Saturday, May 31, 2008

In the hall of the mountain king.

Classical music should (sometimes) make your ears bleed.

This rendition doesn't come across quite loud enough, but then few do.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Okie From Muskogee

My brother recently told me that the only comment to my putting up Coal Miner's Daughter he could make was that I was turning into an Oklahoma Redneck. No, this song would mean that I am turning into an Oklahoma Redneck.

I will comment that I remember a young US Armer member who was willing to fight a stoned European in Vienna who had spoken derisively of "Okies for Muskogee".

Thursday, May 29, 2008

House of the Rising Sun

At the risk of getting called a baby-boomer by my wife, I am putting this song up. This is one of those songs that will get me to test the capacity of my stereo speakers every time. If my stereo went to 11, I would go there. Best rock adaptation of a folk song ever. (Note that this is different from a folk-rock song). The fact that the original is essentially a blues tune helps. This song also demonstrates that sometimes less is more. This is a really simple guitar line, but any thing more would wrong. It's shocking to see how young these guys were. That bass growl coming out of that baby face.

My only complaint with this version is that they changed the pronouns. This is a woman's song, the House is a whorehouse, and the song doesn't make sense when sung from a male perspective. Following The Animals in a Bob Dylan singing with female lyrics and Joan Baez singing as a female, of course.

On YouTube there is much discussion about the "real" version. For the record, the Baez version was recoded in 1960, the Dylan version in 1961, and The Animals in 1964. The song is older than all of them, of course. It was one of the many songs collected by Alan Lomax. The oldest known recording was made by Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster in 1933. Prior to the 1960's versions were recorded by Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Glenn Yarbrough.

The Animals

Bob Dylan

Joan Baez

Woody Guthrie


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coal Miner's Daughter

As an adult I have become interested in country music. My interest, however, has been more focused on "classic", traditional, and neo-traditional than on top 40 country. I suppose this is natural given my interests in Celtic and and American folk music. The closer country come to those sources, the more appealing I find it. The closer it comes to pop or rock, the less so. This is, by the way, true for the entire history of country music. I dislike the "Nashville sound" of the late fifties and early sixties and the crossover country of the seventies as much as I dislike the the pop-rock masquerading as country today.

If I had to pick one song to represent country music, it would be "Coal Miner's Daughter". Nothing I can say will really add much to the song. On a linguistic note, I will note that the song does not start "I was born...", it starts, "I was born'd....". She also rhymes "hard" with "tired". Such a pure regional accent could make it onto the radio today. On a related note, I once read that Loretta Lynn's accent is probably the accent closest to the London accent of Shakespeare's time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Basie Straight Ahead

Yesterday I was by Barnes and Noble, and I happened to see that my old high school Jazz Band would be performing tonight. I got off work early enough to catch there last two bits. They sounded pretty good. The played the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame early this year. This video has clips from several songs, but gives an idea of their quality.

This reminded me of my youth, and my own time in the Screaming Eagles. One of the charts we played a Sammy Nestico piece called "Basie Straight Ahead", originally played by Count Basie, of course. Here's the Sammy Goz Band playing it. we were almost as good. Promise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Some shipwrecks become famous, while others become forgotten. Some like the Titanic capture the imagination and inspire multiple works of art. Others remain famous because of the works of art they inspired. Although the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was one of the largest ships to ever sail the Great Lakes, it would not be a famous as it is without the great Gordon Lightfoot song. The USS Reuben James was the first US Navy ship sunk during World War II. It was sunk more than a month before Pearl Harbor by a German U-Boat while on convey duty off of Iceland. It, however, was one of many destroyers sunk on convoy duty. It too would be largely forgotten without the Woody Guthrie song.

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is quite simply one of the best story songs ever written. If Gordon Lightfoot had never written another song, he would still be an important songwriter on the basis of this song alone. Hell, just the line "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" would qualify him as great writer.

This video is the best of many I found. It combines contemporary news footage, the actual radio transmissions of the searchers, archival footage of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and footage of the wreckage itself.

I found fewer videos of "The Sinking of the Reuben James". I chose this one because the singer's voice has a quality similar to Woody Guthrie's. When Woody first wrote a song about the Reuben James, he wrote a version that included the names of all 85 crew members that were lost. He was convinced that this was too monotonous and so he used the "Tell me, What were their names" chorus instead. When I first was thinking about this post I wanted to find and list the names of all the dead on both ships. The video for the Edmund Fitzgerald list the names of her men. I could not find a listing for the men lost on the Reuben James. In an ironic twist, I did find a list of the men who served on the U-Boat that sank the Reuben James.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stars and Stripes Forever

Simply the best march ever written. For decades, my Grandmother insisted that this be played at her funeral. It was, on piano, not, unfortunately the Horowitz transcription.

This version is played by the 82nd Airborne Division Band, so this is a tribute to the Air Force, with music by the director of the Marine Corps Band, played by an Army Band.

Bonus points for anyone except my elder brother, who notices the non Air Force plane. My elder brother to get the bonus points needs to ID at least 97% of the aircraft, and give the maiden name of the pilot's mother.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Song of the Shield Wall

This is the first SCA song I encountered after I joined the SCA. I had made contact with a local household, and as they were outfitting me for my first event, the Medieval Faire in Namron, the head of the household sang this song. I've heard it hundreds of times since. I still consider this to be one of the best SCA songs, and for that matter, one of the best "historical" songs ever written. This version is not high quality, but it has a certain charm. It matches the way I have heard it most often, by a group of largely untrained singers . I have often wondered how this song would come out in the hands of a group like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span though.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

When I was in junior high, I became a fan of John Denver, in part because I heard some of the older boys in my Boy Scout troop speaking well of him. I came to really like his music on its own merit though. It has kind of been one of my secret vices every since. He was never exactly cool, so I never talked much about it. Rocky Mountain High was one his songs that spoke to me in a very direct way. In the same era that I was beginning to listen to Denver, I was going on my first backpacking trips, and one weekend a month camping with the Boy Scouts. Hearing it now, even though I haven't had a backpack on for over a decade makes me want to get out a map and find a lake somewhere high in the Rockies to climb to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Grianan-Horse With a Heart

In my mid-twenties, I got interested in "Celtic music", a mix of Irish, Scottish, and other music. One of ways I heard bands was through the Tulsa PAC Celtic series. I went to every show for several years, whether I had heard of the band or not. One of the groups that came through was Altan. Altan was the true superstar band of the Celtic scene in the 1980s. The first time I saw them, they had only a few albums out, but were quickly gaining a name. They played the Williams Theater, a medium sized venue in the PAC. The next time they came to Tulsa,10 years later, they were in the Chapman Music Hall, the big theater upstairs were they Opera, Ballet and Symphony perform. I've seen them perhaps seven times in my life, more than any other band. When someone asks me today who my favorite band is, I reply Altan.

Like all bands, Altan has evolved through the years. The original core of the band was flutist Frankie Kennedy and his wife Mairéad ní Mhaonaigh on fiddle and vocals. Mairéad is one of the finest Donegal fiddlers around, and a first rate singer. They were backed by Mark Kelly on guitar and Ciarán Curran on bouzike. After a couple of albums they were joined by a second fiddler. The two driving fiddles and flute became their trademark sound. On their fifth album a second gutiarist, Dáithí Sproule was added. Tragically in 1994 Frankie Kennedy died of throat cancer. The band carried as Frankie wished. Instead of adding a new flutist, they added an accordion player Dermot Byrne. Mairéad and Dermot are now married and have a daughter.

This is a track off their second album.

Friday, May 9, 2008


When I was in high school this guy was my musical hero. I liked a lot of rock bands, I liked John Denver. I wanted to be Maynard Ferguson. The guy could blow a double high C on trumpet! (For non brass players, that's almost an octave above the normal range of the horn.) Every brass player I knew wanted those chops. Ferguson had a huge following among band geeks nation wide. He earned the hard way, holding clinics, playing concerts at high school jazz band contests, building a fan base among teens in an era when big band music was suppose to be music for grandparents. Chameleon was one those charts that every high school jazz band in the country played. Thirty years later, if I pick up a trombone one of the first things to come out is that ba-ba-ba-ba bump-bump trombone line. Never did find a way to hit the double high C, though.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sultans of Swing

Sometimes songs can transport you in an instant to a place in the past. Whenever I here this song, I'm suddenly seventeen. I'm driving the family Torino about 10 PM, and I'm turning off of Peoria avenue onto the street right by what was then the Brook Theater. OK, sometimes the place you get transported to isn't that special, but there it is.


When I was in high school one of my favorite albums was Black Noise by an obscure progressive rock band called FM. The album consisted of science-fiction themed songs, and was heavy with the use synthesizers and weird instruments like the electric mandolin. The songs had titles like "Phasers on Stun" "Dialing for Dharma", "Aldebaran", "Massacre in Robot Village", and the like. Despite the seeming hokeyness, it was surprisingly good stuff. When I run across it now, I still like it. I guess part of me is still that 16 year old boy reading Clarke and Heinlein and dreaming of space.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dust in the Wind

One aspect of 70s and 80s arena rock was that it wasn't all about getting laid or strictly about politics. Sometimes they reached for larger themes. Often they overreached and failed, but not always.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Shelley

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Für Elise

My elder daughter is taking piano and has reached Für Elise She was to play it for her recital this week but it got canceled because of the ill health of one of the instructors. Although I don't play the piano, I can read music. I tend to sit with my daughter to help her get pieces right, especially the rhythm. I am also teaching her to rear pieces apart so that she can work on the hard portions. I have been doing this with Fur Elise, which prior to now I was only vaguely aware of. I don't think that I had ever heard it in its entirety until we got a CD so that she could listen to it.

This version is performed by Ivo Pogorelić.


This blog is a random running commentary on music I like. Somethings will be things I have liked or loved for decades. Other will be things I just discovered.

I grew up like any other kid in the late Seventies listening to Arena Rock and Classic Rock. In junior high I became fond of John Denver. I played in marching band and concert band acquiring a taste for band music ranging from Sousa to Holst. This broadened into an interest in other orchestral music, although my preferences tended toward the loud brassy end of things. I also picked up an interest in Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and other folk music of the sixties. In my twenties, I joined the SCA, and picked up on the combination of filk, broadsheet ballads and period music that floated around the SCA. Later I developed an interest in Irish and other Celtic music. After I got married, my wife got me interested in country music. My daughter is taking piano and violin, which is bringing some of that literature into my consciousness. I also find myself from time to time interested in individual pieces ranging from punk to world music to pop to just about anything else.