlin’ and the snow was outrageous
We chopped through the night and we chopped through the dawn
When he died I was hopin’ that it wasn’t contagious
But I made up my mind that I had to go on
I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty
There was no jewels, no nothin’, I felt I’d been had
When I saw that my partner was just bein’ friendly
When I took up his offer I must-a been mad
I picked up his body and I dragged him inside
Threw him down in the hole and I put back the cover
I said a quick prayer and I felt satisfied
Then I rode back to find Isis just to tell her I love her
She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes
I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead
She said, “Where ya been?” I said, “No place special”
She said, “You look different.” I said, “Well, not quite”
She said, “You been gone.” I said, “That’s only natural”
She said, “You gonna stay?” I said, “Yeah, I jes might”
Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child
What drives me to you is what drives me insane
I still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzlin’ rain.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Giant Sand - Underground Train

There's a story about engineer Jim
I'd love to tell you all about him
But there are secrets to be kept
. . . Tears that have wept
There's a girl named Darlene
Who's a sister to all
Scraping blood off jeans
Where people fall
. . . Sister Darlene
And they all sing:
I'm afraid
. . . I'm not afraid anymore
I'm thinking about Juanita
And where she might spend the night
And all the men, women, and children
Fighting the good fight
Which brings us on back to Jim
He invites the government down
To the desert sun
Right in the middle where
He makes his run
Across the border
. . . Border line
- Chorus-
Come October there'll be
A chill in the air
There'll be a trial
And everyone will be there
They'll need a big o'voice
From the people outside . . . raise
Your voices loud
Let them people go
And let them make their run
Let they try to save everyone
From the death squads
From the eye-gougers
From the knock on the door
At a quarter to four (A.M.)
Some call them
Outlaws. . .
Some swear
They're saints. . .
They all are
Engineers on
An underground

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

T-Bone Burnett - After All These Years (Proof Through the Night,1983)

After All These Years

I heard you saw her again last evening
I heard you'd been with her for two or three days
I still have her picture taped to my mirror
Does she still look the same after all these years?

I remember her as the most beautiful woman
Was her hair still blonde were her eyes still blue?
Were they soft and gentle or filled with tears?
Does she still look as hurt after all these years?

I lost track of her way back in the Sixties
I even heard that she had tried suicide
There were rumors the government killed her career
Did she still look as scared after all these years?

Will they ever uncover her terrible secret?
And untangle the mystery of her life?
Will they ever know why she disappeared?
Was she still as gone after all these years?

Was she still as alluring still as seductive?
Could she still drive you crazy by the look on her face?
Did she still have a whisper you could hear cross an ocean?
Was she still a scandal still a disgrace?

Was she still as impossible still as voluptuous?
Still as helpless and full of fears?
Was she still as provocative still as compelling?
Was she still as late after all these years?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Souled American - Six Feet Of Snow (Around the Horn,1990)

Chicago roots rockers Souled American pioneered the alternative country movement of the early '90s before the music boasted either a name or a fan following. Even as kindred spirits like Uncle Tupelo began making commercial inroads, Souled American slipped through the cracks following the demise of its record label, and still today the band's true influence on a successive generation of bands remains sorely undervalued. Singer/guitarist Chris Grigoroff and singer/bassist Joe Anducci formed Souled American in 1987 after first collaborating in the Normal, IL, group the Uptown Rulers; guitarist Scott Tuma and drummer Jamey Barnard completed the lineup, which quickly honed an expansive, compellingly idiosyncratic approach to rock that reduced the idiom to its basic elements -- country, folk, and bluegrass chief among them -- then reassembled the parts to forge an otherworldly music quite unlike anything produced by the band's contemporaries. In 1988 Souled American signed to Rough Trade to issue its cult classic debut, Fe, arguably their most difficult and far-ranging effort. Flubber appeared a year later and was supported by a tour opening for Camper Van Beethoven. But shortly after the release of 1990's psychedelic Around the Horn -- an album comprised largely of covers.
Withdrawing even more into their own private universe - their popularity, never great, was near minimal at this point, with the collapse of their then-label Rough Trade in America accelerating a slide off the musical radar - the four members of Souled American persevered. Around the Horn shows the band now fully master of a unique kind of Americana, here much more melancholy and gently downbeat than ever before, guitars more apt to ring softly or solitarily than anything else. The dub and r'n'b touches prevalent on the first two albums aren't as apparent here, but what the band loses in relative breadth it more than makes up for in atmosphere. Adducci and Barnard's rhythm work is very late in the evening and moody, and works wonders throughout. The two get to let relatively loose at one point on "Luggy Di," with Barnard's shuddering, non-4/4 time drumming and Adducci's bass both cutting through. Crigoroff's vocals are subtly changing at this point the country twang and ache which invested them on Fe still remain, but are smoothed just a touch, his high vocals a bit more lost and alone. If Will Oldham wasn't listening in at this point, that would be a bit surprising. Almost half the tracks are covers or reinterpretations of some kind, including one done by Adducci's country songwriting mother, "I Keep Holding Back the Tears." Little Feat's "Six Feet of Snow" also gets a Souled American treatment, the most jaunty thing on the album, while the traditional "Durante's Hornpipe" gets a brilliant, short rendition that is quietly uplifting. The slow fading chime of "Rise Above It" is also quite something, another Souled American highlight. Guest performer Jaimo adds muted, low trombone to "Second of All," investing the slow, mournful number with an added dignity.

Six Feet Of Snow

Six feet of snow coming through my radio
It`s raining in stilettos from here clear down to Mexico
My hands they`re numb from hanging on that steering wheel
They`re frozen tight, hope the wind don`t blow me off the road tonight
Don`t you know the ice and snow is sneaking in through my windows
Don`t you know how much I hate to be so cold and so alone
I`m coming home

If it wasn`t for the lines that wind side by side
I`d be lying next to her, next to her tonight

Sweet New Orleans that`s where my girl she waits for me
Hair so long and eyes so green
She`s the prettiest girl I`ve ever seen

Don`t you know the ice and snow
Is sneaking through this boy`s window
Don`t you know how much I hate to be so cold and so alone
I`m coming home

If it wasn`t for the lines that wind side by side
I`d be lying next to her, next to her tonight

(Lowell George/Keith Godchaux)

Poi Dog Pondering - I Had To Tell You (Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson,1990)

The eclectic worldbeat/folk-rock outfit Poi Dog Pondering were formed in Waikiki by vocalist/guitarist Frank Orrall, violinist/vocalist Susan Voelz, and multi-instrumentalist Dave "Max" Crawford, the only constants in the group's history; sometimes swelling to upwards of ten members, the band has seen numerous personnel shifts. Named in part for a Hawaiian expression meaning "mutt," Poi Dog Pondering relocated to Austin, TX, and picked up a following through extensive touring; they released two EPs, 1988's Poi Dog Pondering and 1989's Circle Around the Sun, which attracted the attention of Columbia Records with their varied instrumentation, easygoing humor, and offbeat fusions of world musics and folk-rock. Columbia combined the two EPs for the group's 1989 self-titled major-label debut, which along with its slightly slicker follow-up, 1989's Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea, earned Poi Dog Pondering critical acclaim and a devoted cult following.
Roky Erickson often seems to be better known in rock circles for his well publicized psychological maladies and his less-than-gentle treatment at the hands of Texas' judicial system than for his music -- and that's a shame. While Roky's habit of informing anyone who asks that he's a Martian or is in contact with Satan makes for good fanzine copy, the best reason to be interested in Erickson is his songwriting -- there's a graceful, vivid surrealism to his lyrical style that's endured far better than most of the noodlers who came out of the psychedelic rock movement, and his later bursts of horror film fancy conjure up a troubling tension that's laughed at only by the shallow or ignorant. When Erickson's legal problems came to a head in the late 1980s, longtime fan and Sire Records executive Bill Bentley assembled Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson to raise money for Erickson, as well as drawing attention to the unique beauty of his music. Like most multi-artist tribute albums, the results are a bit uneven; some of these artists seem to have appeared out of convenience rather than any great love of Roky's music, and a few of the interpretations are simple miscalculations (Thin White Rope's Guy Kyser really goes overboard on his version of "Burn the Flames"). But there are a several moments of very real beauty and power here, especially from the artists who share Erickson's Texas heritage -- Doug Sahm and ZZ Top rock out on their contributions, the Butthole Surfers' version of "Earthquake" is one of their finest moments on wax, and T-Bone Burnett's take on "Nothing in Return" is a heart-tugging gem. The 13th Floor Elevators' first two albums are still the best place to sample Erickson's music (and the latter-day All That May Do My Rhyme is a fine album, for which Erickson actually receives royalties -- hint, hint), but Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye is a sincere if inconsistent tribute to his work, and shows how well his songs can translate to the styles of other artists.

I Had To Tell You

Candles all around me
wicked spirit clinging
but I can hear you singing
in the corners of my brain

Every doubt abound me
every sound of riot
everything is quiet
but the songbird keeps me sane

I can hear your voice
echoing my voice softly
I can feel your strength
reinforcing mine

If you fear I'll lose my spirits
like a drunkard's wasted wine
don't you even think about it...
I'm feelin' fine

I can hear your voice
echoing my voice softly
I can feel your strength
reinforcing mine

If you fear I'll lose my spirits
like a drunkard's wasted wine
don't you even think about it...
I'm feelin' fine

Dream Syndicate - Merrittville (Live at Raji's,1989)

Dream Syndicate was a guitar-driven band from L.A. from 1981 to 1989, originally associated with the Paisley Underground music movement.Dream Syndicate are at the foundation (alongside the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and R.E.M.) of contemporary alternative music sheerly because at the time when most bands were experimenting with new technology, the Syndicate deigned to bring back the guitar.
A classic guitar band of the eighties. Born at the end of the Punk era, with a feel for Velvet Undergroundon The Dream Syndicate instantly became the saviours of alternative rock before tha term was commonly used.With The Days Of Wine and Roses they climbed to a highpoint in the critics eyes, and is still today considered a classic outside of die hard Steve Wynn fans circles.The Medicine Show took a different direction that the raw punkish debut, and some critiques turned their fingers down. It was/is however on of the most lived albums among fans.After The Medicine Show there was change in line up. Out went Kendra Smith and Karl Precoda and in came Mark Walton and Paul B. Cutler.On tour in support of their final album, 1988's Ghost Stories, Dream Syndicate recorded a limited-edition live album, 1989's Live at Raji's, that quickly became something of a holy grail for fans.A killer live set. extended jams, good sound quality.
This has been referred to as the greatest live album ever.


Matthew with the pug nose
Caught me with his sister in the wheatfield
Got a couple buddies
Tied me up and threw me in his Oldsmobile
I said "Matthew are you crazy?"
As he started closing in for the kill
Matthew slowed the Olds to 10
Left me here to die in Merrittville

There's a game they play in the summertime
There's a game they play when it's hot outside
And I wonder why
They left me here in Merrittville

Sally with the narrow hips
Cut the rope and said that she could clear my head
She led me to the dirt path
All the way back to her daddy's shed
I said, "Sally who'd believe
That we'd have to come so far for a thrill."
Sally let me go that night
Weak, tired and spent in Merrittville

William with the holy book
Stopped me as I stumbled down the road today
He said "Get on your knees, boy.
It's time you learned the right way to pray"
I said "William, I had no idea
That the lord had such a will
William drove his point across
And left me here to burn in Merrittville

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Giant Sand - Uneven Light of Day (Storm,1987)

Giant Sand was the primary outlet for the stylistic curveballs and sun-damaged songcraft of Howe Gelb, a Pennsylvania-born singer/guitarist who formed the four-piece Giant Sandworms after relocating to Tucson, Arizona in the mid-'70s.
With Storm, the Giant Sand story begins to get interesting. The band's third album features a marked leap forward in production and sound detailing from their first two records. Neil Harry's pedal steel gels wonderfully with the work of Paula Jean Brown (aka Mrs. Howe Gelb), who takes over bass duties and adds immeasurably to the tone colors of the compositions with her singing, and drummer Tom Larkins -- though he would depart following the recording, and had become reasonably comfortable with the shifting tempos of main-man Gelb's composing. For his part, it is here that Gelb finally starts to widen his songwriting, beginning the rambling, ambling lyrical spew and loose-but-still-moving-together chord sequences that make Giant Sand a band that is loved so intensely by its devotees. Though the contribution of producer/engineer Eric Westfall -- who had worked on all of the band's records up to this point -- shouldn't be underestimated, it is Gelb's leaps as a composer that make the disc come alive. The opening "Uneven Light of Day," the title cut, the honky-tonk raver "Three 6ixes," "Town With Little or No Pity," and "Was Is a Big Word" are all first-class. Even the cover of the Band's "The Weight" is effective, demonstrating Howe's unflinching eye in the face of the classics and sung with interpretive passion, especially when compared with the desultory cover versions on the preceding Ballad of a Thin Line Man. Storm is the first step in a quickly ascending tier of masterful Giant Sand releases.

Giant Sand, Rainer Ptacek - Inner Flame (A Rainer Ptacek Tribute,1997)

The most striking credit on this tribute to Tucson’s Rainer Ptacek reads “Executive Producers: Robert Plant and Howe Gelb.” That Led Zep’s preening pretty boy and Giant Sand’s desert visionary should find common bond in the musical inspiration of Rainer attests to a gravitational pull far stronger than the artist’s name recognition. It is likely that most who purchase The Inner Flame for its stellar lineup of Plant and Jimmy Page, PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Giant Sand and others will be hearing Rainer’s music, maybe even his name, for the first time.Though patterned after the Sweet Relief fund-raisers for Victoria Williams and Vic Chesnutt — both of whom appear here — Rainer’s bluesy mysticism and elemental imagery casts the contributions of even the familiar artists in fresh light. The impetus for the project came from Rainer’s brain tumor, for which treatment and bills remain, though the cancer is apparently in remission. Most of the tracks feature the tonal shadings of Rainer’s National steel guitar; a couple of others find Giant Sand serving as house band. But the unifying principle is the organic suggestiveness of his material, an introspective, spiritualized brand of blues that is more a feeling than a form.On the album-opening title track, Rainer asks “How’s your inner flame/Does it still burn a lot/Do you complain when it’s too hot?” On the closing “Powder Keg”, his lyric promises, “If your life gets too dark/Call me and I’ll be the spark.” Throughout the rest, the flame burns.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Blackeyed Susans - Sheets Of Rain (All Souls Alive,1993)

