Thursday, June 30, 2005

I Feel So Good Today

Back in the U. S. A.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

You had a good girl when you left...

"That's an expression that goes back to World War II, The GIs would use it to describe a guy who was making out with his old lady while he was away in the service. 'You had good girl when you left.' they'd sing, 'but Jody's got her now.' - Horace Silver

Monday, June 27, 2005

Persuasive Concussion

In 1961, Spike Jones was working on an album that was going to be called PERSUASIVE CONCUSSION. For whatever reasons, the LP was never finished and Spike Jones never recorded again. As far as I know, these two songs are the only ones to ever be released from those sessions. They’re taken from a 1994 compilation called SPIKED, Thomas Pynchon wrote the liner notes.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Royal Purple

I've been taking the new Royal Purple CD to the pool a lot this summer. It's great to listen to this while sitting in the sun and drinking beer, lots of well chosen cover songs and some very good originals. The Royal Purple is a couple of guys from The Insomniacs and The Creatures Of The Golden Dawn helped out by a some friends. They play catchy sixties pop and garage. Get a copy from royalpurplesound at (it's free!). Then get out in the sun.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The disintegration of our civilization

Elder Charles D. Beck recorded numerous sermons in the Forties and Fifties. "Rock & Roll Sermon" is probably the best known and "Gabriel" really does rock. Elder Beck mved to Africa to do missionary work and died in Ghana in the early Seventies.

Are You From Dixie?

To listen to the Blue Sky Boys of Hickory, North Carolina, is to hear some of the purest, most starkly beautiful country harmony singing ever recorded. Bill, the tenor-voiced mandolin player, and Earl, the guitarist-baritone, cherished the moments when their parents would take out the family hymn book and sing together, and as they grew into their teenaged years, both brothers felt the call to perform. At 16, Bill was a featured member of fiddler Homer Sherrill’s Crazy Hickory Nuts; a year later, in 1934, younger brother Earl joined him on front of the radio microphones. While influenced in varying degrees by a number of other duet teams of the day (the Delmores, Mac and Bob, and, most notably, Karl Davis and Harty Taylor), the Bolicks’ soaring, plaintive harmonies were completely their own. By the time they showed up for their 1036 audition that led to their recording contract, the company was so laden with brother acts that it was suggested the Bolicks find a group-like name. Taking “Blue” from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and “Sky” form the area’s slogan, “Land of the Sky,” the Bolicks became known from that day forward as the Blue Sky Boys. Their popularity was quick in coming, and long lasting as well – for fifteen years, in a career that included 124 Victor recordings, their soft ballads and lilting melodies kept them in audience’s hearts. It was mainly the desire to enjoy more of the home life they treasured so as children that led to the Bolocks’ decision to retire from full-time performing and recording in 1951.

All three of the Blue Sky Boys selections found here are classics: Both “I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail,” the story of an aging mother seeking just a glimpse of her wayward, imprisoned son before she dies, and “Katie Dear,” the timeless folk tragedy of star-crossed lovers, epitomize the Bolicks uncanny ability of drawing the deepest, truest emotions out of the lyrics and melodies of a song. Listening to these tracks, one cannot help but marvel at the way the brothers’ individual voices rise and fall in direct relationship to each other’s pitch, volume, and rhythm, at the way their very souls seem to meld together as they sing. As for “Are You From Dixie?,” the Bolicks’ radio theme (and a tune that effectively spotlights Bill’s stately mandolin work), it seems a fitting farewell to this collection of music by artists whose roots lay deep in “Alabama, Tennessee, or Caroline – any place below the Mason-Dixon line.” They all are from Dixie, and as you share in the joy of their rare recordings, I suspect that no matter where you may geographically may come from, you’re from Dixie, too. -- And that wraps up Billy Altman's notes to ARE YOU FROM DIXIE?, hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Feast Here Tonight

