Roots-album-coverThe Everly Brothers released Roots in 1968, a pioneering country-rock album that found them covering material from their influences both past and present – including the likes of Merle Haggard, George Jones, Jimmie Rodgers and Randy Newman.

Bookended by clips from Everly Family’s 1952 radio show, the album transcends time, bridging the past, present and future of both the group and the music that had traveled alongside them. An outlier in their catalog, the lp finds the brothers delving deeper into both country and psychedelic rock, helped in no small part by the guitar arrangements of Ron Elliott, whose band The Beau Brummels had just recently embraced more country-tinged arrangements themselves, with their 1968 lp Bradley’s Barn.

Here, the Everly’s fashion a rolling, wistful rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”, with subtle accents of shimmering, cosmic pedal steel and the rambling of Ron Elliott’s psychedelic guitar, painting a vision of a drifter’s desert Americana — the existential unknown existing outside the narrator’s jail cell. They treat Glen Campbell’s “Less of Me” with sweet serenity. The guitars entangle and twang in celebration of the tune’s new morning clarity. Digging further back with Jimmie Rodger’s “T For Texas,” the Brothers expand the song into two sections: one part propulsive psychedelic rock, complete with wah-wah guitar, and the other a swaying, languid porch-swing kind of country.

The Everly Brothers :: I Wonder If I Care As Much

In one of the most interesting takes on the record, the Brothers rework their own “I Wonder If I Care As Much.” The sparse and sorrowful dusk of the 1958 original melts into the early canyon light of Elliott’s guitar drones and the Brothers’ slow, tranquil delivery. Like the sky just after a lightning storm, it quietly peers through the haze to reveal hints of a brighter, translucent brilliance.

The Everly Brothers :: Illinois

The most striking and surprising delight of Roots is the Randy Newman penned “Illinois.” Though never recorded by Newman himself, he still managers to anchor the Brother’s recording, with his buoyant, countrypolitan piano arrangement. Tipping his hat to Vince Guaraldi and prophesying Sufjan Stevens in the same breath, ”Illinois” is a beautiful and joyous piece of music. It’s the transient embrace of a breeze carrying the Brother’s harmonies across the skies of yesterday, today and tomorrow. words / c depasquale

deesRough around the edges with driving drums, catchy guitar melodies, and even catchier harmonies and leads, the sound of Bill Dees’ “Tennessee Owns My Soul” is not unlike Black Lips pre-Good Bad Not Evil material. Dees strong vocal lead with the two-part harmony brings X’s John Doe and Exene to mind, only supplying the harmony on this tune is none other than Roy Orbison.

Which raises the question: who was Bill Dees? The man is virtually unsearchable online, with a scant Wikipedia page and not a single solo 45 or LP to his name, save a self-released CD in 2002. However, between 1964-1972 there were 67 songs cut with the Orbison/Dees credit. Famously, Dees co-wrote “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “It’s Over”. After hitting #1 in 22 countries around the globe with the former, Dees quit his job at the warehouse and hit the road with Orbison. He was the 20-something on the bus playing poker with the guys by day, rocking electric piano and singing harmonies by night.

Apparently, many record opportunities came Dees way during his tenure with Orbison, though they were viewed as direct competition and Dees “didn’t want to rock the boat”, so he passed again and again. However, Orbison did produce many sessions with Bill Dees in the lead that tragically never saw the light of day. This alternate version of “Tennessee Owns My Soul” must be from one of those sessions. There’s no paper trail online except the Orbison version that appeared as the b-side to the single “Penny Arcade”. The Bill Dees version of “Tennessee…” is the far superior and evidence that there was a raw energy there that was left in the dust; replaced with nicely produced strings sections and the finest of session musicians. While it is wonderful that we have all of the legendary collaborations between Dees and Orbison, it’s a damn shame we will never hear the ripping, low budget 1969 Bill Dees solo album that this song could have front run. words / p frobos

Bill Dees :: Tennessee Owns My Soul

allahlas_570_v3

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Matthew Correia, Miles Michaud, Pedrum Siadatian, and Spencer Dunham are Allah-Las. This week’s session finds the band recording an inspired set in a Topanga Canyon pump house, covering three tracks spanning 1969-2004. The band, in their own words, below. . .

