Thursday, December 30, 2010

Depression proof music

We used to know them as the magazine that covered "alt-country music (whatever that is). " Today they are an online emination self-described as the "roots music authority."

Whatever. We don't enjoy No Depression nearly as much these days, but they continue to provide a sanctuary of sorts for people with like-minded musical tastes, no matter what they call it. And once you sift through the confusing and convoluted process that was used to come up with their 2010 year-end lists (why in the world did they need three?), there is at least some listenable music to consider. 

We're sharing the Readers Poll below because it best reflects the Sanctuary's listening choices for 2010,  but there are also No Depression polls derived from the selections of featured bloggers and short people, and those can be found here. Wait -- that last one is a widget poll!  (Five albums made all three lists and are denoted by underlined italics.)

1. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
2. Alejandro Escovedo, Street Songs of Love
3. Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs
4. Drive By Truckers, The Big To Do
5. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
6. Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone
7. Robert Plant, Band of Joy
8. Black Keys, Brothers
9. Carolina Chocolate Drops, Genuine Negro Jig
10. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
11. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
12. Neil Young, Le Noise
13. Patty Griffin, Downtown Church
14. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mojo
15. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
16. Bruce Springsteen, The Promise
17. Ray Wylie Hubbard, A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)
18. Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust
19. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, I Learned the Hard Way
20. Tift Merrit, See You On The Moon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Get the Kinks out

The best list we've seen in some time: Tom Petty ranking his favorite songs of the British Invasion, from the Rolling Stone Playlist Special that we drilled into here prior to the latest artist listings.

Instead of loading up on Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, Petty spreads the wealth around by listing 10 different bands, each of which made a vivid imprint on the movement while spiking Petty's musical inspiration. As he mentions in his precede: "These guys brought the guitar to the fore. You weren't getting guitar off the Shirelles."

We were particularly pleased with the ranking of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" at No. 2, just behind the almost obligatory Beatles' twin spin of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"/"I Saw Her Standing There." Ray Davies and the punkish Kinks rarely receive the credit they deserve alongside the Stones and Fab Four, but it's all there as the video above attests.

Here is Petty's list. Click on the following link to read what he says about each song:

1."I Want to Hold Your Hand" b/w "I Saw Her Standing There" The Beatles, 1963

2."You Really Got Me" The Kinks, 1964

3."We've Gotta Get Out of This Place" The Animals, 1965

4."She's Not There" The Zombies, 1964

5."When You Walk in the Room" The Searchers, 1964

6."I'm Alive" The Hollies, 1965

7."I'm a Man" The Yardbirds, 1965

8."Anyway You Want It" Dave Clark Five, 1964

9."I Can't Explain" The Who, 1965

10."(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" The Rolling Stones, 1965

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Oh Holy Mole night

Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays to all of you, with a big assist to our good friend and fellow crusader Rick Hotton, creator of the wonderful Holy Mole comic strip....

Friday, December 24, 2010

The upside of Carey Ott

Carey Ott is an artist you should pay attention to. It may seem surprising to hear us say this because we don't spend a lot of time mining the pop genre. What is pop, anyway?

Carey Ott is pop, and this makes pop okay.  If Ott were to take a stage name that mostly aptly describes his craft he might be known as Pop Hook.  (Dr. Hook is already taken.) The man is a virtuoso at writing catchy lyrics and turning them into irresistable rhythms, melodies and beats that send you down the sidewalk with a skip in your step.  He's the artist most likely to have music appear on a TV episode (which has happened several times) or a movie soundtrack.  And what's wrong with that?

Take the song "Ain't No Upside (Living on tha Downside)" from his 2010 album Human Heart.  Play the clip above from an in-studio taping and give us your honest assessment.  It's not easy to isolate a single song because Ott is so prolific -- he had to whittle down Human Heart to 20 songs and probably has written twice that many since then, some of them even rising above "Ain't No Upside."  Many are collaborations with other artists in his Nashville studio.  Sow those lyrical oats any way you can.

Now go to his website and listen to how he goes about his craft.  It makes you wanna sit down and write a song because he makes it sound so easy. But it couldn't possibly be as good as this:

Ain't no upside living on the down side
There ain't no down side in looking up
Ain't no reason for living this way
You keep treading water day after day

And you stay so downhearted it can feel like a hurricane
When you don't feel any love come to ya, give some away
I say ain't no upside living on the down side
There' ain't no downside in looking up
Honey sometimes life can beat you up
I don't have any answers, darlin, only love

Ain't no problem baby we can't solve
We all hurt sometimes it ain't nobody's fault
You keep waiting on tomoorrow like it won't never come
When you don't feel any love coming to ya, give me some

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hook, line and Foucault

Jeffrey Foucault isn't new to Sanctuarians. The Wisconsin songwriter was our first Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout (Pssst!) back in February 2009:

Since then we've noticed a proliferation of online music videos featuring Foucault.  In particular, there was a Vox Concert Series in Marshfield, Wisconsin during which some quality music was recorded -- including the clip above of "Ghost Repeater." Can you believe the sound coming out of that little Martin O-18 guitar? 

We went to Foucault's website to check out his gear and among the various guitars he shares an image of one of our favorite fishing lures, the Lazy Ike. "I've never actually caught anything on this lure," he writes, "but I have a good feeling about it.  Also, I like the way it swims."

He may not have caught anything on that lure, but he hooked us long ago with his reflective story-telling and a gritty but polished baritone that plumbs deeply into the soul of things. Oh, and listen to the sound of that guitar.

Foucault has a great website, so turn there to learn more -- including news about about his latest release Cold Satellite:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The greatest soul on earth

If we could see just one more live music performance in our lives it would be a night with Pat McLaughlin at Douglas Corner in Nashville. Or anywhere else we might be lucky enough to find him playing. Hands down.There is nothing like it.

In the video above pay particular attention at the 1:53 mark after Pat lets loose with one of his spontaneous funkafied yelps. Check the reaction of bass player Michael Rhodes, who turns back to drummer Greg Morrow with a smile that says everything you need to know about McLaughlin.  Even his bandmates are continually amazed by the soul that reverberates through McLaughin's beat up Teleaster, sweats through his T-shirts, gurgles over the stage and envelopes the audience.

Peter Cooper of the Tennesseean calls McLaughlin's music "Groove and soul, slink and stutter, groove and soul, wisdom and pain, groove and soul."

We have nothing to add, except:  Go see him.  And check out his website at

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Catching up with Clay Riness

We first heard Clay Riness in the Eighties when he released an album of homespun songs from the Heartland like "Down to the Cellar," "Combine Boogie" and "Victoria's Kitchen."

We were particularly smitten by "Victoria's Kitchen, which conjured some warm and inviting images:

Sometimes it sings of fresh bread, sings of whole wheat
Plenty of molasses, raisins and apricot muffins
It's where she makes the cookies and dries the wild chives
Heats up the coffee and keeps it alive on the oven

Click this link to hear "Victoria's Kitchen" from back in the day. To borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, Riness was so much older then, he's younger than that now -- as you can see watching the embedded video above.

We lost track of the artist from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, and it wasn't all our fault. Riness settled down to raise a family with Victoria, and his music took a back seat for a number of years. We were happy to reconnect with his music recently after doing a simple Google search.  Apparently he never put the guitars in storage.

Clay's website is under construction but you can find out more about him and his music at:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Floats like a butterfly

For the next few days leading up to Christmas we're going to share video clips of some of our favorite artists, all of whom deserve to be household names but in fact are often working purposely to grow beyond relatively small niches.

We hope Greg Trooper isn't unfamiliar to you, but if he is you're in for a treat. We LOVE this song from Trooper's 2003 album Floating. It's called "Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas)" and it has everything and nothing to do with the holiday season.

We saw Trooper one night a few years ago at the Fogertyville Cafe in Bradenton, Florida, playing that very same Martin you see in the video.  There seemed to have been a special story about the guitar but it escapes us at this moment.  We will never forget the way his "songs and delivery grab you by the throat," as one critic described him.

One of Trooper's biggest fans is fellow roots songwriter Steve Earle, who mentions on the album's back cover that after hearing Trooper perform "Muhammad Ali" he went home immediately and learned the song himself.  High praise indeed.

Trooper has a new album scheduled for release in February. Go to his website for more information: http:///

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is heaven in hell

By Wayne Shelor
Open in a new window to listen as you read:

Let’s do something a bit different this Sunday in the Sanctuary. Why not pour yourself a cup-a coffee and let’s take 15 minutes this morning to explore something special. We’re going to visit with a remarkable songwriter from England -- a guitarist who many Americans have never heard of -- who I swear is as American as baseball and Chevrolet.

We’ll access our introduction via three songs from his 1989 album The Road To Hell.

This is Chris Rea, and he ought to be one of the world’s best-known songwriter/guitarists. Rea’s a 59-year-old Englishman who is celebrated across Europe; is well-known but not The Man in his own country; and has somehow largely stayed beneath the radar in America. This song, from The Road to Hell, is called “Texas,” and it’s a prototypical Chris Rea song with a soulful tune and lyrical hooks in every other stanza. Like many of Rea’s songs, it’s cultivated along an artery of blues, coloured by Rea’s gravelly, time-worn voice, and full of sustained slide guitar licks that’re as long and scenic as the roads of which he sings, the ones that go on … forever (check out his bottleneck work at the 2-minute mark).

Chris’ “Texas” is as fraught with the sounds and imagery of America as anything penned by Dylan, Cash or Springsteen. It’s the kind of song that you would have heard on American Top 40 radio … back when such a thing existed. Like it? Let’s let it finish, warm your coffee, and we’ll audition the title track:

Open in a new window and listen as you read

This is the album’s title track, “The Road To Hell,” and it takes Rea almost half the song (and this is an abbreviated version) to set up the piece and begin rocking. But “The Road To Hell” is a wonderful song commenting on the frustrations of 20th Century life, using an emotive description of London’s M25 motorway traffic as his vehicle of angst and frustration. Rea often uses cars, highways and travel as allusions and metaphors, references that come easily to the long-time car racing fan and collector.

Hear the various sounds mixed quietly into the mix? Rea is nothing if not atmospheric: he uses whispers, spoken snippets of conversation, bits of television and radio and all sorts of ambient sounds to set the scene in many songs. But above all, he’s a great storyteller (listen to his wily use of words in the second movement of this adroitly lyriced song).

Rea’s also a world-class slide guitarist -- you’ll love his lovely liquid licks throughout this song -- and an old school rock ‘n’ roller. The road to hell, indeed. Why not fill your cup as you enjoy the rest of “The Road” … and then we’ll visit Daytona.

Open in a new window and listen as you read

From the song titles, cultural references and … and even his (lack of an English) accent, you’d never know Chris Rea isn’t an American.

In this song, “Daytona,” he and his female chorus sing the praises not of one of Florida’s best known Spring Break and NASCAR locales, but rather of the Ferrari Daytona, a very special ‘70s-era sports car. Yessir, this is a paean to a haulin’-ass sports car, and as a hymn, it smokes more revved-up American songs such as “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Little GTO” and “Little Red Corvette.”

The “12 wild horses in silver chains” refers to the 12-cylinder, 268 cubic inch, 402 HP engine in a car heralded as one of the Top 10 Ferraris ever made. Chris knows his automotive iron, and from his muse to his music, let there be no doubt: this cat is a red, white and blue-blooded American boy in English clothes.

“Cloudless daydream/Oh dream of dances/To have tamed the sound of thunder/Oh Daytona, shine your light on me” may not be as earthy as songs about Mustangs, T-Birds and Oldsmobile 442s, but when Rea whispers about the screams of a Ferrari, it’s a respectful and understandable lust.

People all over the world long to visit Daytona and have the Florida sun “shine your light on me,” and a poet such as Rea can turn a universal idea into a slowly moving song about a fast car, and few are the wiser.

Hope you enjoyed meeting Mr. Rea. He plays like Allman, writes like Seger and his album The Road to Hell would be a great present for anyone on your list … maybe even yourself. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How the music moves 'em

BTW, Happy 67th Keef!
We aren't always dissing Rolling Stone.  Their web newsletter has a cool Playlist Special where 50 artists were asked to provide Top 10 lists of the music they love.  There were really no parameters, so Patti Smith picked Bob Dylan's love ballads, Ray LaMontagne covered his favorite Band songs and Jimmy Webb revealed the songs he wish he'd written.

Check it out here:

Here are 10 things we learned from the RS Playlist Special:

1. Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) lists Aretha Franklin's "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" as one of his favorite soul songs: "I knew Aretha as a little girl — she must have been 10 or 11. We were all on the road around that time with her dad, who was part of Martin Luther King's world, and he would bring her onstage to play piano when Dr. King was speaking. I always associated this song with Jerry Lewis, who did a hell of a good job — but when I heard this, I went, "Holy shit, that's little Aretha!"

2. Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson was not an early fan of the Rolling Stones. But he got there, and the most memorable Stones song for him is "Midnight Rambler." "A woman told me years ago that she saw the Stones in '72 and masturbated when they played "Midnight Rambler." I was like, "It's a song about a guy breaking into a house and raping somebody!" How dark and weird, and yet it's an incredibly powerful piece of music."

3. Keith Richards tried to find some obscure songs that "slipped between the cracks" like Big Bill Broonzy's "When Did You Leave Heaven." But Keef couldn't resist giving props to Chuck Berry for "Memphis Tennessee:"  "I think he's playing everything except the drums and a little piano. There is something about the way the guitars mesh together. I have to doff the old hat. The greatest."

4. Rage Against the Machine guitar slinger Tom Moreno consider's John Lennon's "Imagine" the best protest song of all time: "Lennon described this song as basically the Communist Manifesto set to music. It's couched in such a beautiful melody and gorgeous singing performance that it's easy to miss the fact that it's a lullaby of socialist-style overthrow."

5. Ozzy Osbourne remembers listening to "She Loves You" on a blue transistor radio and he was transformned. "I feel so privileged to have been on this planet when the Beatles were born. They are and will forever be the greatest band in the world. I remember talking to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. He said, 'I didn't like the Beatles.' I said, 'There is something fucking wrong with you.' "

6. Here's how Pete Seeger sums up the folkiness of us all: "My father, Charles Seeger, was a musicologist; when he was 90, he put out a collection of papers he had read at various scholarly gatherings. The last paper he read was titled 'The Folkness of the Nonfolk and Nonfolkness of the Folk.' The last sentence was, 'Musically speaking, the people of the United States are divided into two classes: a majority that does not know it is folk and a minority that thinks it isn't.' What lovely lines, because we're all folk."

7. Another transistor radio, another musical awakening: Rod Stewart working his first job as a silk-screener and on comes Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang." "To explain what Sam Cooke meant to me, it would take a couple of hours just to scratch the surface. The man basically introduced me to soul music. The first time I heard him, his music hit me like a thunderbolt and just slapped me around the head. I was 15 years old, and he changed my life."

8. Rufus Wainwright's description of Leonard Cohen's writing: "Fantastic framed sculptures." Wainwright's favorite Cohen song is "Bird on a Wire." "It's so touching and true in terms of what we go through as human beings — all the attempts we make to do the right thing that just miss the mark. It's probably his most human song."

9. Canadian rapper Drake loves to watch a DVD of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock before he performs, and when he was in Seattle he visited Hendrix's gravesite and left this note: "Still inspired."
10. Can you be moved by a song more than Erykah Badu, who said this about Earth Wind and Fire's "That's the Way of the World:"  "When I heard this, it was like there was something that burst out of the ground and surrounded me — like children and flowers and Africa were appearing out of nowhere. And those horns! When Maurice White's voice comes in, it sounds like the voice of God."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Now ain't that some shit

This is 2010 (barely), so we hope we aren't offending anyone by mentioning Spin's top song of the year.  If we called it anything other than "Fuck You" we just wouldn't be accurate.  We could write "F**k You" but, again, we're two decades into the 21st Century.   It seems a bit naive.  The kids are singing it. We just hope mom doesn't read this.

Here's what Spin had to say about Cee Lo Green's song:

Appropriately, 2010's most memorable song first existed as a goofy Internet novelty. But due to its universal sentiment, Cee Lo's holy-rolling gusto, and the year's shit train of woes, it actually resonated: We're broke, we're pissed, and we wanna curse out anybody who acts like they've got the slightest inkling; or, we could just cue up this hilariously ebullient, timelessly soulful middle-finger salute, and go about our fucking business. Thanks, Preacher Green, you win.

Society is in such a steep decline and music is so marginalized that it doesn't even make us flinch to say we think the song is great and the video is hilarious.  It certainly will go down as memorable, by any definition of the term.

Now ain't that some shit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best doggone tutorial ever

This one's for Matt, and anybody else out there who has purchased a guitar with every good intention of learning to play.  It isn't usually difficult to summon some inspiration, but once you place your fingertips on those steel strings you realize it ain't gonna be as easy as it looks.

Then there's that old song by Larry Crane whispering in your ears and casting doubt in your mind:

Mama said no good come from wire and wood
You never feel no pain like a guitar playin
Keep you from doin things that you know you should
Mama said no good ever come from that wire and wood

Mama is wrong, of course. Dead wrong.  There's plenty of joy that comes from the wire and wood.

And it's really not any more difficult than learning to drive a stick shift -- and there's no clutch!  Don't give up until you've at least tried this Johnny Cash styling of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt." 

Just a kid, his guitar and a dog.  Beautiful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making room for Mavis

Here they are, Rolling Stone's top songs of 2010.  We are not here to pass judgment on them, only to mention a curious trend: Eleven of the 50 are by artists who feature other artists, as in: Kanye West featuring Pusha T, which tops the list with a ditty (not Diddy) called "Runaway." What do you make of that?  Punks come in pairs?

We've been listening to the new Mavis Staples album and we're pleasantly surprised -- OK, stunned -- to see "You Are Not Alone" near the top of the list. This is probably because of the man-squeeze RS has on the Wilco frontman who wrote the album's title cut and produced the record.  By the new standard it should be credited Mavis Staples featuring Jeff Tweedy. (Click on No. 6 below to watch them play it in the studio.)

Whatever. We're just happy to see Tom Petty featuring the Heartbreakers on there.

Rolling Stone's Best Singles of 2010

1. Kanye West featuring Pusha T, "Runaway"
2. Cee Lo Green, "Fuck You"
3. Sade, "Soldier of Love"
4. Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"
5. Arcade Fire, "We Used to Wait"
6. Mavis Staples, "You Are Not Alone"
7. Vampire Weekend, "White Sky"
8. Janelle MonĂ¡e featuring Big Boi, "Tightrope"
9. Broken Bells, "The Ghost Inside"
10. Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, "Monster"
11. The Black Keys, "Everlasting Light"
12. Mark Ronson and the Business International featuring Q-Tip and MNDR, "Bang Bang Bang"
13. The Dead Weather, "Hustle and Cuss"
14. Big Boi featuring Cutty, "Shutterbugg"
15. Drake, "Over"
16. Cold War Kids, "Coffee Spoon"
17. LCD Soundsystem, "I Can Change"
18. Jenny and Johnny, "Scissor Runner"
19. The New Pornographers, "Your Hands (Together)"
20. Best Coast, "Boyfriend"
21. Sleigh Bells, "Infinity Guitars"
22. Rick Ross featuring Styles P, "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"
23. Jamey Johnson, "Macon"
24. Eminem, "Not Afraid"
25. Nicki Minaj, "Did It On'em"
26. Robyn, "Dancing on My Own"
27. The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
28. Band of Horses, "Laredo"
29. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "The Trip to Pirate's Cove"
30. Jakob Dylan, "Nothing but the Whole Wide World"
31. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"
32. Die Antwoord, "Enter the Ninja"
33. Wavves, "Post Acid"
34. Gorillaz featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack, "Stylo"
35. Massive Attack featuring Hope Sandoval, "Paradise Circus"
36. Drake featuring Nicki Minaj, "Up All Night"
37. Lloyd Banks featuring Juelz Santana, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley"
38. Spoon, "The Mystery Zone"
39. The Gaslight Anthem, "The Diamond Church Street Choir"
40. Kanye West, "Power"
41. Junip, "In Every Direction"
42. Surfer Blood, "Floating Vibes"
43. B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars, "Nothing on You"
44. Neil Young, "Love and War"
45. The Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul"
46. MGMT, "Congratulations"
47. Kid Rock, "Born Free"
48. Das Racist, "hahahaha jk?"
49. Elizabeth Cook, "El Camino"
50. Ke$ha, "We R Who We R"u

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Gaye old time

How was Motown Record Corporation doing on this day back in 1968?  Pretty damn fine, as a glance at the Billboard Top 5 will attest:

1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
2. Love Child, Diana Ross & the Supremes
3. For Once in My Life, Stevie Wonder
4. Abraham, Martin and John, Dion
5. Who's Making Love, Johnnie Taylor

It was an unprecendented 1-2-3 trifecta for Motown, led by Gaye's first of three career No. 1 pop hits. (He had 13 R&B chart-toppers.) "Grapevine," written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was recorded first by Gaye but Motown's Berry Gordy declined to release it, and in stepped Gladys Knight & the Pips with a record that reached No.2 in 1967.

Gaye's "Grapevine" spent seven weeks atop the pop chart, finally ceding its position on Feb.1 to "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells.  Oh, and Gaye's other No. 1 pop songs were "Let's Get It On" and "Got to Give it Up, Pt. 1."

As much as we like Gaye's fabulous original version of "Grapevine," we decided to share an a capella performance you might not have heard.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Buscemi hits us with his best shots

Today is actor Steve Buscemi's birthday -- happy five-seven, man -- and we couldn't wait to celebrate. Last night we finally watched the last episode of his new HBO series Boardwark Empire, and afterward we slipped in the musical coup de grace: the soundtrack to the 1996 movie Trees Lounge.

Maybe it's because we have lived above a bar and we spend much of our existence contemplating life from a barstool. We're very much at home with the patrons of Trees Lounge. Buscemi, in his writing and directing debut, plays a hopeless barfly who has lost his girlfriend and his job for raiding the till, drives an ice cream truck and tries to boink a yummy teen temptress played by Chloe Sevigny.

Buscemi's Tommy Basilio might not be quite as loveable as Jeff Bridges' The Dude in the Big Lebowski (in which Buscemi appears), but he's every bit the loser. It's really apples vs. oranges here, or rather shots vs. joints. Click here for a clip that shows Buscemi working his bar magic on a floozy played by Debi Mazar.

The soundtrack is bound together by weepers like "I've Been Hurt" by Bill Deal and the Rhondels and a pair of Brenda Lee chestnuts: "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and "Break It to Me Gently." 

Break it to me gently
Let me down the easy way
Make me feel you still love me
If it's just, just for one more day

We can't promise there won't be a tear in our beer when we raise a glass tonight at Walter's...

UPDATE: Trees Lounge is airing at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday.  Why not get up early and do a few shots with Stevie Boy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Falsetto alarm

By Wayne Shelor

Sundays in The Sanctuary are for celebrating good music, such as the No. 1 hit “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals, a song that to me defines the '80s music scene.

Clopping, electronically driven drums, sparse, chiming guitars and a steady, fat bottom helped ”She Drives Me Crazy” become a hit song, but only after the band changed three little words and sang the song a couple of octaves higher than written. This internationally popular, ska-influenced song – written by David Steele and lead-singer Roland Gift – took them six months to create.

A former saxophonist who’d been in a punk band called Blue Kitchen, Gift ventured to London where he ran into Steel and Andrew Cox, and joined them in a band project.  Their demo tape got them a recording contract, but their first record went nowhere. Still, the song-writing duo of Gift and Steele was able to pay bills by writing music for the John Candy/Steve Martin comedy movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Three years later - after spending six months perfecting their planned next single – the Fine Young Cannibals released the album The Raw and the Cooked, and the single “She Drives Me Crazy.”

The song was originally called “She’s My Baby,” and was sung by Gift in his normal baritone voice. But Steele fiddled with it for an inordinately long time, and finally changed the title to “She Drives Me Crazy,” and convinced Gift to sing it in falsetto.

The record clicked, charting in at No. 1 in the second week of April 1989.

And oh yeah … the band’s name, Fine Young Cannibals? It’s from the title of a Natalie Wood/Robert Wagner film from 1960, All The Fine Young Cannibals!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pssst: Neil Young's northern lights really shine

We're dropping in Neil Young's album Rust Never Sleeps today and who needs an excuse for that? The song we want to isolate for this discussion is "Pocahontas," whose opening lyrics provide some crisp imagery connecting us to a day a day and time in history:

Aurora borealis
The icy sky at night
Paddles cut the water
In a long and hurried flight
From the white man
to the fields of green
And the homeland
we've never seen

Neil Young is such a brilliant, prolific and ever-evolving artist that it's not easy to keep his entire catalog in the front of the brain, even if we have most of the music within arm's reach.  So it's always a treat to go back and renew our acquaintance with gems like Rust Never Sleeps, an acoustic rock meets grudge sneak attack that belongs in every audio collection.

Now back to "Pocahontas" and that opening passage.  Maybe you've never seen the aurora borealis, or northern lights.  If you grew up or now live in the upper reaches of this country you've probably had opportunities to be awed by the polar light display.   And it's true they have been viewed at times on brutal, icy winter nights when you wouldn't consider stepping outside for any other reason.

The first noted occurrence in North America came on this day in 1719, although it was nothing new at the time to Native Americans like those depicted in "Pocahontas."  The phenomenon got its name back in 1621 from French scientific observer Pierre Gassendi, who combined the words Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, with Boreas, a Greek name for the north wind.  To the Cree it was known as the "Dance of the Spirits."

By any name it is, like the Neil Young passage, song and album, a wonder to behold.  We might as well put Rust Never Sleeps on the PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) list right now. Is it possible this is Neil Young's first time on the big board?  Shame on us.

Friday, December 10, 2010

First man on the Moon

As jazz standards go few can match the haunting beauty of Duke Ellington's "Moon Indigo," which was recorded on this day in 1930.  We've heard it played and sung by hundreds of artists through the years but no one tops the Duke's arrangement.

Players on the original recording:
Duke Ellington, piano
Arthur Whetsol, trumpet
Joe Nanton, trombone
Barney Bigard, clarinet
Fred Guy, banjo
Wellman Braud, bass
Sonny Greer, drums

The muting of the front line horns delivers what has been described as an "upside down" sound to balance Ellington's uptempo piano. It is very nearly repeated in another of Duke's classics, "(In My) Solitude" from 1932.

The origins of the song are traced back to New Orleans and Lorenzo Tio, who taught Bigard the clarinet and schooled him on a theme known as "Mexican Blues." It became "Dreamy Blues" when it was first broadcast for radio in 1930, and then someone -- probably Duke or Bigard -- changed it to "Moon Indigo."  A brilliant stroke to a brilliant piece. 

The lyrics are credited to Arthur Mills and have been sung by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to Joe Jackson and Kelly Hogan.  Warning: If you just lost your sweetie or you're feeling low this one can drop you right to the floor.

You ain't been blue; no, no, no
You ain't been blue
Till you've had that mood indigo

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pardon me boys

Florida's Clemency Board today granted a pardon to late Doors singer Jim Morrison that had been recommended by outgoing Governor Charlie Crist.

The matter was best summed up by Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek, who has always maintained that Morrison never exposed himself in front of a Miami audience during a 1969 concert.

"Jim's legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic American poet," Manzarek told the Associated Press. "I don't think that the Miami episode has altered his image one iota."

The story noted two other posthumous pardons. Comedian Lenny Bruce was pardoned in 2003, 37 years after his death, for using obscenity in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1964. And in 2007 Johnny Cash, who spent one night in jail for public drunkenness in 1965, received a symbolic pardon from a Starkville, Mississippi judge.

Rolling Stone's Top 30: Where's the Mojo?

Kanye West: Just plain nasty.
Rolling Stone has released its Top 30 albums of 2010 and we are impressed.  We probably didn't listen to more than two dozen new discs this year, being that we usually have to pay for them.  So giving 30 an honest listen, and shuffling them into some logical order, well they done good.

Except: Their list sucks. Yes, right, we admit we haven't heard them all. Who listens to some of this stuff? One we did hear that deserves mention -- Tom Petty's Mojo -- is nowhere to be found. If we remember correctly, RS gave it a smashing review when it was released. These days it's all about Kanye West, who leads the pack with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and other fashionable artists like Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon and Eminem.  No slight to them, but where's the damn rock 'n' roll?

Meanwhile some people probably are complaining because Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty was relegated to No. 21.

Ain't no justice in this world. The list:

1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. The Black Keys, Brothers
3. Elton John and Leon Russell, The Union
4. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
5. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
6. Vampire Weekend, Contra
7. Drake, Thank Me Later
8. Robert Plant, Band of Joy
9. Eminem, Recovery
10. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
11. The Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards
12. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
13. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
14. Robyn, Body Talk
15. The National, High Violet
16. Kid Rock, Born Free
17. Beach House, Teen Dream
18. Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown
19. M.I.A., Maya
20. Neil Young, Le Noise
21. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
22. Spoon, Transference
23. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
24. Maximum Balloon, Maximum Balloon
25. Superchunk, Majesty Shredding
26. Yeasayer, Odd Blood
27. Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs
28. My Chemical Romance, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
29. The Roots, How I Got Over
30. Rick Ross, Teflon Don

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Morrison pardon appears likely

This bulletin just in from the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed pardon of Doors singer Jim Morrison now has enough votes.

We weighed in on this topic in a post last week.  Click here to read it.

Read the news today, oh boy

Earlier this year John Lennon's handwritten lyric sheet for "A Day in the Life" fetched $1.2 million from an anonymous buyer.

It's an amazing song, the perfect closer to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  The other Beatles made significant contributions to the song, but the the ink was laid down from John's pen.

Today we remember the night in our lives -- exactly 30 years ago --  when Lennon was taken away from us.  Of all the tragic deaths we use as mileposts to mark the passage of time, this one strangely escapes us. We do remember the startling announcement we heard with so many others while watching Monday Night Football. 

“Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just…a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City — the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles — shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead…on..arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which in duty, well, we have to tell you."

Click here to hear those words from Howard Cosell as New England kicker John Smith was lining up for a field goal against the Miami Dolphins.

After that everything is a blur...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time out for a jazz master

Dave Brubeck turns 90 Monday and we are hopped up here at the Sanctuary to celebrate one of jazz music's most beloved and enduring pianists.  While we slip Jazz at Oberlin into the player, contributor Wayne Shelor weighs in on another of the artist's masterpieces.  For more background follow this link:

By Wayne Shelor

Open in a new window:

You’ve surely heard of Dave Brubeck, the almost 90-year-old, still performing jazz pianist. And I suspect you may have a passing familiarity with an album he released in 1959 called Time Out.

It’s one of the most popular jazz albums in history, largely because of the song “Take 5,” written by saxophonist Paul Desmond.

"Take 5" is a complicated composition in 5/4 time, and if you listen to the quintuple rhythms of the song, you can get lost. Shoot, the whole album is made up of songs in compound time, and maybe that’s why it’s such a lasting hit. It was this very record that prompted jazz drummers everywhere to explore non-standard time signatures. You may not realize it, but your brain recognizes that there’s a lot going on in such structures, and most people find it inviting.

"Take 5” later brought Al Jarreau a Grammy for his interpretation of the venerable song, and this track is the reason that “Time Out” is the second-best selling jazz album – behind Stan Getz’s “Jazz Samba” – of all time.
In 1959 – the greatest year in the history of jazz music – Time Out even climbed to No. 25 on the pop music charts, largely on the strength of “Take 5."

Friday, December 3, 2010

And ye shall call him Ferlin

It's hard to imagine why someone born with one of the greatest country singer names ever would want to change it, but Ferlin Husky did exactly that. Twice.  He recorded for a spell as Terry Preston and also did a few humorous recordings under Simon Crum.

But he only arrived at fame under the God given Ferlin Husky, under which he scored three No. 1 country hits. The first was "A Dear John Letter," a duet with Jean Shepard in 1953.  The others were "Gone" in 1957  -- which he originally recorded as Preston five years earlier -- and his most famous of all, the Bob Ferguson penned "Wings of a Dove."  That last gem spent 10 weeks atop the country chart in 1960 and made CMT's list of the 20 Greatest Songs of Faith.

Husky is still alive and kickin' today on his 85th birthday, and we wish him the best. It's been 35 years since he charted with "Champagne Ladies and Blue Ribbon Babies," but you can't take away all those songs he gave us in his prime as Ferlin Husky from Flat River, Missouri, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.

20. Blessed, Martina McBride
19. I'm Working on a Building, Bill Monroe
18. Unanswered Prayers, Garth Brooks
17. Wings of a Dove, Ferlin Husky
16. Love Without End Amen, George Strait
15. Uncloudy Day, Willie Nelson
14. Angel Band, Flatt & Scruggs
13. I Believe, Diamond Rio
12. Farther Along, Emmylou Harris
11. Keep on the Sunny Side, The Carter Family
10. Long Black Train, Josh Turner
9. Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Roy Acuff
8. Love Can Build a Bridge, The Judds
7. Daddy Sang Bass, Johnny Cash
6. I'll Fly Away, Soundtrack
5. Three Wooden Crosses, Randy Travis
4. How Great Thou Art, Elvis Presley
3. Go Rest High on That Mountain, Vince Gill
2. Why Me, Kris Kristofferson
1. I Saw the Light, Hank William

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pardon Jim Morrison

We just read an interesting newspaper story that is certain to revive the debate over whether or not Jim Morrison should receive a posthumous pardon for his 1970 conviction in Florida for indecent exposure and public profanity.

But what's really to debate?  Nobody seems to know if Morrison actually whipped out his private part at a Miami concert in 1969.  He was certainly capable of such shenanigans -- and he definitely was loaded that night -- but dozens of police were at the show and didn't arrest him at the time.  No video has ever been produced, and other members of the Doors maintain to this day that it never happened. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek calls what happened in Miami "mass hallucination."

At least one witness who testified against Morrison at the trial has since admitted he never saw it happen. And the fact that Morrison wasn't charged until five days after the alleged crime, well, it's easy to draw the conclusion that this was a trumped up charge to make an example out of one of rock music's true bad boys.

Morrison was sentenced to six months of confinement at hard labor.  He was released on $50,000 bail and soon after took up residence in France.  The conviction was under appeal when Morrison was found dead on July 3, 1971 in a bathtub.

Florida's outgoing Governor Charlie Crist said last week he is considering a pardon because he isn't convinced Morrison did "what he was charged with here."  Neither are we.  It's not like this is going to repair Morrison's reputation. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Here's a link to the St. Pete Times story.  Draw your own conclusions: