Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sid Selvidge: “The Cold Of The Morning” (1976/2014 re-issue) CD Review

Many folk albums of the mid-1970s feel overproduced to the point where they are closer to pop records than folk. One album that completely goes against that trend is Sid Selvidge’s absolutely excellent 1976 record, The Cold Of The Morning. It is basically just vocals and acoustic guitar on most tracks. There is even a song delivered a cappella, and some yodeling. There are a few originals, but mostly covers – though his takes on the covered material gives those songs an original feel. The Cold Of The Morning doesn’t feel like a 1970s album. I mean, it’s not dated at all. It speaks just as clearly now. It’s one of the best folk records I’ve heard, and it dips into blues and country as well.

The special re-issue contains six bonus tracks, which were previously unreleased. New long liner notes by Bob Mehr offer plenty of information and thoughts on this album.

“I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)”

Sid Selvidge has a fantastic voice, full of beauty, emotion, wisdom and experience. And that voice makes this rendition of “I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)” one of the best versions I’ve heard. “You know, I pawned my watch, and pawned my chain/I even tried to sell myself, but I got down so ashamed.” And then later he sings, “I’ve got a song to sing, not very long/I’m going to sing it right if it takes me all night long.” But no, it seems everything comes out exactly right on the first try. This record has a great off-the-cuff feel, like it was captured live. And in a way, it was. According to the liner notes, there were no overdubs.

“Frank’s Tune”

“Frank’s Tune” is one of the songs that Sid Selvidge wrote, and it’s one of my favorites on this record. It has such a sweet and gentle feel to it (and also a sadness). In some ways it feels like a traditional folk song. But then it surprises you. I really love the guitar on this track.

“The Outlaw”

“The Outlaw” is another original song that tackles a traditional folk subject. “There’s a smile on her face for the outlaw/Although their love can never be/Though his heart belongs to no other/The outlaw must always be free.” This track even includes some impressive yodeling. It has a wonderful, traditional feel, but then asserts itself as more modern with the mention of a helicopter.

Traditional Tunes

Sid Selvidge does tackle some traditional material on this album, delivering an excellent a cappella rendition of “Boll Weevil.” His voice is so strong, so appealing that he needs no other instrument to completely captivate the listener.

He also does “Danny Boy.” I’ve certainly heard more heartbreaking versions of this song. The guitar playing is light and nearly joyful. Sid’s voice, however, is beautiful and completely effective.

Mud Boy And The Neutrons

As I said, most of these tracks are just Sid on vocals and acoustic guitar. There are a couple of exceptions, which feature Mud Boy And The Neutrons. The first exception is “Wished I Had A Dime,” which is an original song. And like the rest of the tracks, this is not over-produced. Far from it. In fact, it has a very loose, immediate feel. Joining Sid on this track are Lee Baker on guitar, Jim Crosthwait on washboard, Jim Dickinson on piano and Jim Lancaster on tuba. Sid is clearly having some fun with this one.

There is an alternate take of “Wished I Had A Dime” in the bonus tracks, with some studio banter at the beginning. “Want to try another one? The tuba seems to have a stronger presence on this take.

The other exception is “I Get The Blues When It Rains,” which also features Mud Boy And The Neutrons. This too has a great loose vibe. Sid’s vocals take on an old-time feel, like it’s sung in an old dance hall. This is a wonderful track.

Lee Baker also plays on the haunting, bluesy “Lazrus.”

“Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life”

Why is it always funny when a folk singer expresses a desire for riches? There is something inherently funny about that. “Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life” opens with the line, “All I want is fifty million dollars.” He’s not asking for much. “And if Tuesday Weld would only be my wife/If I could only stay sixteen forever.” Then at the end of the song, Sid changes it to: “And if Raquel Welch would only be my wife/If I could only stay sixteen forever/Then I know that I’d be satisfied with life.” This song was written by George M. Cohan (the original lyric was “only had an heiress for a wife”), and was also recorded by Tiny Tim (who added the “Tuesday Weld” line).

“Miss The Mississippi And You”

Sid Selvidge turns more country in his wonderful, delightful cover of “Miss The Mississippi And You.” That voice of his is so strong, so expressive, so capable of making itself right at home in various musical genres. This is a song that has been done by Jimmie Rodgers, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, Crystal Gale, Rosanne Cash, Steve Forbert, Merle Haggard, and Doc & Merle Watson (among others).

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue includes six bonus tracks, which were previously unreleased. These bonus tracks include a Furry Lewis song, “East St. Louis Blues,” a really nice acoustic blues track. The main album includes the Furry Lewis song “Judge Boushé,” which is also an excellent acoustic blues tune with lines like “Arrested me for murder, I never hung a man/Arrested me for forgery, can’t even sign my name.” The bonus tracks include another strange and cool blues tune titled “Keep It Clean,” a song written by Charley Jordan.

There is some joyful, masterful guitar-playing on “Wild About My Lovin'.” There is great energy in the vocals as well. But perhaps my favorite of the bonus tracks is his version of “Atomic Power.” I’ve always appreciated this song. There is something both amusing and frightening about it. It was originally recorded in 1946 by The Buchanan Brothers. “Hiroshima, Nagasaki paid a great price for their sins/When scorched from the face of earth their battle could not win/But on that day of judgment when comes a greater power/We will not know the minute and we will not know the hour.”

The CD concludes with a wonderfully playful rendition of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”

CD Track List

  1. I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)
  2. Frank’s Tune
  3. The Outlaw
  4. Boll Weevil
  5. Wished I Had A Dime
  6. Judge Boushé
  7. Then I’d Be Satisfied With Life
  8. Danny Boy
  9. Lazrus
  10. Many A Mile
  11. I Get The Blues When It Rains
  12. Miss The Mississippi And You
  13. East St. Louis Blues
  14. Wild About My Lovin’
  15. Keep It Clean
  16. Atomic Power
  17. Wished I Had A Dime (Alternate Take)
  18. Ain’t Nobody’s Business

This special re-issue of The Cold Of The Morning was released on March 11, 2014 through Omnivore Recordings.

No comments:

Post a Comment