Thursday, July 19, 2018

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: The Fabulous 70s

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
July 20, 2018



Let us now praise the fabulous seventies. No, I’m not talking about the 1970s, the decade. I’m talking about a bunch of new albums by country/folk/roots artists who are septuagenarians — Kinky Friedman (73), John Prine (71), and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (73), the latter of whom just released a duet record with a younger musical partner, Dave Alvin, a mere lad of 62. While none of these works reach the heights of the music that made us love these guys in the first place, all three albums are worthwhile and welcome efforts that deserve some time in your eardrums.

Cover by Jon Langford
* Downey to Lubbock by Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore. This is the first time Gilmore and Alvin have made a record together, but the Downey/Lubbock collection goes back decades. Back in the early ’80s, Alvin’s old band The Blasters toured with Joe Ely, who, along with Gilmore and Butch Hancock, was in The Flatlanders, Lubbock’s greatest act since Buddy Holly and The Crickets. Ely played on the same bill with The Blasters in 1982 at the Golden Inn.

Ten of the 12 songs here are covers, including those written by Woody Guthrie (a haunting “Deportee [Plane Wreck at Los Gatos],” sung by Gilmore); Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins (a nice and rowdy “Buddy Brown’s Blues”); Lloyd Price (“Lawdy Miss Clawdy”); Brownie McGhee (“Walk On”); and not one, but two from the vast songbook of The Memphis Jug Band (“Stealin’ Stealin’ ” and “K.C. Moan”).

Tracks from more recent artists abound. For instance, the Mexican-flavored tune called “The Gardens” is a sad number about violence in the barrio written by Alvin’s late sideman and crony Chris Gaffney. It’s a highlight of the album, as is the late Steve Young’s “Silverlake,” a lilting bittersweet blues.

Alvin wrote two new tunes for this album, including the title cut as well as “Billy the Kid and Geronimo.” This is about a fictional meeting between the two at some bar in Lordsburg. “Billy The Kid said, ‘We’re just the same./We’re cursed and we’re damned as they whisper our names’ … /Geronimo said, ‘No, We’re not the same, for the harm I have done, I feel great shame/I fought for my family, my tribe and my land/But we’ll pay the same price for the blood on our hands.’ ”

I could have done without the new version of the old Youngbloods hippie peace ’n’ love anthem, “Get Together.” (I thought it was sappy back in the late ’60s. It’s no better now.) But that doesn’t stop me from being happy that Gilmore and Alvin got together for Downey to Lubbock.

* The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine. As has been true throughout his career, Prine’s goofy grin is practically audible in many of the songs on his new album — his first collection of new original songs in 13 years.

And he has a lot to grin about. For instance, the awkwardly titled “Egg and Daughter Night, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967 (Crazy Bone).” Here Prine sings, “If they knew what you were thinkin’/They’d run you out of Lincoln/Just blame it on that ole’ crazy bone.”

“Lonesome Friends of Science” is a strange bird as far as songs go — even by Prine standards. I listened to it a couple of times and practically pulled out what’s left of my hair trying to figure out where I’d heard it before. Then it finally hit me that this is a sardonic, almost surreal rewrite of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” The melody is subtly similar to “Pancho,” as are a few lyrical turns. But Prine’s song is full of sublime nonsense. He laments the loss of planet status for Pluto, and sings about the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, Alabama: “Venus left him long ago/For a guy named Mars from Idaho …” And in the chorus, Prine sings, “The lonesome friends of science say/‘The world will end most any day’/Well, if it does, then that’s okay/’Cause I don’t live here anyway …”

In the final song, “When I Get to Heaven,” Prine sings with glee about the possibility of going to heaven. Speaking, not singing the verses, he says, “Then God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business/I’m gonna open up a nightclub called The Tree of Forgiveness/And forgive everybody ever done me any harm ...”

Personally, I’m not a big believer in heaven. But albums like these make this earthly plane just a little more heavenly.


* Circus of Life by Kinky Friedman. Kinky has built a career on the outrageous, politically incorrect, funny, and raucous songs he recorded in the mid-1970s, tunes like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” and “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.” So it may be surprising that this — Kinky’s first album of new original songs in more than 40 years — is dominated by slow, somber, and quiet tunes.

So if it’s the cigar-chomping, wisecracking Friedman you’re looking for, this ain’t the album for you. In fact, my initial reaction was this wasn’t the album for me. But after a couple of listens, these songs by the aging, more reflective Friedman started to grow on me. The title song is not about an actual circus. It’s about old people coming to grips with their lives of regret and desperation. Then there is “Jesus in Pajamas.” You might think this would be one of Kinky’s twisted religious parables. Instead, it’s about a destitute man at a Denny’s in Dallas.

