Posts Tagged ‘Willie Nelson’

Buried Treasure: Treasures Untold – The Early Recordings Of Lefty Frizzell

26 January 2011

[Today: Good times and pretty girls…]

“That was courtin’ music for my folks.” My lifelong best friend Bobby shared that in a text a few months back, and it immediately sparked my interest in William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell. Bobby’s parents, Joe & Jean, were like a second set of parents to me, and by the time we were in grade school they were in their late 40s (practically old people!), so the idea of them courtin’ is interesting for me in its own right. Discovering some of the music they kicked up their heels to? Priceless.

But Lefty Frizzell didn’t need the Joe & Jean Evans Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval to feel validated – he’s a Country Music Hall Of Famer who enjoyed a steady string of hits from the early 50s until the mid-70s. He’s generally credited with polishing up the music of the Honky Tonks and bringing it to a wider audience. By way of explaining his slurred singing style, Lefty said “I’m not really a lazy guy, but I get tired of holding high notes for a long time. Instead of straining, I just let it roll down and it feels good to me.”

That attitude came through in the music – in addition to his relaxed drawl, Frizzell’s songs all came with a smile that gave them a lighter edge than your typical Country single. In stark contrast to “the high lonesome sound” of Bill Monroe, the plaintive yodel of Jimmie Rodgers, the dark death wishes of Hank Williams, and the solemn timbre of Ernest Tubb, Frizzell made music that pointed towards good times and pretty girls – perfect courtin’ music. That upbeat style helped Lefty to four Top Ten Country hits at the same time in October of 1951 – a feat that wouldn’t be repeated on any chart until The Beatles did it more than a decade later.

Frizzell’s style was a primary influence on the next generation of country singers, as artists like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson took a page out of his playbook. Of Lefty, the great George Jones said that “He was so different, you know. My lord, he’d take a word and twist it around and the way he’d do that phrasin’, that just tore me up.” The proof of Frizzell’s unique genius is captured on Treasures Untold: The Early Recordings Of Lefty Frizzell. This 1980 Rounder Records compilation brings together music (some previously unreleased) from his hottest stretch, 1950-53. Songs like ‘How Long Will It Take (To Stop Loving You)’ and ‘Shine, Shave, Shower (It’s Saturday)’ still sound completely unique in the annals of Country Music. And if you listen closely, you might even hear the sound of young people falling in love…

Listen: How Long Will It Take (To Stop Loving You)

Listen: Shine, Shave, Shower (It’s Saturday)

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

19 July 2010

When I was in high school, I had a regular column
in the sports section of the school newspaper (The
) called ‘Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down’. It was
easy to write and people liked it, so I recreate it here
for you now, as a quick guide of some of my likes
and dislikes in the world of music…

THUMBS UP: Disco (^)


THUMBS UP: The Flying Burrito Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: The Eagles (^)

THUMBS UP: The Beatles (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Joanna Newsom (^)

THUMBS UP: Iggy Pop (^)


THUMBS UP: Off The Wall

THUMBS DOWN: Thriller (^)

THUMBS UP: Jungle Brothers


THUMBS UP: Gregg Allman (^)


THUMBS UP: The Fillmore (^)


THUMBS UP: Bluegrass In The Park

THUMBS DOWN: Ticketmaster (^)

THUMBS UP: The Doors

THUMBS DOWN: Jim Morrison, poet (^)

THUMBS UP: ‘Fire On The Mountain’

THUMBS DOWN: ‘Dark Star’

THUMBS UP: Blue Note (^)


THUMBS UP: Cold Fact (^)


THUMBS UP: Keith Richards (^)


THUMBS UP: Canned Heat

THUMBS DOWN: Canned ham (^)

THUMBS UP: Lester Bangs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Richard Meltzer

THUMBS UP: Willie Nelson in concert

THUMBS DOWN: Shuggie Otis in concert (^)



THUMBS UP: Rick Rubin

THUMBS DOWN: Phil Spector (^)

THUMBS UP: Nigel Tufnel (^)

THUMBS DOWN: David Coverdale

THUMBS UP: Joy Division (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Throbbing Gristle

THUMBS UP: Saxophone

THUMBS DOWN: Bagpipes (^)

THUMBS UP: Ice Cube, rapper (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Ice Cube, actor

THUMBS UP: Johnny Rotten

THUMBS DOWN: Sid Vicious (^)

