ELDER MUSIC: Musicians You Should Know About II - Part 1
Posted Aug 09 2009 10:58pm
You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles ( bio here ) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday.
When I first thought of the idea of writing about musicians who should be more well known, I was probably been driving my car. I can’t have been going to work or home because if that were so, I’d have immediately cranked up the ‘puter on arriving and started tippy-tapping away. I must have been going to a market, probably South Melbourne or Prahran, the two I usually visit.
Melbourne is especially blessed with markets where we can purchase fresh provender. (Americans know these as Farmers’ Markets, only they’re a bit more organized). That’s one of the reasons that makes this such a good place to live.
Anyway, I’ve just remembered that the original idea for this was prompted by Townes van Zandt and Jesse Winchester, both of whom I forgot to include in the original blog along these lines.
I first discovered Townes van Zandt in 1970, when I was living on a yacht (not mine) at the Berkeley marina. That was a time; but that’s not the purpose of this blog. I read a review of his first album in Rolling Stone and thought “That sounds interesting.”
More than interesting, this was a great album with many fine songs. Townes was a subtle and sublime songwriter and an expressive, if rather melancholy, singer. He lived an “interesting” life, but I’ll skip the details (hey, there’s a first, I can hear people saying). He’s no longer with us.
I’m going with that gorgeously, shimmering song, ( Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria. from that album.
I discovered Jesse Winchester the same way I found Townes. I must admit when I saw that the backing musicians on his first album were members of The Band I really wouldn’t have cared whose album this was. As it turned out, this was another one that’s a real jewel. I keep playing it to this day. With songs like Biloxi, Yankee Lady and Brand New Tennessee Waltz, how could it miss?
Jesse is the most unassuming performer - maybe that’s why he’s not so well know - but a generous one. I have seen him quite often and if you ever get a chance to do the same, take it.
In spite of all his fine albums since that first one, that’s the one I’m going back to. I thought this will be easy, just play Brand New Tennessee Waltz...
...Then on further listening, I thought how could I leave out Biloxi?
James Carr recorded the definitive version of the song, The Dark End of the Street. It sold pretty well, but not enough to make him a star. It should have. However, he suffered from bi-polar disorder which affected his career so he didn’t make it up there with Otis and Wilson. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us. This is his version, and the best, of The Dark End of the Street.
Dan Penn, along with Chips Moman, wrote The Dark End of the Street. Dan is also a singer and a songwriter, often with Spooner Oldham with whom he also performs. He probably doesn’t need our support as I imagine the royalties from his songs would see him quite comfortable. However, it’s always instructive to hear how writers tackle their own songs. Here is You Left the Water Running.
Next week: Al Wilson, Millie Jackson, Jesse Colin Young, Johnny Adams, Chris Smither.