Category Archives: USA

Gone: Merle Haggard

merle rip

My first Merle Haggard record, picked up at a shop in Dinkytown in Minneapolis, way back in the early 1980s was called Serving 190 Proof. I really don’t know why I decided to fork out the five or six bucks for a country and western record but I thank my lucky stars I did.

 

At that point my musical tastes were quite immature. Sure, Johnny Cash was a hero and Willie Nelson was fun, but country music in general was anathema to me. Hoaky music for rednecks.

 

But I read a lot of music reviews and Merle was someone the rock critics consistently praised. Maybe it was the album cover—a hand coloured photo of Merle looking lonely at a bar—that got me to dish out the cash. I can’t recall from this far up the road, but that album became instantly a favourite. It’s remained so for 30+ years.

 

More albums followed and my head and cassette tapes filled with Merle Haggard songs: Big City, Driftwood, Okie from Muskogee, Shopping from Dresses, Poncho and Lefty many of which I’ve included in this mixtape to mark his passing yesterday.

 

Merle’s songwriting is top notch. I have always been drawn more to his mellow side and songs where he seems to be simply reflecting on the wonders and sorrows of the simple life. Merle’s songs are full of nostalgia and hope and a sad resignation to never ending change.   His baritone which has to be one of the smoothest and most expressive natural voices ever gifted to mankind is what consistently delights and enchants me. Be it the rowdy CC Waterback with pal George Jones, the boozy anthem Swinging Doors or the downright classic, Kern River, it is voice that drives the nail into the knotted wood.

 

From little things big things grow, said another fine singer. And from that one LP purchased three and half decades ago, Merle’s place in my musical estimation has steadily risen. I reckon he is one of three singers whose music I consistently and regularly come back to for more inspiration, insight and pleasure. So his passing is a terrible loss.

 

Thanks for everything hoss!

 

Track Listing

01 Mississippi Delta Blues

02 There I’ve Said It Again

03 Crazy Moon

04 I’ll Be a Hero (When I Strike)

05 The Last Letter

06 What Happened

07 You Don’t Have Very Far To Go

08 Truck Driver’s Blues

09 Rainbow Stew

10 Pancho And Lefty

11 Are the Good Times Really Over

12 Going Where The Lonely Go

13 Swinging Doors Strangers

14 Still Water Runs The Deepest

15 Workin’ Man Blues

16 The Fightin’ Side of Me

17 Django and Jimmie

18 The Bottle Let Me Down

19 C.C. Waterback

20 Tulare Dust

21 My Own Kind of Hat

22 I Am What I Am

23 If I Could Only Fly

24 Driftwood

25 Walking the Floor Over You

26 Natural High

27 Irma Jackson

28 Okie from Muskogee

29 Kern River

 

RIP

Advertisements

Joyful for Jesus: The Radio Four

The Gospel Singers

The Gospel Singers

The Radio Four a jubilee gospel group from the southern United States recorded on the famous Nashboro label beginning in 1952. The group, as its name suggests, got started singing on the radio station WBDL out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Oddly, the group was a collective of 5 brothers: Ray, James, Claude, George and Morgan Babb.   The last, was the guitarist and ‘substitute’ singer but soon became the lead voice of the group and probably the most highly regarded and best known of the brothers.

That’s about the sum of the information we have on this group but there are more snippets to be found here and there such as this article on the powerhouse Nashboro label out of Nashville, Tennessee.

I picked this record up in a second hand shop in Brussels last year and have only recently started listening to it. My verdict is that it is solid and full of pleasure and uplift (but then, I’m a sucker for gospel music).

If you are too then you’ll definitely enjoy the Radio Four.

Hallelujah!

There's Gonna Be Joy

Track Listing:

01 An Earnest Prayer

02 If You Miss Me From Praying

03 How Much I Owe

04 Building A Home

05 I Feel The Spirit

06 The Road’s Rocky

07 There’s Gonna Be Joy

08 That’s All I Need

09 The Road’s Rough And Rocky

10 How About You

11 When He Calls

12 Whisper To Jesus

13 I Received My Blessings

14 One More River

15 What He’s Done For Me

16 Walk Around My Bedside

17 Jesus Never Left Me Alone

18 What Kind Of Man Jesus Is

19 In My Father’s House

20 Believe In Every Word He Says

21 On My Journey Now

22 One Day

23 Heaven Is My Goal

24 Jesus Is Your Friend

R4

Incredible and Alive: Infamous Stringdusters (FRESH LINKS)

Infamous Stringdusters

Infamous Stringdusters

There are those occasions in daily life when nothing suits other than bluegrass music. Music that is genuine, heartfelt, earnest, melodic and intoxicating. One of those occasions has come upon me in recent days and without too much psychobabble it is probably because I’m not feeling very melodic or genuine at the moment. Forget even thinking about intoxicating.