What we have here is one of the best albums of the nineties, by an Australian "super group" featuring ex-members of The Triffids (David McComb & 'Evil' Graham Lee), two thirds of The Dirty Three (Jim White & Warren Ellis) + bassist/main songwriter Phil Kakulas (who also was a member of The Triffids early on in their career) and vocalist Rob Snarski.The Blackeyed Susans lineup has always been a bit shaky, but arguably this is the best one they ever had, mainly due to the amazing atmosphere that Graham Lee & Warren Ellis manage to create here; Lee with his lap and pedal steel guitars and Ellis with his violins, organs and other instruments. The music here could be described as spooky/creepy alt. country rock, not unlike The Triffids or even Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Song highlights include the insanely terrific & terrifying "A Curse on You" that gives me the chills everytime I hear it (again, thanks to Lee & Ellis), "Memories", a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, where David McComb takes over the vocal duties, and probably the best track "Dirty Water" which again features some mad & excellent fiddling by Warren Ellis. Anyone who has ever heard and liked The Triffids, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Dirty Three etc. really needs to check out this band, and this is probably the best starting point.

Guy Chadwick - Crystal Love Song (Lazy, Soft & Slow,1998)

How often has a songwriter emerged from a bout of severe writer's block with such remarkable beauty? Former House of Love frontman Guy Chadwick has done just that in this low-key debut -- a gorgeous and seemingly effortless collection of breezy love songs. Many of the tracks would have fit well on any House of Love record; the only differences are the dashes of accordian, keyboards, and pedal steel tastefully added to Chadwick's songs, and the lack of rock guitar. Robin Guthrie's(Cocteau Twins' man) warm production serves these gentle songs wonderfully, and Guy's backing musicians complement him masterfully (Guthrie also played bass on eight songs). Lazy, Soft and Slow breaks no new ground, and nothing here tops such House of Love greats as "Shine On" or "Christine," but that couldn't have been Chadwick's intent. If you adore the Harvest-mode Neil Young or favor the "Pale Blue Eyes" side of the Velvet Underground, this album should warm your soul for many Sunday mornings to come.
One of the greatest and most underrated geniuses of brit pop. This album is magic, and the title says everything about the music: it's Lazy, Soft & Slow.

Crystal Love Song

Crystal is distant, those eyes that disarm me
are sadder, and madder, and rare
Pendants of gilt , hanging, pleading for light
are now lost in a voyeur's despair

How can the world with its century turning
be bold, and suddenly care?
Just like that rain, falling in summer,
you are the rain falling on me,
falling on me

Bend me and shake me, thrill and forsake me
I'll travel, or borrow, or climb
Someone will call you to follow, and then lose you
in shadows where hypocrites lie

All of the love in the world is now over
and clouds are filling our minds
Just like that rain, falling in summer,
you are the rain falling on me

Just like that rain, falling in summer
You are the rain falling one me
Just like that rain, falling in summer
you are the rain falling on me
Just like that rain

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

SMOKE - Clean White Bed (Another Reason to Fast,1995)

Jazz, blues, rock, country -- Cabbagetown, GA's Smoke (ex-Opal Foxx Quartet, Jody Grind) was so much more than the sum of its parts. Smoke's essence was unfailingly unique: strangely familiar music running up the spine of the band's odd instrumentation while touchingly disjointed personal anecdotes growl out the ragged vocal cords of bandleader Benjamin Smoke. Rather than alienating listeners with its strange brew, Smoke conjures something queerly beautiful with Another Reason to Fast that transcends gender so completely, and squeezes your own spine so, that writing about it is necessary only to proselytize for the man and his band -- not to approximate their innately Southern, ramshackle, and magical music. But Benjamin Smoke is not a myth, or a saint. He is an artist and a singer, and you need to hear this album.
That mournful cornet and those iron strings bowed across those wooden necks! Benjamin's pained voice singing weary, world-wise lyrics: "All the boys I thought beautiful/ are dead now or in law school." He was a larger-than-life, dress-wearing drug addict, but the only thing the world cares about now is this music. That's all the world should have cared about before. Great stuff and in a better world he'd be better known. In a better world drugs wouldn't have dragged him down I suppose.