Posts Tagged ‘Tony Rice’

Saturday Singles Nos. 40 & 41

May 20, 2011

Originally posted October 10, 2007

A number of years ago, during a driving tour around Lake Superior, my then-companion and I stopped at a maritime museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at the eastern end of the big lake. We wandered through displays about the shipping industry on the Great Lakes, seeing this old logbook and that old uniform, likely learning more than we had expected but being – at least in my case – curiously unmoved by what we were seeing.

The museum, located on an old ship, was okay, but it didn’t grab my attention. There was nothing there that communicated to me the power and romance of the lakes, especially Superior, a body of water so large that it’s really not a lake but an inland sea.

And then we went back on deck and saw a battered lifeboat. Perhaps thirty feet long and made of thick steel, the boat sat malformed on the deck of the museum ship, twisted and bent, mute testimony to the power of the lake where its parent vessel had plied its trade. The name of the parent ship stenciled onto the lifeboat? The Edmund Fitzgerald.

It was thirty-two years ago today that a November storm sent the Edmund Fitzgerald to the bottom of Lake Superior. I think it’s safe to say that except for those whose lives are intertwined with the Great Lakes’ shipping industry, the boat’s sinking would be a dim memory today were it not for Gordon Lightfoot. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” a single taken off his Summertime Dream album in 1976, provides an indelible and haunting reminder of the events of November 10, 1975.

All-Music Guide, in its review of Summertime Dream, notes: “As for ‘Edmund Fitzgerald,’ its continued popularity . . . attests to the power of a well-told tale and a tasty guitar lick.” I think the popularity of the song is more complex than that, however. To me, one of the main reasons for the song’s enduring vitality is that, in 1976, it brought to popular culture for one of the few times in many years a true example of folk music.

Folk music, as it’s been defined since about 1965, is music with primarily acoustic instrumentation. (When electric instrumentation is added, one finds folk’s cousin, folk rock.) That’s a pretty sparse and broad definition, but it has to be to bring into the fold of folk music all the performers who have been described since the mid-Sixties as folk artists, as the genre evolved into singer/songwriter music.

A more narrow and purist definition would call folk music only that music that has been passed on via an oral tradition. The practicality of requiring an oral tradition, however, long ago went by the wayside, most likely in 1952 with the release of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways Records, a collection that provided both inspiration and material, according to the testimony of Bob Dylan and many other folkies of the 1960s. Requiring folk music today to have an oral source rather than a recorded source would mean that any musician who performs, say, “Man of Constant Sorrow” after hearing it on Dylan’s first album or on the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? is singing a song that is no longer folk music, and that constraint, to me, is silly.

So I think that worrying about the source of the music isn’t the place to look when talking about folk music. I think we’re better off looking at content: What is the song about?

And in much of the music that was considered classic, traditional folk – the music contained in the Smith anthology and more – commemoration of and commentary on the events of the day was central. Cultural memory was preserved in live song in those years before everyone saw the news on CNN and before everyone could listen to the song on a record player or a CD player or an iPod. Answering the question of “What happened when?” is a central part of much classic, traditional folk music.

I suppose it’s possible that a wide audience actually learned of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Lightfoot’s song. Here in the northland, the sinking was major news and the recording was more a reminder than anything. That might not have been the case elsewhere in the U.S. and certainly wasn’t the case around the world. But for both audiences – those who already knew about the Edmund Fitzgerald and those who learned about it through the song – Gordon Lightfoot’s song provides a commemoration of the event, and to me, that is the core function of folk music, to provide common memory of the events that form and transform our communities.

Only a few performers have recorded “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” since Lightfoot released it in 1976 (when it went to No. 2 on the Top 40 chart). One version that I like is by country and bluegrass artist Tony Rice, who recorded the song for his 1983 album, Church Street Blues, and included it on Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot in 1996.

And it’s impossible for me to write about “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” without sharing the original from Summertime Dream. (Those who seek the recording are advised to find Summertime Dream and avoid the mediocre remake of the song that Lightfoot recorded and released in 1988 on Gord’s Gold, Vol. 2.)

So here are two versions of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” for a double Saturday Single.

Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” [1976]

Tony Rice – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” [1983]

A Baker’s Dozen From 1975

April 18, 2011

Orginally posted April 4, 2007

I came across the soundtrack to the movie Dazed and Confused the other day, and Texas Gal poked her head into the room as I was listening to the Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I heard that at the roller rink,” she said with a grin. “See, this is the stuff you should be posting!” And she stood there listening, as I previewed some of the rest of the soundtrack: “No More Mister Nice Guy,” by Alice Cooper, “Balinese” by ZZ Top and “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” by Black Oak Arkansas all got approving nods, but her largest smile came when she heard Head East and “Never Been Any Reason.”

I smiled, too. Not long after we met in early 2000, Texas Gal told me of her long-standing affection for the Head East anthem. Oddly enough, I’d never heard it, but then, I’d never spent much time listening to arena rock; for the most part, that was a genre of music that left me cold, although I did like Boston’s first album. But I let most arena rock pass me by, content in the middle of the 1970s with the Allman Brothers Band, Fleetwood Mac, Boz Scaggs and things a little less raucous than Head East and their brethren.

Texas Gal moved to Minnesota later in 2000, and not long after her move, I surprised her with a vinyl copy of Head East’s Flat As A Pancake, the home of “Never Been Any Reason.” It was a decent anthem, I acknowledged, if not to my exact taste. For her, she told me, it was a memory of some of the misspent moments of her younger days.

So when I played “Never Been Any Reason” for her last weekend as I sampled the Dazed and Confused soundtrack, she asked why I didn’t post it or use it as the start of a Baker’s Dozen. I told her I certainly could, as long as it didn’t come from 1976, as I recently posted a sampler from that year. I checked it out, and Flat As A Pancake was released in 1975.

So here is a Baker’s Dozen from that year, starting with a tune for my Texas Gal:

“Never Been Any Reason” by Head East from Flat As A Pancake

“A Day To Myself” by Clifford T. Ward from Escalator

“Marcy’s Song (She’s Just a Picture)” by Jackson Frank, unreleased session

“Reasons” by Earth, Wind & Fire from That’s The Way Of The World

“Nights Winters Years” by Justin Hayward & John Lodge from Bluejays

“Union Man” by the Cate Brothers from Cate Brothers

“You Don’t Know My Mind” by Tony Rice from California Autumn

“She’s The One” by Bruce Springsteen from Born To Run

“Somewhere In The Night” by Helen Reddy, Capitol single 4192

“Night Game” by Paul Simon from Still Crazy After All These Years

“Aviation Man” by Tim Moore from Tim Moore

“Pegasus” by the Allman Brothers Band from Enlightened Rogues*

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris, Atlantic single 3248

Some things of note: the late Clifford T. Ward was one of Britain’s finest and – on this side of the Atlantic, anyway – least known singer-songwriters. Quiet, tasteful and thoughtful, his music can entrance. The same can be said for American Tim Moore, whose self-titled album from this year of 1975 should have been a massive hit. That it wasn’t is more our loss than his.

More tragic is the tale of the late Jackson C. Frank, whose single album, Blues Run The Game, came out in 1965.

And then there’s Major Harris and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” with its background of some lovely lady cooing and moaning. It was quite the sensation in its time.

*Enlightened Rogues is, of course, from 1979. Somehow, “Pegasus” was mistagged. Stuff happens.

Through The Junkyard Again

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 23, 2007

As I didn’t get a new album posted today, and I wanted to do something, even at this late hour – it’s 11:09 p.m. as I write – I thought I’d so another walk through the junkyard, putting up a list of twenty-five songs selected by using RealPlayer’s random function:

“Heaven/Where True Love Goes” by Yusuf from An Other Cup, 2006.

“In The Beginning” by the Moody Blues from On The Threshold Of A Dream, 1969.

“I Must Be In Love” by the Rutles from The Rutles, 1978.

“Till I See You Again” by Derek & The Dominos from unreleased sessions, 1971.

“Our Very Own” by Nanci Griffith & Keith Carradine from Hearts In Mind, 2005.

“Sugar Blues” by Al Hirt from Cotton Candy, 1962.

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” by Hot Tuna from Splashdown, WQIV-FM, New York
City, 1975.

“Muleskinner Blues” by Tony Rice from Cold On The Shoulder, 1984.

“Big River” by Johnny Cash, Sun single 283, 1957.

“Bound For Glory” by Phil Ochs from All the News That’s Fit To Sing, 1964.

“The Hunter” by Albert King from Born Under A Bad Sign, 1967.

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Norah Jones, WFUV broadcast, New York City, 2002.

“Crossroader” by Mountain from Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, 1972.

“When The Battle Is Over” by Aretha Franklin from Spirit In The Dark, 1970.

“Let Me Do It To You” by J. J. Cale from Troubadour, 1976.

“Miranda” by Fleetwood Mac from Say You Will, 2003.

“San Francisco Bay Blues” by Jesse Fuller, live at Newport Folk Festival, 1964.

“Legend In His Time” by Kate Wolf & the Wildwood Flower from Back Roads, 1976.

“Why” by Fleetwood Mac from Mystery To Me, 1973.

“You Got Some Inspiration” by Boz Scaggs from Middle Man, 1980.

“Allt Jag Behöver” by Lisa Nilsson from Himlen Runt Hörnet (Swedish), 1992.

“Something You Can’t Buy” by Rick Nelson from Intakes, 1977.

“Mary & The Soldier” by Lucy Kaplansky from Flesh and Bone, 1996.

“Travelin’ Blues” by Loggins & Messina from Full Sail, 1973.

“Strong Feeling” by Joe Haywood, Front Page single 1000, about 1969.

Once again, nothing from before 1960, and pretty light on R&B. But it gives another pretty good idea of what about ninety minutes of listening brings me.