Easy Ed's Weekly Broadside
We're sitting on the porch of the old farmhouse on this balmy summer afternoon listening to the latest release from Richard Thompson, one that he's named Acoustic Classics. Back in June when the festival season began, he was playing solo sets almost exclusively featuring his most popular and well known songs that were culled from his back catalog. It was a joy to hear him keep the original arrangements but modify the guitar parts with a variety of open tunings and rhythmic changes. Now that we actually hear the recording without the crowds and sounds of the fairgrounds, and lacking overdubs and electronic enhancements, it's an even more interesting project. Well worth a listen.
Anybody out there go to art school? Ethel and Robert Scull were a wealthy New York couple, who bought and gobbled up artwork back in the forties and fifties. For her forty-second birthday, Robert had Andy Warhol make a portrait of Ethel in the style of his famous Marilyn Diptych. Andy brought her to a Times Square photo booth, took three hundred pictures as she posed; chose and hand painted thirty-six of them. And he got quite a bit of money from Robert for his efforts. Over the next sixteen years Warhol did about a thousand of these privately commissioned artworks, often only taking the original photos with his Polaroid, and letting the workers at his studio do most of the actual work. It was how he supported his lifestyle, and made millions. Makes me wonder if this business model would work for a musician or composer these days. Sort of a very personal and private variation of Kickstarter.
Bumped into David Bernz from Jake's Main Street Music up in Beacon New York last week when we stopped at the Towne Crier Cafe (just in time to catch Carlene Carter open for Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen). He inquired about how my claw-hammer technique was coming along and I shared that I've tossed that plan and have moved to a Wade Mainer-style two-finger method. For those of you traveling up to that thriving art and music area, be advised that they are in the process of moving the music store a few blocks away, but that the website is still alive and well. David is the Grammy Award-winning producer of Pete Seeger’s two Grammy-winning CDs: At 89 (2009), and Tomorrow’s Children (2011).
And speaking of Chris and Herb, their set was probably the finest ninety-plus minutes of music heard by these ears in a long, long time. Simply magic. This summer saw them do a series of mostly duo gigs, but also added in a trip to Norway with a Desert Rose band acoustic lineup that also did three stateside gigs. Chris at 70, and Herb just slightly older, are probably sounding better at this moment than any of the other times I've seen them through the years. Catch them if you can; these shows are the only current true performing lineage to the Byrds and Burritos.
Now playing on Netflix is the Ramblin' Jack Elliot documentary, shot and narrated by his daughter back over a dozen years ago. It's an interesting journey she took to try and get to know her mostly absent dad (well...he is ramblin'), and I learned more than I knew about this Brooklyn cowboy and Guthrie sidekick.
Got me a stack of tracks sitting on the old phonograph player in the front parlor that I'll be getting to this week. Naomi Bedord sent me her new one, as did Jules Shear and Pal Shazar. There's Ryan Adam's first in three years, that Earle kid, Kris Delmhorst, Cahalen Morrisson, Robyn Hitchcock, a live Roddy Woomble and Band, some old Dock Boggs 78's and an Ernest Tubb collection.
If you find yourself in New York City in a couple weeks, there's a free music series at Madson Square Park in the Flatiron District on selected Saturday afternoons from three to five. The series begins on September 13 with Suzy Bogguss and Miss Tess & The Talkbacks. On September 20, the Park welcomes bluegrass singer Aoife O’Donovan and roots musicians Cahalen Morrisson and Eli West. Jazz and roots musicians Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge and progressive bluegrass band Front Country perform on September 27. The series ends on October 4 with folk singer Dom Flemons and western swing band The Brain Cloud.
In closing out this first of what I hope I can maintain as a weekly series (I'll admit to a history of starting new columns, only to watch them take a fast nose dive as I distracted by work on the farm), I'll be accepting reader's questions. No topic is off limits. Here's the answer to what some have already asked me regarding my professional bio:
“Were you really in the Chi-Lites?”
The answer is (clearly) no. But they are, and remain, one of my most treasured and favorite vocal groups. I was able to get this clip off of a Spanish video site, and I hope you enjoy one of their biggest hits. Somebody oughta cover it. That's the great Eugene Record doing the lead vocals.