Wednesday, February 19th

Last week’s post was possibly a little bad-tempered and carping, so let’s start with something lovely I came across this week…

Jenny Lewis takes on “Standing in the Doorway” with a string section and a fabulous guitarist, Dylan Day. The full performance (here) made me buy her new record, On the Line. I liked her voice and songs in Rilo Kiley. I absolutely love them now.

“I guess Nashville was the roughest / But I know I’ve said the same about them all. / We received our education / In the cities of the nation, me and Paul…”

One of the best autobiographical songs in popular music (up there with “The Ballad of John and Yoko” for me) is Willie Nelson’s “Me and Paul”, which details both the camaraderie and calamity of the relationship of Willie with his long-time drummer, Paul English. Mark and I caught Willie’s band at the Hammersmith Odeon sometime in the 80s, and what a rollicking outfit it was – English in his black gambler’s hat, studded with silver dollars, Mickey Raphael on outrageous harmonica, Willie channeling flamenco and Django on Trigger, and the Nashville legend that was Grady Martin on fluid electric guitar.

My favourite verse of “Me and Paul” is this…
“On a package show in Buffalo,
With us and Kitty Wells and Charlie Pride
The show was long, and we’re just sitting there,
And we’d come to play and not just for the ride
Well, we drank a lot of whiskey
So I don’t know if we went on that night at all
But I don’t think they even missed us
I guess Buffalo ain’t geared for me and Paul…”

From Rolling Stone: “Known for his tough but flamboyant style, English was not only Nelson’s drummer, but also his enforcer and de facto bodyguard. In a 2015 deep-dive feature for Oxford American, Joe Nick Patoski writes about the many times English engaged in fistfights on the road, often pulling the .22-caliber pistol he kept in his boot. Even without a gun in his hand, the towering English cut an imposing figure. Both onstage and off, he adopted the persona of “The Devil,” grooming menacing facial hair, dressing all in black, and sporting a satin cape that is currently enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s exhibit.”

A photograph, taken in the 1890s, at the Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow. 5 string banjos, Portugese mandolins, lovely peg-head Martin-style parlour guitars. It would be great to know what they sounded like, but maybe it’s enough to enjoy their strong look. I also picked up this book, produced by the William Morris Gallery, about a crucial period in British art and music (here, at Walthamstow School of Art) — Peter Blake taught Ian Dury there. And Dury said, “there are a couple of ways to avoid death — one is to be magnificent.” Which, as artistic credos go, is well, magnificent.

A Q&A with Mavis Staples by Richard Scheinin, for San Francisco Jazz.
What about your father’s guitar? How would you describe the sound of his playing?
A: My father’s guitar was a different sound from any guitar. Pops, he learned from a blues guy, Charley Patton. He learned guitar from Charley. Pops, when he was a boy, they lived on the Dockery Farm (in Dockery, Mississippi) and Charley Patton was there. Howlin’ Wolf was there. But Pops, he told us about how he would hear this man playing the guitar, and he loved it so much. He was makin’ 10 cents a day, and he would take that dime to the hardware store where they were selling guitars, and he put it in the layaway. He got that little guitar, and he taught himself. But he liked Charley Patton’s style. And so after he was playing for maybe a couple of years, he went into the music store — this was in Chicago — and he saw this tremolo. He put the tremolo on the guitar and, you know, let me tell you — Elvis Presley told me one time, he says, “I like the way your father plays that guitar. He plays a nervous guitar.” (She laughs.) He said, “nervous.” I didn’t wanna tell him; it’s not nervous! That’s my father’s tremolo on that guitar!

… of making Mix CDs for friends. Rick was over from NYC and we were talking about Bill Frisell, who Rick tries to see whenever he plays Rick and Liney’s favourite place, {Le} Poisson Rouge, a venue founded by musicians on the site of the old Village Gate in Greenwich Village. Bill F is so generous with his wonderful favours that he ends up collaborating across genres and styles. Rick hadn’t heard some of these, so I said I’d put together a CD of my favourites…

From Popbitch: Bjork is assembling a full-scale replica of her childhood bathroom — down to the exact tiling pattern — in an attempt to recreate the sounds she heard when singing as a kid.

If you’re receiving the emailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.


  1. The production values for the sleeve of your Bill Frisell mix-CD put us amateurs to shame. I had to check that compilation wasn’t available on Amazon.

  2. Too kind, Kevin! I really loved compiling mix-tapes and then CDs. Spotify has kind of ruined that…

  3. Nice Frisell mix, Martin. I’m particularly fond of the Sam Amidon tracks. You heard Bill’s work with Vinicius Cantuária? Think you might like.

    • How goes the book, Philip? We’re all waiting! And I don’t know of the VInicius collaboration – will put that right immediately…

      • Frisell book next year, Martin. Announcement quite soon.
        Lágrimas Mexicanas is the duo album, but Frisell guests on several other very fine Cantuária records. Vinicius also plays on Bill’s 2003 album The Intercontinentals.

  4. Nice to see several songs from Carrie Rodriguez on your mix disc. Lola is a tremendous album. Aside from the Cooder one I’m unfamiliar with the rest so I’ll need to check them out.

    • I only knew of Lola because of your enthusiastic review, Paul, (and then my friend Tim gave me a copy, saying how good it was). And that’s why it’s good that we’re all doing this…

  5. Mick Steels says:

    The Frisell compilation could maybe benefit from a more comprehensive view of his work particularly the collaborations with Paul Motian and John Zorn, not forgetting the wonderful “Angel Song” with Lee Konitz and Kenny Wheeler

  6. Not wrong, Mick, but a) you could do five volumes of BF’s collaborations… b) it was based on things I knew and loved, and my record collection is only so big… and c) I was doing it for Rick and I knew the musical areas that he likes…

  7. But thanks for sending me to Angel Song, to which I am now working happily…

    • Mick Steels says:

      He is certainly prolific I first recall seeing him as a member of the Mike Gibbs band in the late 70s. The Angel Song quartet did a tour in 1999 which had the admirable John Abercrombie in place of Frisell, and as excellent as the three other musicians were it was Konitz who left a lasting impression.
      I wonder if any other players can match his longevity for inventiveness and always seeking out new challenges

  8. Was just thinking of your excellent Bill Frisell Mix CD, Martin, and well, here’s a post-pandemic update on the book…

    I’ve compiled by own Frisell playlist for Faber, which I guess will be posted on Spotify nearer to publication.

    Oh, and have you heard this? Great stuff…

Leave a Reply to Paul Kerr Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: