One More Time by Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff is one of those artists that can lift the heart out of despair.  Sometime ago I posted the other performance from Jimmy Cliff’s appearance on Jools Holland.  Both performances are simply outstanding.  This song is from his front to back killer Rebirth.  This is a modern record that can stand with the all-time greats in this or any genre.  If you don’t have it, get it.

No More Buffalo by James McMurtry

I’m still finding my way through James McMurtry’s excellent new album Complicated Game.  There is no doubt it features first rate writing and arranging.  However, the songs themselves are almost like short stories, which work on different levels.  If I’m going to write about it I want to make sure that I get it right.  In the meantime I found this live performance of an older McMurtry song that I like.  McMurtry is always well regarded as an excellent writer, but he is also one of the most unique guitar players that I’ve ever seen.  Usually when I watch people play guitar, even if I am not able to play what they can play, I usually have some general understanding of what they are doing.  I have no idea what McMurtry is up to.  He has a fluid rhythmic style that, whether he is playing electric or acoustic, always perfectly compliments his songs.

Kill Your Sons

Austin is under the cloud of a dark and evil “shit mist”.  Gray, black, and brown are the only colors outside.  Everything is damp.  So to hopefully cheer everyone up, I thought I’d post some Lou Reed.  I always loved this performance, especially Lou’s guitar solo.  The song Kill Your Sons is about the time when Lou’s parents forced him to receive mental treatment, and in particular shock treatment.  Yet despite the seemingly depressing subject matter, Lou’s ability to take a matter head on without pity or sentimentalism always seems to lift my spirits.  Maybe it’s just me…

This period of his career, even though Kill Your Sons is originally off Sally Can’t Dance (Itself an underrated album in my book.), with Robert Quine is particularly worth checking out.  It consists of the albums The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, and Live in Italy.  All three of those albums are worth having if you are a fan of Lou Reed.  They are musically lean and mean, and feature some of his best lyrics.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Indian legislation’s on the desk of a do right congressman
And he don’t know much about the issues so he picks up the phone
And asks the advice of the senator out in Indian country
A darling of the energy companies ripping off
What’s left of the reservation

I learned the safety rule
I don’t know who to thank
Don’t stand between the reservation
And the corporate bank
They’re sending federal tanks
It isn’t nice but it’s reality

Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Won’t you cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee

We got these energy companies
Who want to take the land
And we got churches by the dozens
Trying to guide our hands
And turn our mother earth
Over to pollution war and greed
No no

Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee

We got the federal marshals
We got the covert spies
We got the liars by fire
And the FBI
They lie in court and get nailed
And still Leonard Peltier goes off to jail
(the bullets don’t match the gun)

Bury my heart at wounded knee
An eighth of the reservation
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Was transferred in secret
Bury my heart at wounded knee
We got your murder and intimidation
Bury my heart at wounded knee

My girlfriend Anna May
Talked about uranium
Her head was full of bullets
And her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands
And told us she died of exposure

To bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with your pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Talk about a revolution
They stole my land
They won’t steal my soul

We had the gold rush wars
Why didn’t we learn to crawl’
And now our history gets written in a liar’s scrawl
They tell me “don’t be so uptight
I mean honey you can still be an Indian
Down at the y on saturday night”

Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with your pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee

Bury my heart
It was an eighth of the reservation
Bury my heart
Yeah was transferred in secret
Bury my heart
Got your murder, murder, murder and intimidation
Bury me
Bury me
Bury me
Bury my heart
Bury my heart
Bury my heart
Bury my heart

By Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Just to put an exclamation point on my last blog.

Up Where We Belong

Rolling into New Orleans soon.   Listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Up Where We Belong.  It is available in the store of her website for only $7 I believe.  It is basically a greatest hits, but one that features some songs not available on other records.  Everything has been rerecorded to give the album a unity.   Usually I hate rerecordings of older songs, but I think her discography is so varied that this actually works in the record’s favor.  Some of the production is slightly dated, but it doesn’t matter.  Front to back great songs with tremendous vocal performances.  Some of the bravest political music you will ever hear.  Beautiful poetic love songs and sketches of Indian life also appear.  She can do it all.  She would be a superstar if she hadn’t frightened so many people.  I have talked her up many times, but I don’t care.  She has better albums, but none that serve as well as an introduction to her work.  If you value intelligence, passion, and bravery, this is for you.  Never be afraid again…

The Expansive Writing of Bob Dylan

Lately I have been trying to discern what in particular gives Dylan’s writing a unique power. Entire books have been written on the topic, entire semesters have been taught.  I am not going to solve the conundrum here. 

However, as someone that has spent more time than is healthy studying song lyrics, there is something I notice time and time again.  Dylan has not only been prolific for most of his career, but his words also often gain power through sheer volume.  I am a huge fan of Morrissey.  Although he has written expansive songs like The Queen is Dead, he often writes couplets that are powerful statements in and of themselves.  Leonard Cohen, someone by whose own admission is not prolific, yet is closer to Dylan in style, spends a lot of time finely crafting certain lines. 

If you take many Dylan couplets, although with his huge catalog he has written brilliant couplets as well, they are not always powerful in and of themselves.  But by the time you get to the 7th couplet in 4th verse of a Dylan song (hypothetically), Dylan songs are often astounding for the sheer amount of language he packs in them, they begin to take on a cumulative poetic power. 

Where some writers get their power from cutting back until what lies before them is a finally crafted sculpture, Dylan almost seems to stand out of the way and let his subconscious pour forth.  Line after line, image after image, floats past until the amount of imagery leaves the listener overwhelmed and breathless. 

Sure, that is not all he is doing.  There is a difference in power between Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and Springsteen’s similar wordy Blinded by the Light.  (I love Dylan and Springsteen, but I would be lying if I said the latter contained the poetic force of the former.)  Dylan performs alchemy.   He does get that missing piece of the puzzle that many others cannot find no matter how talented they are. 

This is not to say that Dylan cannot write shorter more traditional songs.   He can of course.  Again this is also not to say that Dylan cannot write great one liners and couplets, as he has done that as well.  There are also many other elements at play to make a song powerful.  However, I think,  if you are interested in what Dylan does, this is a good facet of his writing to examine.