Archive for the 'Country and Western' Category

17
Jun
16

Silver Jews “Bright Flight”

I know something about this band Silver Jews, that it’s mostly this guy David Berman, and there have been a lot of collaborators, including Stephen Malkmus (in the past, not here), and they put out a few records and then broke up, or stopped playing, or recording (though I suppose that a band or person can just record a record again at any time, if they are still alive, and want to, no matter how much they are retired, so what does that even mean). Six albums, I guess, between 1994 and 2008, and this one is somewhere in the middle, 2001. But I’m pretending I know nothing, like I just picked this up out of a pile of random records (which I did, essentially) not knowing anything (which I don’t, essentially). The first song, the initial impression, is that this is country and western music (steel guitar, country piano, Nashville references, George Strait cover, picture on back cover wearing a too small western shirt with embroidered scorpions), that’s what it is, but something that would be considered “alternative country” in that David Berman’s singing has that quality that some people would call bad singing, but I call great singing—the closer you listen the more complex the person behind the voice gets. It also helps that the lyrics are at worst impossibly catchy and at best life changing poetry.

If one set out to create an uglier album cover than this one, just forget it, you’ve lost. It’s a flat, flash photograph of a nasty old couch with a tattered spiral bound notebook sitting on it, and there’s what looks like some colored stickers on the notebook creating an abstract design, and also what looks like the number “4” on the notebook. It occurs to me that it’s the 4th Silver Jews album and the cover photo and number 4 could be a reference to Led Zeppelin IV (if you squint, you can see a similarity between the two covers) (also, “Bright Flight”/”Stairway to Heaven”—get it?)—and now it occurs to me that IV is not just “4” it also means intravenous, and most likely “Stairway to Heaven” is about heroin. (If you ever find yourself on Jeopardy and the category is “popular song meanings”—just keep hitting the buzzer and saying, “What is heroin,” and you’ll probably come out ahead.) In fact, seeing how every other song on this record has a reference to horses, I have to assume either Berman is an avid equestrian or else it’s a lot about heroin.

All of my nonsense here is an attempt to not try and fail to express just how good these lyrics are, and how catchy these songs are, and how lovely it all is. I think this is my new favorite record of all time, no exaggeration. I think I just joined the club of nerdy, pathetic music fans who have “Silver Jews” tattooed on an important part of their brain. Now I know how people felt about JD Salinger. (Oh, wait, I was one of those people, too.) And it’s even worse with the internet. Look, I consider myself a songwriter, or former songwriter. I feel like there is no worse feeling in the world than to know you’ve come up with some kind of wonderful song, seemingly out of nowhere, and then not be able to do it again. It’s a wonder that any songwriter survives past the age of thirty. I guess the only thing to do, sometimes, is reinvent yourself. But then you probably already know all this. But if you don’t believe me, find a couple of these songs, like “Slow Education” or “I Remember Me” or “Tennessee”—and if they aren’t the best songs you’ve ever heard, go get yourself a new set of friends.

06
Dec
15

Della Joy “Crying Time”

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a review for this website, for no good reason, so that’s not worth talking about. There may be new reviews again regularly, the lord willing, so check back often, and next time bring something to eat. I’ve long since abandoned the alphabetical thing and am now pulling records out of the pile at random. This one by country and western chanteuse Della Joy is actually titled Della Joy sings “Crying Time” and she’s not kidding, as she fairly represents the Buck Owens classic, which you have no doubt heard immortalized by Mr. Owens, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Connie Francis, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and many others including Wanda Jackson and Elvis Costello. Yours truly has even performed the song but never recorded it.

Nine other solid tracks fill out this LP, none of which are familiar to me, or credited to anyone. “Mama for a Day” is a little disturbing… how could it not be with that title. Ditto for “Mama Are You Gonna Help Me Hurt.” The style is straight up C&W with gospel overtones, full band including steel guitar and occasionally fiddle that will melt paint. There is no date anywhere on the record or the cover, so I really have no idea, though there are a couple of murky b&w photos of Della Joy on the back holding onto a tree, so maybe that style of posing for photos dates it, I don’t know, but I always thought that was weird.

The front cover shows Della Joy sitting in a park, sitting on a rock, looking pretty happy, wearing white cowboy boots. Brief liner notes mention she is 4 ft. 11 inches tall, and weighs 80 pounds. I don’t know, her hair looks bigger than that. She was born in Crab Orchard, Tennessee (near Crossville, y’all) and moved to Elyria, Ohio at the age of 16. You might recognize Elyria as the home of Les Miles, “The Hat,” coach of the LSU Tigers, and I like to imagine that they dated in high school. Della has performed at Stoney’s Rainbow Lounge in Elyria, Country Jail Lounge in Amherst, Friendly Corner in Norwalk (all in Ohio), and Rockytop in Crossville, TN.

The album is made from solid, indestructible vinyl and is on Ozark Records, though there is no address for the label. Research shows me there is or was an Ozark Records from Clyde, Ohio, but I can’t tell if it’s the same one. The back of the album cover indicates it’s produced by: Record Production Service, 728 16th Ave, So., Nashville, Tennessee, 37203, so there you go. They did a fine job. I could research all of this further but time is not permitting as press time is in five minutes. In conclusion, I think this record will bring you as much “Joy” as it has brought me, unless you hate country and western music, in which case you need an attitude adjustment.




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