Still more from Billy Altman's notes to ARE YOU FROM DIXIE?:
Few introductions should be necessary for the Monroe Brothers, Charlie and Bill, of Rosine, Kentucky. It was through their accordion-playing mother and her brother, the well-celebrated Uncle Pen (local fiddler extraordinaire Pendleton Vandiver), that many of the eight Monroe children had a deep love and abiding respect for music instilled in them. After the death of their father in 1928, the three youngest boys – fiddler Birch, guitarist Charlie, and mandolin player Bill – began playing together in public to supplement their wages as oil refinery workers in Hammond, Indiana. Their first real break came not long afterwards when the “National Barn Dance” program broadcast out of Chicago’s powerful WLS hired them as square dancers and singers. By 1934, Charlie and Bill were ready to quit the refinery and go into entertaining full time, and when Birch decided to remain with the oil company, the Monroe Brothers duo was born. Before long, their rough and tumble blend of mountain harmonies and breakneck instrumental workouts had garnered them a significant following at various stations throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. In 1935, the brothers moved back to the Southeast, where they spent the last three years of their partnership delighting regional audiences with radio shows and, eventually, Bluebird recordings. (The Monroes, it should be noted, almost had to be dragged into the recording studio by RCA’s Eli Oberstein. Knowing how little money most other artists made from record sales – standard royalties in the Thirties for country artists ranged from half a cent to a penny per record – the Monroes were dubious about the benefits of recording. It wasn’t until Oberstein made them recognize that records could bring them into new markets where they could generate more live work, and thus command higher performance fees, that they agreed to sign.)

Of the Monroe’s sixty Bluebird tracks, the three included here effectively showcase the breathtaking virtuosity of Bill Monroe’s mandolin playing. Bill’s eye-opening talents, heard here still in their formative stage, are driven as much by simple unbridled energy as by technical proficiency, and it’s entirely possible that the commercial success of the Monroes resulted, as much as anything else, from the interesting chemistry between Bill’s feverish exuberance and Charlie’s easy-rolling showmanship. Without Charlie’s anchor, it would be difficult not to feel physically drained by the onslaught of runs, fills, and solos that permeate “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Feast Here Tonight.” Without Bill’s zeal, “Nine Pound Hammer” would just be another work song. That each was able to successfully go his separate way after 1938 – the older, more experienced Charlie to his crowd-pleasing Kentucky Pardners, the younger more adventurous Bill to his visionary Blue Grass Boys – is testament to each of their different, distinctive qualities as performers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Intoxicated Rat

The fascinating story of Darlington, South Carolina’s Dixon Brothers is proof that musical inspiration need not fall entirely within the province of youth. Dorsey and Howard Dixon grew up in an area of the state dominated by the textile industry, and both were full-time mill workers before they’d even reached adolescence. Music was strictly a hobby for the two until 1931, when they became friends with an itinerant mill-worker-turned-musician named Jimmie Tarlton, who not only turned Howard on to the steel guitar but also turned one of Dorsey’s songs, “Weaver’s Life,” into a record. Soon Dorsey, who’d only just begun writing two years earlier, was regularly setting down on paper his insightful observations on American life and working them into songs with brother Howard’s rapidly improving steel guitar technique. By 1934, their notoriety as singing spokesmen for the mill workers landed them a spot on Charlotte, N.C.’s WBT “Saturday Night Jamboree” broadcast, and in 1936, when Dorsey was 38 and Howard 33, the Dixon’s made their first Bluebird recordings. Over the next three years the brothers recorded almost sixty songs for the label, but when their contract ran out, they decided the miniscule amount of money they were making from the radio and recording work wasn’t worth the hard work they were putting into their act, so they split up. Howard continued moonlighting as an accompanist and sometime sacred singer for several years before leaving the professional music scene entirely. Dorsey dropped out, too, but he later enjoyed a gratifying re-discovery of his work during the folk revival of the 1960’s, highlighted by appearances at the 1963 and 1964 Newport Folk Festivals.

That the protest singers of the early Sixties would find in Dorsey Dixon a kindred soul isn’t surprising. As can be heard in “Weave Room Blues,” Dorsey wrote unflinchingly about the mill worker’s bleak lot: “Working in a weave room, fighting for my life/Trying to make a living for my kiddies and my wife/Some are needing clothing and some are needing shoes/But I’m getting nothing but them weave room blues.” Dorsey also wrote many songs about the shrinking presence of religious values and moral fiber in the “modern” world, a theme addressed most interestingly in his fable of the Titanic, “Down With The Old Canoe.” Not that the Dixon’s didn’t have their humorous moments, though, as evidenced by the oft-covered and irresistible “Intoxicated Rat,” featuring Dorsey’s expert finger-picking and Howard’s subtly understated sliding steel guitar. -- From the notes to ARE YOU FROM DIXIE? by Billy Altman

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Big River Blues

More from Billy Altman's notes to ARE YOU FROM DIXIE?:
Elkmont Alabama’s Delmore Brothers, Alton and Rabon, occupy a very special niche in the history of country music. As singers their intimate, graceful harmonies quickly became the standard by which all other brother teams would be compared; as instrumentalists, their interlocking guitar arrangements, played with perfection-seeking clarity and care, quickly became required study in the curriculum of anyone aspiring to graduate from the clean-picking school of country guitar playing. Few artists of their generation achieved the kind of widespread and long-lasting popularity enjoyed by the Delmores during their twenty-plus-years together, a partnership ended only by Rabon’s untimely cancer related death in 1952. Then again, few artists of any generation captured the sound and feel of their changing surroundings and changing times as accurately and as engagingly as the Delmores.

