dylanIf you spotted our Late Autumn Light mixtape, you likely noted Bob Dylan’s woolen, gospel rendition of the traditional “Mary Ann”; via the widely, yet incomprehensibly reviled 1973 album, Dylan. One of the least appreciated albums in the Dylan discography, it was released without the man’s input and is comprised solely of cover songs. Hastily assembled, the record was released by Columbia, without Dylan’s input or consent, following his (brief) switch to Asylum Records.

These nine recordings were culled from the 1969-1970 sessions from Dylan’s previous two long players; the equally misunderstood but recently reconsidered Self Portrait and the low-key masterpiece New Morning. A fascinating period in Dylan’s career, it’s difficult to fathom how an album containing material from these sessions could be so maligned. After all, these are still Bob Johnston produced recordings — Al Kooper and David Bromberg were still in the room.

Occupying the same laid-back, pastoral charm as the aforementioned 1970 records, the magic that Dylan channeled into tunes like “Alberta,” “Copper Kettle” and “Sign on the Window” are on full display here – a collection of warm country, gospel and folk. “Lily of the West”, an old Irish murder ballad, has an acute John Wesley Harding vibe — a lawless western shuffle, with harpsichord and female backing vocals that are eerily hypnotic, like an ancient, yellowing photograph. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” lives in that same wintry, log cabin tranquility as many of the tracks on New Morning. “Sarah Jane” is a rollicking paean to domestic bliss. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” written by Peter LaFarge, is the tale of a Native American World War II veteran and one of the six flag raisers on Iwo Jima, who died ten years later of alcohol poisoning. It’s the kind of unique tale of forgotten Americana that suits Dylan perfectly, and his piano-based, spoken word lament is a poignant and woeful tribute to the American hero that is too often marginalized and forgotten.

“A Fool Such As I”, a country funk barnburner, turns up the heat, and closing the record out is a flamenco-inspired rendition of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” – a song based on the poem “A Border Affair,” written by cowboy poet Charles Badger Clark in 1907. Shades of “Wigwam” and Pat Garrett can be heard, as we find Dylan swaying, crooning and, yes, reveling in languid American West ease.

But it’s “Mary Ann” that is the album’s highlight. Dylan’s woozy, earthy vocals, the heavenly female backup singers and the casually grooving guitar all thread together into a warm, homey quilt of country, gospel and folk. “Oh, don’t you see that crow fly high/she’ll surely turn to white/if ever I prove false to you/Let the day turn to night.” He may have not written it, but damn if he wasn’t born to sing it. Gentle, warm and evocative; its cosmic Americana is up there with the best of Dylan’s early 70’s material.

Some allege that these recordings were frivolous and carefree, mere warm-up recordings for Dylan and his studio companions – and that may very well be true. But it’s the at-ease vibe of these songs and of Dylan, his band, and his backup singers that deliver this record with such grace and charm. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure. words / c depasquale

Bob Dylan :: Mary Ann

Related: Bob Dylan :: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait

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“We are the measure of all things. And the beauty of our creation, of our art, is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls…” – morning of the earth, ost reissue

2013 marked the 40th anniversary of seminal Australian surf film, Morning of the Earth. For the occasion, the film was re-released (along with a book) and director Albert ‘Alby’ Falzon did some press/events around the commemoration. At that time, he recalled a story that happened whilst shooting for the film in Bali. An Indian diplomat likened the beauty of the isle he was visiting to ‘the morning of the world.’ Falzon agreed, and there you have the peculiar title we are all familiar with. And, really, it’s quite fitting as this unique take on a surf film follows some exceptional surfers to beautiful locales, as they display not only their water radness but demonstrate their reverence for the world they play in.

Sustainable before it was even a thing, environmentally conscious before it was paramount; these surfers truly communed with nature. We’re talking: building their surf boards and huts from the land and ensuring they left no trace behind…all the while cruising to and fro some of the most perfect surf your eyes will ever see.

But, like any timeless film (surf or otherwise), the element that ties it all together is the music that accompanies these erstwhile journeys. Brooklyn based label, Mexican Summer (in partnership w/ Anthology Recordings) just released the original soundtrack – for the first time Stateside (along with similarly profound Crystal Voyager) – as part of their Anthology Surf Archive series.

Peter Howe :: I’m Alive

Now, you might be thinking: c’mon surf soundtracks…a couple grooves, some reverb. I’ve heard it before. Not here. The tracks that accompany Morning of the Earth sound like they were plucked right out of your favorite dive bar jukebox. Familiar, dusty, psychedelic/Laurel Canyon-tinged numbers; filtered through the skilled hands of Aussie musicians.

G. Wayne Thomas produced the record, gathering Australian folkies and surfer-players to lend their talents to the film’s themes. Love and happiness, accountability for your footprint, untouched beauty…deep stuff for a surf flick that resonates and lives far outside the realm of gliding through perfect Bali barrels and beach hang montages (but don’t worry, there’s plenty of that, too). The album went on to claim the distinction of being Australia’s first Gold record for a soundtrack and standout single, Thomas’ “Open Up Your Heart”, held on t0 the #1 spot for a bit. Clearly, sturdy music that held some weight well beyond the screen.

When approached to write about the record – I toiled with the angle I’d take but later that morning, as I was checking the local surf report…it became clear: the music would accompany my own journey.

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Each December, Brian Reese at Big Rock Candy Mountain deals out a month’s worth of holiday esoterica from the far corners of vintage twang, fuzz, scuzz, r&b, blues, country, garage, lounge and beyond. After the jump, Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree II: The Eggnog Is Spiked. Find part one, from 2012, here,

Download and tracklisting after the jump. . .

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Despite being a lifelong fan of The Twilight Zone, I had somehow missed Come Wander With Me — the third to last episode of the show’s fifth and final season. Perhaps that’s because Come Wander With Me doesn’t exactly top lists of the show’s most memorable moments. Unlike Nightmare At 20,000 Feet or Time Enough At Last, Come Wander With Me doesn’t posses an iconic image burned into American pop culture. There’s no ironic twist in the final act; no creature or alien or ghoul. Yet thanks to a haunting and ethereal folk song at the center of it — repeated over and over again like an incantation — Come Wander With Me is every bit as evocative and uncanny as the show’s more celebrated installments. When I finally stumbled across it late one night on Netflix, I knew instantly that it was something I would never forget.

The plot concerns Floyd Burney, a smarmy, second-rate rock n roll singer who arrives in a small Appalachian town looking to cop local folk songs. One gets the impression that Burney has made a career out of this sort of musical theft; traveling town to town, pillaging blues numbers and turning them into top 40 fodder. However, this time Burney gets more than he bargained for when he follows a fragile, affecting melody being sung from within the woods at the outskirts of town. Eventually, he finds the songstress responsible — the beautiful and mysterious Mary Rachel, played by Bonnie Beecher. From there, as Twilight Zone episodes are wont to do, things get bizarre.

Written by Jeff Alexander and sung by Bonnie Beecher Come Wander With Me is the kind of song that feels instantly, eerily familiar. Like a lullaby you heard often as a child and then disappeared forever into some deep, inaccessible crevice in your brain. Both timeless and out of time, Come Wander With Me is impossible to place. It feels like something Billie Holiday could have sang in 1939, or Joan Baez in 1965 or a witch in Salem prior to her execution in the sixteen-hundreds.

Jeff Alexander, the song’s composer, was an industry veteran by the time he wrote Come Wander With Me in 1964. He had composed music for radio programs along with Benny Goodman in the early forties and throughout the fifties, wrote scores for films in Hollywood. Jailhouse Rock and Kid Galahad, two Elvis Presley pictures, were among his many credits. Unfortunately, there is nothing remotely similar to Come Wander With Me in Alexander’s vast catalogue of work. It’s an anomaly.

Bonnie Beecher, the episode’s lead actress and the song’s vocalist, appeared in a handful of forgotten television shows following her debut in The Twilight Zone. In 1965, she married the hippy-activist, Wavy Gravy, changed her name to Jahanara Romney, and quietly disappeared into obscurity.

Bonnie Beecher :: Come Wander With Me

Perhaps the most curious fact about Beecher is that she dated a young Bob Dylan at the University of Minnesota in 1961 — making her the first in a long line of famous Bobby D brunettes. If you scour the Internet long enough, you can find a bootleg recording of an early Dylan gig held in Beecher’s campus apartment. It’s also said that Girl From the North Country was written about her. Based on the spell she casts during her brief stint in The Twilight Zone, it’s not too difficult to imagine why. Girl From The North Countrys gentle, achy melody and the longing expressed in its words compliment Beecher’s demure, doleful nature in a way that feels designed.

Bonnie Beecher’s voice cannot be heard on any other known recording. She was not a professional singer and — given that she retired from acting while still in her twenties — it’s easy to speculate that she wasn’t too keen on show business in general. However, listening to Come Wander With Me, as I’ve done hundreds of times since discovering it, you can’t help but wonder what might have been had Beecher’s passions been more in line with that of her college fling’s. There’s something primal and redolent in her voice; something terminal.

Maybe in some other dimension — a dimension not only of sight or sound but of mind — there’s a whole albums worth of Bonnie Beecher ghost dirges waiting to be dug up. words / e o’keefe

*full episode after the jump…

bill-foxA good way to describe the music from Bill Fox’s under-appreciated folk-pop opus, Shelter From The Smoke, would be to say it sounds a little like Dylan in the “Blowing in the Wind” years and a lot like The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” But one thing to remind anyone of is the year that it was composed and released, 1997.  It’s a timeless classic concerned with love, loss, freedom and rebirth, all peppered with historical allusions and fairytale-like lyrics. Fox effortlessly skips through each song with notes and lyrics that fit in their perfect places with such ease you’d think they had some divine maker.

A little over a decade after it’s release, Scat Records reissued Shelter From The Smoke on CD and vinyl to a small (but growing) and much appreciative fanbase. words / p dufrene

Bill Fox :: Get Your Workingman’s Things

From 1963 to 1969 the Beatles issued limited edition Christmas fan-club singles on 7 inch flexi-discs. All very relaxed and off the cuff, it’s interesting to note how the cover art changed, along with the music, as the sixties rolled along. Details after the jump….

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The new Lumerians is paced with the menace of a slow-motion fever dream. It smolders to the rhythms of experience; a tyger’s pulse biding in the nightscape. “Murder Dubbs,” the lead track from Transmissions from Telos Vol. III, sets forth with strains of Curtis Mayfield’s Hell Below within the thick, crackling bass line. Its plays like rolling thunder. Their sound here is improvised, instrumental, and raw, thoughout. It’s richly layered with cryptic analog swells and plenty of headspace. A hard-boiled surrealist score unwinding through the mind’s eye. Dig this slowness…. words / n barbery

Lumerians ::Murder Dubbs

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST. Download Ultimate Painting’s lagniappe session, here….

SIRIUS 367: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You ++ Ultimate Painting – Talking Central Park Blues ++ Parquet Courts – Stoned & Starving ++ Crystal Stilts – The Dazzled ++ Deerhunter – Leather Jacket II ++ Disappears – Gone Completely ++ Girls Names – I Lose ++ Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster ++ Ty Segall – Tall Man Skinny Lady ++ Landline – Wire ++ Motorcycle Crash – Damage ++ White Fence – Lillian (Won’t You Play Drums?) ++ The Olivia Tremor Control – Jumping Fences ++ Allah-Las – Busman’s Holiday ++ Real Estate – Younger Than Yesterday ++ Yo La Tengo – Tom Courtenay ++ Ultimate Painting – No Room To Live (Times New Viking) ++ Ultimate Painting – All I Wanna Do (Sheryl Crow) ++ Ultimate Painting – I’m So Tired (Fugazi) ++ Amen Dunes – Spirits Are Parted ++ Modern Vices – Baby ++ Kevin Morby – Reign ++ Cass McCombs – Morning Star ++ John Grant – I Wanna Go To Marz ++ Morrissey – Driving Your Girlfriend Home ++ Dirty Beaches – True Blue ++ Jeans Wilder – Sparkler ++ Julee Cruise – Floating ++ Chris Cohen – Optimist High ++ Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Bicycle ++ Calvin Love – Magic Hearts ++ Atlas Sound – Amplifiers ++ Damien Jurado – Reel To Reel ++ Springtime Carnivore – Sun Went Black

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

At once fragile, delicate and rugged, Jennifer Castle‘s Pink City is one of the more beautifully crafted records of the year. For her contribution to the Lagniappe Sessions, Castle takes on the melancholy country charm of The Flatlanders (Jimmie Dale Gilmore forever, folks) and an oft-covered rarity from a young, ramblin’ Bob Dylan. Castle, in her own words, below.
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Jennifer Castle :: Keeper Of The Mountain (The Flatlanders)

I know very little about the Flatlanders, but the first time I heard this Texan song I fell in love with it. My friend Davida used to play it when we would hang out in her basement in Toronto when we were in our 20’s.  I often feel like I take nature personally, for better or for worse. It’s a struggle for me not to project my interiors onto the natural world. I’ve never felt like the Keeper of a Mountain or a Morning Flower per say, but I have spent much time trying to let the river be the river and not my personal melancholic soundtrack.

Jennifer Castle :: Walkin’ Down The Line (Bob Dylan)

Dylan’s simple songs always stick with me the most. I was revisiting some of his music recently while I was on tour alone.  Driving myself around the American mid-west I had a lot of listening time.  I’m a heavy headed gal and most my friends are too.  I like to hear us patiently described in his verse.  Adrienne Rich said “a thinking woman sleeps with monsters, the beak that grips her she becomes” which I like to believe alludes to the ‘heavy-headedness’ he speaks of.  Plus, my money comes and goes, it literally rolls and flows and rolls and flows through the holes of the pockets of my clothes.   Songs like this play on long after the record is done and become more like truths to me: “Lord, I’m Walking Down The Line!

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / original illustration for aquarium drunkard by Ben Towle.