Song of the Week – These Days, Nico, Gregg Allman, Ian Matthews, Mates of State

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One of my favorite artists in the singer-songwriter genre is Jackson Browne. I know, in these times when women are fighting to save themselves from sexual assaulters, coming out to pay tribute to Browne might not be politically correct. (He was accused of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah, since retracted – but the damage has been done.) I’m focused on the quality of his songs, not his personal life. Besides, he has been a solid citizen throughout his life, fighting for the environment and many other political causes that are important to him (and me).

Early in his career, his songs were recognized as gems by many prominent artists that recorded his songs long before he did. The list includes Tom Rush, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

Today’s SotW is another installment of the “evolution” series, “These Days,” that is such a wonderful composition that it has been captured in outstanding performances by many artists.

Browne wrote “These Days” when he was about 16 years old. The first recording was done by Nico of the Velvet Underground on her solo album, Chelsea Girl (1967). Browne, who was at the time linked romantically with her, played electric guitar on the track.

Another outstanding version was laid down by Gregg Allman on his first solo album, Laid Back (1973). Browne himself said of Allman’s arrangement “that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version.”

Allman learned the song when the pre-Allman Brothers band The Hour Glass was plying their trade in LA. His bluesy voice wrings out every drop of emotion that the song’s lyrics of sadness and regret have to offer.

Another fine version was recorded about the same time by Ian Matthews on his 1973 release Valley Hi – an album that Rolling Stone called “a sensuous delight.”

Matthews’ take has a little more of a pop feel, but still retains the song’s disconsolate sentiment.

A more modern approach was recorded by Mates of State. I prefer the live-in-studio track they cut for Daytrotter in 2006, but it’s not available on YouTube. So here’s the officially released version that was on the soundtrack to the film Wicker Park.

Mates of State are a husband and wife duo from CT via CA via KS. The simplicity of their keyboard, percussion and harmony version is charming.

Browne finally recorded his own version on his second album, For Everyman (1973). What else can I say about “These Days” other than it ends with one of the most poignant lines EVAH!

Don’t confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them

The self reflective tone of the lyrics of “These Days” seems especially relevant as we near the year end.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne & Hello Old Friend, Eric Clapton – feat. Jesse Ed Davis

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When it comes to inspiration for the SotW, I believe in serendipity. Recently my friend Julie C. alerted me to a film she thought I’d be interested in. The movie that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival in January is called Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World. Julie was right; I checked out the flick and it was right up my alley. It told the story of the significant contributions Native Americans have made to rock music – from Charley Patton and Mildred Bailey to Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix and Jesse Ed Davis (and more).

Around the same time I saw an article on a blog I’ve recently begun following called Music Aficionado titled “Have You Heard Jesse Ed Davis?” That’s all the push I needed to do a deep dive into his work.

I was familiar with much of his work because I’m of the age where we would scour the details of every credit written on an album cover or sleeve. Davis, a full blood Kiowa Comanche Indian, was listed on some of my favorites – Walls and Bridges and Rock ‘n’ Roll by John Lennon, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and the unfortunately under recognized Asylum Choir II by Leon Russell and Marc Benno.

But his resume is way deeper than that. He worked with Taj Mahal and played slide on his version of “Statesboro Blues” that reputedly inspired Duane Allman to take up the slide (and copied Davis’ riff). He also worked with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gene Clark, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, Arlo Guthrie, Leonard Cohen, Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry and several of the blues greats like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and the Kings – B.B. and Albert. Obviously, he was a guitarist in demand! He also released several solo albums that mostly went unnoticed but deserve to be heard.

The first SotW is “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne.

The brief but stylish solo at 1:45 was laid down by Davis on the first (and only) take! I have to assume those are also his tasty licks that are played throughout the cut.

The next SotW is “Hello Old Friend” by Eric Clapton.

When guitar god Eric Clapton invites you to play a slide lead on one of his songs, you gotta have something special… and Davis delivers.

Davis got little work after 1977, the result of his escalating drug and alcohol abuse and the detrimental effects it had on his health, culminating in a stroke. He died in 1988, apparently of a heroin overdose, when his body was found on the floor of a laundry room in Venice, CA.

But the joy in his music has kept his spirit alive and will continue to be appreciated for many years to come.

Enjoy… until next week.