Column

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Country Blues in Black and White

Ed...I'm afraid to follow you in the "rabbit hole"...I may never be seen again.

Addictive behavior is my calling card. 

Must be our age or something...

I've been roaming some of the same topics as you lately. Been bored music-wise and trying to find something new. Now seeing as how it's rare for me to find tracks I like that are actually new timewise... it's back to the past for me. 

Just reread Amanda Petrusich's "Do Not Sell At Any Price". Ended up doing what I thought I'd do every other time I read the book. Posted want lists (records) all over the place. Have a few promising nibbles that I'm hoping will pan out. 

Have listed everything from prewar blues and country through to modern soundtracks. There's Dylan through to Ryan Adams (Yes, I have them all except for a couple, but it's good to keep your options open.... Damn "California" - I'll get it one day. Finally got "Rock n Roll" at RSD. $125 CDN before tax - mint condition.)

Anyways, I know all about this "rabbit hole". Lost many an hours to youtube. Not always to music. Graham Norton has been the cause of plenty of lost hours. 

Blues country... I've dabbled and never really fell for it. What's your personal favourite?

- Stina

PS - Unless you count the King of Country, Hank Williams Sr.

Stina....your love for Ryan Adams knows no bounds after all these years. Thanks for leaving a comment. Amanda’s book - actually all of them and her articles for the New Yorker - are always close by. She’s great. My fave would be Mr Hurt. Wish I could play and sing like him. Life would be perfect. 

I wavered. I did. Haven't loved the last few albums though there have been a couple songs on each that I love. Feels like he was trying too hard to be popular. I love when he embraces the imperfections. There's a reason why "Jacksonville City Nights" remains my favourite of his. I hear that his new album is supposed to sound like a cross between JCN and... was it "Gold"? It was one of his other albums that I loved the most anyways. So here's to hoping. Though I'm always happy to get whatever an artist wants to release. Look at Bob Dylan, for example. Over the years, I always find stuff that I never loved before and suddenly it means something new to me and I fall completely for it. ie/ "If You See Her, Say Hello" (a couple of years ago) or this past year: "Boots of Spanish Leather". You know what I mean? Songs that you've heard many times before or even once and it just didn't grab you then. Been hanging my hat more on Bob than Ryan these days. My mood changes from time to time.

I didn't know she wrote for the New Yorker. Good to know. I also love her "It Still Moves". Been debating the others, but I'm not a fan of the people she writes about. I feel like the cost would be worth it - if anyone could paint the beauty in music I don't know - it's her.

I've been thinking alot about Guy Clark and Townes lately. Finally got "Heartworn Highways" this year or late last year. Kept waiting for the new one to be released with it. For some reason, Guy and Clark have been on my mind. Their words... the way they played. 

Also been thinking about Bob Dylan and his love of changing his own music until it's unrecognizable in concert. It must be horrible to be expected to play the same songs over and over and over again. Been debating on whether I would do it (if I had the talent to begin with). It's something to respect anyways. Not bowing down to peer pressure. Still... I would love to hear the song the way it's supposed to be played. 

If you could play one of his (Mississippi JH) songs spot on and perfectly (beyond what a normal copy cat could do), which would you choose?

- Stina

This is the one. 

That is a good one...

Love it.

Stina...That's pretty steep for "Rock N Roll Reverse" as Ryan referred to it, you are a bigger fan than I, who confesses that although I love some of his solo work ""Heartbreaker", "Gold", "Love Is Hell", "Demolition" and some of the live recordings in particular, I liked Whiskeytown better than any of his solo stuff...R N Ris not his best effort IMO, though there's some good stuff there, "Wish You Were Here" is the one that comes to mind for me...he did that as a response to the label not liking "Love Is Hell", knocked it out pretty quickly...not sure how much you are willing to pay for "California", but the prices I've seen out there are a little silly...not for me...completeism is not my goal...

Ed mentions Mississippi John Hurt here, and I'd second that...as representative of country blues/blues country as it gets..."Stack o Lee", "Lonesome Valley", "Frankie", "Lay Me a Pallet on the Floor"...does great versions of "Nearer My God To Thee" and "You Are My Sunshine" too...my dad had a couple of his records on the Okeh label that dated back to the late 1920's or early 30's...they were scratchy, but I remember him playing them...I think he got them from my great uncle...the first artist I ever saw in person that played a similar type of music was Josh White, who also is highly recommended...he dates back almost as far as Mr. Hurt though I was 7 or 8 when I saw him, which was back in the early 1960's...both of them would be well worth your time...there's others too...depends on how much time you want to take...

I don't love the album, but am a "Completist" as you say. Sad, but true. I even bought the 45s of his friends that he released on his label. He's writing a book on Whiskeytown, I hear. Also, someone who used to be connected to the band has a book on Ryan during WT years coming this summer. 

I have such a headache at the moment. Just bawled my way through the last two episodes of "13 Reasons Why". The writers were completely out of line and did something horrific to one of the characters. There was a line and they crossed it. Want to binge all the music you mentioned and more so I'll be doing so as soon as I have a clear and untraumatized mind. 

"Nearer My God To Thee" - I always think of the rumours from the Titanic when I hear that title. Was reading about the history of "Stack o Lee" in the Amanda Petrusich book. I love how music is so good at soaking up memories. When I buy a used album, I always wonder where it's been and what it's meant to people.

Thanks for the recommendations - I'll be diving into them for sure. Any more are always welcome!

- Stina

My wife watched both seasons of "13 Reasons"...she didn't mention how she felt about the second season which they just distributed recently, and I haven't watched any of it, but I am quite aware of what it is about...so I don't know about the character you are speaking of...but I have talked to many people who have watched it and it seems to be making quite an impression...

I'd be interested in either Ryan's version of the Whiskeytown days or one of his band mates...he has said that he was more of a poseur in Whiskeytown...that the country influence was just a phase he went through or like a hat he tried on that didn't quite fit...that his solo career reflects more of his true nature (I'm paraphrasing all of that).  I remember that during the Whiskeytown days he had gone through some period of depression and people were worried about him and Caitlin Cary famously said something like "Nobody who just went and got their teeth capped is going to commit suicide."  He was quite the "enfant terrible" in those days...

 

 

A character by the name of Tyler has something horrible happen. It was horrifying - especially considering the actual age of the intended audience. I'm about to turn 32 and it still haunts me. I woke up with the headache still raging. I cried telling someone about it today. They crossed a line. I read an article where they say they're trying to get people talking about the male side of the #metoo movement. It was too graphic and horrifying - like with Glenn's death in "The Walking Dead". A ratings movement by the writers. 

I think one of the things I admire so much about Ryan is how he lets his music reflect his moods. I think he's tried just about every genre at one point or another. There's no fear in whether everyone will get it or not. I hate how a band or artist will release a couple of excellent albums and then suddenly switch to radio sounding albums. Cliched songs. Nothing original. Even if I sometimes might not like where an artist or band goes, I'll always respect them for doing what they love no matter the cost popularity wise.

- Stina

PS - Probably shouldn't mention that I don't have the alternate limited (Europe?) cover of "Rock n Roll". Still have to get it. I have several versions of each album. Started to do it with Jason Isbell and then... well, didn't love the last album (not a single song) and though I love the man - I'm waverng on whether to continue if I'm not going to play them. Had made that decision with Justin Townes Earle and then snapped and bought pretty much all of them though I'm shy a couple. Still sealed almost a year later. I'm trying to break the completist habit. Have so many books - complete runs by authors that I continued because I had the rest. Have a trunk full that I'm taking to trade in at the city. I figure if I can do it with books... I can do it with records. Maybe?

I have a little bit of that myself, but I'm getting over it...age does that to you I think...what's important to you shifts over time...I do have a bunch of CD's that I "had to have" that remain unopened months later...and I did get the completist thing again when I ran across Michael McDermott a couple of years ago...he's been recording since the early 90's, but somehow I missed him until he released "Willow Springs" a couple of years ago...damned if he isn't the best artist I've heard in so long I can't remember...kind of got me inspired again, and I bought his whole catalog, and I've listened to every one of them multiple times...that was a good feeling, to get that excited over rock and roll again...so I know how it is to have the "need" to pick up every daggone thing they've ever done...

