The Byrds : My Back Pages

I am usually trying to post songs and/or write about music on here that aren’t as well-known as Dylan’s My Back Pages, but I have loved this song as long as I can remember. Another Side Of Bob Dylan is equally an album of which the same can be said. Dylan’s version is (of course) excellent as well, and with its simple acoustic guitar accompaniment (and that voice) pretty much unbeatable to me ear. At the same time I think that McGuinn’s vocals and the typical Rickenbacker Byrds sound add considerably to it and make it one of the best songs they have ever recorded (which is saying something about a group with an output as good as theirs)

Advertisements

Back Road Bound’s Favorite Songs Of 2014

To wrap up the year 2014 I made a mix with some of my most-loved songs released this year.

Follow the link below to hear them on Mixcloud

https://www.mixcloud.com/ThatContainerGuy/back-road-bounds-favorite-songs-of-2014/

The Tracklist:

Willie Dunn : I Pity The Country (from Native North America Vol. 1)

Sun Kil Moon : Jim Wise (from Benji)

Conor Oberst : Night At Lake Unknown (from Upside Down Mountain)

Willy Mitchell : Call Of The Moose (from Native North America Vol. 1)

Luther Dickinson : Bar Band (from Rock’n’Roll Blues)

Hard Working Americans : Straight To Hell (from Hard Working Americans)

Wes Tirey : Come Home (The End Is Near Blues) (from O, Annihilator)

John Angaiak : Hey, Hey, Hey, Brother (from Native North America Vol. 1)

Lucinda Williams : Burning Bridges (from Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone)

Joe Henry : Grave Angels (from Invisible Hour)

Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt : Sky Picked Blue (from For Keeps)

Groupe Folklorique Montagnais : Tshekuan Mak Tshetutamak (from Native North America Vol. 1)

Bo Ramsey : Fragile

Bo Ramsey Fragile Cover

Bo Ramsey : Fragile
(2008, Bo Ramsey Records)

I wasn’t familiar with Bo Ramsey’s work until seeing him play alongside a Greg Brown on a couple of spirited living room renditions of tracks like Pretty Boy Floyd (and a few live tracks) in Hacklebarney Tunes The Music of Greg Brown – the documentary film about Greg Brown (part of If I had Known, see my review here: …..). Those performances made me decide that he’s my kind of guy and presumably an outstanding guitar player, which it quickly turned out he is, after listening to Fragile, the first of his CD’s I bought (although it most probably won’t be the last). Starting with the atmospheric, dust-colored artwork with a barbed-wire fence as the front cover image – a perfect pointer to what’s on store on the album. Calling the sound ‘dusty’ would by no means be misleading, although a few tracks, mainly the more uptempo Folk-Rock tunes such as Fragile, Same For You and I Wonder actually do sound quite airy too (all three of them remind me very pleasantly of Canadian band The Skydiggers). These 3 tracks are not the norm though, as most tracks on Fragile are firmly on the moody and slightly dark side musically, with From Buffalo To Jericho the most pessimistic-sounding track of the album (it’s excellent too though).

The album is produced exceptionally well (always a plus in my opinion as you will know if you have read any of my reviews before), with a muscular, yet reduced sound, with Ramsey shining repeatedly on a number of different guitars (he seems to have played all of them). His lead guitar tunes actually sound like much more than merely the musical accompaniment to these songs, they almost seem to act as another voice – listen to album opener Can’t Sleep and you hopefully know what I mean. It’s one of the best songs on here – full of moody guitar on a bed of restrained drums and bass guitar with his trademark half-whispered, smoky voice. Pretty much the same could actually be said about the equally brilliant Dreamland too. Tell Me Now and Burn It Down (whose lyrics are a bitter indictment of today’s music download culture) are quite bluesy in sound and feel with the latter maybe being a tad too much of that for me.

Same For You is another strong contender for being the best composition on here in my opinion. I love the feathery acoustic guitar/bass/drums-backing, the upbeat tune and lyrics telling a tale of comradeship. Fragile features some fine organ and is possibly the most rocking song on the album. I am also very fond of the two short instrumental songs Away and Into The Woods, especially the latter is lovely – sounding like a musical meditation in the woods of the title, one can’t help (well I couldn’t) becoming calm and picturing his favorite forest for all of the short 2 and a half minutes it lasts.

The lyrics to album closer I Don’t Know display self-doubt as well as doubts about the world, but in the end he’s finding the strength for the way forward – ‘I don’t know, but I’ll keep on looking’.

His wife, Greg Brown-daughter Pieta Brown, herself an accomplished songwriter, wrote half of the songs together with him on here, and is playing the piano on a number of songs. The other musicians on here are playing very well too, although Ramsey’s guitar is definitely the all-dominant instrument on the album – the sound is homogenous and makes Fragile a well-rounded, taut and utterly convincing album that found its way into me heart quickly and will undoubtedly stay in there for a long time to come.

 

Gene Clark : White Light

Gene Clark White Light Cover

 

Gene Clark: White Light

(1971 A&M Records, 2002 expanded re-release)

The first Gene Clark album I actually bought was his 1986 collaboration with The Textone’s Carla Olson So Rebellious A Lover. I also own the fine but somewhat messy compilation American Dreamer 1964 – 1974 which features all kinds of material he was involved in from that period such as his solo work, songs with The Byrds, The Gosdin Brothers and The Dillard & Clark Expedition. As I came back to that album quite often in the past few months, I recently bought White Light, regarded by many as his finest work. I bought the expanded version, re-released in 2002 and have to say that everybody involved in that project did a very good job on it. As I am a bit of a closet audiophile I am quite satisfied with how the album sounds – not exactly up to today’s standards, maybe, but considering this was originally recorded back in 1971 the sound is pretty good and clear.

Contrary to one of my friends who said to me that Gene Clark’s work is too depressive for him (‘unlike you, I don’t need to hear depressive music ALL the time’ were his words (he’s mistaken by the way, it’s actually not all the time, only most of it)).

The songs on White Light are outstanding, with maybe 2 or 3 exceptions, Tears Of Rage and 1975 are in my opinion rather mediocre songs and I much prefer the Byrds version of One In A Hundred to the one on here, I don’t like the background vocals towards the end on this one at all.

The album gets off to a flying start, setting the mood of the album perfectly, with The Virgin, Clark’s inherently melancholic voice and a number of acoustic and electric guitars on a bed of plucking away drums, and, crucially for setting the tone of the album, a number of harmonica solos, mixed far into the foreground of the mix, which is much to my taste. The lyrics on this track are evocative of that period of time and the environment in which it was written and recorded quite perfectly – it’s apparently about a girl embracing her new-found freedom in the late 1960’s to her fullest, whether the track has got a e darker underlying theme as well  I couldn’t say for sure. But it all sounds very romantic, to my 21st century ears at least.

Next track With Tomorrow is more reduced, with some slightly crooked and imperfect acoustic guitar that adds to the solemn mood of the composition. White Light is offering quite a different direction – a loose, more up-tempo Country-Rock tune, with the harmonica used to fine effect again, quite probably influenced by his work with The Dillard & Clark Expedition (which I still have to check out thoroughly, I only know the few songs from that period included on American Dreamer). One of my faves on here.  Because Of You is on here twice, I actually like the ‘alternate mix’ with its less polished lead vocals a little bit better.

Probably the best song in my opinion on White Light (battling it out with the title track) is For A Spanish Guitar, a gentle, melancholic and even slightly baroque ballad with a oh so lovely tune, in scope and lyrically it’s possibly the most refined composition on here. Where My Love Lies Asleep is another fine ballad.

The 5 bonus tracks on the expanded edition are of varying quality. Stand By Me, yes that one, is better than the version we all have heard thousands of times before, I always had a dislike for the voice of what’s-his-name, so this sounds a bit better to me, but I still have got problems listening to it. The next song Ship Of The Lord is very good though, I was very surprised to see that it is a Gene Clark song because the lyrics are so overtly religious. Musically it’s rather unfinished, with dry Rock’n’Roll guitar licks and a catchy tune – maybe that’s exactly the reason why I like it so much. Opening Day isn’t exceptionally good, but it’s not bad at all either. The last song Winter In is just that, the lyrics full of nature references, quite probably infused by the northern Californian landscape he escaped to after leaving The Byrds, and the allusion to winter is always welcome in my house.

As I said before, all people involved in the reissue of this gem of a Folk/Country-Rock album have done a splendid job, but most credit of course does belong to Gene Clark, who a lot of people consider to be the best of the Byrds songwriters (although I still vote for Bob Dylan even if he wasn’t in them), and his conspirators who recorded the original album.

Dan Bern : Drifter

D_Bern_Drifter_Cover

Dan Bern : Drifter (2012, DBHQ)

Drifter is the first Dan Bern album I bought since his 2002 album New American Language, don’t ask me why (I mean why I haven’t bought any of his other ones, not why I bought this one). New… is one of my favourite records and there probably will  be a review about it in another blog post at some point.

True to my blog’s motto of only posting about stuff I like a lot, I have to get Drifter’s sole weakness out of the way at the start so I can celebrate its brilliance further on: The sound could be a bit more transparent, it’s rather muddy and often it’s quite hard to make out the various instruments being played, which is a shame as the arrangements are rather good. I realise it is a low-key affair without a large record label providing any financial muscle, but still, I believe, a producer like Joe Henry could have made this album even better than it already is.

But, now to the things to be admired about the album. First of all, and of course the most important thing in music: the songs – which are excellent, with only maybe one exception (‚Carried Away’ I just can’t warm to its Bar room Rock at all – but hey, 1 out of 15 isn’t bad, is it?). I also adore his intelligent lyrics covering a vast range of subjects and places, reflected in the song titles alone, songs about Luke The Drifter a Party By Myself, Raining in Madrid (the one in Spain), Haarlem (‚…not that one, the other one, the one with two a’s, the Dutch one…)‚ Capetown (the one in South Africa) and a Mexican Vacation.

By the time I first listened to the album starting with the first few chords and his expressive, slightly crooked and nasal voice (think Bob Dylan) on album opener Luke The Drifter, it became clear to me that this album will be a good one: A deftly strummed acoustic guitar and imaginative lyrics – maybe not quite in the Bob Dylan, John Prine league, but pretty damn near. 5 1/2 minutes of pure Folk-Rock bliss – at least to this listener’s ears.

Acoustic guitars aplenty, whether strummed or picked, accompanied by a wide variety of instruments such as banjo, trumpet, an autoharp, accordion, cello and a few more are what you can expect to hear used to fine effect on the album.

As I mentioned above, the lyrics are clearly one of Dan Bern’s strengths, take Party For Myself for example, the story of a lonesome dope fiend (,Six in the morning in my room at the Cecil Ninety Four Fifty a week stretches me out a little…’) holding on to his low-key desk job. Raining in Madrid is another fine example of is lyrical skills, not content with endlessly writing about the same old things, but rather being acutely of the now ‚… now that our economy is going to the dogs…’ (I wish he wouldn’t have name checked Rafael Nadal, though) – the music on Raining In Madrid is a lovely, stripped down, strummed acoustic guitar and accordion/background vocals, affair.

Capetown is probably my favourite of the 15 songs on the album. What sounds a bit like an Irish Folk-Punk song (it doesn’t really sound that Irish, maybe I just haven’t listened to too many Pogues songs in my life, if that were possible, that is), all raucous, uptempo and good-natured – a simple tune and a lot of fun (although I can’t help thinking he might regret using the term ‚…and I Googled people’) at some point in the future.

Another highpoint of the album, Mexican Vacation is nicely evoking the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s travels down this part of the world and imagining a world where Mexico and Canada are sharing a border (the USA is gone – imagine that for a moment, will you?) – it has to be described as epic – not in the tired old Post-Rock sense with the usual erupting guitars and such, it’s actually a jaunty, uptempo Country-Rock song, but the story told in the song is definitely epic. I knew from the moment I heard the first few lines ‚Three years before the surface of the earth was uninhabitable…’ that this was something special. The lyrics are dark and apocalyptic, with people holding slaves again, trains with flotation devices underneath their seats and the Atlantic having reached Indiana, and with about 6 minutes long the longest track on the album. Splendid.

There’s a few guest singers on the album I shouldn’t forget to mention, the most prominent of course being Emmylou Harris, she’s used in a melancholic evocation of a, what I take to be estranged, mother and son relationship – which is well thought through, given the age different between her and Dan Bern. The other guest singer is called Mike Viola (I wasn’t familiar with him before), he’s shring the vocals on a tune written by him, Dan Bern and one of my 80’s guitar pop heroes, Marshall Crenshaw – and the songs actually sounds a lot like Crenshaw’s best work on his 1989 album Good Evening.

The album closes with two rather short but gorgeous, folky acoustic songs Love Makes All The Other Worlds Go Round and These Living Dreams.

Fabulous stuff

Backroad Bound: An Introduction on Mixcloud

blog_header_03.jpg

This is the first post on my newly created blog – a mix I did showcasing some of the artists you can expect to be covered on here in the near future:

http://www.mixcloud.com/ThatContainerGuy/backroad-bound-an-introduction/

Tracklisting:

Moonshiner : Uncle Tupelo

Tom Ames’ Prayer :  Steve Earle

Daddy’s Little Pumpkin :  John Prine

Border Radio : The Blasters

Luke the Drifter : Dan Bern

Indianapolis : The Bottle Rockets

Her Eyes Dart Round : The Felice Brothers

Sault Sainte Marie : Joe Henry

Looking For Lewis & Clark : The Long Ryders

Arkansas Traveler : Michelle Shocked

Thanksgiving Waltz :  Molly Mason & Jay Ungar

Big Whiskers : Otis Gibbs

Down To The River : Dave Moore

Mickey Of Alphabet City : Rave-Ups

Throw Another Cap On The Fire : Sam Doores + Riley Downing & The Tumbleweeds

Breakfast In Hell : Slaid Cleaves

Bus Station : Dave Alvin

Looking at the World Through a Windshield : Son Volt

I Hear Them All : Old Crow Medicine Show

If The Brakeman Turns My Way : Bright Eyes

Gracefully Facedown : The Devil Makes Three

Round Here : Counting Crows

Barroom Girls : Gillian Welch

American Hearts : AA Bondy