Monday, May 30, 2022
Hi, everyone. Today I’ve been enjoying All The Best…From 6 Feet Away: A Charlottesville Tribute To John Prine. In this video, I talk a bit about this excellent new release. And for those who are interested in obtaining a copy, I think this is the only site where it is available: John Prine Tribute Album.
Thursday, May 26, 2022
The album opens with an original number, “The Sound Of A Train,” a beautifully sad song in which Monica sings, “Your memory’s like the sound of a train/In the middle of the night.” That wonderful work on fiddle adds to that feel. It is interesting that Monica Taylor describes the person’s memory in vastly different ways, making us wonder if the memory is different for her at different times, and if so, just how accurate the memory is. For she also sings, “Your memory’s like the silence/Of the forest,” which is markedly different from the sound of a train. But the line that really gets to me is “But I’ll still think of you when I hear the word goodbye.” That’s a great line. And of course we can’t help but insert our own ideas of what has happened to this person. Monica Taylor follows that with the album’s first cover, John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind.” A lot of artists have recorded this song over the years. I think the first version I ever heard was the Glen Campbell recording, which is still one of the best. Here Monica Taylor delivers a sweet, friendly, pretty rendition, her voice supported by some lovely work on fiddle.
We then return to the original material with “Salty Tears.” A song about tears is a song for our times, isn’t it? What is nice is that the song picks up a bit a minute or so into it, and we travel with the vibe of the song, perhaps wiping away our own tears in that moment, for there is something uplifting about this song. It is a song that also deals with memory. “Now my mother, my father, and two sisters have left/This cold trail for good/But for me I must walk/For the ones who cannot/If I could flee, you know that I surely would.” Tanya Comingdeer provides some beautiful backing vocal work on this track. That’s followed by another original composition, “Rescues.” This song provides a good, and tough message for these days when there is so much hatred, so much division: “Give to an ear to the story, hard and true/From a friend or a foe that hates you/Give a heart to the one who beats you up/With words so cruel, no gentle touch/Give a hand, give a heart, because we’re all rescues.” This track includes some wonderful work on fiddle. The music turns more cheerful with a cover of “Down In Louisiana.” Monica Taylor adds some extra lyrics: “Well I got me a fella, he’s a Cajun man/He’s a real hot lover with a real good hand/Makes the best gumbo in Cajun land/Down in Louisiana.”
I still remember the first time I saw the movie Easy Rider. I was thirteen, and it definitely made an impact. Of course, a certain amount of its appeal was in the music chosen for the film. Everyone remembers “Born To Be Wild,” and probably “The Pusher” from that great opening sequence, but for me the best tunes were the folk songs, “Wasn’t Born To Follow” and “The Ballad Of Easy Rider.” On this album Monica Taylor gives us a pretty rendition of “The Ballad Of Easy Rider,” a song that isn’t covered all that often, and the track that initially got me excited about this release. “The river flows/Down to the sea/Wherever that river flows, that’s where I want to be.” There is some really nice work by John Williams on harmonica on this track. That’s followed by “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key,” here listed simply as “Minor Key.” It is a song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie, but with music written much later by Billy Bragg, and was originally included on the first Mermaid Avenue album put out by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Several other artists have covered it, including Ellis Paul and Terri Hendrix. This version by Monica Taylor is presented as a duet, with John Fullbright sharing lead vocals with Monica Taylor. It’s a really good rendition, featuring some nice work on accordion.
“When You Let Your Love Light Shine” was written by Bob Childers and Monica Taylor, and is a song about getting through the tough times, and has an optimistic bent. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Things get bent, things get broke/Things get tough, that ain’t no joke/Somehow it always fall back in line/When you let your love light shine.” It’s not always easy, but we have to remember to do that. Monica Taylor’s vocal approach here is sweet and gentle. That’s followed by “Just Came In To Say Goodbye,” written by Monica Taylor and Patrick Williams. This pretty country song features some nice work on pedal steel. Then “Train Take Me Away” has a brighter, more cheerful sound, and features some wonderful work on fiddle. There is always something appealing about riding a train, though I would not be happy if a train took me to any of the three states she mentions visiting in this song – Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas. Yikes. That would be a nightmare train for me. But it’s a good song, featuring some excellent work by Thomas Trapp on guitar. The album concludes with “The Ocoee Love Song,” which features some pretty work on mandolin. Shelby Eicher plays both fiddle and mandolin on this track, and Nathan Eicher is on upright bass. “If there’s anything to bring you back to the mountains/It’s the rivers, my love, and the springtime/So flow, my Ocoee, flow down through the Blue Ridge.”
CD Track List
- The Sound Of A Train
- Gentle On My Mind
- Salty Tears
- Down In Louisiana
- The Ballad Of Easy Rider
- Minor Key
- When You Let Your Love Light Shine
- Just Came In To Say Goodbye
- Train Take Me Away
- The Ocoee Love Song
Trains, Rivers & Trails is scheduled to be released on July 29, 2022 on Horton Records.
It sometimes feels like we are stuck in one ugly moment of time, with the ongoing pandemic and gun violence, and no one yet from the previous administration being put on trial. It’s like we are unable to move forward, and it’s frustrating beyond measure. I continue to be thankful for musicians and singers for making this moment palatable with the release of excellent music. Here are brief notes on some new jazz releases you might be interested in checking out.
“Autumn Leaves,” which features a great rhythm, some pretty work on keyboard and a strong lead on saxophone. Things then get lively with “Bright Days,” that EP’s title track, an original composition, which features some great stuff on drums, and is one of my personal favorites. The other standard on this EP is “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” which has a bright, cheerful vibe. The disc concludes with an original composition titled “Through And Through,” featuring a beautiful lead on keys and some moving work on sax. This album was released on April 8, 2022.
Monday, May 23, 2022
Jon Langford and Sally Timms were scheduled to go on at 2 p.m., and took the stage just before 2:15, which is as on time as you could possibly expect from two punk demigods. They opened the set with a beautiful cover of Alejandro Escovedo’s “Broken Bottle.” “That’s as good as it’s gonna get,” Jon told us afterward. Well, all right! Joining them for show were John Szymanski on guitar, and Martin Billheimer on harmonica. Jon introduced Martin as the “harmonica blues champion 1986-1987, unchallenged,” and added that he plays harmonica like Charles Bronson. Which led to his proposed storyline for Death Wish 16, and when that film is made it’s going to be brilliant. Well, they followed “Broken Bottle” with “1 2 3 4 Ever,” a tune with a great energy and a cool guitar hook. “Live for next week, live for last year.” Then Sally Timms sang lead on a cover of The Handsome Family’s “The Sad Milkman,” and everything was sounding so good. It was a beautiful afternoon for a backyard concert, and spirits were high among all of us who attended. Isn’t this what life is all about? Well, if not, it certainly should be.
“The Sad Milkman” is a song that Sally Timms included on her 1999 solo album, Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments… For Lost Buckaroos, and after they played it, she took a moment to mention that copies of that album were available on the merchandise table. A woman in the audience shouted out that she wanted to buy the specific copy that Sally was holding, and so she did. “Buy them for Christmas, give them to your friends,” Sally said. They then played “I Picked Up The Pieces,” a song that Jon and Sally wrote together, and a favorite of mine. During the song, Sally noticed a neighbor watching from across the face and said, “Remember us?” Because that special online show they did in January was performed on that stage as well. After the song, Sally said, “You were one of the only audience members the last time we were here.” Jon then mentioned the new Freakons album, which is full of mining songs, and from that they played “Abernant 84-85,” a song that was earlier included on The Mekons’ Fear And Whiskey album (where it is listed as “Abernant 1984/5”). I love this song. It was one they played the first time I saw The Mekons in 2016. They followed that with “Waltz,” first mentioning how it comes from The Curse Of The Mekons, an album that was “considered technically inferior” by the record label, as Jon told the crowd. He then added that he found a book on Paul’s shelf from 1983 that was also unkind to The Mekons, calling their work “rank amateurism.”
Jon announced they were going to do a fast one. Sally said there were a few fast ones on the set list, and then they’d go “back to the turgid, doom-laden rubbish that we’re known for.” I love that self-deprecating humor, but honestly cannot understand how anyone could do less than completely fall in love with this band. How are these guys not the most popular band in the known universe? Please explain that to me. Anyway, the song they played then was “Nashville Radio,” a totally fun one featuring some great stuff by John Szymanski on guitar. There was more excellent work on guitar on “Tom Jones Levitation,” which followed. Someone in the crowd responded, “Wow” at the end. Sally Timms agreed, “Wow indeed.” She then joked, “Five out of ten for effort, says Trouser Press.” They then delivered an excellent cover of John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind,” featuring some wonderful work on harmonica. Sally mentioned that song is included on her solo album available at the merchandise table. She was handed another copy of the disc to show the crowd, and she playfully rubbed it over herself, saying it’s “worth even more now, covered in my DNA; you could use it for a crime and then frame it on me.” Yes, there was a lot of laughter at this show. And yes, if you’re wondering, I bought that copy of the album. Not sure quite yet what sort of crimes I shall commit.
“Pill Sailor” was another of the set’s highlights, featuring strong vocal performances, excellent work on guitar, wonderful stuff on harmonica, and a bit of dancing from Jon at the end. Sally then delivered another strong and moving vocal performance on “Horses.” She then removed the kazoo from its little pouch attached to her microphone stand. “This is the moment you have been waiting for,” she acknowledged. “This might be a good time to use the bathroom,” Jon joked. And Sally took the joke to another level, saying “This will cause you to use the bathroom.” And they launched into “Hard To Be Human Again,” a crowd favorite, always fun, and featuring some delightful work on kazoo. Sally teased that the kazoo might work on the next song as well, but Jon, feigning alarm, told her no. And they went into “Sentimental Marching Song.” They then wrapped up the set with “Memphis, Egypt” (which was the song they opened with the first time I saw The Mekons). And as you might guess, the energy was high for this one. “Destroy your safe and happy lives before it is too late.” A fantastic song to conclude the set. But of course they weren’t quite done. They started the encore with a Waco Brothers song, “Plenty Tough-Union Made,” which was a request. Sally Timms took out the kazoo again for this one, and it was a lot of fun. They followed that with “Wild & Blue,” another wonderful song from The Curse Of The Mekons, featuring more work on kazoo. The show ended with a cover of Joe Strummer’s “X-Ray Style.” Can you imagine a better afternoon?