While I’ll always remember Kinky for his funny stuff, Circus of Life is a sweet glimpse at another, deeper side of the artist.

Alright ...How about some videos?

Here are the wild blue Blaster and the old Flatlander ...



"The lonesome friends of science say/`The world will end most any day' ..."



Here's Kinky's "Circus"



THROWBACK THURSDAY: Songs for the Governors

Gov. Pat Neff
Today 21 state governors are coming to Santa Fe for a meeting of the National Governors Association.

In honor of that here's a Throwback Thursday salute to a couple of governors from the past century -- Gov. Pat Neff of Texas and Gov. O.K. Allen of Louisiana,

These are the two governors who were honored with songs by singer Hudie Ledbetter, best known as Lead Belly, And both were known for freeing the singer after he'd flattered them in song.

Neff was governor of Texas while Leadbelly was serving time in the prison at Sugar Land for killing a relative.

According to their book The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (by Charles K. Wolfe and Kip Lornell, published in1999), Neff had regularly brought guests to the prison on Sunday picnics to hear Ledbetter sing. At the time of the pardon, Leadbetter had already served his minimum of seven years.

Ironically, Neff had run on a promise to be more strict on pardoning criminals.

The song "Gov. Pat Neff" sounds s if it might have been an existing tune onto which Lead Belly tacked on a verse about the governor. "Had the Governor Neff like you got me, I'd a-wake up in the mornin', I'd set you free," he sang. Judge for yourself:



By the 1930s, Ledbetter was in prison again, this time in Louisiana. With the help of famed folklorists John and Alan Lomax, Lead Belly once again worked his magic on a sitting governor, one Oscar K. Allen.

This time the appeal to the governor was front and center of the song: "In nineteen hundred and thirty two / Honorable Governor O.K. Allen, I'm pleading to you./ I left my wife wringing her hands and crying / `Honorable Governor O.K. Allen, save that man of mine.' "

Allen released him in 1934.



Speaking of Louisiana governors and music, surely the finest singer and songwriter to ever become chief executive of a state was Louisiana's Jimmy Davis. He's most beloved for his song "You Are My Sunshine." But I like his dirtier tunes even more.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Like Pulling Teeth


I have to go to the dentist today.

To commemorate that, here are some toothpaste jingles from my youth:



I always wondered where the yellow went.



This one is super snazzy!




Sunday, July 15, 2018

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST





Sunday, July 15, 2018
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell 101.1 FM
Email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist :

OPENING THEME: Let It Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Repo Man by Those Darlins
Baby You Crazy by Nick Curran & The Lowlifes
One Bad Stud by The Blasters
Saddle Up a Buzz Buzz by the Cramps
I'm Out Nine by Dead Moon
Rama Lama Drama by Hollywood Sinners
The Man Whose Head Expanded by The Fall
Get Out of My Brain by Legendary Shack Shakers
Ain't Got No Sweet Thing by Ponty Bone
Slowly Losing My Mind by Barrence Whitfield & The Savages

When the Levee Breaks by James Leg with Left Lane Cruiser
Sweet Loaf by Butthole Surfers
Saturday Midnight Bop by Jerry J. Nixon
Here It Comes by Phil Hayes & The Trees
The White Wolf is Back in Town by Reverend Beat-Man
Fuck the Bomb ... Stop the Drugs by Swamp Dogg
Heartbreak Hotel by Tony Joe White

Fat Angel by Jefferson Airplane
Jettisoned by Thee Oh Sees
Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely by Husker Du
Tunic (Song for Karen) by Sonic Youtha
Steve by Pere Ubu

Kung Fu by Frank Zappa
O'Malley's Bar by Nick Cave
A Few Good Years by Buddy Guy


CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday Swamp Dogg!


Seventy six years ago today, July 12, 1942, Jerry Williams, Jr. was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. He grew up to be a songwriter, record producer and recording artist. In fact, at the age of 12 in 1954, Williams recorded his first song,  "HTD Blues (Hardsick Troublesome Downout Blues)", for a label called Mechanic Records. In 1966, under the name "Little Jerry Williams," he had an actual minor hit,  "Baby You're My Everything."

But by 1970, Williams transformed into something weird and wonderful: Swamp Dogg. As the artist later explained.

