Wednesday, 29 July 2009

King of the Road, Queen of the House

A Musical Battle of the Sexes

Roger Miller was far from being a one-hit wonder but King of the Road stands towering in popularity over the rest of his work. It topped the UK singles chart in March 1965 and dozens of artists have covered it since (you can hear REM's paralytic version on my State Songs #20: Maine post).

MP3: Roger Miller - King of the Road

Buy: 7digital | Amazon

While doing some research about King of the Road for that Maine blog post I discovered Queen of the House by Jody Miller (no relation to Roger). It's a classic answer song, also released in 65, that uses Roger Miller's tune but lyrics that describe a 60s housewife straight out of The Feminine Mystique.

MP3: Jody Miller - Queen of the House

Buy: Amazon

I'd never heard of either the song or Miller before but the biography on her website reveals that as well as enjoying a long career she "pioneered the music video format in some groundbreaking and eye-popping films for the Scopitone movie jukebox".

Scopitones were a relatively short-lived 60s fad in the United States. Take a look at the flesh on display in the camp clips below and you can understand why barflies might be tempted to put money into the "Carousel of Stars".

Related Links
Scopitone Archive - history, photos and vintage ads
Scopitones - blog with lots of video and memorabilia

Sunday, 26 July 2009

State Songs #20: Maine

Maine, the most north-eastern of states, was the first place in America I ever 'visited'. En route to Florida as a kid we changed planes in Bangor. We had a lovely time that day; at the airport I remember buying Superman comics and a Hershey bar.

Some trivia: The moose is Maine's official animal and 'famous' residents include actress Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent in the first Superman film) and voice-over ace Steven Zirnkilton. You'll know his work if this means anything to you: "In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories".

Until I really started to dig around 4AD veterans The Mountain Goats were my only contenders for songs about Maine. I hope you enjoy what else I've stumbled across.

MP3: The Mountain Goats — Going to Maine

The Mountain Goats' 'Going To...' series of songs now totals at least 45 including such fine ditties as Going to Utrecht and Going to Some Damned English City. You can find this one on their album Ghana, a record that surprisingly does not include a song called Going to Accra.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Okkervil River - Maine Island Lovers

The only time I've seen Okkervil River was at Come Down & Meet the Folks when it was still at the Fiddler's Elbow in Kentish Town. That was probably around the time they were promoting Down the River of Golden Dreams, the album this song comes from.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Doris Day - That Jane From Maine

It's tunes like this that make my State Songs project so much fun. I'd never normally listen to Doris Day but can't deny a smile's come to my face whenever I've heard this the last few days. It's from the film It Happened to Jane (1959) - a surprise flop according to the unofficial Doris Day website.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Blue Oyster Cult - Cagey Cretins

"Well it's so lonely in the state of Maine". Until last week my Blue Oyster Cult knowledge pretty much began and ended with the always enjoyable (Don't Fear) The Reaper. This is from their third album Secret Treaties which a Melody Maker critics' poll in 1975 voted the "Top Rock Album of All Time."
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: REM - King of the Road

The classic road song includes the lyric "destination Bangor, Maine". I couldn't resist favouring REM's shambolic version (come back later in the week for the original). Peter Buck's sleevenotes to Dead Letter Office say it all: "This was recorded at the end of a long alcohol soaked day, and I can barely remember cutting it. If there was any justice in the world, Roger Miller should be able to sue for what we did to this song".
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

We're staying on the east coast for our next stop as we say hello to Maryland. Suggestions of songs to feature are always welcome.

The Journey So Far
State Songs - links to every post on this musical road trip

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

State Songs #19: Louisiana

These songs all give a flavour of one of America's greatest and most unique states but none of them are about its most famous city. I realise this might be controversial but there are so many New Orleans songs that I didn't know where to start. On the plus side it gives me some great stuff left to post next Mardi Gras.

As usual, please let me know what you think of the tunes, suggest your favourites, and, most importantly, enjoy your Abita beer and Zaps chips in moderation.

