Archive for the ‘Country’ Category

Skippin’ in the Mississippi Dew

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The Mississippi River holds a prominent, mythic place in the American psyche. Dating back to its days as part of France’s territory in the new world, the Mississippi has been a place where cultures commingled; where trappers and Indians traded pelts; where shipping fortunes were made; and where frontier forts were built. Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition left for the interior from the shores of that great River. And later, some of the country’s largest and most brutal plantations sprung up along its banks. Steamships, casinos, showboats, houseboats, and of course, rafts, all float in and out of our mythic notion of what it means to be American, a notion forever tied to the Big Muddy.

Writers have long spoken of our rich river tradition. Alexis de Tocqueville, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck all wrote about Americans’ connection to their river. William Faulkner even likened the Mississippi to an long umbilical chord connecting us to our homeland and to one another.

And then there’s the music.

It’s called Mississippi Delta Blues for a reason. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, B.B. King are only a few of the greats who grew up just miles from the muddy riverbanks. Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan were also raised near the great river. Dylan’s home town of Hibbing, Minnesota is only a stones throw away from the Mississippi’s oft-disputed source. Not to mention all the music that came out of the strange commingling of cultures in New Orleans as a result of the city’s unique location at the Mississippi’s mouth.

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Written by JustJake

April 8, 2008 at 8:12 am

Townes and Guy: Songwriters You Should Know (Part II of II)

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Townes Van Zandt is the greatest American songwriter to have ever lived, period. As Steve Earle, a talented songwriter in his own right, put it, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”

(To Live is to Fly)

Like Guy Clark, Townes was a songwriter’s songwriter, a true poet. He was a little more commercially successful than Clark, though, blipping on the radar with his “Pancho and Lefty,” made famous by Willie Nelson. But most still don’t know who he is and why his music is magic.

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Written by JustJake

April 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Townes and Guy: Songwriters You Should Know (Part I of II)

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Guy Clark2

It’s fitting that I was at a Guy Clark concert when I overheard someone telling the person next to him how sadness was the easiest emotion for a songwriter to elicit. In the world of singer-songwriters this is apparently a motto of sorts. Any guy with a guitar can make you feel sad. There’s just something inherently sad about a guy up there all by himself with nothing but a guitar to protect him. There’s such vulnerability in it. The chance of a mistake, naked without accompaniment creates tension that can drive a quiet performance and bring a listener’s emotions into a more accessible space. And the most accessible emotion for the performer to reach is always sadness.

This mantra has become a barometer for me, helping to separate the songwriting cream from the songwriting crop. A common question I ask myself is whether a new musician makes me feel anything but sad? Can that musician make me feel happy, or angry; inspire feelings of longing, or any number of complex emotions. The great singer-songwriters can certainly make you feel sad but they never stop there

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Written by JustJake

April 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm