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Archive for the ‘Steve Earle’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STEVE EARLE-Transcendental Blues (2000).

I’ve never really liked Steve Earle’s music.  For some reason I always thought of him as a kind of outlaw country.  But the review of this album from Hornby made me want to check it out.  And while there are certainly country music trappings, this is a solid fun rock record.

Earle’s voice isn’t what I thought it was (or wasn’t was it is now)–it’s much softer and much higher than I imagined.  So what’s going on on this record?

“Transcendental Blues” has a great distorted guitar riff running opposite the throbbing bassline.  Earle’s voice sounds like a cross between Dylan, Petty and (anachronistically) Kevin Devine.  “Everyone’s in Love with You” sounds like a rocking R.E.M. song with a very 90s vocal style and even a reverse guitar solo.

“Another Town” sounds like a song that I’ve heard a million times (but I haven’t).  It’s a simple pop song with a crazy catchy melody and it’s barely 2 minutes long.  “I Can’t Wait” slows things down a bit with a real poppy Matthew Sweet-vibe.

“The Boy Who Never Cried” is a dirgey song, slow and story telling.  It has strings with a slightly Middle Eastern feel.

“Steve’s Last Ramble” is a stompin’ song with full on harmonica introduction (which makes it seem even more Dylan).  “The Galway Girl” is a mandolin-based stomper while “Lonelier Than This” is a quiet, sad song.

“Wherever I Go” is only two minutes ling and has a country feel, even though it’s not that different from the other songs.  The guitar solo is totally early Beatles, but the lyrics are pure country:

I could drink corn whisky ’til my brain goes soft
I could run this highway ’til my wheels come off

The harmonica returns on “When I Fall” the start of a trifecta of country songs.  His drawl really comes out here, possibly because of his duet partner (Steve Earle’s sister, Stacey Earle, a country singer in her own right).  It’s a shame this song is so long as it’s my least favorite.

“I Don’t Want to Lose You Yet” is a simple country pop song (the twang remains).  Although “Halo ‘Round the Moon” is a softer song with a gentle shuffle beat.  “Until the Day I Die” continues with the old school country/bluegrass style with a big ol’ banjo intro, close harmonies, and a fiddle solo.  You can imagine a jug solo, hand clappin’ and a hoedown in a live version.

“All of My Life” rocks out again, with some loud bass and distorted guitar, which I desperately needed after those last few songs.

The disc ends with “Over Yonder (Jonathan’ Song).”  From songfacts:

This song is about the execution-by injection of Jonathan Nobles, which Steve Earle witnessed. The alt-country star told Mojo magazine May 2008 about it: “I don’t recommend it. I befriended Jonathan for several months beforehand. Then I saw the execution and later brought his remains to England for burial according to his wishes. But the execution was incredibly toxic to me. It’s hard. You can’t believe it’s really happening. I remember afterwards I thought, ‘did I black out and miss it? I let Jonathan down.’ Then the blank filled in… it was the shock… I realized exactly what I’d seen. I can’t see myself doing it again. I’ve absorbed enough death. And I still work hard against the death penalty.”

So I’m still on the fence about Earle, but I did enjoy this record much more than I thought I would.  Thanks, Nick.

[READ: June 15, 2019] “Alternative Earle”

I am aware of Steve Earle and I really like his lyrics.  I don’t love his music though–too much country in the alt-country.  Although Hornby describes it as Nashville folk and rock n roll hybrid.  But man, his lyrics are great.  I wish I liked him a bit more especially after reading this review.

Hornby is a passionate music lover and anything he likes sounds great when he describes it.

The album in question is Transcendental Blues (and in the photo Earle’s beard is much shorter than it is now).  As of 2000, Earle has been married and divorced six times (to five women–4 and 6 were the same person). In 1994 he was imprisoned for possessing narcotics.  This sentence ending years of heroin addiction. (more…)

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colony2SOUNDTRACK: JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE-Tiny Desk Concert #389 (September 8, 2014).

 jteI had an idea that Justin Townes Earle was a country singer.  Although I’m sure I’m conflating him with Steve Earle (his father) and Townes Van Zant (whom he’s named after).  But I realized I’d never heard him.  He’s more of a folk singer and he’s very charming.  He implies that he flew from Nashville just to play the show (“a quick trip just for y’all”) which gets an awww from the crowd) and like Trampled by Turtles and Jessica Lea Mayfield, he’s heading back home right after he’s done.  He also had his guitar maker send his guitar to him in DC so he didn’t have to travel with it.

He has an interesting percussive strumming style (he doesn’t use a pick) and he sings about love and loss.  The first song, “Burning Pictures” has a great line about how he doubts you even remember your love’s name since it’s another girl in the picture frame.

“When The One You Love Loses Faith In You” is a bit more bluesy sounding.  He picks some melodic notes between full-fingered strums.

Amazingly, he seems like he might quit after just two songs.  Bob asks him to do one more–doesn’t have to be new–it can be one he loves.  His favorite so that he ever wrote was “White Gardenias” (for Billie Holiday).  He says it feels like he’s about to miss the beat as he’s starts singing–which scares the shit out of a rhythm section.

Before beginning, while tuning, he says he has to learn a lot of his old songs for the upcoming tour.  Bob asks if he listens to the records, and he laughs and says he Googles the songs, which is just so ridiculous.  Bob asks if he illegally downloads them but he says no he just streams them.

“White Gardenias” is a lovely song with beautiful lyrics although I don’t really get that Billie Holiday vibe from it.

[READ: July 22, 2016] The Lost Colony 2

The inside cover of book 2 gives a little summary of book 1 (which is helpful). It also give s little recap of all of the main characters (which all series should do, frankly).

I loved that book 2 also starts with someone asking “where the %#!* are we,” it’s a man and a very large woman.  They also convinced Fud’na (the screeching violin playing guardian of the ferry) to ferry them to the island.  The large woman reveals that she is wearing a  stars and stripes dress which is very tacky.  But more importantly, she is a singer herself (almost as bad as Fud’na perhaps).

As the bok opens, Louis the slave boy is being set upon by the rocks bugs (although we dont know why).  He is recused by Jo’Pa an Indian who lives on the island (it is rumored that he used to be a real savage Injun).  And there’s Birdy, she is dressed as Squinto, compete with feather and bow and arrow.

Then we meet the Snodgrass family and Birdy’s heretofore unmentioned Gramdy, a cantankerous old man (who is her mother’s father). Turns out that Grandy hates the Injuns and is very mad that Birdy is dressed like one. “We’re at war with the Indian, dont you know they’re evil.” (more…)

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april16  SOUNDTRACK: JEREMY MESSERSMITH-Tiny Desk Concert #158 (September 19, 2011).

jeremyI had never heard of Jeremy Messersmith before this show (the blurb even comments how it’s a shame more people haven’t heard of him since he is so sweetly poppy).

He looks a bit like Buddy Holly although my first though when he started playing was that he sounded not unlike Belle & Sebastian.  But there is more to his music than a simple reduction like that.

Messermith plays five songs (FIVE!).  For the first three he has a four piece behind him–big jangly electric guitar, a cello and a drummer accompanying his really nice picking style.

In “Toussaint Grey, First in Life and Death,” the electric guitar is mostly picking as well.  It’s a gentle song and you can really hear his voice well.

In “Knots” the tempo picks up with bigger drums and louder electric guitar.  I also love the picked cello as a bass guitar (this is the song that reminded me so much of B&S).  But by the end it is wholly his own (the falsetto note at the end is great).  This song is super catchy.  I love the break in the song when the drums kick in again.

For “Violet” the cellist switches to keyboards and the guitar plays some big jangly chords.  The chorus is great once again–super catchy and poppy.  Even better, there’s some great background Bah bahs and then other oohs of harmony.  But it’s the switch to an even higher note at the end of the bah bahs that totally had me hooked.

For the final two songs it’s just him and the cello.  His picking style on “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard” is wonderful.  His voice sounds like someone although I can’t quite place it, but I love it.   The song is sweet and delicate.

Before the final song “Tatooine,” (which is about Star Wars obviously) he says that Steve Earle was in not too long saying that now songwriters write songs for nerds, and so this one is for the nerds.  The first line is “twin suns of Tatooine taught me everything I know.”  Pretty nerdy alright.  It’s just him and the keyboard on this, and the song is perfect this way.

I’m really looking forward to hearing some studio version of these songs.  This Tiny Desk was quite a find.

[READ: March 12, 2016] “Hygge”

I have read several stories by Dorthe Nors and I’ve found most of them a bit odd.  And so was this one, which was translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra.  I’m not even sure what the title means.

I’m unclear about a lot of things in this story.  How old is the narrator?  He is at an old folks’ home with a woman named Lilly. She has made the place nice for him (cleaned the dead leaves off the windowsill and put the budgie under its cover so it can go to sleep).

They’d had a fight earlier–she’d said that thing about his face–but she was trying  be nice now.  And she wanted everything to be cuddly.  Her hand was “inside the waist of my trousers.” (more…)

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jan2016 SOUNDTRACK: STEVE EARLE-Tiny Desk Concert #123 (April 25, 2011).

earleSteve Earle is pretty cool.  He’s a country outlaw who is a socialist and an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter.  He is a vocal opponent of capital punishment.  He’s also written a song “directed towards the state of Mississippi and their refusal to abandon the Confederate Flag and remove it from their state flag.”

For this Tiny Desk it’s just him and his guitar as he sings songs from his then new album.

He opens with “Waitin’ On The Sky” and says it’s the first time he’s played it in front of people.  He has to restart the song because “debris from a Cobb salad shifted in his throat.”  He also forgets some of the words, but it still sounds great.

He is very chatty with lots of stories about the recording of the record and how a song that he mentions isn’t on the record, but it is on a download or vinyl.  “We used to make records for girls and now we make them for nerds.”

“Every Part Of Me” is a slow ballad, it’s quite pretty.  His voice sounds good and hard-worn as he sings.  He says it is “the song you’re most likely to hear on the handful of radio stations that actually play me.”

While tuning before his third song he says that he is  involved with a show called Treme “that’s ‘treme,’ just like it sounds… if you’re French.”  In the show he’s a street performer in New Orleans.  He says that there are non-traditional buskers–professional musicians who sing on the streets for tips (hundreds of dollars a day).  And he tells about the turf wars that began in the 80s.  Eventually an agreement was reached between the players.   That’s all a lead in to a song that is on the Treme soundtrack called “This City.”  It’s a touching song about New Orleans.

I’d always thought that he was much more “country” sounding, and maybe he is on record, but at least here, he is simply singing well writing and well-though out songs.

[READ: February 23, 2016] “To Laugh That We May Not Weep”

This is a brief essay about cartoonist Art Young.  Young would be 150 years old this year and Spiegelman says that Bernie Sanders would have been the best birthday present we could have given him.  Because Art Young was a radical! Political !! Cartoonist!!!  (the oblivion trifecta).  The only concept less inviting is a political radical.

Spiegelman says that once upon a time political cartoonists were very powerful (although in some respect they still are, as you can see by the the murdered Charlie Hebdo artists).

Young was a talented cartoonist who drew for all kinds of publications.  He was never convicted for his drawings, but he was put on trial for libel.  He was found not guilty; he drew a picture of himself sleeping with a caption “Art Young on trial for his life.”

Spiegelman contends that political cartoons are usually short-lived and timely but that Young’ are more timeless–and perhaps sadly still relevant.  And that he was never shrill or humorless. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDOWN AT THE SEA HOTEL (2007).

This has rapidly become one of my favorite CDs for our kids.  It’s a collection of lullabies written by some great artists with performances by: Guy Davis, Lucy Kaplansky, John Gorka, Eliza Gilkyson, The Wailin’ Jennys and Lynn Miles.  They play either solo or in groups to create a wonderful collection of tracks which maintains an overall cohesive sound.

It’s nice to have a collection that, although it contains many different singers, retains a similar style, a style that feels like a group of folk singers playing together just to get you to relax.

The songwriters include: Greg Brown, Tom Waits, Bruce Cockburn, Gord Downie, Neil Young, Carole King, Steve Earle and more.  It’s a magical collection of songs. Perfect for any bedtime routine.  The only problem with it is that my daughter usually falls asleep before we get to the end, so I don’t know the last five or six tracks all that well (but I know the first batch from start to finish).

I also recently learned that you can get a very cool edition of this CD in a book format. It is an illustrated edition of the title song and it comes complete with the full CD attached in the back. The book is quite beautiful (and I wish I had gotten that version instead of just the CD).

[READ: January 26, 2010] Salt Water Taffy 2

This fantastic kids graphic novel series just gets better and better.  I enjoyed this story so much that I decided to read it to my 4 year old son.  I removed a few paragraphs and edited for length but he really enjoyed the story…leading him down a garden path to comic book enjoyment.

This book continues the story of 8 year old Jack and 11 year old Benny on their family summer vacation in the seemingly dull seaside town of Chowder Bay.   The first volume laid out enough backstory for you to know that the town is boring as all get out for the kids, with no TV even!  But the locals have plenty of adventure for the kids to get up to.

As this book opens, the family is on a nature hike.  The boys are collecting feathers to compete with Fisherman Angus’ fantastic collection of a feather from every (species of) bird on the island.  But they are easily distracted from this quest when their dad reveals that Angus isn’t the only one on the island with good stories.  For indeed, he himself once climbed to the top of Mt Barnabus (the tallest mountain around) where he fought Barnabus, the giant eagle, for the hat that he is wearing at this very moment.

The boys are awed by this and now hold thie rdad in slightly higher esteem.

Later, when the kids are playing (and one of them is wearing that very same hat), Barnabus the giant eagle swoops down and take the hat right of his head.  He proceeds to fly up to his cave on th etop of the mountain.

The rest of the book covers the boys’ decision to climb that mountain by themselves and rescue that hat.  They encounter many many dangers on the way (I edited down the wolf section a wee bit)but what they find at the top of th emounatin is by turns frightening and hilarious.  (I especially enjoyed the cameo of the little lobsters from Book1).

The resolution to the story is great, the drawings are great, and the entire sprit of the book if one of advneture and fun.  It’s a real treat to read, and I’m delighted that there;s a 3rd book already available.

The first story laid out all of the details of where and who they are.  However,

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