Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin in his Strawberry Breakfast Club uniform from days of yore
Tuesday, May 26th, 2015
Turn out the lights, the party's over
They say that all good things must end
Call it tonight, the party's over
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again
From the Willie Nelson song “The Party’s Over”
Indeed, the party is over for David Letterman on CBS and for me with the Breakfast Club show at the Strawberry Music Festival. And contrary to the last line in the chorus of the Willie Nelson song above, tomorrow will not start the same old thing again. Dave spent 33 years entertaining fans of late-night television before signing off on the 20th, while I spent 15 years co-hosting the BC show for early morning risers at the music fest. While the fest took place last weekend in Grass Valley, due to changes in the Breakfast Club format – I was told that there would no longer be a regular stage for the event to take place on – I decided to hang up my seersucker bathrobe, red Hush Puppy slippers, and strawberry pajamas. I did not attend the fest for only the second time in a quarter century, as I started going in 1990. While there for many years I also hosted some fun late-night live-remote shows from my home in Camp Carltone. It felt a bit strange to be hanging in Carltone World Headquarters on over Memorial Day Weekend, but I had a great run, and the countless friendships, photos and memories from Strawberry will always be with me. As for Letterman, well, he made a little bit more money over than years than I did, so he can continue to party on in any way he feels like from now to eternity…
MOLD archives. If you missed last week’s column (or any other Carltone Friday MOLD columns over the past year), or maybe wanted to go back and read some of Randog’s informative CD reviews, you can now do so quite easily by simply clicking here on the CBA Carltone MOLD Archive. Thanks to CBA webmaster Rick Cornish for setting this up!
On the road again. Speaking of Willie Nelson above, I just finished reading his new autobiography that is titled It’s A Long Story: My Life, and man, what a life he has led. Still touring and playing at age 82, having recorded over 100 albums with many different singers and different styles, having had four wives and seven children, surviving an epic battle with IRS, and outliving most of his contemporaries, Willie’s story is one fabulous journey that will make you feel like your along for the ride on his tour bus.
Gearing up for Grass Valley. Everyone is getting excited about the upcoming 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. If you need something to get you in the mood, then watch this cool promo video by Joe Weed that was made a few years ago.
Delusions of grandeur. Most of us feel much younger than we actually are – despite what we see in the mirror – while everyone else around us seems to be ageing at a faster pace. For you readers that are of an “advanced age,” I hate to burst your collective bubbles, but if you go to this site here you will see many of your musical heroes from daze gone by, all of whom are turning 70 this year. Pete Townsend, Stephen Stills, Mickey Dolenz, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon, John Fogerty, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bette Midler, and many more were all born in 1945…
Now singing, Michael Corleone. You loved him in The Godfather flicks, Scarface and Serpico, and he won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman. But did you know he could sing, too? Or, at least, try to? Now at the ripe young age of 75, Al Pacino gets to play an ageing rock star in a new film called Danny Collins. Rare is the time when a performer will apologize in advance for playing a role in which he may have been ill-suited, but this is what Pacino did in England recently when he jokingly quipped, "I am sorry about the singing but I have to do it in the part." He also suffered from nerves when the script demanded that he perform in front of a crowd. "I will tell you the one thing you learn about singing in front of an audience…it's really hard to hang onto the words," he said. Check out the details here.
A long, strange trip indeed. In case you have been living in a cave in Afghanistan for the past few months, you are well aware that the surviving members of the Grateful Dead are reuniting for a series of concerts this summer. The lead singer and most prominent alive Dead member is Bob Weir, and in an amazing stroke of coincidence, a Netflix documentary about him titled The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir becomes available for streaming on the 22nd. You can read about the flick in the SF Chronicle. Even stranger, Weir was also interviewed recently in that renowned music publication The Wall Street Journal.
How to become a miserable musician in 12 steps. Want to learn how to feel like most musicians? Not everybody can be as successful as Willie Nelson or Bob Weir, who are two of the one-percenters that got to make a lifelong living from playing their guitars. Look at this whimsical yet all too true description here.
End of the road for Leon. Long time eclectic performer Leon Redbone has decided to give up traveling and recording music due to undisclosed health issues. Here are the details.
Life’s railway to heaven. Boy, it was a tough time last week for musicians from the NY/NJ area with first names starting with the letter B. Bruce Lundvall, a well-known jazz figure and former CEO of Blue Note Records, died on the 19th in New Jersey. He was 79. He is credited with signing Grammy Award winning musicians Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Natalie Cole and Norah Jones, along with many others. Bob Belden, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, bandleader, label executive, historian and writer of jazz music, died on the 20th in New York City after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 58. Ben Freed, a popular long-time New York City banjo player, died on the 20th at the age of 59.
Laurie and Bromberg. David Bromberg and his band played a show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on the 9th, and you can watch them performing the song “Stealin’” here with special guest Laurie Lewis.
Just for the heck of it. Linda Ronstadt and friends singing and playing the Jimmy Martin song “Living Like a Fool” on the Playboy After Dark TV show from 1969. Check out the outfits and the groovy crowd! Thanks to Randog for this video tip.
Blasts from the past. About 20 years back, before turning to the lucrative business of column writing, I used to write CD reviews for the CBA and NCBS, so from time to time (when filler is needed in this space) there will be old reviews posted here that people have never seen before or don’t remember reading. Here is my take on one of my all-time favorite recordings from 1996.
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen
Sugar Hill Records CD-3850
Okay, bluegrass fans, listen up! This is not a bluegrass album but it does have mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitars – along with a few other non-bluegrass instruments – and unfortunately Herb Pedersen does not play the banjo on it. But it does have Herb Pedersen singing, and Chris Hillman cut his mandolin teeth back in the ‘60s playing bluegrass in a band coincidentally called The Hillmen. Bakersfield is not quite bluegrass, but these guys are card-carrying members of the Bluegrass Musicians Union, so that’s close enough to country for me.
For the uninitiated, these two guys had a country band for many years called The Desert Rose Band, in which they scored numerous top ten hits and two Grammy nominations. But the rose wilted about two years ago, and Pedersen has gone back to his bluegrass roots playing banjo in the Laurel Canyon Ramblers. Hillman was a founding member of The Byrds and the influential country-rock band The Flying Burrito Brothers. Pedersen also played with Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt along with the short-lived bluegrass band from the early ‘80s called Here Today, with David Grisman and Vince Gill. On Bakersfield Bound they’ve gone back and recaptured the authentic Bakersfield sound of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, a sound made renowned by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
There are 14 tunes here, with every one except the title cut – which was written by Hillman – being about heartbreak, the reason for which country music exists. All but the final two songs are old time classics, and in the tradition of that era, only two of the songs are longer than three minutes in length. Hillman and Pedersen’s harmonies are tight as a glove, being very reminiscent of the Everly Brothers, The Burritos, and Desert Rose. Hillman does all the lead singing, and Pedersen adds the harmonies, with tears being jerked at a non-stop pace. If the lyrics and harmonies don’t have you blubbering like a fool by record’s end, the steel guitar playing by Desert Rose alumnus Jay Dee Maness will.
Included on this CD are gems such as “He Doesn’t Deserve You Anymore” and “There Goes My Love,” written by Buck Owens; the Jim and Jesse classic “Congratulations Anyway,” about a guy who goes to his lost love’s marriage to someone else; Hillman pays homage to the late Gram Parsons, his singing partner in the Burritos, in the songs “Close Up the Honky Tonks” and “Brand New Heartache,” songs that Parsons recorded. You’ll be reaching for your hanky when you hear “My Baby’s Gone” and perhaps its sequel, “Time Goes So Slow.” And you’ll lose it completely by the time they do one of the saddest songs of all-time about lost love, “The Lost Highway.”
Chris and Herb are anything but lost on that highway to Bakersfield. They don’t sound like they are Bakersfield bound, they sound like they’ve lived there forever. And if you’re a fan of either of these two talented singers/players/writers, or of that great authentic old-time country sound, then take a virtual reality trip out to the Central Valley without even leaving home by being Bakersfield Bound, too.
Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.
Coming attractions. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.
Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Randog is traveling this weekend, so here are two CD reviews from 2103 that never appeared in this Friday column.
Randog's Daily Pick 11/13/2013
Grant Street String Band Grant Street String Band
Flat Rock Records CD FR103
Was it really thirty years ago? Greg Townsend's recent passing has caused me to pull this out and listen to it for the first time in a long time, first as a way to recall just what a clean, swift, and tasteful guitarist he was in this band, and inevitably then, to remember this band's place in the history of bluegrass in Northern California. In 1983, they seemed poised to spring into national prominence; they and The Good Ol’ Persons were going to make the larger world sit up and take notice of what was going on in California bluegrass circles. To some extent, that happened, but The Grant Street String Band only recorded this one album; for whatever reason or reasons, after this, the band members went their separate ways, but they left us this. I'm amazed anew at the intricacies of the ensemble playing here. I remain convinced that Steve Krouse would be playing in famous bands today had he pursued his banjo dreams in that direction, and Tom Bekeny remains one of my favorite mandolin players, innovative and tasteful, and I'm happy that we're still able to hear him with some frequency. Beth Weil remains a dear friend and I remember her bass playing and singing with so many Bay Area bands fondly, from Oakum to Rhythm Futur to The GOP's. When this album was re-released on CD, the previously unreleased version of Beth's take on “Once A Day” (Connie Smith) was included, and I'm glad it was; I used to request it at Oakum shows even before she became part of Grant Street. This album introduced several Laurie Lewis songs to the bluegrass world, along with her prodigious fiddle chops. And oh, check out the duet and trio singing. The band played A Prairie Home Companion radio show on my birthday, that booking due largely on the basis of this album. Garrison Keillor wished me “Happy Birthday.” This was, and still is, an important album to me and to a lot of other people, and a big part of it was because of Greg's tasteful musical chops and instincts. It deserves a close re-listening, and if you haven't heard it you should...
Randog's Daily Pick 11/14/2013
Ginny Hawker After It's Gone
Between the time this album was recorded in 2007 and released in 2008, what little independent distribution there was left in the recording industry collapsed, and this album was lost in the mix. I'm not sure how many people have had a chance to hear it, so I'm mentioning it here. At the time, I wrote – yes, I wrote the liner notes – "Ginny Hawker's voice is one of the true wonders of traditional music. Her pitch is true, the passion controlled, not contrived, and it doesn't lapse into folky histrionics. She has the uncanny knack of locating the emotional core of whatever song she approaches, and once she sings it, it stays sung." Maybe I could write it better, but I wouldn't change the sentiments. Ginny is one of the greats, and this is a wonderful album to hear the strength and diversity of her talent. It was produced by Dirk Powell, with appearances by the great Tracy Schwartz (her husband), Kevin Wimmer, Courtney Granger, and many more, with a wonderfully eclectic mix of songs and tunes, from Hank Williams, Ray Price, Porter & Dolly to black and white traditional gospel classics to bluegrass from the repertoire of Larry Sparks. Amazon has it, and there are probably other mail order sources, or you can order it from Ginny directly. Her other Rounder album is just as good, but got better initial distribution, and is thus likely better known. Her version of Merle Haggard's “A Place to Fall Apart” on THAT one has to be heard to be believed...
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to email@example.com. For more info than you need to know about Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, go to his Carltone web site. Missed a Friday MOLD? Don’t fret, just click here or here to read past columns.