Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Houndmouth

21 Nov

The Band:  Houndmouth

What’s the story? There’s a nice little sub-movement happening in rock and roll right now – mining the rich folk and roots sound of the late 60’s. Breakout stars like the Lumineers, Alabama Shakes and the inescapable Mumford and Sons have already captured hearts and minds – and now comes this foursome from the Mighty Midwest with punchy guitar licks, pulsing organs, a rolllicking backbeat and lyrics that would make ol’ Bob smile. Debut ‘From The Hills Below The City’ is  a cracker and upcoming new album is expected to make the retreaded rock n’folk road worth travelling down again. 

Sounds Like:  A Last Waltz with your favorite old pair of boots and the girl you just can’t keep

The gateway songs: 

 

“On The Road”

“For No One”

Other songs:   

“Comin Around Again”

“Krampus”

“Come On Illinois”

 

 

 If you liked this, check out these bands/songs:

Deep Dark Woods “Charlie’s Coming Down”

Justin Townes Earle “Harlem River Blues”

Alabama Shakes ‘Girls and Boys’ album

The New Basement Tapes “Down on the Bottom”

The Band “The Weight” (but you knew that already didn’t ya?)

Alberta Cross ‘The Thief and the Heartbreaker’ EP

Bob Dylan “Only A Hobo”

 

Coffee Cup Reading: The Greatest Lyrics of All Time

15 May

What is it about a song that gets to you? Most often its the groove or the mood, the pace and the pitch. But songs also have a way of speaking to you in words, consoling and cajoling, speaking universal truths, or simply adding context and imagery to the rhythm. The below is a humble collection of favorites  – can you spot the song and has it spoken to you before?   (Prophets and preachers are abbreviated to last names. Who says poetry is dead?)

 “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves. As a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays” – Springsteen

“God is a concept, by which we measure our pain” – Lennon

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood” – Eric Burdon, The Animals

“Have you come here for forgiveness, have you come to raise the dead, have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?” – Bono

“Well those drifters days are past me now, I’ve got so much more to think about. Deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out” -Seger

“She was physically forgotten and then she slipped into my pocket with my car keys. She said, “you’ve taken me for granted because I please you, wearing these diamonds” – Simon

“All your dreams are made, when you’re chained to the mirror and the razor blade”
– N. Gallagher

“Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me, sometimes I can’t even see the reason why. I guess I’ll keep a-gamblin’, lots of booze and lots of ramblin’, it’s easier than just waitin’ around to die” – Van Zandt

“Freedom has a scent, like the top of a newborn baby’s head” – Bono

“The world is in your hands, or its at your throat” – Julian Casablancas, The Strokes

“So I’ll start a revolution from my bed, cuz you said the brains I had, went to my head”
– N. Gallagher

“The morning sun, when its in your face, really shows your age. But that don’t bother me none, in my eyes you’re everything.” – Stewart

“Some days are sulky, some days have a grin, some days have bouncers that won’t let you in” – Bono

“Straight outta Compton is a brotha that’ll smotha yo’ motha….and make ya sister think I love her” – Easy E

“She moved so easily all I could think of was sunlight…..She asked ‘Don’t I know you from the cinematographer’s party?’ I said ‘Who am I to blow against the wind?’ – Simon

In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm,
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” – Dylan

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – McCartney

“Now I work down at the carwash, where all it ever does is rain. Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train?” – Springsteen

“There’s beauty in the silver singing river, there’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky – but none of these and nothing else can match the beauty, that I remember in my true love’s eyes” – Dylan

“There ain’t nothing like regret, to know that you’re alive” – Sheryl Crow

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. But I always thought that I’d see you again” – James Taylor

“Oh the snow fell without a break. Buffalo died in the frozen fields you know. Through the coldest winter, in almost fourteen years, I couldn’t believe you kept a smile” – Stewart

“You know I didn’t mean, what I just said, but my God woke up on the wrong side of his bed” – N.Gallagher

“I’ve looked at love from both sides now, from give and take, and still somehow,
it’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know love at all.” – Joni Mitchell

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me” – Lennon

And if a ten-tonne truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.” – Morrissey

“Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul” – James

“You try and find a love that will see you through your darkest days… and her soft brown hair is as long as a Canadian highway…and there’s no road that ain’t a hard road to travel on” – Sam Roberts

“See I’m stuck in a city, but I belong in a field…oh the heart beats in its cage” – J. Casablancas, the Strokes

“I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’,
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin” – Dylan

“So don’t change the dizzle, turn it up a little, I got a living room full of fine dime brizzles
waiting on the Pizzle, the Dizzle and the Shizzle, G’s to the bizzack, now ladies here we gizzo.” – Snoop Dogg.

