Friday, January 9, 2009

Thursday’s Playlist on Friday A.M. #1

As I mentioned once upon a time late last summer, I have occasion to drive about 140 miles roundtrip to Donnelly, ID (via McCall) once a week. It’s a gorgeous drive in the summer & fall as long as you keep your eyes peeled for critters—I’ve seen all of the following on the road itself: black bear (2), many deer, an elk, a mountain lion & 2 beef cattle. Now there are a lot of reasons in addition to my soft spot for animals why I wouldn’t want to hit any of these with a car. Eberle & I were driving back from Lake Fork once ages ago & a black bear ran right in front of us in the canyon coming out of McCall. They can really move when they put their mind to it—& he/she had, which was a good thing, because I was thinking, “What would do if you did hit a bear? You couldn’t get out of the car….”

This time of year, the drive can be a bit less pleasant because other things besides the wild kingdom come into play, namely ice & snow. But I make the trek anyway, & it’s my main time for listening to music. So as an ongoing feature for a while at least, I’m going to post Thursday’s Playlist on Friday A.M. Here it is, with comments:

The Hoosier Hot Shots: Havin Fun with the Hoosier Hot Shots (Collector’s Choice Music)

1. No Romance In Your Soul
2. My Blue Heaven
3. Toot Toot Tootsie
4. Sweet Georgia Brown
5. Someday
6. Wabash Charleston
7. Wah-Hoo
8. Them Hillbillies Are Mountain Willies Now
9. I Like Bananas (Because They Have No Bones)
10. Meet Me By The Ice House, Lizzie!
11. What Can I Say, Dear (after I Say I'm Sorry)
12. Washboard Stomp
13. Tiger Rag

OK, I’ll admit I’m kind of obsessed with these guys right now—what more can you ask for than a slide whistle virtuoso (who doubles on Wabash Washboard), a singer who plays tenor guitar, great vocal harmonies & a rock solid band that really swings; Eberle also has pointed out how good the clarinet player Gabe Ward is at interacting with the slide whistle, an instrument that’s difficult to play as well as Hezzie Trietsch could, but also is a bit of a challenge for other musicians to play with. The self-proclaimed inventors of “Rural Midwestern Jazz,” there’s no one quite like the Hoosier Hot Shots.

I’m not really big on the concept of “favorites” in music, or poetry, etc., but I can relate a few things that struck me yesterday: 1. As compelling as Hezzie Trietsch’s slide whistle is on the upbeat numbers, it’s even more remarkable when he solos on the lyrical “Blue Heaven” or the ballad “Someday.” 2. Ken Trietsch is a very good tenor guitar player—a lot of these songs are moving at lightning speed & he’s throwing in jazz guitar riffs on that tenor in every direction. 3. Don’t miss “Wabash Stomp,” which begins with a truly unbelievable solo by Hezzie on the Wabash Washboard—there are so many bells & scrapes & dings—punctuated with bicycle horns—that I can’t keep them straight; & when Gabe Ward enters, he briefly makes his clarinet sound almost like a bicycle horn before he launches into a wonderful lead.

Mary Z. Cox: A Secret Life of Banjo (Mary Z Cox)

1. Swannanoa Tunnel
2. Golden Slippers
3. Andrew Jackson, Go Back Home
4. Old Town Band
5. Snake Charmer's Daughter
6. Old Molly Hare
7. Sandy Boys
8. Sally in the Garden
9. Soldiers Joy 3:13
10. All Through the Night
11. Hunchback Whiskey
12. Wayfaring Stranger
13. Cock-A-Doodle-Do
14. Pikes Peak
15. Angeline

First, don’t let the fact that this album was self-produced give you any hesitation. Mary Z Cox is the real deal when it comes to playing clawhammer banjo, & the recording quality is great. Cox is playing solo here, tho she does have two banjo tracks on a couple of songs, “Golden Slippers” & “Angeline” (AKA “Angelina Baker,” or sometimes in a slightly different form, “Angeline the Baker”). Both of the duet cuts are remarkable, because she creates an almost fugal texture. “Angeline” is also remarkable for its easy-going pace. While it’s true that banjos like to be played fast, sometimes it seems we all get caught up in how fast we can go. Cox shows that the banjo, in capable hands, can create music at a somewhat more modest pace. Her cuts using the fretless Hunchback Wunder Banjo, a reproduction of an early slave banjo tuned down a 4th from contemporary banjo tuning, are also remarkable. At times during her composition “Andrew Jackson, Go Back Home,” & “Hunchback Whiskey” the music sounds almost Middle Eastern with the lower drone string. Cox also reminds us that clawhammer was & is the favored old-time banjo playing style for dances—she has rock steady rhythm, but within that, there’s a real lilt to her playing, so you can hardly help but move to the music—even in a Subaru!

Dr. John: Gumbo (ATCO)
1. Iko Iko
2. Blow Wind Blow
3. Big Chief
4. Somebody Changed the Lock
5. Mess Around
6. Let the Good Times Roll
7. Junko Partner
8. Stack-a-Lee
9. Tipitina
10. Those Lonely Lonely Nights
11. Huey Smith Medley: High Blood Pressure/Don't You Just Know It/Well I'll Be John Brown
12. Little Liza Jane

Speaking of music that makes you move—how about one of the masters of NoLa music, Mac Rebennack, AKA Dr John. This is the good Dr paying tribute to New Orleans legends like Professor Longhair, Huey Smith & Earl King. But tho it’s a tribute album looking back to older material, & tho the album itself was released just a few years shy of 40 years back (wait, it can’t be that long ago, can it?…), there’s nothing precious or dated here. Dr. John roars thru these dozen tracks with his soulful howl, & pounding out lovely & rollicking music on the 88s (on 10 of the 12 tracks—he plays guitar on “Let the Good Times Roll” & only sings on “Big Chief”). The backing musicians are tremendous: great sax work by the likes of Lee Allen, & superb trombone by someone credited only as “Streamline” on Dr John’s own composition, “Somebody Changed the Lock.” I love that track for a lot of reasons; love Dr John’s version of the great parade song “Iko Iko,” & his piano playing on “Mess Around”—well, let’s just say he’s either not messing around, or he’s really messing around, depending on how you look at it; & his version of the old ragtime/blues “Stack-a-Lee” really caught my attention on this listen. But really, there are no weak tracks on this classic album.

Jimmie Rodgers: The Essential Jimmie Rodgers (RCA)

1. Away Out On The Mountain
2. Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)
3. Daddy And Home
4. Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea
5. In The Jailhouse Now
6. Memphis Yodel
7. My Old Pal
8. Blue Yodel No. 2 (Lovin' Gal Lucille)
9. Sleep Baby, Sleep
10. The Brakeman's Blues (Yodeling The Blues Away)
11. The Sailor's Pleas
12. My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans
13. Never No Mo' Blues
14. Blue Yodel No. 4 (California Blues)
15. I'm Lonely And Blue
16. Waiting For A Train
17. Frankie And Johnny
18. Pistol Packin' Papa
19. Blue Yodel No. 8 (Mule Skinner Blues)
20. T.B. Blues

& finally, speaking of classics, they don’t get much more classic than the Singing Brakeman. An “old pal of mine,” poebiz friend Jonah Winter (also a good musician & a Jimmie Rodgers fan) used to talk about the “sincere blue skies” in some western town he’d traveled thru—can’t recall where now, but it might have been in New Mexico. For some reason yesterday Rodgers’ music, & especially his singing voice, reminded me of this phrase. There’s something so open, so genuine about his voice. At first listen, Rodgers’ voice may seem somewhat plain (well, at least until he yodels), but there’s a real emotionality & humor that always come thru. & man, could he yodel. Between the range of his regular singing voice & the range of notes he could hit yodeling…amazing. I also noticed in the strangely delightful “Away Out on the Mountain” that during a certain yodeling figure he’s hitting notes of almost flute-like purity—I kid you not; I was kind of shocked to hear them.

As an “essential” album such as this has lots of obvious choices: “Waiting for a Train,” “T for Texas,” “In the Jailhouse.” But there are some less well known cuts, too, like “Memphis Yodel,” “My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans,” & one I’m working on myself these days, “T.B. Blues” (though I’ll never even try to get those vocal jumps on “T-ee, B-ee Blu-es”).

Finally, Jimmie Rodgers wasn’t a guitar virtuoso, but he had plenty of rhythm & he developed an unmistakable playing style.

Hope you get some listening ideas. All these albums are readily available.


  1. John, you really are a music teacher. These are still very relevant and I love your choices. But what do you think about occupied territory? Its yet to be realeased

  2. Hi Blue in Green:

    It was on my "to-do" list-- listen to "Occupied Territory"-- am listenting to "Dzorwulu Blu Blues" as I type; really like that track, & liked the "Langa" & "Nana" tracks a lot. Will comment further on your blog.



Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.