I became Swamp Dogg in 1970 in order to have an alter-ego and someone to occupy the body while the search party was out looking for Jerry Williams, who was mentally missing in action due to certain pressures, mal-treatments and failure to get paid royalties on over fifty single records ...  Commencing in 1970, I sung about sex, niggers, love, rednecks, war, peace, dead flies, home wreckers, Sly Stone, my daughters, politics, revolution and blood transfusions (just to name a few), and never got out of character. Recording in Alabama and sincerely singing/writing about items that interested me, gave birth to the name Swamp Dogg.

So happy birthday, Mr. Dogg. Here are some of my favorite Swamp Dogg tunes:

The first time I saw him perform live -- at a South by Southwest in the late 1990s, his best song was a heart-wrenching take on this John Prine tune.



The next time I saw him was at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans in 2013. In the best tune of his set, Swamp Dogg proved you can even find soul in a Bee Gees song. As I wrote at the time:

At the end of the song, he stepped off the stage and walked out into the audience shaking hands while repeatedly singing the refrain, "I've just got to get a message to you / Hold on, hold on ..." Sometimes he'd complete the chorus, "One more hour and my life will be through ..." After several minutes of this I almost started to believe that he was going to take that whole hour.



This one, "Born Blue" is from Swamp Dogg's first album, Total Destruction to Your Mind. Here he asks the important question, "Why wasn't I born with orange skin and green hair like the rest of the people in the world?"



And speaking of the Ponderosa Stomp, here are a couple of songs from Swamp Dogg's set,  "Total Destruction To Your Mind" followed by "Synthetic World."



Swamp Dogg signs my CD at the Ponderosa Stomp Record Show Thursday
Swamp Dogg autographs my CD at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, October, 2013

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Punk Goes the Country




Today for Wacky Wednesday, let's hear a few country acts covering punk songs. We'll start with the late Ralph Stanley doing a Velvet Underground classic.


Here's a Texas country-rock band called Two Tons of Steel covering The Ramones.


Sturgill Simpson sings Nirvana.


And finally, here's Dwight Yoakam playing one of The Clash's better-known songs. And that banjo you hear is by none other than Dr. Stanley. May the country/punk circle be unbroken!



Sunday, July 08, 2018

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST





Sunday, July 8, 2018
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell 101.1 FM
Email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist :

OPENING THEME: Let It Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Elephant Man by Meet Your Death
Fire Walk With Me by Archie & The Bunkers
Bum a Ride by Oblivians
Rock 'n' Roll by Lou Reed
Mighty Man by James Leg
Love by Country Joe & The Fish
Don't Think Twice by Mike Ness
Snakepit Breakdown by Lydia Lunch Retrovirus
Crazy Crazy Mama by Roky Erikson

Chunk of Steel by Hollywood Sinners
Out of time by Yamantaka Sonic Titan
No Good Town by Trixie & The Trainwrecks
Drunk by Mark Steiner & His Problems
Conception of the Blues by The Goon Mat & Lord Bernardo
Cool Town Woman by Tony Joe White
Don't Tell Jesus by The Devils

Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church) / Cheepnis / The Idiot Bastard Son / Orgy Orgy by Frank Zappa & The Mothers (From The Roxy Performances)

Second Cousin by The Flamin' Groovies
Too Much Wine by Leo "Bud" Welch
Will It Go Round in Circles by Billy Preston
Little Red Rooster by Sam Cooke
That's Why They Call it Temptation by Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis
But I Love You by Reverend Beat-Man featuring Nicole Izobel Garcia
Answering Machine by The Replacements
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

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Go to The Big Enchilada Podcast which has hours and hours of music like this.

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Friday, July 06, 2018

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: A Whole Lotta Zappa

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
 July 6, 2018



Here’s a true treat for all the Frank-o-philes out there: A new box set called The Roxy Performances features seven action-packed compact discs that include six full concerts plus a bunch of studio tracks (recorded at Ike Turner’s Bolic Sound Studios), rehearsal takes and sound checks by Frank Zappa & The Mothers in those golden days of December, 1973.

What a mighty time! Richard Nixon was preparing for his final Christmas in the White House. Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president, replacing Spiro T. Agnew, who was convicted in a kickback scam earlier in the year. The spacecraft  Pioneer 10 took the first close-up images of the planet Jupiter. The Exorcist debuted in movie theaters that month.

And Zappa played the Roxy, a Hollywood Club that had just opened less than three months before.

