The Perfect Beat is an article by The New Yorker's music critic Sasha Frere Jones where he lays out the reasoning behind his "Perfect Recordings" project, essentially a list of 200 songs that fit his personal criteria for perfection. The lists are available as Twitter timelines (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5), Spotify playlists (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) or as one 200 song Rdio playlist. Frere-Jones answered some questions about the project and spoke about a few individual songs in The Guardian.
Unlike most murder ballads, The Long Black Veil doesn't retell the story of an actual murder. Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin borrowed bits of stories about Valentino and a murdered priest and a Red Foley chorus and crafted their own story in 1959 to create what he hoped would be a folk song for the ages. [more inside]
The Old 97's are a country rock band formed in 1993. A part of the country-punk genre designated as No Depression in the early 90s (named after Uncle Tupelo's first album), they later added a more brit pop feel to their songs. In twenty good years of about twenty-five they've made their mark on the American landscape. Their newest album, Most Messed Up, is a return to their country-punk roots, where raw feelings overpower courtesy. Their lead singer, Rhett Miller, did an AMA on reddit to talk about it. The new album can be streamed here. It debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at #30, the highest debut in their history.
From the early fifties to the mid-seventies, the Nashville based Excello Records released the kind of raw blues, R&B, and rock & roll that maybe wasn't ever going to make it to the Top 40, but was full of grit and sweat and soul, for those who liked their American roots music unadulterated. Their most well-known release was probably Slim Harpo's Baby Scratch My Back, but rocking blues like Lazy Lester's I Hear You Knockin' and Leroy Washington's Wild Cherry are little unpolished gems which deserved their place on any self-respecting cheap bar's juke box. Lowdown blues like Lonesome Sundown's My Home Is a Prison also found a welcome home at Excello, as did tunes that blurred the distinctions between country/rockabilly and R&B, like Lazy Lester's I'm A Lover Not A Fighter, and latin-tinged swamp-rock chuggers like Charles Sheffield's It's Your Voodoo Working. Then there were the straight up country tunes (reminiscent of that classic early Johnny Cash sound) like Al Ferrier's I'm the Man, or rough-hewn, raucous rockabilly like Johnny Jano's Havin' A Whole Lotta Fun. In short, Excello Records was a microcosm of the sound of the South, and though their artists mostly never achieved much in the way of wider national fame, they are an important part of the patchwork quilt of American pop music history. The tunes included in this post are just the tip of the iceberg: there's so much to explore from this one amazing little label. Happy searching!
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
New Year's Eve is fast approaching, and for lots of folks that means... drinking. Plenty of drinking. And since there's no shortage of singers and songwriters who've had a little something to say about that particular topic, maybe some of the following tunes can serve as an appropriate soundtrack to your own joyous (or not?) imbibing of spirits. For example, there's... Jimmy Liggins with his succinct rendition of Drunk, and there's... [more inside]
There's a new crop of Australian bands that take inspiration from old blues, but twist the music in a strange fashion. The trend may have started with CW Stoneking (Jungle Blues, Love Me Or Die), who channeled the old bluesmen despite being a young man. Its continued on to Sydney's Snowdroppers, who started out as a house band for burlesque shows and kept that dirty sensibility up with songs like Rosemary , Do The Stomp, and their signature tune Good Drugs, Bad Women (lyrics NSW). Frequent Snowdroppers touring partners Gay Paris add a Southern horror twist (House Fire In the Origami District, My First Wife? She Was A Foxqueen! ) and an antic stage energy. Some of the bands relay on gimmicks, like Adelaide's The Beards, who sing about how you should consider having sex with a bearded man and point out that if your dad doesn't have a beard, you've got two moms. The Beards recently performed at the World Beard and Mustache Championships. Horror-country-rockers Graveyard Train have picked up the torch dropped when Sydney psychobilly masters Zombie Ghost Train (Graveyard Queen) disbanded. Graveyard Train tunes like Mummy, Ballad for Beelzebub , Tall Shadow and Dead Folk Dance combine cheerful Misfits horror theming with stompy country. Most of the singers from this loose scene are joining forces in Sydney this week to pay tribute to Tom Waits.
Say, you wanna hear a sad song? Eddie Hinton was a guitar player, vocalist, and songwriter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Co-writer of one of the tenderest, sexiest hits of the late 60s, Dusty Springfield's Breakfast in Bed, Hinton was a key member of the world-famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971 (turning down an invitation from Duane Allman to be a member of the Allman Brothers Band) who worked as a studio musician on albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, and Toots Hibbert, but his early success was sidetracked by mental problems, booze, and drugs. [more inside]
It’s maybe a little early yet for year’s end retrospectives, but who cares: we’ve got 157 songs, 10.5 hours, 1.12 GB of “some of the best and most notable music from 2010... covering indie, pop, rock, punk, folk, rap, R&B, soul, dance, country, modern classical, ambient and electronic music, and in many cases, hard-to-classify genre hybrids.” —Curated by FluxBlog’s own Matthew Perpetua.
Fifty years ago, those decrying rock 'n' roll as devil music that would crumble the morals of America needed to look no further than Wanda Jackson for evidence. Her raspy, brassy voice, suggestive lyrics, and sexual energy were almost unbelievable for the Eisenhower years. Coaxed into singing rockabilly by her then-boyfriend, Elvis, she had a string of rock hits, before marrying and IBM programmer and switching to more traditional, conservative country music.
Maybe you remember them from their 'hit' single "Push Th' Little Daisies", or from their appearance on MTV's Beavis and Butt-head. Maybe you know them from their appearance in the film "It's Pat" or from their contributions to the "Road Trip" soundtrack or even from their appearance at Chef Aid on South Park. My hope, however, is that you don't know Ween, allowing me the opportunity to let you taste the waste. [more inside]
Surely one of the most memorable musician photos ever is this one: Johnny Cash, making his feelings known with customary aplomb. But did you ever notice he was wearing a jumpsuit in that photo, and not his more standard black shirt/trousers ensemble? Well, that very jumpsuit just went for a handsome $120,000 at auction. Someone else just paid $300,000 for one of Elvis' peacock-emblazoned jumpsuits. And remember that little necklace John Lennon wore on the cover of Two Virgins? Yep, the only thing he wore. Fetched a cool $528,000. Meanwhile, in Japan, a bunch of grapes just went for $910. What a bargain! [more inside]
Whole Lotta Shakin' - a PRI documentary series on the history of rockabilly, hosted by Rosie Flores.
Unknown Hinson is the stage name of Stuart Daniel Baker. The persona is "dark parody of the country western stars from the early/mid 20th century." according to a Wikipedia entry. Playing this archetype his songs expose the often misogynistic, and violent life between the lines of "Old school country artists". [more inside]
Mr. Frank J. Stola (flash): a self-described professional musician who mangles any and all genres he attempts. Don't miss his take on instrumental fusion rock classical jazz, revolutionary country n western traditional, or heavy metal instrumental on CD Baby. Equally marvelous are his strange, minimal videos. And don't forget to pick up Mr. Stola's myriad products at his Cafepress store. Is he serious?
So You Think You Hate Country Music? Then listen to this. The roots of American country music may surprise you. In this series of NPR programs, trace the gradual development of real country music through the first half of the 20th century. Learn how a woman's instrument of the late 1800s, the parlor guitar, became the the central symbol of country and rock; see how African-American musical forms like gospel and blues meshed with the development of country and early rock and influenced the traditional forms in turn; listen to German-Mexican hybrids of accordian style; find out why women had so many honky-tonk torch songs to sing in the late 40s. The series contains hours of content (narrative, interviews, music tracks), and a multitude of excellent links for deeper digging.
Guitarist, musical icon Chet Atkins dies at 77 Chet Atkins, whose guitar style influenced a generation of rock musicians even as he helped develop an easygoing country style to compete with it, died Saturday. He was 77. "And another bites the dust."