Whatever your egg-shaped Easter treat of choice may be — I’m a Cadbury Creme Egg devotee, myself — I hope you’re taking full advantage of the chocolatey bounty afforded us by the combination of a man-sized bunny rabbit and the fact that a large portion of the world’s population believes that a super-compassionate zombie walked the Earth a couple thousand years ago. Alright!
Do you believe in signs? Not, like, stop signs, or that neon beer sign your college roommate had all four years but tried to pawn off on you after graduation because his girlfriend said it didn’t fit into the decorating scheme she’d devised for their first shared apartment. No, I’m talking about those fate-leaving-you-breadcrumbs-on-the-way-to-some-poignant-eventuality-type signs. I used to, but I can’t say that I do anymore. At least not wholeheartedly. I do love Fools Rush In, though. Wholeheartedly.
All the same, if something tickles the front of your consciousness long enough, you’re gonna scratch that sucker, and that’s exactly how the album pictured above ended up on my turntable last night. The acute itch started with a bandmate wearing a Sun Records t-shirt on Saturday night, and continued just a few hours later when Mrs. YHT and I were having a late-night snack at Gibson’s Grill and saw an incredibly sexy, vintage/diner-style Sun Records clock hanging on the wall nearest to the restaurant’s street-level bar. But in truth, the itching started long before that.
So this past Friday night, I spun at a super exclusive club. So exclusive that only two people were allowed in. I bet you’re dying to know which club it was, right? OK, OK, I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell ANYBODY. It was… my living room. That’s right, the two people in attendance were me and Mrs. You Hear That, who was sleeping peacefully on the couch the entire time. Sounds bumpin’, huh? Awww yeah! Because my set was so underground, I wanted to share some (11, to be exact) of the tunes we — OK, I — listened to while we — OK, I — watched college basketball. If you want to consider this a basketball playlist, go right ahead. Just know that it has nothing to do with basketball and would probably ruin even the most well-intentioned Final Four watch party. Just for fun, in spite of my sub-par photography skills (Glare? What glare?), I snapped pictures of all the records I played. What can I say? I’m a sucker for album art. Hope you enjoy!
So I’ve been sitting on this one-liner for a solid year, just waiting for the perfect occasion to post it to Twitter, but I’m gonna share it with you guys instead. You ready? You suuuuure?!? OK, OK, here’s the joke, set off in its own paragraph so you know when to laugh riotously…
I’m pretty sure Emmylou Harris’ answering machine just says “Yes.”
Get it? Because she collaborates with everyone under the sun? Any ROTFLCOPTERing out there? No? Crickets? OK, so now you know why I’ve been sitting on it. Really though, Harris has performed with a zillion artists (I’d start listing them here, but my last post was more than 1,000 words, and the proprietors of You Hear That don’t pay me enough to keep up that clip), making her one of the most prolific and respected backup/duet singers in the biz. So whats the occasion? What Emmylou event inspired me to unleash this dormant comedic gem? Did she collabo with Kayne? Did she duet with Dokken? Nope — well, not that I’m aware of. In fact, she’s not even directly involved.
(Editor’s note: No hippies were harmed in the writing of this blog post.)
I have a nonscientific, shamefully new-age-y theory that goes a little something like this: Much like the concept of chakras, which some eastern religions say are subtle focal points where your body receives and transmits energy, I believe certain places act like musical nexuses, providing spiritual junctions for musicians (by the way, I had my fingers crossed that the plural of “nexus” would be “nexi,” but no such luck). Allow me to clear one thing up, though. While New York City is clearly a hub for American culture in so many respects, this is not a blog post about New York City. Yes, it was Gil Scott-Heron’s song “New York Is Killing Me” that inspired me to write about musical centers of energy, but it’s his mention of needing to “go home and slow down in Jackson, Tennessee” that got the new-age thoughts a-whirrin’. Jackson’s a relatively small town (the population came in at just over 65,000 in 2010’s census) but a number of significant musicians have roots there — Scott-Heron, Carl Perkins and Luther Ingram are a few of the most notable — and the city’s name comes up in more than a few songs. The most famous of these is probably Johnny Cash and June Carter’s rendition of “Jackson,” a tale of two lovers hoping to rekindle their relationship in an unspecified city of Jackson (though it’s hard to tell for sure which Jackson the song’s writers had in mind, Cash’s relationship with the state of Tennessee makes me think he, at the very least, had Jackson, Tennessee in mind when he covered the song). Another example, which is coincidentally even more morbid than Scott-Heron’s, is Sonny Boy Williamson’s “T.B. Blues,” which is exactly what it sounds like — a song about dying from tuberculosis — with a narrator who is asking to be buried back in his hometown of Jackson. In each case, the city is portrayed as a refuge, somewhere to go to either recharge or retreat. That’s a lot of musical history for such a small town, and it’s hard not to think that the place wields some sort of special power over its musically inclined residents. Take a listen to Gil Scott-Heron’s “New York Is Killing Me” below and decide for yourself… is Jackson a musical nexus, or should I pack up my collection of crystals and admit to myself that the pouch hanging around my neck does not actually house the spirit of Jerry Garcia? Whichever you decide, I encourage you to click here and snag Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here. No new-age beliefs required, I swear.
What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 3 — Nick Lowe
Sometimes music feels like a enormous game of connect the dots — one you can play for your entire life and never finish. Nick Lowe’s solo-acoustic opening set before Sunday’s Wilco show at Merriweather Post Pavilion gave me the chance to connect a few dots that I didn’t even know were close to one another, and I’m incredibly glad I was there to see it. Before Wilco released their “I Might” single, the first from their new album The Whole Love, I didn’t know much about Nick Lowe. When I heard the single’s b-side, a cover of Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” I asked my father-in-law about its author and found out about Rockpile, the influential band Lowe fronted alongside Dave Edmunds. I enjoyed what I heard, and was excited when I found out Lowe would be opening for Wilco. But the connection that really blew my mind wasn’t made until halfway though Sunday’s outstanding opening set, when I realized he was playing Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” It was a great “Hey, I know this song!!!” moment. What I didn’t know was that Lowe produced the song, and that he’s credited with writing another tune made famous by Costello, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding,” which we also got to hear on Sunday. Lowe’s Wikipedia page is full of these crazy connections, like how he married (and divorced) Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter, but Lowe and Cash remained friends and recorded together and oh god Wikipedia steals so much of my time. But that’s one of my favorite things about music — the dots are just waiting to be connected, and there’s no right or wrong way to do so. Preview Lowe’s new offering, The Old Magic, below and grab the album from iTunes here.