MP3: Lucinda Williams - Lake Charles

You could make a very tasty complilation of songs Lucinda has written about her home state. This is from her masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road which I presume you all already have in your collections (if you don't we have a spare copy; email me - first come, first served).
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Guy Clark - Baton Rouge

I love Guy Clark and hearing this makes me want to pack my bags, buy my own pair of alligator shoes, and follow him down to Louisiana's capital city. Once there I imagine we'd tuck into some crawfish and rice and then I'd bore him with questions about Townes Van Zandt.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: The Be Good Tanyas - Lakes of Pontchartrain

Jolie Holland's arrangement of the 19th-century ballad is one of the highlights of the Be Good Tanyas' debut Blue Horse. My colleague Sarah vows to one day play the banjo like Trish Klein does on this.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Girl from Louisian'

I met Steve's sister Stacey and her husband Mark Stuart when they played an outdoor gig in Reno during my brief visit to "the biggest little city in the world". I was on my own with little to do and the friendly couple were extremely gracious as I pestered them about twang and they told me about various places they'd played in the UK.
Buy: Amazon

MP3: Emmylou Harris - Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

This was written by Harris' former bandmate Rodney Crowell and first appeared on his 1978 debut Ain't Living Long Like This. Emmylou was quick off the mark in covering it - this is from her album of the same year Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Lightnin' Hopkins - Mojo Hand

My colleague Richard recommended this when I told him Louisiana was up next on our musical road trip. I'm not too familiar with the great bluesman and probably first came across his name via the track REM titled after him on their album Document.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Waylon Jennings - Louisiana Women

Considering Waylon's stature as both a country music giant and essential piece of the rock'n'roll jigsaw (he was Buddy Holly's bassist) I am embarrassingly ignorant of most of his work. Then again, he recorded more than 50 albums, so I guess I have an excuse. This is from his 1974 LP This Time.
Buy: 7digital | Amazon

Next time we leave the South for Maine, one of the most challenging stops on the trip. Be prepared for a very diverse selection of songs.

Neighbouring States
State Songs #4: Arkansas - The New Lost City Ramblers, Hayes Carll, Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell, REM, Bruce Springsteen

The Journey So Far
State Songs - links to every post on this musical road trip

Thursday, 9 July 2009

An Alternative Blood on the Tracks

Image: Woman on Bed by Bob Dylan

Critics usually claim Blood on the Tracks is about the break-up of Dylan's first marriage and Jakob Dylan has said that the album is "my parents talking". Despite those sad themes, after his classic 60s records I reckon Blood on the Tracks is the Bob Dylan album most commonly cited as a favourite. It's certainly popular with other artists who are presumably drawn to its rich imagery, great tunes and dense lyrics.

I first thought about trying to compile a covers version of Blood on the Tracks after hearing Tom Russell's interpretation of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. Like all good cover versions it seems to reveal something new about the original song.

I hope you enjoy these. As usual let me know what you think and suggest alternatives in the comments below.

MP3: Robyn Hitchcock - Tangled Up in Blue

Robyn Hitchcock loves Bob Dylan. He even wears polka dot shirts in tribute. This is from his 2002 album Robyn Sings, disc two of which is a live recreation of the infamous "Judas" concert at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Joan Baez - Simple Twist of Fate

I'm undecided whether Joan Baez's ongoing fascination with her ex-boyfriend is touching or tragic. She covered Simple Twist of Fate on her album Diamonds & Rust which came out only a few months after Blood on the Tracks. You'll notice her amusing impression of Bob during one of the verses, a good gag that she still performs on stage.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Lloyd Cole - You're a Big Girl Now

We know that Lloyd's into heartbreak so it's no surprise that he gravitated towards Blood on the Tracks. Lloyd Cole's Dylan covers are extensive; he's also done Most of the Time, It's All Over Now (Baby Blue) and She Belongs to Me among others. This is from his 'lost' album Etc.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: The Coal Porters - Idiot Wind

Sid Griffin is another Dylan geek. So much so that he recently wrote an acclaimed book about the Basement Tapes that I really must get around to reading. I discovered his band's version of Idiot Wind on an Uncut compilation a few years ago.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Elvis Costello - You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

This, from the bonus disc of the Kojak Variety reissue is far more jaunty than Bob's original. I don't know when it was recorded but knowing Elvis's love of the tribute album it's no doubt appeared on some or other compilation.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Freddie King - Meet Me In The Morning

Although Freddie was nicknamed the "Texas Tornado" he moved to Chicago with his family in 1950 when he was 16. This rockin' blues version of the Dylan track appears on his final album Larger Than Life (1976).
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Tom Russell - Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

The song that inspired me to make this compilation. Tom Russell is such a wonderful storyteller himself that he really makes Dylan's epic (and confounding) tale his own. Tom's joined on the track by singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson.
Buy: Amazon

MP3: Francesco de Gregori - If You See Her, Say Hello

I discovered this mournful, Italian version of the song on the soundtrack to Dylan's cinematic curio Masked & Anonymous but I presume it's originally from one of Francecso' earlier LPs. According to Wikipedia he also makes as organic olive oil called Le Palombe.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris - Shelter from the Storm

If the BBC ever repeat their coverage of Rodney Crowell's performance at the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival you'll see quite a few close-ups of me going absolutely berserk during his version of Like A Rolling Stone. This is from the excellent album he was then promoting, The Outsider.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Beth Orton & M Ward - Buckets of Rain

The third duet of set; this was recorded at a 2004 gig in Sydney. If you like hearing M Ward do Dylan I'd also recommend his cover of Girl From the North Country with Jim James and Conor Oberst.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

Second Options
MP3: Jeff Tweedy - Simple Twist of Fate

As a Wilco nut I couldn't resist adding this as a 'bonus' track. It's from the I'm Not There soundtrack. In other Tweedy/Dylan news, Jeff apparently perfomed a lovely version of Forever Young at his son Spencer's bar mitzvah in May.
Buy: Amazon

MP3: Neko Case - Buckets of Rain

Another Carnival Saloon favourite that's too good to ignore. Neko's version of Hank Williams' Alone and Forsaken was a big hit here a while back so perhaps a post of some of her other covers will be forthcoming.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

Bobby Bonus
MP3 Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue (live)

It seems only fair to include Bob singing one of his own songs. This was recorded at Boston Music Hall in November 1975 on the Rolling Thunder tour. If you've not heard any of the other tracks from that legendary tour, the Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975 two-disc set is an essential listen.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

If you'd like to download all of the tracks in a zip file you can do so here: Carnival Saloon's Alternative Blood on the Tracks

While making this compilation I discovered that someone else has recently had the same idea (they even also used one of the Drawn Blank paintings). Five of the tracks are the same and you can read all about it at The Saddest Music in the World.

Related Posts
Bob Dylan @ The Roundhouse - my review of his April gig
Twenty-First Century Hank - covers including Neko Case

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Food for the Fourth

The greatest thing about America's 4 July celebrations is not the fireworks but the gluttony that accompanies them. So, in honour of the USA's annual pig-out here are some food related songs from Carnival Saloon regulars, plus a couple of oldies, to go with your meat feasts.

MP3: Wendy Rene - Bar-B-Q

There's no other tribute to grilled meat that compares to Wendy Rene's 1964 Stax single. In this year's Southern Music issue of the Oxford American Zeth Landry even suggests that Bar-B-Q "should be adopted as our nation's tailgating anthem". Trivia: According to the OA article Rene owned a pet monkey called Chico that used to terrorise the likes of Rufus Thomas and Stax boss Jim Stewart.
More Wendy Rene: Wikipedia | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Tom Waits - Filipino Box Spring Hog (1993 version)

In Tom's own words: "When we lived on Union Avenue in LA, we had parties. We sawed the floorboards out of the living room, and we took the bed, the box spring, and first dug out the hole and filled it with wood, poured gasoline on it, and lit a fire. And the box spring over the top, that was the grill. We brought in a pig and cooked it right there." This is an earlier version than the one on Mule Variations. It's from the 1993 benefit record Born to Choose.
More Tom Waits: MySpace | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Old Crow Medicine Show - Mary's Kitchen

One of the great things about many American food songs is their penchant for innuendo. When the Old Crows sing "come on into Mary's kitchen if you want your sausage ground" I don't think that they're talking about a pound of bangers.
More Old Crows: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Justin Townes Earle - Chitlin' Cooking Time in Cheatham County (live)

We saw Justin Townes Earle perform this rip-snorter with the brilliant Cory Younts at the Borderline in January. Pig intestines aren't to everyone's taste (though Joanne loves 'em) but if you do fancy eating them the Virginia Department of Health offers the following advice: Keep children out of the kitchen until the chitlins are pre-boiled and the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned.
More Justin Townes Earle: MySpace | Amazon

MP3: Charlie Singleton - Alligator Meat

I once ate alligator meat in the Florida Everglades. I found it tough and not quite as "all reet" as Charlie Singleton suggests. Singleton went to the same school as Charlie Parker in Kansas City and started recording in 1949, aged just 19.
More Charlie Singleton: All Music | Amazon

Enjoy your Independence Day - and remember Americans - if it wasn't for us Brits you'd have nothing to celebrate today. You're welcome!

Related Posts
Chicken Songs for the Soul - finger lickin' goodness
Tom Waits Covers #2: Bruce Sprinsgteen - posted a year ago today
Related Posts with Thumbnails



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