Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tony Joe White

This morning, the song running through my head was Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” I don’t know what you think about Ms. Winehouse as an artist or a human being, and that song may have been over-played, but I still think it’s brilliant. But that’s not what this post is about.

Somewhere along the line and in my mind, “Rehab” made a segue into The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag.” Some melodic and/or rhythmic elements overlap on the two, so I was doing a mental mash-up. That’s not what this post is about either.

What this post is about is “Polk Salad Annie” and Tony Joe White. I meandered on YouTube from The Band and Amy Winehouse and ended up far from where I began – like getting lost in a swamp. And you know what you find in a swamp? Polk Salad.

Here’s Elvis singing “Polk Salad Annie” in full Vegas mode:

And just for the sheer fun of it (as if the preceding video wasn't plenty), here’s Tony Joe singing a duet of “Polk Salad” with Johnny Cash:

Tony Joe White’s biggest songwriting hits may have been “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia.” He’s also written and produced for Tina Turner. For a country singer-songwriter, he’s can bring the funk. Here’s the incomparable Ms. Tina Turner singing Tony Joe’s “Steamy Windows.”

I’ll close with a more recent video of Tony Joe White doing a solo on “Who You Gonna Hoodoo Now?” His isn't the greatest singing voice, but that deep bass certainly has appeal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Two Mother's Day Videos + Bonus Ono

Don't read anything into these song selections. They are only what I found after doing a quick search for songs on the theme of mothers.

The first is a fun little tune from Scissor Sisters, "Take Your Mama Out," with the choice lyrics:

Gonna take your mama out all night
Yeah, we'll show her what it's all about
We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne
We'll let the good times all roll out

And for those readers who may not be feeling sentimental about dear old ma, here's John Lennon's tribute to his mother (and father).

The last one has nothing to do with mothers, but I'm sending this out to my friend Sharon because I know she'll appreciate seeing Yoko Ono knitting while blindfolded.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Tribute to Shatner

In honor of the release of the new Star Trek flick, and for all my geek friends, this is a tribute to William Shatner. A few years ago, Mr. Shatner teamed up with Ben Folds to put out an album of cover songs and originals, titled “Has Been.” While the album had all the over-the-top camp value we’ve come to love and expect from him, it also had some moments of brilliance and remarkable self-reflection. Most importantly, I think Mr. Shatner had a helluva good time poking fun at people, including himself.

Here’s the Shatner/Folds cover of Pulp’s “Common People,” which a brilliant mash-up artist combined with clips from the old Star Trek animated series.

On the same album, Mr. Shatner performed a work of slam poetry, “I Can’t Get Behind That.” Haven't we all felt like this at some point? The video is lip-synched by puppets (can puppets do that?), and ends a 2:56, so please ignore the final 45 seconds of silliness at the tail end.

Back to Pulp, how about this live version of "Common People"?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Pentangle and the Lyke Wake Dirge

Commenting on my recent Pentangle post, friend of the Blog, Mead Hunter, praised that group’s stirring version of the “Lyke Wake Dirge” – a traditional English song about the soul’s travels after death. The verse is also a cautionary tale: Be charitable and kind to others, or karma’s gonna getcha.

You will find a nice “translation” of the text by Jeff Duntemann here.

I also found this beautiful a capella version by The Young Tradition, a mid-1960s folk revival trio that sang unaccompanied. For some time, they reportedly shared a house with John Renbourne and Bert Jansch from Pentangle. I don't remember having heard them, so this was a nice discovery:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Happy Belated May Day!

Yesterday was May Day (aka “International Workers Day”), but I was too busy working my ass off to celebrate the achievements of the labor movement.

Did you know that the U.S. version of Labor Day was created in 1887 and scheduled in September to disassociate it from the more radical, leftist versions traditionally held on the first of May? And that in 1958 President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1st as “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day?” Loyalty Day was launched in 1921 as “Americanization Day” with the intent of reaffirming national loyalty and recognizing “the heritage of American freedom.” Law Day is pretty much the same thing, with a little extra boosterism for the rule of law as the foundation for democratic freedom. Who knew? By the way, we don't torture.

In honor of the labor force (currently employed or not), here’s Merle Haggard singing his tribute to the working stiff:

Friday, May 1, 2009


I’ve posted before about my affection for the British “folk/rock” movement from back in wayback time, when I was a laddie, ca. late 60s and 70s. I listened to them all: Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Pentangle. In the end (or "the final analysis" or "when all is said and done"), I think my favorite is Pentangle. Perhaps that’s a guitar player’s bias-- focusing on the brilliance of John Renbourne and Bert Jansch. But as I listen again now, I’m amazed at Danny Thompson’s virtuosity on the bass and Jacqui McShee’s crystalline voice, and the musicality of them as a group.

I like this first video because ... well because they are just so cool the coolest little chamber ensemble ever. (The audience on the sidelines look like they're just high and groovin' on the vibe). I love seeing folks sing duets (think Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, or George Jones and Tammy Wynette) -- there's a connection that comes through the eye contact and the intimate listening that's required. I see it here between Bert Jansch and Jacqui McShee. The whole band feels like they are closely listening to each other. Look for the sweet instrumental break at 1:30 (John Renbourne on guitar). Did I mention that the drumming is simply perfect?

Next is one I remember well: "Wedding Dress." Again, they feel like a chamber ensemble. The drumming is not flashy, but absolutely perfect. And listen to what Danny Thompson’s doing with the bowed bass at 1:43. Beautiful!

I'll close with an instrumental piece from 1971, "In Time," in which Pentangle borders on cigarette enwreathed jazziness. Look for Danny Thompson’s bass break at 1:00 and then again at the close around 3:30.

If I'm sounding over-exhuberant here, it's because it's Friday night.