Loretta Lynn and Friends/Lucinda Williams
Working the Drawl
Loretta Lynn and Friends: Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn (Columbia)
Two historic performances, Carrie Underwood's cornpone-deluxe "You're Lookin' at Country" and a Lambert-Crow-Lynn trifecta taking the title song home, counterbalance cocky ones by the matched pair Jack White and Kid Rock. Both are guys, as you may have noticed, so let me note that Alan Jackson and Steve Earle distinguish themselves as the duet partners they're proud to be. This isn't just a women's record, it's a sisterhood record‑-not even the ever more stylized Lucinda Williams tries to upstage the artist who did more than Kitty Wells herself to make all these gals' artistic lives possible. Lynn still owns the songs, but she's pleased as pie to lend them out, and they come back to her lovingly countrified even when the borrower is Hayley Williams, of Paramore and Franklin, Tennessee, who acts naturally over an acoustic guitar and should give Jack White lessons. A MINUS
Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Lost Highway)
Maddening. Songwise it's a comeback‑-seven-eight repeaters compared to Little Honey's five, which I just went back and counted because they were so indelible I thought there must be more. Unfortunately, there aren't. Then again, indelible these aren't‑-too mushy around the edges. Williams has always worked her drawl, but here the extended vowels and slurred consonants tempt one to suspect she's afraid "We were blessed by the watchmaker/Who gave up his time" won't stand up straight next to "We were blessed by the wounded man/Who felt no pain." Unfortunately, it won't, and similar shortfalls cripple "Soldier Song" just before. What makes me half believe I'll want to hear this album again is the drawn-out religious rumination "Awakening," where vagueness signifies, and every solo Val McCallum gets. Atmospheric. Play loud anyway, so it won't be. B PLUS
Michael: Sorry to listen in on what may have been intended as a private message, but I really feel what you’ve been going through. My aunt had a major stroke over the last weekend, and while her prognosis is somewhat sunnier than that of your uncle—some memory loss and rather severe vertigo seem to be the worst of it—at her age that’s provisional (apparently surgery would be called for but she’s too old for that to be practical). What tears me up is that my mother is having to take care of most of the details. I wish I could be of more help to her.
I’m glad that the music gave you some temporary respite, and I think Patterson and Cooley and Shonna would be glad to know that too. More than most musicians they seem to understand how life and work and struggle and pain touch the heart.
Anyway, stay as chipper as you can, friend. Give your wife a few extra hugs.
Man, I've had the worst fiching week. My uncle had a heart attack last week, and has been in a coma, hooked up to life support ever since. There is no activity in his brain save for the reflex actions controlled by the hypothalamus. Other than that, there's no him.
Then there's the piddly stuff. My job promoted someone over me, which has me irate, especially since my boss is treating it like it's the greatest idea in the world, asking for my approval. My wife's out of town, in Pittsburgh. She's coming home tonight.
Anyway, this is the state of mind I had when approaching Go Go Boots last night -- that is to say, even without alcohol in my system, I was ready for some lights out, if you know what I mean.
Interestingly, you zoomed in on two of my Achilles Heels in terms of my musical critical thinking skills: not having any preconceptions of the band/record (so hard when the band feels so close to you) and not paying so much attention to the lyrics (I take it you must have read me somewhere). As a side note, I heard a Joe Tex song by chance the other day -- "Hold on To What You've Got." Ever heard that one? Great song. Anyway, it made me realize what these guys are up to this time around: a country soul record. I don't know why it never hit me before. I can be slow sometimes.
Originally, I balked at the first song, mostly because two key changes in a song always feels like a forced climax to me (like Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You"). Now I was thinking about how that song made me feel -- sad, really. I don't really have any memories like that about my uncle, not like my younger brother does. I've always been sort of the loner of the family -- an outgoing loner, if that makes any sense. But I found myself inside the song, to where Hood was, and when the key changes hit, I felt lifted every time -- just the way he intended it.
The title song didn't do anything for me first time. This time, when the drums stumbled in, I was reminded off the dry, compressed sound of "Yer Blues." Brutal. So it made me pay attention, and boy did every word cut. Then Shonna sang her song, and I was amazed how natural she sounded, especially in contrast to the Lucinda Williams tics everyone keeps bringing up. "Don't let your diabetes get you." Very nice. And then the Mike Cooley song I didn't notice the first time made me laugh. For no reason -- it just seemed warm and snide and knowing, all at the same time, and it made me feel good.
Needless to say, I was so amazed by what I was hearing -- every song coming into place. The masterful story songs were even more riveting as a result. I even liked the covers that I once thought were lame.
So there you have it. Aside from helping me hear something differently, I want to thank you, from one listener to another, for making me feel better this weekend, albeit indirectly. Mercy buckets, brother.
Having dodged all the concert talk for the entirety of this thread until a few posts ago, I figure I might as well put on my top 10 shows of all time while this comments section is still alive & sputtering:
1. Rhett Miller (’09) & the Old 97s (’07) – just the best rock shows I’d ever seen, period.
2. ACL (’08) – much hit and miss, but eternally memorable for two experiences: heard Vampire Weekend performed in its entirety (also “White Sky”, my first favorite from Contra) by the band after which it was named, and, far more importantly, heard Gogol Bordello for the very first time ever (not realizing I’d seen Eugene Hutz three years earlier in the lame-as/s Everything is Illuminated movie). I felt possessed.
3. Billy Joel (’99 or ’00) – at the peak of my obsession with my very first favorite rock artist (!), we scored nosebleed seats for this tour, my second concert. Shortly before the show started, we were approached by a guy (named “Joel” so my new theory is that he was a spiritual being of some kind), who told us Billy liked to pick out families in cheap seats and upgrade them to the first two rows. So I got to see Billy Joel from the first two rows. Would’ve touched him, too, but a bunch of teen girls got in the way (one of whom drunkenly called me “the coolest kid I know”; devastatingly, no tryst resulted).
4. The Magnetic Fields (’08) – went with my best friend and former five-year songwriting partner, who shortly thereafter got with a girl I was having an affair with and moved to L.A., and still refuses to talk to me. Shirley was there and they played “Give Me Back My Dreams” the moment I felt like it was high time to bring it up as a request.
5. Glenn Tillbrook (’01) – see earlier description
6. Brian Wilson & his band (’04) – touring SMiLE, performed in its entirety; all the hits got played and he was in good spirits, even as he was still limited to the corner of his mouth. Closed with a very pretty, very down-to-earth and affecting “Love and Mercy”.
7. The New Pornographers (’10) – only show I’ve ever been to alone, and I’m sure I alienated everybody with my frenetic bopping. Nearly didn’t make it and managed to arrive seconds before they came on. Whole band was in rare presence, so it didn’t matter that Neko was way off on “Letter from an Occupant”. Dan Bejar was everything I wanted him to be that night, everything he isn’t on his albums – cool, communicative, and with a clear sense of humor about himself even as he did his notorious stage-leaving shtick. As they closed with “Testament to Youth in Verse” he took one last swig of beer, turned his back to the audience and did this bizarre bop I’ll never forget.
8. Nick Lowe (’08) – cons: solo acoustic, showing major signs of age, opener was Ron Sexsmith. Pros: terrific voice featuring appropriate creaks, graceful & supremely witty (our host/hero’s apt At My Age pan notwithstanding), played every pick hit. A delight.
9. Bishop Allen (’07) – early in the stages of my second time being with my one true high school love, whom I’ve been with since our reunion. I never saw a note of this show; we spent the whole time outside talking, then went back to my house early to watch What’s Up, Doc? & share a six of IBC cream soda. The loveliest time of my life, so far.
10. Spring Awakening, Broadway touring company, Austin (’09) – the OCR of this is really lousy, and really confirms how sorry the songs are. But the first time, from a distance, it was a mysterious, dark revelation, and the second time, from the first row and off to the corner, it exploded with life and depth and beauty. Star: Jake Epstein, of Degrassi fame, with whom my GF got a much-desired picture. This was compensated for by the fact that former Canadian Idol Steffi D, my crush of the show, sang her part of the last number directly to me, a fact which she confirmed as we stood outside to greet the performers.
Cam: Squeeze are certainly not offensively whores, and far less so than the many you infer. Seem like real nice guys who haven't been able to catch a break for a while. But it does require the slightest sacrifice of integrity when one goes the re-recording route, fun as I'm sure Spot the Difference was for the dedicated.
My second or third favorite song of my lifetime was a track nobody ever mentions from Play (1991), called "Cupid's Toy", which I chose to hone in on because it was track 7 (and I liked the number 7 a lot). The lyrics are actually a little eh, but when it soars into that chorus I can hardly imagine better music. "This boy doesn't give love, this boy doesn't get lo-o-o-o-o-ove..." Beautiful stuff.
I thought Fountains of Wayne did "Tempted By The Fruit Of Your Mother."
Naw, naw -- that was burraburrahttp://videogum.com/52141/fact_patrick_swayzes_mom_taugh/video-skeletons/look here "Swayze's Mom Has Got It Goin' On."
Squeeze are whores
Squeeze are re-doing all their own songs so that they can get paid to have them used in commercials and movies.
Tempted by the Fruit of Your Mother
Trust Me To Open My Mouth with No Teeth
No Place Like Rest Home
Black Coffee In Enema
Pulling Muscles (Bloody Hell)
Flap and Dangle
Tool in Spats
Annie Rub My Gums
Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was actually pretty good.Looks intriguing. Never heard it, though.
Ha! I had those Phish shows. Sold 'em for OK bucks along with the rest of the Live Phish series. A silly period in my listening life, that. & I'm not really a fan of those MOJO tributes and such stuff, anything that comes glued to the inside of a magazine.
Squeeze are whores but I saw a rather compelling Glenn Tillbrook acoustic show something like eight years ago, or whenever that solo album with "Interviewing Randy Newman" came out. In great voice, filled the room, took requests. Two terrific moments: a couple came in between songs and, for whatever reason, stepped back outside. Tillbrook elected to run from the stage, guitar in hand, all the way outside to invite them to return, which apparently they did coz they came back with him. He even offered to do whatever song they wanted. The gentleman struggled for a second, obviously a fraction the Squeeze fan of all the other middle-agers in the room, then requested, "Cool for Cats"? Everybody chuckled knowingly and Glenn did a quick Chris Difford imitation to illustrate the reason he was forced to decline.
Second was when "Black Coffee in Bed" turned into a singalong w/soft human percussion, Glenn extending the fadeout as long as the gorgeous unity of the moment demanded. Then with all the soul you could've asked for some guy in the corner belted out a dead-on "no milk and sugar!" and the room filled with laughter again, artiste included, and the song was over.
I had really only heard Argybargy before the gig, but most of the Squeeze songs I know survive in my memory as beloveds because of that night, which was also nice and affirming for me because I was easily the youngest fellow in the room, but impressed a few of the boomer-aged folks my dad was chatting it up with by knowing the title of an obscure Ray Manzarek solo album (which of course I'd never heard).
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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