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Music, News and What Not: The Pirate Broadside

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For those of you who visit No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music website for the latest music news, reviews and columns…May 2017 marks the month that the site has hit the pause button on fresh content in order to run a subscription drive for their quarterly print journal. You can read about it here, but the deal is this: you commit to just $6 USD per month and you receive four copies of incredible music journalism each year delivered to your doorstep. And you can cancel at any time. Took me a second to punch in my numbers and take the plunge.

To give you an idea of the quality of writing you’ll be getting, No Depression has sidelined all new content this month in favor of running some of their past long form stories that originally were published in the print journal. So if you want a sampling, here’s a few complimentary stories to check out:

Songs from The Gut: A Conversation with John Prine from Holly Gleason

Sweet Freedom: Jason Isbell Has Hit His Stride by Kelly McCartney (No relation to above pirate.)

Re-Trace: Jay Farrar Looks Back on 20 Years of Son Volt from David McPherson

So there it is…my personal Public Service Announcement; a swing and a pitch to keep No Depression alive and well. Keep in mind this is a non-profit organization, and most of us who contribute do it for literally peanuts or soy beans. Money and writing are like oil and water these days, so unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King, flipping burgers is in your future.

Enough….let’s pull something new out of the ether and take a music break. Even though No Depression is in ‘send me money mode’…there is plenty of news, music and what not. Here’s Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performing ‘If We Were Vampires’ live in TV Studio A at KCPT in Kansas City, Missouri. This is on the new new album and it sounds great.

The 2017 Americana Music Awards‘ nominees announcement ceremony included special performances from the Milk Carton Kids, the Jerry Douglas Band, Caitlin Canty and more — but it also featured one particularly special moment: Jason Isbell and the Drive-By Truckers‘ Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley coming together for an acoustic performance.

Isbell, Hood and Cooley sing “Outfit,” originally from the Truckers’ 2003 album Decoration Day. Written by Isbell alone, the song is one of two songs that the then-24-year-old penned for the album; the other, also written solo, is the record’s title track. Earlier this year, in late January, Isbell — now, of course, a solo artist — reunited with his former bandmates during a Drive-By Truckers show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. (From theboot.com)

Speaking of the AMA awards, I was taken aback by the announcement of Van Morrison receiving a lifetime achievement award for songwriting. No disrespect: Van is indeed The Man, and we know that the organization loves to recognize those from the UK (Richard Thompson and Robert Plant were past recipients), but I just don’t get it. Although I know this guy probably doesn’t give a damn and wouldn’t show up anyway, I think he might be deserving of anything with the tagline ‘Americana’ in it.

The folks over at Pitchfork have published a User Guide to The Grateful Dead that focuses not on their studio work but rather the gazillion of live tracks that are out there. Which reminds me…Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter…a songwriting team that deserves acknowledgement from the Americana cabal. You know, since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame people are often slapped around for missing folks like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, the AMA might be moving into their elitist territory. Sad…to quote the POTUS.

By now you’ve heard about the sad passing of Austin singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave. Local radio station KOKE-FM published the statement from his label and family, and you can find it here. And No Depression co-founder Peter Blackstock covered LaFave’s Songwriters Rendezvous for the Austin American-Statesman, and I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing. Click here to get there. This video was recorded at SXSW in 2011. Rest in peace.

“Every day, every minute, someone in the world is singing a Pete Seeger song. The songs he wrote, including the antiwar tunes, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and those he popularized, including “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome,” have been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages and have become global anthems for people fighting for freedom.” So begins a story of Pete, and how we keep his spirit alive.

Writer Susanna Reich and illustrator Adam Gustavson have produced a book dedicated to that objective. In 38 pages of text, paintings and drawings, Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice provides a wonderful portrait of Seeger, focusing on how his strongly-held beliefs motivated his music and his activism. The book introduces children to the notion that music can be a powerful tool for change. As Reich notes, Seeger saw himself as a link in “a chain in which music and social responsibility are intertwined.”

Read more about Pete and his music in this wonderful article posted at Common Dreams.

This year marks 50 years since Otis Redding died. He’d ignited the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967; later that year, he and his band were en route to a show in Madison, Wisc., when their plane hit rough weather and crashed in an icy lake. Redding was 26 years old. Half a century later, Redding’s influence as a singer and spirit of soul music remains. Author Jonathan Gould, who’s written a new biography called Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life and you can read more about it here.

Guess it’s time to close the ‘pirated’ version of my Broadside column out with something that captures Mr. McCartney’s early acting career. In the meantime, while I’m officially on hiatus, please feel free to come visit me at therealeasyed.com ,  The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts which is my Facebook home where I aggregate daily and feel free to subscribe to my Flipboard e-mag of the same name.

 

 

 

 

 

Gram Parson’s Hickory Wind: Groundhog Day #1

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I was thumbing through the recent issue of New York magazine when I saw that they’ve made a Broadway musical from the 1994 film Groundhog Day. You know the story: Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, who goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to report on the annual de-hibernation of the town’s famed rodent and gets caught in a loop, living each day over and over. As author S.I. Rosenbaum writes, it’s “a film so beloved, idiomized and dissertated about that it’s passed into the English vernacular.”

Got me thinking: Perhaps I could take a song and follow its twists and turns from the original to multiple cover versions, and trace how it has evolved. Could become a new series, and since I have no idea where it’ll take us, it’s sort of like playing Russian roulette with YouTube. Hit or miss, up or down.

“Hickory Wind” is of course a treasured song written by Gram Parsons and Bob Buchanan, who were both former members of the International Submarine Band. It first appeared on The Byrds’ Sweetheart of The Rodeo album, and was recorded on March 9,1968. Lloyd Green is on pedal steel and John Hartford plays fiddle, supporting Parsons, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, and drummer Kevin Kelley.

I should mention that there has been some dispute about authorship, as folksinger Sylvia Sammons has claimed that she wrote and performed it back in Greenville, South Carolina, when Parsons was also there doing gigs with his band, The Shilos. Both Buchanan and Chris Hillman rebut the claim, with the latter saying “As far as I know Gram and Bob Buchanan did indeed write ‘Hickory Wind.’ As unstable as Gram was in my brief time with him on this earth, I sincerely doubt he was a plagiarist in any of his songwriting endeavors unless his co-writer Bob brought him the idea.”

In 2012, Hillman, who was Parsons’ partner in both The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, expanded his thoughts to Bud Scoppa in Rolling Stone:

“If Gram had never written another song, ‘Hickory Wind’ would’ve put him on the map. If you know the guy’s life story, however he conjured up that scenario, it’s right at home. Gram was shuffled off to prep school, lots of money … that’s a lonely song. He was a lonely kid.”

This one is from Hillman’s 1986 Morning Sky album.

After Parsons left the Burrito Brothers, Hillman introduced him to Emmylou Harris and she appeared on his first solo album, GP, toured with his band the Fallen Angels, and worked together on Grievous Angel. She cut her own version of “Hickory Wind” on her 1979 album Blue Kentucky Girl. I was going to drop that one in here, but opted for the version that she and Gram did that appeared on The Comlete Reprise Sessions. This is a fan video set to a nice slide show.

On July 10, 2010, there was a Gram Parsons tribute in Los Angeles billed as “The Return to Sin City” that featured many musicians, including Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Norah Jones, John Doe, Dwight Yoakam, Raul Malo, and a backing band that featured the great James Burton and Al Perkins, both members of Parsons’ band. Then there was this guy who stole the night, singing “Hickory Wind” with a little harmony assist from Jim Lauderdale.

Lucinda Williams often performs the song in concert, and while you can find a few versions out there, this audio track with Buddy Miller that appeared on Cayamo Sessions At Sea is my favorite.

After spending a few nights listening to endless versions of this great song (and I haven’t even included Gillian Welch with Dave Rawlings or the great old video featuring the late Keith Whitley singing with J.D. Crowe and he New South), there was one I wasn’t familiar with that took my breath away.

Out in California a music teacher, bass player, and award winning fiddler named Jack Tuttle put together a bluegrass band with his kids Molly, Sullivan, and Michael, and they also added AJ Lee to the mix. Singing and performing since she was only four, AJ joined the Tuttles when she was just twelve. Molly Tuttle, now living in Nashville, is an amazing guitarist who was on the April cover of Acoustic Guitarmagazine. Now at 19 AJ already has two solo releases, and all of the Tuttles seem to pop up and perform together in various configurations, along with working on their own side projects. And the whole lot of them have scooped up numerous awards over the years.

So for me, this is the one. It’s from 2011. AJ is only 13 and takes the lead vocal, with harmony and guitar from a young Molly. Michael finishes it off with a beautiful mandolin run. This is perfection and the winner of my game: Russian Roulette with YouTube, the Groundhog Day Experiment.

This article was originally published as an Easy Ed’d Broadside column at No Depression: The Roots Music Journal.