Tag Archives: Neil Young

Dogwood Tales

I mentioned a few weeks back that I’ve been making mix CDs from purchases made during Bandcamp’s fee-free Friday events. Part of the intent there is to contain the chaos — to retrospectively slow down a blur of new albums, rarities compilations, and live sets. It’s also part commemoration, since these Fridays feel meaningful to me. I love the idea that everyone’s stopping what they’re doing to acknowledge the value of music. We’ve been criminally undervaluing songs since file sharing took hold, and I’m genuinely hopeful that what Bandcamp is doing can evolve into a framework for sustainably funneling funds to musicians who so clearly deserve it.

It’s ironic, given that I’m buying mp3s like I haven’t in years, but my fetish for physical media has flared up in the process. I made my share of mix CDs during and after college, when iPods weren’t yet commonplace, but I never put much effort into the track lists, aside from writing on the discs themselves. Now I’m tearing pages out of magazines, borrowing my daughter’s glue stick, improvising insert design schemes, and hand-numbering to create limited runs nobody even knows about. I’m typically on the other end of that dynamic as a collector, so it’s fun to be the one writing “# ___ of ___” and deciding whether to make, like, five copies or four.

The first of these mixes was called “Still Here” and began with the poised and poignant David Shultz tune of the same name. (I ended up writing about it for the Auricular.) The title was also a nod to the fact that, even in May, it felt like we’d been cooped up in our houses for ages. Hilarious, in retrospect, though it doesn’t exactly inspire laughter. I kept that theme going by taking the title of my second mix from the fantastic calvin presents/Sam Reed collaboration “here,” which was released on Juneteenth. While counterintuitive, the fact that “here” follows “Still Here” in this little series makes me smile. Reminds me of that scene in Empire Records where Ethan Embry’s character describes naming his band after a misspelling of his own first name. “Always play with their minds.”

The third and most recent installment is called “Hard to Be Anywhere,” and it opens with a track from Closest Thing to Heaven, the new LP from Harrisonburg-based Americana/country outfit Dogwood Tales. It’s an incredibly moving song, and it’s no exaggeration to say I needed to hear it right now. The start of the chorus certainly hits home, no pun intended:

It’s hard to be in the right place for the right thing all the time

The more connected we all are electronically, the more it can feel like you’re never where you’re supposed to be. (Quick pause to acknowledge Jason Isbell’s own crystallization of that idea.) Even now, at a time when my family is swimming in, ahem, quality time, that sense of togetherness is short-circuited by the strange shape of this situation — limitations on where you can go and what you can do, daily risk assessment, constant stress, and the fortunate-yet-crazy-making task of folding parenting into working from home. At any given moment, it’s hard to know whether “the right place” is at my laptop, being the work version of myself, or in our backyard, pushing the kids on the saucer-shaped swing I hung from a sturdy branch of our maple tree near the start of this mess.

Then again, the “hard” part isn’t always about prioritization. Sometimes you know what the right thing to do is, but following through is what’s difficult.

Of the members of our household above the age of three, I’m probably the most content with settling into a groove around the house, carving ever-deeper ruts in the paths between my desk, the fridge, the downstairs bathroom, the couch, and the sink. (It can’t be coincidental that I’ve formed a close connection with the albums that comprise Neil Young’s “Ditch Trilogy,” as well as his recently released lost Ditch-era gem Homegrown.) I know that carefully planned and appropriately distanced activities — picnics, walks, drives — are a crucial component of our bubble’s collective sanity, but I’m not great about initiating them, and I’m trying to kick my habit of opting out when given the opportunity to do so. As hard as being out in the world is right now, I have to remember that the “rightness” of other places is diminished by my electing to stay home. This dynamic truly came into focus as a result of hearing “Hard to Be Anywhere” in the car at the start of a family outing I had mixed feelings about. Meditating on the song’s lyrics transformed my outlook on the trip completely. It was like the opposite of a dad yelling “I’LL TURN THIS CAR AROUND RIGHT NOW” at his screaming kids — more like “I’LL CONTINUE DRIVING THIS CAR AND MY MOOD’S SUDDENLY IMPROVED.”

WarHen Records already sold out of vinyl copies of Closest Thing to Heaven, but I wholeheartedly recommend heading to Bandcamp and downloading the album. It’s winner from start to finish. And Bandcamp has announced that they’re going fee-free on the first Friday of each month through the end of the year. I’m excited to see how this initiative grows and changes, and I’m hopeful that fans will continue to show up and demonstrate a growing collective conscience around the value of the music we love. And you better believe I’ll be making more mixes.

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2017 in Review: Blasts from the Past

Here are the reissues I spent the most time getting reacquainted with in 2017:

Beyoncé — Lemonade

This counts as a reissue, right? Maybe? I don’t subscribe to Tidal, and I really wanted to avoid double-buying Lemonade like I did Beyoncé’s self-titled masterpiece (iTunes then vinyl). So I waited. And waited. And OK so maybe someone sent me a download link at one point, but still — it was cause for much rejoicing when a (yellow, obvs) vinyl version was issued this summer. Gives me a second chance to recognize Beyoncé’s second consecutive masterpiece.

Beyoncé — “Hold Up” [iTunes]

Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales — Side Trips, Volume One

Posted about this last month:

It’s a pretty snazzy album. Howard Wales wails (GET IT?!?) on Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes, and you get to hear how Jerry Garcia acts and reacts in a jazz setting. Parts can feel less like jazz and more like the middle of a Dead jam, but whatever. The vibe is fun and intuitive and exploratory, and it makes for great unfocused listening. Zone in. Zone out. Your call. It’s also perfect dinner music, assuming your guests are cool with meandering, guitar-driven jam-jazz. OK so maybe it’s better this is being reissued after Thanksgiving.

Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales — “Space Funk” [Discogs]

Radiohead — OKNOTOK 1997 2017

I had a perfectly good copy of OK Computer. I told myself I didn’t need the 20th anniversary reissue. Then I heard “Man Of War.”

Radiohead — “Man Of War” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sister Rosetta Tharpe — Live in 1960

Another pressing of this gem is coming in January, but a 500-copy limited white vinyl run hit independent record stores in December, and I’m so glad I was in the right place at the right time to snag one. It’s a solo show — just Sister Rosetta and guitar — and her guitar isn’t mixed all that loud, so what the recording really amounts to is an extended sermon given by one of rock and roll’s under-appreciated progenitors. I don’t put much stock in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but it was nice to see she was chosen for induction this year. Credit where credit is due.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe — “Gospel Train” (live) [Spotify/iTunes]

Lal & Mike Waterson — Bright Phoebus 

I thought it was M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger who evangelized for this on Instagram and put it on my radar, but now I can’t find the post. In the process of trying, though, I found this video of Taylor performing the title track with William Tyler. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Side note: “Bright Phoebus” handily wins the title for the song that got stuck in my head the most this year. Oh, and my daughter digs it too, which is fun.

Lal & Mike Waterson — “Bright Phoebus” [Spotify/iTunes]

Gillian Welch — The Harrow & the Harvest

One of my favorite musical moments of 2017 was finding out one my favorite albums of all time was being pressed to vinyl for the very first time. (“For the very first tiiiiime…” Sorry, I still have “Bright Phoebus” playing.)

Gillian Welch — “Hard Times” [Spotify/iTunes]

Neil Young — Harvest Moon

I became semi-obsessed with “Unknown Legend” via the cover version on Shovels & Rope’s Busted Jukebox, Volume 1. (Volume 2 out now!) So when I saw Harvest Moon was being pressed to vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day Black Friday, I was all like “Oh cool, the album with ‘Unknown Legend’ on it!” I waited in line for more than two hours in sub-freezing temperatures with no socks on (dumb), snagged a copy, brought it home, and then got surprise-excited when I heard one of my other favorite Neil Young songs… “Harvest Moon.” That’s right — in all that time waiting for BK Music to open while my ankles froze, I never managed to connect “Harvest Moon” the song with Harvest Moon the album. Like I said… dumb. Great album, though. Played it nonstop that weekend and a number of times since.

Neil Young — “Unknown Legend” [Spotify/iTunes]

More 2017 in Review

2017 in Review: Live Albums
2017 in Review: Americana
2017 in Review: RVA
2017 in Review: 25 Favorites

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

SeenEatenHeard

Seen while running today. Turntable set up to serenade Patterson and Belmont while the mural was being worked on. Didn’t recognize what was playing when I took the picture, but I passed by again on the way back and “Southern Man” was blasting. Great song, great mural. This is why I love public art so much.

[Update: I’ve since learned that the artist’s name is Nils Westergard, and he posted a request in association with this mural — that people fill out a survey that asks about public art in Richmond. Click here to complete the survey.]

Neil Young — “Southern Man” [YouTube/iTunes]

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