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July 11, 2018

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Musings on No 2 Unalike (# 1)

January 20, 2016

Just when you thought you'd escaped the clutches of No 2 Unalike, it's BACK!  

 

 As you know, the premise of the shows was to feature 75 of my songs with the 75 that influenced them in some way. Sometimes the connections were obvious; other times perhaps not. In any case, I've decided to write some mini-essays describing a bunch of the No 2 Unalike pairings. Here's the first from Night One, Nov. 4th, 2015 @ Ferg's:
 

Woody Guthrie's "Great Philadelphia Lawyer" and my own "Texas Eagle"

Growing up in a Republican household in Rockville, Maryland, it wasn't so easy to find out about Woody Guthrie! But despite my folks being Republicans, they weren't all bad! My dad took me to see Bob Dylan in 1978 (I was ten) and it wasn't long before I started collecting his records. On Bob's debut, there are only two original compositions. One is "Song to Woody."

A few years later, my dad took me to see Springsteen on the River tour where the boss was frequently performing "This Land is your Land" as well mentioning a book by Joe Klein called "Woody Guthrie: A Life."

I was a little tardy in actually listening to Woody's music but when I moved to Austin, Texas in the early 90s, I picked up his Dust Bowl Ballads on cassette and listened to it repeatedly in my Chevy cab. I started singing some of Woody's songs at open mic's around Austin. Once at the Cactus Cafe, I was gently asked to "wrap it up, son" after playing Woody's "Tom Joad" -- all 32 verses. I thought I was allowed to play two songs but apparently that one counted twice! Eventually I tracked down Joe Klein's book and took some notes. "Texas Eagle" is a sketch of Woody. He had a real troubled life and I tried to capture that aspect of his story vs. his legend as the grandfather of all singer-songwriters (I guess that makes Bob the father but more on him later).

In 1996, John Train travelled to Boston to record with Joseph Payne (another father ... this time the one of my college roommate Chris Payne). Mr. Payne was a world renowned classical organist but somehow agreed to capture John Train's folky stylings in the foyer of the Payne family home in Dorchester.

"Texas Eagle" was cut with just Steve Demarest and me. So I send this out to the memories of Steve, Mr. Payne, and Woody! I must also acknowledge Moped Bob and his girlfriend Kim who somehow heard the Dorchester recording and would literally scream out their request for "Texas Eagle" every Wednesday night at the North Star Bar. I can't recall if I ever played it for 'em. But I couldn't resist opening No 2 Unalike with Woody's "Great Philadelphia Lawyer" and pairing it up with my tribute to the man.

- Jon Houlon

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