The Record Collection: 1989 – 1


My album collection, presented in chronological order from when it was bought from January 1988 – revisited one at the time. This is the first batch from 1989.

Jesus Chrysler | This Year’s Savior | Toxic Shock 1988 |


I knew next to nothing about Jesus Chrysler when I bought this LP, and can’t tell much more about them 30 years later. But now we’ve got Google. Not much is shared about Jesus Chrysler though, but they were from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, toured a bit with fellow Toxic Shock label mates Hickoids (more about them later), John Peel fancied their powerful tunes – and then they apparently disappeared at some point with this sole LP as their only legacy. There are no single hits here, but heck, this is one packed album of infectious songwriting, a good sense of humor and just about the right balance of hardcore punk and power pop. They used to be labeled as ‘hardcore pop’ by Toxic Shock – such a beloved label – and that’s just about right. (PS: Search led me to a Jesus Chrysler from St. Paul, but that’s a completely different band).

Elvis Hitler | Disgraceland | Restless 1988 |


Rockabilly punk from Detroit with lots of redneck humor, kinda like a mix of Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper and Nine Pound Hammer with a dash of The Cramps. ‘Disgraceland’ is one wild and ferocious ride, never too serious, and far less offensive than the band name suggests. Song titles like «Cool Daddy in a Cadillac» and «Hot Rod to Hell» says it all, and make sure not to miss «Green Haze» – a hilarious mash up of the lyrics to «Green Acres» with the melody of «Purple Haze».

The Reivers | End of the Day | Capitol 1989 |


The Reivers made some of the finest southern pop of the 1980s, starting off as Zeitgeist a couple years earlier. ‘End of the Day’ is a warm breeze of an album, gravitating around the gracious interplay between singers and guitarists John Croslin and Kim Longacre. Not quite jangle pop, nor southern gothic, even if their name is taken from a William Faulkner novel. The Austin, Texas band created a lush, gentle and mature pop album here, timeless in style and tone. The album cover sets the mood; this is one for those long, hot summer nights out on the porch.

The Pogues | If I Should Fall From Grace With God | Pogue Mahone 1988 |


He was a drunkard that almost lost it all, but Shane MacGowan is also such a tremendous songwriter and The Pogues were an astonishing band at the height of their career. And never did they sound better than here – under the firm guidance of producer Steve Lillywhite. ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ has it all; the wild fury from their live shows, brilliant lyrics, and some of their most memorable tunes (the Christmas evergreen “Fairytale of New York”, once perfectly nailed by The Guardian “as good an example as any of MacGowan’s unerring ability to locate the romance in ruined lives”). Also including the Middle Eastern tinged “Turkish Song of the Damned”, politically charged «Streets of Sorrow»/»Birmingham Six» and their epic Irish-American emigration anthem “Thousands Are Sailing.” This is a classic album from start to finish, and the finest The Pogues ever made.

Yo La Tengo | President Yo La Tengo | Coyote 1989 |


Third album from the band that has yet to release a bad one is a mini LP consisting of both studio and a couple live recordings (from CBGB’s). It’s a short one, 30 minutes long, but packed with their signature sound where hushed down indie gems meets noisy guitar excesses. This can be exemplified by side 2, with the mind-blowing and lengthy version of «The Evil That Men Do» and a sweet take on Bob Dylan’s «I Threw It All Away». ‘President’ was my first encounter with a band that I’ve never tired of, always returns to and that continues to impress to this very day. After 30 years they’re like old friends, and in many ways they are. I still vote for them.

Violent Femmes | 3 | Slash 1989 |


Violent Femmes’ near perfect debut album turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Capturing the essence of youth with immediate and clever folk-pop anthems, the album is a forever classic that any band would have trouble matching. But all of their 1980s albums are actually well worth hearing, including this one, their fourth and awkwardly titled ‘3’. This time around, Violent Femmes returned to their stripped down roots, but with slightly less memorable songs than on their previous efforts. However, «Nightmares», «Fool in the Full Moon» and hauntingly beautiful «See My Ships» and «Nothing Worth Living For» are great additions to their catalog.

Sidewinders | ¡Cuacha! | San Jacinto/Diabolita 1989 |


I’m pretty sure I bought Sidewinders right off the bat based on their Tucson whereabouts and close connections with Giant Sand and the folks down there. Rich Hopkins does excellent guitar work throughout the album, Scott Garber guested on bass and Eric Westfall was involved with the production. I also remember how I just fell for the band name, the cover art and the title. They spoke to me. It’s been awhile since I put this one on, but it still sounds so damn good. Sidewinders operated in a rather characteristic 80’s guitar rock landscape, not too far from the LA-scene and names like The Dream Syndicate, True West and The Long Ryders; a little bit jangle, a little bit dusty country-rock and a little bit blistering pop-punk. Back then bands could juggle around; try out different stuff while finding their way. ‘¡Cuacha!’ is packed with great tracks on both sides, side 2 is even better than the first, including a lengthy version of «What She Said.» Sidewinders later became known as Sand Rubies, and they’ve been involved in varied stuff over the years. Make sure to pick up their first album if you ever stumble upon it. Another lost classic from the 1980s.

Waxing Poetics | Manakin Moon | Emergo 1988 |


Waxing Poetics was (or is, I believe they’re still up & running…) a Virgina four piece leaning towards tight and catchy Southern indie/heartland rock (think House of Freaks, Drivin’ N Cryin’, The Del-Lords). For the sophomore album ‘Manakin Moon’ they cleaned up the sound and let the guitars rock harder and more prominently than on their power pop debut (produced by pals Mitch Easter and R.E.M’s Mike Mills) – a slight stylistic change you’ll notice on the back cover shot where all four are dressed up in black leather jackets. My favorites here are the solid, powerful ballads like «Father, Son & Ghost» and «Downstairs,» where the great voice of lead singer David Middleton really shines. The LP also includes a somewhat surprising (and good) cover version of Brian Eno’s «Needle in the Camel’s Eye».

The Texas Instruments | The Texas Instruments | GWR 1988 |


Punks from Texas are something else, not being afraid to show off their eccentric preferences and cowboy roots. Just like the power trio The Texas Instruments. These guys sure know how to rock while staying true to their heartland hearts. Their first album is a great collection of songs, unpretentious no-nonsense style. If you like Meat Puppets, True Believers and Minutemen this is the missing link. The album includes a couple covers – Woody Guthrie’s «Do-Re-Mi» and Dylan’s «A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall»- that aren’t super necessary but adds some context to their sound. And works as reminder that it must’ve been a whole lotta fun to witness this band in their heyday. Their debut LP was originally released on Rabid Cat in 1986, this is the UK version dropped a year later – same cover and same songs. Produced by SST house producer Spot.

Cowboy Junkies | The Trinity Sessions | RCA 1989 |


Created in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity, this album surely captures a holy spirit. Recorded with the band gathering around one microphone, the album is made up of truly wonderful originals and some equally great cover songs, including Hank Williams’ «I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry» and Velvet’s «Sweet Jane.» Performing in a hushed tone, quiet vocals and gentle instrumentation, this is intimate music made in a big room revealing even the smallest of details. Most albums lose some spark after awhile, this one is not of them. The album sounded timeless already at the time of its release, and still invokes an otherworldly feeling. ‘The Trinity Sessions’ was released in Canada in 1988; this international was released a year later. Cowboy Junkies have continued to make great albums up until this day. Make sure to check up on their full catalog.

Reklamer

The Record Collection: 1988 (61-71)

My album collection, presented in chronological order from when it was bought from January 1988 – revisited one at the time. This is the final round from 1988.

Green On Red | Here Come The Snakes | Red Rhino 1988 |


What comes after the blues? Green on Red went down to Memphis to figure it out, and teamed up with producers Jim Dickinson and Joe Hardy at Ardent. Only a duo at the time, leaving Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet as core members, this album digs deep down in the American soil of country, blues and rock & roll and ends up somewhere between The Rolling Stones and Neil Young, where the three songs at the tail end of the album shines particularly strong. Here Come The Snakes might lack the youthful innocence and camaraderie of their previous efforts, but it sure adds another value. Something more severe.

The band members reconciled some years later, but dark shadows looms over Green on Red at this point in their career.

Various artists | Welcome to Comboland | Making Waves 1986 |


North Carolina must’ve been a joyous place to live in the 1980s, judged by the friendly atmosphere and cheerful indie presented on this compilation. Or perhaps it’s just a reminder of less cynical times, a time of less tension and a more laidback attitude. Or maybe it’s because of Don Dixon, being largely responsible for producing many of the bands presented here. His jangly signature sounds permeate the album of twelve artists from the state. The Connells are probably most remembered of these bands today, however, I urge everyone to grab a copy of this sampler. Just for you to enjoy forty-two minutes of Southern hospitality, including prime acts like Southern Culture on the Skids, Fetchin’ Bones and The Spongetones.

Naked Prey | Naked Prey | Down There 1984 |


The 1984 debut album from Tucson outlaws Naked Prey is a raw and ragged exploration of an acid drenched southwestern mythology at the crossroads of garage rock and country punk. Fronted by the one and only Van Christian, with lovely guitar work by David Seger. Produced by Dan Stuart, Steve Wynn and great cover shot by Scott Garber, this is a supergroup in my book.

Giant Sand | The Love Songs | Demon 1988 |


We are all things at different times. This album made such an impact on me that I convinced my pal to buy a ‘66 Barracuda. I still remember how we cruised down the road under a fingernail moon, while the pine trees transformed into cactuses, counting stars like neon lights from down the mud to way up sky. The car eventually got sold, but the The Love Songs still thrones up there as a one of my dearest favorite albums of all time. ‘Your passion is like world war three/my defense is a crumbling NATO.’ I mean, what’s not to love?

Jane’s Addiction | Nothing’s Shocking | Warner 1988 |


So, this was pretty mind-blowing stuff 30 years ago. It’s not quite as shocking today, but the cover art alone, the conjoined twins with their heads on fire, sets the tone for an ambitious and powerful album. Jane’s Addiction managed to unify punk, funk and metal into something cutting-edge and timeless. Nothing’s Shocking paved way for so much of the grunge craze to come, but this is smarter, more arty and engaging than most of them.

Thin White Rope | In the Spanish Cave | Frontier 1988 |


In the Spanish Cave is a tad brighter and varied than its predecessors. Ranging from almost joyous tunes (“Mr. Limpet”) to bulldozing guitar assaults (“It’s OK”), it features their most beloved song, the epic desert anthem “Red Sun.” In a thorough review celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, The Quietus points out how they created an alien take on the unfathomable vastness of the American landscape and its effects on the nation’s psyche, and how they used this landscape, not as representing a sense of freedom, but as an area of something uncanny and unsettling, summing up the album as a “potent, fantastical window onto a malign new phase of the American Dream.” Needless to say, this is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Creedence Clearwater Revival | Cosmo’s Factory | Fantasy 1970 |


‘They’re selling independence/Actors in the white house/Acid in digestion/Mortgage on my life..’ With all their standards and ballads on daily adult radio rotation, it’s often easy to forget how insanely cool CCR actually was. “Ramble Tamble” sounds like something The Cramps and The Dream Syndicate could’ve cooked up together a decade later, with the breezy mid-section as one of this album’s standout moments. But there’s a lot more gold here; “Run Through The Jungle” and the lengthy “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” are particularly great – and most of the other songs are established as beloved rock classics.

Hüsker Dü | Candy Apple Grey | Warner 1986 |


Signing a band like Hüsker Dü on a major label must’ve been a rather bold move back in 1986. But in hindsight this was a prophesy of new times for American alternative guitar rock, and soon bands like R.E.M, Dinosaur Jr. and The Replacements moved from indies to major – without losing their former edge. The Hüskers was constantly developing from underground punks to something far more diverse and mature, and in many ways Candy Apple Grey is the culmination of a journey they’d started on with ‘Zen Arcade’ only two years prior. It’s nothing but amazing to look back at their astonishing intense production and rapid progression, and no wonder they were about to burn out and implode just a year or so later. Candy Apple Grey gives us some of their finest songs, including «Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely», «Sorry Somehow» and acoustic «Hardly Getting Over It.» What a truly great band they were.

True West | Hollywood Holiday | New Rose 1983 |


True West belonged to a group of likeminded 1980s Los Angeles bands dubbed ‘Paisley Underground’, along with The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, The Long Ryders, The Rain Parade and others. It’s a shame that they’re largely ignored today, cause not only were True West the quintessential paisley band, a missing link between ’60s garage rock, trippy psychedelia (they do a mighty fine version of Pink Floyd’s «Lucifer Sam») and Televison (check out «It’s About Time»), this album holds up very well compared to many of their peers efforts and is a lost classic of ’80s guitar rock. A little while ago I named Drifters (1984) their masterpiece, but after another couple of listenings to Hollywood Holiday I must reconsider that statement. Man, I’d completely forgotten what a tremendous album this is, from start to finish. I love the frantic guitar work between Russ Tolman and Richard McGrath on the almost Gun Club-like «I’m Not Here» and songs like «And Then The Rain» and «Throw Away The Key» would’ve been hits in the hands of R.E.M. Hollywood Holiday is produced by Russ Tolman (he later went on and made a great, still ongoing solo career) and The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn. They knew each other very well as members of The Suspects, the short lived band they shared with Kendra Smith, later in the first incarnation of The Dream Syndicate and Gavin Blair, lead singer of True West.

Thin White Rope | Exploring The Axis | Frontier/Zippo 1985 |


Thin White Rope never really fit into the categories used to brand guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. They were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. Just as close to Television, Bauhaus and Joy Division than their more successful contemporary counterparts in ’80s American underground (R.E.M, The Replacements, Pixies), Thin White Rope’s desert psychedelia was a far more vast and difficult creature to cast. Out of time back in the day, they are timeless in hindsight. Thin White Rope immediately introduced their main modus operandi. The first song off their first album, Exploring the Axis, is something of a surreal country-noir story entitled “Down in the Desert,” about a guy called Karl who headed south and came back changed by his experiences in the desert. (“Karl came back and he works and he smiles/But if you look closely there’s still something scared in his eyes…”) Based out in the Northern California university town of Davis, Thin White Rope often returned to the desert as a recurring trope in their songs, both emotionally and musically. “Soundtrack,” from the same album, also laid a sonic foundation for what to come later; their ability to let an austere tune about alienation (“Windshields are like TV screens/I’m not involved at all”) explode into a ferocious assault as a sneering Guy Kyser goes full Mad Max (“She throws firebombs on the highway/Glass splashing and bushes burning”), revealing a band with a constant underlying rage – a beast they sometimes tamed, sometimes let loose.

Oh yes, they held us in a firm grip out on that ledge, but one also softened with beautiful melodies and a sense of melancholia and human kindness; elements that would be more prominent later on in their career.

The Dream Syndicate | Ghost Stories | Enigma 1988 |


Ghost Stories is the fourth and final studio full-length album from The Dream Syndicate, until they finally returned after a 30-year long hiatus in 2017. Fronted by lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn, The Dream Syndicate managed to keep a consistent and recognizable style all through the 1980s, but every album has its own distinct personality: The untamed ferocity of the 1982 debut, an album they’ll always be measured against, the grandiose and ambitious sophomore show, and their underrated third album, when they came out of the grey with upbeat breeziness. Produced by Elliot Mazer, ‘Ghost Stories’ ties together all this greatness into an album that sounds better and rocks harder than ever before. Wynn once described the album to me as «dark, noisy, and bratty but its also quite self-assured and not undone by production – neither too little nor too much.» He forgot to mention that the songwriting is ace throughout, there’s not a weak track here and Ghost Stories is one mighty, classic slice of 1980s guitar rock. Just hear the opening verse and try to turn off: «Every cloud has a silver lining/Every down has an answer, I know/But in my heart there’s no light shining/Just emptiness and faded glow/Raining down on the side I’ll never show…»

The Record Collection: 1988 (41-50)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time. Part 4.

Russ Tolman | Down In Earthquake Town | Demon 1988 |


This is the second solo effort from Russ Tolman, a close associate of the jangle/underground scene in Los Angeles and former frontman of True West. This paisley packed album includes a fine list of guests, such as Steve Wynn (they used to run the label Down There together), Dave Provost and Chris Cacavas, and engineering credits goes to Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion, Epitaph). Tolman is a good, confident songwriter, and he crafted a varied and enjoyable album down in his earthquake town. It has aged rather well too, with its laidback feel and sunny LA vibe, rich instrumentation, including some mighty fine Southern horns it’s just one of those timeless albums that deserves far better than being swallowed in the sea of time.

Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska | CBS 1982 |


I listened a lot to Born in the U.S.A as a young kid, and know his catalog fairly well, but the lo-fi sounds of Nebraska remains my forever favorite. Not sure why I bought it in the fall of 1988, wasn’t a huge fan of Springsteen, but might be the cover art that appealed to me. Nebraska is actually my sole Springsteen LP in the collection and the one I always return to when I need some advice from the Boss.

E*I*E*I*O | Land of Opportunity | Demon 1985 |


This Wisconsin quartet played some mighty fine heartland Americana way before that was a hip term. There was nothing fancy about them, but on the other hand, this is one of those albums that never sounds outdated. Great vocals by frontman Steve Summers, strong songs throughout the whole album, and T-Bone Burnett lends some guitar assistance and co-production by Steve Berlin are just some of the treats on this debut. E*I*E*I*O fits nicely among likeminded peers such as BoDeans and Rave-Ups, but they never really got as recognized as deserved.

Thin White Rope | Moonhead | Frontier/Zippo 1987 |


Just as close to Television, Bauhaus and Joy Division than their contemporary counterparts in ’80s American underground (R.E.M, The Replacements, Pixies), Thin White Rope’s desert psychedelia was a far more vast and difficult creature to cast than most of their peers. Their second album Moonhead is a somber, bleak masterpiece, allowing for more space, tension and dark power than on their debut. Moonhead is one of the lost classics of the decade, once flourishingly described by British psych-guru Julian Cope: “[Guy] Kyser mumbles stripped down considerations about life, sex and death, and he seems a scientist who describes microscopic life forms. Mankind is reduced to puppet-like dimensions: around us, there’s an enigmatic, useless, obscure universe, apparently enemy of any feeling and thought.” For sure! It was a huge favorite 30 years ago, and it has followed me all my adult life without losing an inch of its majestic strength.

Giant Sand | Ballad of a Thin Line Man | Zippo 1986 |


Back in 1988, 30 years ago, I was still fooling around with music, everything was new and of interest, heading in all kinds of directions at the same time even though I was pretty much already set on the American underground train. I had already bought Storm a couple months prior to Ballad of a Thin Line Man, but it was here they turned into my forever favorite band. And just like I was searching for my musical bliss at the time – still am – Howe Gelb and his Giant Sand had just started to stake out their own course – still are, and that it was one of the reasons I love em. They would go on to make better albums later on I guess, but this one still holds a special place in my sandy heart.