Like the Attleseys, the Delmore Brothers came from a sharecropping family, on the younger end of a family of six boys and two girls. It was the brothers’ fiddle-playing, gospel singing mother who taught Alton how to read music, and it was Alton who, in turn, after mastering the six-string guitar, passed his knowledge – and a four-string tenor guitar – on to a younger brother Rabon so the two could play together. Compliments from the neighbors eventually buoyed the brothers’ confidence enough for them to take part in local amateur contests, where they were soon winning top honors. A chance meeting with Austin Allen, who advised them to work up original material if they were serious about becoming professionals, led them to begin composing the first few of what would ultimately be a recorded catalogue of more than two hundred songs – almost half of which were made for Victor’s Bluebird subsidiary during the duo’s seven-year association with the label.

Of the three songs included here, perhaps “Big River Blues” is the best known. A staple of Delmore disciple Doc Watson (who has performed it for years as “Deep River Blues”), it is one of those eternal songs that remains forever fresh and new, with a brightness that half a century of wear still hasn’t tarnished. “Nashville Blues,” with its intricate, fast-paced guitar lines, is a fine example of the duo’s craftmanslike attention to instrumental detail, while “Blow Yo’ Whistle, Freight Train” – one of the pair’s many songs using the image of the train as a symbol for man’s undying curiosity about what’s beyond his horizon’s – beautifully demonstrates their deft and highly expressive harmonic vocal style.

Just Because

While it’s true that the Lone Star Cowboys, Bob and Joe Attlesey, were to be much better known in the years following their brief association with Victor under the more easily pronounceable stage name the Shelton Brothers, it is also true that the Attlesey’s two-day seven-song recording fling with the label did result in the very first appearance on wax of the two songs that literally made their careers – “Deep Elem Blues” and “Just Because.” Guitarist/ukulele player Joe and mandolin player Bob were the oldest of ten children born to tenant-farming parents in Rylie Springs, Hopkins County, Texas. They began performing locally in 1929, and by the beginning of the new decade, they’d moved to Tyler, where, along with guitarist Leon Chappelear, they became known as the Lone Star Cowboys. It was under this banner that the Attleseys drifted up to the Victor studios in Chicago in the summer of 1933 and breezed through several of their most popular songs in a wildly original style that defied description then, and still defies it today.

As plainly evident on “Deep Elm Blues” (the second “e” of “Elem” failed to make the label copy when the record was released) and “Just Because,” the Attleseys didn’t need much runway space to takeoff, as within seconds of their respective openings, Joe’s mandolin zooms dizzily toward the then uncharted skies of post-ragtime, pre-swing jazz, with Bob’s ukulele in hot pursuit. And, while the instruments make mayhem (can there be any other intent to the unearthly jug-blowing on “Crawdad Song”?), Joe and Bob’s tightly compacted harmonies skim merrily, regardless of circumstances. Whether it’s their pockets that have been picked dry by two-timing women, or their favorite fishin’ hole that’s run out of water, and whether it’s the crawdads that cost too much or Deep Elem’s ladies of the evening who charge too much, the Attleseys refuse to be chagrined. With cheery attitudes like theirs, is it any wonder they later helped run Jimmie “You Are My Sunshine” Davis’ successful campaign for the governorship of Louisiana?
-- From the notes to ARE YOU FROM DIXIE? by Billy Altman

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Are You From Dixie?

(ARE YOU FROM DIXIE? was the first really good old country compilation that I ever bought. It's out of print so I'm going to be posting the whole thing this week. I'm also putting Billy Altman's great liner notes too. Thanks Billy! You did a great job, where's volume two?)

Are You From Dixie?
Great country brother teams of the 1930’s
By Bill Altman

Throughout its better than sixty-year recorded history, one of the mainstay of the country music tradition has been the sound of the family coming together in song. Be it the Carter’s of the 1920’s or the Judds of the 1980’s, we hear in the voices and instruments of the performing family a dual celebration – the intimate joy of sharing the means the musical creation, and the prideful carrying forth of the generational legacy that has nurtured that creation.

Perhaps nowhere is this double sense of celebration more strikingly evident than in that most basic of family musical units, the duet – two voices wrapped in harmony, two instruments rhythmically intertwined. And certainly in no place and at no time was the country duet ever more prominent than in the Southeastern United States in the 1930’s. Spurred on at the close of the previous decade by both the national recording success of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers as well as the enormous rise in the demand for live radio performers, countless numbers of home trained brother teams who previously never envisioned themselves as anything than, at best, local celebrities suddenly found themselves before far-ranging broadcast and recording microphones eager to transmit their music to equally eager audiences. Some like Alabama’s Delmore Brothers, would quickly rise to widespread prominence: others, like the Dixon Brothers of South Carolina, would find their regional popularity primarily a gratifying respite from lifelong jobs as mill workers. Some, like Bill & Earl Bolick of North Carolina, soothed and delighted their listeners with nostalgic tales of home and hearth, while others, like Tennessee’s Allen Brothers, shocked and delighted them with risqué pictures from life’s other side. But wherever they came from, and wherever their paths eventually led, all of them contributed, in some special fashion, to the wellspring that would ultimately be known as modern country music. It is toward a deeper understanding of the components of that wellspring, as well as to showcase some extraordinary American music, that ARE YOU FROM DIXIE?, a collection of songs from six seminal 1930’s brother teams is presented.

While the Allen Brothers, Austin and Lee, hailed from Suwanee, Franklin County, Tennessee, they were usually referred to as “the Chattanooga Boys” in recognition of the city some 25 miles west of Suwanee where they found themselves throughout most of their rollicking career. Interested in music literally from infancy – Austin began toying with his mother’s fiddle as soon as he was old enough to clutch a bow, while Lee was taking piano lessons by age three – they eventually settled on guitar (Lee) and banjo (Austin) by the early Twenties, when they left home together to try their luck as entertainers. Over the next ten years, the Allens crisscrossed the Southeast with a collection of spirited – and sometimes “naughty” – tunes, performed in a rambunctious style that linked the sound of pre-World War I minstrel music to the more modern leanings of blues and barrelhouse jazz. The Allens made their recording debut in 1927, but left their original label after that company issued one of their records in its “race” catalogue rather than in its white-oriented “hillbilly” series. The Allens angrily initiated a lawsuit (eventually dropped) and promptly signed with RCA Victor, where they recorded fifty-seven songs from 1928 to 1932. They stopped performing together in 1934; Austin moved to New York, where he found work as a radio announcer and singing bartender; Lee remained in Tennessee and became an electrician.

Much of the Allen Brothers’ material dealt with carousing – a morally loose lifestyle that usually courted danger and trouble, and one that Allens characteristically depicted with devilish carefree glee. “Jake Walk Blues” a song whose title derived from the debilitating physical condition caused by drinking bad Jamaican Ginger, or “Jake” that was smuggled into the U.S. during prohibition, became a topical hit for the duo in 1930, and features the Allen’s trademark sound – Austin’s grinning lead vocals and jaunty tenor banjo, and Lee’s syncopated guitar and remarkable kazoo. (The younger Allen’s skillful manipulation of this most humble of instruments is showcased neatly on the infectious “Roll Down The Line”) As for the Allen’s most famous song, “A New Salty Dog,” suffice to say that a certain car manufacturer probably wasn’t thrilled to hear lines like “I got a gal, she’s raised in the sticks/she does her lovin’ in a Packard ’26,” and that the verse “I got a gal, she looks so bum/but she’s got more ways to lovin’ than Wrigley’s got gum” certainly didn’t endear the Chattanooga Boys to the purveyors of Doublemint. Then again, after the hundreds of covers of this classic over the years, one could certainly agree that no publicity is bad publicity.

I'm gonna run

This was the first song Blind Willie Johnson played on December 5, 1928. It was his second recording session.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Saturday Night Fish Fry

Eddie Williams recorded it first but Louis Jordan wrote the song and had the hit.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This is a story about a dog

A loooooong story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Think about the good things

James Brown recorded two different versions of “Think", a song originally done by the “5” Royales. The first was with the Famous Flames in 1960 and this version was a top 10 R&B hit. Thirteen years later, Brown did a much funkier "Think" with the JB’s. Of the two, I prefer the second version. The song has more energy and Brown was still at the peak of his powers.

Second thoughts: I downloaded and listened to both versions of "Think" and they are complete. I do not know why some of you are getting incomplete files. Here's a chance to ""Think" and "Think" again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I am certain of a thousand things, I know nothing of a million more

Here's a third 3" CD, this one for Marty Willson-Piper's 1988 "She's King" single on Rykodisc (they called it a sub-compact disc). This one came in a strange little 3X6 inch gatefold sleeve. The other two tracks on the disc are alternate versions of songs from Wilson-Piper's second solo album.

Fans of The Church will like these songs a lot, everybody else check back tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Show me how to do that trick

Here's another 3" CD from SST records. This was the last release from the original (only!) line-up of Dinosaur Jr. There were two covers (The Cure & Last Rights) and a short original that sounds even better 16 years later.

Along with Pixies and maybe Scratch Acid, Dinosaur Jr. invented grunge. And just like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. is playing again. And Merge Records just rereleased all three of the bands LPs. But not this EP, which would have fit on the BUG disc. Why isn't it there?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Now I Wasn't talking about anyone,

I was just singing my song.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Out by the first

"2541" may have been where Grant Hart had an apartment once but it was also the address of Twin/Tone Records and Husker Du's studio. Is the song about moving out of an apartment or Husker Du splitting up?

This 3 song EP was Hart's first release after the band ended.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

An hour and a half

Various bits of music were bouncing around in my head for about that long before I finally figured out that it was a 40 year old song by a Dutch band.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Good News

For a change, here’s a band from this century.

The Visitations are from Athens, GA and play acoustic-based modern rock with a strong political message. Very strong. I’m glad they lean in the same direction I do, these songs will stay in your brain.

The band started out as an offshoot of a band called Fable Factory and has been around for a presidential term. This is their second album; I never saw or heard the other one. They are connected with the Elephant 6 collective, just in case that means anything to you.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Man, that was a crazy date...

From 1959 and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the Crazy Teens only made one record before disappearing. That's okay, when your groups only record is as great as this, you never need to record again.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You may be rich,


When CYBERNETIC DREAMS OF PI was released on Twin/Tone back in 1983, I bought the only copy that Cat's records had in stock. I has already knew that the band was good because "Invisible People" was included on THE REBEL KIND compilation that Sounds Interesting Records had put out the year before. The album is still one of my favorites from the Eighties. Somebody else liked it well enough that my copy disappeared at a party one night. Slickee Boys records never were common sights in Tennessee record stores even when they were in print so I pretty much gave up on hearing the LP again unless I found a used copy. And I never did.

But now I've got a copy! The Slickee Boys just put CYBERNETIC DREAMS OF PI out on a self-released CD. Yay! It's also available from Twin/Tone but the disc the band has is a better deal. For the same price, it's got eight bonus tracks, four from the band's third E.P. and four more songs that were "Found in the trunk of Kim's Orange Fury." That's what the liner notes say. Get in touch and I'll tell you how to get a copy.

The Slickee Boys still get together and play once or twice a year up in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

After the fireworks

The Tuff Monks were never a band. The Birthday Party were recording their JUNKYARD album at the same Melbourne studio where the Go-Betweens had been working on their "Hammer The Hammer" single. One night, Nick Cave, Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey of the Birthday Party dropped by the studio where the Go-Betweens were working. Cave ended up singing a Go-Betweens song called “After The Fireworks” while everyone else made noise. "It’s an interesting mesh of Go-Betweens’ and Birthday Party’s styles. The Birthday Party win," Robert Forster said at the time.

Missing Link records had released three 45s and an LP by the Go-Betweens and were hoping to get some return on their money. The label was not happy when the band signed to Rough Trade and moved to London to record their next album. While it was a smart move for the Go-Betweens, Missing Link was not pleased with the band’s good fortune. Somebody at the label remembered that they still had the tapes made the night of the studio party and released it without the approval of either of the bands.


Both bands knew that the record was going to be released with the proceeds going to pay off the costs of the Birthday Party's recording sessions.

You pick the story you want to believe. Version #1 came from the Birthday Party and the liner notes to a Missing Link compilation. Version #2 came from the liner notes the the Go-Betweens BEFORE HOLLYWOOD reissue.

Either way, Missing Link did not release the record, "After The Fireworks" actually came out on an Au-Go-Go Records single in October 1982. The tape was run in reverse for the B-side.
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