Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ten: You and Me Edition

As I was searching my collection for the songs I would post this week, a strange thing happened: I came across two songs, released sixteen years apart, with oddly similar titles. The only other thing they have in common is that I really like them. So I couldn’t resist posting them together.

Indigo Girls: You and Me of the 10,000 Wars


First, 1990 saw the release of the Indigo Girls album Nomads Indians Saints. My first selection is not one of their best known songs, which just shows how deep in quality their catalog is. Indigo Girls have been politically active on various causes, but the 10,000 wars of the title have nothing to do with world events. Rather, these are the little wars that flare up in any relationship. The song is probably about a pair of lovers, but there is a line about a “prodigal daughter”. This could just as easily be about a parent and child.

Peter Mulvey: You and Me and the Ten Thousand Things


Peter Mulvey’s song comes from 2006. Musically and lyrically, I can detect no influence from the older song, so I tend to think that Mulvey may not even be aware of it. You and Me and the Ten Thousand Things list off many reasons why modern life is discouraging, but then offers hope. Mulvey approaches the subject with his typically wonderful sense of whimsy, while the music swings and sways.

Ten: I Spent My Last $10 (on Birth Control and Beer)

Two Nice Girls: I Spent My Last $10 (on Birth Control and Beer)


To echo Cybill Shepherd's comment at a gay rights rally in Washington in the early-90's: "I'm straight, but I'm not narrow." - one doesn't have to be a lesbian to appreciate this song ("poignant and hilarious", states one of the reviews), and the CD I got it from...

Rewind to the late-90's as I was browsing in a used CD store... and ran across a promo copy of Lesbian Favorites: Women Like Us - in perusing the tracklist, I saw Dar Williams' As Cool As I Am, as well as selections by k. d. lang, Janis Ian, Ani Di Franco, Jane Siberry and Ferron (so many of the artists I was recently discovering). I of course read the liner notes (written by Gretchen Phillips) when I got home... and only now realize she was a founding member of Two Nice Girls - notes for Rhino Compilation can be found here...

A bit of delving shows the band broke up in 1992, but have dreams to re-release their albums (one a year) and have considered the possibility of a new recording/reunion tour - Darius, I learned that they merged covers of Lou Reed's Sweet Jane with Joan Armatrading's Love and Affection... called Sweet Jane (With Affection)... on their self-titled debut!

P.S. I'm crazy about Sandra Bernhard's female remake of Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - wish I'd thought to post it for our Gender Benders theme (guess I'll have to wait for Leftovers in late-November... :-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tens: The Progressive Edition

Moon Mullican: Nine Tenths Of The Tennessee River


Nine Tenths of the Tennessee River. I couldn't resist posting this one!

ZZ Top: Ten Foot Pole


While working up something for this weeks theme it occurred to me to check and see if any songs on my long list had anyone born on the tenth day of a given month. Pat Benatar, Roger Miller and Rod Stewart all have January 10 birthdays but I have nothing by any of them that would fit the theme. However, December 10th is ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard's birthday.

Concrete Blonde: 100 Games Of Solitaire


Living in Nevada we've found it's much safer to play solitaire than blackjack. But even still, sure as poker chips, I don't know a hundred of them. But that's OK. Concrete Blonde does.

Captain Tractor: 1000 Goodbyes


Captain Tractor reminds us that for every hello there is a thousand good-byes.

Robert Earl Keen: 10,000 Chinese Walk Into A Bar


And lastly, there must be 10,000 variations on the joke about someone walking into a bar. Robert Earl Keen tells us of a story about some Chinese folks.

Speaking of tens, it might be worth mentioning that the tenth day of the tenth month also holds a few more important birthdays: Tanya Tucker, David Lee Roth, Huey 'Piano' Smith and John Prine. Sorry to report I didn't have a 'ten' song by any of them that would fit either.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ten: Psychedelic Edition

Mark Mikel: 2010 Anthem

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I couldn't resist posting Mark Mikel's "2010 Anthem", for the obvious reason.