The Gun Club | Miami | Animal 1982 |


‘Come down to, the willow garden with me’ Jeffrey Lee Pierce invites us to Miami, but we steer off the highway and enter into his dark mind, the willow gardens and deep into the very heart of Gothic American mythology. ‘Miami’ is a swampy blues album built on a punkish attitude, draped in voodoo rituals, deserted honky tonks and desperate fever. It has been a big favorite for 30 years, loved for the cover alone with its emerald-green sky and the palms raising majestic behind the trio in front of the image. Two of them look at something in the horizon; Pierce is dressed in dark, hair-dyed blonde, looking down to the ground. I’ve always linked this album to Jim Jarmusch’ ‘Stranger Than Paradise’, following a shabby trio through the Midwest and down to a run down tourist hub in Miami. There is not much paradise to find here, nor in Jeffrey Lee Pierce’ postcard from the south. But it is one damned journey.

Various artists | Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease | Big Beat 1984 |


I was a huge fan of Tales From the Crypt, Haunt of Fear and all the other early 1950s horror and gore stories from EC Comics (republished in the 80s). This album cover – and they mattered a whole lot back then – is a homage to the wicked and wild era of degenerate fun. And so is the music, a really cool collection of, well, rockabilly psychosis and the garage disease.

Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper | Frenzy | Restless/Enigma 1986 |


This San Diego based twosome was never about being too serious. Titles like “Gonna Put My Face on a Nuclear Bomb”, “I’m Living With a Three-Foot Anti-Christ” and “The Amazing Bigfoot Diet” says it all. They were hilarious and heartfelt, and they rocked big time with their infectious rockabilly blues. Mojo is hollering his lungs out while Skid is jamming on the washboard. There is just loads of party fun here, I’ve always had a soft spot for the satirical highlight and more mellow “Feeling Existential” with Steve Wynn on guest vocal:
‘Your goatee is growin’
In front of your fake French café
You’re readin’ Kirkegaard
Underneath your very black beret
Smokin’ filterless Camels
That stink just like Gitanes
Drinkin’ some espresso
Droppin’ all the names’

Giant Sand | Valley of Rain | Amazing Black Sand/Enigma 1985 |


Bought in October, anywhere 1988, my third Giant Sand LP that year, and one of the albums I’ve listened to the most my entire life. 30 years down the road I’m still amazed by how cool it is. Little did I know that these desert punks would soon blossom into something totally unique and follow me close until this very day. One of those random love stories I guess. A nice landscape, indeed…

The Beat Farmers | Tales Of The New West | Demon 1985 |

Here’s to having a good time, new western style. The Beat Farmers might came just a bit too early for the alt.country craze, but who cares. The San Diego based quartet’s debut album is packed with unpretentious, tight and fun songs. Great originals, cool covers and then there’s Country Dick Montana.
‘I was walkin’ down the street on a sunny day
Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba
A feeling in my bones that I’ll have my way
Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba
Well I’m a happy boy (happy boy)
Well I’m a happy boy (happy boy)’
There’s really nothing do but to raise the glass and sing along.

The Record Collection: 1988 (1-20)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time.

Fetchin Bones | Bad Pumpkin | Capitol 1986 |

Underrated and sadly forgotten North Carolina quintet combining a kind of Southern jangly vibe with restless proto-grunge. They supported R.E.M and the B-52’s, whom they both are sonically related to. This is their second album, marking their move from small db Records to a major label without losing their spark. Rather this LP still holds up thanks to careful production by Don Dixon and tight songs throughout the record. And Hope Nicholls was a great singer back then, and she still is.

Ben Vaughn Combo | The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn | Restless/Making Waves 1986 |

‘I got a 1969 Rambler American/Baby aren’t you impressed/Sure I could have a Datsun 280 Z/But I’m not like all the rest’ Ben Vaughn blends humor and wit with classic American music; rock’n’roll, rockabilly and country twang. He’s been doing his thing since the early 1980’s, and has released albums better than this during his long career. But Vaughn and his Combo had such an irresistible charm on songs like “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)”, “I Dig You Wig” and “Wrong Haircut” that makes his debut album still a treat to listen to.

The Dream Syndicate | This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album… Live! | A&M 1984 |

Recorded live at the Aragon in Chicago one hot July night in 1984, when The Dream Syndicate toured on ‘The Medicine Show’ (released a month prior) with R.E.M. Only five songs long, but these are all classics – from a band in blistering shape. The classic line up of Steve Wynn, Dennis Duck, guitarist Karl Precoda on his last album with the Syndicate, and newcomer Mark Walton. Tommy Zvoncheck guests on keys, but this performance is first and foremost about four guys and great songs; long jams, feedback orgies and the joy of a sweaty club night. That’s rock and roll.

Guadalcanal Diary | 2×4 | Elektra/Asylum 1987 |


Producer Don Dixon is synonymous with some of the finest guitar rock of the 1980s, with a jangly signature sound that mainly captured the spirit of Southern indie and mostly known for his work with early R.E.M. Guadalcanal Diary, also from Georgia, never earned the same levels of commercial success. A new listen to the hands down masterpiece ‘2×4’ serves as a reminder on how that is just unfair. They shared some obvious similarities, but this quartet had a more direct and extrovert approach to their songwriting. This is their finest moment, an energetic and eclectic set of pure excellent songs.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs | Bikini Red | Elektra 1987 |


London based Screaming Blue Messiahs rose from the ashes of Motor Boys Motor (named after a 101’ers tune) exposing a crew owing debt to the likes of Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Captain Beefheart. With some adjustments to the line-up, the smokin’ trio was finally settled as the highly skilled outfit of Bill Carter on guitar and vocals, Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on thundering drums. Soon after they were renamed the Screaming Blue Messiahs. The Vic Maile produced ‘Bikini Red’ saw the band dwelling even deeper into iconic American pop and trash culture. Complete with references to Elvis, cars, booze, TV evangelists and fast living, the music itself proves an amalgam of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, hillbilly and surf fronted by Bill Carter who (with an American accent) declared that “Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge,” “I Can Speak American” and even “I Wanna Be a Flintstone.

Various artists | I Was A Teenage Zombie | Enigma 1987 |


Still haven’t seen the movie, but suspect the soundtrack is superior to the comedy-horror flick. This is a decent selection with some of the finest indie artists of the time picked from the Enigma roster. The db’s, Smithereens, and Los Lobos are all in here, and the Fleshtones got a minor hit with the theme song. The highlights are Violent Femmes’ “Good Feeling” and The Dream Syndicate with the haunting masterpiece “Halloween.”

