Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, for Halloween, disguised as a member of the Duck Dynasty cast
Friday, October 31, 2014
Today is orange and black day. These two colors are associated with Halloween, which, here in San Francisco – where Carltone World Headquarters is located – is a national holiday of sorts. On any given day there are countless people walking around this city in strange outfits. But on Halloween, if you are not dressed up, you stand out as the odd ball. Which is just fine by me. But there is another reason for the orange and black colors in this city today. There was a little baseball series that came to an end two days ago, and from what I hear, the local team came out on top. So there will be a parade just two blocks from where I am writing now. Which is also why there is a dearth of the usual action-packed music news that the Carltone staff is known for presenting. All of the interns are out on Market Street (it is hard to get good, non-paying help these days!), ready to scream and cheer for their local baseball heroes, and that leaves just me to edit, print, cut and paste this column today. Thankfully I 've gotten a lot of help this week from our roving Nashville correspondent, Randy Pitts, who has sent along a cornucopia of reviews and news from Music City which can be read below.
The bombs bursting red glare… The media and blogosphere were both agog earlier this week because some heretofore unknown-to-the-baseball-world singer from a band called Staind mangled the words of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Sunday's World Series game in San Francisco. Hey folks, get over this non-story already! Do you think anyone would be talking about this guy this week if he had sung it correctly? Do you even remember or care who sang the song at the previous four games or the last two games? I didn't think so. But now everyone knows who Aaron Lewis and his band are. Did he really forget the words, or was this a carefully planned move to garner free media coverage? Only he knows for sure, but I would be on the latter. But I doubt he forgets the words to his or his band's songs. And now he and the band are famous, and he/they will soon be on talk shows while his concert and album sales will skyrocket. Is this a great country or what?
Johnny is rolling over in his grave. John Carter Cash – the son of legendary country singers Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash – was arrested in Canada the other day after returning from a hunting trip and stripping down to his undershorts at an airport. Gosh, do you think alcohol might be involved? At the least, it is fodder for a new country song…
Christmas time’s a comin’. Are you looking for something for that special cat-loving-banjo-player in your life? Well, look no more. Here is the purrfect t-shirt for him/her.
Just for the heck of it. A video of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys doing a version of “Stay a Little Longer.” Man, the one guy gets quite an electric sound out of an acoustic guitar…
Life’s railway to heaven. It was too busy of week for great players going on to the never-ending music jam up in the sky. Jack Bruce, legendary bassist from the ‘60s rock band Cream, died in Suffolk, England. He was 71. Stan Jay, who owned the Mandolin Brothers musical instrument store on Staten Island, NY, which has been a pilgrimage destination for recording stars, collectors and other connoisseurs of the guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele for more than 40 years, died from Mantle cell lymphoma on the 29th in Staten Island. He, too, was 71.
A voice like no other. This was a real nice story about my friend John Byrne Cooke and his new book about Janis Joplin in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. "On the Road With Janis Joplin" was officially published this week, and John will be making two appearances. On the 1st at 8 p.m. he will be at the Sebastopol Community Center, and on the 2nd you can also see him in Corte Madera at Book Passage at 7 p.m.
Kathy Kallick around the bay. The Kathy Kallick Band has two big shows this weekend. On the 1st you can see them play the Redwood Bluegrass Associates series in Mountain View starting at 8 p.m., and on Sunday the 2nd they will be at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.
Postponed sessions. The Band Sessions series that was scheduled for November 7th-9th at the Yosemite Bug featuring Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands has been postponed until next spring.
Coming attractions. The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. West Marin banjo and guitar player Tim Weed and his band will play the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on November 15th. Also on the 15th, Front Country and Steep Ravine will be playing a show at Slim’s in SF, with this being a CD release party for the former. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play the Redwood Bluegrass show in Mountain View on December 6th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. Go to all of the links for complete info.
Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 1st from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Day of the Dead (Grass), featuring bluegrass versions of Grateful Dead songs plus Dead versions of bluegrass songs.
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 event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.
Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer, and he has been really busy this week. Here he offers up a commentary on an album, two CD reviews, and a book review.
I read Andy Hall's entry in the “Hooked On Bluegrass” series on The California Bluegrass Association's website. He mentions that hearing Barenburg, Douglas, and Meyers' Skip, Hop, and Wobble recording is what turned him from blues slide playing to bluegrass, which reminded me just what a potent recording that was...and still is. When I worked at Down Home Music, putting that album on for in-store play almost always led to a sale, something you can only say about a few recordings. That store had, and I'm sure continues to have, a VERY discerning clientele.
