dinsdag 27 augustus 2013

Mortality and Loudon Wainwright III's "Older Than My Old Man Now"

Mortality and Loudon Wainwright III's "Older Than My Old Man Now" Posted by Kathy Sands-Boehmer on August 23, 2013 at 12:00pm View Blog Loudon Wainwright. First heard of him via his legendary “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” back in the day. He’s a musician that has always been on my radar but it hasn’t been until the past few years that his star has risen by leaps and bounds in my own musical world. I won’t bore you with all the accolades (and there are many including 22 albums, including a Grammy Award, film and TV appearances, and concerts at some of the most prestigious venues in the world). Your mileage may vary but hearing Loudon’s latest recording, Older Than My Old Man Now, was a revelation to me. A startling one. I have not yet achieved the age of either of my parents when they passed but I have reached an age where the years ahead are fewer than those already lived. Loudon’s words and music resonated with me in a profound way the other morning when I innocently put my iPod on in the car on my way to the office. Yeah, I had listened to the album before…but something was different on this particular day. It was like Loudon was singing just to me…telling me a story with each and every song. I was moved in a very unexpected way… Maybe it’s the fact that there has been a lot of illness and death surrounding me lately. It seems like nearly every week this summer, I’ve heard some sad news about someone I know---news that they are facing dire diagnoses and not so cheery futures. So it was with all that in mind that I heard Older Than My Old Man Now with new ears. To me this album is a true masterpiece. I don’t use that word often. Trust me. The album starts off with the bluesy autobiographical song “The Here and Now”—detailing many of the details about his life thus far...complete with background vocals by his many talented children and some fantastic licks by guitar great, John Scofield. The perfect way to begin this recording. It’s fun. It’s joyful. It’s Loudon. The next tune, “In C,” may be one of my favorites, if not my very favorite. It’s a simple yet elegant piano-based song about Loudon’s favorite “protagonist” –himself. It’s a fragile, heartfelt song that hit me hard. It’s about failed relationships and about the after effects---about grieving the past and how our worlds sometimes fall apart. The cello accompaniment by Erik Friedlander adds to the depth of emotion of the song as Loudon sings about how easy it is to blame ourselves for our foolishness. He sings, “sometimes a guy has to sit and sing about the heavy s**t.” The great unknown is there for all of us….and it’s lovely that Loudon can sing a song in C for us. The short spoken word reflection that precedes the title tune is another poignant piece written by Loudon’s own father, the much lionized Life magazine columnist, about his own ghost father who comes to visit and what a presence he’s been his entire life. Forty years of disembodiment but a presence nonetheless. The harmonica laced bluesy tune is upbeat despite the subject matter. That’s the brilliance that is Loudon Wainwright III. He puts a spin on Wainwright history in a most memorable way. What a legacy. A delightful duet with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on “Double Lifetime” is a lot of fun. It’s a ditty about wishing for more time on this crazy planet. Ramblin’ Jack is the perfect partner on this tune. “Dateline” is another jazzy tune about time---past, present, and future. “All in the Family” is a lovely homage to family ---made all that much nicer by the addition of Loudon’s daughter , Lucy. The perfect accordion accompaniment by the late great Rob Morseberger adds the perfect element to the song. Father and daughter opine “what family Is not insane”? If everyone is honest, no truer words were spoken or sung. “My Meds” follows with honky tonk hilarity. Loudon describes a long laundry list of medicinal antidotes needed to make it through the day in order to eat. sleep, piss, crap, shtup, and breathe. His sense of humor is beyond evident here. If you don’t giggle during this song, you’re not alive. Just when you think the tone of the album is heading toward more fun and games, Loudon surprises us with a magnificent instrumental “Interlude.” Heavenly. Gorgeous. This song brought me back into a reflective space---akin to sitting in a majestic cathedral being serenaded by the most gorgeous string section ever. Lump in my throat goodness. “Over the Hill,” co-written with Loudon’s late ex-wife, Kate McGarrigle is a profoundly beautiful song punctuated with harmony vocals by their daughter, Martha Wainwright and Loudon’s longtime musical partner, Chaim Tannenbaum. It’s the only song that Loudon and Kate wrote together and they wrote it before they were 30. They were old souls and for that I’m thankful. The songs written by old souls stand the test of time. “Ghost Blues” continues down that track---it’s a look at what’s going on from a ghost’s perspective. “Hanging around but you’re not really there / you’re hovering around your own old easy chair” and all that fun stuff that ghosts do. Your dog misses you but knows you’re there at the foot of the bed. I like it. I’ll take it. I’ll rattle those chains and sing along with Loudon. Good stuff. “I Remember Sex” is a campy number with guest Dame Edna contributing to the witty lyrics about one’s past sexual antics. As one music critic says, who else but Loudon Wainwright could pull off a song like this? “Somebody Else” is another one of those songs that hit me hard. Chris Smither adds his talents to this song…and the fact that these two veteran songwriters are singing it together… wow. Makes me recall my dad reading the obituaries in the local paper and I always wondered what it would be like to start losing friends, coworkers, neighbors, those who were my age. Back then it seemed like so far away in the future. We all know we were immortal when we were kids. Now mortality is staring at me and I’m staring back. I’m not necessarily scared but time has a way of keeping on moving…and the present becomes the past real fast. So listen to this tune and feel okay about the whole thing. “The Days That We Die” includes a monologue written and recited by Loudon with sparse piano accompaniment that allows him the opportunity to reminisce about years past and his hopes for reconciliation. He says “change is possible.” Yes, it is. It’s never too late to connect with those we fear are lost forever. Loudon’s son, Rufus, takes center stage on this one. The back and forth lyric exchange between father and son is beyond poignant. The next song, “10” changes it up a bit—a scat-filled tune about looking back---about former lovers, kids who have flown the coop and being ten---a golden age. It’s a straight forward tune about being remorseful and not having what one once had. But life goes on….as is noted in the last song on the album “Something’s Out to Get Me” in which Loudon compares life to an elevator: “You punch a lot of buttons but what goes up comes down.” The sax solo slithers around this cautionary tale---something’s out to get us all. Death. The spectre that is around every corner. As many music writers have noted, writing autobiographical songs is something that the Wainwright clan does well. Older Than My Old Man Now is a musical mirror for all of us---especially those of us who are a certain age. Well worth exploring. Well worth listening to with full attention. Two thumbs way up and if I had more thumbs, I’d give it more. Loudon Wainwright III will be at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, September 13. Views: 326 Tags: Boston, Chris, III, Kate, Loudon, Lucy, Martha, McGarrigle, Roche, Rufus, More…

zaterdag 24 augustus 2013


I Am JewelPress Bio My name is Jewel. Jewel Kilcher. (Yes, Jewel is my real given name). I am 5'6”. I have green eyes, like my grandmother Ruth. Ruth was an aspiring opera singer who left pre-war Germany, got on a ship headed to Alaska to marry a man she hardly knew because she felt her future children must be born somewhere free. She married Yule Kilcher, who was a young idealist who hiked across the Alaskan glaciers by foot, with a ladder on his back, which he used to bridge crevasses in the ice so he could walk over them. He was looking for adventure and new land, away from the Nazi movement. Alaska was still not a state in the late 40's, so he was given (as all takers were) 600 acres of land for free if he promised to homestead it. He sent word back to his homeland of Switzerland, where many friends expressed wanting to move, that he had found a good piece of land. But none came, except Ruth. I got my love of language from Yule. He studied the origins of languages. Ruth taught all her 8 children (she gave birth to most of them alone in a dirt floored log cabin!) to sing and play instruments. I was raised outdoors on the same homestead my family settled around all the music of my family We lived far from town. We had to walk 2 miles just to get to the saddle barn I was raised in... No running water, no heat- we had a coal stove and an outhouse and we mainly lived off of what we could kill or can. We picked berries and made jam. We caught fish to freeze and had gardens and cattle to live on. I rode horses every day in the summer beneath the Alaskan midnight sun. I loved it there. My parents divorced when I was 8, and my dad (Atz Kilcher) and I became a duo. He trained me well and I practiced hard, for hours a day, to sing good harmony and learn his songs. I loved it. I loved everything about it. We sang at Veterans clubs and bank openings, and biker bars and honky-tonks all over the state. My dad is a good performer. He taught me not to use a set list, but instead just to read the crowd. He would joke and laugh with the audience. He stressed punctuality and being professional. I moved out on my own when I was 15. I had a cabin not far from my dad’s. It had one room and no water, no plumbing, and I worked several jobs. I rode a horse 12 miles into town for work and left my horse at my aunt’s place (who lived close to town) then hitch-hiked the rest of the way in. At 15 I applied to a fine arts school in Michigan, called Interlochen, and was accepted on a partial scholarship. I raised the rest of the money by doing my first solo show ever at the local high school in the auditorium. I had always backed my dad up, but this time I sang a variety of Cole Porter songs I loved, backed up by a friend who played piano. Local businesses donated items for me to auction off at intermission. My home town of Homer, Alaska raised $11,000 for me during that concert… all to help send me to school. I majored in classical voice and art and minored in dance and drama. I was 16 that year. At spring break all kids had to leave the campus. But I couldn’t afford to get to Alaska, so I decided to learn 4 chords on the guitar (my dad had always played guitar, not me) and get on a train in Detroit to busk my way across the country. I made up lyrics about what I saw traveling. It took several days to sing my way across the country- earning my ticket money one street corner at a time when the train stopped. I made it to San Diego and crossed the border into Tijuana and hitch-hiked to Cabo San Lucas. I carried a large skinning knife with me for protection in a scabbard on my belt. I earned enough money to get on a ferry and cross the Sea of Cortez and take trains through central Mexico. I stayed in youth hostels and ate by singing in restaurants in exchange for food. I ferried back to Cabo, and hitch hiked back to Tijuana, and trained back to Michigan to be back at school when it started up again. The whole time I wrote one song. A long song. My first song, about people I met and things I saw. The song was called “Who Will Save Your Soul”. I was going to graduate high school a year early, because I was finished with my academics, but my senior year they gave me a full scholarship to return just to take all art classes- so I did! I fell in love with marble carving that year, and visual art became the focus of my senior year. I wrote songs in my free time. I drifted after I graduated. No plans for college. Ended up in San Diego where I answered phones in a computer warehouse. My boss fired me because I wouldn’t sleep with him, and I ended up homeless for a year. I kept writing songs, and started singing in a local coffee shop called The Inner Change Cafe. I developed a loyal following. No one knew I was homeless. A radio station decided to put a bootleg of me on the air and a record label heard it. Soon after, a lot of limousines started pulling up and guys in suits came to watch me sing. There was a bidding war between several labels for me! I couldn’t believe it! I went with the label that didn’t want me to change and let me be a simple songwriter. Against all odds my simple album went on to sell 12 million copies! My grandmother Ruth was alive to see me succeed. She called me to her one day, and with a shaky voice she told me that she gave up all her dreams of being an opera singer, and a poet, because she believed if her future family had any chance of success, it would be in a free country. She had a high German-Swiss accent and looking into her green eyes was like looking into a mirror. We looked so similar. She patted my leg with her delicate fingers, and said that it was worth giving up her artistic dreams, to see the dreams for her family come true. The fact that I made it as a writer and a singer meant so much to her. So, this is me. I have been blessed to experience some amazing things in my life. I sang at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. I toured and got to sing with Bob Dylan. I sang with BB King in England, and again in the White House for President Clinton. I got to be on Merle Haggard's album of #1 Hits. I have sold more records than a songwriter ought to. But these are just things, (exciting things!) because more than anything, I am my father's daughter. He taught me to love horses and hard work and music. I am the beneficiary of my grandparents’ pioneer spirit and vision. I still work every day to maintain the things I believe in and care about and to uphold the proud pioneer spirit of my family. My life has exceeded any expectation I ever held for myself. I never thought a storyteller in today’s day and age would be able to go so far. It is because I have had passionate fans that demanded and let labels and stations know they care about my kind of music. You have all helped make my dream come true. And the dreams of Ruth and Yule Kilcher.

woensdag 7 augustus 2013

Skip Spence Skip was playing the Fender Stratocaster during late 1967 / early 196

So I met a fellow last night at Don Quixote's who said he was Moby Grape's last road manager. He said that he had seen Moby Grape perform in their heyday, circa 1967-68. He made a very interesting comment about Skip Spence's contributions to rock. His claim was that Skip was the first musician to get that "metal Strat sound" on his Fender Stratocaster. That nobody had done that before. Moby Grape is considered by a number of rock critics as having been ahead of its time in terms of establishing new parameters for rock music, and in particular for pioneering a heavy rock sound. Skip, I believe, was playing the Fender Stratocaster during late 1967 / early 1968. There are pictures of him with heavy beard and leather jacket playing at shows with the Stratocaster. This was from the 1968 phase, I imagine, when the Grape was most well known nationwide - - and even internationally. (And arguably at the height of its game.) These "Strat comments" mesh rather nicely with Jerry Miller's statements that Skip Spence was the finest rhythm guitarist he has ever played with. Doug