Richard & Mimi Farina
Sandy Bull – Gospel Tune (Vanguard)
Gordon Lightfoot – For Lovin’ Me (WB)
Mimi & Richard Farina – Dandelion River Run (Vanguard)
Fred Neil – The Other Side of This Life (Elektra)
Turley Richards – Then I’ll Go Away (WB)
John Fahey – Sunflower River Blues (Takoma)
Tom Rush – The Cuckoo (Elektra)
Dave Van Ronk – Come Back Baby (Folkways)
Eric Andersen – Violets of Dawn (Vanguard)
John Hammond Jr – See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (Vanguard)
Emmitt Rhodes – Golden Child of God (ABC/Dunhill)
John Fahey – John Henry Variations (Takoma)
NOTE: As of 10pm Sunday night EST I realized that when I created this post I copied a URL (for the zip file) and forgot to change the number at the end, so anyone who downloaded the ZIP file got the tunes from the LAST (Vol 7) podcast, not the current one (Vol 8 ) . I just fixed this. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Larry
As I mentioned last week, thanks to some digs during my DC trip last week I was inspired to work up a new podcast, which you see before you. Ironically enough, nothing from those digs is included, as when I started to digi-ma-tize the vinyl the record that triggered the mix in the first place just didn’t seem to fit. You know how it is. When inspirado hits, you just follow the wind…
Anyway, what you see and hear before you may seem – at first glance – to be a somewhat severe departure from the usual goings on hereabouts.
However….(big however here), bear with me and the stylistic tangents will be revealed, as well as a lot of great music.
When I was growing up, there were three basic kinds of music in my house. Jazz, Classical, and to a much smaller extent artifacts of the early 60’s commercial folk music boom. Some of this – the Kingston Trio for instance – didn’t hit me at all. Other stuff, like Peter, Paul & Mary stuck with me and remains a part of my listening today. I mention this because it was these earnest folks with their acoustic guitars that led me to dig deeper (as is always the case) leading me first to their ancestors, i.e. Pete Seeger and the Weavers, and then on to their more, how do they say, “serious” fellow travelers.
It was via these musicians that I eventually found my way to the Delta Blues, and then on to a more developed, singer-songwritery sound of people like Nick Drake and Jake Thackray who might only be described as “folk” be those to whom the mere presence of an acoustic guitar would qualify an artist thusly.
The tunes in this mix run the gamut from forward thinking experimentalists like Sandy Bull and John Fahey, to interpretations of folk & blues by many who would go on to careers as singer/songwriters themselves like Tom Rush and Fred Neil.
Overall, while some of the music in this mix – which pretty much span the 1960’s – is ‘folk’, in that the songs are modern interpretations of much older folk and blues standards like ‘The Cuckoo’ (from various Appalachian sources) and ‘See That My Grave is Kept Clean’ (originated by Blind Lemon Jefferson), many of the songs are wholly modern and move well into the realm of popular music, carrying the ‘folk’ label only because they were presented by someone playing an acoustic guitar (as well as the proximity of many of these performers to folk scenes – like Greenwich Village and Cambridge – and festivals of the era).
The mix opens with – oddly enough – a rare electric guitar performance by Sandy Bull, entitled simply ‘Gospel Tune’. Bull was – like John Fahey – a master of confounding expectation and playing games with accepted musical forms. He mixed blues, jazz, folk and Eastern sounds (he was an accomplished oud player) freely over the course of several albums for Vanguard and a few smaller labels. Recorded in 1963, ‘Gospel Tune’ references the playing of Pop Staples and is a lengthy improvisation with Bull accompanying himself on hi-hat cymbal.
Gordon Lightfoot is best known for his pop hits in the 1970s, but during the 60’s he was a major part of the Canadian folk movement. I first heard the song ‘For Lovin’ Me’ on one of my Dad’s Peter Paul & Mary LPs, and found Lightfoot’s original while digging last year. Interestingly enough, the flipside of this 45 ‘I’m Not Sayin’ was covered a few years later by Nico on one of her first (pre-Velvets) 45s.
Mimi & Richard Farina were two of the bigger stars of the more serious side of the mid-60’s folk boom. Mimi was the sister of Joan Baez, Richard was a published author (and college friend of none other than Thomas Pynchon) whose novel ‘Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me’ is a cult classic. ‘Dandelion River Run’ is an instrumental from their first LP, with Mimi on guitar and Richard on dulcimer.
If you know Fred Neil at all, it’s probably via the fact that he is the composer of the song ‘Everybody’s Talkin’, a huge hit for Nilsson from the soundtrack to the film ‘Midnight Cowboy’. Neil was also the composer of ‘The Dolphins’ (covered by Tim Buckley) and oddly enough of ‘The Bag I’m In’ known to garage punk fans by the version by Texas punkers the Fabs. The tune in this mix, ‘The Other Side of This Life’ was later covered – at a much more energetic pace – by the Jefferson Airplane.
I don’t know much about Turley Richards, other than he was blind, and has recorded a number of albums since the late 60’s. I picked up two of his albums at a record show because the looked interesting, and I’m glad I did because of tunes like ‘Then I’ll Go Away’.
John Fahey was one of the great musical mavericks of the last 40 years. Though he recorded primarily on acoustic guitar, he was far more than a ‘folk’ artist, pretty much defining the term “alternative” decades before it came into popular use to describe music. He mixed Appalachian styles with blues fingerpicking, jazz and avant garde ideas into a style all his own. ‘Sunflower River Blues’ (the first of two Fahey songs in this mix) is a great example of his sound.
Tom Rush was one of those 60’s folkies who went on to bigger and better things as a singer/songwriter (if you haven’t, check out his LP ‘The Circle Game’). His version of the old Appalachian song ‘The Cuckoo’ – recorded countless times by artists as far afield as the clawhammer banjoist Dock Boggs, Big Brother & the Holding Company and West Coast psychedelics the Kaleidoscope – is a fairly subdued version of a fairly intense song.
I first saw (and heard) Dave Van Ronk on a PBS special (it may have been a Phil Ochs memorial concert) when I was a kid. He was one of my favorite singers (in any genre) and a great interpreter not only of folk and blues but of all manner of popular song, including a fantastic LP of Bertolt Brecht songs. His version of the folk/blues standard ‘Come Back Baby’ is stark and haunting.
Eric Andersen’s ‘Violets of Dawn’ may be familiar to garage fans via the excellent cover by the Daily Flash. Of the many Andersen tunes that were frequently covered, this is by far the most common and is one of the earlier examples of acoustic music mutating into 60’s pop, right alongside the sounds of Bob Dylan.
John Hammond Jr. was – if you hadn’t already figured it out – the son of the famous John Hammond Sr., discoverer of many a great musician from Billie Holiday to Bruce Springsteen. Hammond Jr. always stuck to the blues side of things, even working early version of what might be described as folk rock. His version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ may not be as stark as the original, but it’s still pretty intense.
Emitt Rhodes is really the odd man out in this grouping. Rhodes got his start in the mid-60’s pop group the Palace Guard, moving on to greater fame as the leader of the Merry Go Round, and then on to a few excellent McCartney-esque one-man-band LPs in the early 70’s. ‘Golden Child of God’ is from one of those LPs, and has long been a favorite song of mine.
Things come to a close with another favorite, ‘John Henry Variations’ by John Fahey. I love the gentle way this tune progresses, which reminds me a lot of another big fave, Mississippi John Hurt.
That all said, I hope you dig the sounds, and I promise I’ll be back later in the week with some more fuzz.