R.E.M | Chronic Town | I.R.S 1982
R.E.M | Murmur | I.R.S 1983 |
R.E.M | Reckoning | I.R.S 1984 |


I discovered R.E.M with ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ as a 13-14 year old kid, and immediately fell in love, not only with R.E.M but in alternative American guitar rock in general. So when I finally switched over from cassettes to LP’s in 1988, purchasing their back catalog was obviously a high priority. One lucky day I went home with ‘Chronic Town’, ‘Murmur’ and ‘Reckoning’ bought from a friend, meaning days and weeks of deep listening. Humming along to barely recognizable lyrics. R.E.M might went on to release better albums later in their career, but these three albums, they’re all equal to me, really captures all I love about them. And they still sound as adventurous and amazing as they did on that February day in 1988.

Green On Red | Gas Food Lodging | Enigma 1985 |


Green On Red released nothing but excellent albums between 1982-88, and some great moments in the years after. This is the band in its prime; Dan Stuart, Big Dog MacNicol (RIP), Jack Waterson, Chuck Prophet and Chris Cacavas made one helluva great line up, supported with fine production from Paul B. Cutler of the Dream Syndicate. From the blazing opener ‘That’s What Dreams’ to the campfire version of ‘We Shall Ocercome’, this is rootsy ragged rock at it’s finest, but side 2 with ‘Sixteen Ways’, ‘The Drifter’ and ‘Sea Of Cortez’ are particular standouts. Heck, all of them are.

Thin White Rope | Bottom Feeders | Zippo/Frontier 1988|

Not too many bands can boast a recorded history without any major flaws. But Northern California’s Thin White Rope are one of those. They made great studio albums throughout, well known for their even more ferocious live shows of massive wall of guitars and bulldozer sound. The group never really fit into the categories used for branding guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. Thin White Rope were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. ‘Bottom Feeders’ is an EP of four originals and two covers (Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and highlighted with a blistering live version of Suicide’s “Rocket USA”) and tucked between the bleak masterpieces ‘Moonhead’ and astonishing ‘In The Spanish Cave’. But there’s no reason to ignore this little beast of chainsaw guitars, raspy vocal and spooky vibes. Great cover art by Steve Blickenstaff.

The Dead Kennedys | Frankenchrist | Alternative Tentacles 1985 |


In an ideal world, songs about corrupt government, robots replacing the working class, suburban decay and structural racism would be of out of date some 30 years down the line. Alas, as we all know, the topics raised on ‘Frankenchrist’ are more relevant than ever. “No wonder others hate us/And the Hitlers we handpick/To bleed their people dry/For our evil empire”, Biafra sings on the album standout ‘Stars and Stripes of Corruption’ like an omen for the presidency and leadership in 2018. ‘Frankenchrist’ might lack the immediate punk anthems of its predecessors, but musically this is also Kennedy’s best and most diverse album, where they expanded their punk roots and embraced a far more eclectic sound to include surf, Latin, psychedelic and synth elements. The album is mostly remembered for the massive controversy that followed, when the band was brought to court – and to their knees – due to the inlay poster ‘Penis Landscape’ by H.R Giger. Such fools, when the real concern should’ve been on solving the real problems outlined here. ‘Frankenchrist’ is an underrated gem in the band’s catalog.

The Replacements | Let it Be | Twin/Tone / Zippo 1984 |


This is just the ultimate album when you’re 16 and life to go. The Replacements’ combination of restless energy and slacker attitude, teen angst and drunken confidence hit like a bomb when I bought ‘Let It Be’ in 1988, and it became the soundtrack into adolescence. “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings around my eyes” is just an ace opening statement into an album packed with classic coming of age tunes miles ahead from their previous more punk based efforts, sometimes like a mix of the Stones’ swagger and ‘Born to Run’ era Springsteen. The album cover is perfect too, remember how I just wanted to climb that roof and squeeze in between these four hoodlums from Minneapolis.

Green On Red | Gravity Talks | Slash 1983 |


I first heard Green On Red on the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation, where “Five Easy Pieces” was a standout. Driven by Chris Cacavas’ psychedelic keyboard swirls and Dan Stuart’s snarling vocals, the band found their own place in their infancy combining 60’s garage/psychedelia and Dylanesque folk-rock. Gravity Talks is a very fine document of this epoch, provided by a bunch of clever outlaw kids from Arizona still not sure about where to go. I love the nervous desperation that hangs over the whole album, a youthful energy impossible to replicate later in a career. ‘We don’t pretend to know everything or speak out loud like our parents did’, Stuart sings on the anthemic “Brave Generation”, name checking Fitzgerald and Faulkner on a coming of age story of growing up between the Vietnam war and Cold War anxiety: ‘We’re not beat, we’re not hip, we’re the Brave Generation, what a trip.’

The Del Fuegos | Boston Mass | Slash 1985 |


Yet another album bought off the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation I guess. There was nothing hip or super fancy about the Del Fuegos in 1988, still aren’t. But their basic and credible urban heartland rock ‘n’ roll has some strong timeless qualities – and time has fared rather well with this one, their second album. Fronted by the Zanes’ brothers and produced by Mitchell Froom, Del Fuegos’ hammered out a couple of easy to like bar room and streetwise backroad tunes – equally perfect for both purposes (not at the same time though). This is the ‘sound of our town’, that’s the sound of Boston, Mass all right.

The Dream Syndicate | Medicine Show | A&M 1984 |

Following their raucous debut full length, The Dream Syndicate signed with a major label, teamed up with renowned producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Öyster Cult, The Dictators, The Clash) and spent five months in the studio to finish their Medicine Show. It was met with various receptions at the time, but has gained favorable to classical status over the years. Pearlman and Syndicate shaped a far different sound for this album, more related to Television, The Cars and Neil Young than Velvet Underground. This is American gothic stories filled with some of Steve Wynn’s most memorable characters on songs like “Burn”, “Armed With An Empty Gun” and “Bullet With My Name On It.” But the panoramic widescreen vision reveals in its full on side 2: The title track, the blistering jam “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” and “Merritville” are all epic and has deservedly so become standards in the band’s catalogue. Medicine Show was obtained at a time when learning the lyrics was part of buying an album. I memorized all of these songs by heart, and they’re still holding on to me.

