Archive for the ‘Roots Song of the Week’ Tag

Roots Song of the Week: Glen Campbell- I’m Not Gonna Miss You   3 comments

This piece goes went on way longer than maybe it should. have, but, this song matters to me, and it will take almost fifty years to get to the reason. If you want to skip all that—and I hardly blame youhere is the link to the videoFor the rest of you… I‘ve removed the bulk of the post because I have been given an opportunity to publish a version of it elsewhere. It was pretty good, I thought<g> I reworked my original reaction to the release of Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” into an essay that has been well-received by those who have read it. I used it in a writing course I’m taking, and am finished with it there now so I am going to repost it here on the off-chance that someone browsing the interweb finds it and thinks it is worth reading. It is called “Mom and Glen Campbell.”

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Music was important to my mom. She and her first husband, my second father, were square dancers; I recall falling asleep to the rhythm of the caller and the sounds of fiddle and guitar while grown-ups navigated a wooden dance floor in more than one County of Parkland community hall. I don’t believe there were many other joyful times between them. After mom left the farm, she and my last dad’s early dates were to the local hotel cabaret, dancing to The Village Lads and The Emeralds. They met through a dating agency, and I believe their shared appreciation for music was important to their courtship.

Recently, Glen Campbell has been in the news. Unbeknownst to him, he is riding a ripple of acclaim given the quality of his final recording and the openness with which his family has approached his slide into dementia. He is even nominated for a Grammy this year. As a rather prominent entertainment personality, his plight has garnered considerable attention, all of it favourable.

That he has been for most of the past thirty-plus years a running joke—country music’s Nick Nolte—this late-life resurgence is only a little surprising. An admitted adulterer, Campbell once demonstrated his superior character by leaving his wife three weeks after the birth of their child. Years her senior, he ran around with and beat a youthful Tanya Tucker, spending years in a cocaine-and alcohol-induced cloud. Even as a senior citizen, he was arrested for drunk driving and assault. These events occurred while he spouted scripture as yet another sanctimonious born-again Christian. Campbell has not lived a life deserving of admiration. Still, as we have witnessed often, the previous transgressions an aging celebrity are quickly forgotten.

I found it compelling recently to compare my mom’s descent into the fog of Alzheimer’s with Campbell’s. Campbell and my mom were diagnosed around the same time, and the symptoms described are also similar. What drew me to reading more about Campbell’s decline was that my mom and he spent nights together in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies.

When mom left dad and the farm under cover of darkness one evening early in the summer of 1972, she took with her only the clothes she wore. But before that summer was over, she had secured an apartment in Edmonton’s west end, had it minimally furnished through the goodwill of her sister and brother-in-law (and, I imagine, an area charity), and had wrestled my sister and me away from dad and the madness that had become life on the farm.

We were poor. Welfare poor. I know mom struggled financially; depending upon government cheques, there was no choice. Clothes were hand-me-downs, treats were few, and transportation was walking and, rarely, via city bus. Money was too tight; I remember she once deliberately wrote a bad cheque at the neighbouring Safeway so that we had food. The faux-surprise but genuine humiliation she felt when she next went to the store and was refused service was hard to witness, even for a kid. The husband she had left contributed next to nothing, and that irregularly.

Looking back, Mom had few pleasures in her life during that time. As poor as we were, she started smoking; I was frequently sent to the corner convenience store to buy her cigarettes—a kid could do so with a note in those days—and after we were in bed she would sit up smoking while watching The F.B.I., Maude, and Hawaii 5-O. Like Bea Arthur, mom usually wore caftans—I think that is what she called them—when at home.

Other than the television and the kitchen radio, the only entertainment in the apartment was a record player (donated by a cousin) on a wobbly brass-coloured cart. There were only four or five albums stored beneath the player, and three of those were Glen Campbell albums. I only dimly remember listening to the records, but I remember staring at the covers and reading the song titles on their backs. These may have been the first records I ever touched.

While living on the farm, I recollect watching television only occasionally. I recall a didactic religious program with Davey and his dog, Goliath. I remember Untamed World, The Friendly Giant, and Mr. Dressup. The Edge of Night would be on during afternoon visits at one aunt’s house. And I remember The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Our tiny farmhouse front room didn’t have much space for furniture: a worn chesterfield, a large, faded red armchair, and the television. I remember sitting across my mother’s lap in the armchair, the two of us watching Glen Campbell singing and playing guitar.

I knew my mom loved Glen Campbell; it was obvious and I imagine watching that program was an escape from her day-to-day reality as a struggling farmer’s wife. Campbell had a gentle face and soft-looking hair. He wore fashionable clothes, a silky scarf. His hands looked tender, not hardened and grease-infused. He didn’t wear dark green farmer pants and come into the house smelling of manure and death. He certainly didn’t hit his wife or children.

A few years later, in that little city apartment my mom listened to her small album collection late at night and when we kids were at the farm on court-mandated weekend visits. I believe she lived a fairly solitary existence during the first year that we lived in Edmonton, subsisting on government assistance and the kindness of family.

I remember the presence of those Glen Campbell albums, if not the details, because I woke up one night and heard music faintly playing. In my sleep-shrouded wakefulness, I wandered down the hall toward the music, toward the living room. I recall noticing the orange glow of the floor lamp, and strewn on the carpet the Glen Campbell album cover. As I looked around the wall into the room, I saw my mom facing the balcony windows and swaying, a cigarette burning in her right hand and yards of colourful, caftan fabric rippling as she slowly moved to the music softly playing on the inexpensive stereo.

I don’t know where she was at that moment. Now, I like to imagine that she was far away from the threadbare, two-bedroom apartment in Jasper Place. I would like to think that for a few moments on a dark and lonely night—in a dim and miserable life—she was transported from a building smelling of fish sticks and poverty and was dancing in the arms of her true love, Glen Campbell.

When she noticed me, I recall a softness in her eyes, a look I seldom saw. She gestured to me and I walked into the room as she moved to the couch. She sat and I crawled onto her lap and she held me. While Glen Campbell’s music enveloping me, I fell asleep.

Years later, once we were back on our feet and mom was in her second, final marriage, she had a number of 8-tracks, and a couple of those were Campbell’s. Later still, working at my first record store job, mom came in one day and purchased a Campbell ‘best-of’ cassette to play in her new Buick.

Glen Campbell’s recently released final song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” has brought my appreciation for him to a new, thoughtful level. The song, co-written by Campbell, is absolutely devastating and may be the most honest and raw song about Alzheimer’s that I’ve heard. It is stark and one is tempted to suggest simple, but that would be a discredit to a songwriter who has always been more regarded as an interpreter of others’ words.

That my mother always admired Glen Campbell and is now dealing with her own journey with Alzheimer’s is at least part of the reason “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” impacts me so powerfully. The song lasts less than three minutes, as the finest country songs often do, but it packs a wicked, heartfelt, and honest punch.

“I’m still here but yet I’m gone,

I don’t play guitar or sing my song,

They never defined who I am

The man that loves you ’til the end

You’re the last person I will love

You’re the last face I will recall

Best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.”

It sounds harsh, but that is exactly what we’re hoping for my mother, that time when the confusion ends and the present situation is all that is remembered: a time when she doesn’t miss us or elements of her previous life. For now she knows her immediate family, although she is confused about our details. She smiled when I played the song for her recently, but she didn’t recognize Campbell’s voice. I told her she liked him when she was younger, and she nodded but I think she did so out of habit, not with any agreement. She can still have pretty good hours, but she does get upset and agitated when she can’t place something she feels is important, or fails to navigate a situation. She doesn’t have peace.

We’re told it is coming. At our last care team meeting, one of the nurses explained that as the disease progresses, Mom will find a relaxed comfort in her condition; essentially, she’ll forget that she should be upset that things aren’t making sense. Cruel indeed, and I don’t want to lose our connection and certainly don’t want to fast forward to this state, but there will be some blessing when she can again live in the moment with calm acceptance and peace.

And maybe, she’ll be dancing with the only man with whom she was ever happy.


And, all of that is the reason why Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is my Roots Song of the Week.

Thanks for sticking with Fervor Coulee. Donald

@FervorCoulee

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Posted 2014 October 21 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Roots Song of the Week: Red Molly- Clinch River Blues   Leave a comment

The band Red Molly has received a great deal of positive attention the last few years, but I can’t say I’ve paid too much attention. I did buy their album James a few years back, and havejames quite enjoyed it the two or three times I’ve listened to it. Covers of “Gulf Coast Highway” and “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” are what initially attracted my attention, and the rest of the album sustained my interest. They have a song on there called “Black Flowers” that I quite like- listen to it and, if you know anything about me, you’ll figure out why- and “Can’t Let Go”- a Lucinda cover- is a fine way to end a disc.

They have a new album out, this one called The Red Album and I may not have noticed it had I not received an email announcing the release of a video for the song “Clinch River Blues.” I listened, and was again enamoured with the group. This is a good one, with a deep groove, a strong lead vocal presence and engaging harmonies, and the video is quite interesting to watch- it has an appealing mood.

The video to “Clinch River Blues” can be viewed via this link.

redalbum_2014I’ve streamed parts of the new album- just haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing- and I think I’ll come back to it this weekend when I have some time. They cover Darrell Scott again, and perform a Mark Erelli song (“Pretend”) and also take on the “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” as seemingly every folk and Americana artist has. I do like Red Molly’s style.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Please look around and I hope you find some music of interest.  Donald

Roots Song of the Week: Shari Ulrich- Rain, Rain, Rain   Leave a comment

untitledShari Ulrich, forgive me, is a legend in the Canadian folk world. I purchased her most recent album Everywhere I Go several weeks back and have listened to it repeatedly.

I’ve been quite negligent with the Roots Song of the Week since summer, but was inspired to post something today when I learned that Ulrich is in San Francisco this weekend performing as part of the High Bar Gang at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, select performances from which can be streamed. A great event HSB is, and someday I would love to get back there: I do find it ironic that Hardly Strictly goes the same weekend as the IBMA`s World of Bluegrass, all be they on other sides off the continent.

I don`t know if I`ve ever been a huge, `gotta` buy every album fan of Ulrich, but I`ve certainly always appreciated her. As did many, I most likely first heard her on Top 40 radio as a member of the Hometown Band singing “(Fear Of) Flying.“  Many years later I discovered the recordings of The Pied Pumpkin Ensemble and UHF, as well as her many solo recordings. Talk Around Town is a favourite.

Everywhere I Go is a quiet, but energetic recording comprised of several outstanding songs. Perhaps it is a coffeehouse record, but it is not something that just slips inattentively into the background. It grabs you and encourages you to search for meaning and comfort in its sounds. Quite beautiful.

She is up for a five (!) Canadian Folk Music Awards this year, including for Solo Artist of the Year and English Songwriter of the Year as well as a further three as a member of the High Bar Gang.

I`ve chosen to feature “Rain, Rain, Rain“ as my Roots Song of the Week today.  It is definitely a song that deserves your attention, and Everywhere I Go does as well.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

 

Roots Song of the Week: Nu-Blu- Jesus and Jones   Leave a comment

untitledI’ve been waiting more than a month to feature this song as my Roots Song of the Week. Until Friday, I couldn’t locate a version of the song online that was both complete and playable in Canada.

I downloaded the track from iTunes as soon as it became available at the end of July, and immediately love it. Not just the concept- a song pairing George Jones and Jesus doesn’t come along every day- but the execution. The vocal strength of Nu-Blu’s Carolyn Routh ideally complement’s Sam Moore’s pure soul intensity.

I think it is a terrific recording, and was absolutely tickled to be in the audience at Blueberry the first time Nu-Blu performed the song live. Unfortunately, the budget didn’t accommodate bringing up The Soul Man for the date.

There is no doubt the song is clever, but not ‘too’ much so. Every line ‘works’ within the context provided. It is not overly sentimental, but touches a perfect chord of reverence.

The complete video of “Jesus and Jones” is available here.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Roots Song of the Week: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen- Say It Isn’t So   Leave a comment

I last wrote about Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen last year when they released a terrific album, On the Edge, on Compass Records.

untitledI’ve been listening to their new one Cold Spell off and on for a few weeks, and while it hasn’t ‘grabbed me’ the way On the Edge did I don’t think anyone should hold that against them; most likely, my reticence- and that is likely even too strong of a word- about this disc is largely due to my own issues. Cold Spell is a very clean sounding, polished modern bluegrass album. It goes a bit far out on Mr. Monroe’s proverbial limb, but maintains the energy and woody tones of more traditional bluegrass.

Cold Spell has at its core strong songwriting ideally balanced with exceptional instrumentation, powerful lead vocals, and precise and uplifting vocal harmony. A cover of Pure Prairie League’s “Country Song” moves along nicely, and there is a great little instrumental from Mike Munford (“Yeah Man”) that will appeal to those who think vocals just get in the way of a good bluegrass tune. A pair of Megan McCormick songs fit nicely with the songs the band members have written, and it is one of these that I would like to suggest for this week’s Roots Song of the Week.

“Say It Isn’t So” caught my attention from the start. When this song begins, Solivan’s voice immediately cuts through whatever minutiae has the listener’s attention. It is so clear and bright, communicating the heartfelt lyrics with obvious intensity. The song breaks from the bluegrass norm of a three-minute burner to open an album; “Say It Isn’t So” goes on for nearly six minutes and during that time the four-piece band has an opportunity to fully explore the melody.

It has just occurred to me that this song- and much of this album- reminds me of the type of music Nickel Creek explored (successfully or not, depending on your perspective) over the course of their albums of a decade ago. It pushes bluegrass to places that may not be immediately identified as ‘bluegrass’ but truly can’t be addressed as anything but bluegrass.

“Say It Isn’t So” is linked over at the Bluegrass Situation. I will continue to listen to Cold Spell, and I hope I can bring together some insights to write a full review. It is really a strong album comprised of good songs that feature a well-defined and consistent approach to bluegrass. The song “She Said She Will” should also do well for the group.

That’s my Roots Song of the Week for this week. I’ve neglected things a little as I’ve concentrated on other writing projects, and I apologize to those whose music I’ve over looked this summer. I am attempting to catch up. I have a piece about the new Jean Ritchie tribute album entitled Dear Jean going up at the Lonesome Road Review soon, and have linked several pieces here at Fervor Coulee over the summer. I have a stack ‘o stuff that I’m listening to including the recent John Hiatt, Billy Joe Shaver, and the third Baseball Project set. The new Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick tribute to Vern and Ray is completely engaging, and I’ll be getting to that one soon. And if you haven’t heard the new music from Bradford Lee Folk, do yourself a favour and check it out! That may be my favorite album of the summer. So much good music to write about, but more importantly to listen to!

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

@FervorCoulee on Twitter

Roots Song of the Week: Blue Moon Marquee- Lonesome Ghosts   1 comment

blue moonAlberta ‘gypsy blues’ duo Blue Moon Marquee recently released their second album entitled Lonesome Ghosts. Previously recording under the A.W. Cardinal banner, the duo is comprised of Cardinal (guitar and lead vocals) and Jasmine Colette, who handles bass and drums.

Not previously aware of the group, I came to the album without preconceived notions, and I have found their music very appealing. Steeped in blues traditions, Blue Moon Marquee cuts things down to the wood- their presentation is uncluttered and unified. While their are certainly elements of jazz and traditional European folk music within their sound (“Gypsy’s Life,” as one example, “Bishop Street” as another), the blues is at the core.

Playing electric lead, Cardinal displays little propensity for either showy riffs or elongated jams. Rather, his playing establishes the core of the melody with little extraneous embellishment. Vocally, Cardinal is reminiscent of others who have mined the blues- dirtier than Long John Baldry, more coherent than Tom Waits, less frenetic and rocking than Phil Alvin.

Live, the group appears as a duo, but most of the songs on the album feature three or four musicians with others supplementing things on piano and drums. The song I am featuring today is the title cut, the only that features just Cardinal and Colette. I love the duo format, and this couple seem to have found their groove. “Lonesome Ghosts” strips everything aside, leaving a nice little bass line to do the hard work while the guitar provides minimal colouring. The lyrics are familiar- “I’m going down that old lonesome road”- found in a dozen blues, country, and bluegrass songs, but the (minimal) subject matter- meeting and being supplanted by spectral representation of oneself- grabs the listener’s attention, as does the sparse instrumentation.

While this song is my personal favourite on the album, the other eight songs also have much to offer. If you like Americana-singer/songwriter influences in your blues, Blue Moon Marquee will likely appeal to you.

You can listen to Lonesome Ghosts in its entirety at Bandcamp and “Lonesome Ghosts” is the closing track.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Roots Song of the Week: Ben Watt- Spring   Leave a comment

When I consider Ben Watt, I must admit that I don’t normally consider the recordings he has released under his own name. Watt has recorded numerous albums as Everything But the Girl with his partner of some 30 years, Tracey Thorn, and that is what I drew on when Watt’s second solo album Hendra arrived a couple months back. I have long admired EBTG having been first exposed to them when a colleague at ROW Entertainment in Edmonton played their first couple albums over the store’s sound system in a seemingly non-stop loop.

I know I didn’t appreciate those early recordings- including the self-titled album and Love Not Money– nearly as much then in the mid-80s as I do now; there was just so much other music to discover each week, I never committed to their gentle sounds the way I could have. My interest in EBTG was piqued when my spouse discovered “Missing” a decade later, and that gave me an excuse to explore their music in more depth, and they have since become a group that- if not a constant in my Top 100 and on my iPhone, are always appreciated when I pull a disc off the shelf for a play.

What I remember only a bit better from those days in West Edmonton Mall was the brilliant Tracey Thorn album A Distant Shore and- to a lesser degree- Watt’s e.p. Summer Into Winter. What grabbed me about these recordings was how unusual they sounded at a time of synthesized dance grooves (Duran Duran, Kajagoogoo, Laid Back, Howard Jones, et al) and corporate shlock for gorbs (Phil Collins, Asia, Wang Chung, Footloose and Flashdance), when the last thing on many minds was ‘contemporary folk music.’ Certainly I wasn’t thinking about folk music when I heard their music, but these brief recordings really grabbed my attention for a few weeks sometime in 1984 or ’85, and A Distant Shore is a recording I haven’t been without since. In hindsight, those early ETBG and ETBG-related albums, singles, and e.p.s have more connection to folk music than anything else that was going on at the time.

If I recall correctly, Summer Into Winter was a sparse e.p. unadorned by floss and gloss, but which still had some lovely and catchy singalong bits- “Skipping Slowly” has stayed with me. [As I typed this, I decided to download North Marine Drive, Watt’s debut recording that comes accompanied by the five songs from Summer Into Winter. They are as good as I remember.] I don’t recall having heard North Marine Drive in the record store, but I must have- the cover looks very familiar, and I can’t imagine Tony played the other recordings and missed that one.

I am not familiar with Watt’s work as a DJ.

untitledWhat has all the above got to do with Roots Music? The early solo recordings and the EBTG albums had a lot to do with folk music performed in a modern manner- stripped down, sparse instrumentation that seldom intruded, dreamy or at least inspiring lyrics with obvious production choices that placed emphasis on the voice. Along with Billy Bragg’s very first recordings, these albums and extended singles made me better understand the limits I had placed on my listening: things started to open up at that time, and I was soon playing  Richard Thompson, Joan Baez, and The Blasters as frequently as Dwight Yoakam, Violent Femmes, and Skinny Puppy. Doc Watson, Emmylou, and bluegrass weren’t far behind once I realized that there was music- and enjoyment- beyond The Who, Springsteen, Bananarama, and Haysi Fantayzee.

With Watt’s Hendra having become a regular fixture in my home these past two months, I thought it was past time that I focused some attention on it here at Fervor Coulee.

It is an entirely enjoyable recording, as much singer-songwriter and folk as it is electronic. The album starts off with the charming title track (“These rooms are cold but heavenly, and the sun is shining; You know what they say about silver and lining”) and doesn’t let up for its full 45 minutes. The songs are dripping with dramatic phrases and unflinching expressions of sincerity, some of which I glean, others go well over my head. But they all sound beautiful.

At times the album reminds me a bit of Dire Straits (“Forget,” “Young Man’s Game”), while other songs are very EBTG in their construction (“Spring,” “The Gun.”) It is “Spring” that I put forth as this week’s Roots Song of the Week.

“Spring” doesn’t have an overly complex construction, but the combination of Watt’s piano and Bernard Butler’s electric guitar (from Suede, I’m told. I missed most of the music out of England from 1990-2002, so I’m not familiar) draws me in. Quite hypnotic- and I did notice a couple weeks back driving for several seconds without being aware of where I was- this is the song that was playing at the time. I quite like the poetic nature of the words- they allow my brain to drift a little and imagine a bit more- again, not good when you’re driving: never know when an elk will saunter into your path.

Give it a listen and see if it appeals- it is always good to get out of one’s comfort zone, so perhaps this will do it for you.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald