Thursday, December 06, 2012

My Year with Pete Seeger, Tim O'Brien, The Black Keys, The Ants and More

Happy End Year!
WOUB (Athens Ohio) has asked me once again to come up with my top 10 favorite records/musical experiences of the year.  We're talkin' 2012 here and here it goes.

My listening as always has been strongly influenced by some of my friends, my touring experiences and new music I've happened to hear on the radio and internet.  Mostly, it comes from the musicians and friends I perform and tour with.

In no particular order:

1) O'Brien Party of Seven - Reincarnation
The Songs of Roger Miller

I've loved the works of the late Roger Miller (King of the Road, Dang Me) since I was about five years old and my mother would put me down for a nap and play, at my request "Roger Miller's Greatest Hits".  Tim and Mollie O'Brien, Mollie's husband Rich and their kids (Tim's two boys, Mollie and Rich's two girls) have put together and fun and really damn good recording of tunes by this classic artist that few are able to cover and do justice.  There are some real obscure Miller tunes on here too.  My favorite tune is the Swiss Maid where O'Brien plays and electric baritone guitar. 

2) The Carpenter Ants - Ants and Uncles 
Featuring Bill Kirchen

Every time I hear the Carpenter Ants live I think that there isn't better music anywhere on the planet.  This recording is full of swampy soul and grit.  The Ants don't need help, but Bill Kirchen is here on just about every track and the man cooks.  This album recorded and engineered by Wayne Moss in the oldest running studio in Nashville and mixed by Don Dixon captures them at their best.  My favorite track Ling Ting Tong.

3) The Black Keys - El Camino

I don't know if it is hip or not to dig The Black Keys and I don't care.  This band made somewhat famous from TV placements of their music simply rock and the grooves are irresistible.   I'm behind the curve here as this is the first album of their's that I have downloaded.  The music on El Camino (funny, there is a van on the cover, not an El Camino) makes me feel five years younger as it makes me wanna be 10 years younger.
I first heard "Gold on the Ceiling" on WOUB a couple months ago and thought it was the best sounding rock n' roll I'd ever heard.  I'll think that again and again about other songs, but for now, this is one rocking record in my book.  Current favorite song, "Run Right Back". 

4) Loudon Wainwright III 

Older Than My Old Man Now

Loudon Wainwright III has influenced my music for close to 20 years now.  His honesty makes me wince at times and he can be serious, dark and hilarious all at the same time.  That's what makes a great tune.  I feel like I'm getting away with something with I listen to his music.  The same feeling I had when I was 7 years old and my brother bought the soundtrack to Easy Rider.  Well, kind of the same.  Loudon is now older than his father was when he passed and this work revolves around that notion.  I love that he has his kids singing backup on the first tune "The Here and Now".  

In the 70s I made it big..

I took a wife, we had some kids

Screwed that up and went on...

In the 80s I started a brand new life

Had another kid, I took another wife


I don't know why, I'm not sure how

I wined up here to the here and the now

and then Loudon's children sing

He don't know why, he's not sure how

He made it here to the here and the now!

My favorite tune "I Remember Sex". 

 5) Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family
with Pete Seeger
Clearwater Festival - Croton-on-Hudson NY June 2012

I was on tour with Tim O'Brien this year and we played some historical folk venues along the way including Club Passim (Cambridge MA) and Caffe Lena (Saratoga Springs NY) both in the same week.  These venues have been around for decades hosting many folkies including Dylan, Baez and Seeger.  The Sound man at Caffe Lena had been working there for 40 years!

 We ended up at The Clearwater Festival at Croton-on-Hudson NY.  Tim and I were weaving through the beautiful highway over Bear Mountain, listening to Dylan's Bootleg Series on our way to this folk music jewel.

We celebrated the 100th birth year of Woody Guthrie this year and on that June evening the past, present and future met on stage.  Woody's grand kids singing his lyrics.  Arlo and his kids singing songs that Wilco and Billy Bragg had written with Woody, long after Woody had past.  That is folk music, and this particular festival was the center of the universe for Folk music on that perfect June evening.  I felt this and I don't think that is an overblown thought. 

At the end, Woody's contemporary, 97 year old Pete Seeger, joined the Guthries along with his grandson Tao and sang and played, fist in air.  This music is part of the nervous system of America.  We know it whether we know it or not.  Seeger and friends started this festival years ago as part of an effort to clean up the Hudson River.  Seeger and friends built a sloop and sailed along the Hudson, performing and activating change.   A success story.  Music can change the world.  As Pete says here in this video as he re-christens the vessel 7 years ago,  "It's small organizations like this, that will save the world".  Right on Pete.

6) Pete Seeger
The Complete Bowdoin College Concert

I downloaded this immediately after the concert mentioned above.  Some say Pete Seeger started "The College Circuit" after he was black balled and label a communist in the later 50s. Seeger was and still is a walking talking search engine for the folk music of the world.  This recording predates Bob Dylan's explosion on the folk scene and it is interesting to listen to it with that in mind.
Favorite Song "Big Rock Candy Mountain".  I've never heard it like this before.

7) Woody Guthrie at 100
Centennial Collection

See number 6 and 7.  This is a flat out amazing 65 song retrospective of Woody's work.  I went on my first beach vacation this year and would take morning walks as the kids would swim.  I walked for miles and watched people bake in the sun.  Watched a cross section of America getting away from their troubles as I walked and listened to Woody.  Favorite song; "Riding in my Car"

8) Tim O'Brien and Darrel Scott
We're Usually A Lot Better Than This

If the title of the album is true, I'd like to hear that.  As Tim and I were leaving the festival mentioned above, he played me some of this recording.  A flat out amazing live set by Tim and Darrell.  Darrell as you may know is a fine songwriter and performer.  He is also, like O'Brien,  in high demand as a side man for many artists.  Last year he toured in Robert Plant's "Band of Joy" at about the same time Tim was recording with Mark Knopfler.  Something crazy cool happens when these two are together.
Favorite performance: Long Time Gone

9) Fresh Air Remembers Hal David
Listen here
Burt Bacharach with Hal David
Lyricist Hal David died this year. David is best known for his many collaborations with composer Burt Bacharach between the late '50s and the mid-'70s; many of their songs were recorded by Dionne Warwick, who had a string of hits in the 1960s. 
I loved listening to him talk to Terry Groce about his collaborations with Bacharach and then digging through his massive catalog.
Favorite Tune: Dionne Warwick's Do You Know The Way To San Jose
10) Old Man Luedecke
Tender is the Night

This recording just came to my attention.  A banjo player/songwriter from Chester, Nova Scotia.   Down home and downright real.  Favorite Tune: Tender is the Night    I can relate to that song.  Even though I've never met the man, I feel I know Luedecke as he basically used the same musicians on this album as I have in the past and well, he's singin' songs I wish I'd written.

Many many other recording, documentaries and shows come to mind, like a performance by Rachel Figley at the Adelphia in November, revisiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy and so on, but these are the recordings I'm thinking of most on this particular day.

Thanks for reading.
Todd Burge
December 6 2012

One for Growups and One for Kiddos

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