Hüsker Dü | Warehouse: Songs And Stories | Warner 1987 |

Could have been the one to boast Zen Arcade or New Day Rising as my entry points to Hüsker Dü, but as it happened their swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories became my gateway album. I discovered them without any anticipation or deep knowledge about their astonishing back catalogue. I was just thrown into this sprawling sonic assault of thin fuzz, frenetic pace and way to clever poetry for a kid my age. It was almost too much. I guess the sheer intensity and emotional depth did resonate very well at the time. And the songs are catchy as hell. I didn’t care to much about the front cover though, but adored the back cover; those three weird and average looking guys laying on the grass surrounded by psychedelic blasts. 30 years down the road it still sounds like an amalgam of 60’s pop anthems filtered through a punk psychedelic odyssey, I particularly recall “Ice Cold Ice”, “Could You Be the One” and especially “She Floated Away” being played nonstop. Warehouse: Songs And Stories is a breathtaking kaleidoscopic soundtrack of youth, the sound of a band that had finally grown up – but also a band that were falling apart. In the end, I guess everything does.

The Del-Lords | Johnny Comes Marching Home | EMI America 1986 |

Of all the albums bought in my pioneer days, this is the one I probably know the least. I don’t recall the actual purchase, nor the songs in detail. So with a bit of excitement I drop the needle and press play. Just like the first time. The archetypal 80s sound aside, time has fared rather well with Johnny. The cover doesn’t lie. These four tough, denim and leather dressed New York guys could’ve been lifted straight outta ‘American Graffiti’, cruising down the main drag and looking for trouble at the soda shop while hanging round the jukebox. And it’s pretty much that kind of music they make; no nonsense rock rooted directly back to the 1950s with a modernized and radio friendly sound – and some nice parts of chiming Byrds-like guitars. Not bad at all, formerly Dictators’ and front man Scott Kempner is a great songwriter and assembled a more than decent cast of characters, including Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, for The Del-Lords. Sometimes all we need is to rock out, have a good time and don’t worry too much. The sound of carefree times has no expiration date.

Danny & Dusty | The Lost Weekend | A&M 1985 |

When you’re 15-16, life’s at the crossroads. Your path is not yet set, there are choices to be made; sports, school, or well, smoking and drinking. Now, I’ll never blame Danny & Dusty for leading me down the wrong road, but those two fellas on the cover sure seems to have a good time! Who doesn’t wanna join in on their drunken choir? And Danny & Dusty sounds just like a couple friends having the time of their lives. It certainly helps when they happened to be Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn, joined by a fine group of likeminded ramblers from The Long Ryders and Green On Red/The Dream Syndicate. They dropped most of their gloomy credibility and pretensions outside and entered the bar with nothing but good intentions: to sing, drink, shoot stories, long on talk and short on cash, and drink some more. ‘One’s too many, and a hundred’s not enough’ as they say in the legendary movie The Lost Weekend (I watched it immediately after buying the album.) The result is loose and spontaneous, but not too sloppy, rather it’s rowdy, confident and has actually aged very well. The songs are great, from when the word is out until we knock on heavens door begging for hangover relief on Sunday. Chris Cacavas is perfect as the barroom pianist, Dan and Steve know how to tell stories about winners and losers in the shadow of the Hollywood neon glimmer. Lebowski might be the dude, but these guys, they were the real dudes.

The Cramps | Psychedelic Jungle | I.R.S. 1981 |

‘Primitive, that’s how I live.’ Lux Interior holler and howls all the way through ‘Psychedelic Jungle.’ The Cramps’ second album is onehelluva slow burning garbage crate digging bonanza of 1950s sleaze and dark shades, a wild, weird and wicked entry to a world of voodoo rockabilly, haunted garage rock and deranged punk. I discovered the band, as far as I remember, with a live version of “Sunglasses After Dark” played on radio, and was immediately hooked. I don’t play this too often though, must’ve been years since I was reminded to not eat stuff from the sidewalk

Toppalbum 1955-2000

Hvis man nå absolutt måtte tilbringe resten av livet på en øde øy, med strøm og platespiller vel og merke, og fikk mulighet til å ta med seg kun ÉN plate fra hvert år, hvilke skulle man tatt med seg? Denne høyst reelle utfordringen avstedkom etter noe tankevirksomhet følgende liste. Den gir, om ikke en perfekt avspeiling over favorittskivene, en ganske representativ oversikt med vei som ikke overraskende går fra jazz via syrerock og punk til undergrunnsrock og post-rock. En riktig så fin reise ble det faktisk, så da er det bare å pakke kofferten.

Utvalget er  for øvrig avgrenset til kun én plate pr. artist.

1955 Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
1956 Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
1957 Art Pepper – Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
1958 Cannonball Adderly – Somethin’ Else
1959 John Fahey – Blind Joe Death

1960 Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz
1961 Thelonious Monk – Thelonius Monk With John Coltrane
1962 Bill Evans – Waltz For Debby
1963 Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
1964 Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
1965 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
1966 The Beatles – Revolver
1967 The Velvet Undergroud & Nico – s/t
1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
1969 Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

1970 Soft Machine – Third
1971 Black Sabbath – Masters of Reality
1972 Nick Drake – Pink Moon
1973 Can – Future Days
1974 Neil Young – On the Beach
1975 Brian Eno – Another Green World
1976 Warren Zevon – s/t
1977 Television – Marquee Moon
1978 Blondie – Parallel Lines
1979 The Clash – London Calling

1980 The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms
1981 Wipers – Youth of America
1982 The Dream Syndicate – Days of Wine and Roses
1983 R.E.M – Murmur
1984 Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
1985 Giant Sand – Valley of Rain
1986 Slayer – Reign in Blood
1987 Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
1988 Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
1989 Pixies – Doolittle

1990 Fugazi – Repeater
1991 Slint – Spiderland
1992 Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
1993 Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
1994 Motorpsycho – Timothy’s Monster
1995 The God Machine – One Last Laugh in the Place of Dying
1996 Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die
1997 Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On
1998 Karate – The Bed Is in the Ocean
1999 Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness
2000 Songs: Ohia – Ghost Tropic

Nicole Atkins: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

It has been said that Nicole Atkins is untethered to decade or movement, or even the whim of the hipster elite. Drawing inspiration from soul and R&B, 1950s crooners and girl groups and the Brill Building School of Classic Songwriting, Atkins is closer to being the heir to the legacy of Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Carole King.

