Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Music For Mardi Gras

With  New Orleans still on a high after the Saints' Super Bowl victory I'm sure this year's Mardi Gras will be something to remember (Hurricanes and Dixie beer not withstanding). My only Mardi Gras, back in 1996, was one of the most memorable trips of my life. Each year on Fat Tuesday, as well eating pancakes, I also like to have my own little Mardi Gras celebration. These are some of the tunes that make me wish I was in New Orleans today.

MP3: Professor Longhair - Go To The Mardi Gras

I posted this one last year too but it's the definitive Mardi Gras song performed by the definitive New Orleans artist.
Buy Professor Longhair - The London Concert: 7digital | Amazon

MP3: Sugar Boy Crawford & His Cane Cutters - Jock-A-Mo

This 50s gem is from a great 52 track compilation called Crazy Man Crazy! The Roots of Rock'n'Roll I bought on Sunday. The song morphed into The Dixie Cups' hit Iki Iko in 1964.
Buy Crazy Man Crazy! 7digital Amazon

MP3: Fats Domino - Walking To New Orleans

During my Mardi Gras trip I went to a memorable block party hosted by WWOZ DJ The Governor.  The following day he did an entire show of Fats tunes; this one was obviously included.
Buy The Fats Domino Jukebox: 7digitalAmazon

MP3: The Meters - Hey Pocky A-Way

I discovered the New Orleans masters of funk relatively recently while researching one my chicken song posts. This track has become a carnival standard.
Buy The Very Best of The Meters: 7digitalAmazon

MP3: Dejan's Olympia Brass Band - Ain't My Fault

The Olympia Brass Band are New Orleans legends. You may recall this appearance in the Bond film Live and Let Die.

Buy New Orleans - Rebuild, Restore, Rejoice: 7digitalAmazon

MP3: Jerry Lee Lewis - Jambalaya

I'm on a bit of a Jerry Lee kick at the moment after recently reading Joe Bonomo's new book about The Killer. Not technically a Mardi Gras song I guess but jambalaya, crawfish pie and file gumbo would be high on my list of Mardi Gras eats (along with a fried oyster po' boy,  Popeye's chicken and Zapps chips).
Buy Jerry Lee Lewis - Legendary Sun Classics: Amazon

MP3: Tom Waits - I Wish I Was in New Orleans

My sentiments exactly. I remember we played this as we drove over Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 1996. "Arm-in-arm down Burgundy, a bottle and my friends and me". Perfect.
Buy Tom Waits - Small Change: 7digital | Amazon

If you have your own favourite Mardi Gras songs, please do leave a comment and tell me what they are. 

Related Posts
I Wish I Was In New Orleans - last year's Mardi Gras post featuring two Professor Longhair tracks and a lethal sangria recipe from Tipitina's
State Songs #19: Louisiana - songs by Lucinda Williams, Guy Clark, The Be Good Tanyas, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart, Emmylou Harris, Lightnin' Hopkins, Waylon Jennings

Related Links
Home of the Groove - great blog full of Mardi Gras songs and New Orleans R&B

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Handsome Family - The Blizzard

Photo: Washington DC, January 28, 1922 (from Shorpy)

I've wanted to post this since I heard it on Guy Garvey's radio show a few weeks ago but thought I'd wait until I'd seen some more snow. Well, we had a minor flurry last week so here it is.

MP3: The Handsome Family - The Blizzard

Buy In The Forest of Missing Airplanes EP at Amazon

The song was originally a hit for Jim Reeves in 1964. Camera Obscura also released a great cover before Christmas last year. What makes this version so good is that tragic tales (often involving animals) are The Handsome Family's stock in trade making Brett Sparks the ideal person to sing about lame ponies, numb toes and an ever-present danger of death.

The Handsome Family's brilliant cover of Knoxville Girl can also be found on the In The Forest of Missing Airplanes EP.

Any suggestions for other severe weather songs?


Related Links

The Handsome Family - official site

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bob Dylan at the White House

Along with Joan Baez, the Blind Boys of Alabama and others, Bob Dylan performed at the White House last in a special concert called A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement. I can imagine President Bartlet getting very excited about the event in an episode ofThe West Wing.

Bob sang just one song, The Times They Are A-Changin'. He played acoustic guitar backed by piano and bass. What's most remarkable is that he'd evidently practised before his audience with Obama. I've seen him mangle this song live a number of times and he's never hit as many of the right notes as this. It's the sort of performance Dylan fans pray he'll pull out of the bag when they see him torture their old favourites in concert.

Readers in America will be able to watch the whole concert on PBS on Friday evening and there's a 'special' about it on Thursday.

Related Links
PBS - In Performance at the White House
CNN - White House concert honors music of civil rights era

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Bob Dylan at Newport, 1965

I've just finished reading White Bicycles, Joe Boyd's excellent memoir of the 60s ("I was there, I do remember"). The record producer and self-proclaimed éminence grise was one of the organisers of the infamous 1965 Newport Fok Festival when Bob Dylan plugged in and blew dust from the ears of thousands of folkies (scroll down for the tracks).

My favourite anecdote is when Dylan returned to play two acoustic songs after pissing off the folk faithful with the Butterfield Blues Band. He asked the audience, "Has anyone have an E harmonica? Anyone? An E harmonica?" As Boyd writes, "Only at Newport would this request be followed by a shower of half a dozen harmonicas on to the stage". You can hear them all thud in this clip:

Boyd also explains his theory behind the rumour that Pete Seeger was so incensed by Dylan's electric performance that he threatened to cut the speaker cables with an axe. It turns out that on the bill the day before Dylan's gig were the Texas Worksong Prison Group, a bunch of lifers on day release who performed one song chopping down a huge tree stump. As they rhythmically attacked the felled tree a mic cable came loose. A worried Seeger signalled to Boyd to secure the wire. "Seeger, axes, cables..." he writes, "somehow, in the way of legends, things got muddled up."

These then are the songs that caused all the fuss...

MP3: Bob Dylan - Maggie's Farm

MP3: Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone

MP3: Bob Dylan - Phantom Engineer

MP3: Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

MP3: Bob Dylan - Mr Tambourine Man

Listening to these tracks more than 40 years after the event it's hard to comprehend why they had such an impact. The version of Like a Rolling Stone that Dylan and The Band unleashed in the UK the following year has much more power. Yet Boyd puts forward a good argument that this was rock's Year Zero.
Some loved it, some hated it, most were amazed, astonished and energized by it. It was something we take for granted now, but utterly novel then: non-linear lyrics, an attitude of total contempt fot expectation and established values, accompanied by screaming blues guitar and a powerful rhythm section, played at ear-splitting volume by young kids. The Beatles were still singing love songs in 1965 while the Stones played a brand of blues-rooted pop. This was different. This was the Birth of Rock.

If Joe Boyd is correct then this was arguably the most important gig in music history. What do you reckon?

To those wanting to witness Dylan at Newport I'd highly recommomend the DVD The Other Side Of The Mirror, which I wrote about some time ago. There's also much more about it in White Bicycles.

Related Posts
Bob Dylan: The Other Side of the Mirror

Monday, 1 February 2010

Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Mack the Knife

I saw the acclaimed French prison flick A Prophet yesterday. As the end credits rolled my ears pricked up to the lovely steel guitar on Jimmie Dale Gilmore's terrific version of Mack the Knife.

MP3: Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Mack the Knife

The track is obviously available on A Prohpet's soundtrack album but it originaly appeared on Gilmore's album One Endless Night (2000). Enjoy.

Related Links
Jimmie Dale Gilmore - official site
A Prophet - trailer
Related Posts with Thumbnails



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