Wednesday, June 3, 2009
too many memories for one heart to hold...
i remember how we loved the spoken litany of names that started kris kristofferson's "the pilgrim chap 33". first, kristofferson's voice sounded so cool, all deeply ragged & manly. second, we were in our discovery mode & he mentioned a lot of musicians we hadn't heard or heard of before. third, the song itself mythologized the kind of play for nothing/play for everything singer/songwriter coming up in country at the time. what had happened in pop music had finally crossed over into country music & it looked like we were all set for a glorious run of "new" country music.
it happened too. along w/the groundbreaking kristofferson, we had waylon's honky tonk heroes & willie's shotgun willie & red headed stranger. the new outlaw sound eventually lead to rodney crowell & steve earle. this music has endured & still sounds good today.
but for the most part, most of the men mentioned in kristofferson's litany never really caught hold & what music they did make isn't really listened to today. i mean, when's the last time you hit replay on billy swan's "i can help"? this doesn't mean they haven't been playing all these years & recording & writing strong songs. they just kind of exist invisibly, somewhere between playing for nothing & playing for everything. i guess they're just playing for a living, having become the pilgrims kris mythologized way back then. while most of the guys on kris' list were from his band, there's also the group of guys from jerry jeff walker's lost gonzo band: gary p. nunn & robert livingstone. then, there's the incomparable dan penn & spooner oldham, guys who've been around a long time writing enduring classics("i'm your puppet", "cry like a baby", "dark end of the street").
stephen bruton was a buddy of kristofferson. he co-wrote "border lord" w/him. he died earlier this year. this cover of one of his songs by hal ketchum(one more name that could have easily been mentioned in the original litany)is strong. it has a penn/oldham quality to it, which basically means it's got a slow r&b groove.
just in case you've forgotten: billy swan, bob neuwirth, norman norbert, donnie fritts, paul siebal, chris gaffney, dan penn, spooner oldham, gary p nunn, bob livingstone, hal ketchum, ray wiley hubbard, jon dee graham, alejandro escovedo, rusty weir, steven fromholtz, rambling jack eliot, stephen bruton.
that's most of kristofferson's w/my own guys added in. they all have music on itunes, most of them current & pretty damned good(i will say you can still pass on billy swan's output). i guess one of the things i'm getting it is: they're not getting any younger & won't be around much longer. catch them while you can.