- Broken Bottle
- 1 2 3 4 Ever
- The Sad Milkman
- I Picked Up The Pieces
- Abernant 84-85
- Nashville Radio
- Tom Jones Levitation
- Seminole Wind
- Pill Sailor
- Hard To Be Human Again
- Sentimental Marching Song
- Memphis, Egypt
- Plenty Tough-Union Made
- Wild & Blue
- X-Ray Style
Here are a few photos from the show:
|"I Picked Up The Pieces"|
|"Hard To Be Human Again"|
|"Hard To Be Human Again"|
|"Hard To Be Human Again"|
Thursday, May 19, 2022
The album opens with its title track, “Something You Didn’t Count On,” an original number written by Theo MacMillan and Jaelee Roberts, featuring some wonderful vocal work. “It was something you didn’t count on from someplace you wouldn’t go/Falling in love with someone you didn’t know/It’s tearin’ down the walls between us, I can see you for who you are/It’s clear to me now the distance is not that far/It was something, something you didn’t count on.” Providing backing vocals on this track are Kelsi Harrigill and Paul Harrigill. And, as we have all come to expect from bluegrass music, there is some phenomenal playing on this track, particularly by Kristin Scott Benson on banjo. Things then get mellower with “Think Again,” which has a pretty vibe as it starts. This is a song about taking control of one’s life again, a song of leaving. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’ve got the gas pedal down, my mind made up, and the big green sign I’m passing/Says I’m 118 miles outside of Jackson/I’ve got the top laid back, the radio playing, and praying that the wind will clear my head/So I can think again.” Jaelee Roberts delivers a beautiful, moving vocal performance, one of the album’s best. She provides her own backing vocals on this one as well. This track also features some pretty work on fiddle. “Think Again” was written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Shane Stockton. That’s followed by a cover of “I Owe Him Everything,” a song written by Lyn Rowell and recorded by The Perrys. I am generally not a fan of this particular kind of Jesus music, but Jaelee Roberts delivers a passionate vocal performance, and the track features more lovely work on fiddle. Amanda Smith and Kenny Smith provide backing vocals.
Things then pick up again with “Sad Songs,” written by Chris Harris, Josh Matheny and Robbie Melton. It’s about how when you have a broken heart, all the songs you hear seem to express the same troubles, when maybe you’re looking for relief. “I’ve been living those lyrics for way too long/All I need is a happy melody and a reason to sing along/All I get are these sad songs.” Ah yes, but this song doesn’t have a sound that will bring us down. I especially love that mandolin. Amanda Smith and Kenny Smith provide backing vocals on this track. That’s followed by a cover of a gorgeous, sad song, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Jaelee Roberts delivers an excellent rendition. “Well, I’ve been afraid of changing/‘Cause I’ve built my life around you/But time makes you bolder, even children get older/And I’m getting older too.” Special guest Vince Gill joins her on vocals for this track, and their voices blend beautifully. That in turn is followed by “The Best Of Me,” written by Kelsi Harrigill. This is one of my personal favorites, in part because of that great instrumental section in the middle, featuring some wonderful work on guitar. But it also contains one of the strongest vocal performances here, with a good amount of attitude in the delivery. “The best of me ain’t yours for the taking/The best of me, to you it won’t come free/All the glitter and the gold won’t keep you warm out in the cold/You can beg and you can plead, but you won’t get the best of me.”
“November” was written by Theo MacMillan and Jaelee Roberts, and Theo MacMillan provides backing vocals on it. Their voices blend wonderfully, and this song has a somewhat hopeful vibe. Also, I love that fiddle. “November…I wish things turned out a little different/Cold winters up north won’t ever be the same/If I get on a plane and breathe that mountain air again/You can keep the rain, but I think I’ll take my heart.” That’s followed by another original song, “Lie To Me,” which was written by Jaelee Roberts, Jerry Salley and Kelli Kingery. I love these opening lines: “The rain is good for washing off the dust of yesterday/But it can’t wash away tomorrow’s pain.” Those fantastic opening lines work to pull us in. And check out these lines: “I promise someday I’ll let go of you/When I know I’m ready for the truth/But ‘til then, just hold me like you used to/Tell me that you’ll never leave, I’m the only one you’ll ever need/I’ll pretend my heart’s not breaking right in two.” Amanda Smith and Kenny Smith provide backing vocals. There is also a beautiful instrumental section in the middle of this track. This is another of my personal favorites. Then “Still Waters” is a pretty song written by Kelsi Harrigill, who provides backing vocals on it with Paul Harrigill. This track also features some wonderful work on fiddle.
“You Can’t Stop Me From Staying” is a fun one. It’s a song about a relationship that others view as less than ideal, and the advice she receives from them to leave the other person. But it’s really about holding on, about sticking through the tough times, a good message for these days. “You can’t stop me from staying/These hard times ain’t gonna get me down/Nothing in this world is gonna break me/You can count on my heart to stick around.” Plus, it features some great playing from all the musicians. I especially love that mandolin lead in the middle. This song was written by Jon Weisberger and Molly Tuttle. That’s followed by “The Beginning Was The End,” an original number that Jaelee Roberts wrote with Mallory Eagle. This one has a more serious sound, and features some nice work on guitar. Here she sings, “Months go by, and we both know this ain’t right/But you keep telling me that you’ll be better in time.” So clearly this song takes a different path from the previous track. “Part of me knew how our story went/Even before we started writing it.” The album concludes with a lively cover of Gram Parsons’ “Luxury Liner.” “You think I’m lonesome, so do I, so do I.” Ah, but the music tells us a different story; it is fun, full, warm, and moves at a good clip. And check out that work on guitar. Actually, the whole band is cooking on this one, and when it begins to fade out I want a little more.
CD Track List
- Something You Didn’t Count On
- Think Again
- I Owe Him Everything
- Sad Songs
- The Best Of Me
- Lie To Me
- Still Waters
- You Can’t Stop Me From Staying
- The Beginning Was The End
- Luxury Liner
Something You Didn’t Count On is scheduled to be released on May 20, 2022 through Mountain Home Music Company.
The disc opens with “Lost Inside,” which has a wonderful folk pop sound. “You thought you had me/You treated me badly/But so sadly/I was lost inside/I made excuses/But they were useless.” Yeah, it describes a rather harmful relationship, but does so with a bright, cheerful sound. And in the second half there is a cool instrumental section featuring some really nice work on guitar. It is during that instrumental section that a change occurs, for after that Suzanne Lavine sings, “Now I’m much smarter than before/Eyes wide open as I walk right through the door.” Yes, the future sounds bright, as she repeats, “I’m never going back” at the end. And indeed, the disc’s second song, “I’m So Lucky,” describes a much better relationship, opening with these lines: “I am so lucky to be with you/With you beside me, it’s all brand new/Right from the start/I knew in my heart/That you were the one for me.” See? Things do get better. It is on this track that Kelley Ryan joins Suzanne Lavine on vocals. You might know her from her own solo career. I am especially fond of her 2017 release, Telescope. This song has a totally sweet sound and vibe. It is a song to play for the love of your life.
It is from “Both Feet On The Ground” that the EP gets its title. Interestingly, it is in the line “Hoping everything’s alright,” which of course is quite a bit different from stating outright that everything’s all right. But there days, hoping feels the best we can do. This song has a great folk pop sound, featuring some excellent work on guitar and a cool bass line. A strong Byrds influence can be heard at certain points. “I can’t remember why/So we can walk away/And save what’s left of this rainy day.” The EP concludes with “Tired Of Feeling Bad,” which addresses a troublesome relationship. “I never understood why you would treat me this way/Sorry’s no good, there’s so much more you need to say.” I think folks can relate to being tired of feeling bad, for even those of us in loving relationships can apply this sentiment to realms outside of romantic relationships. I also like the hopeful vibe of this song. Listening to the way she delivers these lines, you know she’s going to be fine. And that feeling spreads to all of us listening.
CD Track List
- Lost Inside
- I’m So Lucky
- Both Feet On The Ground
- Tired Of Feeling Bad
Everything’s Alright was released on April 1, 2022.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
The album opens with “I Will Be Glad,” which begins with a steady, simple beat and some beautiful work on guitar setting the tone before Jess Jocoy’s voice comes in. Hers is a gorgeous voice that here is warm but with a touch of melancholy within, and there are moments when her voice soars, while still remaining grounded. Basically, it feels honest, real. “In the end when the sunshine turns to rust/And my body returns to the dust.” But it is these lines that I especially latch onto: “In the end when the wind is at our back/There’ll be no thought of what we lack/Only joy for days we’ve been given/There will be joy, there will be joy.” In addition, Lydia Luce provides some passionate work on strings. This is a beautiful opening number about loss and the strength of family. That’s followed by “The One I’m Living For.” This track eases in with some soft strumming on guitar, supporting Jess Jocoy’s vocals, which have an intimate quality at the start. There is something comforting in the connection she creates between herself and us, on this journey we are all on together. “It turns out I had been sleeping/Drifting like a ghost through my own dreams/Someone must have known what it was I was missing/‘Cause I woke up one day and you were there.”
From time to time I see something on the news about a town that is all but dead, its population having moved off, following jobs or dreams or who knows what. There is something inherently sad about these stories, and there are always a few people left behind to be interviewed about how everything has changed. I wonder about those last people, how long they’ll hold out, and how they’ll manage without support. In “Living In A Dying Town,” Jess Jocoy takes us into that situation, and we get the perspective of someone who remains, at least for now. “Found out I’m living in a dying down/It’s like watching the sun set on the long, long day/People that you grow up knowing, they ain’t around anymore/You come to find out time really does slip away.” And these lines will strike a chord with people, no matter where they live: “‘Cause everything’s changing/Yes, everything’s changing/Yes, everything keeps changing/And I’ve never been good with change.” The sound of this track is rather haunting, and her vocal performance is powerful, having an ethereal element, like the town itself slipping away. Yet you get the sense that the person in this song will manage somehow. Then “The Gardener” softly and gently pulls us in, featuring some wonderful work on strings. This one is a portrait of a lonely woman who is unable to have children. “I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy/Sometimes I catch myself talking to myself/When I’m out in the garden.” This track features nice work on mandolin.
“Jericho Walls” has a somewhat brighter sound from the start, with that work on violin, but with something sad beneath. And isn’t that how life feels? A little sadness in every smile, a little worry behind every joy, a little weariness in every step. Her voice captures that so well. “But I give up on love before it starts.” This song is about letting others inside, about taking down your defenses, and it leaves us with this thought: “‘Cause it won’t matter how many miles you run/If you don’t let yourself find that sweet someone.” Then “Let There Be No Despair,” the album’s title track, begins gently, easing in. Her voice is so gorgeous here, and she speaks for all of us as she asks, “How many ways can the world try and get you down?” Sometimes we need a good cry, a cry that actually keeps us from despair, and this song can certainly provide the place for such tears. Check out these lines: “Friends become strangers/No one says why/Your peace becomes anger/And your songs become scythes/You try to remember/All you forgot/But all you remember/Is all that you’ve lost.” And listen to that wonderful work on strings. Every song on this album is excellent, and yet this one still manages to stand out.
There is yet more beautiful work on strings at the beginning
of “Always.” “Take what I have and I promise to stand and deliver/Because loving you,
yeah darling, loving you/Is all that I want to do/Always.” Ah, so sweet. I
hope everyone experiences a love like this, for it makes all the difference.
Then when “Two Shoulders” begins, it feels like a ray of light entering, a
touch of warmth. There is something otherworldly, heavenly about it. Then the
strumming on guitar feels like an earthly response to that warmth. And soon
Jess Jocoy’s voice comes in: “How much
weight can two shoulders take/I’m tired, but not ready to sleep.” Isn’t that
a question many of us are asking? Life feels heavy these days. But her voice is
comforting and beautiful. And before the end, she concludes, “I guess I’ll find out just how much weight
two shoulders can really take.” That’s a way of urging us all to hold on
and do our best. We’ll see, eh? That song is followed by “Waiting To Exhale,” which
has a darker, intriguing sound at the beginning. The line “I’m
getting paid to tell you you’ll be all right” is so interesting, for it is
obviously quite different from actually assuring the person she’ll be all right.
This is a powerful song. The album concludes with “Common Kindness,” one I
think everyone will relate to. “Times are
hard enough as it is/Maybe one day we’ll find a way to let go and forgive.”
Maybe, maybe. I remain hopeful.
CD Track List
- I Will Be Glad
- The One I’m Living For
- Living In A Dying Town
- The Gardener
- Jericho Walls
- Let There Be No Despair
- Two Shoulders
- Waiting To Exhale
- Common Kindness
Let There Be No Despair is scheduled to be released on May 20, 2022. After really getting into this album, I want to pick up copies of her earlier releases (the other full-length album and a couple of EPs).
Monday, May 16, 2022
The album opens with its title track, “I Mean To Shine,” one of the tracks written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The year after this track was recorded, Barbra Steisand released her own version on Barbra Joan Streisand, with Donald Fagen playing on that recording as well. It should come as no surprise that Linda Hoover’s version is much better. I prefer her vocal work, and I love the brass. “This day I realized/The time we shared is gone/New seasons come and change/The ground we stood upon.” That’s followed by “Turn My Friend Away,” a pretty song that has a more stripped down sound, her voice at first supported by acoustic guitar. It then builds from there, but maintains that soft, gentle base. I love the way her voice rises at certain moments.
“Roaring Of The Lamb” is a song that will be familiar to Steely Dan fans, for it turned up on some compilations of early material. This is an excellent rendition, featuring some nice work on strings. “And the roaring of the lamb/Then revealed its awesome powers/And the minutes turned to hours/No one's the same.” That’s followed by “Roll Back The Meaning,” a song that Fagen and Becker had recorded for the soundtrack to You’ve Got To Walk It Like You Talk It Or You’ll Lose That Beat. Linda Hoover’s rendition has a good country vibe, and features some nice work on electric guitar and a catchy bass line. She delivers a strong vocal performance here, and provides her own harmonies. Also, check out that work on drums toward the end. This, for me, is one of the disc’s highlights.
Then we get the first of three songs written by Linda Hoover. Titled “Autumn,” this track features an excellent vocal performance, and is another of my personal favorites. It has more of a folk vibe, and features some wonderful guitar work by Eric Weissberg. “Then your head on my knees/Your sleepy eyes will remind me too/Of my love for you/In autumn.” Then she gives us “Jones,” another song that was composed by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. This one was also recorded by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, who included it on his 1974 record First Grade. Linda Hoover delivers a sweet rendition. “Now the only words I hear/Say my dreams will disappear/Or turn to clay/And either way/The days of alms have passed/There’s no more rainbows to be had.” Then Linda Hoover gives us “In A Station,” a song written by Richard Manuel, and included on The Band’s debut LP, Music From Big Pink. Linda Hoover’s rendition is fairly faithful to the original and features a pretty vocal performance. “Isn’t everybody dreaming/Then the voice I hear is real/Out of all the idle scheming/Can’t we have something to feel?”
The second of the album’s songs written by Linda Hoover is “Mama Tears,” one of the album’s most moving tracks. “Mama, I‘m sorry/For your sorrow/I know you cry/I hear you now and then.” Her powerful, passionate vocal performance is what really sells this song, but she is also clearly a talented songwriter. That’s followed by “City Mug,” which has a cheerful, light energy and features some good work on guitar. It has a different vibe from the rest of the album’s tracks, but it’s enjoyable. Linda Hoover then puts her own spin on “4 + 20,” a song written by Stephen Stills, and included on the CSNY album Déjà Vu. This has a somewhat lighter vibe than the original, not as somber, filling out the sound. I particularly like the work on keys. There are also horns. But for that powerful last line, most of the instruments disappear to give it more focus. The album concludes with its final Linda Hoover composition, “The Dove,” this one in the folk realm and featuring a beautiful vocal performance.
CD Track List
- I Mean To Shine
- Turn My Friend Away
- Roaring Of The Lamb
- Roll Back The Meaning
- In A Station
- Mama Tears
- City Mug
- 4 + 20
- The Dove
I Mean To Shine is scheduled to be released on CD on June 24, 2022 through Omnivore Recordings. There will also be a special vinyl release on June 18th, as part of the year’s second Record Store Day.
Saturday, May 14, 2022
The album opens with “Daybreak.” When this track begins, it has a sense of magic about it, of possibilities. A sense of hope streaming in with the light. Ah, if daybreak always sounded like that, we’d all be thrilled to start each day. The piece then settles a bit, feeling more relaxed. It is like those extraordinary mornings when you are able to stay in bed even after the light has begun coming through the window, when you’re awake, but easing into the day, when time doesn’t intrude, when you can continue to cuddle with your partner. This is a pretty track, and a wonderful start to this album, for it puts us in a better frame of mind, a better place. “Daybreak” is followed by “Morning Mist,” which has a more curious opening, like tentative steps into a perhaps delicate or uncertain land. Ripples spread out from each step, the echoes of movement coming back to us. Then in contrast to that piece, “A Knight’s Tale” begins with a fuller sound, with warmer, stronger tones. And as it progresses, there are moments of a youthful cheer or excitement.
“Along The Creek” has a sense of solitude as it starts, but then we feel nature begin to surround us, for the music grows in power, while still remaining a rather solitary experience. It then eases out at the end. This is a short piece, just under two minutes in length. It is followed by “Café Mozart,” named after an actual coffee house that has existed in Vienna for an exceptionally long time. There is a sense of ease here, of being relaxed amid beauty. But there is also a sense of activity happening around, activity we can watch without getting caught up in it. As the piece slows toward the end, it feels like we are slowing, aging, remaining in place, but smiling as the world fades from our view. There is a warm, peaceful feel to “Harmonic Stroll,” which follows it, and as this track continues, there is joy and feeling of ability, of movement. It then grows calmer again toward the end, the movement slowing. Then “Cibelle’s Lullaby” has a somewhat solemn tone as it begins. There is a beauty here, and it does get lighter, but I can’t shake a feeling of something lost beneath it.
“Doom And Gloom” is a perfect title for these troubled times, when there are mass shootings every day, and when nuts on the right are turning more gleefully authoritarian. And yes, this piece does have a darker vibe. There is a sense of being on the edge. But it is a very short piece, so that feeling does not last. The mood certainly changes with the next track, titled “O Great Love.” There is a sense of almost being awed by beauty, of trying to take it all in and express it, getting pieces at a time. It feels a spiritual thing. Then “Fall Days” has warm tones of golds and reds, as we walk and take in the wonder of the day. Then we feel that the warmth is coming from within, not without, and in fact there might even be a bit of a chill in the air. But as long as we’re together, that sense of warmth, of peace will continue. This is one of my personal favorites.
“An Afternoon In Vienna” begins tentatively, its sound lonesome but gentle. It soon grows into something more welcoming and beautiful. There is motion around, but not a rush, not a frenzy, and we remain calm within the pulse of the city. This track then settles toward the end. It is followed by “Dulcimer,” which startles us with its different sound. This is a short piece, less than two minutes, and is followed by another short track, “Silent Lament,” which has a mournful, pensive vibe. Then “Renaissance Romance” is an interesting piece that begins slowly and then nearly halfway through becomes more insistent, more intense before easing back again. That’s followed by “Merry Gathering Before Walking Home,” which has warmth and passion. The album concludes with a piece titled “Rejoicing,” its sound being exactly what you’d hope for. This is a track to raise our spirits, to leave us in a happier, though still thoughtful, state.
CD Track List
- Morning Mist
- A Knight’s Tale
- Along The Creek
- Café Mozart
- Harmonic Stroll
- Cibelle’s Lullaby
- Doom And Gloom
- O Great Love
- Fall Days
- An Afternoon In Vienna
- Silent Lament
- Renaissance Romance
- Merry Gathering Before Walking Home
The Vienna Sessions was released on February 4, 2022 on Challenge Records.
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
It begins with the first set opener, “U.S. Blues.” Always a fun number, this song, and this just happens to be the first time the band played it. In 1973, an earlier version of this song, titled “Wave That Flag,” was introduced. That had different lyrics. The energy here is absolutely fantastic. “Call this song those U.S. Blues,” Jerry Garcia sings here. The sound gets weird right at the end, like most of the instruments suddenly become low in the mix, but this is such a good version anyway. The band introduced two other songs at this show, and those are included on this disc as well. But up next is a pretty good version of “Brown-Eyed Women,” which was the third song of the night. Nothing outstanding, but a fairly solid rendition. We then get the second new song of the show, “It Must Have Been The Roses.” Interestingly, this song is a little faster than later versions, but is still pretty. This song would find its way onto the Jerry Garcia solo album Reflections. At the show, “Roses” was followed by “Black-Throated Wind,” and so it is on this disc too. This is a seriously strong version, with Bob Weir really digging into it vocally. That’s followed by “Loose Lucy.” I love early versions of “Loose Lucy,” with the “Woo!” and Donna Jean Godchaux echoing “Round and round, round and round.” This was always a cool tune, but in 1973 and 1974 it was particularly delicious, and this is a groovy rendition, a highlight of the disc. A real good time, indeed!
The disc then goes to the final song of the first set, “Playing In The Band.” And as you might guess, this is another highlight. The energy is high right from its start, and even if you hadn’t glanced at the length of the track on the CD case, you’d probably guess this one was going to be a good ride. Jerry’s guitar is flying off into the upper reaches of the atmosphere as soon as the jam begins, while the rhythm keeps cooking beneath. And we are right with the band, eager to travel wherever the music might take us. After a while the guitar begins poking holes in the dark sky, and moves into “Slipknot!” territory, though that tune, as its own thing, was still more than a year in the future. By this point, the entire cosmos is swinging, galaxies and gods brought under the sway of this band’s energy and curiosity. This is what it’s all about. This is why we went as often as we could, and why we still listen. Things calm down a bit at one point, to focus on the beacon the band has lit, its message traveling into other realms, and being heard by whatever sentient creatures might reside there, and we get the sense they’re being pulled toward us. Or, rather, they and we are being pulled toward some center, and at that moment the center takes on a familiar form, as the band returns to the main thrust of the song. Donna welcomes all with that shout. Ah, the triumphant joy, when we find we’re all back together. Fantastic.
From there, the disc moves us to the middle of the second set for “Ship Of Fools,” also a new song at the time. This is the band’s first live performance of the song. It would, later in the year, be included on From The Mars Hotel. “And all that could not sink or swim/Was just left there to float.” This is a good, passionate version. That’s followed by “China Cat Sunflower,” which the audience reacts to the moment the band starts it. This is an excellent version of “China Cat,” particularly Jerry’s guitar, which seems to flow and fly and know just where to go. There is a good amount of joyful jamming before the band segues into “I Know You Rider.” And “Rider” is everything we want it to be. The disc then takes us to the show’s encore, “Uncle John’s Band.” It’s a cheerful rendition, a song to keep us smiling even after the music ends.
CD Track List
- U.S. Blues
- Brown-Eyed Women
- It Must Have Been The Roses
- Black-Throated Wind
- Loose Lucy
- Playing In The Band
- Ship Of Fools
- China Cat Sunflower >
- I Know You Rider
- Uncle John’s Band
Dave’s Picks 2022 Bonus Disc was released in early May. My copy arrived on May 5, 2022.
Monday, May 9, 2022
The first disc contains the complete first set. The band kicks things off with Chuck Berry’s “Around And Around,” a song generally used as a set closer. It’s like they wanted to set everything into high gear immediately. Sure, the song might be just a bit messy at moments, but no worries, the band is only getting started. And just listen to Bob Weir tearing into those vocals near the end. They follow that with “Dire Wolf.” For the first couple of lines, Jerry Garcia’s voice is a bit low in the mix, but that is soon fixed. This version feels just a little show, but is still quite good. Bob then delivers a sweet rendition of “Me And Bobby McGee.” His vocal microphone seems to be having some trouble, but Jerry’s guitar sounds great. There are some odd vocal issues at the beginning of “Sugaree” too, but this song is where things start getting really good. Phil Lesh’s bass has a dominant presence at moments, and he is delivering some excellent stuff. I love how this version suddenly gets mellow, only so it has more room to build again, which it soon does. Oh yes, the magic is starting to happen.
Bob then leads the band into a peppy, popping rendition of “Mexicali Blues,” with some surprising touches on guitar. Everything is working now, and the band is cooking along. Who would expect “Mexicali” to be a first set highlight? But it is. And it’s followed by another fantastic performance, “Here Comes Sunshine.” The Dead stopped playing this song after this show, and wouldn’t play it again for more than eighteen years. Listening to this version, you have to wonder why. Did they think they couldn’t top it after this night’s performance and decided to just let it rest? Maybe, because everything is flowing so well here. That jam is excellent, showing this song’s great potential. If this isn’t the band’s best performance of this song, it is certainly among the top two or three.
Bob Weir gets things rocking with a fun version of “Beat It On Down The Line.” Is that eleven or twelve beats at the beginning? This is such a joyous rendition. And then listen to Jerry’s beautiful vocal delivery at the beginning of “Ship Of Fools.” His vocal performance helps to make this yet another highlight of the first set. It is a passionate and wonderful rendition. That’s followed by “Jack Straw,” a song that would often come at or near the beginning of the set. This is a largely gentle, pretty version. A fun “Deal” follows, featuring some nice work on keys. And then Bobby delivers the second Chuck Berry song of the set, an energetic “Promised Land.” You might think things would end there, but they go straight into “Bertha,” keeping the energy high. But even that isn’t the end of the set. From there, they go straight into “Greatest Story Ever Told,” and that song ends up being the set closer. Donna Jean Godchaux really cuts loose toward the end there, and there is a lot of good work on guitar. A pretty damn good first set.