The highly esteemed Asbury Park, New Jersey singer and songwriter entered the scene with her debut full-length, Neptune City, in 2007 and has steadily launched critically acclaimed albums since.

Atkins’ latest album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, came this July on Single Lock, the Florence, Alabama-based label founded by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Will Trapp. Single Lock was primarily an outlet for music from the Shoals, including Dylan LeBlanc and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, but now the Nashville-residing Atkins fits more than perfectly into the fold of Southern greatness.

Goodnight Rhonda Lee was yet again met with deservedly rave reviews, but the album came to fruition in a difficult transitional time for Atkins, involving struggles with sobriety and her father’s lung cancer diagnosis. The album title refers to her alias for bad behavior and how it was time for her to put that person to bed. She also reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak, who encouraged her to write songs that emphasized her vocal strengths (the pair co-wrote the opening track, stunningly beautiful and tellingly entitled “A Little Crazy”).

In order to pursue a timeless sound, she enlisted Niles City Sound music studio in Forth Worth, Texas, including two members of four-piece rock band White Denim, who rose to fame a couple years back for their pivotal role in shaping the sound of Leon Bridges. “We spoke the same language,” says Atkins. “We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul.” Five days of intense live to tape recording made the modern classic Goodnight Rhonda Lee, another giant leap forward for an artist seemingly without the ability to misstep — at least when it comes to creating art.

To dig deeper into her musical roots, we asked Nicol Atkins to share five life-changing albums with you all.

***

The Who: Tommy
This is the first record I can remember hearing as a kid. It put me in another world, and I was already new to this one! I used to answer the door at four years old for the mailman and tell him I was the Acid Queen like Tina Turner. I was obsessed.

Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die
When I was 12, I was trying to fit in at my school and asked my Uncle Chuck to take me to the record shop so I could buy a New Kids on the Block tape. Like I said, I was just tryin’ to fit in. We got to the shop and he made me buy Traffic instead. As soon as I heard the playfulness, soul and downright epic-ness of “Staring at Empty Pages,” I forgot all about my need for middle school acceptance.

James Brown: Live at the Apollo
Many, many hours spent in my room to this record pretending I was there at the show dancing and throwing hands at my imaginary band. This record also made me seek out Maceo Parker records, which led to the Funky Meters, which led to Allen Toussaint and so on. James Brown was my gateway drug.

Erykah Badu: Baduizm
When I first heard this record, I thought it was so refreshing. Still do. It was a modern take on jazz and R&B, and it was so personal. She was a poet and so authentic, and I really felt like I knew her listening to this record. She wasn’t dialing in a style. It inspired me to start writing poetry and my own songs.

Denise James: It’s Not Enough To Love
Denise is a singer-songwriter from Detroit. I was working for her record label in 2004. I must’ve listened to this record on repeat that entire summer. It was classic songwriting in the style of Dan Penn and the production took a nod from 1950s’ girl groups. It inspired me to want to give the music my parents grew up with a place in my own time too.

Bjørn Hammershaug

5 Videoer: R.E.M

5. Can’t Get There From Here
Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

When the world is a monster bad to swallow you whole
Kick the clay that holds the teeth in throw your trolls out the door

4. Driver 8
Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

And the train conductor says
‘Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break
We can reach our destination, but we’re still a ways away’

3. Fall On Me
Album: Lifes Rich Pageant

There’s a problem, feathers, iron
Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground
Before the weight can leave the air

2. So. Central Rain
Album: Reckoning (1984)

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

1. Radio Free Europe
Album: Murmur (1983)

Calling on in transit…

5 Videoer: The Replacements

Topp 5 musikkvideoer av salige The Replacements, hvis 1987-skive Pleased to Meet Me just har rundet 30 år.

Les mer her: The Replacements: Getting Nowhere Fast

5.Merry Go Round
Album: All Shook Down (Sire, 1990)

You wake to another day and find
The wind’s blowing out of key with your sky
Only you can see
And the rain dancing in the night
Everybody stands around in delight

Merry go round in dreams
Writes ’em down, it seems
When she sleeps, she’s free
Merry go round in dreams

4. When It Began
Album: All Shook Down (1990)

Long ago, or yesterday
The queen sits quietly, the jester plays
She plays off with their heads and on with my pants
Oh and it was something, when it began

3. I’ll Be You
Album: Don’t Tell a Soul (1989)

Lonely, I guess that’s where I’m from
If I was from Canada
Then I’d best be called lonesome
And if it’s just a game
Then I’ll break down just in case
Oh yeah, we’re runnin’ in our last race

Well, I laughed half the way to Tokyo
I dreamt I was Surfer Joe
And what that means, I don’t know

2. Alex Chilton
Album: Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

I never travel far
Without a little Big Star

1. Bastards of Young
Album: Tim (1985)

Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom
Elvis in the ground, there’ll ain’t no beer tonight
Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function
It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgotten

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
Now the daughters and the sons

Unwillingness to claim us, ya got no war to name us

The ones, love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones, love us least are the ones we’ll die to please
If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them

Bjørn Hammershaug

Rodney Crowell: Loyalty to Americana

In one of the many memorable scenes of the pivotal music documentary Heartworn Highways, we’re invited into Guy Clark’s Nashville home on Christmas Eve of 1975.

Gathered round a table packed of booze bottles and cigarette butts, we get a raw, close glimpse of some of the prime country outlaws of the time, a joyous, drunken party including Clark and his wife Susanna, Steve Young, Richard Dobson, a young Steve Earle – and of course, Rodney Crowell.

Rodney Crowell blew into Nashville from Houston in 1972, and immediately soaked up the vibes of Music Row and its backstreets. Nashville was by then already well known for luring musicians, poets and artists of all kinds like moths into headlights, and in the early 1970s it hosted one of the most vibrant music scenes of the world.

In this vital and competitive environment, Crowell worked hard and learned fast, and soon turned into a fixture of the scene. He first earned reputation as a renowned songwriter, backing singer and musician in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, and eventually as a highly acclaimed solo artist. His classic debut album Ain’t Living Long Like This – a title he’s long rejected – dropped in 1978, and the big commercial breakthrough occurred a decade later with the brilliant Diamonds & Dirt.

Crowell is widely recognized as one of the forerunners of the 1980s new traditionalists movement, and along with his Nashville cohorts of the early 70s, he set the template for what is today known as Americana. As he recently stated when talking about his new album: I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it – Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell – share a common thread. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.

