Sunday, October 16, 2005

Vinyl Vault: Lyle Lovett's "Pontiac"/ Dylanism

Lyle is one of those unique contemporary artists that is impossible to label. It's just as difficult to find another artist who records anything like the distinct nitch he's carved out.
I first stumbled upon his music while on the road following the Grateful Dead during the summer of 1994. The tape in the console deck switched between Liz Phair's "Exile In Guyville" and any number of Lyle's recordings. "Pontiac" probably got the most airplay in the rotation and my fondness for his brand of country swing with pop/blues tendencies(along with a side of juevos rancheros) has grown ever since.
This album is a wonderful display of the varying styles he is able to tackle with the utmost of ease, all the while making them his own. Just when you think you have him pinned down, he throws you a curve ball in the form of dance hall big band boogie or a soulful blues number with his bad-ass lady killer persona at the helm. Then he'll pull off a slow simple ballad that's never heavy on sentiment or reeking of cheese. A master of musical disguises.
He's at his best when tossing out self deprecating lines or come-back zingers that leave you busting a gut. The chorus of "She's no lady, she's my wife" says it all. Even lines like "Oooh give back my heart chip-kicker redneck woman. I can't be no cowgirl paradise" reveal that his humor can have a delightful double edge to their sting.
Then their are songs like "L.A. County" that are sheer perfection. He describes a long time friendship that takes many turns and finally ends with a .45 gun in hand. His description of Los Angeles, "...the lights of L.A. County look like diamonds in the sky." will never make you see the town that sin built in quite the same way again.
A beautiful recording that contains lovely backing vocals by Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.
I've been lucky enough to see him in concert several times. His dry onstage humor and magnetic presence make for a perfect evening under the stars. Go see him if you ever get the chance.
Free Image Hosting at
Here's a bit of stoned poetry from the Scorsese "No Direction Home" documentary. It finds Dylan riffing off an advertisement posted on a brick wall.

"I'm looking for a place that will collect, clip, bath and return my dog; KN1-7727; cigarettes & tobacco... Animals and birds bought or sold on commission.

"I want a dog that's gonna collect and clean my bath, return my cigarette and give tobacco to my animals and give my birds a commission.

"I want, I'm looking for somebody to sell my dog, collect my clip, buy my animal and straighten out my bird.

"I'm looking for a place to bathe my bird, buy my dog, collect my clip, sell me cigarettes and commission my bath.

"I'm looking for a place that's gonna collect my commission, sell my dog, burn my bird and sell me to the cigarette.

"No, no, bird my buy, collect my will and bathe my commission.

"I'm looking for a place that's gonna animal my soul, knit my return, bathe my foot and collect my dog.

"Commission me to sell my animal to the bird to clip and buy my bathtub and return me back to the cigarette."

iPod Song of the Day: "Who Loves The Sun" from the Velvet Underground bootleg Who Loves Ya Lou?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Vinyl Vault: Ray Price's "All Time Greatest Hits"/ Willie's Pizza Joint/ Music Magic

I was unpacking all the albums I had packed in garbage bags for the hurricane and stumbled across this gem. Ray Price is a classic country crooner. His voice is pure velvet. This album is full of genuine country classics like "Sunday Morning Coming Down", "Crazy Arms"(wow!), and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix".
This is country music that, despite its slick presentation, still retains its credibility. There's a orchestra backing almost every song on the album with subtle hints of pedal steel and nylon strung guitars dusted throughout. Did I mention this guy could sing? Oh boy, can he. Never strained or overblown. Just relaxing melodies that make you feel like you(and Ray) have eaten a handful of valiums.
I had the pleasure of seeing him live at one of Willie's 4th of July picnics in Luckenbach back in the mid 90's. My bandmate, Ben, was/is a huge fan and was as excited as anyone I've seen to be in the audience. I recall him laying down a set of greatest hits that seemed to please all the die hard fans who had baked in the 100 degree weather all day. He was on the bill along with Waylon Jennings who kind of overshadowed the whole day. Of course, Waylon was one of the main reasons we all piled in Chris King's minivan and drove several hours to bake in the treeless field all afternoon. Can you blame us?
Free Image Hosting at

Funny story...

We left the picnic well after midnight and set out for Houston. We soon discovered that the right rear tire of the minivan had become a little "screwy"(maybe because we had 9 people in the van!). It was pitch black out on the long country road and we pulled over at the first(and only) gas station we found. We quickly realized that it was not only a gas station but a pizza parlor as well. Maybe it was the minor heat stroke we were all suffering from, but that was the finest pizza I'd ever eaten in my life. And our fondness for the pizza was soon justified when, not 5 minutes later, Willie Nelson's tour buses pulled up to this pizza parlor in the middle of nowhere and just as quickly pulled away with a dozen pizza's in hand. We had found Willie's secret pizza joint!

Let me preface this story by saying, I have my TV hooked up to play through my stereo system. I always turn off the TV when I leave, but almost never turn down the audio running through my speakers. I also download music pretty much 24/7, 365 days a year.

This morning I started downloading Bob Dylan's album "Oh, Mercy". With my slow connection, it usually takes between 12-24 hours to get a complete album. As I was leaving this afternoon for my final dog walk of the day, I noticed an advertisement for the movie "High Fidelity" on Comedy Central starting on the hour. I took off on my bike just before it started.
Returning about 1 1/2 hours later, I could hear John Cusack's voice softly coming through the speakers, so I knew the movie was still in progress. The first thing I did was to sit down at the computer and see the progress of my download. My favorite song on the album "Most Of The Time" had just finished its download, so I started it up in WinAmp. I listened to about a minute of the song and then closed the program. Except even after I closed it, I could still hear the song playing. I was confused for a second, when I realized that exactly where I had stopped the song on my computer it had been picked up in the VERY SAME spot on the "High Fidelity" soundtrack playing through my stereo speakers.
(insert Twighlight Zone Theme music here)

iPod Song of the Day: "Portland, Oregon" performed live by Loretta Lynn and the DoWhatters on the Late Show w/ David Letterman 5.3.04

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Vinyl Vault: Bob Dylan's "Infidels"

An album of righteous condemnation with an ironic twist.
Free Image Hosting at
One of Dylan's strongest assets as a songwriter is his ability to display the numerous faces of his persona. This album showcases multiple sides of that face and this collection is about as close to perfection as he came in the 1980's. Two sides, above all, are examined in depth on the album. The first is, of course, his condemnation of man. The second is the salvation he finds in the embrace of a woman(the irony). He struggles with both thoughts throughout most of the tracks. While never offering any solutions, he sure does post a lot of warning signs for the listener to heed lest they tread on dangerous ground.
The opening track is probably one of the finest songs of his career. "Jokerman" is a autobiographical masterpiece displaying his ability to tackle the human spirit and condition all in one master stroke. There are so many brilliant lines in this song it's terribly hard to dislodge any from the piece as a whole. A poetic tour de force that soars to such magnificent heights that you are still grasping its nuances and imagery long after the first listen.
"Sweetheart" and "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight" are his odes of love to a woman who has offered him the strength he needs to deal with a world populated by ego, greed, and death. Both are pleas for comfort from the chilling wind that has overtaken him in the outside world. Both are wonderfully soothing and sure to warm even the coldest of hearts. The artwork that adorns the back cover is of a dark haired woman smiling as she accepts a delicate kiss from a man on her cheek. Duality, my friends!
I have forever linked both "License To Kill" and "I And I" in my mind. They appear, to me, to be cut from the same cloth. While not resembling one another in chord structure or melody, they both seem to be warnings from a paranoid mind(and rightly so) whose vision of the future is nothing but anguish and strife. And time has shown that we are indeed headed down a path that holds little promise for us unless we continue to evolve our ideas toward some kind of peace and human compassion.
Perhaps we are doomed. But if Judgment Day comes with any kind of warning, rest assured I'll wear out my vinyl copy of this album waiting for its arrival.
Beautifully produced by Mark Knopfler with contributions by both he and Mick Taylor on guitar.

"We're a virus with legs"
-Bill Hicks

iPod Song of the Day: Dylan's "New Morning" from the album of the same name.