Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Covered By Bob: You Win Again

When you are the most prolific songwriter of this century, there is little need to cover the songs of other writers. After his first album, Bob Dylan recorded 9 albums before he put another cover song on an official release (Self Portrait 1970). That said, there are many unofficial Dylan recordings that pay homage to Bob's musical taste and early influences.

With that thought in mind, I would like to inaugurate a new series of posts on the blog called Covered By Bob. To start off, let's turn to a song from the legendary Basement Tapes. This version of You Win Again was recorded with members of The Band in the summer of 1967 at the little house in Woodstock, NY that was later immortalized by the album Music from Big Pink.

It is a classic tune by Hank Williams, who was on of Dylan's earliest music influences. Dylan mentions Williams in Chronicles Volume One: "Even at a young age, I identified with him. In time, I became aware that Hank's recorded songs were the archetype rules of poetic songwriting." There is a good chance that Bob was listening to 78rpm versions of Hank's hit as a boy in Hibbing, MN

 You Win Again is great example of Hank's sad songs of heartbreak and unanswered love. It is a personal favorite and always a choice when I hit the jukebox at Frank's Cafe.

 Ray Charles covered the song on his groundbreaking country album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Bob occasional plays it live on the Never Ending Tour. There is a live version from Bonneroo 2004 in circulation.

You Win Again

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran

If you have been reading this blog, you know I am a big fan of Jamey Johnson. He is one the few country artists around today who is writing and making music that has a connection to the great country music of the past. With his music, Johnson has been quick to acknowledge the great artists that influenced him and with this album he recognizes one of the great songwriters of all time Hank Cochran.

In my post from Dec of 2008, I wrote: "Stop the presses. I have found the country album of the year. It is That Lonesome Song by Jamey Johnson. As much as I hate to admit that anything good could come out of Nashville, this album has and it is the real deal."

In March of 2009, I had a chance to see Jamey live and this is part of what I wrote at the time:
"In 1974, Jon Landau saw 25 year old Bruce Springsteen play at the Harvard Square Theatre. Afterward in an often quoted article in the Real Paper, he wrote: " I saw rock and roll's future and it's name is Bruce Springsteen." Well, tonight I saw the future of country music and his name is Jamey Johnson. 

This past week, Jamey released his tribute to the great songwriter Hank Cochran called Living For a Song. On the record, Jamey duets with the likes of Alison Krauss, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Elvis Costello, Leon Russell and Willie Nelson on 16 classic Cochran compositions. Every song on the record is stunning.

Cochran who died in 2010 at age 74 is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and is the author of many country classics. I Fall To Pieces, Make The World Go Away, The Chair, It Ain't Love (But It Ain't Bad) are among his 30 Top Ten hits. Along with Harlan Howard (his co-Author on I Fall To Pieces), Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, Cochran set the standard for the modern country ballad. Cochran songs are concise, lyrical and often heart-wrenching. His ability to convey the subject with a minimum of words is the root of his genius. His influence is heard in almost every song Johnson has written.

Fans of traditional country music will love this album. If you are curious about this genre, there isn't a better place to start. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Long Black Veil

 Since I first heard  Long Black Veil on Music From Big Pink in the summer of 1968, it has been one of my favorite songs. I have heard it played many times by many artists and it always sounds good. It is close to being the perfect country song. Long Black Veil was featured in a post I wrote in July 2008.

 Written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, the song was originally recorded by Left Frizzell. It went to #6 on country charts for Lefty in 1959 and has since been recorded by Johnny Cash, The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and of course, The Band.

While researching a post about Jamey Johnson and his new tribute album to Hank Cochran, I came across this video of Jamey, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson playing Long Black Veil at a recent Merle Haggard show. The video has some focus issues, but it is worth checking out. My post on the Hank Cochran record is coming soon.