Cement mixer

This week we’re going to start putting some paving blocks into the weedy boulevard in front of the record shop. It’s a project we’ve been talking about for a while, but are just getting around to now.

cement mixer

We’re very excited about it, and think it will make the record shop, and the whole neighborhood, a little nicer. This classic Slim Gaillard song is the closet thing we could think of which fits.

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There are so many things about this that are bizarre we don’t even know where to start… whether its real or fake, racist or not, sacrilegious or not….

And this song spent a few weeks near the top of the Irish charts (there are Irish charts, by the way) in 2000…

Your friendly neighborhood record shop will be open from 12-4pm today. Have a fun and safe holiday!

living in america

 

“Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out.”

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We will be open 12-4pm on the Fourth of July

A passage from one of our favorite histories of the United States – This is from Samuel Elliot Morrison’s lively and opinionated 1965 Oxford History of the United States:

It was America’s busy age, or one of them Eighteenth-century travelers scolded Americans for their indolence; nineteenth-century travelers criticized their activity. Each Northern community was an anthill, intensely active within and constantly exchanging with other hills. Every man worked, or at least made a semblance of it; the few who wished to be idle and could afford it, fled to Europe and dabbled in the arts or pursued some pallid branch of scholarship – the type of American expatriate immortalized by Henry James. Nothing struck European travelers more forcibly than the total want of public parks and pleasure resorts, of games and sports, or of simple pleasures like country walking. For the Northern American had no learned how to employ leisure. His pleasure came from doing; and as almost everyone worked for long hours six days of the week, and (except in New Orleans) the Puritan sabbath prevailed, there was not much time for recreation, and very few holidays other than Thanksgiving (still confined to the Yankee area), Christmas, and the Glorious Fourth.

So here’s a track from Night People, a late 70s Lee Dorsey produced by Allen Toussaint – It’s a good fit for this election year: a little bit cynical, a little bit jaded, but not downtrodden at all. Let’s leave all that hostility to the angry folks on the fringes so those of us with real shit to do can go on with our lives.

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(“God Must Have Blessed America” by Lee Dorsey)

What is “commercial” music? We don’t know — our taste is often out of the mainstream. Bobby Womack had a seven-decade career and asked that question himself in this 1971 cover of a Bacharach & David standard.

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Womack was one of many performers on the 50s gospel circuit who made the leap to popular music — young folks who have just bought their first record players do not ask for Bobby Womack as often as they ask for Sam Cooke but we did sell every record we had by him in the shop this weekend. Womack passed away at the age of 70, less than a month after having performed at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (that’s in Tennessee in case you’re wondering). Our local paper carried a fun picture of Womack with his dogs, who look like a French bulldog and a pug.

bobby womackIt’s hard to pick a favorite Bobby Womack song — we chose this cover of “(They Long to be) Close to You” for its opening monologue, plus Communication is a special record because his brothers sing back-up on a few tracks. Together they had been the Womack Brothers and then the Valentinos, and that’s how Bobby Womack got his start in the music industry.

Oh, and sorry about the skip in this copy. It is one of those records Dave bought from Hymie’s when it was still run by Hymie and has probably been being played in our house for twenty years. Honestly, we kind of love our old beat up records because they’re familiar.

And like he said in the monologue, “If I can get into it, it’s commercial enough for me.”

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“Nobody’s Gonna Change Me” by the Dynamic Superiors

 

Jake Manders is one of our favorite local musicians. His album is so filled with memorable melodies and stories and songs we love — we’ve been waiting too long for another. Along the way we’ve been fortunate to have him perform here a couple times, as well as some of our favorite local watering holes. Click on the link there and you’ll hear a few more songs from that album, and find an address to which you can send your request for more.

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“Time Machine”

photo

 

Here is an interesting album that modestly appeared here in the shop last week without much fanfare. There is no release show scheduled for this disc as yet, still it’s something we’ve enjoyed and think many of you may too. And, as our friend Ben Weaver has often pointed out, the cycle of record release and promotion isn’t always conducive to the creating of lasting art.

Fans of Weaver are likely to enjoy Crow Call’s new disc, as are folks who have enjoyed other like-minded traditional music here in the Twin Cities such as Harry Smith-revivalists Corpse Reviver or Charlie Parr. Ellie Bryan’s first disc, Am I Born to Die, was a promising collection of familiar and forgotten folk songs, distinguished by innovative arrangements that were often arrestingly stark. Twice, for instance, she presents “O Death” (familiar to many as the song Ralph Stanley sang in O Brother Where Art Thou a few years ago), recalling the spirit of Doc Boggs as surely as putting her own imprint on the song’s dark narrative.

In pairing with Peter Ruddy to produce Crow Call, Bryan expands the potential range of her music without cluttering up its shadowy narrative. Ruddy’s role, playing 12-string guitar or bajo quinto (a Mexican guitar-like instrument tuned in forths), adds atmospheric richness similar to Charlie Parr’s recent instrumental album, Hollandale. On their original “Oak Trees” his playing is especially beautiful, pushing the song forward with building intensity.

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“Oak Trees”

Still, s Marcel Marceau once wrote, “it’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference.” There’s a lot more going on in Crow Call’s self-titled debut disc than Bryan’s solo album, but even the fastest tune, the standard “Pretty Polly,” is clean and uncluttered unlike some of the lightning-fast bluegrass that has become widespread.

crow call

Crow Call is most of all remarkable for Ellie Bryan’s confidence, both as a performer on the banjo and as a singer — in this this disc takes giant steps beyond Am I Born to Die, and Bryan ought to any list of local folkies to follow. Her interpretation of “I Wish My Baby Was Born” is one of the best folk songs to appear on a local album so far this year — as a song curiously more often performed by men, Bryan gives the old saw a more convincing recreation than revered figures like Jeff Tweedy (on the third Uncle Tupelo album) or Tim Eriksen, whose recording for the Cold Mountain soundtrack is more along the Appalachian lines of Ralph Stanley than Bryan’s old world version. Its something remarkably like what Corpse Reviver’s Jillian Rae did last year with “Wagoner’s Lad,” a song likely as old as “I Wish My Baby Was Born.”

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“I Wish my Baby was Born”

Bryan has recorded several songs from the two best-selling T Bone Burnett soundtracks we’ve mentioned, but it wouldn’t be fair to suggest Crow Call is in any way derivative of those revival records. The originals on this album imply a wider range of influence, from Black Sabbath to the Cowboy Junkie’s Trinity Sessions album. Their originals are slow, driven and haunting, especially “They Know,” which was the first sample we heard from this disc a while back. Ruddy’s slide guitar is surprisingly bluesy on the closer, “In the Pines,” and the appearance of a guest on harmonica, Patrich Donaghue, is a great choice. There’s a lot of range to Crow Call — it’s often amazing what can be done in the simplest folk tradition, something Jack Klatt reminded us of a couple years ago when he recorded his solo album in the tradition of Dave Von Ronk.

With this debut disc (which you can hear in its entirety here) Crow Call offers a little glimpse into what their collaboration will likely produce — we would like very much to hear more from this duo.

crow call 2

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“Egghead” by Jill Corey

jill corey eggheadWe’re pretty up to date around here as far as new music is concerned, but a long ways behind the world when it comes to new books. So we are just now reading Bill Bryson‘s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which was a a best-seller when first published ten years ago. It’s a very entertaining journey through humankind’s scientific endeavors, from early geology and the discovery of the dinosaurs through the physics of space exploration and sub-atomic particles. It’s a lot of fun to read.

And it reminded us of something a friend said recently while visiting the shop. While at night he is a drummer in one of the best bands in town, he spends his day working in a laboratory. When he visits us after work he has the ‘mad scientist hair’ to prove it. “Being a scientist is easy,” he said. “Science just does itself if you let it.”

John D. Loudermilk name-checks Dr. Wernher von Braun and Jonas Salk in “He’s Just a Scientist,” a novelty song he wrote for Connie Francis (her version is about as rare as most Loudermilk records today), reminding us they’re not as famous or celebrated as Fabian or Frankie Avalon. That’s the “father of modern rocket science” and the man who created the first polio vaccine, if you’re keeping score. We have no idea what our friend does in his laboratory every day, but we’re decided to imagine it’s pretty extraordinary stuff. It’s certainly more important than organizing all the Connie Francis records.

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“He’s Just a Scientist” by John D. Loudermilk

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“Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements

We’re not really big fans of the movies around here, we much prefer records. Sometimes a classic song is ruined by the movies, because it become forever associated with some dumb actor or a scene once they’re used in a soundtrack. Consider the sad case of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto, which was used in some movie nobody’s ever seen and was subsequently re-named.

The people who write the movies are so desperate for ideas that they can’t even come up with new titles. So you end up with a forgettable movie for every great pop song, from the Chiffons (“One Fine Day”) to the Cure (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and, most recently, our favorite Paul Simon song.

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“The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon

We’ve only seen the trailer for The Obvious Child, but it seems like a safe guess Paul Simon told a better story in three minutes than this movie could in a couple hours.

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