Mark Mikel is the lead singer and chief songwriter in a fabulously psychedelic band out of Toledo, Ohio called the Pillbugs. He has also recorded a lot of solo material, this song included.

I'm not sure when this song was written, but I'm guessing that 2010 was used as a reference to a not-too-distant future. (See also Paul McCartney's "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", which this song occasionally echoes.) It's not quite a dystopian future, but it is a rather unsettling vision of future leaders and complacent masses. "Rule our thoughts with catchy quotes / Poison with no antidote / Shove the sh*t right down our throats / We'll swallow" is as good a description of our soundbite culture as any I've heard.

Western Electric: 10-4


Here's some more modern-day psychedelia, this time from Long Ryders and Cole Porters frontman (and Gram Parsons biographer) Sid Griffin, leading one-album band Western Electric back in '99. The relaxed rhythm, gentle vocals, and woozy pedal steel are pretty indicative of how the rest of the album sounds.

The Yardbirds: Happenings Ten Years Time Ago


Now for an authentic 1960's blast of energy! "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" scraped the top 40 back in 1966, but what really makes it interesting is that it is one of only three songs the Yardbirds recorded with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on lead guitars. Not long after its release, Beck was fired.

Ten: Perfect 10

The Beautiful South: Perfect 10


I drew a complete blank on songs with Ten/10 in the title for this week's theme... not my modus operandi at all, as I usually have too many tunes in my head and not enough time on the clock - so... I went on an adventure with my dear friend Google... and came up with this one...

My next step was to check the SMM archives to make sure the song had not been used before, whereupon I ran across Robbie's post of a bit over a year ago, covering the same band but a different song - we miss you, Robbie!

I knew nothing of The Beautiful South, but one reading of their lyrics, while listening, made me want to find out more about this group - they're clever, they're catchy, they're... disbanded?!?

Read here for some interesting observations from Wikipedia about double meanings and double entendres - there's also a sweet message behind the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink"...

'Cause we love our love in different sizes

I love her body, especially the lines
Time takes its toll, but not on the eyes
Promise me this, take me tonight...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ten: Hang Ten

The Jazz Mandolin Project: Hang Ten


Legend has it that this spirited improvisational jamjazz piece spontaneously arose from a late-night studio stop-in from Phish lead guitarist Trey Anastasio, but despite the regular presence of Phish drummer Jon Fishman on the skins of The Jazz Mandolin Project, the band itself is truly the baby and brainchild of rural New England-based mando master and compositional experimentalist Jamie Masefield. And Jamie continues to experiment: his most recent project involves a combination of video, literature, and live performance, and his most recent album - the sixth from the project - is an all-covers acoustic delight that features Tom Waits' bass player and Pat Metheny's pianist.

Ten: One in Ten

UB40: One in Ten


First of all, let me apologize. The version of One in Ten heard here is the remixed version from the 1985 EP Little Baggariddim. I am posting it because it’s a great song, and I don’t have the original version from 1981. But the ‘81 version is much better, and it is easier to get. For accuracy’s sake, I have provided a purchase link for Little Baggariddim, but the 1981 album, Present Arms, is still in print, while the ‘85 EP is not. If anyone has the original version, please post it in the comments. Thanks.

Now then. UB40 takes their name from the British unemployment form. One in Ten is their reminder that the statistics you hear and read about represent real people, people in trouble. As 2010 opens, the economy is struggling. My fondest wish for this new year is that we will all notice a positive difference by year’s end. To get there, let’s all take UB40’s reminder to heart, and remember the faces behind the numbers.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten: Ten Men Working

Neil Young & the Bluenotes: Ten Men Working


After closing the '70s with the Rust Never Sleeps/Live Rust one-two punch, Neil spent most of the '80s confounding even his most ardent supporters with a bewildering array of genre experiments: country-rock, electro-pop, rockabilly, pure country, synth-rock, and finally, in 1988, the blues. Many of the experiments were meant to annoy David Geffen, whose label Neil signed to in the early '80s, because Geffen wanted him to sound "more like Neil Young". But for his big-band blues album, This Note's for You, (backed by the nine-piece Bluenotes) Neil had finally found his way out of the Geffen contract and back to his old home, Reprise. And for me, it's the experiment that works the best. No, he will never be mistaken for Muddy Waters. But it's a fun album, and no song exemplifies that joyful energy more than the statement-of-purpose opening track, "Ten Men Working".

Neil liked the song enough to rechristen the band "Ten Men Working" after Harold Melvin (of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes fame) initiated legal action preventing Neil from using the Bluenotes name. Of course, by the following year, he had left the blues behind for a hard-rock power trio billed as "Neil Young and the Restless", perhaps the most aptly named of all his bands.

Ten: Big Ten Inch Record

Bull Moose Jackson: Big Ten Inch Record


I remember this as if it happened yesterday. It was 1975 and Aerosmith had just released Toys In The Attic. By the release of that album, I was already a hardcore Aerosmith fan. One afternoon my father dropped over, during which time I was playing the LP and it was on the last track on side one, Big Ten Inch Record. Now I always read the liner notes and checked the label for the writer's credits but at 19 years old I sure didn't know who Fred Weismantel was. And without the benefit of the internet, it wasn't always as easy as it is now to do research on such things. When my dad came in and heard their version of the song playing, he simply said, "I know that one, it's an old blues tune. We used to dance to it."

When the song was released in 1952, the B side to 'I Need You', it was considered too risque for airplay and was banned from the airwaves. Loaded with double entendre,it was easy to figure out the song's true meaning. But that, apparently didn't stop my dad! And some twenty years later that didn't really matter much. But what I took away from that was a new realization that a lot of the songs that I liked way back then were actually covers of old blues tunes. After that enlightenment, I started to really pay attention and my love for the blues was born.

Bull Moose Jackson was born Benjamin Clarence Jackson in Cleveland Ohio on April 22,1919. He learned the sax and started his first band, The Harlem Hotshots, while still in high school. By 1943 he was recruited to play the sax for Lucky Millinder's band and began singing when he was needed to sub for Wynonie Harris. It was during this stint with Millinder where he got his nickname for his appearance. In 1948 he had a double-sided hit with 'All My Love Belongs to You' and 'I Want a Bowlegged Woman'. In 1961, he had a minor hit with ' I Love You, Yes I Do'.

The Moose lost his battle with lung cancer and passed away in 1989.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ten: Ten Year Night

Lucy Kaplansky: Ten Year Night


I knew my father loved Lucy Kaplansky - at least, I had heard her name, and his recommendation. But the first time I remember seeing her, I was solo, at the Clearwater Folk Festival. And she was so sweet, and so real, so authentically what I needed at that moment, that I bought two albums, and slipped one into the CD player without looking the moment I slid into the long, slow crawl that served as the exit from the camping area.

To be fair, I was emotionally primed. My wife was home, eight months pregnant with our very first child; the jaunt to Clearwater had been designed to be a replacement for our usual trip to Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, which was scheduled for the week after the birth, and it had succeeded marvelously well. The world was heavy with poignancy, I was alone with myself and unfettered, and the utter joy in losing myself to the folk community that weekend had been a true catharsis, just what I needed.

But there, in the car, when I slipped the disc in the player, and this track soared forth on my shitty speakers, everything coalesced.

It was, truly, the first time I had a musical epiphany, the mandolin and the echoing folk guitar, lyrics and the voice, the music and my life coming together for a moment of transcendent glory. In some ways, my entire musical journey since has been a struggle to recapture that sense of wonder, that sense of musical perfection.

Thanks, Lucy. Thanks, Dad. Welcome, 2010. May the new year and decade bring wonder to us all.