folk

Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Darcy Farrow

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Jimmie Dale turns a quaint old Western folk number into a bombastic, larger-than-life rock song of the sort that’s turns even the most boring stretch of US50 into an epic moment. The catalyst is the drum track by Don Heffington (formerly of Lone Justice and Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band): the sound of distant, rolling artillery throughout.

“But her pony did stumble and she did fall.
Her dying touched the heart of us one and all.
Young Vandy in his pain put a bullet to his brain
and we buried them together as the snows began to fall.”

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Old Blind Dogs – The Lancashire Lads

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Just try not to sing along.

For the Lancashire lads have gone abroad
Whatever shall we do?
They’re leaving many’s a pretty fair maid
To cry “What shall I do?!”

Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band – Ragged But Right

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Jerry (whose smiling mien and sound appear on these pages far too infrequently) turns the old George Jones tune into a rollicking showcase for all the high-tone pickers he used to travel with. On this track those three-buckle pickers are David Nelson and Sandy Rothman on banjo & mandolin, with Kenny Kosek on fiddle and longtime partner John Kahn building out the rhythm section with David Kemper on the snare.

This was recorded at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York, NY on 10/21/87. Quoting the whole thing ’cause you’re gonna’ want to sing along about two bars in.

Folks, I’m here to tell you that I’m ragged but I’m right
I’m a thief and a gambler, and I stay up late at night
Gonna have a steak three times a day for my board
More than any loafer in this big town can afford

A big electric fan to keep me cool while I sleep
A little baby boy plays around daddy’s feet
I’m a ramblin’ gambler and I leave every night
People, I tell you I’m ragged but I’m right

People, I’m here to tell you that I’m ragged but I’m right
I’m a thief and a gambler, and I stay up late at night
Gonna have a steak three times a day for my board
More than any loafer in this big town can afford

A big electric fan to keep me cool while I sleep
A little baby girl plays around daddy’s feet
I’m a ramblin’ gambler and I leave every night
People I tell you I’m ragged but I’m right

Grandpa Jones – The Banjo Am The Instrument For Me

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God how my daughter used to dance to this song when she was a toddler. There’s just something so infectiously happy and accomplished about his playing & singing in this track –the audible little laugh he gives in the last verse, the charming expressions on his face as he sings– it really struck a chord with Addie.

Now I’m old and feeble, grand children by the score,
Every night they set upon my knee,
That’s when I scoot ’em over just to make a little room,
Cause the banjo am the instrument for me.

Jimmy Rogers – Sloppy Drunk

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Ruleville, MSJimmy Rogers with a funny if handsomely-played tune of a sort that’s rooted in the authentic ‘real folk blues’ of early America.

And I love that moonshine whiskey
and I’ll tell you what I do
And I love that moonshine whiskey
and I’ll tell you what I do
The reason is why I drink,
I’m just trying to get along with you

Listening to ‘run’

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Never one to shy away from self-reference, in keeping with my post “Listening to ‘mud'” I found myself listening to songs featuring the word ‘run’ after searching up the Iron Maiden song ‘Run To The Hills.’ Including the prime motivator, here is the resulting mix.

Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills –  The video is execrable: a low-budget mix of  lip-synced band footage and horrifying, racist caricatures from some wretched old public domain film. The music is an orgy of power chords and a heart-pounding drum performance from Clive Burr. The video misses opportunities, but the song redeems itself as an archetype of 80’s metal.

Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom the stab in the back
Women and children the cowards attack!

Run to the hills, run for your lives!
Run to the hills, run for your lives!

The Kingston Trio – Run The Ridges – The standard for vocal performance set by The Kingston Trio was already so ridiculously high they learned to adopt a certain style of performance art to bring something new to the stage and studio. All children raised in the radio era, their minds were inevitably deeply attuned to the dramatic qualities of the human voice even before they took up singing. All of the drama, good humor, and action conveyed in old time radio shows like The Cisco Kid, The Aldritch Family, or Mercury Theatre on the Air appears later as the breathless, desperate lead vocal performance. In classics like ‘M.T.A.‘ you imagine the three of them standing around a microphone in lovely seersucker shirts. In tunes like this though one can’t help but picture them on horseback, shooting nervous glances over their shoulders as they fly through the forest, the wail of scent dogs rising behind them.

Well, I’ve got your name in San Jose and your picture’s there to see.
And they’re shootin’ men in Texas just because they look like me.
And we will run the ridges of our green land Tennessee
And we will hide for forty years if that’s what’s meant to be, meant to be…

Run DMC – Proud to be Black – The closing track from 1986’s Raising Hell, this song was an early hip hop foray into black pride. Many children of the 80’s inherited the black empowerment mindset from their parents and wove it into their perspective. After all the groundbreaking fun and butt-shaking dance beats, Run DMC made sure everyone present knew what time it is.

I’ll attack this matter, in my own way
Man, I ain’t no slave, I ain’t balin’ no hay

Dennis Brown – Run Too Tuff – From his 1975 release ‘Just Dennis,’ this track –the homestyle chilly-chill– was produced by Winston “Niney the Observer” Holness.

Man take it easy on yourself,
man take it easy just watch your step.

 

Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings – The Dreadful Wind and Rain

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As often as not when I catch myself singing something rambling around the neighborhood, it’s this song. Something about it matches the timbre of my voice and my pace, becoming something of a mournful cadence.

It’s something special when two musicians best known for their instrumentation can deliver so perfectly harmonized a track, utterly devoid of instrumentation altogether.

There were two sisters of County Clare
Oh, the wind and rain.
One was dark and the other was fair
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain.

And they both had a love of the miller’s son
Oh, the wind and rain.
But he was fond of the fairer one
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain.