elmergantry

' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Tag: Mary Gauthier

‘A Life that I was living In some Cracked Rear View’: Songs of Experience

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Dylan Thomas ‘Fern Hill’

‘Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.’
George Orwell

“And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
William Blake

As the title suggests, this post is a sequel to the one I wrote recently on ‘Songs of Innocence.’ So here are ten songs which deal with one way or another with the often bitter and disillusioning experiences which accompany the passage of time and the path to maturity. For all of us, life generally grows in complexity as we age and the balance of light and shade in it tends to lean more towards the latter. It may be, however, that these sufferings which we all have to go through ultimately lead to some kind of maturity…

The first part of the title of today’s post comes from this song:

1. John Hiatt, ‘Learning How To Love You’:

2. Phil Ochs, ‘Rehearsals for Retirement’:

3. Smog, ‘Cold Blooded Old Times’

4. Jim White, ‘Chase the Dark Away’;

5. Rowland S. Howard, ‘Ave Maria’

6. Iris De Ment, ‘No Time to Cry”

7. Steve Earle, ‘Goodbye’

8. Bob Dylan, ‘Things Have Changed’:

9. Mary Gauthier, ‘I Drink’

10. Paul Clayton, ‘All The Good Times Are O’er’
Sample here – http://www.folkways.si.edu/paul-clayton/dulcimer-songs-and-solos/american-folk/music/album/smithsonian

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‘Songs of Innocence’

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the Sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

Dylan Thomas ‘Fern Hill’

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.
Patrick Kavanagh ‘Advent”

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

William Blake, ‘The Lamb’

As the title suggests, this post includes a selection of ten songs which reflect an ‘innocent’ perspective on life. Generally speaking, they tend deal with childhood experiences or with the early teenage years. Of course, there will be a sequel:

1. Phil Ochs, ‘Boy in Ohio’ :

2. Neil Young, ‘Sugar Mountain’:

3. Lucy Kaplansky, ‘Manhattan Moon”:

4. Ricky Nelson, ‘Waitin In School’:

5. Chuck Berry, ‘School Days’:

6. Sam Cooke, “Wonderful World’:

7. Smog, ‘Teenage Spaceship’:

8. Guy Clark, ‘Texas 1947’:

9. The Go-Betweens, ‘Cattle and Cane’:

10. Mary Gauthier, ‘Sugar Cane”:

New and Recent Albums

In the last month or two , have been playing a small number of albums in rotation – a few of these are by a select group of excellent contemporary songwriters (Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson and Mary Gauthier), while the others are by more established artists like Randy Travis and John Anderson.

To start with, Jason Isbell’s Southeastern stands out as one of the very finest albums of recent times. At its best (on songs like ‘Travelling Alone” and ‘Elephants’, it has an emotional candour and raw honesty, which bears comparison with Mary Gauthier’s finest work. Here is one of the other fine songs from that album:

Have only recently discovered Jamey Johnson’s work, but it already seems clear to me that he is one of the best ‘real’ country songwriters in a long, long time. The best of his work combines the emotional candour which was/is central to the work of great country songwriters like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard with a contemporary edge – ‘the smell of tofu’, ‘depression pills’ and ‘cocaine’ in this fine song, for example:


While Mary Gauthier’s new album, Trouble and Love may not be up to the standards of her very best work, there are, nonetheless, some fine songs on it. This one stands out for me:

In recent times, have also been listening a lot to two fine compilations. The first,’ Three Wooden Crosses, showcases Randy Travis skills as a country gospel singer. The title track which could have been merely mawkish in other hands is magnificently performed here:

To finish up here is that superb country vocal stylist John Anderson’s great environmental song, Seminole Wind – one of the very few great songs in that vein which this avowedly ‘conservative’ form of music has produced. Go figure, as they say…

‘Home Before Dark’: A Theme Time 15 Minutes – Part Two

Should add that I named the original post after one of my favourite books of all time, Susan Cheever’s great memoir about her father, John Cheever. In my opinion, Cheever is, perhaps – along with Raymond Carver and Richard Ford – the best American short story writer.

Have been thinking about songs with ‘Home’ in the title or as a theme and have come up with these additions to the list:

1. Rory Gallagher ‘Philby’ – Rory’s great song about not having a home:

2. Robert Johnson, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’:

3. These are, I think, alternative versions of the same original song (the ‘folk process’, as it were), but they show clearly the differences between these two fine artists:
Paul Clayton, ‘Home, Dearie, Home’:

There is a sample of this song here:
http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/bay-state-ballads/home-dearie-home

Luke Kelly, ‘Home, Boys, Home’:

4. John Martyn, ‘Baby Please Come Home; – from his greatest album…

5. Mary Gauthier, ‘Can’t Find the Way’ – a great, great song about homelessness:

6. Eric Andersen, ‘Feel like Coming Home”
There is a sample of this song here (it is track 12):
http://www.amazon.com/Beat-Avenue-Eric-Andersen/dp/B000087DRW

7. Bert Jansch, Running from Home’:

8. Bob Dylan.’I was young when I left Home’: Dylan’s great re-working of ’99 Miles”

9. Eric Bibb, ‘New Home’:

Mary Gauthier, Steve Earle and Goodbyes

Have recently been listening to a lot of Mary Gauthier recently, who, I think, must be reckoned among the great songwriters of recent times.

There is a honesty about her music, which is enormously appealing in an age of so much manufactured garbage. Her songs also pack a great deal of emotional weight. This one, perhaps, most of all:

 

The song this one brought to my mind is Steve Earle’s Goodbye, perhaps his most perfect song and one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. The harmonica solo on it is the sound of complete loneliness (sez he):

 

And to round it off, here is ‘Invisible’ from Earle’s new album – another song which proves the continuing relevance and potency of a good ‘topical’ song: