Joyous, Sometimes Raucous, Sometimes Tender

Originally posted July 7, 2007

It took a while for me to get around to CDs.

Through most of the 1990s, as the rest of the world was giddily buying CDs and selling the vinyl thus replaced to the used record store, I was standing just inside the used record store, watching with bright eyes as the used vinyl came in and was set in the racks.

There’s no doubt that the winners in the 1990s rush by record companies to re-issue their back catalogs on CD were the record companies themselves (along with the survivors of the Classic Rock era who did get some of the revenue thus generated; one hopes that those who had a hard time holding on to their windfalls the first time did better the second time around). The other winners, without a doubt, were the collectors of vinyl. Week after week, the records came into the shops I frequented. There was lots of mainstream stuff, to be sure, but that was fine. On occasion, I needed to replace older copies of those records that had served well and been damaged – I’m currently on my third vinyl copy of The Dark Side of the Moon – and there was plenty of stuff I’d never owned at all.

As the corporate re-issues continued into the depths of the catalogs, quite frequently a nice rarity or two made its way from a listener’s shelf to the used vinyl bins at the stores. Or else the rarity was offered at a garage sale. That’s where I got a lot of vinyl during the 1990s, at garage sales in south Minneapolis. I’d spend several hours on spring and summer Saturday mornings bicycling around the neighborhood, checking out the offerings. (More than once, as I pawed through boxes of records, I had to dissuade eager shoppers from trying to buy my 1965 Schwinn Typhoon.)

I recall one Saturday morning at a garage sale only a few blocks from my home. I saw no records, so I asked the thirty-ish couple who lived there about LPs. “Oh, yeah,” said the woman. “There’s that box of records upstairs!”

He nodded and went off to get the box, which had about forty records. “Here you go,” he said. “Anything you want!”

I rifled through the box and pulled out a record that was on my “want” list and was easy enough to remember: The Wild Tchoupitoulas’ self-titled record from 1976. Described by All-Music Guide as “a Mardi Gras ceremonial parade group and ‘Black Indian tribe’ based in New Orleans,” the Tchoupitoulas sparked, through recording the album, the formation of the Neville Brothers as a unit.

“Oh, man,” I breathed, “The Wild Tchoupitoulas!”

“The Wild who?” the guy’s wife asked.

“Oh, no,” the guy moaned, “is that in there?”

I nodded. He looked pained. His wife said, “It’s in the box, and you told him ‘Anything you want.’”

He nodded sadly and said, “It’s in the box.”

It wasn’t in the box long. And I’ve always felt kind of guilty about buying it.

Eventually, I joined the world of CDs, even though I still collect LPs, too. For Christmas in 1998, my sister and her family gave me two packages, with instructions to open one of them first. The first one was an Aiwa portable CD player, easy enough to connect to my stereo system. The second was Across the Great Divide, a three-CD box set of music by The Band, quite likely my favorite group ever.

I began to scour not only the used LP bins at Cheapo’s and other stores but the used CDs as well, learning to like that “click-click” that comes from jewel cases being sorted rapidly. And in February 2000, I happened upon a treasure: a 1994 CD titled Ridin’ On The Blinds by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen, a group made up of Rick Danko of The Band, Norwegian musician Jonas Fjeld and folk-rock musician Eric Andersen. I grabbed it without hesitation and took it home.

I loved it. The entire CD exuded joy, the pleasure that comes from making music with good friends. Two tracks shone above the rest for me: The trio’s version of The Band’s neglected classic “Twilight,” with Danko taking the lead vocal, and Andersen’s “Come Runnin’ Like A Friend,” inspired at least partly by Joni Mitchell. But most of all, I loved the instrumentation: Norwegian fiddles and flutes, Finnish lap harps and Swedish bagpipes accompany the guitars, bass and percussion (and guest musician Garth Hudson’s keyboards), creating a sound that seemed to call to me from the past, echoing the Nordic heritage of half of my ancestors.

A few days later, I got my first ’Net-worthy computer and began the process of learning how to learn about music online. I soon discovered that Danko/Fjeld/Andersen had released an earlier CD, self-titled, in 1991. I put it on the short list of CDs I kept in my head as I wandered through used music shops. (Had I known then what I know now, I likely would have gone to Amazon and simply ordered it. But that would have been far less fun.) At about the same time as I began my search for D/F/A, I met the Texas Gal, then still in the Lone Star State, and she began to check for the CD at the various places she bought used music.

Then, one morning early in April, I headed from south Minneapolis over to the neighborhood near the University of Minnesota and the cluster of used music shops there. And in a long series of CD racks, I spotted the translucent green jewel case that is the hallmark of Rykodisc and pulled from the sea of CDs the catch that made my week, if not my month: Danko/Fjeld/Andersen.

The album’s sound was not as complex as that of the second CD. There was not as much of the Nordic influence, although there was some. But the sense of joy was there, as was the same quality musicianship. Top tracks? Well, the version of Andersen’s signature tune, “Blue River,” with Danko taking the lead vocal and his Band-mate Hudson supplying accordion, is probably my favorite (Danko’s high plaintive voice can still bring a tear, almost eight years after his death), and I also very much like Fjeld’s “Angels In The Snow,” with some of the lyrics in his native Norwegian. As soon as I played it, the first Danko/Fjeld/Andersen CD joined the second in my regular listening stack, and both stayed there for quite some time.

I noticed the other day that both CDs have recently gone out of print (although both are still available at Amazon). So here are two albums of joyous, sometimes raucous, sometimes tender, music.

Danko/Fjeld/Andersen –Danko/Fjeld/Andersen [1991]

Tracks:
Driftin’ Away
Blue Hotel
One More Shot
Mary I’m Comin’ Back Home
Blue River
Judgement Day (Slått)
When Morning Comes To America
Wrong Side Of Town
Sick and Tired
Angels In The Snow
Blaze of Glory
Last Thing On My Mind

Danko/Fjeld/Andersen — Ridin’ On The Blinds [1994]

Tracks:
Ridin’ On The Blinds
Twilight
Dimming Of The Day
Ragtop
Come Runnin’ Like A Friend
Women ’Cross The River
Lie With Me
All Creation
Outside Track
Every Man Is His Own Hero
Baby I’m Lonesome
Your Eyes
Bottle of Wine
Keep This Love Alive

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One Response to “Joyous, Sometimes Raucous, Sometimes Tender”

  1. ‘If We Don’t Understand It . . .’ « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] and Ridin’ On The Blinds by Rick Danko, Jonas Fjeld & Eric Andersen [1994] Original post here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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