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Allah-Las :: Come On (Jesus & Mary Chain)

We recorded these covers in an old pump house in Topanga with our friend Kyle Mullarky. The Jesus & Mary Chain are among our favorites and this song especially because it’s so much fun to play.

Allah-Las :: I Cannot Lie (Cass McCombs)

Cass has long been a favorite musician and songwriter of ours and a legend in the LA music scene.  We wanted to pay our respects to the man and all shared a love for “I Cannot Lie”.

Allah-Las :: Lady Rachel (Kevin Ayers)

“Lady Rachel” is one of Kevin Ayers’ best songs and we all went through a period of being obsessed with it. The music and lyrics are so perfect and draw you into the eerie world he’s created. It’s a song that’s hard to categorize. We started off with learning the guitar part for fun but it quickly evolved into us working out the whole arrangement and recording a cover.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen.

Tia-Blake_2

Christiana Wallman passed away in June in Pinehurst, North Carolina, at the age of 63. Those who know about the album she recorded under the name Tia Blake have long puzzled over her backstory, which in some ways, is just as hazy and enigmatic as the music she made. Here are some stray details: she was born in Georgia to a father who may have been a CIA agent and a mother, Joan Blake, who would go on to establish the Canadiana landmark that was Double Hook Bookstore in Montreal.  She herself spent most of her life as a writer (article in Granta, play at the New York Fringe Festival), but very briefly, she refashioned herself a folk chanteuse in Paris. It was there, circa 1970, that she fell in with a group of musicians and cut an LP of folk standards for a small and unglamorous-sounding French label, Société Française de Production Phonographiques. Such was the scale of the production, in fact, that a number of copies were misattributed to ‘Tia Blake and His Folk-Group’ despite Blake’s beautiful visage appearing on the album cover. There followed a lone gig at the famed Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, then a relocation to Montreal, then a few tracks (never used) laid down in a CBC studio—and that was all, the end of Tia Blake as a recording artist.

However, Folksongs & Ballads, despite its throwaway title and the transparent objective (pretty American in Paris sings a bunch of tunes in the public domain à la américain) is anything but run of the mill. For all intents and purposes, an album of songs lifted straight from the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook—produced at a time when the Sixties folk revival had long run its course—should be little more than a coffeehouse curio. And yet, what we hear on this record is remarkable, sometimes hauntingly so.

What haunts us is the melancholy richness of Blake’s voice, simultaneously whisper-soft and world-weary. It helps, too, that she and her band seem to know their Francoise Hardy about as well as their Joan Baez. If the repertoire seems to imply a world of pre-Bob Dylan postcard folk, the songs themselves play out like post-Sound of Silence, post-Songs from a Room letters homeintimate, lonely, low-key, shot through with old school ennui. Throughout, we hear a young woman far from home, having learned all too well that blues run the game. Yes, it may sound as innocently makeshift as a Brill Building demo, but its a naiveté (Blake was just nineteen at the time) that manages somehow to get under the old, worn-out skin of these songs.

Case in point: Blake’s rendering of “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” As in the Peter, Paul and Mary version, the song is here titled “Jane, Jane”—but gone is the background chant that accounted for the name change. All that’s left is the minor key arrangement, slowed to the pace of a nighttime stroll. In fact, when I first encountered Blake’s music through a Numero Group playlist featuring this song the effect was disorienting. I already knew this old spiritual, with its nursery-rhyme choruses, its surreal Cuckoo-like appropriation of folksong tropes. My grandfather used to sing it, my mother used to sing it. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang it. Nina Simone sang it. And still, listening to Tia Blake’s downbeat version, even at the point at which she started singing familiar lyrics, I couldn’t recall how exactly I knew what I was listening to. It was ghostly.

Tia Blake :: Jane, Jane

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The guitars pluck away, lullaby soft, while a loping rhythm drives the tune further and further into dreamy territory: skip-rope prophesies, dogs that talk, cows that pray on Christmas morn. But the thing that really startles is Blake’s voice. The place-holder first line—Hey, hey my lord and lord—is delivered by Blake in the style of a secret, her hands cupped to your ear. It’s a masterclass in understatement: one breath, one line, and Blake is already leading us into that slightly scary place where folksongs dislocate from time and place and become unknown quantities again. Blasts from the past, maybe, but it’s a past too far back to remember fully. Hence the ghosts, hence the haunting.

Something similar occurs during ‘Plastic Jesus.’ Here we have a jokey faux-trucker song that had become something of a folk club staple before Paul Newman wrenched the heart out of it in Cool Hand Luke. What’s surprising is that even though Blake doesn’t come close to replicating Luke’s tearful rendition, her laidback vocal still manages to locate something of the same lonesomeness in that melody (turning it into something Karen Black might have sung absentmindedly from the passenger seat in Five Easy Pieces). The band is bouncing along beside her, but they never overtake the essential somberness of the vocal, a wistfulness that manages to speak volumes more than the dopey lyrics ever could. Although ‘Plastic Jesus’ undoubtedly provides one of Folksongs lighter moments, it is, like the rest of this album, anything but lighthearted.

Track for track, the unselfconscious melancholy of Blake’s voice quietly reclaims these songs. She quiets them down and airs them out in a way that few folkies dared (Jean Ritchie and Shirley Collins spring to mind, certainly—but more often than not it’s Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier, and Nico you find yourself reminded of). Maybe think Ladies of the Canyon but turned down low at 4 a.m. “Polly Vaughn” in such hands comes across as an atmospheric slice of psychfolk. “Betty and Dupree” is a play of light and shadow, a Badlands story by way of Bridget St. John. “Hangman,” meanwhile, re-supplies all the rejection and hurt that Led Zeppelin left off of “Gallows Pole”; again, it’s her voice calling us down into the authentic grain of the song. Hearing her sing slack your rope, Hangman, you can’t help but witness the song’s simple details from right there on the scaffold.

Tia Blake :: Hangman

Another stand out is “Wish I Was a Single Girl Again,” a song which has been prone to plaintive, old-timey rocking-chair arrangements. The soft-footed Peter, Paul and Mary version provides a proto-“Blackbird” template here, but Blake’s band again softens the song up even further, loosening its step, giving its forlorn narrator a little more living breathing life than a simple “bored housewife” cliché. Blake—without the slightest hint of pining—vocally lends the last few lines a thousand mile stare:

When a fella comes a’ courtin’ you, and sits you on his knee,

Keep your eye upon the sparrow that flits from tree to tree

And you’ll never wish you were a single girl like me.

In Water Music’s recently expanded edition of Folksongs & Ballads (culled from materials housed at the Southern Folk Life Collection, UNC Chapel Hill) a rehearsal tape of “Single Girl” ends with one of the musicians asking, ‘Something like that, right?…That’s the humor, the atmosphere you want?’—and then there’s sound of Blake’s voice (again the nineteen-year-old girl, maybe stifling a laugh at the use of the word ‘humor’) giving any easygoing yeah.  words / dk o’hara

