Today’s sides were recorded by Frances Faye in 1957 for an album called Sings Folk Songs. Faye was cabaret singer and pianist who began in showbiz at a young age. St. James Infirmary and John Henry are both traditional songs that came from a time long before songwriters got properly credited. I’ve enjoyed many versions of each over the years. Back in February, I wrote a little of the tale of John Henry in connection with a Buster Brown version. Faye’s renditions are fun, expressive and come with the full sound of a jazz big-band. Since her foray into folk jumped the gun on the impending folk revival by several years, this Bethlehem single wasn’t released until 1962.
Richie Havens – Indian Rope Man
Recorded in ’68 and released in ’69 on Verve Forecast, Indian Rope Man was written by Richie Havens, an artist perhaps better known as an interpreter of songs. Havens emerged from the Greenwich Village sixties folk scene and onto the world stage through performances at Woodstock and the Isle of White festival. I can’t be the first to describe today’s offering as a slow burner with inherently psychedelic lyrics. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity released a storming funk-rock version of it that same year (as featured on a Diddy Wah mixtape of yore). The Indian rope man was also recast as an African herbsman in 1972 by Bob Marley and Lee Scratch Perry.
Janet Greene – Fascist Threat
Janet Greene – Commie Lies
A pretty weird record this one. I found it in Melbourne on my last trip home and I’d love to know the story of how it came to be there. With a title like ‘Fascist Threat and Commie Lies’ I couldn’t really leave it behind. A little research reveals that Janet Greene was recruited by Dr. Fred Schwarz of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade to be a sort of anti-Joan Baez. Classic. Fascist Threat is a calypso, Commie Lies straight ahead tepid folk. These really have to be heard to be believed.
Fikret Kizilok – Yumma Gozun Kor Gibi
Here’s some more music I picked up whilst in Istanbul, this one is more folky than the last. Unfortunately I can’t shed much light on either Fikret Kizilok or Yumma Gozun Kor Gibi. According to his Wikipedia entry Kizilok went to the famous Galatasaray High School, which was very close to where I stayed. This song is obviously quite emotional but I have no idea what it’s about. It was released in 1970.
Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart
Fever Ray – Concrete Walls
Juana Molina – Un Dia
Juana Molina – Los Hongos De Marosa
Marnie Stern – The Crippled Jazzer
Marnie Stern – The Package Is Wrapped
As summer approaches London there’s always a plethora of great gigs on offer. This post features tunes which could be played at three shows happening in the next couple of months. Three that I’m super amped about.
Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of Sweden’s The Knife. She’s just put out a cool eponymous debut album which has been described as claustrophobic. And she’s done some cracking clips too (see links below).
Juana Molina latest release is called Un Dia, which is Spanish for One Day – she’s Argentinian. It’s her fifth album and you might find it hypnotically rhythmic.
Marnie Stern is a guitar-shredder/singer/songwriter who lives in NYC. She has also released an album kind of recently (October 2008). It’s very energetic and has a really long title – This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That.
And that is that.
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Cod’ine
Marianne Faithfull – Black Girl
Precious Bryant – Fever
Gillian Welch – Revelator
Kaki King – Second Brain
Audrey Hepburn – Moon River
Another all female, all amazing (and almost all acoustic) post for you today. Girls with guitars is the theme.
Buffy Sainte-Marie was born on a Cree reservation in Saskatchenwan, Canada. While at university she became known for her protest songs and after graduating she toured colleges, reservations and folk festivals to wide acclaim. From her first album, It’s My Way!, released in 1964, comes Sainte-Marie’s raw account of drug addiction, ‘Cod’ine’.
More folkyness now, this time from English singer Marianne Faithfull. Here she is with a cover of the traditional tune ‘Black Girl’, also known as ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ or ‘In The Pines’. Notable versions are also done by Leadbelly and Nirvana but it’s a nice change to hear the song sung by a woman.
Precious Bryant was sixty by the time she released her first album in 2002. Of course she had been playing her Piedmont style of Georgian blues for quite some time before that. Her sweet voice and feisty picking are more than adequately demonstrated here on her interpretation of ‘Fever’.
Time (The Revelator), Gillian Welch’s third album, would have to be one of my alltime favourites. Her honest vocals and heartfelt songwriting, together with the synapse mauling guitarwork of her partner, David Rawlings, make it a no-question five-starrer all the way through. For today’s post I’ve chosen the opening track, ‘Revelator’.
I can’t recall where I first found out about Kaki King. However her tune ‘Second Brain’ has been floating around my iTunes for a little while now and it never ceases to grab my attention. It could be the exquisite sound of the Mbira thumb piano, as played by Kelli Rudick, combined with King’s ethereal vocals that does it.
Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day. Old dream maker, you heart breaker, wherever you’re going I’m going your way. Two drifters off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting ’round the bend, my huckleberry friend, Moon River and me. With lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Henry Mancini it’s no wonder that ‘Moon River’ won the Best Original Song Academy Award in 1961. They wrote it to fit Audrey Hepburn’s vocal range for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
El Perro Del Mar – Glory To The World
Third Wave – Eleanor Rigby
The Martells – Time To Say Goodbye
Françoise Hardy – Suzanne
Karen Dalton – Something On Your Mind
Trio Bulgarka – Mari Tudoro
Today’s post features all tracks that I’ve been listening to recently; all female voices from all over the place who are all amazing.
Straight outta Gothenburg, Sweden comes El Perro Del Mar with ‘Glory To The World’ a beautiful song that sounds instantly familiar, like catchy pop should. It feels like the sort of tune that could be on a commercial for Volkswagen or something — and I mean that in the best possible way. ‘Glory To The World’ came out this year, get into it.
I was listening to WFMU the other week and a version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ came on that blew my mind. Admittedly I’m partial to cover versions of that song but this was something special. One of my favourite things about streaming WFMU through iTunes is being able to see what track is playing. It turned out to be by a group called Third Wave, five teenage Filipino sisters backed by a crack team of jazz musos. If you know of a better version of this song please get in touch because I’m about to call it. Best version ever.
I can’t tell you much about The Martells except that they were a 60s British girl group, Joe Meek was involved, ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ is a very expensive 45rpm record thesedays, and I can’t help but want it.
Françoise Hardy gives great Leonard Cohen here with her version of ‘Suzanne’. Sung in French too, ooh la la.
Karen Dalton walks the line. Her voice almost breaks and, as she squeezes all the available emotion out every song she sings, so does your heart. ‘Something On Your Mind’ is a prime example. Sadness never sounded so good.
Lastly to Bulgaria, where we find Trio Bulgarka. Three women who come together from different parts of the country to sing folk music in a phenomenal way. ‘Mari Tudoro’ is just one of the vocalists but it’s a haunting tune and my favourite from the album. It was apparently used on an advertisement for cider.
I was invited to submit my favourite ten albums of 2006 for a music blog survey and since I heard heaps of recently released records while working in retail, I couldn’t resist. Plenty has been written and blogged about most all of the artists I’ve selected so their inclusion in this list says enough about how I feel about their music for now. The Devastations are the only band I know personally but I have seen many of them perform live, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (see above).
Ys : Joanna Newsom – Sawdust And Diamonds
The Greatest : Cat Power – Love & Communication
Savane : Ali Farka Toure – Savane
Son : Juana Molina – Micael
Silent Shout : The Knife – Neverland
Return To Cookie Mountain : TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Show Your Bones : Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Gold Lion
Coal : Devastations – The Night I Couldn’t Stop Crying
Below The Branches : Kelley Stoltz – Memory Collector
The Letting Go : Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Love Comes To Me
John D. Loudermilk – More Than He’ll Have To Give
John D. Loudermilk – Brown Girl
John D. Loudermilk – Bad News
John D. Loudermilk – The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian
About a year ago when I first wrote about John D. Loudermilk, under perhaps my most creative post-title, Being John Loudermilk, I didn’t have access to all the tunes I wanted for the post. Now, thanks to my mates at The Omni Recording Corporation — who are busy reissuing some of the more socially conscious Nashville stars of yesteryear, I do.
Loudermilk is, first and foremost, a skilled songwriter and today’s selection of songs, with the probable exception of ‘Bad News’, are all based on real situations. In the liner notes to 1969’s The Open Mind of John D. Loudermilk, Loudermilk states that he has “dedicated his life to reaching into the contemporary thinking of the man on the street”, from that album, both ‘More Than He’ll Have To Give’ and ‘Brown Girl’ are fine examples of that.
‘More Than He’ll Have To Give’ tells of a young couple living together in an apartment paid for by the girl’s sugar daddy. As well as having a nice melody the production and arrangements on this tune are particularly sweet.
‘Brown Girl’ is a story Loudermilk recalls from his home town of Durham, North Carolina, about a mixed race relationship in antiquated times. This style of storytelling is basically folk but the instrumentation is too rich to be classed as such.
One of my favourite parts of ‘Brown Girl’ is Loudermilk’s easy, warm and natural laughter, a feature that’s also present on ‘Bad News’. Originally recorded by Loudermilk in 1963, ‘Bad News’ sounds like it could’ve been written for Johnny Cash so it’s no surprise that he had a hit with it in ’64. Like many Loudermilk songs ‘Bad News’ has been covered many times since then.
Having previously posted two other versions of ‘The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian’ it’s nice to put up this one, sang by the man who wrote it after he spent time listening to the stories of Cherokee Indians.
John Jacob Niles – Bonnie Farday Or Babylon
John Jacob Niles – Our Goodman Or Old Cuckold
John Jacob Niles – The Maid Freed From The Gallows
John Jacob Niles – I Wonder As I Wander
John Jacob Niles – Go ‘way From My Window
John Jacob Niles is a fascinating character. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, back in 1892, to a musical family. When he was just a boy they moved to rural Kentucky, Jefferson County. Having already developed a passion for music, a young John Niles began collecting folk songs and composing songs of his own. After finishing high school his life took him in such varied directions as to find him: working at an adding machine company, piloting reconnaissance aircraft in WWI, singing with an opera in Chicago and training in music in Paris.
Niles then moved to New York and in 1925 published his first music collection, ‘Impressions of a Negro Camp Meeting’. He began a performance career as a folksinger and when he wasn’t working as the MC at the Silver Slipper Nightclub he was touring the US and Europe.
From 1927, Niles accompanied photographer Doris Ulmann on a series of trips to make photographic portraits of people in the rural Appalachian highlands. He was her driver and field assistant and according to ‘The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann’ by Philip Walker Jacobs, her paramour as well. He was also often her subject and indeed she took the stunning image featured above that, like many of her shots, has a Rembrandt painting quality to it. Whilst on these explorations Niles continued to collect folk songs.
The instrument Niles is pictured holding is the Dulcimer, the instrument he played throughout his life. He received his first from his father when he was quite young, it was a three stringed model. Then, when he was in his teens and wanting to upgrade, Niles recalls his father suggesting he make one himself — typical fatherly advice, I once (unsuccessfully) made a skateboard. From then on Niles crafted his own Dulcimers adapting them to suit his needs.
Ulmann died in 1934 and in 1936 Niles married and returned to rural Kentucky. In 1938 he launched his recording career with RCA. Of today’s mp3s the first three are known as Child Ballads and were recorded in 1940. They are known as Child Ballads not because they were sung by children but rather named after Francis James Child, an academic from Boston who documented hundreds of traditional folk ballads in England and Scotland in the late nineteenth century. Identical versions of these songs were learnt by Niles in the Kentucky mountains some twenty years later.
Bonnie Farday or Babylon: John Jacob Niles was never shy of high drama and this track is a great example. It’s the story of a man who threatens three sisters, in turn, to marry him or die. After killing two, he repeats the threat to the last one, the youngest, and like her sisters she denies him and swears her brother will avenge their deaths. The attacker asks the brother’s name and it turns out to be him. Realising he’s just killed two of his own sisters he feels that he has little option but to kill himself.
Our Goodman or Old Cuckold: Darkly comic tune about a woman who believes she’s keeping her infidelity a secret from her old man, but isn’t.
The Maid Freed From The Gallows: A woman asks a hangman to slacken the rope he’s about to hang her with as she can see her father and then mother coming to pay his fee. It turns out they didn’t bring the fee but rather came to watch her hang. She is saved at the last minute by a lover who pays the gold fee. I featured this tune on my Terrible Songs mixtape and was feeling morbid so I only included the first two verses, letting her swing.
The last two mp3s, two of Niles best known compositions, were recorded in 1957. ‘I Wonder as I Wander’ grew out of three lines sung to him by a young preachers daughter for a twenty-five cents performance fee. ‘Go ‘Way From My Window’ was a line sung (repeatedly as he worked) by a ditch-digger employed by Niles’ father. It’s recognisable as the first line of Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’.
An Aquarium Drunkard
Be Bop Wino
The B Side
Carlos Rene's Scene64
Derek's Daily 45
The Devil's Music
Flea Market Funk
Frankie Bundle's Mazzetta78
Home Of The Groove
Jester Wild Show
Kogar's Jungle Juice
La Dimension De Trastos
Liam Large's Rekkids
Mean Mojo Mathias
Night Beat Records
So Many Records, So Little Time
You Got Good Taste