Like soukous, the repetitive chords, the lightening paced picking and the building of a song the blends melody and rhythm into a orgasmic crescendo, bluegrass when done right is unbeatable and completely uplifting.

Here is a record of the Infamous Stringdusters performing live at the John Hartford Festival a couple years back. What I like about these guys is there commitment to the tradition but also their determination to jam. Many of these songs would make Jerry Garcia flip over in this grave with joy and anticipation.

I commend highly!

stringdusters

Track Listing (v1)

01 It’ll Be Alright’

02 Fork In the Road

03 Get It While You Can

04 Getting Down The Road

05 How Far I’d Fall for You

06 A Hundred Years From Now

07 It Don’t Mean Nothing

08 Deep Elem Blues

09 Keep On Truckin’

V1

Track Listing (v2)

10 The Little Girl And The Dreadful Snake

11 My Destination

12 The Other Side

13 Steam Powered Aeroplane

14 Sunny Side of the Mountain

15 Uncle Pen

16 Instrumental

17 Cents

18 Walking On The Moon

V2

Belated Birthday Salutations to: Miles Davis

MilesDavis_byFrancisWolff

Amid the congratulatory messages for Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday and the commiserations and condolences for B.B’s passing, another milestone slipped by without much notice (at least from the Washerman’s Dog). The birth anniversary of Miles Davis on the 26th.   The man most consider to be the second most influential personality in jazz after fellow trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, would have been 89 last week.

Rather than try to add my paltry thoughts to the millions of words already penned about Mr Davis, I refer you to this nice appreciation by fellow blogger and journalist Shaun Mullen.

The Dog has put together a couple volumes of Miles music to honor the man which I hope you will enjoy.

Happy Birthday Miles!

miles to go v 1

Track Listing (vol 1):

01 So What [Green Dolphin Street, Amsterdam (9 Apr)]

02 Walkin’ [In Stockholm 1960 Complete (CD4)]

03 On Green Dolphin Street [The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (CD5)]

04 I Thought About You [The Complete Blackhawk Sessions CD4]

05 Cobra [Amandla]

06 ‘Round Midnight [Live in Stockholm 1960 Cd 1]

1

miles to go2

Track Listing (Vol. 2):

01 Joshua [In Europe]

02 Round Midnight [Green Dolphin Street, Amsterdam (9 Apr)]

03 Back Seat Betty [We Want Miles (Disc 1)]

04 Chez le photographe du motel [Ascenseur pour l’echafaud]

05 What I Say [Live-Evil (Disc 1)]

06 The Arrival [Dingo]

2

Hallelujah Bob! It’s Your 74th Birthday

Bob Dylan as Black Man

Bob Dylan 

Yesterday was Sunday. It was also Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday. So even though today is Monday and it is no longer Dylan’s birth anniversary, it seems still appropriate and interesting to combine Sunday+BobBirthday to get the record we share tonight: the Gospel songs of Dylan as rendered by some of America’s finest African American gospel singers.

Now I know Bob’s ‘Jesus’ phase is spurned by many of his hardcore fans. It is seen as a dangerously close to career ending diversion. They point to the most acidic and judgmental of his lyrics, the poor production quality of the records and a general ‘holier than thou’ attitude that no matter where it comes from is not pleasant to be on the receiving end of.

I grew up a born again (and again, and again and again) evangelical Christian. When Slow Train Coming appeared in the stores this was like a hand from heaven. JUSTIFICATION and CONFIRMATION straight from on high that HE EXISTED. And that JESUS really was THE WAY. We listened to the album with reverence receiving from it the same authority we got from the Gospels themselves. Or from the Old Testament prophets. And even though I was not courageous enough to say so out loud, I was smirking inside. “WE got him! He’s on OUR side! You’re the losers!”

I loved (and still do) Slow Train Coming. Shot of Love was harder to stomach, even for true believers like myself. Saved grew on me and is now one of my favorite Dylan outings.   And when Dylan entered his terrible 80s with one panned album after another, the Jesus messages were harder and harder to point to. Which about coincided with my own wandering from the Church and Faith of my fathers. So all in all I’ve always enjoyed Bob’s gospel stuff. At its best it deserves as much admiration as any of his post 1974 stuff. (The bad stuff is indeed quite bad but there is far less of that than conventional wisdom allows).

Although I no longer consider Jesus to be a personal savior of mine or anyone’s I have never considered stop listening to Gospel music. And so when I spied this second hand CD in a Brussels shop last year I shelled out the outrageous amount of Euros to the weasly Belgian behind the counter. The idea of having genuine gospel artists turn their interpretive skills to Dylan’s Christian corpus was absolutely spot on. The only question is why did it take nearly 30 years for some company to compile a collection?

This collection opens with a cracker version of You Gotta Serve Somebody by the scarily powerful Shirley Ceasar. Originally included in the Mask and Anonymous soundtrack, this version crackles and snaps with intensity. If you want to know what ‘pushy’ means, listen to this. Dylan’s original is down right laconic and slack mouth by comparison.

The next few selections are good but hardly anything to shout Hallelujah about. Things start to get interesting with the Fairfield Four’s Are You Ready from the Saved! Album. Sounding like something you’d hear on the radio in the 1940s, this a cappella rendition is mighty and moving. From this point onwards each track gives the original something new and comes to even the seasoned fan (me) as fresh and arresting it its own right. Aaron Neville’s falsetto warbling on Saving Grace is heavenly and the Sounds of Blackness Solid Rock keeps the arrangement of the original but adds a choir singing lead which adds a broader dimension to the song. The highpoint without a doubt is the tremendous and spine tingling interpretation of Pressing On. Full gospel choir in 5th gear in a song about hope and faith that has to be considered one of the best gospel songs ever written by anyone anywhere. Another highpoint is Allen Rance Group’s complete reworking of When He Returns. Stunning in its majesty and elegance and beauty.

Dylan and Mavis vamp it up before ramping it up in the closing cut allowing Dylan to have the final word.

Where are the adjectives to describe this music? You find them as you listen to it.

Gotta Serve Somebody - The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan

Track Listing:

01 Gotta Serve Somebody [Shirley Ceasar]

02 When You Gonna Wake Up [Lee Hamilton & Spiritual QCs]

03 I Believe in You [Dottie Peoples]

04 Are You Ready [The Fairfield Four]

05 Solid Rock [Sounds of Blackness]

06 Saving Grace [Aaron Neville]

07 What Can I Do For You? [Helen Baylor]

08 Pressing On [Chicago Mass Choir]

09 Saved [The Mighty Clouds of Joy]

10 When He Returns [Rance Allen Group]

11 Gonna Change My Way of Thinking [Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples]

Happy Birthday

From India with Love: Miles Davis

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have been thinking in recent weeks of whether or not the time has come to shut down Washerman’s Dog and Harmonium blogs. I find it hard to carve out the time to share music and do the writing which I so enjoy. I’ve got a very busy working life plus write a weekly musical column for an Indian newspaper and am dedicating more time to photography.

I do apologize for the irregularity of posts on both blogs but cannot promise that it will improve much in the coming weeks. The past month in particular has been crazy with a trip home to Oz and then 10 days here in KL with the family on a bit of a holiday. Before and after that family interlude I have been caught up in international emergency responses to two major natural disasters: the cyclone in Vanuatu (and other countries) and now, as of last week, the earthquake in Nepal.

Time for music blogging has evaporated.

But having preambled all this, I ironically find myself with an hour free. The house is clean, the laundry is doing its stuff in the back room and I’ve just finished a piece of toast and honey. I have burned the dal (my lunch for the next couple of days) and will soon toss it in the rubbish. How to fill this unexpected gift of time?

Referring back to the earthquake in Nepal, my column this week highlighted some very cool music from Nepal including the work of jazz keyboardist Louiz Banks. That got me thinking of his place in contemporary Indian music, which is hugely significant. He’s a big man and he is responsible, with a handful of others, of advancing the cause of jazz and fusion jazz among India’s musician community. Among his many kudos is a Grammy nomination for his work along side Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Gary Bartz and several others, including a number of outstanding Indian musicians in interpreting the work of Miles Davis.

The name of the album is Miles from India and here is what the AMG folks say about it.

It was such a simple concept. Producer Bob Belden (who has directed the Miles Davis reissue series) was talking with Times Square label owner Yusuf Gandhi about Miles‘ use of Indian instrumentation during The Complete On the Corner Sessions and wondered aloud what it would sound like if Indian musicians played Miles‘ music. Gandhi replied “Miles from India,” and nearly a year later Beldendelivered this brilliant set that not only features a number of India’s finest musicians but a veritable who’s who of Miles‘ own sidemen. In perhaps the boldest move, Belden and the musicians looked well beyond Miles‘ 1972-1975 sessions with Indian instruments for inspiration, performing tracks from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s (the same time span covered by Miles‘ associates on this album). Another fun thing about these performances is that some of Miles‘ sidemen play on songs they didn’t originally play on — like the opener, “Spanish Key,” featuring Mike Stern and Dave Liebman. But despite some additional Indian percussion and vocalizing, “Spanish Key” doesn’t vary much from the original. On the other hand, “All Blues” is completely transformed, with Ravi Chary‘s sitar taking the place of Miles‘ trumpet. The Gary Bartz/Rudresh Mahanthappa sax duet on this is a real treat, as are the presence and playing of Jimmy Cobb, who also played on the original 1959 Kind of Blue session. The fast version of “Ife” marks the entrance of monster bass player Michael Henderson and the wonderfully deranged guitar of Pete Cosey, who does not record nearly enough. After the lovely but relatively brief sarod-led “In a Silent Way,” it’s great to hear Cosey rip it up on “It’s About That Time.” He’s nearly matched in intensity by Bartz‘s sax and Kala Ramnath‘s violin while Henderson does his thing with that killer Dave Holland bassline. Stern gets to reprise his role on the classic “Jean Pierre,” paired with some great flute from Rakesh Chaurasia.

Chick Corea appears only on “So What,” but turns in a great piano solo with some tasty inside-the-piano work. Like “All Blues,” “So What” becomes something else again with the addition of a trio of Indian percussionists and a change in time signature. And while the bassline of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” doesn’t really lend itself to Henderson‘s signature propulsive style, the percussionists lock in with him, providing a platform for more sick playing from Cosey. “Blue in Green” has Wallace Roney‘s trumpet singing with Shankar Mahadevan‘s voice and then sarangi in another sublime transformation. Here, Mike Stern‘s solo is as gentle as the one on “Jean Pierre” was noisy. Henderson and drummerVince Wilburn kick it on “Great Expectations,” which segues briefly into the introspective “Orange Lady” and back. Chary and Roney both contribute excellent solos and Cosey goes nuts (why doesn’t he record more?). Fortunately, he gets plenty more space on the slow version of “Ife,” both soloing and comping. The rhythm section of Henderson and Badal Roy on tabla is completely hypnotic here, providing a perfect base for languid solos from Dave Liebman and Gary Bartz and some nice spacy sounds from Cosey and Adam Holzman. The album closes with the only track Miles didn’t record: “Miles from India,” penned by John McLaughlin for this set. Scored for voice, piano, guitar, and the electric mandolin of U. Srinivas, it’s a pensive and atmospheric track that nevertheless features some passionate soloing. And that’s merely touching on some of the highlights. Folks like Ron Carter,Marcus MillerNdugu Chancler, and Lenny White haven’t even been mentioned, let alone some of the great Indian musicians also present here.

The essence of jazz is improvisation and expression, and Miles always sought out highly individual players. The beauty of Miles from India is how the players from different cultures and backgrounds meet on Miles‘ turf with their individual voices completely intact. Miles from India is not only an amazing celebration of the music of Miles Davis, it’s also a tribute to the way Miles and Teo Macero changed the way jazz music can be made. Granted, it’s the musicians involved who turn in these scorching performances, but this album was recorded in Mumbai, India, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Saylorsburg, PA (!?), and would not have been possible without the studio techniquesMacero pioneered with Miles. Perhaps, like MaceroBob Belden will be remembered more for his production than his horn playing. Either way, with Miles from IndiaBelden has outdone himself and delivered a tribute that succeeds completely on every level. Kudos to all involved. (AMG)

Hope you enjoy this very nice record. In addition to focussing on some good and fresh music, this post is the very first ‘cross posting’ between the two blogs. Followers of both blogs I’m sure find much to enjoy here!

51glXRLlFkL._SY300_

Track Listing: V 1

1-01 Spanish Key [Mike Stern , Dave Leibman]

1-02 All Blues [Louis Banks, Ravi Chary, Rudresh Mahantappa]

1-03 Ife (Fast) [Michael Henderson, Pete Covey]

1-04 In A Silent Way [Brij Narain]

1-05 It’s About That Time [Kala Ramnath, Gary Bartz]

1-06 Jean Pierre [Mike Stern Rakesh Chaurasia]

V1

Track Listing: V2

2-01 So What [Louis Banks, Chick Corea]

2-02 Miles Runs The Voodoo Down [Michael Henderson, Lenny White and Sivamani and Vikku Vinayakram]

2-03 Blue In Green [Wallace Roney and Shankar Mahadevan]

2-04 Great Expectations [Marcus Miller, Ravi Chary and Wallace Roney]

2-05 Ife (Slow) [Gary Bartz, Badal Roy and Dave Liebman]

2-06 Miles From India [John McLaughlin and U. Srinivas]

V2

From the Archives: Frank Sinatra and Red Norvo in Australia

Live in Australia, 1959

In 1959 Frank Sinatra was at the top of his game.  He’d recorded a series of hit albums (Come Fly With Me, Songs for Swinging Lovers, In the Wee Small Hours) that remain among the best regarded in the American musicsphere.   In 1953 he had won an Oscar for Best Actor and was redefining what it meant to be a Star in Vegas. It was a time when as one card recalled, “Sinatra said ‘cigarette’ and nine lighters came out.”

This was the introduction to the story of Frank’s difficult love hate relationship with Australia. See the original post and get some nice tunes here