Archive for the 'explanations' Category

10
Sep
17

Porter Wagoner and Skeeter Davis “Sing Duets”

I have more records by Skeeter Davis than any other recording artist, but I don’t have even half of the albums she released in a long career. If I had to name a favorite singer (please don’t make me do that) I would not hesitate to say Skeeter Davis. For some reason I can’t explain, she has a special place in my heart. And that is just based on the recorded music of hers I’ve been lucky enough to hear. She is firmly based in country and western, but crossed over to pop, and always sounds to me like a little of both, so maybe that’s part of the appeal. But mostly I just love her voice. It always strikes me as having an underlying sadness to it, but also an outward expression of hope, joy, and happiness. But there also is just a quality of someone singing at home, maybe, just one person to another. Or maybe in church, or while working. Her voice always strikes me as the opposite of slick, professional, over-produced. I guess in some sense, there is the same essence of what is essential to me about punk music in her voice, and that is at the heart of the music I love—that quality of “I’m doing it my way”—even when the smoother road might have been strongly suggested as the easier path to success.

This record, from 1962, is one of her earliest albums, and it’s a duet record with Porter Wagoner, who is, of course, one of the giants of country music. I’ve always been aware of him, but never a big fan, which doesn’t mean I might not be someday, if I’d take the time to get to know his music through and through. It starts out with a song that—if this was the song I was to judge Skeeter Davis on, that’d be my loss—not my kind of song. If there was one word I’d use to describe a style of music (any music) I don’t like, it would be “jaunty”—and so much do I despise jaunty music, it makes me wonder about the sanity and even human quality of fans of the jaunty (as in, are they pod people, or Stepford wives?) After that alarming start, though, they settle into really beautifully sung versions of some classic country songs—sweet, introspective, and melancholy. My favorites here are: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “Heaven Help Me,” “Sorrow’s Tearing Down the House (That Happiness Built),” and “There’s Always One (Who Loves a Lot)”—but really, they’re all good.

This is on the RCA Victor label (with the dog looking down the Gramophone horn) and has a very old-fashioned, color drawing of the two singers on the cover, in a style that makes me think of a young adult romance series book. The blond woman in a blue dress doesn’t match that much any likeness to any Skeeter Davis photo I’ve seen. A sliver of photograph on back (of part of the recording studio control board) accompanies some extensive liner notes in typewriter font by Bill Porter (legendary Nashville recording engineer) where he goes on about how much he loves these songs, but also thinks highly of the artists. It’s very nice, really, but then he goes on about especially one song, which happens to be the jaunty song on here I don’t like (“Rock-A-Bye Boogie”). Oh, well, I guess it’s all a matter of taste, and that’s what makes the world interesting. As I continue to listen, it strikes me—as well as these two voices compliment each other, Porter Wagoner’s is so straight-up country, that—and especially on the kind of duet where he sings a verse, and then she does—you really hear a contrast in their voices—and the quality of her voice (that’s an ongoing obsession with me, trying to understand why I love it so much) it occurs to me that it sounds a little unhinged—if you know what I mean. You probably don’t, but I mean that in the best way.

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01
Nov
08

The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”

This record sounded fresher to me than the other two, just now, maybe because I’ve always avoided this one. There’s this fantastic song called “Penny Lane” that I’ve never heard before. I’m kidding. I think what I like about this record is my lasting admiration for a few of the songs. Maybe two. When I was a single digit kid, I had the single of “Hello, Goodbye” which I thought was the perfect dumb pop single–it’s almost frightening–and I still think so, pretty much. But then on the other side of that record was “I Am the Walrus” which completely intrigued me, and maybe was frightening in a different way. I admit, I still haven’t gotten over that “yellow matter custard” business. I imagine there are entire support groups for people who were traumatized by that phrase. It should surprise no one that there is a band called Yellow Matter Custard. But really, right now, I wish I didn’t know that. Sometimes the internet makes the world seem really, really small. But of course, that’s all an illusion. Because with all that information at your fingertips, it’s still impossible to know another person, really. It’s pretty much impossible to know yourself. The internet is just a hall of mirrors. I’m really hating the world, and myself, a little bit right about now. I mean, how many hours did I spend on this glorious morning looking at designer pot and glass pipes on slowly loading, clumsy web pages? The answer is: TOO MANY.

17
Oct
08

Average White Band “Soul Searching”

There are two reasons why I haven’t written about any records for months and months. One is my internet wasn’t working, but I was, in a terrible, terrible job where each day was the equivalent of listening to the Top 14 Radio (“the hottest songs of the 80’s, 90’s, and… Today!”) which I more or less did listen to while working. Also, my vintage 1970s receiver broke, and I moved. That’s more than two reasons. But really, the big, BIG reason I haven’t written anything here is because (after my receiver miraculously fixed itself) I became totally obsessed with the next record in my queue, the 1976 (same year as my receiver) masterpiece, the Average White Band’s “Soul Searching.”

I expected to either hate this record or find it funny, but instead, it became the soundtrack for my life, the album that defined for me the summer of 2008. This record never left my turntable, and therefore I didn’t get around to listening to anything else. So here I am, still stuck on the “A’s” and for that matter, still listening to “Soul Searching” as I write this. My solution finally has been to tape this record on a cassette tape recording device so I can listen to it later while I, meanwhile, hopefully, continue with this project. Because the pressure to write with passion about such a life defining work of art has pretty much rendered me paralyzed, I will put it off until later, and perhaps write something now and then, little by little, until I feel like I’ve exhausted this subject. In the meantime I’ll be able to get on with the “B’s.”




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