Archive for the ‘Ravings’ Tag
I have loved Michelle Shocked’s music since the first time I heard “Anchorage” 25 years ago. Since that time she has created an incredible body of work- music that was liberating, expressive, challenging, and often rooted in the tradition of free-minded folks like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Bruce Springsteen. More than once, I was moved by her music, by her vision.
That is why it was so upsetting to read of her apparent meltdown on stage in San Francisco this past week. I avoided commenting simply because I couldn’t imagine her saying what was being reported. Now that the audio of that event has been posted, I better understand the situation.
Her reality isn’t my reality. Hey, she believes what she is saying. As misguided as her beliefs are, as hateful as much of her verbage was, she believes it was important to communicate it. At least, at the time.
I’m disappointed that someone I have admired so much, for so long, now apparently holds opinions and beliefs that are so hurtful. The joy of freedom is that we don’t have to agree with everything people say. Sometimes, folks cross lines- either to be provocative and push an issue, whether we like it or not, or to encourage dialogue. And sometimes, just to be hateful.
I don’t know what Michelle was attempting Sunday. It makes no sense to me. I am not going to suggest that she ‘needs’ help, that she is in the middle of a breakdown. Her statement released following the appearance in San Francisco confuses things even more. As does this interview.
This is what I know. Tonight, when I put Short, Sharp, Shocked into the CD player, I will enjoy it. And I will hope that Michelle Shocked rebounds from this very strange, very ill-conceived slice of ‘reality’. I will think good thoughts about her, and hope that she truly doesn’t mean the things she implied on stage last weekend. I will hope that she is attempting to engage in a critical and challenging dialogue.
Because, if she isn’t and actually does believe some of the things she said, or at least suggested, I need to reconsider a lot of my own thinking.
I don’t habitually post links to other writers’ deep thoughts- heck, it is hard enough to attract readers without sending them elsewhere- but Chris Stuart, noted bluegrass songwriter, musician, and humourist, has recently posted a piece examining freedom of speech from a bluegrassic perspective. It is worth considering, I think, even if he doesn’t send me his CDs for review any more: http://bluegrasstoday.com/blue-yodel-47-freedom-of-speech/ I’m not sure why this resonated with me so much. Perhaps because I’m tired of certain people telling me that what I think is somehow wrong or anti-whatever simply because I don’t happen to agree with their (from my perspective) narrow and wrong-headed moronity. Not very tolerant, that last thought. Regardless, Chris goes deep on this one. Ties in “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” while he’s at it, although I’ve always found “I Am My Own Grandpa” much more offensive.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
When listening to bluegrass, and music in general, I’m never exactly sure what will hit me and cause me to delve deeper and what will simply be heard and then discarded. “Bluefield,” a song off Ralph Stanley II’s recent Born to Be A Drifter album, is the latest to set out a crooked road for me to follow. My thoughts are captured over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass: tp://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=886
A beautiful Sunday in Red Deer- fresh snow melting, the air warm and clean. I’ve spent most of today absorbed in school work, window open, and listening to Ron Hynes. I’m now four albums in- started with the newly purchased Ron Hynes album from 2006, then Face to the Gale, Get Back Change, and now Stealing Genius from a couple years back has started.
A few minutes ago, as Ron sang “You could shoot off a cannon down the middle of Bond, And attract no attention in downtown St. John’s” within ”No Change in Me,” a song he co-wrote with Murray McLauchlan a decade or so ago, I thought- sometimes- like today- I don’t need another bleeding folksinger when I’ve got Ron Hynes on the stereo.
And I don’t. Not today.
Ron Hynes is the real deal.
Put one of his albums on today and see if you don’t agree. That’s all I have.
Thanks, as always, for visiting Fervor Coulee.
As I explain in this post, http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=844, I have been suffering from a bluegrass writer’s block. Hopefully, it will now pass. I struggled with this piece and with my reaction to the Larry Cordle song that it is about, but felt I needed to write about it to be able to move on. “America, Where Have You Gone?” is a horrible song, filled with hate and disdain, that breeds intolerance. It is also part of an otherwise outstanding album. I only heard the song and album in late fall, so I realize my reaction isn’t very timely. And Yes, I do now realize I overuse the word ‘hate’. Had I taken another half-hour before posting, I may have realized that, but I didn’t. But the word, and its related ‘hateful’, work just fine for me in this instance. [My final edit. I hope.] Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, and thanks for your patience as I work through the demon-piece this has become. Donald
Just posted my contribution to Gillian Turnbull’s blog entry: http://www.nodepression.com/forum/topics/name-five-albums-that-you-can-sing-all-the-lyrics-to
A nice little thread has been generated and I could/should have added Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n Roll album.
The image to the left is a big hint to the first album on my list. Likely somewhat appropriate that the picture I just posted is of a cut-out bin copy.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
While in the big city today, I almost bought Kasey Anderson’s latest album. Having not heard of it prior, it would have been a completely spontaneous purchase- often the best kind. I ended up not getting it, can’t remember why but I did purchase a few others.
Now, I’m glad I didn’t because, visiting Anderson’s website tonight I find out that the iTunes version of the album comes with 3 exclusive bonus tracks. http://www.kaseyanderson.com/news/heart-of-a-dog-2
I understand and embrace bonus tracks. What I don’t understand, what I can’t wrap my wee simple brain around, is why artists (and their related companies) insist on short-changing those of us who actually travel to brick and mortar stores to buy the physical product- the one that has artwork, liner notes, and all that claptrap.
My diatribe against Rosanne Cash having done this with The List more than a year ago is here:
More recently, Alison Krauss and Union Station did something similar with a Target exclusive edition that has 6 bonus tracks. I’ve held off on purchasing Paper Airplane simply because I haven’t decided if I’m going to tray to order this version from the States. (We don’t have Target’s in Alberta. Yet.)
Can someone explain why my dollars, spent in a store, should be worth less than the (usually much less) dollars I spend electronically for a digital edition of an album?
I suppose I’m just grumpy tonight. Again.
Excuse me while I go download Heart of a Dog. BTW, Kasey maintains a very good and frequently funny and cutting site at http://kaseyanderson.tumblr.com/. Today’s picture soothes my aching heart tonight. Sometimes I think cats are too good for our world.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I watched part of the Ian Tyson DVD This is My Sky this afternoon, and it includes interview clips from this past summer’s Calgary Folk Music Festival- I sure wish they had included performance pieces from that day as Tyson was in fine form.
Part way through the bonus features disc, Tom Russell compliments Tyson by stating that modern country music is all ‘throwaway music’, a description that couldn’t be used with Tyson’s music. While a bit over-reaching, the comment resonated with me in light of this weekend’s list over at The 9513 about recordings that made folks fall in love with country music. http://www.the9513.com/your-take-love-at-first-listen/
While the songs many folks mention in the comments are, to me, meaningless (and IMO pretty much what Russell was describing as throwaway) what is obvious is that every person’s gateway into the world of country music is largely personal and what impacts one person doesn’t necessarily connect with another. Jessica Andrews, Lorrie Morgan and Kevin Sharp? As shudder inducing as they may be to me, to someone those artists, their albums and songs are just as significant has the one I’m going to ramble on a bit about today.
As I type I’m listening to that album, the one that I’m thinking was my first country music love- Rosanne Cash’s Seven Year Ache.
Family trips in the Buick LeSabre and later the Ford Cougar were accompanied by 8-Track recordings of studio musicians mimicking the hits of Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker. As well there were a couple Johnny Cash recordings in the pile- I’m pretty sure one of them was The Rambler. I recall having a passing fascination with The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour when I was real young and CFCW was often playing in the house. But country music wasn’t really anything I would admit to enjoying.
I don’t recall listening to any country music while in high school, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get into George Jones until university. The first time I can recall listening to country music with any sustained attention was while working at Climax Records in Leduc. I remember that the store owner had a poster for Emmylou Harris’ live album Last Date in the back room, and I did listen to that album while working there.
Darkness on the Edge of Town had come out a few years earlier and besides being my introduction to Bruce Springsteen, it made me susceptible to the cinematic scope that I would eventually find in the best of country music.
The first country album I remember cracking was Seven Year Ache. Something about that album cover- the piercing eye contact she makes with the camera- was certainly an attraction. There was a beguiling mystery in that gaze that made me take notice. Still, I don’t think I would have played the album had I not known- maybe through searching in the big yellow Phonolog binder- that “What Kinda Girl?” was actually a cover of Steve Forbert’s “What Kinda Guy?”
None the less, Seven Year Ache was opened and listened to sometime in the late winter or early spring of 1983 and my world slowly shifted, sending me into the world of country music- to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Johnny Cash and George Jones. Heck, for a while there it led to Charly McClain, too.
I know the title track would eventually become one of my all-time favourite songs; heck, how could it not? But it was far from the only song that drew me in. “Blue Moon With a Heartache,” another Cash original, was such a lonely song, reminding me of the teen-ballads from the 50s and 60s that were part of my music education in the early to mid- 70s. The album’s lead track is the Keith Sykes song “Rainin’” and it is basically a rock & roll song barely disguised as country. Booker T.’s organ fills contribute to that feeling, as does the drumming laid out by LarrieLondin.
I recall the pulsing beat of “My Baby Thinks He’s A Train” being impressive; little did I know how much that owed to forty different Johnny Cash songs. The album’s closing track “I Can’t Resist” sent me over the edge because it reminded me so much of Rachel Sweet and her song “Tonight Ricky.”
I know my first favourite song on the album was definitely “What Kinda Girl?” Listening to the song now it seems pretty quaint, and I have a vague memory of her singing the song at the Calgary Folk Music Festival (accompanied by John Leventhal) in 1996, the same day she proclaimed- in writing- her ‘Love’ for me while signing my Seven Year Ache album cover. But, hearing her sing “I’m here for lovin’, but I ain’t no slut” in 1983 seemed pretty sharp and may have pivotal in adjusting the way I looked at country music.
If you haven’t listened to Seven Year Ache recently, I would encourage you to do so. To my ears it has aged well. Far from traditional, neither does it have the dated Billy Sherrill-type of arrangements that were so common on other Columbia and Epic releases of the day. Rodney Crowell’s production choices hold up; while there is no shortage of musicians on the album, the tracks never feel too crowded or over-produced. An incredible number of them are common to most fans of country music: Emory Gordy, Jr., Tony Brown, Glen D. Hardin, Albert Lee, Hank DeVito. Well-respected certainly even at the time, but how was I to know that? Emmylou Harris sings harmony on select songs and those songs may have been my introduction to her.
For a kid who was most comfortable with The Who at the time, Seven Year Ache was revelatory. While memory and time play tricks, I’m pretty sure it was the first country album I listened to with any sort of appreciation and it therefore led me onto this path of Americana, roots, folk, country, and bluegrass that now seem most natural to me. And it definitely isn’t throwaway country music.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Feel free to comment on your gateway album? What led you to roots music? Donald
The past few days have added up to become one of the busiest weeks ever here at
Edmonton's Idyl Tea, circa 1986 at The Gateway
Fervor Coulee, and for that I thank you. I hope you are finding things of interest. (Sorry about the multiple edits- things keep disappearing. Hopefully…)
Today was a strange day. I had taken yesterday off from catching up on various school-based projects to do some casual recharging and ended up watching portions of a couple hockey games, reading a novel, visiting Costco (Urgh!), watching forgettable movies with my wife, and buying 120 plastic flutes.
This morning I sat down and started ploughing through the work and it didn’t take as long to get through as I had anticipated; a good thing as it turned out because, as is often the case, I became distracted. I checked my email and was sent into a bit of a spin learning that a distant but important person in my life had passed away after a long battle with cancer.
I’m not sure why that got me going in this direction, but it got me thinking about Idyl Tea. Again, no connection to my friend who had passed this morning, except- I suppose and upon reflection- my friend Tina was connected to a bluegrass band I have long championed. And, years ago, the first band I can recall supporting similarly in print was Idyl Tea.
Almost three decades ago, when I was desperately trying to be an urban-hipster (something I never successfully pulled off) I bought a compilation album called It Came from Innerspace and this may have been the first placed I heard the precursor to Idyl Tea, Route 66.
Hailing from Edmonton, Route 66 had two songs on the album, “Where Is She During the Week” and “Had Enough of This,” and to me they were somehow remarkable. While the album also featured facecrime (yeah! Moe Berg!) and the Malibu Kens, legendary bands from the considerable distance of Leduc to Edmonton- which was greater than it would now seem- Route 66’s mix of power pop, uncomfortable swagger, punk and vulnerable troubadourism appealed to me immediately. They were modern mods, a sub-group that I could only hope to be associated with. If I could only find the right community hall, I too could be like them. Well, that and learn to play music. And look cool.
A few months later, or maybe at the same time- timelines get foggy after awhile- I found myself living in Lister Hall on the U of A campus, being served late-night pizza at The Ship by a guy I recognized, bass playing Henry Engel. Over the course of my university career, I would cross paths with Henry and his Idyl Tea bandmates in a number of ways, most significantly (for me) by interviewing the band and writing a Gateway feature advancing one of their gigs in the city. Craig Metcalfe worked at a favourite record store, Sound Connection. Everett LaRoi always seemed more distant and I don’t recall having anything to do with him. (Attendance at another Idyl Tea gig ended in a not-at-fault car accident for my future-wife and me, and the less said about that, the better.)
Idyl Tea combined what I eventually grew to love about country and what I already embraced about power pop- bright chords, sometimes devastatingly up-front confession through lyric, and a breezy ability to convey sadness that sounded so cheerful. A bit like bluegrass, that.
I can’t remember anything of what I wrote about them back in 1985 or 1986, and the bound-green annuals I received as payment for my Gateway writing have disappeared along the way. I do remember being entirely enthralled with their music, their image, and had the hope that maybe, someday, I’d be able to say that I knew them when and –perhaps- get a thank you in their first album’s notes!
Well, none of that came to fruition.
Still “Awfully Nice Eyes,” from a distance of 25 or more years, remains a masterful song. It may have been the first Idyl Tea song I heard and, listening to it now, I hear elements of the music of the time: Green on Red, The Long Ryders, The Three O’Clock, Dwight Twilley. It ends in a rush of feedback, which I remember thinking was out of place even then, as the song is so beautiful. Irony, I suppose. It was hardly the only song that captured my attention as “In the Blue” reminded me of Paul Weller, and somewhere in the back of my head I recall that the guys were big fans of The Jam. Their EP How I See This Table was played many a time while I was in university and the years following, but like so many things was eventually placed on a shelf and if not forgotten, at least neglected.
Idyl Tea didn’t record a lot. Over several years, they released a self-titled album, featuring more near-perfect slices of power pop: “Tryin’ to Get Back,” “Comin’ Round,” Untitled Folk Song,” “Ruin Your Life,” and “Your Groovy World,” and another EP, Funny Feelin’. Each was bought as they were found, but remember that back in the late-80s and early 90s, word didn’t travel so fast. Music was more precious- catching a video of the band on Much Music while living in La Loche, Saskatchewan was quite surreal: “Hey, I (almost) know those guys!”
Today, Henry Engel- for whatever reason- came to mind, and I started Googling. Henry Engel didn’t turn up too much, except a link to Everett’s website. After a bit, I found a YouTube clip of Henry Engel performing “Pettin’ Party Paula” on what appears to be the Victoria waterfront. “Hank” Engel was what I needed and I was on my way. Apparently, the guy who once served me pizza is now sometimes known as Hank Angel, and has gone rockabilly, allowing me to (marginally) tie this rambling piece into Fervor Coulee’s mission of roots music opinion.
http://www.myspace.com/hankengelband features songs that I assume come from Henry Engel’s 50s lovin’ alter-ego. Some hardly-watchable video clips from elsewhere make things a bit more clear, although the fella’s appearance changed markedly and eventually- and who knows why it took so long- I Googled Idyl Tea.
http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/Pop_Encyclopedia/I/Idyl_Tea.html came up and filled in some of the missing pieces. But, right around the corner was http://www.myspace.com/idyltea, a surprise find. Who would have thought that Idyl Tea would have a MySpace site after all these years? I started listening to the tunes and was taken back to an easier, lighter time.
As I type I’m listening to my CD Idyl Tea, an album one can buy via iTunes and occasionally find in Edmonton and area used record stores. I recall listening to the cassette I had purchased twenty years ago while bopping around my classroom in Swan Hills on cold and tiring weekends preparing for the week ahead. What I don’t recall is ever thinking that this was an absolutely brilliant recording. Listening today, I’m overwhelmed at the clarity of their music, the ability of Everett, Henry, and Craig to make focused, simple music that combined their love of 60s pop and the bombastic, contemporary sound of the day into a timeless vision that seems more vital today than it did then. The harmonies are rich and fragile, held together by an invisible string that threatens to snap at any moment.
I’m convinced that if I was listening to Paul Collins’ latest album, a new album from the long-lamented Records, or The Inmates debut, I wouldn’t feel any more impressed. Dang, Idyl Tea is solid and holds up incredibly well to the passage of time.
A bit more exploring and it is like a lightning bolt hits me: http://www.idyltea.com/ is found though further searching, and thirty minutes after I begin down this road, I learn that a new Idyl Tea album is nigh!
Beside a picture of someone who doesn’t look anything like Craig Metcalfe is the announcement: “Idyl Tea is pleased to announce that the group will be releasing a new cd in 2011. The cd, tentatively titled Song That’s Not Finished Yet will be a full length cd recording of new songs by the Edmonton-based trio.” Above that, this: “Idyl Tea is putting the final touches on their brand new cd Song That’s Not Finished Yet, which will be released in the year 2011. Hank Engel will be recording some final overdubs in Scott Henderson’s studio in Sooke, British Columbia on Saturday, December 4, 2010. Meanwhile, the following week, guitarist Everett LaRoi and drummer Craig Metcalfe will be finishing their final overdubs at LaRoi’s studio in Edmonton, Alberta.”
A smile comes to my face. Idyl bleedin’ Tea is back. Am I the only one- outside the trio- who cares? I hope not.
Additional songs are available for streaming, a few of which I assume come from the forthcoming project. “Two Straight Lines” and “Simon’s Stereo” could be from that magical 1990 album that Attic Records eventually picked up. They contain the seeming innocence of the young men who recorded the marvelous “Mr. Air Traffic Controller” and “Funny Feelin’.” “The You You Were Then” and “Baby Slow Down” are rougher, more lived in perhaps, reflecting lives spent living.
Regardless, the songs bring back my love of Idyl Tea. In an afternoon that started with awful but hardly unexpected news, I found distraction in music and writing, music that was once important to me. More than that, I rediscovered a band that I really cared about once upon a time, and have hope for a smashing album in the not so distant future. And I think my friend Tina would be happy about that.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald