New Songs For 2016

Every year I try to add new music to the collection. Nowadays I rarely listen to the radio (either broadcast or satellite) for inspiration. I tend to research new music by reviewing end of the year “best of” lists. This year I branched a little more than usual, trying songs suggested from a number of sources.

Over the last few years, NPR Music has been my most reliable source. My tastes are diverging from Rolling Stone Magazine’s favorites; their sensibilities seem to be changing into the greater mainstream of popular music. Review sites such as Pitchfork have wildly different criteria for musical evaluation than I do. Virtually no modern popular music on the radio interests me. I am offended by the lack of diction and inferior mixing that make singing so hard to understand, the loss of melody as a musical component, and the reliance on electronics as a substitute for instrumental virtuosity. It all sounds less human to me.

All of which makes the selection of new songs a very interesting aspect of the project. I have no obligation to include any artist, and am perhaps more free than ever to choose based on my my opinion. This is a topic I plan on exploring in detail sometime. New songs must adhere to the same criteria as all others. They should be well appreciated if called up in a random iPod shuffle. Some effort is made to include different sounding or innovative music, though today there isn’t much in terms of unexplored territory. Many songs I choose tend to fill holes in my personal music education. The last few years seem to include songs by female country songwriters, where there is a wealth of talent. Or maybe I’m just going country in my old age. Overall, modern music has seemed to have completely abandoned the uptempo swing of yesteryear.

I have added 58 new songs for 2016. This is a typical number of songs in recent years, a little less than half of the overall average (11,000 songs in about 100 years). Great songs grow on you over the years, so songs are rarely given a high rating to begin with. It is a rather sedate group of songs, by my standards. If a certain song appeals to you, then consider further research into that artist. My list for new songs will always be woefully incomplete; they are educated guesses. My focus is generally on older music.

It was a big year for working on the collection. In August I completed standardizing and verifying all the song data, a tiring grind which led to a mild post-effort depression that took several months to battle out of. I think I’m ready to start back up again, with an outline for a general essay on collecting the music, and a compilation of lists of specific types of songs. Like the greatest songs with hand claps, or best one-hit wonders. Happy New Year to everyone. I’m hoping to keep making progress on this big project.

2016 Songs

Little Movies, Aaron Lee Tasjan
Memphis Rain, Aaron Lee Tasjan ★★★
Real Bad Lookin’, Alex Cameron ★★
Am I Wrong, Anderson Paak ★★
Celebrate, Anderson Paak

Time Moves Slowly, BADBADNOTGOOD ★★
E.V.P., Blood Orange ★★
Three Kids No Husband, Brandy Clark
There Goes My Love, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms ★★
Opposite House, Cass McCombs ★★

I Am Not Afraid, Charley Crockett ★★
Irene, Courtney Marie Andrews
Wine And Peanuts, Daniel Bachman ★★
Watermelon Slices On A Blue Bordered Plate, Daniel Bachman ★★
Lazurus, David Bowie

Can’t Think, Dawg Yawp
The Government Road, The Del McCoury Band
Falling To Believe, Doug Tuttle
What It Means, Drive-By Truckers
Lord It Over, Dylan Golden Aycock

Looking Up, Elton John
Someone In The Crowd, La La Land (Soundtrack)
Ivy, Frank Ocean ★★
Nothing More To Say, The Frightnrs
June Too Soon, October All Over, Glenn Jones

Mr. Fool, John Scofield
Christmas Makes Me Cry, Kacey Musgraves
Present Without A Bow, Kacey Musgraves
This Girl, Kungs & Cookin’ On 3 Burners
Diamond Heart, Lady Gaga

Humble & Kind, Lori McKenna ★★
Dust, Lucinda Williams
Bitter Memory, Lucinda Williams
Emotions And Math, Margaret Glaspy
You And I, Margaret Glaspy

Moth Into Flame, Metallica
Vice, Miranda Lambert
Tin Man, Miranda Lambert
Me & Magdalena, The Monkees
Tragedy, Norah Jones

It’s A Wonderful Time For Love, Norah Jones
Pining, Parker Milsap ★★
Human Performance, Parquet Courts
I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, The Rides
Never Come Home, Robbie Fulks ★★

Aunt Peg’s Old Man, Robbie Fulks
Drivin’, Robert Ellis
Weirdo, Sammus
What’s It Gonna Be?, Shura ★★
Bluebird Of Delhi, Slavic Soul Party! ★★

Cranes In The Sky, Solange
Easier Said, Sunflower Bean
Every Time I See A River, Van Morrison
Caledonia Swing, Van Morrison
No Woman, Whitney ★★

The Three Of Me, William Bell
Fly Away, Yola Carter ★★
A Change Of Heart, The 1975

13. Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead are a rock band from Palo Alto, California. The band formed around Jerry Garcia, who grew up in the Balboa neighborhood of San Francisco, but moved to Palo Alto in early 1961. Garcia became the guitar and banjo teacher at Dana Morgan’s Music Store in downtown Palo Alto, and over the course of the next four years, he recruited Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Bill Kreutzman into the band. They evolved from a jug band into a rock and roll band, with roots in many styles of music, from Garcia’s love of bluegrass to Lesh’s training as a classical composer. During these formative years Garcia also played music with Robert Hunter, who became a primary lyricist for the group.

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As a young man, Jerry Garcia embraced the poetry and literature of the Beat Generation.

From Wikipedia:

“The Beat Generation was a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of “Beat” culture included rejection of perceived standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and explicit portrayals of the human condition.”

Garcia spent much of his free time at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, where he found like-minded souls who shared his desire for free expression. He became friends with authors Allan Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, as well as the noteworthy free spirit Neal Cassady, the subject of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On The Road”.

The Long Golden Road

The Grateful Dead’s journey to worldwide success and notoriety was long. If one might identify when the band caught its “big break”, it happened when Ken Kesey asked them to perform at his Acid Test house parties in the remote, coastal mountains west of Palo Alto. At the time the band was known as The Warlocks; they soon changed their name to the Grateful Dead. They were young, raw and experimental in their approach.

“One day we were over at Phil’s house…He had a big dictionary. I opened it and there was ‘Grateful Dead’, those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else went blank, diffuse, just sort of oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, ‘How about Grateful Dead?’ And that was it.”

— Jerry Garcia

gratefuldead4

Wikipedia Biography of the Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bob Weir (b. 1947), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bill Kreutzmann (b. 1946), drums
Phil Lesh (b. 1940), bass guitar, vocals, songwriter
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1945-1973), keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Robert Hunter (b. 1941), lyricist

Mickey Hart (b. 1943), drums, percussion
Tom Constanten (b. 1944), keyboards
Keith Godchaux (1948-1980), keyboards
Donna Jean Godchaux (b. 1947), vocals
Brent Mydland (1952-1990), keyboards, vocals, songwriter

The association with the hippie subculture in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, combined with the notoriety of the experimental LSD-25 acid tests, raised their profile to a national level. Growing up in the late sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was unclear the Grateful Dead would become the preeminent San Francisco band. The Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow was the most successful album among local bands, though Jerry Garcia played guitar on several of their songs.

But the Grateful Dead, a quintet of societal misfits, were busy playing and performing all the time, writing their own songs, and utilizing their disparate influences to expand their musical boundaries. They toured nationally, and gradually built a devoted audience. Bob Weir, the kid, became a strong singer and fine second guitar who loved to sing swinging country songs. Pigpen McKernan, whose Dad was a soul and blues disk jockey, was the band’s soul and blues man. Bill Kreutzmann, the famous football coach’s grandson, hit the drums instead. They became a sextet when Mickey Hart was added as a second drummer and percussionist in 1967. Phil Lesh, the budding classical composer who never played the bass until Garcia asked him to do so, learned how to use the bass as counterpoint behind the soloists to great effect. Jerry Garcia, the reluctant leader, refined his quiet and mournful singing, and became a versatile, inventive guitarist of great renown, with long improvisational solos that thrilled his fans.

To prepare for this profile, I re-read “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally’s fine Grateful Dead biography.

Amazon.com Link to “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of The Grateful Dead, by Dennis McNally”

“Flashback: Jerry Garcia, October 1978”, Guitar Player Magazine, by Jon Sievert
“Deadhead, The Vast Recorded Legacy of the Grateful Dead”, by Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker Magazine, November 26, 2012″
Grateful Dead Lyric/Song Finder
The Grateful Dead Clubhouse Projects

Also, here are two fine blogs about The Grateful Dead and the San Francisco music scene, by Corry Arnold, a high school classmate:

Hooterollin’ Blog
Lost Live Dead Blog

By the mid-seventies the Dead had become a cultural phenomenon, a traveling party attracting huge audiences, with a devoted fan base who enjoyed the atmosphere of dance, drugs and free expression, not to mention the band’s constantly evolving set list. No two shows were the same, and over their career they performed hundreds of different songs. Sometimes the band’s performance was tired and sloppy; at other times, their improvisations clicked, inciting audiences into a state of bliss. They continued to tour and perform throughout the eighties, despite the deteriorating health of Garcia. In 1986, Jerry fell into a diabetic coma, after which he temporarily improved his consumption habits. The band experienced a final prime in their career in the last eighties and early nineties, but were derailed by the premature death of keyboard player Brent Mydland in 1990. Garcia, who tired of the rigors of travel and performance, resumed some of his habits and eventually passed away in 1995. The Grateful Dead disbanded, though the four remaining original members (Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart) continue to perform together periodically.

The Grateful Dead’s large traveling family of musicians, technicians and roadies experienced more than their fair share of tragedies, losing three keyboard players to consumption problems along the way. The band often dealt with these losses in a seemingly cavalier fashion, as if the train was moving too fast to worry about lost passengers.

The Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.

Either You Love Them Or…

The Dead are perhaps the most polarizing band of all time. With the exception of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead is the favorite band of more people I know than any other. Perhaps five to ten percent of my best music friends built their music listening lives around Grateful Dead concerts. The band did not discourage amateur recording enthusiasts from taping concerts, which spawned a whole subculture of sharing tapes, which allowed their audience to collect far more music than other bands.

“The Grateful Dead epitomize hippie rock & roll, and if you’re a hippie yourself, you might want to invert the ratings above. But unless you are, this is one assertedly major oeuvre that’s virtually worthless except for documentary purposes. The Dead’s long modal jams may be the stuff of mesmerism in concert (though even there, it’s questionable), but they’re simply self-indulgent and boring on disc. The band’s attempts at pop, rock and country are rendered effortlessly irritating and stodgy by the band’s lack of a crisp rhythm section and/or a single competent vocalist.

The Dead are worshipped for their image as hip patriarchs, which meant that as long as Jerry Garcia has that acid twinkle in his eye, he’ll never have to worry about his pedestrian set of chops. Truthfully, there simply isn’t very much about this group that’s impressive, except the devotion of its fans to a mythology created in Haight-Ashbury and now sustained in junior high schools across America. At its peak, the Dead has essayed competence: Workingman’s Dead is third-rate next to (The Byrds’ album) Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, much less anything Gram Parsons ever recorded on his own, but it has a sweet ingenuousness that renders it bearable. Similarly, Live Dead isn’t much less interminable that any other Dead concert piece, but it has a freshness that feints towards vitality. But when the Dead attempt to rework rock and blues standards — as they did on their horrible debut album, and have sporadically since — they are a pox on the face of pop. And the group’s patchouli-oil philosophy, which does nothing more than reinforce solipsism and self-indulgence in its listeners, except when it’s nurturing its Hells Angels fan club, is exactly the sort of stuff that gave peace ‘n’ love a bad name.”

Dave Marsh, “The New Rolling Stone Record Guide”, 2nd Edition, 1983

I took LSD about eight or ten times in my teenage years, always in a controlled environment. These were great experiences that I cherish. Though there have been serious LSD casualties in the history of rock music, like Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead managed to use LSD regularly early in their career, and emerge relatively unscathed, while benefiting from the magnificently sensory experiences the drug provides. This is not an endorsement. You have to be with friends, and if you get frightened, it will swallow you in fear, and send you tumbling fast.

Here’s a great video, when the Grateful Dead were invited to perform on Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy After Dark” program in 1969. The merry pranksters dosed the coffee on the set, and shared their psychedelic experience with the more conventional Playboy crowd, prompting Hefner to remark, “Thanks for the gift.”

“It’s a language, that’s all, without words — just the images themselves.”, wrote Art Kleps, an early associate of LSD researcher Timothy Leary, and one of the few to consider LSD in Western philosophical terms. LSD, he argued, lays waste to supernaturalism, since, ironically, much of the LSD experience lies in the realm of the absurd, and there is “no room for the absurd in the cosmologies of the occultists and supernaturalists.” The simple materialism of the lower reaches of scientific thought also had to go: “It is materialism that is destroyed by these overwhelming demonstrations of the limitless power of the imagination, not, necessarily, as those who liked to disparage nihilism and solipsism assume, empricism, logic or honor. It is not one’s experience or character that is intimidated, but only certain abstract concepts about the organization of experience.

Most people come out of LSD trips believing in the oneness of all life, the interconnectedness of things, and from that, the philosophically disposed frequently hit on Jungian synchronicity, the notion that things can be on a non-cause-and-effect basis, as in dreams. “If one’s thesis is that ordinary life is a dream,” wrote Art Kleps, “then anything that can happen in a dream in sleep can happen in waking life also, without disproving the thesis. If you can see that, you can see everything.”

— Excerpt from “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally

Although not commercially released, the Barton Hall concert at Cornell University (May 8, 1977) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Here Bob Weir sings “Estimated Prophet” (audio only) with its uncharacteristic 7/4 time signature.

The Grateful Dead flew in the face of convention; most Americans have dismissed them without investigation. Throughout their career they were odds with the corporate mentality, music executives looking for a hit song and a certain image. The Dead focused on the music, and let their sound engineers perfect a stadium-size sound system, no matter the cost. They built their business around the concerts, allowed the tapers to record the shows, and learned to market themselves independently. And please don’t tell me they can’t play. It would be foolish to suggest they possessed the chops of Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but they are early rock practitioners of modal jazz improvisation, not to mention their facility with folk, country and rock and roll. They are one of rock music’s most versatile bands.

“Early in 1981 the Dead went to Europe to play a few shows in London and then appear with the Who on the German TV show “Rockpalast”, and while in London Garcia gave one of his most extraordinary interviews. Few patently hostile interviewers get within yards of a star, and rarer still is the star who will tolerate hostility. Garcia found it stimulating. The interviewer, Paul Morley, was a cutting-edge young punk from New Musical Express, and Garcia revolted him. “You’re just a part of a perpetuation of bland, blanketing myths,” said the punk. “Does that disappoint you?” Garcia chuckled. “Naah! I didn’t have any expectations…If you start out expecting to fail and expecting the worst then anything that happens is an improvement over that…we’re just starting.” Does it upset you that I don’t dig you? “No! I don’t give a damn. I would be afraid if if everybody in the world liked us…I don’t want to be responsible for leading the march to wherever. Fuck that. It’s already been done and the world hates it…a combination of music and the psychedelic experience taught me to fear power. I mean fear it and hate it…First of all, I don’t think of myself as an adult. An adult is someone who’s made up their mind. When I go through airports the people who have their thing together, who are clean, well-groomed, who have tailored clothes, who have their whole material thing together, these people are adults. They’ve made a decision to follow those routines…I would say that I was part of a prolonged adolescence. I think our whole scene is that…I feel like someone who is constantly on the verge of losing it, or blowing it. I feel tremendously insecure.” “My heated irrationality bumps into Garcia’s sheer reasonableness,” wrote Morley, and it was true. Garcia’s egoless interest in authentic communication, even when it involved mocking him, made for one of the more fascinating encounters in rock journalism.

— Dennis McNally, “A Long Strange Trip”

Growing Up In Palo Alto

While researching the Grateful Dead, I came across these two interviews conducted by the Silicon Valley Historical Association. The first is Jerry Garcia’a final interview; the second is a semiconductor executive who discusses the open sharing of technology among scientists over drinks after work:

The Bay Area zeitgeist. Since World War II, artists and engineers alike shared knowledge and wisdom and pushed society forward. Even in the integrated circuit industry growing south from Stanford University, there was a willingness to share and try things differently.

My Dad worked at the university physics lab, and though their Department of Energy directive was to study the nature of matter in its elemental form, their enduring legacy will be to help establish the ARPANET, the world’s first TCP/IP packet switching network. The ARPANET allowed the world’s high energy physics laboratories to share research in a timely fashion. Embraced by other government and educational institutions to share information, the ARPANET grew into the modern Internet, the most disruptive and important technology of the last fifty years. Its economic importance cannot be overestimated.

Not all change has been good for Palo Alto, from the perspective of a kid who grew up there when things were quieter. The county grew crowded and fabulously wealthy. Housing is unaffordable. The egalitarian nature of my hometown slowly slipped away. I moved away twenty years ago, and I probably won’t move back. If I’m lucky enough to live another twenty years, old Palo Alto still has delightful, quiet neighborhoods, places where you could have breakfast downtown, and then walk around town like my granddad did the last thirty years of his long life. Palo Alto has nice sidewalks.

Can you separate the beat generation movement from the the burgeoning scientific community? The Bay Area saw an influx of young, science-minded talent after World War II; my parents followed that dream in 1956. It wasn’t crowded and the weather is so gentle. There were strong bohemian influences, with lots of people ready to stretch boundaries, at a time when society was ripe for it. In my parents’ case, they were first generation college grads who wanted out of an Ivy League society they didn’t feel comfortable being in.

I’m proud of being from Palo Alto. I’m grateful for my parents to have moved there. It’s such a great town, the flatlands below the coastal scrapes near the Bay. As a young high school student I rode my ten-speed Peugeot bike everywhere. I remember riding no-handed down the middle of Hamilton Avenue at ten o’clock on a Saturday night. Many of us were allowed out late at night, and some of us boys used our bikes when we needed to get somewhere. Here’s a weird memory which fits. Of the few times I took LSD, one time we took a light dose early in the day. It was mid-afternoon, and we have no particular place to go, just sticking around our neighborhood in south Palo Alto. So we get on our bikes and jam down to the 7-11 on Middlefield Rd. and Colorado Ave. Not a long ride; about a mile or so. I’m riding no-handed on and off, no problem, but at some point I lose the bike beneath me, and the bike starts to fall. I sense the crash coming, and jump off the bike on purpose, and land standing as the bike fell on the ground. I laughed, looked at my friends, got back on my bike, and finished the short ride to for Slurpees.

1972

Dead Heads talk about concerts the way baseball geeks discuss statistics. It’s a wonder I didn’t geek out on the Dead; many folks got “collection oriented” when the Dead came around with their repertoire. They were never my favorite band; starting around age five or six, the Beatles were my favorite, followed by Creedence Clearwater Revival for a couple years. Curiously, my next favorite was David Grisman, Jerry Garcia’s long time friend. For a few years I never saw a Dead concert, but saw Grisman play a bunch of times, playing that string swing, once with the great Grappelli, with Dad. It was great when Garcia & Grisman started hanging out together and recording music at Grisman’s house in Stinson Beach.

I went to two Dead concerts, the first one (with parents in about 1967) I don’t remember, and during the second one (Laguna Seca, July 30, 1988), we left a few songs after Los Lobos finished. I heard it was a good show. I did give two angel tickets away that day to fans who showed their appreciation by bouncing away with energy, which was nice.

I’ve got a few stories about the Dead that I could share. Not much. A few connections here and there. Mama used to teach exercise class at the local high school with Janice Kreutzmann, Bill’s mom. The McKernans lived in the same Palo Alto neighborhood, and I met Pigpen’s brother Kevin, though not under the best of circumstances. Mom embraced both the music and implied freedom of the San Francisco scene, but it was Dad who liked the Grateful Dead music best. He recorded a cassette tape of the Dead’s first album for regular play. Here lies a difference between me and the typical Dead fan. Daddy liked the amped-up fast songs on their first album, like “Cold Rain And Snow”, “Beat It On Down The Line” and “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”. This kind of hot music runs in my blood. I rate the first Grateful Dead album as among their best.

The Grateful Dead are one of many bands influenced by the beat generation. But they were perhaps the one band closest to the movement, in terms of both physical location and philosophical intent.

How do the Grateful Dead rank seventh among my favorites? For one thing, they have such a large recorded library of music. I can’t possibly take the time to carefully listen to every song to create my personal list of favorites. I’ve collected Dead songs one, two, or a few at a time, over the years. I gravitate towards the fast swinging music more, and the long slow ones less than the typical fan. I’m certain to add more songs to the list.

I like the earliest years of the Dead’s music, from their earliest recordings in 1965 and lasting about a decade. The Golden Road (1965-1973) represents this era beautifully. It’s awkward to say that my favorite year is 1972. It’s a lean year; Mickey Hart was taking temporary leave from the group. Pianist Keith & singer Donna Godchaux joined the band, and Pigpen had become very sick. As a result, Bob Weir is a more prominent part of the soundscape. I also like hearing Bill Kreutzmann drumming by himself. To me, the one drummer sound is more austere and focused. These 1972 recordings show the integral guitar trio and Kreutzmann at their peak. I should probably buy that big box set of 1972 European live recordings. Every Dead Head should own the tremendous new 3CD + DVD box set Sunshine Daydream, a newly issued document that is essential.

My analysis does not give enough credit to singer and keyboardist Brent Mydland. I’ve included a few songs that feature Mydland, when he was an integral part of the band’s sound, but it is not an era I paid much attention to. By all accounts, he was well liked and admired, and in the case of one Dead Head friend, his contributions to Dozin’ At The Knick are among the finest of the band’s career.

Here is a vintage 1972 performance of the band’s seventy-five minute first (of three) set, which conclude with “El Paso”, “Big Railroad Blues”, and a first class version of “Truckin'”. Listen to them go get gone!

Grateful Dead Songs:

More than any other band so far, whittling down the list of songs into a focused overview of their music seems both fruitless and cold. This is a band where there is so much music, over a long period of time, that each person’s list of songs is personal, and will vary dramatically. I’ll offer my favorite ninety or so songs, and hopefully someone will take the time to offer their opinion.

Because the band’s recorded legacy is so complex, I am presenting the list by album, because it is more coherent and efficient. By album, in alphabetical order:

American Beauty (Remastered)

Box Of Rain, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil, Grateful Dead ★★★★
Sugar Magnolia, Grateful Dead ★★★
Operator, Grateful Dead
Candyman, Grateful Dead ★★
Ripple, Grateful Dead ★★★
Brokedown Palace, Grateful Dead
Attics In My Life, Grateful Dead
Truckin’, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★

Anthem Of the Sun

That’s It For The Other One (Suite), Grateful Dead

Aoxomoxoa

China Cat Sunflower, Grateful Dead

Birth Of The Dead – The Studio Sides

I Know You Rider, Grateful Dead ★★
Don’t Ease Me In, Grateful Dead
Cold Rain And Snow (Alt), Grateful Dead ★★★

Blues For Allah

Help On The Way/Slipknot!, Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower, Grateful Dead ★★★

Complete Live Rarities Collection

Viola Lee Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Pain In My Heart (Live), Grateful Dead
Scarlet Begonias (Live), Grateful Dead
Cassidy (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 4

Dire Wolf (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Dark Star (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Dick’s Picks, Volume 6

Althea (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 8

I Know Your Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Beat It On Down The Line (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Candyman (Live), Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
The Other One (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 35

Next Time You See Me (Live), Grateful Dead

Dozin’ At The Knick

Just A Little Light (Live), Grateful Dead
Row Jimmy (Live), Grateful Dead

Europe ’72

One More Saturday Night (Live), Grateful Dead
Jack Straw (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
Tennessee Jed, Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Beat It On Down The Line, Grateful Dead ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, Grateful Dead ★★
Cold Rain And Snow, Grateful Dead ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World (Alt — Full Length), Grateful Dead ★★★
Morning Dew, Grateful Dead ★★

Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel

U.S. Blues, Grateful Dead ★★★
Scarlet Begonias, Grateful Dead ★★
Ship Of Fools, Grateful Dead ★★

Live At The Fillmore East, 2/11/69

The Eleven (Live), Grateful Dead

Hundred Year Hall

I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

In The Dark

Touch Of Grey, Grateful Dead
West L.A. Fadeaway, Grateful Dead

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Grateful Dead (Fillmore East, April 1971)

Bird Song (Live), Grateful Dead

Live/Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

St. Stephen (Live), Grateful Dead
Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Live), Grateful Dead
Dark Star (Single), Grateful Dead
Turn On Your Love Light (Live), Grateful Dead

One From The Vault

Big River (Live), Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Eyes Of The World/Drums (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Reckoning (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Deep Elem Blues (Live), Grateful Dead

Shakedown Street

Shakedown Street, Grateful Dead
Fire On The Mountain, Grateful Dead ★★★

Skull & Roses

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Mama Tried (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Big Railroad Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Playing In the Band (Live), Grateful Dead
Big Boss Man (Live), Grateful Dead
Wharf Rat (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

Sunshine Daydream

Me And My Uncle (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Deal (Live), Grateful Dead
China Cat Sunflower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
El Paso (Live), Grateful Dead
Sing Me Back Home (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Terrapin Station

Estimated Prophet, Grateful Dead ★★★

Wake Of The Flood

Stella Blue, Grateful Dead

Workingman’s Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Uncle John’s Band, Grateful Dead
Dire Wolf, Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues, Grateful Dead
Casey Jones, Grateful Dead
New Speedway Boogie (Alt), Grateful Dead

Related Songs:

Songs by David Grisman & Jerry Garcia, which are listed here.

Deal, Jerry Garcia ★★
Sugaree, Jerry Garcia ★★★
To Lay Me Down, Jerry Garcia
The Wheel, Jerry Garcia

Friend Of The Devil (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ★★★
Friend Of The Devil, Lyle Lovett ★★★

I Know You Rider, Seldom Scene ★★★★

Bertha, Los Lobos ★★
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ★★★
Not Fade Away, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Not Fade Away (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, Big Bill Broonzy ★★

Rain And Snow, Obray Ramsey ★★★
Cold Rain And Snow (Live), Peter Rowan & Tony Rice ★★★

Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Mississippi Sheiks ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Doc Watson ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★

Wharf Rat, Midnight Oil ★★

Good Morning Little School Girl, Sonny Boy Williamson I ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, The Yardbirds ★★

Morning Dew, Lulu ★★★
Morning Dew, Jeff Beck ★★
Morning Dew, The 31st of February

Ship Of Fools, Elvis Costello ★★

Ripple, Jane’s Addiction

Mama Tried, Merle Haggard ★★

Sing Me Back Home, Merle Haggard

Me And My Uncle, Judy Collins ★★

Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding ★★

Cassidy, Bob Weir
Cassidy, Suzanne Vega

Next Time You See Me, James Cotton ★★★

Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Reverend Gary Davis ★★

Turn On Your Love Light, Bobby “Blue” Bland ★★★★

Big River, Johnny Cash ★★

Deep Elem Blues, Les Paul

Big Boss Man, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Big Boss Man (Take 2), Elvis Presley ★★

El Paso, Marty Robbins ★★★★

22. Alison Krauss & Union Station

Alison Krauss is a singer and fiddle player from Champaign, Illinois. She was a precocious child, taking classical violin lessons at age five, but soon directing her interests to bluegrass music. Humorously noted by Wikipedia, “At the age of eight she started entering local talent contests, and at ten had her own band.” Early in life, she was better known as a champion fiddle player, while it took years to fully develop her sweet soprano voice. After appearing as a sideman on two albums, she recorded her first solo album, Too Late To Cry, at age sixteen. Her breakthrough album was her third, I’ve Got That Old Feeling in 1990, which earned her first Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Recording at the age of nineteen.

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Alison Krauss and Union Station:

Alison Krauss (b. 1971), vocals, violin, viola
Barry Bales (b. 1969), bass, vocals
Ron Block (b. 1964), guitar, banjo, vocals, songwriter
Dan Tyminski (b. 1967), vocals, guitar, mandolin
Jerry Douglas (b. 1956), dobro, guitar

Other Important Contributors:

Adam Steffey, mandolin
Alison Brown (b. 1962), banjo, guitar
Robert Lee Castleman, songwriter
John Pennell, songwriter

Though it received critical acclaim, I’ve Got That Old Feeling peaked at #61 on the Billboard Country Music album chart. It took a few more years for Alison Krauss and her band Union Station to achieve commercial success. After a pair of albums, the bluegrass Every Time You Say Goodbye and the gospel I Know Who Holds Tomorrow (with the Cox Family), Rounder Records released the compilation Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection in 1995, which reached #2 on the Billboard Country Album chart. In 1998, veteran dobro player Jerry Douglas joined Union Station, the final change to the band’s roster. Union Station responded with another creative peak, the studio album New Favorite in 2001, with a followup Live album and DVD in 2002. Ms. Krauss and Union Station continue to compose new music and tour, though less frequently than in the past. They are in demand as collaborators, and in the last few years, Krauss has performed many duets, most notably with Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant.

Though never a country music superstar, Alison Krauss enjoys great respect and admiration from her peers. She has won twenty-seven Grammy awards, tied with Quincy Jones for the second most Grammy awards of all time, behind classical musician George Solti. She helped popularize bluegrass music for a new generation, and is the rare bluegrass and gospel artist to transition successfully into both country and pop music.

Wikipedia List of Awards and Nominations Received by Alison Krauss
FuckYeahAlisonKrauss Fan Blog

Three Wonderful Concert Experiences

I’ve seen Alison Krauss & Union Station in concert about ten times. Among those concerts are three great experiences.

1990: A Small Church In Downtown Los Gatos

I was lucky to learn about Alison Krauss early in her career. I’m not sure how I discovered her; rather than a national publication like Rolling Stone magazine, I must have read a review in the San Francisco Chronicle. I purchased a copy of I’ve Got That Old Feeling in 1990, which prompted me to see her in concert if given the chance. For me, it was an uncommon case of love at first listen.

Still sketchy on details, but I learned that she was playing at a church in Los Gatos on a weekday evening in 1990, just a year or so after I began dating my future wife. I called the box office the day of the concert, and discovered the church seated only four hundred people, so we arrived a couple hours early to buy tickets and have dinner in the beautiful old town, at the foot of the coastal range where state highway 17 rises abruptly up to Summit Road and gently down to Santa Cruz.

The church was so spartan, with wooden benches twenty or twenty-five rows deep. It was packed; we were near the back, but close to the stage. There was a buzz as we approached and entered the church; many patrons knew she was special, and that we were lucky to see her in this intimate setting. The band did not disappoint, with their uptempo instrumentals, heartbreaking waltzes and modern bluegrass numbers, all to thunderous applause. It was very exciting.

The highlight of the evening came during the encore, when Alison politely asked, “If everybody promises to be quiet, then we’ll step out in front of the microphones and sing a song.” The enraptured crowd was silent as Alison sang Paul McCartney’s “I Will”, with Union Station standing behind her providing harmony, without amplification. Before or since, I have never seen anybody else do this in concert. In future years, she would often begin an encore with the group singing bluegrass style in front of a single microphone, but never again would we see her in such an intimate environment.

After the concert, Union Station set up a table out front with merchandise and did a meet and greet with the crowd. We said hello and bought a couple of the earlier CDs. I noticed they were a very tall band, big people. Krauss is about 5’8″, and both Barry Bales and Adam Steffey were over 6’3″.

Oaks Park, Sellwood, July, 1996

Three albums later and we still love Alison Krauss, seeing her at almost every opportunity. We are married and have moved to Portland, Oregon. Krauss had released the Now That I’ve Found You compilation and was getting famous. Still, we were seeing her at Oaks Park, an old amusement and recreation park, right on the Willamette River, in a part of town called Sellwood. There was an opening act, so when Union Station took the stage, it was getting dark, but it was the middle of summer and very pleasant outside. They played under an old open canopy onto a big lawn that went way back, with the concessions on the side. Perhaps there were a thousand to fifteen hundred people there. I had a couple glasses of wine before the concert and settled in briefly. After a couple songs, I went to the back of the property, had a quick smoke and then returned to our blanket under the stars all aglow. Alison started sounding real good. I can’t remember which song she was playing, but when the band followed with “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You”, I completely lost it and the tears started streaming down my face. The canopy lights were on by now, and I was about 10 rows back, and during the song she saw my tear stained face, and I saw her face hesitate for just the briefest time. Eye contact and recognition for a half second. It was a unique moment in my life.

Down From The Mountain At The Schnitz, February 2002

Most people know the movie “O, Brother, Where Art Thou”, Joel and Ethan Coen’s interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey. The movie featured traditional music by Alison Krauss and other famous folk and bluegrass musicians, selected by producer T-Bone Burnett. The movie and its music were a rousing success, so the musicians organized and toured the country with a variety show of down home string music. At the time we had recently seen Alison Krauss at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, touring in support of New Favorite. Now she was returning as part of a variety country music show, something we had never experienced.

It deserved to be one of those special evenings of celebration. At the time I would look for special occasions for our parents to enjoy with us. I contacted our ticket broker, and he found us four tickets around the fourth or fifth row, right in the middle of the concert hall. Tickets were a couple hundred dollars apiece; well worth it given the circumstances. My Mom died in 1999, and her Dad in 2000. Concert night was February 13th, 2002, just a year and a day before my Dad died. There was a sense of urgency.

We asked my Dad and her Mom whether they’d like to go, and Dad flew up from California, and we all got dressed up, and had dinner downtown, and sat down close. In particular, my mother-in-law was thrilled, as this constituted her last date night in life. My father was kind, and represented an opportunity to be herself, to be on a proper date, walking arm and arm with somebody safe. Faces were aglow, and everybody was ready.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but soon we started to see how the music was presented. Artists would come on stage and play two or three songs, followed by the next artist, and so on. Early in the show, I look over and see Dad tearing up when Norman and Nancy Blake offered a unadorned rendition of “You Are My Sunshine”, one of the simplest songs offered during the two hour jubilee.

It was clear Alison Krauss was feeling ill. She dropped out of some later performances in the show, though early on she and Union Station rocked the house with their syncopated rhythms. I can see Daddy looking at me with raised eyebrows, after Jerry Douglas produced a wild flourish of notes over Union Station’s precise, crazy rhythms. Krauss returned to sing “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” a capella, with Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris. Later, the Nashville Bluegrass Band weaved their string magic on the night. Patty Loveless was there. Ralph Stanley was there, too. Another great evening in life, with Alison Krauss at the center of this brief folk music renaissance.

Alison Krauss Song Notes:

1. The videos are not well organized, and that’s OK. Since she is a relatively modern artist in the context of this blog, Alison Krauss has perhaps the best and most videos of any artist to choose from. I included a disproportionate number of videos from her earliest days, as I tend to like the earlier, strictly bluegrass music better. I enjoy all the videos presented.

2. In the last three weeks, I challenged my wife Cheryl a few times to name a better female performer/bandleader than Alison Krauss. I received no answer, and could not come up with one myself, though we discussed Aretha Franklin as the consensus favorite. The two share the ability to both sing and play very well, with Alison Krauss on fiddle, and Aretha Franklin an underrated piano player. Their instrumental prowess lifts them to the top. Franklin, and singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald are perhaps more influential, but the song list and countdown says Alison Krauss is my favorite female musician. She’s so talented, and so dreamy.

3. “Rich Woman (Live)” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss is found on Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Collection. A better version of this song.

4. The Live album is excellent, with one reservation. There is too much time allocated for the audience cheering wildly. We get it. We already thought she was the best.

5. “Foolish Heart” is special, as it is the rare song that wasn’t even in the collection when I started the review. After adding it as a one star song, I decided about the third or fourth time through that it is a four or even five star song, which up until this time, hasn’t happened while doing the countdown of artists. Alison Brown plays banjo here, and having the two young female stars together makes it even more notable. “Foolish Heart” is an underrated and largely unrecognized gem.

6. Several times I felt foolish rating Alison Krauss songs, just embarrassed by what I was doing. Maybe it’s that she’s a girl, and such a humble, unassuming person that makes feel like a dope evaluating her life’s work.

7. Alison Krauss has remained faithful to Rounder Records her entire career, which may have made a significant difference in her career arc. Perhaps remaining with the minor label freed her to follow her artistic instincts, rather than attempting to capitalize on talent with grand popularity.

8. Cheryl’s Mom passed away on February 5th this year. We were fortunate to have her for ten extra years after the other parents were gone. But we never enjoyed an evening of entertainment again as much as Down From The Mountain.

Top Ten Alison Krauss Songs, by Jenny Tolley
Essential Alison Krauss Songs, by Kim Ruehl
“The World According to Alison Krauss, by Piers Henru, April 23rd, 2011

Alison Krauss Songs:

Down To The River To Pray (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★★
Endless Highway, Alison Krauss ★★★★
Let Me Touch You For Awhile, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★★
Foolish Heart, Alison Krauss ★★★★

In The Palm Of Your Hand, Alison Krauss & The Cox Family ★★★
The Lucky One, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Baby, Now That I’ve Found You, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Every Time You Say Goodbye, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
I’ve Got That Old Feeling, Alison Krauss ★★★
Steel Rails, Alison Krauss ★★★
I’ll Fly Away (Live), Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch ★★★
The Lucky One (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Every Time You Say Goodbye (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Who Can Blame You, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★

New Favorite (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
New Favorite, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Jacob’s Dream, Alison Krauss ★★
Dark Skies, Alison Krauss ★★
It’s Over, Alison Krauss ★★
Ghost In This House, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Let Me Touch You For Awhile (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Lose Again, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Cluck Old Hen (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
When You Say Nothing At All (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Oh, Atlanta (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
There Is A Reason (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Choctaw Hayride, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Crazy Faith, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Daylight, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Oh, Atlanta, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
I Will, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
When You Say Nothing At All, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Paper Airplane, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★

Tonight I’ll Be Lonely Too, Alison Krauss
Too Late To Cry, Alison Krauss
Gentle River, Alison Krauss
Sleep On, Alison Krauss
Never Will Give Up, Alison Krauss & The Cox Family
Another Night, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Last Love Letter, Alison Krauss & Union Station
It Won’t Work This Time, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Choctaw Hayride (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Ghost In This House (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Faraway Land (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Take Me For Longing, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Looking In The Eyes Of Love, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Beaumont Rag, Alison Krauss & Union Station
As Lovely As You, Alison Krauss & Union Station

Related Songs:

Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★
Rich Woman (Live), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★
Please Read The Letter, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Polly Come Home, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Make The World Go Away (featuring Alison Krauss), Jamey Johnson ★★

Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch

You’re Still The One (Live), Shania Twain w/ Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★

I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, The Soggy Bottom Boys ★★★
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, Bob Dylan

Baby Now That I’ve Found You, The Foundations ★★★

I Will, The Beatles ★★★★
I Will (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Beaumont Rag, Doc Watson

Oh, Atlanta, Bad Company (not included in collection)

34. Arthel “Doc” Watson

Arthel “Doc” Watson was a singer and guitarist from Deep Gap, a remote valley in northwestern North Carolina. Though an accomplished singer and guitar player as a young adult, it took Watson many years to achieve national recognition.

“Doc” Watson with his son Merle

Arthel “Doc” Watson (1923-2012), guitar, singer

Doc’s Guitar – The Guitar of Doc Watson Website
New York Times — Doc Watson, Guitar Wizard Who Influenced Generations, Dies at 89

Notable Collaborators:

Merle Watson (1949-1985), guitar, singer
Clarence “Tom” Ashley (1895-1967), clawhammer banjo, guitar, singer

Gaining Recognition

Two key developments worth noting in Watson’s career. Around 1953, while working for a country and western swing band in Johnson City, Tennessee, Watson taught himself to play fiddle tunes on his electric guitar, a skill he later translated to acoustic guitar. Also, around this time, Watson was inspired by Merle Travis to learn how to play two separate parts on the guitar simultaneously.

In the early sixties, a renewed interest in American folk music emerged, and Watson developed a devoted following as an authentic artist. He focused his talents on two instruments, acoustic guitar and banjo. He recorded an album with Clarence Ashley, whose songs “The Coo Coo Bird” and “The House Carpenter” (recorded in 1929 and 1930) are featured in Smithsonian/Folkways influential folk music compilation, Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith (1923-1991). Watson began touring outside his home region, and after a breakthrough performance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, he recorded his first album as a solo artist in 1964.

Amazon.com Link to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music

The Coo Coo Bird

Doc Watson, who died earlier this year, was one of the last conduits to a past, before recorded music, when songs were passed down orally, from one generation to the next. The recommended list includes many Appalachian songs with their roots in Great Britain. Though recorded music was available, he surely learned songs like “The Coo Coo Bird” from friends and family. I first heard “Coo Coo” twenty years ago, and it remains a favorite.

In the expanded liner notes for the Anthology of American Folk Music, author Griel Marcus discusses the difference between a song and a ballad, followed by a discussion of the cryptic “Coo Coo”:

“Like many of the numbers on the third volume of the Anthology, “The Coo Coo Bird” was a “folk-lyric” song. That meant it was made up of verbal fragments that had no direct or logical relationships to each other, but were drawn from a floating pool of thousands of disconnected verses, couplets, one-liners, pieces of eight. Harry Smith guessed the folk-lyric form came together some time between 1850 and 1875. Whenever it happened, it wasn’t until enough fragments were abroad in the land to reach a kind of critical mass — until there were enough fragments, passing back and forth between Blacks and Whites as common coin, to generate more fragments, to sustain within the matrix of a single musical language an almost infinite repertory of performances, to sustain the sense that out of the anonymity of the tradition a singer is singing his or her own life, as an event, taking place as you listen, its outcome uncertain — separates the song, from which the singer emerges, from the ballad, into which the singer disappears.

In this mood, in this weather, the most apparently commonplace fragment in Ashley’s “Coo Coo Bird” — the verse seemingly most unburdened by any shred of meaning — cannot be meaningless.”

Gonna build me,
A log cabin,
On a mountain,
So high,
So I can,
See Willie,
When he goes,
On by.

“It sounds like a children’s ditty only until you begin to realize the verse is made to refuse any of the questions it makes you ask. Who is Willie? Why does the singer want to watch him? Why must he put aside life and embark on a grand endeavor just to accomplish this ordinary act? The verse can only communicate a secret everybody already knows, or as an allusion to a body of knowledge the singer knows can never be recovered, and Ashley only makes things worse by singing as if whatever he’s singing about is the most obvious thing in the world. The performance doesn’t seem like a jumble of fragments. Rather there is a theme: displacement, restlessness, homelessness, the comic worry of “a people”, as Constance Rourke wrote of Americans as they were before the Civil War began, “unacquainted with themselves, strange to the land, unshaped as a nation.” ‘We Americans are all cuckoos,’ Oliver Wendell Holmes said in 1872. ‘We make our homes in the nests of other birds.’ This is the starting point.”

Greil Marcus

Amazon.com Link to Greil Marcus’ Work

I am impressed by Marcus’ ability to derive so much from the simple lyric, something I lack the creativity to do. I listen to the first verse of “Coo Coo” and hear jealousy, an insatiable desire to follow, to stalk, and to imagine the worst possible outcome.

Another favorite from the Anthology of American Folk Music is Mississippi John Hurt’s “Spike Driver Blues”. Doc Watson covered this song on his album Doc Watson On Stage. Mississippi John Hurt was a beneficiary of the folk music revival. After decades of living in anonymity, Hurt became a popular figure in folk music during his final years.

My Friend Jeff Ward

I learned about Doc Watson from my good friend Jeff Ward. I moved to Oregon twenty years ago, and joined a local golf club. At the time, Jeff worked in the men’s locker room, tending bar and waiting tables. Over the years he was promoted to clubhouse manager, before leaving the club to take a job in a private housing organization. We’ve been good friends since, through our mutual love of music.

In his spare time, Jeff is a fine singer and guitar player, and Jeff’s favorite musician is Doc Watson. Jeff began playing guitar during his third year in college, during a time when he was pestering an old girl friend to go out with him again. She refused him, but gave Jeff an old guitar she owned, something resembling a consolation prize, as a potential hobby to pursue. It didn’t take long for Jeff to lose interest in the girl, but he never put the guitar down. After finishing college, Jeff’s post-graduate roommate owned a few Doc Watson records (including Southbound and The Essential Doc Watson), which Jeff discovered and subsequently devoured.

Jeff now knows dozens of Doc Watson songs, employing both the finger picking and flat picking styles as required. Even Jeff’s plaintive singing style is reminiscent of the great North Carolinian. Over the years, Jeff has expanded his repertoire with many other songs, playing solo and with his folk trio for parties and special occasions.

I learned about Doc Watson in much the same way. Jeff and I began to talk about music, and I took an interest in his favorite musician. I purchased several Doc Watson albums which covered the mid-sixties and early seventies, his most famous work. These songs became an integral part of my collection.

Asking Politely

Before meeting Jeff, I had heard of Doc Watson, but never heard his music, except for this one time.

My senior year in college was a disaster. I was set to graduate, but I screwed up my final basketball season, and was using drugs heavily. I had a lovely girlfriend throughout my five years in college, but entering the last few weeks of school, was questioning the wisdom of not spending time with other women. Although still deeply attached to my sweetheart, I had a few attempted encounters during my final month in school, some which I regret, others that left me wondering and longing. But this experience was just fun and harmless.

I was on my own that evening, and was neither too drunk nor high to keep me at home. I went out looking for action, and found a party of twenty to thirty people in an apartment on the north side of Davis. I walked in and made myself comfortable and made conversation and nobody seemed to mind. Things were going great. People were dancing in the living room, and I distinctly remember dancing with a nice young lady to the “Tennessee Stud”, one of Doc’s most famous and endearing songs. Shortly afterwards, I asked her if she would like to join me in my car for a sniff of cocaine, and she agreed. We enjoyed a small line of late seventies vintage, lactose laden, low grade coke, and while in the car, without ever touching her, asked politely if she would like to fool around with me, you know, make love. She politely responded that she was a virgin, saving herself for a special moment, and though I was sweet, she thought it best to wait. I said thanks anyway, that’s just fine. We returned to the party and enjoyed ourselves for a little while longer, and then I went home. I can’t remember her name.

Fact Checking

During my first couple years in Portland, I attended business school. A fellow student was involved in setting up a radio station for the university. I decided I’d like to try being a disk jockey, so I took a class and got certified and spent about three years playing records on Sunday afternoons for an hour or two each weekend. It was an AM station with a weak signal, and very few people tuned in, but it was a fun experience, something I might try again, if I can get a gig with an FM station.

In late summer 1996, my father made one of his periodic trips to Oregon, to visit and play golf for a few days. He knew Jeff from previous visits; we were all friendly by then. One afternoon we had finished golfing, and were sitting around with Jeff in the men’s grill when my father says, “Oh, did you hear the news? Doc Watson died.”

A prolonged silence followed. “Really? Oh no.” Jeff is in shock, and not saying much at all. This is his man, his hero. I quickly concoct the idea that Jeff should come down to the radio station with me next Sunday, and we should have a Doc Watson Memorial program to celebrate his music.

Jeff and I talk on the phone several times that week, and gather up all our records and CDs. I purchased the 4-CD compilation The Vanguard Years, ensuring we have the most beautiful songs for the show. The following Sunday afternoon, I pick Jeff up at home and we drive into town. Thirty minutes before showtime, he and I are listening to a newfound live version of “Southbound”, and Jeff is openly weeping tears of sadness for this great loss. He composes himself, we walk into the studio, and the show goes off beautifully, without a hitch.

Unfortunately, I didn’t verify that Watson had actually died. My father was notoriously smart, a fount of knowledge, so much so that nobody ever questioned his facts. When we were kids, one friend referred to him as Phineas J. Whoopee, for those familiar with the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoon. However, as he got older, we noticed that he started to lose his ability to remember proper names. He would begin talking about some subject or another, and then ask, “What’s the name of the guy who…yeah, yeah, that’s it.”

A few days afterwards, I checked online, and quickly determined it was another bluegrass great, Bill Monroe, who had died. An honest mistake and much ado about nothing; instead we have this story forever.

An Admirable Man

Doc Watson lived his whole life in Deep Gap, North Carolina. He married Rosa Lee Watson in 1947 and remained married until his death sixty five years later. His whole family played music, and he often performed with them. In particular, Doc’s son Merle was an excellent guitar player, and his traveling companion for many years. Merle died tragically in a tractor accident on the family farm in 1985. Some say Doc was never the same after Merle died.

Both Jeff and I moved out to the country about fifteen years ago. I live among the trees, Jeff lives in a narrow valley where he and his wife tends a large menagerie of domesticated animals, where “the sun comes up about nine every morning, and goes down about three every day.*” He named his mule Tucker after “Tucker’s Barn”, a Doc Watson song.

My parents instilled in their children a love of nature. I live on top of a gentle rise, a southern facing slope, above the trees, in a hybrid neighborhood of longtime residents, a few high tech workers, and those who grow things for a living. The sun and moon cross the sky in full view each day. The deer visit most days, and stay close during fall hunting season. Coyotes and other predators keep the little critters from overrunning the yard. There’s not a lot of interaction with neighbors; we leave each other alone for the most part, and some roads it’s best not to travel down. But I’m a poseur, who never worked the land to live, rather moving to the country for the peaceful existence.

Doc Watson is beloved for his authenticity, as a man and a musician. He led an exemplary life, and his music of simple songs executed with great dexterity. He was among the best practitioners of finger style and flat picking guitar, with a warm, inviting singing voice, that inspired a generation of modern bluegrass, folk and country musicians.

Doc Watson Song Notes:

1. “Tennessee Stud (Live)” and “Shady Grove (Live)” are found on the album Legacy, by Doc Watson and David Holt.

2. The best versions of the other songs should be easy to find. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Doc Watson Songs:

Spike Driver Blues (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭✭✭
Brown’s Ferry Blues (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭✭✭

The Cuckoo, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Southbound, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Southbound (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Roll On Buddy (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Talk About Suffering, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
St. James Hospital, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Alberta, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Banks Of The Ohio (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Tom Dooley, Doc Watson ✭✭✭
Lonesome Moonlight Waltz (Live), Bill Monroe & Doc Watson ✭✭✭

Tennessee Stud, Doc Watson ✭✭
Country Blues, Doc Watson ✭✭
Deep River Blues, Doc Watson ✭✭
Windy And Warm, Doc Watson ✭✭
Black Mountain Rag, Doc Watson ✭✭
Black Mountain Rag (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭
Down In The Valley To Pray, Doc Watson ✭✭
Blue Railroad Train, Doc Watson ✭✭
I Was A Stranger (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭
Shady Grove, Doc Watson ✭✭
Walk On Boy, Doc Watson ✭✭
Omie Wise, Doc Watson ✭✭
Doc’s Guitar, Doc Watson ✭✭
Alabama Bound, Doc Watson ✭✭
Nashville Pickin’, Doc Watson ✭✭
Shady Grove (Live), Doc Watson & David Holt ✭✭
Train That Carried My Girl From Town (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭

Nothing To It, Doc Watson
Intoxicated Rat, Doc Watson
Rambling Hobo, Doc Watson
Blackberry Blossom (Live), Doc Watson
Rising Sun Blues (Live), Doc Watson
Beaumont Rag, Doc Watson
Beaumont Rag (Live), Doc Watson
Tennessee Stud (Live), Doc Watson & David Holt
Bonaparte’s Retreat, Doc Watson
Dill Pickle Rag, Doc Watson
East Tennessee Blues, Bill Monroe & Doc Watson
Way Downtown, Doc Watson

Related Songs:

Spike Driver Blues, Mississippi John Hurt ✭✭✭✭

Brown’s Ferry Blues, The Delmore Brothers ✭✭

The Coo Coo Bird, Clarence “Tom” Ashley ✭✭

Black Mountain Rag (Live), The Byrds

Country Blues, Dock Boggs ✭✭

Tennessee Stud, Johnny Cash ✭✭

Roll On Buddy, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott ✭✭
Nine Pound Hammer, The Kentucky Colonels ✭✭✭✭
Nine Pound Hammer, The Monroe Brothers
Take This Hammer, Big Bill Broonzy

Talk About Suffering, Ricky Skaggs & Tony Rice ✭✭

St. James Hospital, Tony Rice ✭✭✭
St. James Infirmary, Jack Teagarden ✭✭✭✭
St. James Infirmary, Louis Armstrong ✭✭✭✭
St. James Infirmary, Van Morrison ✭✭
St. James Infirmary (Alt), Louis Armstrong ✭✭✭✭

Shady Grove, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭✭
Pretty Little Miss, Patty Loveless ✭✭✭

Blackberry Blossom, Mark O’Connor ✭✭

House Of The Rising Sun, The Animals ✭✭✭✭
House Of The Rising Sun, Josh White ✭✭
House Of The Rising Sun, Bob Dylan
House Of The Rising Sun, Joan Baez ✭✭

White House Blues, Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers ✭✭
White House Blues, Merle Travis & Joe Maphis ✭✭

Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (Live), Grateful Dead ✭✭✭✭

Ground Hog, Frank Proffitt

Tom Dooley, Frank Proffitt
Tom Dooley, The Kingston Trio ✭✭

* Lyric from a modern country standard, Darrell Scott’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”

56. David Grisman

David “Dawg” Grisman is a composer and mandolin player from Hackensack, New Jersey. Classically trained, Grisman took an interest in folk and bluegrass music, and moved from piano to mandolin in his mid-teens. After working in New York and Boston in various folk and rock groups, Grisman moved to northern California sometime in the late sixties, where he reunited with lifelong friend Jerry Garcia, whom he met at a bluegrass festival in 1964. Grisman contributed mandolin to two songs on the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty album. In 1973, he and Garcia helped found the Old and In The Way bluegrass band. By 1975, he had formed his own band, the David Grisman Quintet, playing an acoustic hybrid of jazz and bluegrass affectionately known as Dawg music. Eventually, Grisman also started his own record label, Acoustic Disc Records, to maintain control of his music. Grisman has remained active, recording and performing extensively throughout his life.

S1314C3_ArtistImage

The David Grisman Quintet roster changed many times over the years; the most notable lineup of the early quintet is:

David Grisman (b. 1945), mandolin, mandocello
Tony Rice (b. 1951), guitar
Mike Marshall (b. 1957), guitar, mandolin, mandocello
Darol Anger (b. 1953), violin
Todd Phillips (b. 1953), bass, mandolin

David Grisman’s Acoustic Disc Records Site
The David Grisman Interview, by Mandolin Cafe, October 3, 2010

Other Notable Collaborators:

Matt Eakle, flute
Joe Craven, percussion, violin
Stéphane Grappelli (1908-1997), violin
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995), guitar
Tiny Moore (1920-1967), mandolin
Jethro Burns (1920-1989), mandolin
Earl Scruggs (1924-2012), banjo
Mark O’Connor (b. 1961), guitar, vioin

Dawg Music

The David Grisman Quintet is the rare band I fell in love with at first listen. It was the summer of 1977, after my first year of college. I was hanging out at a good friend’s house; at the time he was renting a room in the back of a house off Cambridge Avenue in Menlo Park, just a few blocks off El Camino Real, down the street from the original Kepler’s Books. When I showed up, a couple of folks were playing backgammon and the eponymous David Grisman Quintet album was on the record player. “Who is that?” “Oh, you’ve never heard Grisman?” My friend was a big Grateful Dead fan, and I’m sure that’s how he discovered them. For the next few years, Grisman became my favorite musician. I bought each new album and paid attention to all his side projects. I saw him in concert several times. I introduced him to Dad, and Dad liked him too.

Over my life, few bands possess the distinction of “love at first listen”. I can’t say for sure whether The Beatles are there — it’s too long ago. It wasn’t until “Proud Mary” that Creedence Clearwater Revival became my favorite band for a few years. Then Grisman came along to fill that gap in the late seventies. A few years later, Los Lobos piqued my interest from the first song I heard, and a lifetime of devotion ensued. Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five and Howlin’ Wolf are two artists I immediately embraced, but I found them through research. It’s special when something new is randomly playing. Jonathan Richman, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and to a lesser extent, The Stray Cats, also share this rare trait.

Here is one of David Grisman’s best known compositions, “Eat My Dust”, or more commonly, “E.M.D.”, played with the Rounder Records All-Stars, which includes Tony Rice on guitar and a young Alison Krauss on fiddle:

Great American Music Hall Concerts

I saw David Grisman in concert many times during the late seventies. I saw him in Davis and in Marin County, but the most memorable concerts were at the Great American Music Hall, in a dicey part of San Francisco, down the block from the notorious Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater. One time Grisman brought mandolin legends Tiny Moore and Jethro Burns with him; another time he brought the great violinist Stéphane Grappelli. A small, sit down theater with tables and character, with Grisman playing hot swing music for the young and old, but not for everyone.

Minor Artist?

I ruined a tenuous friendship one drunken night by playing the lightning tempo “Minor Swing” at top volume in my car, while my terrified (and much cooler) basketball teammate was clearly thinking how to get the hell out of there. And though I consider Grisman an innovative jazz musician who integrated many styles — classical, bluegrass, jazz and even Klezmer — some critics think otherwise. Neither the Penguin Guide to Jazz, nor the Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music include him as a significant artist.

Amazon.com Link to The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings
Amazon.com Link to The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music
Amazon.com Link to the All Music Guide to Jazz, 4th Edition

Consider these two quotes discussing the album Stephane Grappelli/David Grisman — Live. First from the Penguin Guide:

“This group featured two mandolinists, who make a pretty wretched sound.”

Conversely, the All Music Guide to Jazz gives this record a solid black star, identifying the album as “Representative of the best this artist (Grappelli) has to offer” and “Essential music with more than its fair share of great solos.”

After Tony Rice left the band to pursue a solo career, Grisman added the gifted teenager Mark O’Connor to the lineup. O’Connor primarily played guitar for Grisman, though much like Alison Krauss, he was a national fiddle champion as a youngster. O’Connor has had a long and versatile career as an individual performer and a Nashville session musician. Here the quintet of Grisman, Marshall, Anger, bassist Rob Wasserman and O’Connor perform the John Coltrane composition “Naima”:

My Mandolin Player

I felt a crisis of confidence when the almighty Penguin Guide failed to mention one of my favorites, which should lend some insight into my desire to have my opinions validated. The mandolin has limitations that may exempt it from consideration as a legitimate jazz instrument. David Grisman has a big footprint in my collection, the quintet records plus the Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns and David Grisman & Jerry Garcia collaborations. He’s the only mandolin player whose music I followed closely, though I do have a healthy collection of songs by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys. Tiny Moore and Jethro Burns were famous mandolin players from the previous generation. Tiny played an electric mandolin as a member of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, while Jethro is a recognized master f the instrument, and was a member of the country comedy duo Homer & Jethro. Around the same time Grisman achieved success, banjoist Béla Fleck and mandolinist Sam Bush, among others, were starting influential careers shaping the direction of modern string music. But Grisman was my man, at the time I was just starting to learn about jazz, playing driving music reminiscent from the swing jazz greats of the thirties. The easiest comparison is the French string band Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, with Stéphane Grappelli on violin and the great Django Reinhardt on guitar. Within a year or two of discovering Grisman, I was buying Hot Club of France records in the college record store. Because of Grisman, I moved deeper into jazz and country and bluegrass, and learned about a whole world of performers I had never heard. An engaging and emotional performer, David Grisman is an essential and beloved piece of my musical education.

A Chance Meeting

About ten years ago, I had a chance meeting with Grisman, at the Traverse City, Michigan airport. He was performing at Interlochen, and we were both heading home that day. It’s a small airport, and there I was, sitting across the gate from the Dawg and his quintet. I walked over to him, and shyly said, “You’re Dave Grisman, aren’t you?”. He said yes. Trying to be brief, I said I was a big fan, and thanks for everything, then walked back to my seat. I’ve thought about that encounter many times. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to know what to say. In retrospect I wish I’d told him that I chose “Midnight Waltz” by Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns as my wedding dance. It would have said so much.

David Grisman Song Notes:

1. “Dawggy Mountain Breakdown” features Earl Scruggs on banjo. It is also the theme song for “Car Talk”, a long running PBS program.

2. The best versions of “16…16” and “Minor Swing” feature Stéphane Grappelli and can be found on Hot Dawg. My grandmother died suddenly after I was born, and my grandpa remarried a woman whose stepdaughter I saw from time to time at holidays. She knew Stéphane Grappelli, and used to spend time with him when he came to San Francisco. She also knew guitarist Martin Taylor very well.

David Grisman Songs:

Barkley’s Bug, David Grisman ✭✭✭✭
Minor Swing, David Grisman ✭✭✭✭
E.M.D., David Grisman Quintet ✭✭✭✭

Ricochet, David Grisman Quintet ✭✭✭
Cedar Hill, David Grisman ✭✭✭
Pneumonia, David Grisman ✭✭✭
16…16, David Grisman ✭✭✭

Naima, David Grisman ✭✭
Opus 38, David Grisman ✭✭
Albuquerque Turkey, David Grisman ✭✭
Dawgma, David Grisman ✭✭
Dawgmatism, David Grisman ✭✭
Opus 57, David Grisman Quintet ✭✭
Dawg’s Bull, David Grisman ✭✭
Because (Live), David Grisman Quintet ✭✭
Neon Tetra, David Grisman ✭✭
O Solo Mio, David Grisman & Tony Rice ✭✭
My Long Journey Home, David Grisman ✭✭
Dawgology, David Grisman ✭✭
Sweet Georgia Brown (Live), Stéphane Grappelli & David Grisman ✭✭

Swing 51, David Grisman
Dawggy Mountain Breakdown, David Grisman
Steppin’ With Stéphane, David Grisman
Key Signator (Live), David Grisman Quintet
I Am A Pilgrim, David Grisman & Tony Rice
Cedar Hill (Live), David Grisman Quintet
Misty (Live), Stéphane Grappelli & David Grisman

Related Songs:

Pickin’ In The Wind, Mark O’Connor ✭✭
Blackberry Blossom, Mark O’Connor

All songs presented in the Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns and David Grisman & Jerry Garcia essays.

Naima, John Coltrane ✭✭✭✭
Naima (Alt), John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Naima (Alt), John Coltrane ✭✭
Naima, Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin ✭✭

Minor Swing, Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France ✭✭

Swing ’39, Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France ✭✭

Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Flatt & Scruggs ✭✭✭✭

My Long Journey Home, The Monroe Brothers ✭✭

Because, The Beatles ✭✭

Assanhado, Jacob De Bandolim ✭✭

Ripple, Grateful Dead ✭✭✭

Friend Of The Devil, Grateful Dead ✭✭✭✭

67. The Byrds

The Byrds are a rock band from Los Angeles, California. Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby all started as sidemen in folk rock bands. McGuinn and Clark loved The Beatles, and were playing as a duo when they met Crosby. Crosby introduced them to Jim Dickson, who had access to the World Pacific recording studio. It was Dickson who first suggested the trio listen to Bob Dylan. The Byrds achieved fame rapidly. Their first two singles, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, were their two #1 hits.

The band’s career was volatile, as Clark, Clarke and Crosby left the band within three years. McGuinn and Hillman then led the band through a series of personnel changes, and they recruited great talent, especially Clarence White and Gram Parsons. The band experienced a second fertile period of music making, by country-minded musicians with good taste in music that preceded them. A fascinating but heartbreaking story, the Byrds were the first so-called “country rock” band, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

The_Byrds_in_1965

Roger McGuinn (b. 1942), lead guitar and vocals
Gene Clark (1944-1991), tambourine and vocals
David Crosby (b. 1941), guitar and vocals
Chris Hillman (b. 1944), bass, mandolin
Michael Clarke (1946-1993), drums

Among the other important contributors to The Byrds were:

Clarence White (1944-1973), lead guitar
Gram Parsons (1946-1973), songwriter, guitar and vocals

Wikipedia Biography of The Byrds
Byrdwatcher: A Field Guide to The Byrds of Los Angeles
The Byrds Lyrics Page

A Young Band

The Beatles changed the pop music landscape; girls went crazy for the young rock bands. Efforts to make The Byrds popular were clearly made. Initially, not all band members could play their instruments well enough for recordings. Studio musicians were brought in early, but the talented band soon became better musicians.

Jingle Jangle

Roger McGuinn plays the same Rickenbacker 12-string guitar that George Harrison played on “I Call Your Name”. This is the guitar that gives “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and other Byrds hits, their distinctive jingle jangle sound.

David Crosby was asked to leave the Byrds because of artistic and political differences. Crosby and Stephen Stills formed a long partnership with Graham Nash, with occasional participation by Neil Young. It’s noteworthy that CSN&Y was also an uneasy collaboration. Crosby fought to have his compositions played. But I suspect that heavy drug and alcohol use made intense collaborations less stable.

Gene Clark, the best songwriter during the early years, left the band because of internal jealousies and personal struggles with air travel. He recorded sporadically throughout his shortened life, but struggled with alcoholism. His 1974 album No Other is considered an unrecognized classic recording.

The Kentucky Colonel

Many years ago, I bought a Rhino Records bluegrass compilation. My favorite song from this initial foray into bluegrass was the instrumental “Nine Pound Hammer” by the Kentucky Colonels. Turns out the Kentucky Colonels were founded by Clarence and Roland White, a couple of young bluegrass pickers from southern California. I bought their album, Appalachian Swing, to learn more about them. “Nine Pound Hammer” is known as a Merle Travis song, but it is an old folk song, also known as “Take This Hammer” and “Swannanoa Tunnel”.

Gram Parsons

There is much debate about the band’s relationship with Gram Parsons; the album Sweetheart Of the Rodeo is widely acclaimed. Parsons and Chris Hillman formed the Flying Burrito Brothers shortly thereafter, after which Parsons recorded two albums as a solo artist. Parsons brought a country sensibility which worked best during his tenure with the Byrds.

Half-Wracked Prejudice Leaped Forth

Dad liked “Mr. Tambourine Man” for as long as I can remember; I think we owned that first Byrds album in the family collection. However, there’s no question Dad preferred Bob Dylan’s original version. I remember Mom buying the 45 RPM single for “Eight Miles High”, one of the earliest and best California psychedelic songs, and perhaps the band’s best original composition. It’s fascinating to think about your parents, and think about why they liked certain songs. Just like me, these songs meant something to them.

My favorite Byrds song is “My Back Pages”, another Bob Dylan composition. Dylan wrote it as a waltz, but the Byrds transformed it into a 4/4 time with a gentle rock beat. Dylan’s lyrics are somewhat opaque, but resolve in a simple refrain. The Byrds version is the rare cover version that far exceeds the original.