Tia Blake :: Wish I Was a Single Girl Again

a1985537729_10Summer isn’t complete without a few walks on the beach, right? The vibrations of this bewitching LP from Mike Shiflet and Jerry David DeCicca are pretty far from Brian Wilson, though. Adoption Tapes is more of a misty morning ramble on a deserted, desolate shore. DeCicca, (who last year gave us Understanding Land, one of 2014’s finest) provides muffled/muttered vocals which drift over disembodied guitar soundscapes that blend feedback with fractured-but-lovely melodies. It’s hard to know exactly what to compare it to (Jandek making an album for the Kranky label?), but it all works very nicely. Wrapped up in artwork by Aquarium Drunkard’s own Darryl Norsen, Adoption Tapes‘ four lengthy tracks transport the listener into a reverie that’s both lulling and haunting. words / t wilcox

Walks On The Beach :: Tortoises

aquarium-drunkard1Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 398: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ David Bowie – White Light / White Heat ++ Lou Reed – Rock And Roll Heart ++ Lou Reed – Kill Your Sons ++ Lou Reed – A Gift ++ Iggy Pop – Dum Dum Boys ++ The Velvet Underground – Head Held High ++ The Velvet Underground – What Goes On ++ The Velvet Underground – Sad Song ++ Jonathan Richman – Velvet Underground ++ Frosty – Organ Grinder’s Monkey ++ Of Montreal – She Came From New York (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Of Montreal – Did You See His Name (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Of Montreal – All My Sorrows (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Matthew E. White – You’ve Got A Friend (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Matthew E. White – No Easy Way Down (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Jonathan Rado – All The Jung Girls (Diane Coffee cover) ++ Courtney Barnett – History Eraser ++ The All Night Workers – Why Don’t You Smile Now ++ David Bowie – Boys Keep Swinging ++ Monster Rally – Smoke ++ Earn-Es back ++ Sylvania East Side Symphony – Egbi Mi O / Black Man’s Cry (Medley) ++ Q-Tip – Lets Ride (Prod. by J Dilla) ++ Byron Lee & The Dragonaires – Back Stabbers ++ Tim Maia – Que Baleza ++ Martin Denny – My Tane ++ Earn-E: Livin’ the Dream; Brownies ‘n Shit ++ Charlie Electric Guitar Band’s Sound of Japan – Mountain Lady ++ Steele Beauttah – Africa ++ De La Soul – Breakadawn (Prod. by Prince Paul) ++ Johnnie Osbourne – African Wake ++ Ghostface Killah – Stay True (Prod. by Inspectah Deck) ++ The Funkee’s – 303 ++ Monster Rally – Goodnight (interlude) ++ Earn-E: Hello? ++ Alton Ellis – What Does It Take ++ Los Mirlos – Lamento En La Selva ++ Baligh Hamdi & Magid Khan – Lahore [edit] ++ Madlib – Another Bag of Boom (No Seeds) ++ The Soul Lifters – Hot, Funky and Sweaty ++ Chaino – Johannesburg Blues ++ Earn-E: Cheeto’s / Frito’s / Dorito’s ++ Brothers Unlimited – Take Me Back ++ King Tubby Meets Lee Perry – Rainy Night Dub ++ Los Yetis – Mary Mary ++ Artifacts – Dynamite Soul (Feat. Mad Skillz) ++ Manu Dibango – Ceddo End Title ++ Les Surfs – Tú Serás Mi Baby (Be My Baby)

*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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The final installment of an ongoing series with Pickathon, showcasing footage from the Galaxy Barn at last year’s fest, located at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon: Quilt – “Milo”.

GetCDNContent

Dwight Yoakam’s been playing country so long he qualifies as a statesmen, but Second Hand Heart, his fourteenth album, doesn’t sound like he’s settling into a mid-career lull. With jangly guitars, bracing tempos, and rowdy vocals, Yoakam’s songs are as wild as they were in 1986, when he released his debut Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. The record follows 3 Pears, his 2012 album produced with Beck, and more than that record echoes the cowpunk of his past, when as a young songwriter he found a home for his Bakersfield-styled songs in the Los Angeles punk scene, alongside bands like X, the Blasters, Los Lobos, and Cruzados, who incorporated roots influences. Drawn out west from his youth in Kentucky and Ohio by the call of Emmylou Harris, his country music hero, Yoakam’s hardcore twang fit in among former punkers who “decided they wanted to explore country music as an expression,” Yoakam says, but it also drew on a long lineage of West Coast pop, Appalachian hillbilly music, and English skiffle. A potent blend he continues to explore with Second Hand Heart.

Aquarium Drunkard: There’s a lot of “California music” in the DNA of Second Hand Heart. Stuff like the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and of course, Buck Owens. Did you have that in mind as a template when you started working on this record?

Dwight Yoakam: Well, there was not a conscious concept of “California,” but by osmosis it’s going to be there. I’ve spent the greatest part of my life in California. I dropped out of Ohio State back in the ‘70s and headed west, as the admonition stated, you know: Go west. I was born in Kentucky, raised in Ohio, but “grew up” in California. I was 20 years old when I got here, and it’s part and parcel of me. California music itself is part of the American musical canon. It certainly was an influence to all of us listening to car radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s. From the Beach Boys, through the explosion of country rock, the commercial California pop rock of the ‘70s, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and ultimately Fleetwood Mac…exponents of California music, if you will. I was curating some music the other day for a TV idea and the California thing came up. It’s Route 66. From the Dust Bowl to now it’s shaped culturally the larger part of the American 20th century. So it wasn’t anything conscious, it wasn’t like a concept. I think it’s an outgrowth of who I am as a Californian.

AD: Did you first settle in Los Angeles when you got to California in the ‘70s?

Dwight Yoakam: It was actually Long Beach for a couple years. [I came out with a buddy who] was coming out for a summer — or he wasn’t sure how long. He had family in Orange County and he wanted to possibly make a move. So as fate would have it he said, “You’re coming with me,” so I sold my car to my brother and took what little cash I had and jumped in a ’74 Volkswagen with him and we headed west. After a few months, he left and went home. I got a job at a loading dock at a department store and started working there, got a car, started driving up into L.A. proper, going to the Palomino and meeting musicians. I put a band together by late ’79, and was playing a five- sets-a-night gig at a place in the valley called the Corral, which was a classic kind of country nightclub in a working class area of the valley.

I began to meet other like-minded musicians and putting a band together. Bob “Boo” Bernstein was playing steel for me, and he said, “You have to meet this guy, [producer] Pete Anderson. He’s playing another club in the west valley.” He had me come over and sit in with that band one night. That’s where Pete and I met. We began talking and responded very immediately to each other’s playing and singing. I started showing him my original material and we then formed the basis of the new unit…[which] evolved into that first band that was on Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. [Yoakam’s 1986 debut]. And, along the way I did a play or two [laughs].

matthewWhite

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Matthew E. White presents Tape-estry featuring Bedouine – a digital 45 of Carole King songs recorded on a 4-track in motels across America. This is White’s second Lagniappe Session for AD. Listen to the 2012 session, here.

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It all started when we wikipedia-d Carole King’s writing credits in Austin, then I met an completely magnetic artist called Bedouine in LA, the band had an off day in Pasadena and we drank Sailor Jerry’s in our motel room and laid down “You’ve Got a Friend” on my Tascam 4-track my parents got me for Christmas when I was 15. Somewhere in the thousands of high hills between Boise and Minneapolis we tracked “No Easy Way Down” and on our last day off I crawled into an attic and sang these loosey-goosey vocals. After our fortuitous meeting in LA I had asked Bedouine if she would sing on these tracks, good god almighty she can sing. The final step was to send the music back to her and she laid down some transcendent backgrounds that perfectly match the tape drenched outer space that the band had found ourselves in. I should say a note about Carole King. She is magnificent, a giant of our time, maybe the finest all around songwriter to walk the earth, there is no one like her, she is an American icon. I’d like dedicate all these memories and the music they produced to her.

Matthew E. White :: You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King)
Matthew E. White :: No Easy Way Down (Carole King )

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen.