Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad

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Bruce Springsteen has acquired a certain Dylan-level ability to reflect on and reimagine his own work. His time with the E-Street Band prepared him perfectly for this moment, just as Dylan’s endless tour affords his evolving musical and lyrical ideas regular venue in front of gatherings worldwide of his most devoted fans.

This 2014 reimagining of the song ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad” –the opening track on Springsteen’s 1995 solo release of the same name– is as much Tom Morello’s as Springsteen’s. It takes the dark, finely-honed menace of the original recording and plugs it into Morello’s amp head, allowing it to transcend the limitations of solo performance in hard-fighting guitar leads and the biting harmonies he and Springsteen find around the vocal mic together (especially the chorus “Well the highway is alive tonight…”). Springsteen’s insane vocal range and power features throughout. I honestly can’t say enough good about this recording.

Listening to this and knowing what a music geek Morello is I had to smile in the realization that this project must’ve given him the biggest contact high of all time.

Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass

Reggae Covers: John Holt – Hey Jude (The Beatles)

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A neat cover of the well-known original by The Beatles, John Holt has the sweetness of voice to pull this off where other singers might fall flat.

Midnight Oil – Warakurna

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Always loved these boys’ ability to turn the local phrase with utmost authenticity. An album’s worth of their music and it’s easy to come to your senses utterly transported.

Warakurna, camels roam
Fires are warm and dogs are cold
Not since Lassiter was here
Black man’s got a lot to fear

Some people laugh some never learn
This land must change or land must burn
Some people leave, always return
This land must change or land must burn.

Ashley MacIsaac – Hills of Glenorchy

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Another wild-ass rock bagpipe song from Cape Breton Island’s Ashley MacIsaac, this from his 1995 release Hi™ How Are You Today?. His performances are a treat.

The Del-Lords – Judas Kiss

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A rockin’ end of summer, end of everything tune:

You left me hanging at the altar
Well, it might as well have been
For as sure as I’m standing here
There is sin, and you have sinned

Reggae Covers: Jackie Paris & Dennis Brown – Daydream Believer (The Monkees)

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Another fairly straightforward cover of a Euro-North American hit, this a 1975 recording by American jazz guitarist Jackie Paris and the legendary Jamaican master Dennis Brown does little to alter the 1968 hit for The Monkees except the addition of a whole mess of percussion.

Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o’clock alarm would never ring.
But it rings and I rise,
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes.
My shavin’ razor’s cold and it stings.

Cheer up, Sleepy Jean.
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen.

Reggae Covers: Prince Buster – All My Loving (The Beatles)

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A fairly straightforward cover of the 1963 hit for renowned Liverpudlian rock combo The Beatles. Prince Buster entertained a lot of tourist audiences in his heyday so it is only natural that he and other ‘North Coast’ bandleaders would churn out sentimental covers such as these by the bushel.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

Reggae Covers: Horace Andy – A Horse With No Name (America)

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The original recording by London, UK’s America –comprised of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek, all sons of English mothers and American fathers– was their breakthrough hit, achieving #1 on the US Hot 100 charts in 1972. This 2002 cover by Kingston, Jamaica’s Horace Andy  appeared on his 2002 release ‘Mek It Bun.

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with its life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities is a heart made of clay
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert with a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can’t remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain

James McMurtry – Lights of Cheyenne

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James McMurtry
James McMurtry

Here without his backing band The Heartless Bastards, ‘Lights of Cheyenne’ is the sort of wail that rings truest with a single instrument in accompaniment. It’s closer to silence, and the ‘darkness on the edge of town.’

I quote the lyrics in their entirety because in my experience McMurtry is as much a poet as musician. His body of work reflects a singular way with words of reflection, of humor black and white, of human experience, of the land.

Look off down the highway at the glittering lights
Like windshield glass on the shoulder tonight
As the diesels come grinding on up from the plains
All bunched up like pearls on a string

And I guess time don’t mean nothin’, not nothin’ at all
And out on the horizon the broken stars fall
Old broken stars they fall down on the land
And get mixed together with the lights of Cheyenne

Well I’ve been up all night and I’m down on my back
Workin’ the counter to take up the slack
`Cause the money tree’s light and the whiskey stream’s low
You ain’t worked a week since July

You say the gravel pit’s hiring after the first
But you don’t have the nature for that kind of work
You might get hired on but you won’t make a hand
And I’ll still be here lookin’ at the lights of Cheyenne

You stand in the sky with your feet on the ground
Never suspectin’ a thing
But if the sky were to move you might never be found
Never be heard from again

We go on good behavior when our youngest comes home
She comes up from Boulder but she never stays long
And that oldest still fights me like she was 18
Stopped in for a 6-pack awhile ago

And she’s got a cowboy problem, and this last one’s a sight
All dressed up like Gunsmoke for Saturday night
And they were off to the bars for lack of a plan
Racing the stars to the lights of Cheyenne

And you’ve kept all that meanness inside you so long
You’d fight with a fence post if it looked at you wrong
Well a post won’t hit back, and it won’t call the law
I look at your right, or I don’t look at all

Now take a crumpled up soft pack and give it a shake
Out by the dumpster on a cigarette break
With one eye swelled up from the back of your hand
And the other eye fixed on the lights of Cheyenne

You stand in the sky with your feet on the ground
Never suspectin’ a thing
But if the sky were to move you might never be found
Never be heard from again

Now there’s antelope grazing in range of my gun
Come opening weekend you won’t see a one
They’ll vanish like ghosts `cause somehow they know
But now they’re up to the fence in the early dawn

And it’s warming up nicely for this time of year
The creeks are still frozen but the roads are all clear
And I don’t have it in me to make one more stand
Though I never much cared for the lights of Cheyenne

The Waterboys @ The Neptune Theater; Seattle WA 10/11/13

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Self-referential I know, but I promised in an earlier post to update here if ever any footage from the October Waterboys show turned up on YouTube. So far two have surfaced, neither of a performance that had stuck in my head but which are indicative of something, I guess.

Strange Boat – Alas, the amateur videographer keeps his/her hand over the condenser microphone for much of the song, though s/he reveals it at a suitable time in the late-song jam.

We Will Not Be Lovers – Different videographer. This time the mic stays ‘open’ the whole time.