THUMBS UP: Freedom Rock (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Jam bands

THUMBS UP: Willy Wonka (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Christopher Cross

THUMBS UP: Roky Erickson’s comeback

THUMBS DOWN: Sly Stone’s comeback (^)

THUMBS UP: The Rat Pack (^)

THUMBS DOWN: The Brat Pack

THUMBS UP: Jimi Hendrix

THUMBS DOWN: Jimmy Buffett (^)

THUMBS UP: Dave Davies (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Dave Matthews

THUMBS UP: Beastie Boys (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Weird Al (^)

THUMBS UP: Pearl Jam’s first 3 albums (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Pearl Jam’s last 3 albums



THUMBS UP: New wave Bono

THUMBS DOWN: Statesman Bono (^)

Weekend Playlist

14 December 2009

“Par is whatever I say it is. I’ve got one hole that’s a par 23 and yesterday I damn near birdied the sucker.” ~ Willie Nelson

The Doors | Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

LCD Soundsystem | LCD Soundsystem

Radiohead | Kid A

Dean Martin | For The Good Times

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land

Les Claypool & The Holy Mackeral | High Ball With The Devil

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The Jimi Hendrix Experience [Box Set]

DJ Shadow | The Private Press

My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves

Willie Nelson | Stardust

Steely Dan | Gaucho

Elvis Presley | The Sun Sessions

Massive Attack | Protection

Los Lobos | Kiko

Neko Case | Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Hank Williams | The Complete Hank Williams

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti

Various Artists | Break N’ Bossa

Pixies | Complete ‘B’ Sides

Jerry Garcia Band | Jerry Garcia Band

Buried Treasure: Music, Mayhem, And More!

6 August 2009

[Today: A good old-fashioned variety show…]

The Muppets | Music, Mayhem, And More!

In the late-70’s, every Sunday night around 8pm found my brother and I freshly scrubbed, in our pajamas, and sprawled out in front of the television in full anticipation of The Muppet Show. Marlin Perkins was usually closing up shop on Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, summarizing that day’s adventure with Water Buffalo, while we impatiently squirmed, waiting for The Great Gonzo and Fozzie Bear to take center stage.

The Muppet Show was a good old-fashioned variety show in the mold of The Ed Sullivan Show or The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. There were skits and jokes, celebrity guests and regular characters, and plenty of singing and dancing. As Barney The Dinosaur and countless children’s shows since have proven, the music could have been terrible and the show would have still been a huge hit (kids aren’t the most discerning music critics, after all). It’s to the show’s infinite credit that that not only was the music enjoyable for kids and adults alike, it has also held up remarkably well.

Of course, the Muppet Band (aka Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem) was a killer unit, with the inimitable Dr. Teeth on vocals and keyboard, the lovely Janice on guitar, the mysterious Zoot on saxophone, the delightfully-named Sgt Floyd Pepper on bass, and the energetic Animal on drums. Part Keith Moon, part Tasmanian Devil, Animal had trouble getting through any performance without destroying his kit. This was brilliant, hilarious theater, and it always left us wanting more. The show usually featured first-rate musical guests, including disparate notables such as Alice Cooper, Dizzy Gillespie and John Denver. But the Muppets didn’t just lean on their guests for great songs – they had plenty of their own, including ‘Mahna Mahna’ and ‘Can You Picture That?’.

Music, Mayhem, And More! collects all the best songs from The Muppet Show and their subsequent movies. Kermit T. Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’ (from the original Muppet Movie) is a beautiful little tune about the nature of dreamers, and it’s since been covered by Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks, and many others. Statler and Waldorf – the old curmudgeons in the balcony – may not have liked it one bit, but me and my brother couldn’t get enough.

Listen: Rainbow Connection

Listen: Mahna Mahna

Listen: Can You Picture That?

Weekend Playlist

13 April 2009

Yesterday marked the 2nd anniversary of this blog, and while I’d planned to do a retrospective of some of my favorite and least favorite posts, I instead spent the day getting pummeled by the tax man. But the P and I still found time to run through a healthy pile of records. Here’s some of what we heard…

Ten Years After | A Space In Time
Ten Years After | A Space In Time

Beastie Boys | To The Five Boroughs
Beastie Boys | To The Five Boroughs

Black Keys | Chulahoma
Black Keys | Chulahoma

PJ Harvey | Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
PJ Harvey | Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

Les Claypool & The Holy Mackerel | Highball With The Devil
Les Claypool & The Holy Mackerel | Highball With The Devil

Beck | Odelay
Beck | Odelay

Ween | Quebec
Ween | Quebec

Prince | Purple Rain
Prince | Purple Rain

Stevie Ray Vaughan | In Step
Stevie Ray Vaughan | In Step

Tony Rice | Plays And Sings Bluegrass
Tony Rice | Plays And Sings Bluegrass

Various Artists | New Order: Back To Mine
Various Artists | New Order: Back To Mine

Josh Ritter | The Historical Conquests Of
Josh RItter | The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter

Max Romeo & The Upsetters | War Ina Babylon
Max Romeo | War Ina Babylon

Tricky | Maxinquaye
Tricky | Maxinquaye

John Lee Hooker | Free Beer And Chicken
John Lee Hooker | Free Beer And Chicken

Various Artists | Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970
Various Artists | Night Train To Nashville

Tony Joe White | The Train I'm On
Tony Joe White | The Train I’m On

Abyssinians | Satta Massagana
Abyssinians | Satta Massagana

Toots & The Maytals | Live
Toots & The Maytals | Live

Willie Colon | Cosa Nuestra
Willie Colon | Cosa Nuestra

Lil' Wayne | Tha Carter III
Lil’ Wayne | Tha Carter III

Jungle Brothers | Done By The Forces Of Nature
Jungle Brothers | Done By The Forces Of Nature

Willie Nelson | What A Wonderful World
Willie Nelson | What A Wonderful World

Taj Mahal | Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal | Taj Mahal

Charlie Musselwhite | Goin' Back Down South
Charlie Musselwhite | Goin’ Back Down South

Son House | Father Of The Folk Blues
Son House | Father Of The Folk Blues

Robert Nighthawk | Bricks In My Pillow
Robert Nighthawk | Bricks In My Pillow

Doubleshot Tuesday: Stardust/Standards

31 March 2009

[Today: Willie and Ray sing the standards…]

Willie Nelson | Stardust
Ray Charles | Standards

It was a crazy idea at the time. Willie Nelson dipping into the Great American Songbook in 1978 was roughly akin to Wu Tang Clan deciding to do an album of show tunes today. But Willie had a ton of leverage with Columbia Records, because his 1975 album Red Headed Stranger – which the label had vigorously opposed and only grudgingly released – had sold gangbusters, and made him a star of the first order. And he used that leverage wisely, pushing through an LP of songs by the likes of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin that sold even more copies that RHS. His distinctive sandpaper croon is put to surpassingly good use here, and songs like ‘Georgia On My Mind’ ‘Moonlight In Vermont’ and ‘Blue Skies’ sound like they were written specifically for him. Stardust is ample evidence of Willie Nelson’s deft touch with even the most delicate tune.

Ray Charles is a titanic figure in music, and his trademark smile should be carved into any musical Mount Rushmore. After his death in 2004, a campaign was mounted to put his face on the ten dollar bill (my ‘signature’ can be found on the online petition) and The New Yorker featured a cover that visualized such currency [see below]. Charles was one of a handful of 20th century singers who could take any song and make it his own through the sheer force of his voice. Thus, Standards is a no-brainer – big songs sung with feeling by an important voice. This Rhino compilation assembles tracks he recorded for a variety of labels between 1959 and 1977, and serves as a towering reminder of the genius of Ray Charles and the power of the standard.

Sadly, the idea of the ‘standard’ song just doesn’t fit with the internet age and feels like a quaint relic from another time. The vast distribution networks that serve increasingly specialized musical tastes ensure that no one song can dominate public consciousness in a way that guarantees it will be immediately recognizable to an entire room full of people. With so much music flooding the open market, it becomes exceedingly difficult to point to any particular songs from the last decade and say with any confidence that they will be sung and enjoyed a hundred years from now. In other words, goodnight Casey Kasem…

Listen: Georgia On My Mind [Willie Nelson]

Listen: It Had To Be You [Ray Charles]

Listen: Moonlight In Vermont [Willie Nelson]

Listen: Moonlight In Vermont [Ray Charles]

Ray Charles | New Yorker cover - June 28, 2004

A Dozen Non-Holiday Albums For The Season

19 December 2008

‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family, sharing the spirit of the holiday, and enjoying some good cheer. Unfortunately, it’s also the season for excessive replaying of the same tired batch of Christmas carols and holiday tunes that you’ve been hearing since you were knee-high to Santa Claus.

Here are a dozen albums that evoke the spirit and sound of the holidays, without a ‘Jingle Bells’ ‘Deck The Halls’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ among them…

John Coltrane | A Love Supreme
John Coltrane | A Love Supreme – Coltrane’s ode to the man upstairs is an intense spiritual journey that sounds like a Harlem hipster’s idea of holiday music.

Listen: Acknowledgement

Bach | The Brandenburg Concertos
Bach | The Brandenburg Concertos – Classical music as a whole works as a wonderful substitute for holiday music. The Brandenburg Concertos capture the spirit of the season without all the treacle.

Listen: Brandenburg Concerto #1 in F – BMV 1046-2 adagio

Handel | Messiah
Handel | Messiah – This is probably considered holiday music in some circles, what with its chorus of “Hallelujah”s, but it’s still a welcome substitute for the standard fare.

Listen: Messiah, HWV 56: Part II, No. 44 Chorus: “Hallelujah”

Ray Charles | Standards
Ray Charles | Standards – Speaking of standards, Brother Ray knocks 17 of them out of the park on this outstanding collection. I’m pretty confident that if God started singing, he’d sound quite a bit like Ray Charles.

Listen: Oh, What A Beautiful Morning

Stanley Brothers | Good Old Camp Meeting Songs
The Stanley Brothers | Good Old Camp Meeting Songs – The Bluegrass legends go Gospel. Songs like ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and ‘Hand In Hand With Jesus’ are in keeping with the religious root of the holiday season.

Leo Kottke | Greenhouse
Leo Kottke | Greenhouse – ‘Cradle To The Grave’ sounds like a 12-string, folkie version of the story of Jesus, and Kottke’s mild-mannered vocals are filled with the peace and calm of the season.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong | Ella & Louis
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong | Ella & Louis – Christmas carols are about peace and love, harmony and goodwill, family and friends. Ella and Louis don’t sing about those topics exclusively, but the warmth of their voices and the brilliance of their harmonies convey all of the above.

Listen: I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

Willie Nelson | Stardust
Willie Nelson | Stardust – Willie lends his distinctive voice to a batch of time-tested chestnuts. His rendition of ‘Moonlight In Vermont’ is music to decorate your tree by, and the rest of Stardust plays like an ode to December.

Listen: Moonlight In Vermont

Shorty Baker & Doc Cheatam | Shorty & Doc
Shorty Baker & Doc Cheatham | Shorty & Doc – Swinging and relaxed, but with plenty of energy – just like any good holiday party.

Listen: Baker’s Dozen

Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes – Combining the southern-fried rock of My Morning Jacket with the ethereal beauty of Handel’s Messiah, Fleet Foxes’ 2008 self-titled debut is a breath of fresh air, and a spiritually uplifting album that projects the timeless, traditional essence of the holidays.

Listen: Blue Ridge Mountains

Peter Gabriel | Passion
Peter Gabriel | Passion: Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ – Definitely not your typical holiday album. Passion thematically touches on the life of Christ, but it features some of the best world musicians creating exotic, swirling sounds that could be the soundtrack for wisemen on camels, making their way across the desert, toward a manger…

Listen: Of These, Hope

Jeff Buckley - Grace
Jeff Buckley | Grace – Singing angels never made music so sweet…

Listen: Hallelujah


Special thanks to Rebecca R for suggesting this post, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The P Speaks: Songs That Reflect Late November

23 November 2008

Autumn foliage

Somehow we’ve snuck 40 odd weeks into the year and Thanksgiving is upon us, again. dk and I were recently talking about “Thanksgiving Songs” – songs that are uniquely American, like this upcoming holiday. It’s hard to disassociate this holiday from childhood memories of this time of year, like getting up before dawn for the 8 hour drive (Ford Torino wagon, fake wood paneling) to our cousins’ house in Syracuse (where the giant wood console TV was always tuned to football) and post-feast dishwashing that required drill team precision.

Now that I’m approaching my 20th year in Northern California, Thanksgiving is a hike along the ridgeline, friendship and laughter, good pinot noir, tupperware fighting for space in the fridge, and a lovely four day break from the office. We have been blessed with friends who are excellent chefs and excellent hosts, so we rarely cook. (There was the infamous creamed onion and midnight turkey incident of 1992 at 21 Belcher Street, but we won’t go there now…) 

While I love Arlo and Alice’s Restaurant, there is other music that speaks to this time of year. Here are some candidates that might make you put a log on the fire and stare into the flames…

The Band | Twilight

Uncle Tupelo | Screen Door

Josh Ritter | Me & Jiggs

Fleet Foxes | Blue Ridge Mountains

Lucinda Williams | Big Red Sun Blues

Whiskeytown | Jacksonville Skyline

John Phillips | Malibu People

John Fahey | I Am The Resurrection

Allman Brothers | Blue Sky

M. Ward | Duet For Guitars #2

Yo La Tengo | Night Falls On Hoboken

Hank Williams | Settin’ The Woods On Fire

Dave Alvin | Dark Eyes

Fred Neil | I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)

Neko Case | Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Stevie Ray Vaughan | Little Wing

My Morning Jacket | Steam Engine

Johnny Cash | Breaking Bread

The Long Ryders | Ivory Tower

Joe Ely | Gallo Del Cielo

Flying Burrito Brothers | Wheels

Willie Nelson | Moonlight In Vermont

Weekend Playlist

22 September 2008

The P and I were treated to some delightful mariachi music that came drifting across the way on Saturday evening. It was a perfect complement to a beautiful night at home. Here is some other music that scored our weekend activities…

Them | Them Featuring Van Morrison Lead Singer

Gandalf | Gandalf

The Staple Singers | Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

INXS | Shabooh Shoobah

The Long Ryders | Native Sons

The Sir Douglas Quintet | The Best Of

Willie Nelson | Stardust

Hot Tuna | Burgers

John Mayall | Blues From Laurel Canyon

Professor Longhair | Crawfish Fiesta

Lee Oskar | Lee Oskar

John Fahey | Requia

Kruder & Dorfmeister | G-Stoned

Wolf Parade | Apologies To The Queen Mary

The Kinks | Muswell Hillbillies

Little Feat | Waiting For Columbus

Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard

Ray Charles | A 25th Anniversary In Show Business Salute To Ray Charles: His All-Time Greatest Performances

Masterpiece: Red Headed Stranger

30 April 2008

[Today: Happy 75th birthday to Willie Nelson!]

Red headed stranger - album

As the 70’s became the 80’s my brother and I were a couple of snot-nosed kids who loved Spiderman, KISS, the Oregon Ducks, Star Wars, baseball cards, Atari, and almost any sport that involved Nerf™ products. Against this backdrop, it’s hard to imagine Willie Nelson cracking our consciousness, but the man stormed the castle of our young imaginations.

The first time we listened to Red Headed Stranger was when we put it on for a laugh at our dad’s expense. We got our yucks in, but it was also clear to both of us that this album was telling a story (stories were good) that involved lots of gunplay (guns =’d great fun) and murder (awesome!). The back of the LP even featured comic book panels with song lyrics, to drive home the narrative – and the guy doing the killing looked like Willie Nelson! Each successive spin after that the laughter died down a bit more, and we listened as this country version of Mister Rogers told us a tale of infidelity, bloody revenge, and ragin’ black stallions.

Fade out for about 15 years and cut to me post-college, living in San Francisco, and flipping through Amoeba Records’ dollar bin. Whoa, there’s Red Headed Stranger… I haven’t heard that in years… definitely worth a buck. I took it home, expecting a trip down memory lane, and maybe a good laugh, and got hit between the eyes by one of my favorite albums of all time. Not coincidentally, it’s a record filled with many of Willie’s best moments.

Willie Nelson turns 75 years old today, but he’s been a wizened old spirit for decades. Take a look at that album cover – Nelson was 42 years old when he sat for that portrait, but he already looked like a guy who’d been to hell and back. And on Red Headed Stranger he told a story so compelling that it could sink into a couple of kids with their heads in the stars and their feet on the ground in Springfield, OR.

Listen: The Red Headed Stranger


Not an urban myth dept: Here’s evidence that suggests Willie actually did fire up a doobie on the roof of the White House!

Blender Magazine: 33 Things You Should Know About Willie Nelson