You can do what you want Stina...I no longer have any vinyl...that was tough...but it's all available in one form or another...you will probably know when the right time is to do that, if it comes...

 

Vinyl... I like the visual aspects of it. The collector aspect. The art of it all. MP3s are handy and I use them daily, but.... It's the same with those nooks or whatchmacallits. Those things you play books on. I want to hold a book in my hands and line them up on my shelves. A throw back from a family of hoarders. 

- Stina

I have to put in a plug for Rochester’s own Son House.   Dick Waterman “rediscovered” Son House here in 1964.  He had been living in Rochester for 20 years working on the railroad as a Porter.  

Two years ago, our Geva Theatre held a week long Son House Festival where Dick Waterman spoke about Son (calling him “first among equals” of blues players) and featuring John Hammond, John Mooney and Chris Thomas King.  

Starting in May of 2019, they are presenting a dramatization of Son’s rediscovery “Revival – The Resurrection of Son House” on stage.    

Dick Waterman also had great stories about Skip James who to me, outside of Robert Johnson, is the most mysterious and complex of the blues players.    I love the line in the movie Ghost World where the lead character, after becoming obsessed with “Devil Got My Woman” asks the record seller who she got it from if he has anymore records like that and he replies “there are no other records like that”.    

That's great (the Ghost World clip, which I have not seen)!  Son House is also a great one and it is nice they are doing an original dramatic piece on him, I wish there was more of that kind of thing...A buddy of mine plays drums at a farmer's market in Ohio every Saturday morning with a guitarist and singer who is much younger than us and obsessed with blues, country blues, delta blues, etc.   This kid's favorite artist is Skip James...does really good versions of "Illinois Blues" and "Cypress Grove Blues"...he tunes the way Skip did for those songs, which is not standard tuning but open D-Minor...I've messed with a lot of open tunings, but I haven't run across anyone who used that...

   

The movie is very good with some terrific performances and the graphic novel is is based on is great.    A cool soundtrack as well.      

That's excellent - I'll dig into those recordings. Had heard of Son House before, but didn't dig in.

I want to see that movie - it's on my list along with a ton of really interesting looking documentaries on vinyl. There are some where they really dive into the collector's side of things. It gets pricey when you add them up so am trying to figure out which ones to get now. "Desperate Man's Blues" looks like it'd be a winner but it's out of print. 

Have a list of books as well. Bought a book to read called "Old Records Never Die" by Eric Spitznagel about a man who sold off his records and years later is trying to hunt down the actual records he sold.

- Stina

Great topic and column, Ed.  Was lucky to see John Lee Hooker outdoors at Penn's Landing in Philly 1991 or '92.  Wish I'd have also gotten to see RL Burnside.  His later records were souped up by Fat Possum and sounded great, as did his earlier acoustic recordings.

Jay McInerney did a profile for the New Yorker years ago about Matthew Johnson of Fat Possum Records and it featured RL Burnside.   It was laugh out loud funny.   It is only in their archives and I can't post it here.   A sample - One of Johnson's several complaints about Burnside - "My whole livelihood is based on a guy taht doesn't give a rat's a** about anything".  

 

  

 

I’ve read up him a bit over the years and that statement doesn’t surprise me a bit. He had a tough life in many ways, his father, a couple brothers and I think a few cousins were murdered here in a Chicago in the span of about a year. I guess some felt Fat Possum was taking advantage of him with their remixes and so on but overall I thought most of his later career was well served. I first came across him listening to the soundtrack for The Sopranos, which included a modernized It’s Bad You Know. I don’t think he spent a lot of time on the lyrics for the song in this video, but he got his point across peevishly if not humorously.

 

He talks about that as the reason he went back to Mississippi.   But he also talked about how he shot and killed a man who was trying to intimidate him when he returned back home.  When the judge asked him if he intended to kill the man he said "it was between him and the Lord, his dyin'.  (pause) I just shot him in the head".