Saturday, March 19, 2011

Heritage: Eliza Carthy

Eliza Carthy: Fisher Boy


Billy Bragg and Eliza Carthy: My Father's Mansions


Old friend and once-upon-a-time Star Maker Machine contributor Divinyl may be up to her eyebrows in grad school, but she still had time to check in via FaceBook to express excitement about this week's theme, offering alongside her kudos and hellos a short wish-list of folks she hoped we might get to. Her first suggestion, Rufus Wainwright, has already been covered with aplomb by Anne, and despite impeccable if relatively localized famous parentage, her second and third choices - the Unthanks and Martha Tilston - are a bit recent for our usual standards, having started their recording careers post-millennium.

Eliza Carthy, on the other hand, fits both our high standards and our practice. And so today's secondhand recommendation, though last on Divinyl's list, comes first on mine, with my full endorsement.

I've written about Eliza Carthy and her family within the year, in fact, over at Cover Lay Down, and Darius posted a song of hers way back in February of last year, so I won't go too deeply into her work here, except to note that, like Rufus and Anita, Eliza comes from a long and broad musical lineage - she's the daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, niece of Mike and Lal Waterson - and started out as a wee lass performing alongside family, with mother, aunt, and cousin. Since then, she has put out several solo albums, and records and tours with both the larger family and as Waterson:Carthy with her parents. But regardless of who she is paired with, or not, one listen, and you, too, will have little doubt that the tendency towards traditional Brit-folk of the Yorkshire revivalist sort runs rich in her veins.

As this week's theme asks us to focus on progeny specifically, I've selected two favorite "sans family" pieces as introduction: the former a simple mid-nineties take on a traditional tune featuring Eliza's bold vocals, the latter featuring her potent fiddling, alongside Billy Bragg's voice, on a Pete Seeger song which resonates exceptionally well in the lyrical tones of those from across the pond.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heritage: Joshua Redman


Joshua Redman: I Had A King


Here's another example of the fruit not falling far at all from the tree. Joshua Redman, the brilliant free-form saxophonist, learned his craft at his father Dewey Redman's knee. Dewey was known for his solo free-form/bebop recordings as well as collaborations with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett, especially, as well as with Pat Metheny, Paul Motian, and Charlie Haden.

I treated you to a song by Joshua Redman (St. Thomas) during Saints week. This time I'm sharing a Joni Mitchell cover that he borrows and makes his own.

Heritage: Aoife Clancy

Aoife Clancy: Are You Sleepin‘ Maggie?


Happy St Patrick’s Day! For the occasion, I wanted to present some Irish music. Shouldn’t be to difficult, right? After all, look at the on-line bio of almost any well known Irish musician, and it will say that they came from a musical family. The trouble is, most of those mothers and fathers were strictly amateur musicians. However, look at my artist’s last name. Yes, those Clancys. Specifically, Aoife’s father is Bobby Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. Love them or hate them, they have to be the best known Irish musical family. But Aoife is another matter. Her music is more rooted in the traditional sounds of Ireland, and she also uses a more modern folk sound. Aoife Clancy began her recording career as a member of Cherish the Ladies, and her solo work is just as beautiful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heritage: Anita Carter

Anita, Maybelle, June and Helen Carter

Anita Carter: Anita Carter – (Love’s) Ring Of Fire


Last week I featured an original of a song known better by its cover (“Bossa Nova Baby”), and this week’s theme invites another lesser-known original (those who know my little corner of the blogosphere will be aware of my love for those).

Anita Carter was part of the Carter Sisters, successor to the original Carter Family, the pioneers of country music. The Carter Family comprised A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and Sara’s cousin Maybelle, who by dint of her marriage to A.P.’s brother Ezra was also the sister-in-law to her fellow band members. They recorded for only nine years, from 1927-36, but left behind an immensely influential body of work, one that would help define country and folk. Maybelle was a groundbreaking guitarist: in her hands, the instrument made the transition from a rhythm to lead instrument.

The Carter Family broke up after A.P. and Sara divorced in 1936. Sara married A.P.’s cousin (really!) and moved to California. In 1938, Maybelle (still 29 years old) roped in her nine-year-old middle daughter June, and soon after her older daughter, Helen, who as an eight-year-old in 1935 already had appeared on stage with the Carter Family. Eventually youngest daughter Anita, born in 1933, joined the group which was alternately known as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, or just the Carter Sisters, or the Carter Family. They performed together until the 1970s, and after Maybelle’s death reunited briefly in 1987, roping in June’s daughter Carlene.