“I drink concentrated OJ. I think consolidated is ok. Its not the band i hate, its their fans….three cans of water perverts me” C. Murphy, Sloan

“If you’re having girl problems i feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” – Jay-Z

“Someone told me there’s a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair” – R. Plant, Led Zeppelin

“I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch. He said to me, “Don’t ask for too much.”  And a young woman leaning in her darkened door. She cried out to me, “Why not ask for more?” – Cohen

“Our fiction feels real. Yours is a heart I could steal” – Samantha Savage Smith

“Maybe I will never be, all the things that I’d like to be. Now is not the time to cry, now’s the time to find out why – I think you’re the same as me, we see things they’ll never see. You and I are gonna live forever” – N. Gallagher

“She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the fifteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue”

Dylan

“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College,
that’s where I / caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said in that case I’ll have a rum and coke-cola.

She said fine / and in thirty seconds time /she said, I want to live like common people
I want to do whatever common people do, I want to sleep with common people
I want to sleep with common people / like you. 
Well what else could I do ? I said I’ll see what I can do. 
I took her to a supermarket
I don’t know why but I had to start it somewhere, so it started there. 
I said pretend you’ve got no money, she just laughed and said oh you’re so funny. 
I said yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here. 
Are you sure you want to live like common people
You want to see whatever common people see
You want to sleep with common people, 
you want to sleep with common people like me. 
But she didn’t understand, she just smiled and held my hand. 
Rent a flat above a shop, cut your hair and get a job. 
Smoke some fags and play some pool, pretend you never went to school. 
But still you’ll never get it right 
‘cos when you’re laid in bed at night watching roaches climb the wall 
If you call your Dad he could stop it all. 
You’ll never live like common people
You’ll never do what common people do
You’ll never fail like common people
You’ll never watch your life slide out of view, and dance and drink and screw 
Because there’s nothing else to do.” 

J. Cocker, Pulp

 

ADD YOUR OWN FAVORITE LYRICS TO THIS LIST!  POST BELOW

Coffee Cup Reading: The Story Song

5 Aug

Last night, the city was quiet, streets left emptied for long weekend getaways. Gone was the typical commotion and congestion, the young drunks on the pavement. There seemed to space in the air, between the buildings and alleys. I flipped to an Irish music show on TV, and a strange short haired woman with pink tinted glasses and a southern drawl was giving an interview. The question came about whether she was finding life on the road to be difficult; she answered earnestly and without hesitation that she was happy to be playing under the roof rather than fixing it. Then, she stood up on the stage of a church and sang a song about a homeless man from another time, whose life was also on the road. It was mesmerizing.

And it got me thinking about the great story songs of modern music. What is a story song? Well, it can’t be a love song, at least not directly so. And it’s gotta have colourful characters, like Snoopy and the Red Baron, Hurricane, a boy name Sue, Lucille, and a good for nothing prince. And hey, if it says something about us or about society, even better. Crafted with seamless lyrics, the economy of word and prose, and the ability to fire the imagination.

Does anyone really do ‘em anymore? They’re tough to pull off, especially when the subject matter is a historical figure…it ain’t easy writing a chorus about someone long dead and gone. But story songs are always crowd pleasers and recalled fondly. As a kid, one of the earliest story songs I can remember was Big Bad John:

As we bombed around in the family’s tan coloured station wagon, bouncing along to the clink of the pick axes, I could almost see the men in the mine, struggling in the dust, saved by the otherworldly strength of their rescuer. It may have been the first time I encountered the concepts of death and tragedy, of true sacrifice and virtue.

Then as an 11 year old, my cousin introduced me to the man who made a career out of the story song: Stompin’ Tom Connors. Recently deceased (may he rest in peace), the man himself had a back story suitable for a TV movie. The songs were simple, the lyrics sometimes cringe inducing and clunky, but no one could belt ‘em out like Stompin’ Tom. He was the minstrel for a nation’s folk heroes, and he had us all singing along.

Story songs hit their hey day in the 50s and 60s, peaking in the 70s with perhaps the greatest story song of all, ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’. Perhaps a song about a great lake tragedy shouldn’t be the high water mark of a Canadian legend who also sang of reading minds, and carefree highways and sundowns. But Lightfoot’s voice seems to roll endlessly like the waves of water that doom folklore’s famous ship; it  is never more commanding and pervasive – even if you know nothing about the ship and its men, the story pulls you in:

There are plenty of lesser known story songs that are tragic vignettes of characters, usually hopeless or cast out by society, sometimes mirroring the authors of their own creation. The great Townes Van Zandt was always on the brink of life, fame and success. Every time he looked to break into Nashville, he showed up drunk on country music tv. Even his biggest hit, ‘Poncho and Lefty’ was only a hit when Willie Nelson sang it (even though Townes’ version is better)

And there is the Divine Comedy….like the Edwardian playwright that is their namesake, a song as well crafted as ‘An English Woman of a Certain Age’ can only be described as appropro.

These are but a small sampling of our story songs. You may share in common memories, and have some of your own. So do yourself a favour. Sit down for 6 minutes. Or get in a car and drive into the summer, preferably across the Alberta plains or the Rocky Mountains. Tune out the city and the rest of your life and let a singer tell a story and fill the space in the air. Mary Gauthier was the woman who started my recent journey. Maybe she can start yours too:

Coffee Cup Reading: Old Tymey Vests

27 Apr

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[band picture or turn of the century labourers? You decide.]

“I think people think it’s cool to pretend you live in a 1920’s work camp and eat beans from a tin that you cook over a bonfire (in your Brooklyn apartment). I want to know what ole tymey store all these bands are buying their dressup outfits from. There has to be some sort of Gap for the throngs of idiots who want to pretend they make their own clothes. Somehow wearing one of these outfits makes listening to your really bad music acceptable for people.” – Zak Pashak, founder of Sled Island,  CEO of Detroit Bikes

I’ve been thinking a lot about hipsters lately. Probably more than I should be thinking about them. And not your card carrying, green pant wearing, gypsy jewelry toting, Coachella ambling, hipster. But that unique strain of hipster my friend Zak describes so well, which seems to thrive in the music halls and mp3 downloads of our time. And on the streets too – a form of fashion favoured by certain bands and people – you’ve seen them, you’ve known them, maybe you are them. Whole mediums glorify and lampoon the modern day hipster; Vancouver and Portland are virtual champions of a sadistic visual sport home-brewed in their cities.

And Mumford and Sons are certainly the patron saints, or at very least, the soundtrack to this scene. I remember the first time I heard and saw them….a carefully constructed live performance in a rustic library:

And just look at this video – why the fuck are they in a field with an accordion playing?

But five years ago, the look, the sound, the soul, was a revelation. A startling back to the future lightning bolt of promise – 4 pioneers of music sent to save us from our indulgent selves, tilling our plastic pop wasteland with the harvest of hearty grains and wholesome music, just like our pappies listened to. How could a voice as gravelly as lead singer Marcus Mumford’s transcend? Why did they have so much god-damned gusto? When was the last time we had heard a banjo in a pop song? And where did they get those great haircuts and shirts?

Then came the inevitable growing groundswell of support, first in the alternative corners, and eventually, into the mainstream with Grammy fame and success. A second album followed that traded on the quiet and loud aesthetic of the first, with no new ideas; the clear harbinger of a band drowning in its self-created surf. Even their greatest moment was a subdued cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’; the ideal muse for Marcus’ voice, majestically accompanied by the sublime slide guitar of guest Jerry Douglas:

But now, just like with everything that the mainstream devours, what little original novelty that may have existed with the Mumfords and their hipster movement has been exposed, their secret sauce reverse engineered. Maybe it’s only a matter of time until the Dr.Mindbenders at the giant record labels learn how to commoditize and mass produce their sound and image to create the most feared and reviled Frankensteins of our age: the Boy Band. I can see the lineup now: the pretty folk boy hipster who dresses like a depression-era factory worker, though somehow is still impeccably clean shaven; the bad boy rummy with a stogie in his mouth and a heart of gold behind the coal stained hands, and the angel voiced lead singer sporting a comically thick beard that nests 2 robins (they help with harmonies). And we shall call them: “The New Deal”.

And now, five years on, I view it all with a fascinated curiosity. Amazed at how the masses can be swept up by a heady Prohibition-era cocktail of good looks, hooks, and feigned earnestness that only a banjo and hand stitched northwestern lumber mill shirt can provide. The Calgary Mumford show sold out in less than 5 minutes (true, many of those tickets were ‘purchased’ and immediately available for resale via Ticketmaster’s minion Stubhub – if that isn’t the evil conspiracy of our time, I don’t know what is.) But it’s happened before and it will happen again. The music machine keeps on churning, just like fashion keeps coming up with new designs that upholster a not so distant age. And sometimes the two collide in a wonderful meteor storm that is Mumford. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them; they play their own instruments and write their own songs; they seem to feel the heartache they feel. And maybe they will get over their difficult second album, have a difficult look in the mirror like the Boss once did, and settle into a comfortable rut in the road firmly fixed between the real and the oversold.

Mumford ain’t the first, and they ain’t the last – see: Peter Paul and Mary all the way down to Avett Brothers. Perhaps it’s like the immortal lines sung by Chris Murphy of Sloan: “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” And if that’s true, maybe we hate a little of ourselves for being so fickle – falling hard for bands that we won’t care about as much as soon as the next one comes along, just like a forgotten dress in a deep closet that just doesn’t seem to capture the color of today.

We shouldn’t be surprised by all this. It permeates our society: the yearning for authenticity, for quality, for something real that you can rely on. That’s why retro will always be fashionable; our memories of olden times, recalled by way of the well-travelled road and well-worn sweater, is comfortable nostalgia. We chide the old timers in our families for speaking wistfully of simpler times, but us children of the 80s and 90s repeat the pattern (Nintendo is still more family fun than xbox). We trade and recycle decades and glorify the best tokens of those times. A fundamental guiding light of UnSung is to champion new bands that capture the classic sound of old without a sense of exploitation or veneer. Admittedly that is a pretty subjective line, and one that Mumford has hopscotched over. But there are some great bands out there who seem to fall on the right side of that line, even if they appear to fit the label:

The Tumbleweeds:

Shakey Graves:

Will they make it, find a larger audience, become mini-Mumfords, and then face a backlash when they are too popular to be cool? Only time will tell. I may have offended some hipsters or Mumford concert goers,  but hopefully I’ve just given them pause for thought. This isn’t a condemnation, but a comment, and I’m not holier than thou; I own maple brown glasses from Warby Parker, I often sport a ramshackle beard better appreciated in the backwoods of Montana, and one of my favorite possessions is a canvas jacket that looks like it’s from 1962. We’re all wanting to be hip so we’re not square. And isn’t everyone just trying to be Bob Dylan trying to be Woody Guthrie anyways?

We might as well sit back and enjoy the ride; those that strive for authenticity, those caught in the grip of fickle popularity, those just wanting to find a nice weathered shirt to go with their navy jeans and beat up loafers.

So like that old tymey vest, the penultimate ‘fashion before function’ assemblage, wear your allegiances with caution, for all can see them. And seek the pure of heart and sound; you may be led astray, but chances are, someone else has been there before you.

UPDATE MAY 21/13 – So I saw Mumford in concert last night. My verdict: The earnest head banging in the middle of banjo solos may have seemed a little over the top, but they seemed to have captured something that so many people adore – there were girls crying and drunk boys singing. Lovely patio lights that shone across the main floor. Everyone became electrified during Lion Man and I Will Wait, but there are still too many slow songs that killed any momentum – Mumford still needs to learn the lesson of U2 and Coldplay before them about the importance of a set list: take your audience on emotional ride for 2hrs, and they won’t forget it. Ironically enough, the best moment was their cover (another cover!) of I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen. And Marcus’ vest, it was lovely.

UPDATE AUGUST 5/13 – Take back everything I ever said about Mumford. Check out their new video taking the piss out of themselves (or at least granting comedians the right to take the piss out of themselves.) Well done, Mumford, well done.

Jake Bugg

16 Jan

The (Boy in the) Band:  Jake Bugg

 

What’s the story?:   When a skinny 19 year old mopped top kid from Nottingham stepped up to the mike on the recent Noel Gallagher & Snow Patrol tour, no one expected much.  But with each passing song on his lone acoustic guitar, the boy known as Bugg carried the crowd through an eclectic songscape of early folk-pop, skiffle, and shoegazing Britpop, sounding like a disciple of the great British songwriters before him. His self-titled debut album is sure to ignite, and a bright future awaits.    

 

Sounds Like:  Liam Gallagher cry cry crying early Johnny Cash in the Cavern

The gateway song:    “Lightning Bolt”

Other songs:   

“Country Song”

“Slide”

“Two Fingers”

If you like this, check out these bands/songs:   

Donovan “Colors”

The La’s self titled album

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album

Treble Charger “Red”