29 August 2011

Jimmy Cliff: "Many Rivers To Cross" (1972)

Here's the incomparable Jimmy Cliff performing a definitive studio version of his classic Many Rivers to Cross, from the soundtrack album of the reggae break-out film The Harder They Come (1972).

The soundtrack album changed my life in more ways than one. When I dragged my first wife to see the film, I loved it and she hated it. You can't changed your taste, but wives, well, let's just say I still love the album and she's long gone.

So here's Many Rivers to Cross, a heavily gospel influenced song Cliff wrote in 1969.

24 August 2011

"Get Low" (2009): A New Classic Film from Robert Duvall and Company

You want to see a contemporary film masterpiece you haven't seen: check out "A True Tall Tale" of a real American in 1938, Get Low (2009), starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek -- a new addition to the canon of great American films.

A colleague, the Paullinator, recommended the film to me for the music by The Steeldrivers, Alison Krauss, and Jerry Douglas -- as well as the film itself. Robert Duvall was one of the producers, working with Dean Zanuck, the third generation of the Zanuck family film production dynasty. Bill Murray and Lucas Black co-star in fine supporting roles.

The story is loosely based on the real life tale of Appalachian eccentric
Felix Breazeale --"Felix Bush" as played by Robert Duvall -- who wants to have his funeral "party" before he dies, for a very special reason. The film left me entertained and spiritually moved to tears. A female friend of mine was was equally moved, identifying strongly with Sissy Spacek's character Mattie -- a strong woman who in maturity must recalibrate her life's compass because of past events and a lost love surging to the surface of her life.

Indeed, I've talked to 4 people about this film and all were deeply moved. As the Paullinator put it, "
What I think is refreshing about the film is that it deals so frankly with the human condition – with humility." Another couple was not only spiritually moved but also mystified as to why this film had never made it big at the box office. In my view, Get Low will certainly find its audience with it's good word-of-mouth and stirring, heartfelt themes.

This film is everything a classic should be -- entertaining, rich is detail right down to the visuals, excellent writing and acting, incredible music, and it's stirring, understated themes. In short, a new essential with a moving story that will move most anyone with a heart.

19 August 2011

"Ordinary Man" - Christy Moore Live at The Point (2006)

Here is Christy Moore with a very talented friend performing Ordinary Man -- a song originally written in the mid-80s by Peter Hames. This clip is from 2006, live at The Point, an Irish concert venue in the Docklands section of Dublin; this venue ran from 1988 to 2007.

My old running buddy the Big Gallute sent me this while touring Irish pubs working on his guitar playing and beer drinking skills. This Chicago native noted that the song was "accented by heavy nihilism." I respectfully disagree. This isn't nihilistic, it's the modern employment world for the "ordinary man." Christy tells us what he thinks as he introduces the song in the clip below. But what do you think?

15 August 2011

One Mo' Time

Back in the day, we used to listen to 45s constantly, with 10 or so in heavy rotation. These are the songs I can still remember the lyrics to 40 years later. I've fallen into that kind of pattern with the Gina Sicilia clip of her song Before the Night is Through below. I already have a good bit of it memorized.

I'm gonna exercise a little editorial discretion and leave that clip up for a short while. It deserves to be in a heavy rotation playlist for 40 weeks, at a real rock n' roll station, but that kind of radio died 25 years ago.

So here's Gina, from her 2011 album Can't Control Myself. I'm giving her some more top-of-the page exposure here. You've got to give artistic greatness a chance for, in this case, her audience to find her.
Grazie, mille -- Gina Sicilia, buona fortuna.

11 August 2011

Talent Rising: Gina Sicilia, "Before the Night is Through" (2011)

First time I heard Before the Night is Through, I was sure it was a cover of an old '60s pop song. And I was wrong. Singer / songwriter Gina Sicilia, a brand new voice on the American blues / crossover scene, wrote this song herself for her 2011 album Can't Control Myself. But this young artist is certainly paying attention to the roots of her music -- blues and otherwise.

My ear tells me Gina's song owes a lot, lyrically and musically, to Save the Last Dance for Me (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman), originally recorded by The Drifters (with Ben E. King) in 1960. (I put a couple of the many covers of this classic up on the red jukebox in the left column.) Gina, however, creates her own song here, first with her variation on the Save the Last Dance lyrical theme and melody, and then with her personal vocal style, the early New Wave variation on a ska rhythm, and the Mediterranean elements that lace the tune. If she can keep writing like this, we may have a modern day Brill Building songwriter on our hands.

That's what first caught my ear, anyway. I posed this question to a knowledgeable colleague of mine. Before the Night is Through reminded him of a mid-'60s Drifters hit, Under the Boardwalk. Your thoughts on the roots of Gina's song would be greatly appreciated.

I have reached one personal conclusion about Gina's Before the Night is Through: no respectable jukebox should be without this song.

Addendum 12 August 2011: One of the commenters, Shannon Eric Peevey, notes that the solo guitar work at the instrumental break and the end is very much in the style of Django Reinhardt. Damn right, and fine Django style work it is. Thanks Shannon Eric.

05 August 2011

Great Dylan Cover: Guy Davis, "Sweetheart Like You" (2009)

Ever since I discovered it back in the mid-'80s, Bob Dylan's Infidels (1983) album has been a favorite of mine. The songs are nearly all gems. There's one verse I even stole -- not my first offense here -- modified, and added to my flirting repertoire: 'Honey, I'd crawl across cut glass to see you again.' Shameful I know, but there it is. That's a variation of a line from Dylan's Sweetheart Like You from Infidels. The other day I heard what some folks call the definitive cover of this song -- and I'm not gonna argue -- by Guy Davis from his 2009 album Sweetheart Like You. To my ear, Davis captures all the poignancy of Dylan's delivery and a little something extra. First time I heard it, I loved this cover. I hope you do too.