5

275: Sandy Bull, ‘Blend’

Posted by jeff on Dec 15, 2017 in New Acoustic, Song Of the week

Sandy Bull – ‘Blend’ (part 1)

Sandy Bull – ‘Blend’ (part 2)

I don’t know how many readers of this blog are geeks on the musical spectrum and how many are “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” fans. This week we’re going to indulge in sharing a bizarre, wonderful world-music harbinger, psychedelic groundbreaking fingerpicking guitarist I’ve been listening to for years now, Sandy Bull (1941-2001).

Betcha you’ve never heard of Sandy Bull.
Betcha if I tell you he’s a folk-era world music fingerpicker bridging the Kingston Trio and Ornette Coleman, you just click the little X and go play mini-golf.
Betcha if you listen to him a bit you’ll really like him. Because if you’re following this blog, that means music is more for you than tinting the silence.

Sandy was parented by Harry (editor-in-chief of Town & Country) and Daphne (banking heiress cum jazz harpist). They divorced soon after he was born.
By 12 he had developed a habit for cough syrup.
By 15 he had taken up banjo, inspired by a Pete Seeger concert he heard in school, eventually studying under Erik Darling of The Weavers.
By 18 he had shot heroin with jazz musicians and been arrested for trying to rob a pharmacy.
By 19 (1960), he was playing the Cambridge folk scene with the likes of Joan Baez and coming under the sway of free jazz (via Ornette Coleman), Indian music (via Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan),
By 20 he was playing atonal banjo and guitar on the Greenwich Village folk circuit (before the arrival of Bob Dylan) and including a bagpipe segment in his set.

Hamza el Din

By 21, he was busking in Europe and coming under the sway of Nubian (southern Egypt) composer and oudist Hamza el Din (who later collaborated with the likes of Steve Reich and The Grateful Dead).

By 23 he had recorded his two albums of note, fingerpicking on acoustic guitar, banjo, electric guitar, oud, electric bass and foot cymbal. Oh, and tape recorder. Not just double-tracking in the studio, like other folks. He even appeared live on stage in tandem with his recorded self.
This is at the time when the rest of the world was listening to Tom Dooley, Twist and Shout, Baby Love and FunFunFun, not to mention The Sound of Music and Al Hirt (“Honey in the Horn” was the second best-selling album of the year.)

Billy Higgins

Musically, it was a mash of acoustic fingerpicking (a la Leo Kottke and John Fahey) and a veritable UN of musical inspirations (especially Indian and Arabic), utilizing modal open tunings which enable his deep involvement in the ‘drone’. Not those cool little flying vehicles, but an unchanging, continuous low note. Sandy: ”It is so simple an effect and yet there is something eternal about it, sort of a foundation of music. I find it–and the kind of undulating rhythms which go with it–very moving.”

Undulating it is, not to mention seriously entrancing and hypnotic. Many people (ok, that’s an overstatement—all of the very few sources I’ve found) have credited Mr. Bull with being a seminal originator of psychedelic music.

But what really got me hooked on Sandy was the eclecticism of these two albums. They are comprised of  two extended head trips accompanied by a jazz drummer, and pieces by or inspired by Carl Orff (contemporary classical), William Byrd (Renaissance), Scottish/Southern mountain folk, Ray Charles/Pops Staples, Bach, Louis Bonfa, 14th century Guilliaume de Machaut and Chuck Berry. Now, that’s eclectic.

1963 – “Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo”

‘Fantasia’ is a technical term from classical music, referring to a piece whose structure is a creation of the composer, rather than adhering to an accepted convention. Five ‘easy’ pieces:

  • ‘Blend’ (acoustic guitar and drums)– his pièce de résistance; a riveting 22-minute trip, the drone produced by a banjo-style open tuning (which he changes at about 9:40), accompanied by free jazz stalwart Billy Higgins. Part 1, Part 2.
  • ‘Carmina Burana Fantasy’ (banjo) – Bull’s “impression” of Orff’s popular and influential 1936 cantata, embraced by the Nazi regime. The American denazification authorities eventually changed his previous category of “gray unacceptable” to “gray acceptable”.
  • ‘Non nabis Domine’ (banjo, banjo and acoustic guitar overdubbed) – composed by William Byrd, a contemporary of Shakespeare
  • ‘Little Maggie’ (banjo) – a Southern mountain standard. The Scottish (think bagpipe) drone first cousin of the Arab and Indian music Bull was immersed in.
  • ‘Gospel Tune’ (Fender electric guitar, foot cymbal) – based on the Staples’ ‘Good News’ which was secularized by Ray Charles as ‘I Got a Woman’.

