Following up on my road trip to Madison last weekend, I thought I might post a set of videos inspired by eight hours of listening to SiriusXM — the Bluegrass Junction, Bakersfield Beat, Village, B.B. King’s Bluesville and (limited time) Prince channels. I had the seminal Muddy Waters collection Real Folk Blues (1966) in mind as I worked on this and thought about it in terms of another SiriusXM channel: Deep Tracks. I’m hoping interested readers might hear something that triggers fond memories or further interest.
A lot of my favorite musicians of the ’60’s era somehow found their way to Howlin’ Wolf and the otherworldly “Smokestack Lightnin'” (1959).
Mississippi John Hurt influenced a few more of my favorite musicians of the ’60’s era (e.g., Tom Rush) who found their way to him and the traditional “Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor.” Wherever I heard this on SiriusXM, the host observed these blues are not sad.
John Hinderaker and I are both lovers of the Lovin’ Spoonful. I loved every Spoonful album, including their contributions to the Elektra sampler What’s Shakin’ (1966) and their soundtrack albums What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? (1967) and You’re a Big Boy Now (1967). “Sportin’ Life” is an old Brownie McGhee number from Do You Believe in Magic (1965). John Sebastian takes the solo on harmonica. His playing is so distinctive — I swear I can identify it on tracks where he was working as an uncredited studio musician. When I went to see Sebastian playing with David Grisman at the Cedar Theater in Minneapolis a few years back, I found myself walking into the theater with him. I asked him if he remembered playing at the old Minneapolis Auditorium right after Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful (1966) had been released (I was there). “Not yet,” he said — a 60’s answer to a 60’s question.
On his Greater Bakersfield show Dwight Yoakam raved about Gene Vincent’s vocal on “Hi Lili, Hi Lo” (1966). This was a revelation to me.
B.B. King must have performed “How Blue Can You Get?” (by Jane Feather) a zillion times, always with feeling. It is good to have it preserved on Live at the Regal (1966).
Thinking of influences on my favorite ’60’s artists, I want to tune in to Albert King’s recording of “Born Under a Bad Sign” (1967). Written by William Bell and Booker T. Jones and recorded with the great Stax studio musicians, the song situates us in the year representing the summit of soul music.
James Carr’s recording of “Dark End of the Street” (1967) by Dan Penn and Chips Moman belongs here. Peter Guralnick writes that Penn is the “secret hero” of his fantastic history Sweet Soul Music. I asked a knowledgeable friend why. He concisely explained: “Because he wrote the songs.”
We went to see David Sanborn perform with his quintet when I got home last Sunday. I first tuned in to Sanborn on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s In My Own Dream (1968). You can hear Sanborn’s contribution in the eloquent solo on “Last Hope’s Gone” (written by Jim Hayne, Butterfield and Sanborn). The band had added a horn section including Gene Dinwiddie on tenor sax and Keith Johnson on trumpet. Bugsy Maugh is on bass. Elvin Bishop had joined the band on guitar. Minneapolis’s own Mark Naftalin is on keyboards, Phillip Wilson on drums.
Butterfield (harmonica) and his colleagues Michael Bloomfield (guitar) and Sam Lay (drums) backed Muddy Waters on “Got My Mojo Working, Part 1” on Muddy’s aptly named Fathers and Sons double album (1969). Stax’s Donald “Duck” Dunn was on bass and Chess’s Otis Spann on piano. Sides three and four were recorded live at the Super Cosmic Joy-Scout Jamboree in Chicago that spring. At the end of this live track Muddy welcomes Buddy (Miles) to sit in on drums for Part 2.
Here is Part 2. We can’t leave without Part 2. It wouldn’t be right.
I caught Chris Jones’s Truegrass show featuring the music of Tony Rice and his influences. Rice loved covering Gordon Lightfoot. Me & My Guitar (1986) is full of Lightfoot covers. “Walls” is a good one, if a little too short. It leaves you (me) wanting more. You might want to check out Rice’s Rounder compilation Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot.
I loved the self-titled debut album (1989) of the Indigo Girls (Emily Saliers and Amy Ray). They had studied up on Simon and Garfunkel, to be sure, but they brought a fresh voice to the tradition. Indeed, I thought the album could be held up to S&G’s debut on Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. “Prince of Darkness” is one of several highlights of the Girls’ debut. If the lyrics were “adolescent and overwrought” (according to Saliers, who wrote it), the song and the singing are nevertheless compelling. Saliers explained: “[I]t’s sort of a testament to my parents, and to their love, which I know is kind of a rare thing in this world, because I know that a lot of people really struggle with their parents. But it was always my own constant battle with my inner darkness, and the prince of darkness, obviously, the diabolical force. So it’s about light and darkness, and how darkness, you can feel sometimes like it almost is going to pull you under.”
Chris Hillman is a denizen of Yoakam’s Greater Bakersfield. Chris founded the Desert Rose Band after his time with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, among other projects. “Twilight Is Gone” (written by Hillman and Steve Hill) was released as a single in 1991 and included on the group’s True Love album (1992). I saw Hillman, John Jorgenson, and Herb Pedersen when they reunited in an acoustic version of DRB that played over two nights at the Dakota in 2012. I was there both nights. They played “Twilight Is Gone” only on the second of their two nights.
Jimmy LaFave was a terrific singer/songwriter and interpreter who passed away way too young five years ago at the age of 61. Below is his cover of the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” from LaFave’s Austin Skyline (1992). Written by the Left Banke’s Michael Brown (with Bob Calilli and Tony Sansone) in 1966, the song addressed his crush on the bass player’s girlfriend. According to American Songwriter, Renee was “the object of Brown’s unrequited affection.” Brown worked on the harpsichord part with her in the studio: “My hands were shaking when I tried to play, because she was right there in the control room.” LaFave is gone, but his “Renee” lives.
Listening to Dwight Yoakam’s Greater Bakersfield show with Jackie DeShannon as his guest, I kept thinking about “Johnson’s Love” from dwightyoakamacoustic.net album (2000).
Maria Muldaur first recorded Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues” with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band back in the ’60’s. She circled back to it on the title track of her 2001 disc. John Sebastian’s picking on guitar behind Maria is as distinctive as his harmonica on “Sportin’ Life” with the Spoonful above. In the liner notes she writes that “Sebastian was the natural choice to play guitar on this cut, as he [is] an avid admirer of Mississippi John Hurt too, and a disciple of his wonderful picking style.”
With this cover of “A Case of U” (as Prince spelled it), Joni Mitchell meets Prince’s rock/soul/funk aesthetic. The result is incandescent. This is from One Nite Alone… (2002).
Speaking of Jackie DeShannon, I thought we might take her recording of her own “Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe” as our exit music. The Byrds covered it with a Bo Diddley beat on side 2 of their debut album in 1965. Jackie returned to it on When You Walk in the Room (2011).