Arguably (and Zappa fans do love to argue) Daddy Frank was at the height of his creative powers during this area . And the Roxy-era Mothers were complete monsters. Keyboard man George Duke, the incredible Ruth Underwood on marimba, xylophone, vibraphone and percussion and singer/sax man Napoleon Murphy Brock are among Zappa’s most valuable players and their playing on these tracks only cement their positions. Duke and Brock had roots in jazz and funk while Underwood was classically trained. In this version of The Mothers, they helped create a complex musical backdrop complimenting Zappa’s wilder musical visions -- but not stepping on his trademark low-brow dirty jokes that helped draw in the masses.

By my count, this is the fourth Zappa product based on those ‘73 Roxy gigs. There was  Zappa’s 1974 album Roxy and Elsewhere (which featured most live material from those shows (and other non-Roxy tracks), much of which over-dubbed and remixed by perfectionist Zappa. Then four years ago there was a single-disc compilation, Roxy by Proxy, culled from those shows. Then in 2015 the Zappa Family Trust released a DVD featuring video from the Roxy shows. This package included an audio disc full of Roxy recordings.

Despite the sheer size of The Roxy Performances, this is a reasonably priced box set. It’s about $43 on Amazon, which ain’t bad.

The new collection includes multiple versions of “Penguin in Bondage,” “Cheepnis” (I’m just a sucker for a tune that starts off “Ate a hotdog, tasted real good …”), “Village of the Sun,” “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing,” and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)." And then there’s “Pygmy Twylyte” There are six versions ranging in length from four to 20 minutes. Also there are versions of various songs from other Zappa albums of the era, such as Overnight Sensation (“I’m the Slime,” “Montana”), Apostrophe (“Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow,” “Cosmic Debris”) and One Size Fits All (“Inca Roads.”)

And there are older songs too, such as “The Dog Breath Variations” from Uncle Meat and “The Idiot Bastard Son,” which first appeared on Zappa’s 1968 classic We’re Only in For the Money. (“His father’s a Nazi in Congress today / His mother’s a hooker somewhere in L.A.” …”)

The melody of this song reappears during a Roxy rehearsal but with new lyrics directed at the then commander-in-chief and leader of the free world. Zappa re-titled it “That Arrogant Dick Nixon.” This song isn’t nearly as powerful as the original “Idiot Bastard” -- which probably is why Zappa never put it on an album during his lifetime.

But it’s interesting hearing him play around with his old songs. And there’s a twisted, mutated take on “Louie Louie” called “Orgy Orgy” showing that despite Zappa’s advanced musical chops, he never drifted too far away from the garage.

My only quibble about The Roxy Performances is that in addition to all the fantastic music there is an overabundance of the musicians tuning up, noodling and screwing around. I can’t help think that even the most zealous Zappa completist wouldn’t object to just a little judicious editing to snip out the dead air, which mostly takes place at the outset of the four concerts. But I can live with this collection as is. Zappa was a giant -- a musical madman, a hilarious comic, an acid-tongued social commentator.

Come back Frank! America still needs you.

Also recommended:

* Late Blossom Blues: The Journey of Leo “Bud” Welch. In 2014 a new gospel and blues star emerged. Leo “Bud” Welch of Bruce, Miss. released his very first album, Sabougla Voices, a collection of 10 stinging gospel songs. Welch was a mere lad of 81 at the time. He quickly followed that up with an almost as powerful  blues record called I Don’t Prefer No Blues and began touring. (He played Taos Mesa Brewing in early 2015.)

Late Blossom Blues, released on DVD earlier this year, is a documentary directed by Wolfgang Almer and Stefan Wolner, telling the story of Welch’s short but satisfying musical career.

Welch’s devoted manager Vencie Varnado helps tell the story. Varnado recalled he was only 12 when he first heard Welch play -- at a gig for which “nobody showed up.” After Varnado got out of the Army, he rediscovered Welch, who by that point had stopped playing blues and had taken his music to the church.

He recorded some live footage of the old man and pitched Welch to Fat Possum Records, the company that introduced the world to Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford. Some record company flunky told him “Well we don’t do blues anymore …” Varnado, however insisted on emailing a video clip to the company. And, he says, only minutes after pressing “send,” Fat Possum honcho Bruce Watson called him and within days Welch was in the studio.

There is plenty of impressive performance footage from festivals as well as Mississippi juke joints and plenty of scenes of Welch being crotchety and loveable. And over the end credits there is a video of a much younger Welch in church with a gospel band singing a righteous version of “Praise His Name,” the first song on  Sabougla Voices.

Welch died last December, after the documentary was already making the film festival circuit. He wasn’t able to take advantage of Late Blossom Blues. But hopefully the movie will lead more people to his music.

Video time:

Here's the trailer for The Roxy Performances:



Here's "Inca Roads"



Here's the trailer for the Leo Welch doc



And here's a live version of "Girl in the Holler."



Thursday, July 05, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday, Smiley Lewis

One hundred and five years ago on this date a child named Overton Amos Lemons was born in DeQuincy, Louisiana, near Lake Charles. His mother died when he was a teenager. Young Overton jumped a freight train that took him to New Orleans. There he transformed into Smiley Lewis and became one of that city's most respected blues singers.

"Depending on the situation, Smiley possessed a voice that could shake the shot glasses off a South Rampart Street bar or lullaby a baby to sleep," s 1993 profile in Offbeat said. "One of New Orleans’ most prolific artists, between 1947 and 1965 Lewis recorded some of the most enjoyable and consistent R&B put on wax."

The article quoted famed New Orleans record producer Dave Bartholomew, (who wrote and produced many of Lewis’ best songs: "Smiley had one of the best voices we had around,” Bartholomew said “But it didn’t pay."

Offbeat explained: "Despite recording the original and superior versions of such classics as `Blue Monday,' 'I Hear You Knocking' and 'One Night,' and leaving an enviable body of work, the times and the quirks of the record business held his career back."

Basically, Lewis' problems was that his songs kept getting covered by more famous artists like Fats Domino.

Here are a few Smiley songs that should have been hits. Let's start with his record with which he introduced himself to anyone with ears to hear, "Here Comes Smiley."


This ne is called "Lillie Mae," which was his mother's name.


Here's a smooth R&B ballad, "Someday You'll Want Me."


And here's a song that Elvis Presley later made famous.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Have Another Heaping Helping of Hyper-Patriotism


Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July! And it's a perfect time for hyper-patriotic country songs.

Behold!

Let's start with Lulu Belle and Scotty in the early '50s. They couldn't stand those lowdown stinkin' Reds!



More than a decade later, Marty Robbins hated those low-down stinkin' commie protesters as much as he loved Wicked Felina



So did Leon Womack



Roy Acuff, country artist/super patriot performs "Smoke on the Water." I don't think Deep Purple done it that way ...



Haven Hamilton, Henry Gibson's character in Nashville, is said to have been inspired by ol' Roy




I owe this post to a recent thread in the 20th Century Country Music Facebook group. Thank you, fellow patriots!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST





Sunday, July 1, 2018
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell 101.1 FM
Email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist :

OPENING THEME: Let It Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
4th of July by X
The Outcast by Dave Van Ronk
96 Tears by Garland Jeffreys
Used by The Black Smokers
Medication by The Saucer Men
Mujeres Gatos en la Luna by Los Eskeletos
Dead Sea Fruit ny Miss Ludella Black & The Masonics
Bad Mouthin' by Tony Joe White
I'm Not Like Everybody Else by The Rockin' Guys

Do The Push and Pull by Rufus Thomas
We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You by Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys
Love Buzz by Shocking Pink
Love Buzz by Nirvana
Lille Girl by The Goon Mat & Lord Bernardo
Commuter Baby by Trixie & The Trainwrecks
The Monkey Speaks His Mind by Andre Williams

The Crusher by The Cramps
Jump and Shout by The Dirtbombs
Taxidermy Porno by The Hex Dispensers
Laredo (Small Dark Something) by Jon Dee Graham
No Guilt by The Waitresses
Today is a Beautiful Day by Reverend Beat-Man & The New Wave
The Good Bastards by The Bennevilles
I'm Shakin' by Little Willie John
Praise His Name by Leo "Bud" Welch
It Came from the South by Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis
American Music by The Blasters

The Beast is You by The Electric Mess
Bottle of Wine by The Fireballs
House of the Rising Sun by Jello Biafra & The Raunch and Soul All Stars
Manny's Bones by Los Lobos
Mi Saxophone by Al Hurricane
You Done Me Wrong by Bill Hearne
Everything's Dead by The Dead Brothers
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

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Want to keep the party going after I sign off at midnight?
Go to The Big Enchilada Podcast which has hours and hours of music like this.

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast CLICK HERE

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: The Fabulous 70s

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican   July 20, 2018 Let us now praise the fabulous seventies. No, I’m not tal...