Posts Tagged ‘Kris Kristofferson’

Doubleshot Tuesday: American Recordings/Don’t Give Up On Me

12 October 2010

[Today: Stirring comebacks…]

Johnny Cash and Solomon Burke was each a legend in his own way – Cash an internationally famous, Bunyan-esque character who popped pills and wore black for all the right reasons; Burke a soul pioneer who sported a crown and carried a scepter, and was revered by musicians and music geeks alike. Cash had his own TV show and married June Carter, daughter of country scions A.P. and Mother Maybelle Carter. Burke never quite broke through to mainstream success and worked in the family mortuary. Cash made country music and Burke made soul, but both were deeply influenced by gospel music (Burke was also influenced by country music). After decades in the business, both men saw their careers bottom out – Cash in the late 80s, Burke in the late 90s – after several uninspired, over-produced albums.

Both had their careers revived by sympathetic producers (Rick Rubin for Cash, Joe Henry for Burke) on small labels (American and Fat Possum, respectively) who realized that the biggest asset these artists possessed was the pure strength and integrity of their voices. On American Recordings (1994) and Don’t Give Up On Me (2001), Rubin and Henry put their artists in the sparest possible settings and let those legendary voices shine through. Both artists were given big assists by admiring musicians who wrote songs specifically for these albums. Cash got tunes from Glenn Danzig and Tom Waits, and threw in imaginative covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, Nick Lowe, Kris Kristofferson and others. Burke meanwhile got originals by Bob Dylan, Waits and Kathleen Brennan, Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and Lowe. Both albums touch on sin and redemption, mortality and the almighty, love gone wrong and long black trains.

These albums awoke a new generation of fans to the timeless genius of Johnny Cash and Solomon Burke, and both albums made critics wonder aloud how the music business could have so perpetually mis-used such talented voices. These stirring comebacks were arguably the best albums released in their respective years – Mojo magazine named Don’t Give Up On Me as its pick for the best album of 2001, and American Recordings is widely regarded as a modern masterpiece. The artists who contributed their talents to these albums undoubtedly did it out of love for Cash and Burke. But they also did themselves a big favor by helping to provide the industry with a pair of rock solid blueprints for how to gracefully handle living legends who’ve still got it…

Listen: Thirteen [Cash]

Listen: Don’t Give Up On Me [Solomon Burke]

Listen: Delia’s Gone [Cash]

Listen: Flesh And Blood [Solomon Burke]

Masterpiece: Kristofferson

3 June 2010

[Today: The Buddha of Nashville…]

The solitary figure at the center of most country music is the heartbroken man, the outlaw on the run, the misunderstood, unforgiven outcast. The character at the center of Kris Kristofferson’s music is a seeker – of wine, women and the wisdom that comes with good times and hangovers alike. But unlike most Nashville musicians, Kristofferson wrote songs that radiated an almost Buddhist philosophy. He made music that reflected on the fleeting nature of possessions, chastised over-eager policemen and social critics, and celebrated free love. Each of his songs, in their own way, looked into the darkness and found light.

If Kristofferson wrote songs that were unlike his Nashville contemporaries, it was probably because nobody like him had set foot in that city before. A Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford, he joined the Army after college, where he attained the rank of Captain and completed Ranger school. After leaving the Army, he turned down a position as professor of literature at West Point so that he could pursue songwriting. He moved to Nashville and was literally sweeping the floors at Columbia Studios while Bob Dylan was recording Blonde On Blonde there. Kristofferson’s music came to the attention of Johnny Cash, who helped the not-so-young man find his footing in the industry.

Speaking of his early struggles in Nashville, he said “It was such a creative experience for me; it never seemed as hard on me as it was, I’m sure, on my family and friends who thought I’d gone straight to the devil. Thought I’d lost my mind and gone to Nashville to be a country writer.” After his song ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ was covered by Roger Miller, Kristofferson played the Newport Folk Festival and his career gained enough momentum that he was able to record his self-titled debut.

Kristofferson is certainly unlike anything else that Nashville was cooking up in 1970. It opens with ‘Blame It On The Stones’, a sly re-write of ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ that takes aim at those who blast the youth for being young. ‘To Beat The Devil’ is the tale of a struggling songwriter that is dedicated to “John and June”, ‘The Law Is For The Protection Of The People’ compares aggressive cops to those who hung Jesus on the cross, and ‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ is, like most of Kristofferson’s music, incredibly alive to the beauty of the moment.

But Kristofferson’s debut is best known for two songs – ‘Me And Bobby McGee’, a great song of love lost and bittersweet blues that has made his name, and ‘Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down’. A hangover can provide very constructive wisdom, but few songwriters have captured its poetry as well as Kris Kristofferson. “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth,” wrote the Buddha Siddarta, “not going all the way, and not starting.” Kristofferson’s debut goes all the way, and relishes every bump in the road…

Listen: Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

Listen: Me And Bobby McGee

Listen: Best Of All Possible Worlds

Listen: Blame It On The Stones

Weekend Playlist

31 May 2010

“When I got out of high school, I thought, I’ll take a year or two off and play the clubs, get this out of my system, and then go to med school.” ~ Gregg Allman, on the road not taken

Pearl Jam | Vs.

Kings Go Forth | The Outsiders Are Back

Various Artists | Midnight Cowboy Soundtrack

Beastie Boys | The In Sound From Way Out!

Sandy Bull | Fantasias For Guitar And Banjo

Cactus | Cactus

Sweetwater | Melon

Calexico | Carried To Dust

Various Artists | Easy Rider Soundtrack

Various Artists | Apocalypse Now Soundtrack

Gil Scott-Heron | Pieces Of A Man

Arrested Development | 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of…

Allman Brothers Band | Idlewild South

Otis Redding | Dictionary Of Soul

Various Artists | Bay Area Funk 2

Chase | Chase

Neil Young | Freedom

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers | Hard Promises

Kris Kristofferson | Me And Bobby McGee

Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim | Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream

Dexter Gordon | Doin’ Allright

Mott The Hoople | All The Young Dudes

The Steve Miller Band | Brave New World

Primal Scream | Screamadelica

Buried Treasure: The Train I’m On

7 January 2010

[Today: The Swamp Thang…]

Q: What do Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, John Mayall, Etta James, Tom Jones, Isaac Hayes, Charlie Rich, B.B. King, Nelson Riddle, Chet Atkins, Candi Staton, Link Wray, Otis Rush, Earl Scruggs, Dusty Springfield, Kris Kristofferson, Solomon Burke, The Animals, Emmylou Harris, Wild Cherry, Levon Helm, Waylon Jennings, Long John Baldry and Tennessee Ernie Ford have in common? A: They’ve all covered songs written by Tony Joe White. But the first and most famous cover of White’s material – the one that saved his career – was when Elvis Aaron Presley picked up his song ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and turned it into a hit. Thanks to The King’s selling power, and the avalanche of covers that followed, White has been able to carve out a genuinely unique musical path that’s seen him follow nobody’s direction but his own.

As he told Cosmik Debris Magazine in 2000, “I’ve been really lucky with my music because my writing has allowed me to keep playing and singing and writing the way I feel. Well, I couldn’t ever have went any other way; there was no choice. But I’ve never had to really try to write something for the radio or to try to be in the top ten in Billboard or anything like that. I’ve always had the good, sweet time to write and play good songs, and if that’s laid back, then that’s what it is.”

Nicknamed The Swamp Fox (one of my favorite rock nicknames, fyi), White is the main purveyor of Swamp Rock, a down-home – and yes, laid back – mixture of rock, blues, soul, funk and country. His 1972 album The Train I’m On is one of our house favorites, but each of his LPs is a worthwhile slice of white southern storytelling soul. ‘Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll’ ‘300 Pounds Of Hongry’ and ‘The Gospel Singer’ are the kind of songs that nobody but TJW could come up with, while ‘I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby’ sounds like a hillbilly Marvin Gaye laying down a pretty smooth love rap. This is an album that’s unpolished, unpretentious, and totally likable…

Listen: I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby

Listen: Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll

Listen: 300 Pounds Of Hongry

[Also, check out this great review]


Happy 40th birthday to Dave “Stunt Rocker” Rosen!

Weekend Playlist

3 August 2009

You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.” ~ Hank Williams

Hank Williams | 40 Greatest Hits
Hank Williams | 40 Greatest Hits

Duke Ellington | Ellington At Newport
Duke Ellington | At Newport

J.J. Johnson | J.J. Inc.
The J.J. Johnson Sextet | J.J. Inc.

Donald Byrd | Long Green
Donald Byrd | Long Green: The Savoy Sessions

Arnett Cobb | Smooth Sailing
Arnett Cobb | Smooth Sailing

Lee 'Scratch Perry | Chicken Scratch
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry | Chicken Scratch

Eugene McDaniels | Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse
Eugene McDaniels | Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse

Moby Grape | The Place And The Time
Moby Grape | The Place And The Time

John Mayall | Blues From Laurel Canyon
John Mayall | Blues From Laurel Canyon

The Modern Lovers | The Modern Lovers
The Modern Lovers | The Modern Lovers

Black Uhuru | Black Sounds Of Freedom
Black Uhuru | Black Sounds Of Freedom

Freddie King | Texas Cannonball
Freddie King | Texas Cannonball

Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition
Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition

Gilles Peterson @ Dingwalls
Gilles Peterson & Patrick Force | Sunday Afternoon At Dingwalls
[Album cover not pictured]

Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once
Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once

Fania All Stars | Live At Yankee Stadium, Vol. 1
Fania All-Stars | Live At Yankee Stadium, Vol. 1

The Art Farmer Quintet | Blame It On My Youth
The Art Farmer Quintet | Blame It On My Youth

Miles Davis | Nefertiti
Miles Davis | Nefertiti

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land
Dave Alvin | Public Domain

Bo Diddley | The Chess Box
Bo Diddley | The Chess Box

De La Soul | 3 Feet High And Rising
De La Soul | 3 Feet High And Rising

Kris Kristofferson | The Silver Tongued Devil And I
Kris Kristofferson | The Silver Tongued Devil And I

The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py
The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py

Iron & Wine | The Shepherd's Dog
Iron & Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog