Category Archives: Blues

Cat Power: Moon Pix

Cat Power: Moon Pix (1998)

Phil: A handful of winters ago I met up with an old roommate of mine at a Belgian beer bar for happy hour that happened to have half-off Belgian draughts from 4:30 to 6:30. So there we were, in the glow of yellow lights and green carpet, talking about those kids we hadn’t seen in forever, about ex-girlfriends and abandoned buildings and photographs, just getting pretty damn drunk. So I walk out of the bar, and stumble the few blocks to the bus station, trying to make sure I don’t miss the 500 because it’s pretty damn cold and I get to the bus stop and of course I miss the bus because I’ve been drinking and have completely lost track of time so I put on my headphones not remembering which damn album I left in my walkman and

there it was. I wrote about it then:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, Blues, Folk

Woodstock, 40 years later

woodstock

On the eve of the 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock festival, I thought it would be appropriate to post a few songs that were played there. I’m not posting the Woodstock recordings, but studio versions of the songs. I recently acquired the original 3-LP Woodstock soundtrack for a mere $3 from a Salvation Army store. I only have the Woodstock recordings on LP, and I’m too cheap/lazy to buy it on CD or download the songs again.

Arlo Guthrie – “Coming Into Los Angeles” from Running Down the Road [1969]

Arlo Guthrie singing about flying from London to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of drugs. Classic.

Canned Heat – “Going Up the Country” from Living the Blues [1968]

This song has sort of become the de facto Woodstock theme.  Here’s another Canned Heat song (which I don’t think was played at Woodstock) for good measure:

Whiskey and Wimmen” from Hooker n’ Heat [1971]

So, 40 years on, what’s the big deal about Woodstock? There have been countless music festivals since, and several have attracted more fans than Woodstock. Music festivals today are designed to generate as much money as possible for the organizers and other vendors hawking their wares at festival sites. To be sure, the Woodstock festival was originally intended as a moneymaking venture as well, but the sheer mass of people converging unexpectedly on the site rendered ticket collection impossible. Also, some rather enterprising individuals cut the fences down, allowing people to walk right in. This ultimately made Woodstock about the music, instead of the dollar. Attending a music festival today, one is never allowed to forget that they are seen by the festival organizers as nothing more than a consumer, and that is truly unfortunate.

Also, Woodstock was pretty much the zenith of the hippie subculture.  It was really all downhill from there.  I’m reminded of a quote from The Simpsons, wherein a couple of old hippies reminisce about their VW Bus:  “It was as if the Sixties ended the day we sold it, December 31st, 1969.”  Woodstock being in August was in a way the beginning of the end of the Sixties.

Let us not forget that none of this music would have been possible without the invention of one recently deceased Les Paul.

Posted by Adam

2 Comments

Filed under 1960s, Blues, Rock, Singer-Songwriter

Fishing at 3 a.m.

Henry Thomas – “Fishing Blues” (1928) from The Anthology of American Folk Music (1952)

I know that I posted this before, but last night I was awoken at 3:30 am by a neighbor blasting this song at full volume. Infuriating, but at least the guy’s got good taste. Please enjoy at any time that won’t piss your neighbors off.

More about the AAoFM

Taj Mahal performing “Fishing Blues”:

Posted by Glenn

1 Comment

Filed under 1920s, Acoustic, Americana, Blues, Folk, Traditional, Video

Anthology of American Folk Music, pt. 3 of 3: Songs

Does a body good.

Does a body good.

Welcome to the third and final installment of our humble series on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. For those of you who’ve missed the previous installments, please scroll down to our two previous posts.

Volume 3 of the Anthology, Songs, features blues and non-narrative songs, many mysterious in origin. The strangest and most otherworldly tunes are found on the Songs discs. More importantly, Songs is where Harry Smith’s skill as an editor and compiler is to be admired. Essentially, Smith was putting together a mixtape. So Dock Boggs’s cackling, bitter “Sugar Baby” is followed up by Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s sweet but inexplicable “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” — one kind of world-weariness matched up against another. Elsewhere, Uncle Dave Macon’s rollicking celebration of the Coal Creek Rebellion is followed up by Mississippi John Hurt’s mellow rejection of an oppressive job which itself leads into a jug band’s version of a railroad work song. That mixtape-quality is what gives the Anthology much of its mystique.

By the way, “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” is one of the classics. Listen to it here.

Buell Kazee – “East Virginia” (1927)

Buell Kazee, a Baptist minister from Kentucky, is responsible for many of my favorites on the Anthology. This song resembles a blues and features spare banjo and high-lonesome style of singing, similar to Clarence Ashley. “East Virgina” is the second track on the first Songs disc, following up Ashley’s “The Coo Coo Bird.” Note how these two songs work together to call forth an image of a mysterious mountain landscape, full of “dark hollers where the sun refuse to shine.”

Blind Lemon Jefferson – “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” (1928)

Texan and sometime-professional-wrestler Blind Lemon Jefferson was a nationally popular blues artist in the 1920s and an associate of Leadbelly who froze to death on the streets of Chicago. It’s not hard to tell why Jefferson garnered popularity when he did — his introspective singing is nuanced and his guitar playing has a seductive groove. This song is reportedly the last Jefferson recorded before his early and awful death. As such, he must be mentioned along with those artists we’ve examined in previous months whose early deaths give their music a romantic and possibily morbid allure. To that end, be sure to check Jefferson’s spine-chilling bell tolls at 2:30. They toll for thee.

Henry Thomas – “Fishing Blues” (1928)

SWR spiritual advisor Jeff Wheeler’s fave, Henry Thomas, contributes the perfect closing song to the Anthology. This tune will make you smile, grab your rod-and-reel, and head to the nearest fishin’ hole. In his notes, Harry Smith claims that “references to fishing, other than as sexual symbolism, are rare in American folk music.” At any rate, “Fishing Blues” is the perfect song to open your weekend with, and the perfect song to close this series with.

Buy the Anthology of American Folk Music

Posted by Glenn

4 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Acoustic, Americana, Blues, Folk, Traditional

Robert Johnson, the Rolling Stones, and burning out

King of the Delta Blues Singers

King of the Delta Blues Singers

Robert Johnson – “Love In Vain Blues” and “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” from The Complete Recordings (1990) [originally recorded 1936]

The Rolling Stones – “Love In Vain” from Let It Bleed (1969) and “Stop Breaking Down” from Exile On Main Street (1972)

Most serious fans of classic rock surely know the myth of Robert Johnson–another musician whose premature death seems to give his music the flavor of the unknown. I’ve returned to his music lately and I’m struck by the sheer tunefulness of his songs–something that the Rolling Stones recognized and capitalized on, as evidenced in these classic covers.

But the Robert Johnson originals are where the real power is. Imagine Keith Richards sitting around in late ’60s Swinging London, taking pills, wrapping himself up in frilly scarves, surrounding himself with beautiful plasticine women–and these cuts, off the King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 2, come on over the hi-fi. It must have been a shock to hear that kind of power–it’s still a shock today, and I would be willing to bet that these songs would retain their power and mystery if Johnson had lived to open for the likes of Blueshammer.

Here’s a fascinating article on Johnson’s myth, and the possible discovery of a new photograph of the King of the Delta Blues Singers. If you’re new to Robert Johnson, start there.

Buy Robert Johnson

Buy the Stones

Posted by Glenn

7 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1960s, 1970s, Acoustic, Americana, Blues, Folk, Rock, Roots rock