Friday, May 29, 2009

Video Diary: Dr. Feelgood, "She Does It Right"

The video quality is a tad sketchy, but I think you'll agree that the live performance from 70's era Brit band, Dr. Feelgood, is well worth it. Wilko Johnson was one of the true originals and influenced the alternative/punk scene that was about to explode on both sides of the pond.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Song of the Week: "Don't You Honey Me", Wilco

We learned yesterday of the death of Jay Bennett at the very tender age of 45.  Just three weeks ago, we here at On The Flip-Side, sang the praises of Mr. Bennett and his multi-instrumentalist contributions to the ground breaking band Wilco.

We are not going to offer up a lengthy or emotionally driven eulogy for Jay, instead, we'll just let his great work speak for himself. Our Song of the Week is a song about which I know little. It's an early-era Wilco bootleg that features Jay Bennett on a warbly lead guitar that is posited front and center. That's also Jay doing some fine harmonizing. The song is Don't You Honey Me (Bumble Bee).

If you know more about the song, or just want to say something about Jay Bennett, please post a comment.

Thanks, Jay.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Original Song Project: "Tres Piedras", Morgan Young

Here is a tune I have had kicking around my head since about 1994 when I was just a wee pup. I finally put it down on tape about 2 months ago. It's called Tres Piedras, which is a tiny town in northern New Mexico I used to frequent.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Song of the Week: "II B.S.", Charles Mingus

Baby's got back! Bassist Charles Mingus was one of the most inventive arrangers to come out of the hard bop movement in the 50's and early 60's. He was also one hell of a bassist that garnered the attention of fellow jazz greats such as Max Roach, Eric Dolphy and Duke Ellington. In short, Mingus was one of the giants of the jazz world for about 20 years until his death of Lou Gherig's disease. He was also known for his extreme mood swings, violent outbursts and struggles with depression. Each of which translated to an uneven output.

Today we feature an original composition by Mr. Mingus, as it appeared on his 1963 album for Impulse Records, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. The song is II B.S. and it is one hard-driving, bass-centric song, I'm sure you'll agree. Starting with a gentle bass introduction, and a far off percussion piece of ambience, the pace is quickly changed by one of the all-time great bass riffs ever recorded. Trumpets, trombones and a Tuba begin building over each other in big band layers. Faster, harder, more textured with each turn. Then around 1:27 we break into a hard-charging saxophone bop lead by Mr. Charlie Mariano followed by a beautifully punctuated piano lead. And back again we go, starting with a slight variation on that bass lead until drummer Dannie Richmond breaks it all down to finish the song. 


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Song of the Week: "It's Bad You Know", R.L. Burnside

Well, well, well. That's the phrase R.L. Burnside was known for saying before, during or after every song he played. Well, well, well. It's a rather splendid statement. So simple, so direct, so dang positive. It was very much indicative of the man himself, from what I have been able to ascertain. 

R.L. Burnside is an intriguing soul in the history of blues. A small farm owner and worker from Holly Springs, Mississippi, Burnside learned his craft from his next door neighbor, none other than Mississippi Fred McDowell. He played house parties and local juke joints for his hill country neighbors (including Junior Kimbrogh and T-Model Ford) for years in complete and beautiful obscurity. Then in 1967, a folklorist by the name of George Mitchell traveled from Memphis to the edge of the national forest in Mississippi to record a lost culture of old-school blues artists. R.L. Burnside was perhaps the best of his "finds." The recordings, made on Burnside's front porch, have been released by Fat Possum Records and are a must-own for any fan of acoustic blues. The music is enchanting and timeless. Burnside's voice welcoming and plaintive. His guitar work, snappy and inventive. He finally had some recordings, a filming session, and some local attention. It stayed that way for decades. Then the improbable happened. 

