Joan Baez

I don’t get to spin my Bob Dylan records often, but I used his 67th birthday as an excuse to make Blonde on Blonde our pre-dinner music on Wednesday evening. The album’s been kicking around the front of my consciousness since I found out about the Old Crow Medicine Show cover version, which I ended up really enjoying. I love that it’s live — the extra energy keeps it from feeling staid or overly reverential, even though it is faithful.

I haven’t picked that one up yet, but I’ve been listening to another Dylan covers album, one I got when a friend’s neighbor decided to jettison her record collection. It’s called Any Day Now — 4 sides of Joan Baez doing Dylan tunes, including a striking a cappella version of “Tears Of Rage” that I’ve been playing over and over. I’m so used to The Band’s Big Pink cut that other versions are bound to stand out, but there’s something about the way Baez sings it… So intentional, like the lyrics mean something different to her than they might to someone else.

Joan Baez — “Tears Of Rage” [Spotify/iTunes]

Friday News and Notes

The SoundView Project

How is it September? September is supposed to be, like, in the future. Not the present.

As tempting as it is to lament the end of summer, one early-September event has me looking forward to the month ahead, and there are a few other links I wanted to share:

  • Today kicks off the SoundView Project, a public art/music event in which Troy Gatrell of Clair Morgan and Way, Shape or Form will write, record, and mix five songs over the course of a month in full view of Broad Street passersby. (Yes, I was excited to pluralize “passerby,” just as I would have been to type “attorneys general,” which I guess I just did.) They’re having a kickoff party tonight during First Fridays to celebrate. Definitely going to stop by at some point to check things out — what a great idea, and it’s being done to raise awareness of the importance of music education.
  • Do you like shiitake mushrooms but lament the lack of songs about them? Your prayers have been answered. (Thank you for the heads up, Travis!)
  • A friend gave me a copy of The Band’s Anthology, which I hadn’t even heard of, for my birthday. A Canadian pressing at that. I have Moondog Matinee, but I clearly don’t listen to it enough, because their cover of “The Great Pretender” snuck up on me. It’s awesome.
  • I reconnected yesterday with Big L’s “Ebonics,” which is exceptional. Steady Sounds posted a pic a while back showing they had a copy of The Big Picture in, and I really should have bolted over there.
  • Speaking of exceptional… Beyoncé’s VMAs medley. Lordy. For whatever this commentary is worth, I just want to throw out there that I think what she did that night and what she’s doing with this album are incredibly important. I didn’t connect with the idea of a visual album before now — I’ve enjoyed her self-titled album greatly without spending much time with the videos — but Lemonade feels different. She’s staking her claim to broader emotional and cultural territory while putting her image front-and-center, as if to say “You know that two-dimensional pop star you’ve been taking for granted? That smiling face you’ve seen a thousand times? You’re going to see what it looks like when I’m pissed, because everything is not OK right now.” Or, put more succinctly, “Who the fuck do you think I is?” I have a huge amount of respect for that.
  • Just two quick show recommendations for Saturday — Stranger Things-inspired 80’s party at the Broadberry, and a great Camel show that will include My Darling Fury and Vexine.

Hope y’all have a great long weekend. Stay dry, East Coasters.


Atlantic City

Took this while running on the north end of Atlantic City’s boardwalk this Saturday.

It’s tempting to make that house a metaphor for something — the huge casino-industrial complex towering over this run-down little house, new ways of life replacing old ones — but that casino is shuttered too. It’s just a whole bunch of sad under a grey sky and intermittent rain.

Things perked up a bit as we ran south. There were busy casinos on the boardwalk, even though the season hasn’t started in earnest (I was there for a bachelor party). Sections of the boardwalk were lined with elevated screens that looped a promotional video, and what song played behind the series of happy, sunny photos? You guessed it — the Band’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”

It was heavily edited, so the only words you could hear were “Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/And meet me tonight in Atlantic City,” which sounds fine and dandy, but if you know the song, you know that it’s pretty dark, and I can’t decide if it’s horribly inappropriate or horribly fitting for that campaign.

The details get a little hazy, but we know the dude in the song can’t find work, he’s in debt, he’s falling in with the mob, and that he’s taken all his money out of the bank. Not sure if that’s to bet it all in AC, or just because he’s moving there to work for the mob — I’ve always wanted it to be that he’s planning on making one big bet to get out of debt entirely, but I don’t know if the lyrics support that. Either way, if you asked me what that song was about, I’d say desperation. And that it’s depressing as hell. But that’s my interpretation. I’m not a gambler, and I’m risk averse to a fault. I played slots twice this weekend, and babysat a blackjack hand for like five minutes. Not exactly the profile of someone who’d buy his lady a bus ticket so she could watch him put it all on the line.

But to someone who’s from Atlantic City, or who spends a lot of time there, this could be a song about hope. About the devotion that makes you stay with someone who’s backed into a corner but just may find a way out, against all odds. Given the city’s financial struggles, “Maybe everything that dies someday comes back” is just the kind of hope people there need right now. And doesn’t the Band’s version sound nice and jaunty?

The Band — “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

Covered: Snow

Another new feature for 2016! (I’m just gonna keep saying that, and hopefully one of these will stick.) Let’s pick a bunch of albums to play based on how situationally appropriate the cover art is. The current situation? Snow. A shit-ton of it. Here’s what I’ll be playing to chase away the cabin fever:

The Band — The Band

The Band

Dudes in coats. Levon looks the chilliest. Garth looks the chillest. Danko is challenging Richard Manuel’s signature claim to creepiest, while Robbie is clearly trying to have sex with you. Or maybe just making it known that he’s open to having sex with you. One or the other.

Good point just now from Mrs. YHT: “Levon is the chilliest because he’s the only one from the South.”

The Band — “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Beatles — Help!

The Beatles

More dudes in coats. And the cover shot is from the movie’s skiing scene, which was filmed in the Austrian Alps. Those crazy moptops…

The Beatles — “Help!” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bon Iver — Blood Bank EP

Bon Iver

From which Kayne got the sample for “Lost In The World.” Great EP.

Bon Iver — “Woods” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — Brandenburg Gate: Revisited

Dave Brubeck

Achtung! It’s cold out there!

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — “In Your Own Sweet Way” [Spotify/iTunes]

Jerry Butler — The Ice Man Cometh

Jerry Butler

What’s cooler than being cool?

Jerry Butler — “Only The Strong Survive” [Discogs]

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars

Levon Helm

Levon. Paul Butterfield. Steve Cropper. Booker T. Jones. Dr. John. Duck Dunn. Robbie. Garth. Madonna.

OK, so Madonna’s not really on there. But all those other people are!

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — “Washer Woman” [Discogs]

Joni Mitchell — Hejira

Joni Mitchell

Anyone else invent an alternate universe in which “Coyote” is about Robbie Robertson?

Joni Mitchell — “Coyote” [Spotify/iTunes]

Paul Simon — Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Winner: Dude in a Coat category.

Side note — this may be the record that gets played most often in our house.

Paul Simon — “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska

Bruce Springsteen

Saving this one for when cabin fever is really getting to me and things are looking peak-bleak.

Bruce Springsteen — “Atlantic City” [Spotify/iTunes]

Stephen Stills — Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

This one qualifies twice — there’s snow on the cover, and the first song is “Love The One You’re With,” which is basically the theme song for cabin fever! Love the one you’re with… because leaving the house really isn’t an option right now.

Stephen Stills — “Love The One You’re With” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sufjan Stevens — Michigan

Sufjan Stevens

Some impressive average annual snowfall numbers for Michigan cities. Houghton gets 207.7 inches a year. If you know anyone living in Houghton, Michigan, definitely send them this blog post.

Sufjan Stevens — “Holland” [Spotify/iTunes]

They Might Be Giants — “Don’t Let’s Start” maxi single

They Might Be Giants

Let’s all hope this storm doesn’t get to the point where snowmen gain sentience, kill us all, and start burning our money. Kinda feels like it might tho. Stay warm out there, y’all.

They Might Be Giants — “When It Rains It Snows” [Spotify/iTunes]


Tournament Album Coverage, Vol. 2

Couch Cat 2

For those of you who missed Volume 1 of YHT’s Tournament Album Coverage, I spent last weekend glued to my couch, watching the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament in a most gloriously sloth-like fashion. I can think of no better occasion for acting like a shut-in and no better way to enhance the experience than muting the television and choosing your own soundtrack for each game. (There’s only so much of Jay Bilas’ voice I can take before I just start yelling at the TV screen like a crazy person.)

With a few exceptions, things took a decidedly more contemporary turn after Friday night’s Garfunkel-fest. Below, I’ve posted the art for everything my friends and I listened to on Saturday and Sunday, along with a sample song and a context-free quote from someone in the room about each record.

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Joe’s Pick: Jamie T

Kings & Queens

I’ve heard it said that “Good people eat good food.” Can’t remember where though. Probably on the Food Network. It sounds like something Ina Garten would say while smugly assembling a delicious picnic lunch. HOW DOES SHE MANAGE TO BE SO UPSCALE AND SO RUSTIC AT THE SAME TIME? HOW?!?!?

In any case, I’d posit that the “Good people ___ good ___” axiom holds true for music as well, and this idea actually played a big part in how Mrs. YHT and I got together. One of the first things I knew about the fellow University of Richmond senior who would eventually become my wife was that she liked The Band. I knew this because her apartment had a few people over for brunch on Easter weekend, and we all watched what I believe was her DVD copy of The Last Waltz. I can remember thinking this was immeasurably cool, and that coolness proved to be just the tip of a whole iceberg of awesomeness that I’ll be happily chilling with for the rest of my life.

I’ve since learned that, as matters of coolness often are, this predilection was inherited from the previous generation — in this case from her music-loving father. Now, if my father-in-law was simply a fan of The Band and their contemporaries, I would count myself as lucky. During holidays, we could put on the brown album, drink some brown liquids, and both of us would be happy as clams. But it’s even better than that — he gets just as excited about finding and sharing new artists as I do, and I can’t tell you how awesome that is. That’s why I’d like to introduce a new feature that will hopefully pop up on YHT every now and again: Joe’s Picks. Maybe I can even twist his arm into making a guest appearance.

First up is a Brit called Jamie T. (See what I did there? I’ve always wanted to use “called” instead of “named.” It’s so sophisticated, innit?)

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Nina Simone

To Love Somebody

Just a quick post-election post…

I found out about To Love Somebody while I was adding the epigraph to my recent post about David Vandervelde — “To everything there is a season.” I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t remember who sang the iconic version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” and while I was using Spotify to find out, I stumbled across Nina Simon’s version. A few clicks later, I was excitedly bouncing from track to track on To Love Somebody, trying out all these fascinating, moody covers of late 60’s hits, many of which I wouldn’t immediately associate with Simone’s vocal style.

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Cover Tennis

I have some pretty strange eating habits. Mind if I share one? I promise to make it snappy. It involves Hot Tamales, which are almost certainly Mrs. YHT’s favorite non-chocolate candy. Whenever I manage to wrest one away from her, I apply squishing pressure to either end of the capsule-shaped Tamale until it looks like how movies sometimes depict catastrophic explosions in space (it more closely resembles this yo-yo, but that’s not nearly as dramatic, is it?). Once the capsule’s modification is complete, down the hatch it goes. I don’t know how my Hot Tamale ritual started, and I sure as hell don’t know why it makes me so happy. It just does.

I have a listening habit just as idiosyncratic that I’d like to share, and unlike the candy custom above, you can join in on the fun right this very minute! It has to do with cover songs. Often, when I find a cover I really like, I’ll listen to it, then listen to the original version, then the cover again, then the original again, cover, original, cover, original, over and over, until I absolutely, positively have to take my headphones off and and pay attention to something else. A little crazy, right? I’d say it’s like being a tennis spectator, glancing left and right to follow a rally, but if I’m being honest, it’s more like being the ball. And as nutty as it may sound, I could go on forever like that, comparing the songs, finding little differences in the phrasing of the lyrics, trying to imagine why certain decisions were made during the respective recording processes.

Wanna play a little cover tennis? C’mooooooon, it’s super fun. I’ve picked out three pairs of tunes, and I’ve even assigned a tennis player (two of whom are competing in the London Olympics) to each pair, based on how obsessed with them I’ve become. So let’s crack open a new tube of balls, take a sniff — because it’s the best smell in the universe — and get to thwackin’!

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If you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you may have seen me mention my friend, the musical sherpa, Clay. Well last August, Clay gave me one of the best birthday presents I’ve gotten in my entire life: a generous starter collection of 45’s, cradled by a 7-inch Peaches record crate. This is a short video of my reaction upon being given this gift. There was tons of great stuff in there — everything from Queen to Radiohead and back again — and in the nine months since, I’ve had lots of fun exploring and expanding this collection (probably too much fun on the expansion front, but WHATEVER). So for Clay’s birthday, I’ve done the only reasonable thing — I’ve assembled a tactical playlist from my seed set of 7-inch records entitled “H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” (you’ll see why), accompanied by a quick, solo game of Adjective Battleship for each one. Let’s do dis!

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