Randog's Daily Pick 10/28/2014
Jerry Lee Lewis Live At the International, Las Vegas
Mercury LP SR61278
I need to hear this one from time to time just to remind myself what a great country artist Jerry Lee was in his prime. This was recorded in 1970; according to the liner notes, it was his first appearance in Las Vegas, and it came at a time when he had made a calculated move into "the country and western field of music, which is the number one field of music as far as I'm concerned right now" as Jerry Lee says in the course of proceedings in his best unctuous voice, fake humility oozing from every syllable. Calculated though it was, Jerry had made this full-bore move into "the country and western field of music" necessary by making some unwise choices, career and otherwise in the ‘60s. This is some of the best of the two-fisted, full-throated Jerry Lee brand of country ever committed to vinyl, and remains a favorite of mine. Two of his biggest and best are here in live versions: "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" (Mickey Newbury) and the Kris Kristofferson-Shel Silverstein penned "Once More With Feeling." Also included is Bill Mack's "Drinkin' Champagne," its inclusion another shrewd move due to the fact that Mack was one of the biggest country DJs around in those days, and Jerry DID want his records played on country radio. But The Killer's version IS probably my favorite of the many recorded versions I've heard – and it's a cool song. On Jerry's bathos-drenched country hit "She Still Comes Around (To Love What's Left of Me)" he really pours it on, and Tom T. Hall's "Ballad Of Forty Dollars," is here – Jerry turns into an up-tempo, piano churning romp, replete with a dollop of country yodeling, and Big Joe Turner's R&B hit "Flip, Flop, and Fly" is a reminder that Jerry could rock with the best of them on material from the R&B field of music. Sister Linda Gail sings occasional harmony throughout and gets her own featured number, her version of "Take These Chains From My Heart" – I would have preferred a duet with Jerry or Jerry solo myself, but family, you know. They DO duet on "a brand new number written for them” –"When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose"( heh heh), and Jerry Lee also nods to Hank Williams ("Jambalaya") and Bob Wills ("San Antonio Rose"). This is a small classic, not perfect, but always worth revisiting. Jerry Lee also recorded an amazing gospel album for Mercury in 1970, touching all the bases and checking all the boxes in his brand new country recording career, called In Loving Memories, which is another neglected masterpiece.
Randog's Daily Pick 10/29/2014
The New Lost City Ramblers & Friends
Vanguard CD 77011-2
Part of a Vanguard series called Newport Folk Festival Classics, and put together and annotated by Mary Katherine Aldin, this is a wonderful opportunity to hear a youthful NLCR of the time: Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tracy Schwarz in live performance, frequently with the participation of their heroes and influences (Cousin Emmy, Maybelle Carter, Eck Robertson, Roscoe Holcomb, Sam & Kirk McGhee, and Dock Boggs) at the Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 to 1965. I was a kid when these recordings were made – actually saw the NLCR live in 1965 – and it is difficult to overstate the importance of this band of young revivalists on the re-emergence of what came to be known as old-time or old-timey music to my generation. And here they are actually playing alongside some of the biggest stars of recorded pre-bluegrass country music. There are nine selections featuring the wonderful – and largely unsung – Cousin Emmy, five with "Mother" Maybelle Carter, an outstanding "Little Birdie" with the phenomenal Roscoe Holcomb, and a spellbinding "Oh Death" by Dock Boggs himself. Eck Robertson, who made some of the earliest recordings featuring Texas fiddling, is here, playing his "Sally Johnson," and the list goes on. There are 31 cuts in all, including several featuring NLCR at the time in tandem or singly – Mike Seeger on dulcimer singing "Waterbound,", for instance – and their dedication to breathing new life to classic music, much of which might have been lost without their attentions, is palpable, as is their respect for the legends they accompany here. Highly recommended.
Randog's Daily Pick 10/30/2014
Pretty Good For a Girl: Women In Bluegrass by Murphy Hicks Henry
University of Illinois Press
I should have highlighted this book a while ago – it came out in 2013 – but I am finally getting around to it. Murphy Henry has spent most of her life as a working musician, playing and teaching bluegrass music (The Murphy Method of instruction was devised by her), and is uniquely qualified to write this much needed and important book. She does a wonderful job of tracing the history of women's involvement in the music –through dogged research, lots of one-on-one interviews, and even personal reminiscences. The text is over 380 pages, and there are an additional 85 pages of source notes, bibliography, and index. But this isn't a dry academic study. Far from it. Murphy manages, in interviews, to have various women bluegrass artists address frankly and forthrightly the problems unique to women in carving out and sustaining a career playing bluegrass. From the pioneering artists (Sally Ann Forrester, Wilma Lee Cooper, Rose Maddox, and Ola Belle Reed) to the present – the last chapter in the book features Kristen Scott Benson, Rhonda Vincent, The Dixie Chicks, and the women of The Cherryholmes Family – Murphy has it covered, with many stops along the way. I've been lucky in the last thirty-five years as a fan, record store clerk, talent buyer, promoter, and booking agent, to have worked with and/or for many of the women profiled in this book. and have been friends or an admiring fan of most of the rest, but I learned a great deal in reading this book, and expect to return to it many times, both for information and pleasure, in the coming years. Murphy does a great job highlighting the development of the music in California, a subject about which, needless to say, I am biased. In fact, my first involvement professionally began in Northern CA, and I was witness to much of the history Murphy discusses in the chapter entitled “The Women in California,” and even personally involved in a few cases. Beth Weil, Kathy Barwick, Markie Sanders, Sue Ericsson and others are quoted in this chapter here, and Murphy treats the more or less household names of today like Alison Brown, Kathy Kallick, Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter and others too numerous to mention – you know who you are – with the attention appropriate to their place in the music's history. And I was particularly taken by the in-depth treatment given to Ingrid (Herman) Fowler, who was a seminal figure not only in the establishment of bluegrass in the Bay Area, but in Nashville as well. Ingrid left the Bay Area to come to Nashville about the time I moved to Berkeley, so I never knew her (she passed away shortly after we arrived in Music City), so I read the chapter of the book devoted to her with fascination. As I've already said, I've been lucky to know and work with and/or for many of the women mentioned here, and I don't want to make this into an exercise in name dropping ("You mean more than you already have?" I can hear some of you saying), so I'll just say, read this book, you'll be glad you did. It deserves a spot next to Neil Rosenberg's Bluegrass on any serious fan's bookshelf. And, oh yeah, there are TWO pictures of my wife Chris Lewis in this book!
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 to read past columns.