Fat Possum Records signed Burnside and recorded a number of albums with the aging farmer/bluesman. Then, around the late 90's, musician John Spencer did a pilgrimage to Burnside's musical backyard and recorded an album with him entitled Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey. Burnside's hypnotic hill country blues, by now electrified, was a strange but intriguing mix with Spencer's more avant garde punk inflected style. More young, white blues enthusiasts were now sitting at Burnside's feet. Namely, Akron, Ohio's The Black Keys who were picking up on Burnside's catchy melodies and heavy riffs.

The next time Burnside sauntered into the studio, the lads at Fat Possum had a radical idea...totally rethink the blues and market to this new punk/blues crowd that looked to the quiet farmer from Holly Springs as their disciple. The affable Burnside was up for it and, with his young grandson Cedric and long time guitarist Kenny Brown, he laid down some hard core hill country blues.  The producers and engineers then broke it all down and built it back up. The result, like the record, was mixed...and the reception was the same. Then, just as it seemed like the experiment may have failed, another funny thing happened, the cats on the Class-A show, The Sopranos, picked up one of the songs from the album and featured it prominently in one of their episodes. Suddenly, at 60+ years of age, Burnside had a new audience. Suddenly he was a badge of hipness for the PBR drinking, trucker-hat hipsters that were in constant search for the next cool thing. Burnside was as hip as a western shirt with snap buttons, Pabst Blue Ribbon from a can, and tattoos of Betty Paige.

The song in question is It's Bad You Know and it breathed new life into Burnside's strange, meandering career. You may not like it. You may think it is blasphemy. Me? I love it. I find it to be a wonderful new take on a still fresh musical standard. I listen to and I think to myself, well, well, well. Burnside died about 2 years ago. I never got to see him. Dang.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Song of the Week: "Red-Eyed and Blue", Wilco

Hello, my name is Mr. Flip-Side and I am a recovering Wilco addict. I used to go on Wilco binges for days, weeks, even months at a time. Sometimes I would find myself driving through the Eastern Seaboard of the United States just to get a live Wilco fix. I'm not fully recovered. I still have moments when the ghost takes hold of me and I can't shake the gravely voiced demon in my ears. But, in general, I'm doing better. Here is how it started....

Sometime around 1995, JBC-15 asked me if I wanted to go to some tiny corner bar in Sacramento to see Wilco play. Who? "it's the off-shoot of Uncle Tupelo. The one the not-the-main-guy formed." Hmm, nah. I said. Then soon after I picked up their first album, AM. Not bad at all. Better than I expected, but not groundbreaking. Then the second album soon came out, Being There. $15 at the Tower Records in the Foggy Bottom section of DC. I popped the disc in the car stereo and started my 20 minute ride home. The first track, Misunderstood, was brilliant. It was the unrealized soundtrack I had in my head. The album is a raucous, wide-open, unedited, take me as I am outpouring from a band that was just starting to understand who they were. Or, I should say, a band leader who was just starting to understand that he had permission to move beyond the strict confines he felt at being the Jr. partner of Uncle Tupelo.

And then there is this little song. It's called Red-Eyed and Blue and it fits in the album as a brief little interlude. A link between two other more grandiose songs. It's simple and delicate and showcases a raw, vulnerable side of the band's leader, Jeff Tweedy. The now exiled Jay Bennett should not be overlooked either for his contribution. The multi-instrumentalist was wonderful at picking out catchy melodies on whatever instrument he played. Here, on the slightly out of tune piano, he plays a simple and wonderful little counter-melody that accents the chord progressions beautifully. Tweedy's voice is minimal and stark and the whimsical whistle at the end of the song accentuates the "just passing by, don't mind me" approach of the song. In the end, it was this song, more than any other, that sent me into my long Wilco addiction. One I still wrestle with. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Busker Days: "Anywhere in Love", The Ferocious Few

As I approached my usual stairway down to Montgomery BART the other day I was distracted by some noise from across the street.  Sounded like music.  What I found were two guys cranking out some hard-driving rock and roll with Market Street as their backdrop.  They go by the name Ferocious Few and consist of Daniel Aguilar on drums and tambourine and Francisco Fernandez on guitar and vocals.  Here's their number Anywhere in Love.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.