In the 1950s Anita (who in the Carter Family played the stand-up bass) began to score solo hit singles. She also supported Elvis Presley tour (there were rumours of some kind of romantic relationship). More hits would follow sporadically, but Anita never hit the big time as much as did her sister June, who ended up married to Johnny Cash.

At the time when June was falling for Cash, she was regularly writing songs with fellow country singer Merle Kilgore. Kilgore later recalled Ring Of Fire being born the day June spoke to him about her love for Cash. While searching for an idea for a new song, the story goes, June remembered a letter she had received from a friend going through a divorce which described love as “a burning ring of fire”. The song essentially described June’s feelings for Cash. But it was Anita who recorded it, in November 1962. The song was only half-finished when Anita was ready to record it; June and Kilgore banged the rest together in ten minutes, fortuitously retaining the word “mire” from a provisional lyric.

Cash liked the song when he heard Anita’s record (as he well should) and decided he would record it. Deferring to his future sister-in-law, he waited four months before recording his version, with the famous Tijuana trumpets. His version was a hit, saving him from being fired by Columbia Records. Cash’s career revived to such an extent that he was later given a TV show, on which both Anita and Maybelle would feature frequently.

Maybelle died in 1979 at the age of 69; Anita died in June and Johnny’s home on 29 July 1999 at the age of 66.

Heritage: Martha and Rufus Wainwright

Martha Wainwright: Laurel & Hardy


Rufus Wainwright: April Fools


Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle were great folk singers in their own right. Sadly, Kate died last year, but Loudon still is going strong. The marriage between Loudon and Kate didn't last but the union left a lasting legacy nonetheless. Their children, Rufus and Martha, have become talented musicians on their own. Songwriting is obviously in their blood.

Martha's song "Laurel & Hardy" from her 1999 EP is about her brother Rufus and makes it clear that they have a close relationship, something that was probably fostered by their bitterness over their father not being around for most of their childhoods. Rufus is the more well-known of the two (at least so far), though, and has found much critical success.

After Loudon and Kate's divorce, Loudon had another child with another folk singer, Suzzy Roche, of The Roches. The child, a girl named Lucy, also has become a a bonus, here is a track of hers.

Lucy Wainwright-Roche: Chicago


Monday, March 14, 2011

Heritage: Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis: In the Court of King Oliver


I have the perfect album for this week’s theme. Standard Time Vol. 3 The Resolution of Romance is Wynton Marsalis’ tribute to his musical heritage. The album’s 21 songs form a sort of travelogue through the generations of jazz that inspired Wynton Marsalis. Naturally, the journey begins in New Orleans, Marsalis’ home town. In the Court of King Oliver is a Wynton Marsalis original, but it pays tribute to the first great New Orleans trumpeter, King Oliver.

Now, you may have noticed that this week is not about musical heritage but about family. Wynton Marsalis is the best known of six brothers, but three others are also jazz musicians. Branford is the saxophonist in the family, and the youngest brother Jason plays drums and vibraphone, and is just now starting to make a name for himself. Another brother, Delfeayo, has become a well known jazz trombonist, but he served as producer of this album. They all get it from their father. Ellis Marsalis made his first recording before the first of his sons was even born, in 1956. From there, Ellis Marsalis forged a dual career as musician and jazz educator. Ellis Marsalis is the piano player heard here, and father and son are both pictured above on the album cover.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dance Moves -> Heritage: Bebel Gilberto's One Note Samba

Bebel Gilberto w/ Venicius Cantuaria: One Note Samba/The Girl From Ipanema


Daughter of Brazilian singer-songwriters and composers João Gilberto, who is generally credited with inventing the Bossa Nova beat, and his wife Miúcha, whose career began at age 38 when her husband brought her in as a performing partner for his work with Stan Getz, Bebel Gilberto made her Carnegie Hall debut at just nine years old, singing alongside her parents and the inimitable Stan Getz. Today, she brings a perfect balance of modern beats and neo-classical portuguese style to her work, releasing remixes designed to appeal to the world beat market and her younger countrymen, and it works: this delightful samba is but one of several she has recorded, and to be fair, it's but one half of a medley of two of her father's signature tunes, both originally written by Antonim Jobim, but it showcases her style better than the ubiquitous and oft-sampled club remixes I also had sitting around.

As the daughter of musical royalty, Bebel's work also kicks off a week's thematic exploration of second generation musicians. Note that, as with previous artist-centric explorations, this week's posts will use artist names, not song names, in their titles.