Sunday, May 31, 2009

Odds and ends

It's been a month or so since I last posted, so here are some Sunday evening reflections (music-related, of course)....

I've been listening to Tracy Grammer's Book of Sparrows a lot lately. It connected with me for the first time in a powerful way this past March, while Denise and I were in the car, on the way to New Jersey. The scaled-down arrangement of Dave Carter's "Gypsy Rose" is the highlight, a definite improvement on the version she recorded for Flower of Avalon. The unreleased Dave Carter song "Lord of the Buffalo" is a gem. And, on our drive from the outer banks of North Carolina to Norfolk, Virginia, I found myself tearing up at Tracy's version of Jackson Browne's "In the Shape of a Heart." The CD is 7 songs long, about 30 minutes of music; those three songs, plus Tom Russell's "Blue Wing" and Simon and Garfunkle's "April, Come She Will" are all great. There's also a song called "Travis John," which is (a bit obliquely) about a boy killed in war on foreign soil. I think Tracy Grammer has become a better and better singer over time, or maybe it's just me. I've never disliked her, but I've never liked her as much as I do now. She'll be playing Falcon Ridge this year, and I can hardly wait.

What else? Some of the greats have new material out. The new Neil Young album is very good. It's full of loud, toneless crunch, and there are at least three really good songs, two of which bookend the CD. I'm not sure it's quite at the level of Living with War, although Christgau disagrees with me. I like it better than the new Dylan album, which has some great hooks here and there (like on "Jolene") but doesn't connect with me as well as Modern Times or "Love and Theft" or Time Out of Mind.

I recently bought a used copy of John Hiatt's Crossing Muddy Waters, parts of which I heard for the first time on WFUV in New York. The opening three songs are all excellent, and so is "Gone," about halfway through the record. Still trying to listen to the other songs to see what's there. Also bought a used Flatlanders CD, but I haven't listened to it yet.

I've been thinking a lot about Jack Hardy lately. I'll be sure to write more about his stuff in the weeks to come. Excited to see that Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright will be playing some shows together on the east coast this fall. I've already got tickets for their show at the Calvin Theater in Northampton.


Matt Winters said...

For more Neil Young crunch, check out the new Booker T. Jones disc, Potato Hole, which features Neil on guitar along with the Drive-By Truckers.

Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainright is an interesting pairing. I think of them so differently. I'll be curious to know what those shows are like.

3shells said...

Hey, Matt. Good to hear about the Booker T. disc. Booker T and the MGs were Neil's backing band off and on during the 1990s, and they also recorded the album Are you Passionate? (2002) together. I love their sound together. I'll have to check out Potato Hole. Great album title, too!

Thompson and Wainwright have been friends for a long time now, I think. Thompson was playing guitar on Wainwright's albums as early as Fame and Wealth (1983). Guitar playing and singing styles are obviously pretty different. But I detect similarities in tone and spirit.