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…

{ONE} “THE STARS HAVE TURNED CHERRY RED…”
Jenny Lewis takes on “Standing in the Doorway” with a string section and a fabulous guitarist. The full performance (here) made me buy her new record, On the Line. I liked her voice and songs in Rilo Kiley. I love them both now.

{TWO} I’M SURPRISED TO FIND MY MIND’S STILL FAIRLY SOUND… 
“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.”

{THREE} THE MAGNIFICENT LEYTON LADIES BAND
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.

{FOUR} THE FABULOUS MAVIS…
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!

{FIVE} REDISCOVERING THE JOY…
… 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…

AND… EXTRA ITEM OF THE WEEK
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.

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