“Crimson flames tied through my ears,
Rollin’ high and mighty trapped.
Countless fire and flaming roads,
Using ideas as my maps.
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I,
Proud ‘neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth,
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed.
Lies that life is black and white,
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed.
Romantic facts of musketeers,
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand,
At the mongrel dogs who teach.
Fearing not I’d become my enemy,
In the instant that I preached.
Sisters led by confusion boats,
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

My guard stood hard when abstract threats,
Too noble to neglect.
Deceived me into thinking,
I had something to protect.
Good and bad, I define these terms,
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.”

— Bob Dylan

“Great song acknowledging the acceptance one develops as they age. The black and white world of our youth, softens to grey one day. It’s never simple or straightforward.”

— Cheryl

The Byrds went down easy these last couple weeks; I could listen to them for a long time without getting bored. They were a conduit to and from old folk and country music; the Byrds knew a lot of good songs. Check out the long list of related songs at the end of the post.

The Byrds Song Notes:

1. “Eight Miles High (Alt)” can be found on the remastered version of Fifth Dimension.

2. “My Back Pages (Live)” and “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” (Live) are found on Live At Albert Hall, 1971.

3. “Pretty Polly (Alt)” is found on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (Legacy Edition).

4. “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Alt)” is found on the remastered version of Mr. Tambourine Man.

5. “You’re The Only Girl I Adore” and “You Showed Me” are demo tapes made before their first album, and can be found in a number of places, including Pre-Flyte.

The Byrds Songs:

Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season), The Byrds ✭✭✭✭
My Back Pages, The Byrds ✭✭✭✭
Eight Miles High, The Byrds ✭✭✭✭

Mr. Tambourine Man, The Byrds ✭✭✭
Eight Miles High (Alt), The Byrds ✭✭✭
Wasn’t Born To Follow, The Byrds ✭✭✭

He Was A Friend Of Mine, The Byrds ✭✭
Hickory Wind, The Byrds ✭✭
I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Alt), The Byrds ✭✭
Everybody’s Been Burned, The Byrds ✭✭
Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man, The Byrds ✭✭
You Showed Me, The Byrds ✭✭
Willin’, The Byrds ✭✭
Mr. Spaceman, The Byrds ✭✭
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, The Byrds ✭✭

The Ballad Of Easy Rider, The Byrds
Black Mountain Rag (Live), The Byrds
So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N Roll Star, The Byrds
Renaissance Fair, The Byrds
Goin’ Back, The Byrds
Chimes Of Freedom, The Byrds
The Only Girl I Adore, The Byrds
The Christian Life, The Byrds
The Bells Of Rhymney, The Byrds
I Am A Pilgrim, The Byrds
One Hundred Years From Now, The Byrds
Pretty Polly (Alt), The Byrds
Chestnut Mare, The Byrds
Time Between, The Byrds
Stranger In A Strange Land (Instrumental), The Byrds
My Back Pages (Live), The Byrds
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Live), The Byrds

Related Songs:

Turn! Turn! Turn! (Live), Pete Seeger ✭✭

My Back Pages, Bob Dylan

Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan ✭✭✭✭✭
Mr. Tambourine Man (Live), Bob Dylan ✭✭

Jesus Is Just Alright, The Doobie Brothers ✭✭

I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

You Showed Me, The Turtles ✭✭

Willin’, Little Feat ✭✭

Black Mountain Rag, Doc Watson ✭✭
Black Mountain Rag (Live), Doc Watson ✭✭
Black Mountain Rag, Chet Atkins

Goin’ Back, Carole King ✭✭

The Christian Life, The Louvin Brothers ✭✭✭

I Am A Pilgrim (Live), Merle Travis ✭✭
I Am A Pilgrim, David Grisman & Tony Rice

Pretty Polly, The Stanley Brothers ✭✭✭✭

All I Really Want To Do, Bob Dylan ✭✭
All I Really Want To Do, Cher

Nine Pound Hammer, The Kentucky Colonels ✭✭✭✭
Nine Pound Hammer, The Monroe Brothers

Christine’s Tune, The Flying Burrito Brothers ✭✭

101. The Eagles

The Eagles are a country rock band from Los Angeles, California. Originally assembled to back singer Linda Ronstadt, the four original members (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner), with the blessing of Ms. Ronstadt, formed their own group in short order. They were very popular from the start; their first album (The Eagles), recorded in 1972, yielded three top-40 hits. They proceeded to record five more albums in the seventies, and then disbanded in 1980 for fourteen years, reuniting to tour occasionally, while recording one album of new material.

The band changed in character over the course of their great decade, from a softer, folk oriented music to a harder edged rock sound. Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner were replaced by electric guitarists Don Felder and Joe Walsh, who enjoyed significant success as leader of The James Gang and Barnstorm, before joining the band in 1975. The Eagles had five #1 singles, and two of their albums (Hotel California and The Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975) are among the fifteen greatest selling albums of all time. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Eagles on Wikipedia
www.eaglesband.com

Glenn Frey (b. 1948), guitar, keyboards, vocals, songwriter
Don Henley (b. 1947), drums, guitar, vocals, songwriter
Bernie Leadon (b. 1947), multi-instrumentalist, songwriter
Randy Meisner (b. 1946), bass, guitars, vocals, songwriter
Don Felder (b. 1947), guitar, slide guitar, vocals, songwriter

Joe Walsh (b. 1947), lead guitar, vocals, songwriter
Timothy B. Schmit (b. 1947), bass, vocals, songwriter

“The Eagles’ Greatest Hit”, by Bill Simmons, Grantland, August 14, 2013
Amazon.com Link to “Heaven and Hell” by Don Felder
“Quit Defending The Eagles! They’re Still Terrible”, by Steven Duesner, Salon Magazine, August 8, 2013

The Bad Older Influence Revisited

Historically, I’ve considered Desperado the best Eagles album, despite the modest reception of rock critics. As a senior in high school, I was invited on a ride into the coastal mountains with a friend’s older brother, whose trust fund friend had a powerful Chevy Blazer, an early version of the SUV. He also had good Columbian weed and a copy of Desperado playing on his cassette player. We headed up to Skyline Blvd. in the hills above Palo Alto, where our older hosts knew about a steep hill to show off the traction and power of the Blazer, careening up muddy hundred foot slopes. We had stars in our eyes. Here’s this guy, ten years older than us, with really cool stuff. He took a liking to his smart young companions, the beginning of years long affiliation that inlcuded an introduction to cocaine as a recreational drug. I described more of this relationship in the Sly & The Family Stone profile. A memorable experience that etched Desperado deeply into my mind, and the beginning of my own disastrous decade of cocaine and alcohol abuse.

Here’s “Saturday Night”, one of the lesser known songs from that album. Some YouTube videos of other good Desperado songs, unfortunately, have disabled audio tracks:

The Black Hats

“They were rich hippies. They were virtuosos in an idiom that did not require virtuosity. They were self-absorbed Hollywood liberals. They were not-so-secretly shallow. They were uncaring womanizers and the worst kind of cokehead. They wanted to be seen as cowboys, but not the ones who actually rode horses. They never rocked, even after adding Joe Walsh for that express purpose (the first forty-five seconds of ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ are a push). They lectured college kids about their environmental footprint while flying around in private jets. They literally called themselves ‘The Eagles.’”

— Chuck Klosterman, “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined)”

I selected a subset of songs from their glory years, plus the 1994 live remake of “Hotel California”. Over the course of my life, The Eagles may be the band whose reputation faded most. My growing knowledge and evolving tastes render The Eagles, once a favorite, a non-essential footnote within the collection, though “Hotel California” remains an impressive ode to my home state. Funny thing about that song, the truth about California is the opposite — nowadays you can cash out and move away, but you can’t come back because you can’t afford to.

I saw the Eagles with The Doobie Brothers on June 29th, 1975 as part of a Day On The Green series of concerts held at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. I was two weeks graduated from high school; back then it only took forty-five minutes to drive from Palo Alto to the Coliseum. Just a month before, I saw Joe Walsh with Link Wray and the Strawbs at the Winterland Ballroom.

I really liked The Eagles when I was a kid. Their songs and their vocal harmonies still sound good, but somewhere along the way I moved on. At the heart of the story is a group of young men who came to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune in the music business, and they succeeded brilliantly. They were a dominant presence on the radio airwaves during the post-Beatle era of pop music.

Eagles Songs:

Take it Easy, The Eagles ✭✭✭✭
Hotel California (Live), The Eagles ✭✭✭✭

Hotel California, The Eagles ✭✭✭
One Of These Nights, The Eagles ✭✭✭
Tequila Sunrise, The Eagles ✭✭✭

Peaceful Easy Feeling, The Eagles ✭✭
Saturday Night, The Eagles ✭✭
Desperado, The Eagles ✭✭
Bitter Creek, The Eagles ✭✭
Witchy Woman, The Eagles ✭✭
The Best Of My Love, The Eagles ✭✭

The New Kid In Town, The Eagles
Doolin Dalton (Inst), The Eagles
Twenty One, The Eagles
I Can’t Tell You Why, The Eagles
Heartache Tonight, The Eagles
Midnight Flyer, The Eagles
Lyin’ Eyes, The Eagles
Seven Bridges Road (Live), The Eagles
Already Gone, The Eagles
In The City, The Eagles

Related Songs:

Rocky Mountain Way, Joe Walsh ✭✭✭✭
Dreams, Joe Walsh ✭✭
Funk #49, Joe Walsh ✭✭
Help Me Thru The Night, Joe Walsh ✭✭
Turn To Stone, Joe Walsh
All Night Long Joe Walsh

The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey ✭✭✭
Smuggler’s Blues, Glenn Frey

The Boys Of Summer, Don Henley ✭✭✭
All She Wants To Do is Dance, Don Henley ✭✭
Sunset Grill, Don Henley

Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, The Bob Seger System

Take It Easy, Jackson Browne ✭✭

Ol’ 55, Tom Waits