1964 – “Inventions for Guitar and Banjo”

‘Invention’ is the technical term for a short composition (usually for a keyboard instrument) with two-part counterpoint. The six pieces of silver:

  • ‘Blend II’ (acoustic guitar and drums) – a 24-minute sequel to Blend, incorporating (according to Nat Hentoff’s outstanding liner notes) themes from Ornette Coleman, Ali Akbar Khan, Pretty Polly, Lebanese music and North African popular song, and Oum Kalthoum. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
  • Gavotte‘ (electric guitar) – from Bach’s “Suite No. 5” (I was unable to figure out what Suite this is. It’s not the French Suites, not the English Suites, not the Cello Suites and not the Orchestral Suites.)
  • Gavotte‘ (acoustic guitar) – from Bach’s “Suite No. 5”. Bull: “In a sense, it’s kind of a cop-out not to devote your whole musical life to Bach if you want to play his work.”
  • ‘Manha de Carnival’ (rhythm acoustic guitar, Fender bass, lead oud, overdubbed) – composed by Luis Bonfa for the 1959 Brazilian film “Orfeu Negro”, which marked the onslaught of the Bossa Nova craze. Here’s a whole SoTW on that phenomenon.
  • ‘Triple Ballade‘ (oud, banjo, guitar overdubbed) – written in the 14th century by ‘ars nova’ composer Guilliaume de Machaut
  • Memphis, Tennessee’ (rhythm electric guitar, Fender bass, lead electric guitar, drums) – Bull: Chuck Berry “may well be the folk poet of America today”. If you’re looking for prophets, this is years before the apocryphal quote of Dylan regarding Smokie Robinson.

But, heck, de Machaut followed directly by Chuck Berry? You gotta love the guy, even before you listen.

I remember being pleasantly surprised at how many readers reacted so positively to SoTW 092: Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain, ‘Babar’ (“The Melody of Rhythm”), a somewhat analogous indefinable East-West mix (also including Southern mountain fingerpicking elements with Indian and Western Classical music).

C’mon, folks, give it a go. Pour yourself a long one of your choice, kick off your shoes, and give a listen to Blend. And if your partner walks in on you and shries “What the dickens are you listening to???”, just answer, “Oh, that’s Sandy Bull. Betcha you never heard of him.”

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12

092: Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain, ‘Babar’ (“The Melody of Rhythm”)

Posted by jeff on Apr 19, 2017 in New Acoustic, Other, Song Of the week

Alchemy 101: Take a jazz banjoist, a classical double-bassist and a percussionist of traditional Indian music, mix vigorously, and waddaya get? “The Melody of Rhythm”. Oh, yeah, and if you’re feeling really rambunctious, or perverse, just for fun you can also toss in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Leonard Slatkin.

Let’s see if we can demystify that, or at least demist it.

Like so many other New York kids, Béla Fleck (b. 1958) got turned onto the banjo by (snore) ‘Dueling Banjos‘ from the film “Deliverance”, where a city slicker plays acoustic guitar behind the front-porch banjo of an Appalachian backwoods idiot savant kid, before the latter’s uncle rapes the city guy just for fun.

That very famous clip is a Hollywoodized taste of bluegrass, which is a folk music from those mountains, popularized in the 1940s and 1950s by Bill Monroe and Earl Flatt & Lester Scruggs. Arising from Scottish-Irish roots, traditional bluegrass is typically based on a small set of acoustic stringed instruments including mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, dobro and upright bass. Note the absence of drums.

In the 1970s and northwards, some stellar musicians such as Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Andy Statman and Tony Rice played a lot of second generation bluegrass. Then in the 1980s a newer aesthetic began to evolve from these roots, progressive bluegrass or ‘newgrass’, led by Mr Fleck himself. These musicians retained the original orchestration of bluegrass, but incorporated a jazz-based musicality, resulting in a wonderfully unclassifiable new sub-genre with its own very loyal cadre of followers and an active festival circuit. Bela’s home base for the past 30 years has been his own band The Flecktones, who have made tons of innovative, marvelous music, but he’s also been involved in heaps of transient projects with a number of recurring partners, one of whom is Edgar Meyer, with whom he’s been fiddling around with for 25 years.

Jazz/classical/newgrass bassist Meyer (b. 1960) hails from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, received his classical training at Indiana, and in 2002 was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, “The Genius Award”, the neatest recognition bestowed on humans. Edgar has recorded in more contexts than would seem possible – Bach’s cello suites on bass; a solo album playing piano, double bass, guitar, banjo, viola da gamba, mandolin and dobro; the Coplandian Grammy-winning “Appalachian Journey” and “Appalachian Waltz”, collaborations with Yo Yo Ma and newgrass fiddler Mark O’Connor, a rarity case of respectable ‘classical crossover’; and several knockout concerti of his own composition recorded with symphony orchestras, one for double bass, one for double bass and cello (played by good old Yo Yo), one for banjo (guess who) and double bass, and a triple concerto for double bass, banjo and tabla that you just might read about below.

Zakir Hussain (Hindi: ज़ाकिर हुसैन, Urdu: ذاکِر حسین, in case you were wondering) was born in 1951 in Mumbai, son of the legendary tabla player Alla Rakha. Zakir was a child prodigy on the tabla, moved to the US in 1970 and began playing with the likes of George Harrison, John McLaughlin, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer. This was much to the chagrin of his father, who refused to condone this newfangled stuff until Zakir promised him that he would never stop playing traditional Indian music. I really don’t get what was bugging dad, who had himself appeared alongside Ravi Shankar (Norah Jones’ father) at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals, as well as recording an album with Buddy Rich! But Dad had some stature. Mickey Hart: “Allarakha is the Einstein, the Picasso; he is the highest form of rhythmic development on this planet.” The tabla, for the uninitiated amongst you, “involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds, reflected in the mnemonic syllables (bol). The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound’s decay.” That may not sound too intriguing, but just listen to how Zakir says it. Convinced, are you?

So these three guys get together in 2009 – sort of like a centaur, a mermaid, and a Toyota Prius in a ménage a trois – and record an album called “The Melody of Rhythm.”

There are nine cuts on the CD, the middle three being the aforementioned Triple Concerto. Thom Jurek, the most effusive music writer around, calls it a “spacious, wide-ranging, beautifully paced concerto with the trio interacting on its own quite intently and with the DSO not as individual instrumentalists, but as a group in dialogue with the orchestra [in a mix of] jazz, Indian folk forms, classical music, Appalachian folk, progressive instrumental music.”

The first and last three pieces on the CD are just our three guys creating something wholly other – unique, transcending taxonomy like nothing else you’ve ever heard, as natural and organic as a single petal of a daisy, unforced, convincing and absolutely lovely. Here you are, our SoTW, ‘Babar’, the first cut from “The Melody of Rhythm”. Indeed.

For your further listening edification:
There are lots of YouTube clips of the trio performing live, all of problematic audio quality. Here’s a nice NPR article on the them with some links of better quality.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy these off-beat recommendations:

068: Hermeto Pascoal, ‘Santa Catarina’
063: Pust, ‘En Reell Halling’
030: The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Women’s Choir (Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares) – ‘Pilentze Pee’
003: Garcia/Grisman, ‘So What’

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2

259: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau: ‘Marcie’ (Joni Mitchell), ‘Don’t Think Twice’ (Dylan)

Posted by jeff on Mar 24, 2017 in Jazz, New Acoustic, Rock, Song Of the week

122815-r4-f3_wide-3f58a2451f6181b363e9f119d2fe83033cd14290-s900-c85Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau — ‘Marcie’

Joni Mitchell — ‘Marcie’

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau — ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’

Bob Dylan — ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’

I’ve made it a guiding principle of this blog to focus on music I love. Hence, you only know the jolly, positive, coddling Jeff.
Alas, there’s an alter ego lurking in the nether depths of my Critic’s Psyche: the censorious, condemnatory, disparaging, judgmental Jeff, the one those near and dear to me have the misfortune of suffering through.

maxresdefaultSo this week I’m going to share with you not one but two! new covers of great songs from not one but two! artists I greatly admire. Except I’m going to step on some toes and sour-milk some sacred cows along the way. Bear with me, I promise there will be a happy ending.

Chris Thile (b. 1981) and Brad Mehldau (b. 1970) just released a double CD. I have great admiration for the former, the preeminent jazz pianist around today; immense respect for the latter, a certified MacArthur wunderkind. But I find it a mediocre disk, even boring. I’ve listened to it maybe 25 times in the last two weeks, and most of it still just wafts past my ears.

Perhaps it’s something in the sound of the mandolin. Say what you want, it sounds to me like a toy guitar from the Ozarks, no matter how brilliant the notes are.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Mehldau tends to disappear in collaboration, displaying excessive modesty when he should be leading the band.
That’s why I always prefer listening to him solo. Nowhere to hide, Brad – it’s all painfully vulnerable, exposed, grave and seriously profound, whether he’s playing Bach or Radiohead.

However, there are two cuts on the album that made my head spin. Both are covers of great songs by great artists. And in one way or another, both improve on the original.

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11e499000e1ae934ee0afb385d9863ca‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, from Dylan’s first real album (of originals).

I don’t say that lightly. The very idea of someone improving on Dylan’s treatment of his own song is fundamentally questionable. “No one sings Dylan like Dylan.” In one of our first SoTWs we wrote about exactly such a case—Fairport Convention singing ‘I’ll Keep It with Mine’. But there, if you’ll pardon the hairsplitting, it’s more Dylan’s fault than Sandy Denny’s achievement. He wrote a gentle, intriguing song and shouted it out, banging on the piano. Fairport just laid back and gave it a suitable, straightforward reading.

Not so with ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, one of Dylan’s first ‘hits’ (popularized by the fine Peter, Paul and Mary cover from late 1963, half a year after the release of “Freewheelin’”). Dylan “borrowed” a lot of the song from fellow folkie Paul Clayton’s ‘Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons’, but the scathing, caustic dismissal of the girl (in retrospect, of course) and the relationship they did/didn’t have is all Dylan aged 22 par excellence. Dylan raised snide, furious, finger-pointing name-calling to a Nobel Prize-level art form.

Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’ is ironic. He doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t think twice. He’s beating her up verbally, machine-gunning her with his esprits de l’escalier, getting in all the last punches beneath the belt after the bell has rung. It’s all condescension and self-righteousness. He means that he’s going to leave her with a pummeling that will make her regret losing the wonderful Him 10,000 times a day while she’s recuperating.

Thile-Chris-07Chris Thile tells a very different story. It’s all insouciance, nonchalance, cool. What we adults call indifference. There’s no recrimination, no great regrets, because, really, who cares? Who needs a real relationship? Who wants commitment? We were together, it’s getting messy, I’m out of here before I get anything sticky on me.

When Dylan sings “We never did too much talking anyway”, the subtext is ‘little you wasn’t capable of entering a dialogue with wonderful me.”
When Thile sings “But we never really did that much talking anyway”, the subtext is ‘What’s the big deal? It’s not like we talked or anything.”

When Dylan sings “I gave her my heart by she wanted my soul”, he’s accusing her of predatory rapaciousness.
When Thile sings it, with a wonderfully expressive squeal, he’s saying ‘Hey, she tried to scratch my Teflon, man! I’m out of here!’

Now, the question is whether the song holds the potential for both readings. Admittedly, Chris has the distinct advantage of coming from a generation that doesn’t give a fuck about anything.

Want to hear my opinion? I have a lot of respect for Chris’s reading. Dylan’s is a perfect example of why I admire him so much and have no affection for him. He’s really quite obnoxious in his self-righteousness. Chris? He may be as uncommitted as a jellyfish, but at least there are no pretentions about it.

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joni&doug

Photo: Rod Pennington

‘Marcie’, from Joni Mitchell’s first album

I’ve written a series of postings about Joni’s early albums: ‘Cactus Tree’ from the first album; ‘I Don’t Know Where I Stand’ from the second; ‘For Free’ and ‘Woodstock’ from the third; ‘Blue’ and ‘River’ from the fourth. Someday I’ll get to the enigmatic, elusive ‘For the Roses’.

The first album occupies a place in my heart for a number of reasons, as I wrote in SoTW 106: She was unknown, she was mine. It was the first collaboration of David Crosby (producer) and Stephen Stills (bass), a harbinger of things to come. It was the music she was singing when I met her in Nashville with Bob Dylan on the Johnny Cash show.

It’s a groundbreaking album. Together with Laura Nyro (who released her first album in February, 1967, and her masterpiece “Eli & the 13th Confession” the same month as Joni’s first, March 1968) they gave a new voice to the nascent new womanhood.

But most of all, it’s just a very fine album. Every song on Joni’s first album is a perfectly crafted gem of a vignette from her first taste of independence as a newly liberated woman, Greenwich Village.

I sat up straight and smiled broadly when I first heard Chris Thile’s ‘Marcie’. It was for me an utterly refreshing look at an old friend. It’s a fine example of the justification for covers, shining new light on great music. Not a revelation, perhaps, but certainly a revealing of truths I had previously not seen.

hqdefaultIf ‘Don’t Think Twice’ is all about Thile’s plinky mandolin, here it’s Brad’s elegant, legato accompaniment that carries the arrangement. Even Thile’s vocal is serving the tone set by Brad.

Thile/Mehldau’s reading isn’t so different from the original. It’s the same girl with the same predicament – living her life, but thinking only of the man not calling. But it does shed light some of the limitations of Joni’s music. That’s not a criticism – Joni’s reading is full, convincing, unassailable, memorable. But you’ve always got the road not taken – every choice you make means passing on the alternative, never to be explored. At least until someone comes along and covers your song.

Chris’s treatment is so much more intimate, fraught with so much empathy. In contrast, Joni sounds removed, distant. As painfully confessional as Joni is at her best, the exposure is in the lyrics. Her carefully controlled tremelo sounds just a little standoffish in comparison with Chris’s candor. She is here at her most precious –just a little too delicate, too refined. She’s presenting a finely crafted portrait. Chris is lamenting the predicament of a Marcie he feels for.

Still, he’s singing Joni’s song. It’s the difference between a creative artist and a performing artist. You gotta give the nod to creator. You just got to.

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You don’t need “Chris Thile/Brad Mehldau” to justify the standing of Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. People will be singing their praises and their songs “somewhere ages and ages hence”. But they are not the end of even their own story. They’ve given us – and Brad and Chris – a legacy to explore, to build on, and maybe even here and there to serve as an inspiration for genuine and new readings that amplify and enhance the originals.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Brad Mehldau SoTWs

Chris Thile SoTWs

Bob Dylan SoTWs

Joni Mitchell SoTWs

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4

257: Alison Krauss/Brenda Lee: ‘All Alone Am I’

Posted by jeff on Feb 24, 2017 in New Acoustic, Rock and Roll, Song Of the week

snobfAlison Krauss, ‘All Alone Am I’

Brenda Lee, ‘All Alone Am I’ (live version)

Alison Krauss, ‘Losing You’ (live version)

Brenda Lee, ‘Losing You’ (live version)

Guilty pleasures.

Could we keep this just between us?

It’s not something I’m proud of, nor do I care to publicize it. I have a reputation to maintain as an insufferable effete snob. It might not be the glitziest reputation around, but it’s the one I have, and feel an effete snob’s obligation to maintain it.

887348e489221458f047cc295b9fc4d2Guilty pleasures. We all do it. Some of us just have a hard time admitting it.

Eating an entire Milky Way bar.
Scratching an itchy scab.
Listening to Alison Krauss’s new album.

With your permission, I’m just going to skip over the whole Alison Krauss story. About how she began as a fiddle child prodigy, recorded her first album at 14, has won more Grammies (27) than any other member of the female persuasion (surpassed only by Sir Georg Solti). About how she legitimized and populized bluegrass by giving it her commercial “countrypolitan” sugar coating.

I told some of the story (especially the Newgrass aspect) in SoTW 131 about Nickel Creeek. There are other chapters that could be told, had we but world enough and time:

  • Her 14 albums, both solo and with her band Union Station, every one produced and polished to sparkle and shine. The material usually ranges from traditional to pop covers. The focus has shifted from her fiddle to her ‘angelic’ voice. The content is most frequently country soppy sad.
  • Her featured role on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (7 times platinum!!)
  • amd-plant-krauss-jpgThe very fine “Raising Sand”, her ‘gender-bending’ collaboration with Robert Plant (yeah, the guy with the long hair who sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’), impeccably produced by T-Bone Burnett. If you don’t know it, it’s worth checking out—it’s a tough album to not enjoy.

A grouchy old fart might say her music is commercial, derivative and proudly inoffensive. BUT–

She’s as purty as an April daisy (I just made that up).
Her voice is as lucid and limpid as a mountain pool of melted snow on a sunny spring afternoon. (I’m thinking of starting a new career as a coiner of clichés. Does anyone out there have connections at Hallmark?)
She can take a nothing of a song, more often than not country shlock, sing it so innocently and honestly and delicately and sincerely that you won’t notice till the end of the 3:21 that she’s gone and broken your heart.

rs-187105-457938728That’s what she’s been doing to me for the last week with her brand-new album “Windy City”. The album is a collection of country songs, some famous, some obscure – all prettified and just waiting to be listened to, over and over, when no one’s watching and we let our snobbish guard down.

It’s got ‘It’s Goodbye and So Long to You’ and ‘Windy City’, originally by Nashville stalwarts The Osborne Brothers.

It’s got the very beautiful ‘I Never Cared for You’, originally by Willie Nelson (sounding like an out-take from Dylan’s “Desire” album).

It’s got ‘River in the Rain’, written by Roger Miller (‘King of the Road’) for a musical about Huck Finn.

It’s got a knockout ‘Gentle on My Mind’, written by John Hartford and made a standard by Glen Campbell.

_91390895_thinkstockjetty976And it’s even got a perfect ‘You Don’t Know Me’, which you can read about in its own SoTW. Alison Krauss may not have the soul of Ray Charles or the palpable passion of Richard Manuel, but she’s got her own little perfection.

She says she picks one song and then builds an album around it.  I don’t know which cut from “Windy City” came first, but I’d put my money on one of the two Brenda Lee covers, ‘Losing You’ or ‘All Alone Am I’, the two songs that have been earworming me for the last seven days.

Brenda Mae Tarpley was born in 1944 into a poor, uneducated Southern white family. She was a child phenomenon as a singer. Her father died when she was ten, and she became the family’s main breadwinner, performing at local radio stations and contests around the south. In 1955, Red Foley was persuaded to let her perform Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’ at a show of his:

ebb92c77d6db2ec223833cf0ffb6b44cI still get cold chills thinking about the first time I heard that voice. One foot started patting rhythm as though she was stomping out a prairie fire but not another muscle in that little body even as much as twitched. And when she did that trick of breaking her voice, it jarred me out of my trance enough to realize I’d forgotten to get off the stage. There I stood, after 26 years of supposedly learning how to conduct myself in front of an audience, with my mouth open two miles wide and a glassy stare in my eyes.

Here’s a live clip from around that time. Trust me—take a look. That’s why they called her Little Miss Dynamite.

From the late 50s through the mid-60s she was the fourth biggest selling artist in the US, following Elvis, The Beatles and Ray Charles. She had nine consecutive Top Ten hits, and stood 4’9” (145 cm) when fully grown.

Here’s ‘Dynamite’ from 1957. And ‘Just Because’, from 1958, together with an in-depth interview. ‘I’m Sorry’, 1960.

Brenda-Lee-dancing-with-Elvis-PresleyHer last big hit was ‘Losing You’, 1963. I knew the song back then, but to tell you the truth – it didn’t make much of an impression on me back then. But then here comes Alison Krauss. Her ‘Losing You’ opens the new album. What can I say? On its own terms, it’s perfect. If my heart were breaking, that’s the song I’d cry to.

It was written as ‘Connais-tu’ by Jean Renard in 1960. The English lyrics were provided by Carl Sigman, who made a career of Americaphying such songs as (ready for this?): ‘Love Story’! ‘Ebb Tide’! ‘It’s All In the Game’ (which had its very own SoTW, melody written by a Vice President of the United States)! ‘What Now, My Love’! ‘You’re My World’! His lyrics for ‘Losing You’ may never displace ‘Elusive Butterfly’ as rock poetry, but they sure are clean and effective.

And our Song of The Week, which certainly did catch our attention back in 1962, ‘All Alone Am I’. Here’s Brenda singing it live. And here’s her studio recording. I’m still trying to figure out what note she’s singing on the second syllable of ‘ca-ress’.

Brenda Lee Getty Harry Thompson 1964Μην τον ρωτάς τον ουρανό’ was composed by Manos Hadjidakis for the film “To nisi ton genneon”, together with ‘Ποτέ την Κυριακή’, aka ‘Never On Sunday’, which won the Oscar as best original song of 1960.

The English lyrics were provided by one Arthur Altman, who also gave us ‘I Will Follow Him’ and ‘All or Nothing At All’.

I think Brenda Lee’s ‘All Alone Am I’ is a pretty great cut. But Alison Krauss’s version? Oh, it goes down so smoothly. The pure, unadulterated, exquisite pain everyone has felt at one time or another, usually in our teens. Heartbreak incarnate.

My heart’s grown a lot older since I first heard Brenda Lee sing the song. The muscles creak and groan– קרעכצן – rather than weep and sigh. But, boy, Alison Krauss can revive that old feeling. Just please, keep that between us.

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