Rehearsal With Rosie EP
We figured we’d share the rehearsal recording with Rosie that was in preparation for the forthcoming Friday at Fergie’s Pub. The Zoom H4n did a nice job of capturing this selection of tunes, so we salvaged something from the pre-quarantined world as we knew it. Jon offered the following words about the songs.
Sonora's Death Row: I first heard this song in the 70s or early 80s on a Leo Kottke record my father had. Might have been the live double or Burnt Lips. But I really got the idea for doing this song when I heard it performed by two of my absolute songwriting heros, Tom Russell (who did it on his 1991 Cowboy Real lp) and Robert Earl Keen Jr. (who did it on his West Textures release from '89). John Train's version follows REK's pretty faithfully although I think he left out the first verse which I picked up from TR. https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=52gzhQS0dg4 https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=kpsySw2c8c0 The song was actually written by a guy named Blackie Farrell who remains a mysterious figure (to me, anyway). I recall playing this song 25 years ago at Upstairs at Nick's and being mocked by the other band on the bill (who shall remain nameless). I saw them doing some sort of sarcastic cowboy in the saddle pantomine while I was singing the number. Really funny, guys. Where are you now? Hah hah!
Deportee: I couldn't resist learning this incredible Woody Guthrie song back when 45's main obsession was building a wall. I guess that's still his main obsession as his entire presidency is premised on the subjugation and exclusion of otherness for the benefit of capital. Anyway, I actually heard this song first on the Byrd's Ballad of Easy Rider lp. John Train's version is actually copped directly from the late great Jimmy Lafave. Listen to it here: https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=hFKb_4E5n5I And here's Jimmy singing it at Woodyfest in Okemah (Woody's hometown): https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=tGD1qanImq4 I have a real soft spot for Lafave: most importantly, he is possibly the greatest Dylan interpreter of all time but also because when I lived in Austin he ran an open mic at the Chicago House and not only tolerated but actually seemed to appreciate when I got up on the stage and played Woody's Tom Joad in its entirety ... all 24 verses ... and caused many to leave the room. I was getting walking ovations even back then!
Relief: This number from John Train's Sugar Ditch lp was derived from a song off of Richard Buckner's Since lp. I figured he was obscure enough that no one would ever spot the lift. At our No 2 Unalike shows, I paired Relief with Buckner's Once which is the last track on Since. Once happens to be my favorite Buckner song (and he's written a lot of great songs) but it is NOT the one I ripped off. Got all that? https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=7vpdZIqfzF8
Underneath the Bottle: This one is from Lou Reed's Blue Mask lp which other than New York is probably his best record of the 80s. New Sensations? I especially love the song My House where he sings "I really got a lucky life // my writing, my motorcycle and my wife." Interesting order there, Lou! John Train's arrangement of this number is lifted directly from Go To Blazes' And Other Crimes album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJk60BaBP5c When I moved from Austin to Philly in the 90s, I was astounded that there was a band here that was the equal of if not superior to anyone I heard in Texas. GTB were so far ahead of the alt-country, No Depression or whatever you want to call it curve that catapulted bands like the Drive By Truckers, Son Volt, Wilco etc to national acclaim. And for my money, GTB was better. I am especially fond of And Other Criimes where they covered songs by Gene Clark, Kinky Friedman, Lee Hazelwood, Lightfoot and other lost but great tracks like Underneath the Bottle. GTB were definitely a big influence on me in terms of John Train's approach. So let's send this track out to Ted, Tom, Ted, and Keith ... and Bruce Langfeld too. RIP.
Looking for Hints: Here's one from John Train's debut. Sometime in the 90s, I flew out to LA to visit my Andrew and picked up a Guitar Player magazine at the airport. I was interested in it 'cause the cover had a reference to Blood on the Tracks. For years, I had been trying to play songs from that album but they just never sounded right. This was long before the internet where you can find tablature, you-tubes, etc and pretty much learn anything you want these days. The reason my attempts to play songs from BOTT had failed were that Bob was using an alternate tuning on that album (E B E G# B E for all you musos out there) which gave a unique cast to the material. All of this was explained in the magazine. When I got to Andrew's place, I grabbed a guitar he had lying around and put it in the BOTT tuning. Presto! Looking for Hints was one of the first songs of many songs I would end up writing in this mode. Another one called Trains Rollin' By was paired with You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go when we did our No 2 Unalike shows to demonstrate the influence of Blood on the Tracks upon my writing. Hints, however, was linked to Mozambique from Bob's next record, Desire, 'cause I heard a faint echo of its melody in that most peculiar of songs from the Dylan catalogue.
Blue Period: I was a huge fan of the Smithereens in their early days and was lucky enough to see them blow the roof off the Bottom LIne in NYC several times in 80s when I lived in that city that is now, indeed, in a very blue period. This song is from their 11 release which was named, yes, after the scene in Spinal Tap in which Nigel explains to Rob Reiner why his amp goes to 11. One louder, you see. And, indeed, the Smithereens were one louder and one better than almost anyone around at that time. Let's send this one out to their fearless leader Pat Dinizio, RIP.
Air of Gettysburg: Another one from Angels Turned Thieves. I copped many of the lyrics from Gary Wills wonderful book Lincoln at Gettysburg. This song was paired at No 2 Unalike with Peter Case's wonderful song Wilderness from his Torn Again lp. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8yWAqRuk8o Wilderness -- along with Dave Alvin's Andersonville from the Blue Boulevard album -- has got to be on the best songs every written about the Civil War. I was fascinated by the fractured tone Peter achieved by putting airplanes in his tale. They sorta ping-ponged the plot forward to Vietnam and then back again. I tried to do the same thing by inserting long distance calls in my song. This one's for the late great guitarist Richard Drueding who joined Mitch Tabas and me to play Gettysburg and Wilderness on Night Five of No Two Unalike.
Folks look at me askance these days when I refer them to albums. It seems like the limit of people's attention has been reduced to one song at a time on you-tube. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, music accessed on a computer has no stature. The ALBUM is premised on order and stature. This is one of several reasons that I have lost interest in making records even though I have several albums worth of unrecorded songs at the ready. At this point, I'd rather just sing 'em to someone in person ... or to myself at home!
In any case, if you're interested (and I know that some of you actually may be), you may wanna check out these albums during your current downtime>>>
Tom Russell, Cowboy Real
Tom Russell, Poor Man's Dream
Robert Earl Keen, West Textures
Robert Earl Keen, Bigger Piece of the Sky
The Byrds, The Ballad of Easy Rider (NOT the soundtrack from the film!)
Jimmy Lafave, Austin Skyline
Jimmy Lafave, Cimmaron Manifesto (Jimmy has some powerful songs himself and several are on this record)
Jimmy Lafave, Trail (some of his best Dylan covers are on this)
John Train, The Sugar Ditch (best heard in the background while others prattle on!)
John Train, Angels Turned Thieves
Lou Reed, The Blue Mask
Go to Blazes, And Other Crimes
Go to Blazes, Waiting Around for the Crash
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
Bob Dylan, Desire
The Smithereens, Especially for You
The Smithereens, Green Thoughts
The Smithereens, 11
Peter Case, Torn Again
Dave Alvin, Blue Boulevard
I'd pay a ransom to drink there today and be free of Sonora's Death Row,