Saturday, March 28, 2009

Camille O'Sullivan sings Nick Cave

I came upon this sultry, Irish-French (French-Irish?) chanteuse indirectly, while watching a video by another singer on the same label. What caught my ear were her covers of two stunningly beautiful Nick Cave songs. (My second post on this site was about Nick Cave, and I reviewed his September 2008 Portland concert over at Culture Shock).

Very much like Tom Waits, Nick Cave is a masterful lyricist and a charismatic performer with a voice and sound that is distinct in its rawness and lack of polish. When either of these artist's songs are interpreted--particularly by female singers--I invariably hear them afresh and gain an even deeper appreciation of the poetry.

I'll start with Ms. O'Sullivan's interpretation of "God is in the House."

I love her interpretation, but searched out Cave's own version and found this video, which I like even more:

Here's O'Sullivan singing Cave's beautiful classic, "The Ship Song."

Here's Nick Cave's own solo version:

Blind Pilot at SXSW

I’ve been listening to music on a rainy spring day in Portland. Right now, I’m enjoying listening to a Blind Pilot concert recorded by NPR at SXSW. Darn pretty music – sweet harmonies, simple instrumentation (including a nice touch of trumpet), heartfelt, smart lyrics. Some of it is a little more pop than I normally like on my headphones, but it is lovely music to listen to on a grey day.

Friends from college days, Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski are Blind Pilot. The pair hails from Portland where they are warmly embraced by the city’s avid bike culture on account of their conducting a West Coast tour completely and utterly by bicycle, hauling instruments and all their gear behind their road bikes, and playing in small towns. With the addition of a few more band mates they have graduated to a tour van. In May and June, they’ll be on tour with the Decemberists, in a tour bus I imagine.

Here's Blind Pilot's official video for "Go On Say It," which looks like it was filmed in Astoria.

Here they are in-studio at KINK radio, singing "Three Rounds and a Sound."

On NPR you can also listen to a SXSW concert by another Portland band that is making waves, Blitzen Trapper. I'll get back to them sometime.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip

This tune by the British duo known as Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip just showed up on NPR's "Song of the Day" play list. Mr. Pip's words are too wise to not pass along for the edification of our readers. And since Mr. Pip's name is an intentional misspelling of the title and character in an Edward Lear poem, "The Scroobious Pip," this post is in honor of World Poetry Day, which is today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SXSW 2009

The annual SXSW music fest has started in Austin. One of of these years, Mighty Toy Cannon will be so renowned across the blogoverse that I'll get free tickets and airfare to attend. Yeah, right.

For now, I'm stuck listening to podcasts and streaming concerts and reading blog reports courtesy of the estimable Bob Boilen and colleagues at NPR and "All Songs Considered." Their SXSW coverage is quite remarkable and fun.

NPR is also offering a free sampler download featuring ten bands, including Portland's own Blitzen Trapper and Decemberists.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Six Days on the Road

There's nothing I don't love about this song. The best truck drivin' song ever written (and there are a lot of great truck drivin' songs). I think the first version I ever heard was performed by Red Sovine, the Grand Master of the genre. Anybody playing country, alt-country, country rock, neo-country-rock, neo-alt-country-americana ... has to cover it. It's as fun to perform as it is to listen to.

The first video from Dave Dudley is my favorite of the bunch--perhaps because he's the songwriter. And he's playing a guitar that looks just like mine. The shiny shirt doesn't hurt either.

"Six Days on the Road" was a favorite of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. The FBB were an opening act for the infamous Altamont concert in 1969, and a short excerpt of Gram Parsons singing "Six Days" appears on "Gimme Shelter," the Maysles Brothers documentary film about that event. I can't find a YouTube video of that performance, but here's one with the FBB, post-Parsons--Chris Hillman sings the lead. Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steel simply kills.

I'll conclude with a version by a young Steve Earle. Guitar pickers will appreciate the little solo bit at 1:30 (I believe the fellow with the Telecaster is Mike McAdams). My only quibble with this version is that the rhythm section doesn't bounce quite as much as I think it should -- a little too plodding.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Johnny Cash and Guests

On Facebook, I've recently been tagged to list 15 albums that changed my life. That's going to be a challenge because it is a distinctly different assignment than listing "15 Desert Island Albums" or "15 Best Albums of All Time" or "15 Albums Listened to in the Past Week." So, more thinking will be needed.

One album that came to mind is the eponymous John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers (featuring Eric Clapton). I think I became more of a fan of John Mayall than Clapton after that album (though I mean no disrespect to Clapton). That memory led me to YouTube, where I found this collaboration from the Johnny Cash Show ca. 1970, with Johnny playing "Matchbox" with Carl Perkins and a young Eric Clapton. Clapton also performed on that episode with Derek and the Dominos.

After that, I was tempted to chase down three paths: (1) More "Matchbox"; (2) More Clapton; (3) More Carl Perkins. Instead I decided to find a few other guests who appeared on Johnny's show. Here's Neil Young, with a nice introductory tribute frmo Johnny:

And here's Johnny Cash in a duet with Bob Dylan from one of the great songs from the "Nashville Skyline" album (which may end up on my Top 15 Influential Album list.

I wish to assure any readers that I will get into the 21st century one of these days.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Little Red Book

This evening, my grocery store was playing “My Little Red Book” as performed by the mid-60s Los Angeles band, Love (fronted by Arthur Lee). You may have heard it on the soundtrack to “High Fidelity” (a great book and movie). Sorry about the lack of synchronization in this video:

"My Little Red Book" was written by tunesmith Burt Bacharach and made a hit by Manfred Mann, helped by showing up on the soundtrack for the movie, "What's New Pussycat." Here's a version crooned by Elvis Costello, accompanied by Mr. Bacharach and requisite horns. I understand that Bacharach never approved of the Love version.

Finally, here's a version (without video) of which Mr. Bacharach would most certain disapprove -- performed by the White Stripes in 1998, when they were still relatively unknown and playing street fairs in Detroit:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dead on This Day

For reasons that aren’t that interesting, I tripped across a fascinating and beautifully designed website for an online magazine called Obit. Here’s an excerpt from its statement of purpose:

Death gives life its immediacy. Because we know it will end, we savor and value life all the more. Obit examines life through the lens of death. Whether it’s the loss of a person, a place, an object or an idea, life’s constant change presents an opportunity for examination, discussion and even celebration.By examining the transformations we face, we can understand how the past influences our time and our future. Obit aims to offer a forum for ideas and opinions about life, death, and transition that you will find nowhere else.
I may write more about this site over at my sister blog, Culture Shock, but there’s a reason I’m mentioning it here. The site includes a section called “Died on the Same Day” through which the user can select any day of the year to discover who shared that date of demise. The two folks listed for March 2, 2008 were Dusty Springfield (who died on March 2, 1999) and Serge Gainsbourg, who passed to the other side on this day in 1991.

"Dusty in Memphis" is a great album. Here's a video of her performing "I Only Want to Be With You."

I'm also a huge fan of Shelby Lynne's tribute album to Dusty. Here's her version of the same tune:

Now Serge's turn, with the song “Mr. William,” which I presume was performed as part of the French Garden Implement Exposition.

This tune, “All That You Are” isn’t Gainsbourg’s (it’s by Nat King Cole) and he doesn’t sing, but the video is pretty cool and I wish I was that guitar player:

UPDATE: Reader Mead Hunter brought my attention to a version of "I Only Want to Be With You" performed by the Bay City Rollers, the Scottish pop/rock heartthrobs straight out of the early 70's. You gotta love that opening bass line: