Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Americana-ization of Bob Weir

Bob Weir met Jerry Garcia at Dana Morgan’s Music Store in Palo Alto, early in 1963. Before the Beatles came along and influenced them into forming an electric rock band, the pair’s group were known as Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. Bringing in elements of country, folk, bluegrass, and blues, they plugged in, added some folks, became the Grateful Dead and … y’all know the rest.

When I first saw the Dead, it was in a small college gymnasium. The New Riders of the Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia sitting in on pedal steel, opened the show, and much of the material that the Dead performed that night came from Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Five years later, I watched Old and In the Way take the stage with Garcia, David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, and John Kahn. They delivered a stellar set of traditional bluegrass.

As the Dead greatly expanded their music vocabulary through the years, my personal interest in them went from attending dozens and dozens of their concerts throughout the ’70s, to finally drifting away. Honestly, I just got bored with the scene rather than the music. Nonetheless, it’s always surprised me that so many fans of traditional music — as well as writers, reviewers, and even publications such as (the previous incarnation of) No Depression — never seemed to be able to draw the distinction between their jam band rock-ola experience and the fact that the Dead’s origins were grounded in American roots music.

To put it bluntly, I believe the Grateful Dead were doing Americana music long before a bunch of people came together in the late 1990s and actually decided to call it Americana.

Which brings me to Bob Weir.

In August, it was announced that in support of his new solo album Blue Mountain, Weir would be in Nashville during the Americana Music Festival and Conference to take part in a workshop where he’ll play songs from the album. Producer Josh Kaufman will be on hand and Buddy Miller will moderate a Q&A. Here’s a little of what to expect:

Whether it was hocus, pocus, magic, or an outstanding lobbying effort from his record label, publicist, and management team, the week after that event was scheduled came big news that Weir will receive the Lifetime Achievement: Performer award at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on September 21. Whatever the circumstances surrounding Weir being selected, this recognition is more than well-deserved.

As far as I can find, there’s never been any acknowledgement of the Dead’s contribution to the genre from the AMA. Its members have earned some accolades from the association — Jerry Garcia was given the President’s Award in 2008, and Dead lyricist Robert Hunter got the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting in 2013 — but the band itself has never actually been named. Feels to me like there’s an opportunity there in the future to do the Dead right.

While it’s impossible to separate the man from the Dead, there is a documentary by Mike Fleiss titled The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir, which is a great starting point. Available on Netflix for the past year, it offers a detailed oral history with great archival footage and music. But it was the intimate and loving look at Weir’s life today as both husband and father that filled my heart … a true lifetime achievement on its own.

 

 

This was originally published as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column at No Depression dot com.