Lucinda Williams, Six Blocks Away

Lucinda Williams made an album called Sweet Old World in 1992. It was the follow up to her fantastic debut album on Rough Trade, which was actually her third album. She’d had a previous career, 10 years previous, recording for Smithsonian. Exclamation mark.

Those first two albums, Ramblin’ and Happy Woman’s Blues, are great by the way.

In any case, after her terrific album Lucinda Williams, for Rough Trade, she got picky. It took a few years to finish Sweet Old World, which leads with an upbeat song about a street person who resonates.

It took her six more years to record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her masterpiece, but I think a lot of the earlier songwriting is better. But the guitars rock more on Car Wheels.

Subsequent events suggested she was unhappy with the sound of Sweet Old World, which is softer than her later albums. And last year her husband suggested Williams rerecord the whole album with a harder and more rockin’ edge. So she took her touring band into the studio and they redid it.

You know, it’s hard to dislodge what you like with something else, even if it’s better, but here’s the new version of Six Blocks Away, followed by the original. You be the judge.

 

Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left Handed

I loved Bill Withers. Lean on Me is an amazing song. But when John Legend covered this song with the Roots some years back I was surprised because it was powerful and unforgettable and I didn’t know it. Thinking about politics and music making lately, I’m not sure there is much value in trying to change minds, but this tune is a testament to deep feelings that affected us all once upon a time. Beautifully.

Wussy, Teenage Wasteland

This is another one h/t to the Dean of American Rock Critics, though he didn’t plug this song. I found it on the YouTube.

These guys are old and weird. The first two songs of theirs I listened to were called Gloria, and this one, which was once a Who song. Neither was a cover.

They skew to the indie side of rock, but I’ve put this clip on repeat. I liked them at first hear. They sound like they need to do this more than anything. That’s enough for now. Maybe more later.’

 

Parquet Courts, Wide Awake

Tom wrote about these guys from Texas living in Brooklyn nearly four years ago, and posted a pretty good song that I don’t remember hearing. This is the title track to Parquet Courts new album, which the Dean of Rock Critics gave an A and said: “Their aural gestalt will never be on a Stones-Ramones level, but those are the comparisons—in an appalling year when too many g-g-b-d types have chosen to gaze inward, I doubt we’ll hear a greater album.” I gather I’m immune to the irony. Or ironies.

LINK: Scottish Pop at the National Museum

There’s a show about Scottish pop music showing up at National Museum of Scotland. If you were there, why wouldn’t you see it?

And if you’re not there, why wouldn’t you listen to the music? Which has always been really good.

So, go the museum. You certainly should. Or enjoy this:

 

Or this:

The Guardian is on it. Read this. 

What I’ve Been Listening To Lately: Between The Buttons

In 1967 I turned 11, and my aunt Dottie’s present was a copy of The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons.

It may be my greatest present ever, though I’m sure that’s a reckless statement. I’ve been gifted a lot, thank you totally.

The thing about Between the Buttons is it is not a Rolling Stones blues record. Though the blues are played, for sure. I’m terrible at these historical things, but the record seems to represent the apotheosis of Brian Jones. His influence is everywhere, and the music benefits from odd instrumentation and challenging harmonies.

It’s not like the 12×5 Stones were underachievers, but in many ways the Between the Buttons cuts are wilder and more creative than the more extravagant Beatles experiments at the same time. The Stones didn’t ever, I think, get totally absurd in their posture (even considering Gomper), while the Beatles got pretty mental in their days. In any case, Between the Buttons is an album of pop songs, some influenced by psychedelic experiences and styles of the time.

When I decided to write about this I had an “neglected elpee” angle, but everybody gives it five stars. Everyone considers Between the Button a masterpiece. So what I have to share are some clips, in case you didn’t know about masterpiece it is (it wasn’t really conceived as an album).

 

My two cents. These Stones are Brian Jones Stones. This is incredible music, orchestration, songs. The Stones went from great bluesimitators to pop meisters like the Beatles and the Kinks. Brian Jones was in charge of that.

We always think of Jagger and Richard, but this was a band that was led by Brian Jones, in the first part, and Mick Taylor in the classic part. And when Ron Wood came in the live magic didn’t end, but the songwriting and arrangements did.

Between the Buttons may be the high mark of the Brian Jones era. It’s a high mark indeed.