Happy birthday, Kurt Cobain. Here is Nirvana beautifully performing Lead Belly's version of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," a traditional American folk song also known as "In the Pines" and "Black Girl" that dates back to the 19th century. The track is featured on the live album "Nirvana: MTV Unplugged" in New York recorded on November 18, 1993.
Here's a great mashup of a Larry Lessig riff on Thoreau and political transparency, mixed with a slow, soulful blues, to excellent effect. "Walden Pond Blues" was mixed by Admiral Bob, who performs the music under a CC-BY license.
Last week, I caught Tuba Skinny opening for the Dresden Dolls in New Orleans -- Amanda Palmer heard them busking in the French Quarter and invited them out to the show. I got both of their CDs and have been enjoying the hell out of them ever since: this is old timey blues and jazz with an emphasis on standards, arranged with a prominent horn section (as the name implies) and mostly sung by Erika Lewis, who belts it out like Mae West. The band was adorable -- extras from The Little Rascals, and they were as fine to hear live as they are on their CDs, Six Feet Down and Tuba Skinny. The former contains an original track, also called "Six Feet Down," credited to Erika Lewis, that is a really fine song that sounds as good as any of the tried-and-true standards like "At the Jazz Band Ball" and "Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll" that fill out the rest of the disc.
I just disappeared into a sweet and fully rocking memory for 45 minutes, and I'm still bopping. I recently discovered that Jerome Godboo, former frontman for 1980s Canadian blues/rock band The Phantoms has put much of his back catalog online as free MP3 downloads (and as commercial CDs that he'll ship to your front door). The album I disappeared into was Alive at the Diamond, the first album released by The Phantoms, pieced together from live shows at the Diamond club in Toronto. I've seen the Phantoms play live many times, and they never failed to get me out of my seat and lost in the music; I wore out three copies of the Alive at the Diamond cassette in various Walkmans, and when my last copy disintegrated, I thought the music was gone forever.
So I've spent the past 45 minutes with the biggest goddamned grin on my face, bopping so hard in my seat that I could barely type, getting reacquainted with one of my favorite albums of all time. The Phantoms played hard-driving modern blues with an emphasis on Godboo's insane, James-Cotton-grade harmonica virtuosity. The lyrics were good -- though never outstanding -- but the arrangements and performances and the vocals were so goddamned rocking that they made the Phantoms into a band I could never forget.
Murray sez, "I recently launched a podcast at the UK-based harmonica website www.harpsurgery.com. The episode here features five young players aged 14-18 (with one 22-year-old to mess up our average) who are playing WAY beyond their years... and in some cases, pushing harmonica-playing into dark scary places where it was never meant to go.
The podcast is a little ragged but the playing is great. I thought it pertinent to send this through after Roger Daltrey's shabby harp solo at last night's Super Bowl show. Any one of these kids could destroy Roger Daltrey with a single fog-horn like blast from their instrument. All he'd leave behind is a smoking pair of hush puppies."
It's strange how simple, off-the-cuff stuff can be so beautiful, it makes you cry.
Here's Count Basie on the Jazz Casual TV program from 1968. Basie paints a picture of Kansas City and Harlem in the golden age, then dispels it with a laugh like the smoke from his cigarette. "So, uh... Where were we?"
I live for glimpses like this of the wonderful times before I was born.
"That's The Lion's ending..."