Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Aw Heck

Strange Loop and I were talking about Pete Townsend the other day. Now I know there are more than one reason that have nothing to do with the incredible music to despise Townsend , but Strange Loop was most frustrated with the way Townsend is so full of self-adulation. I told him that if he was going to only listen to modest artists, his pickings would be quite limited. As with most of our casual conversation, it because the germ of this mix. I was originally going to include him more as an alt-dj, but then I actually made a list twice this long as artists I either consider “humble” or at least self-deprecating. As I told Strange Loop that day, the expression inherent in the title track epitomizes what I am looking for with these artists.

As far as those not included, some names were quite easy to remove: U2 (a “favorite” target here for their high level of self-absorbtion), Zappa (though he is a monk compared to Beefheart), The Glimmer Twins (and their Beatles counterparts), Dylan (every great mind throughout history has been considered an asshole by the general populace... ), David Byrne (whose ego could possibly drown the entire world, Dylan included). Pure arrogant wankers every one.

And while I do listen to those guys (some much more than others), I always take a “never mind the bollocks” attitude with the personalities of artists I enjoy.

So for this list, I mostly eliminated all “rock stars” since there obviously is something about being a rock star that inflates one’s ego tremendously and affects even nominally “nice” folks such as Neil Young and Warren Zevon. I suppose that because of that, the mix is made up of mostly country, blues and jazz artists. Now of course, those genres have their own particular jerks (for example Miles, Sonny Boy, George Jones, respectively), but in general the artists are more low-key than their rocker counterparts. Al Green, like Johnny Cash, found humility in their later years, but I have eliminated them both here for the bridges burnt in their youth.  I remember we debated a bit about Waits, and he seems to be a down-to-earth guy, and the fact that he can work with his wife is a big plus in his corner. His artistic vision implies a rather large ego, but I’m not sure. Well, maybe he will be saved for the sequel.  And I would have liked to have put Bruce Springsteen and latter-period Elvis Costello here, but they just talk so fucking much.  I don’t know if I can watch another Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony with Bruce pontificating till the cows come home. It’s really no wonder that the  Bruce Spectacle was spread out to two episodes.

Speaking of people left off, here's what could be the second theme song to the title track here. But I know that Mr. King could wander into blues braggadocio quite easily. You might say the same thing about B.B. and Freddie, though Albert was always my favorite King. 

Of course I’m sure many, if not all, of the artists I included have had their moments through their history and so I may be basing this on nothing more than my own na├»ve ignorance, but I did try to put forth my case for each of them being included here.
And one extra detail I noted when 're-mixing' this mix, the fact that so many tracks fit on a CD-length mix speaks volumes to their humility.

01 John Prine - Aw Heck
The ultimate in self-deprecation and proof that good guys can finish first.
02 Norman Blake - Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
A quiet artist who has managed to put together an incredible body of work over his career.
03 Nat King Cole Trio - Dream a little dream of me
Nat may have smoked too much and given the world a junkie progeny to schlock up his greatest hits, but I think he was a pretty cool dude.
04 Doc Watson - Sitting on Top of the World
Similar to Blake above, but an even deeper and longer career.
05 Mississippi John Hurt - Waiting For You
Any of those guys who simply went back to farming when the Depression killed the record industry have to be included here.
06 John Hartford - On The Radio
Another good old folkie, I was so happy to hear him get his dues before he died.
07 Charlie Watts Quintet - Bluebird
I had to include somebody who could put up with those two brilliant pricks all those years.
08 Rosanne Cash - Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow
I wanted to put Johnny, but I nixed him in the final draft. Every time I see well-deserved accolades thrown Rosanne’s way
09 Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Please Remember Me
Anyone who would subvert his personality to another’s has to be humble, though I prefer these songs from one he found his own voice.
10 Buddy Guy - I Love the Life I Live, I Live the Life I Love
Thinking back to seeing quote marks around living legend Buddy Guy and the fact that Buddy didn’t rip their hearts out or at least sue them puts him in the humble camp in my book.
11 Levon Helm - Stuff You Gotta Watch
I know the heroin helped, but putting up with the shit RR did for all those years while keeping his cool for the most part earns my respect. Also proof that good guys can finish first.
12 Arlo Guthrie - All This Stuff Takes Time
I saw Arlo on a film in biology class way back in the 12th grade and he said the Huntington’s Chorea didn’t bother him, that we all suffer from the same incurable disease.
13 The Beach Boys - Friends
Obviously a track sung by Carl. Dennis had the cocaine madness, Brian had the direct line to God and Mike Love suffered from the evil that infected RR, meanwhile Carl stayed in the background, perfecting his Berry licks and added that sweet tenor. (Yes, Ken, I could have included our mutual FB friend
14 George Harrison - Let It Down
I love the bit in Let It Be when George tells Paul “I'll play, you know, whatever you want me to play. Or I won't play at all” and John was another one who (thought he) was tapped into the divine. Look at the album this track is from and realize how often George had to suck in his ego in 69/70. Bonus points for being the heart of the Wilburys as well, which even sort of made Zimmerman egoless (to a point).
15 Billy Preston - I Wrote A Simple Song
Double kudos here for being the only musician to do an album with the Beatles and the Stones, but you knew that.
16 Ringo Starr - Early 1970
Although his style added a uniqueness to their sound, I really think his humour is what centered the boys.
17 Rick Nelson - Are You Really Real?
He did have the strength of will to work through his teen idol days (even though he was by far the best of the bunch), he seemed like he was a pretty nice guy.
18 The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Everybody's Jumpin'
Another living legend who you could have over to your house for tea without his head getting stuck in the doorway
19 Merle Haggard - My Baby's Just Like Money
I just saw the American Masters on Merle and while he believes in his art, he doesn’t think he has done the best he can.
20 Fats Domino - My Blue Heaven
He’s not quite dead, despite rumors to the contrary. Really one of my desert island songs. I think I rented that movie just for an excuse to hear the song one more time.
21 Louis Armstrong - All of Me
Not a living legend, obviously, but he had the perfect demeanor to be, as the album this version is from, Ambassador Satch.
22 Sam Cooke - Another Saturday Night
I don’t know a lot about Sam Cooke, but I know he sang from the heart, with more soul than just about anybody. I love the self-deprecating nature of this song.
23 Buck Owens & His Buckaroos - Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Blame the booze, but the fact that he would goof it up on Hee Haw all those years speaks for something. I’m sure he treated folks bad over the years, but I’ll always remember his goofy smile and that red, white & blue guitar.
24 Mose Allison - I Love The Life I Live
This is the only name I can remember from the ones Strange Loop rattled off. Just from Mose’s vocal style and song titles, you can tell what kind of guy he was.
25 Todd Snider - I Can't Complain
Ending it with a similar sentiment from Prine’s musical heir proves the circle will remain unbroken.

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