The second disc contains the first half of the second set, plus the last two songs of the encore (yeah, a three-song encore that night). While they wrapped up the first set with several high-energy songs, they actually open the second set in a mellow place, beginning with “Row Jimmy.” “Gonna get there, I don’t know/Seems a common way to go.” Bob keeps things in a mellow mood as he eases into “Weather Report Suite.” By the time I was seeing the Dead, the band had dropped the first two parts of this piece, and was only performing “Let It Grow.” It’s so good to hear the entire thing here, especially that pretty instrumental “Prelude.” This is a really good rendition, and the “Let It Grow” section becomes powerful at just the right moments, and includes a strong jam, the guitar flowing like a jazzy rain aiming to refresh whatever it lands on. The band has reached that magical level where they seem most at home, and everything is moving at a good pace, dancing across the terrain. This track is certainly a highlight of the second disc, and it eases into one of my favorite songs, “Stella Blue.” “In the end, there’s just a song.” Ah yes, and the Dead can take us right up to that moment, give us a glimpse of the end and make us smile at it, and make it smile at us, so later, perhaps, we won’t be afraid, we’ll be ready. “There’s nothing you can hold for very long.” It ends gently.
After a pause, Bob gets things moving with a cover of “Big River.” I love when Keith Godchaux rocks that piano. They follow that with a good version of “Ramble On Rose” that finds Jerry in high spirits, particularly vocally. Then Bob leads the group into “Me And My Uncle.” We hear a bit of the beginning of “He’s Gone,” just a tease to let folks know the order of things. That soon fades out. Then the last two songs of the second disc are the final two songs of the night, beginning with “Johnny B. Goode.” Three Chuck Berry songs in one night? You Bet! And this version has a tremendous amount of energy. This disc concludes with “And We Bid You Goodnight.” A sweet ending to a great show.
The third disc contains the rest of the second set and the first song of the encore. It picks up with “He’s Gone,” and as you might guess, this is where things really start to take off. “Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.” The jam has an easygoing vibe and still totally shines, leading to “Going where the wind don’t blow so strange.” Ah, where is that place? For we’d all like to go there right about now. But it is that vocal jam that really stands out. Fantastic stuff. They then get into something that starts to get bluesy, but then explodes into “Truckin’.” And that groove carries us pretty far, up over the hills, through the mountains, with hardly a moment to reflect on what’s transpired. And I love that moment when it bursts up through the trees and clouds and light itself, cutting a path to another realm. And once there, it’s time to explore, of course. Moments into that, Bill Kreutzmann creates a path of his own on drums, giving ethereal spirits a corporeal form with which to dance. And suddenly “The Other One” winds its way up through the ground and smashes through, fire igniting in the cracks, and all those seeking its warmth engage in a tribal dance, man and monster and even myth, all coming to life, spinning, swirling, morphing into different versions of each other, and then relaxing, perhaps even sinking. But just before we slip beneath the surface ourselves, the music snatches our hand, pulls us up for the next step or phase, which soon turns out to be a more delicate place. Our steps our tentative, but then it is like we are not stepping at all. Instead, things are moving around us, patches of light, flying reptiles, mouths full of teeth, a sharp breeze. Phil’s bass comes barreling upon us, a force that pushes its way in, then pauses, as if to see where it’s drive has gotten it. And what pretty thing creeps in on the air? And are there hints of “Slipknot!” contained in this jam, or has my imagination taken over part of this experience? No matter, for things have moved back to the main body of the song, a great pounding creature of impressive dimensions. And once it is all there, we get the first verse of the song.
Soon after that, the song drifts off, and “Eyes Of The World” emerges, with that groove that always makes me happy. This song feels like a vast field of electric flowers and warm light from a bright blue sky. A song to make us feel good, with a groove to get us dancing. The song itself seems to dance. And this is 1974, so “Eyes” has that extra section toward the end of the jam. After a moment, the band launches into “One More Saturday Night” to conclude the set. It was Saturday, after all. It’s an energetic rendition. The third disc ends with the first song of the encore, a good version of “Casey Jones” that begins in a rather relaxed fashion, but builds and builds in energy toward the end.
CD Track List
- Around And Around
- Dire Wolf
- Me And Bobby McGee
- Mexicali Blues
- Here Comes Sunshine
- Beat It On Down The Line
- Ship Of Fools
- Jack Straw
- Promised Land >
- Bertha >
- Greatest Story Ever Told
- Row Jimmy
- Weather Report Suite >
- Stella Blue
- Big River
- Ramble On Rose
- Me And My Uncle
- Johnny B. Goode >
- And We Bid Goodnight
- He’s Gone >
- Truckin’ >
- Drums >
- The Other One >
- Eyes Of The World
- One More Saturday Night
- Casey Jones
Dave’s Picks Volume 42 was released in early May. My copy arrived on May 5, 2022. This release is limited to 25,000 copies. My copy is number 928.