So many artists have appreciated and benefited from his songwriting skills over the years, including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger, Keith Urban and Alan Jackson. He’s been awarded with two Grammys, he’s a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association. And even as great as he was in the earlier days, his musical career has only gets better with age.

Following The Traveling Kind, his lauded collection of duets with longtime collaborator Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell’s first album in three years: Close Ties.

Aside from his eclectic musical approach, Rodney Crowell’s undisputed strength as a songwriter balances equally on personal recollection and literary sophistication. The final song on Close Ties is entitled “Nashville 72,”, a songs that takes us back to the heydays and some of the finest singers and songwriters ever, friends and sources of inspiration like Townes van Zandt, Mickey Newbury and David Olney. In the song, Mr. Crowell dwells back to those times when:

‘I first met Willie Nelson with some friends at a party / I was twenty-two years old and he was pushing forty / There was hippies and reefer and God knows what all I was drinking pretty hard / I played him this shitty song I wrote and puked out in the yard / Old School Nashville, Harlan Howard, Bob McDill / Tom T. Hall go drink your fill and blow us all away….’

Close Ties is a loosely based conceptual album where Crowell reflects on his past, back to his less glorious childhood days in East Houston, moving to Nashville, making friends and losing lovers. It’s a life story wrapped into one album, with songs written around the 2016 passing of his close friend, mentor and fellow Texas troubadour Guy Clark, preceded by his wife and close associate, Susanna Clark, a couple years prior: “I found my way around this town with a friend I made named Guy/Who loved Susanna and so did I…”

In the centerpiece songs “It Ain’t Over Yet,” Crowell duets with his former wife Rosanne Cash, on what is the first time the two appears on record together since Cash’s 1990 album Interiors.

It ain’t over yet, ask someone who ought to know
Not so very long ago we were both hung out to dry
It ain’t over yet, you can mark my word
I don’t care what you think you heard, we’re still learning how to fly

Close Ties is a personal, poetic and profound experience, written by someone who used to be a kid learning from the giants and now is a legend himself. Crowell manages not only to look back, but also look ahead, continuing to extend the path carved out by the songwriters who preceded him.

We asked Mr. Crowell to share with us 5 albums that changed his life, and are utterly proud to share his picks with you:

* * *

Emmylou Harris: Pieces of the Sky

Emmylou’s first album opened with a song of mine called «Bluebird Wine.» Because of her popularity, many more recording artists started covering my songs. It was Emmylou who facilitated my moving to Hollywood. Forty-plus years later, we’re both still rolling along.

 

Hank Williams’ 78’s

My father was an excellent country singer. However, he never made a record. Therefore, I have to place in the number two slot the stack of Hank Williams 78rpm singles that, from the age of three, I played constantly on a small, portable record player. Hank’s songs and the sound of my father’s voice furnished the soundtrack to my childhood.

The Beatles: Meet The Beatles

Like so many working musicians today, in 1964 I watched The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and bought the album the very next day. If you weren’t alive in the early ’60s, it’s hard to grasp just how deeply The Beatles affected the global psyche. Their music affected a paradigm shift in an entire generation’s consciousness. I, like so many others, became convinced that playing music was the most effective way to attract a girlfriend. With that in mind, I hijacked my father’s guitar, learned to play, and never looked back.

Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home

A year-and-a-half after The Beatles took America by storm, Bringing It All Back Home hit the streets, instantly infusing the mid-’60s narrative with an adult dose of plutonium. It took my friend and I two days to get past «Subterranean Homesick Blues,» the album’s opening cut. From then on every song worked as primer for the apocalyptic last track, «It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding.» Whereas the Fab Four inspired a transformation within the existing social and cultural structures – mainly by framing teen angst with broad-stroke love songs – Dylan transformed the ongoing transformation. Certainly The Beatles took notice. Soon after their songs began taking on a more surreal slant. As did the culture. Change complete.

Mickey Newbury: Live at Montezuma Hall

When Guy Clark turned me onto this superb album, I was in a quandary about how to approach the kind of lyric writing I was hearing from gruff baritones like Guy, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Kris Kristofferson. At the time, I was a natural tenor and worried I’d be forever without the kind of vocal gravitas my contemporaries used to convey their poetic sensibilities. The sound of Newbury’s voice was more in the vein of Roy Orbison. And yet his poetry was as profound as any of the songwriters I just mentioned. After a nine-month period during which I listened almost exclusively to Live At Montezuma Hall, I began writing songs like «Till I Gain Control Again» and «After All This Time.» It would take a couple of decades before I found the true center of my voice, but my ongoing study of Newbury’s singing and songwriting gave me the courage to soldier on.

Close Ties is out now through New West Records.

Bjørn Hammershaug
(Originally published on read.tidal.com, April 10, 2017)

Tift Merritt: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Tift Merritt is a critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter from North Carolina, out now with  Stitch of the World, but another wonderful addition to an already impressive catalog.

Though often designated by others as a folk & Americana artist and commonly compared to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris (quite often both in the same sentence), Merritt’s whole career has been marked by an eclectic approach to all kinds of music.

She started out in the local North Carolina alt-country scene, gradually winning the attention of fans and musicians alike alongside fellow Carolina native Ryan Adams. Adams would ultimately connect Merritt with his manager and help secure her first deal with Lost Highway. Ever since her 2002 debut, Bramble Rose, Merritt has challenged herself artistically, actively pursuing new directions and working with loads of different folks while maintaining her ridiculously high quality throughout.

For Stitch of the World, her second release on Yep Roc, Merritt  looked inwards, calling upon her personal recollections from the time between 2012’s Traveling Alone and now. In doing so, Merritt created a record that marks both a musical and thematic departure from her previous work.

Since releasing Traveling Alone, Merritt had been on the road for two years, recorded and toured with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and joined Andrew Bird’s band. In her own words: “Suddenly, I was turning 40, getting divorced, and scared out of my mind. So I decided to take a year off the road to see what would happen to me if I just stopped touring… On a friend’s ranch in Marfa, Texas, in the middle of the high plains without a car headlight in sight, I did just that, and when I did, I started to do what I always do: the humble work of marking life by writing.”

And wrote she did: ‘What made my time off special was that I had a regular writing routine. I was private. I followed my heart and my craft. The story of being a writer is the story of being devoted over a long time.’

Come fall of 2016, Merritt found herself expecting a child with her boyfriend, recording with Hiss Golden Messenger and partnering up with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam for the new album following the pair’s chance airport encounter.

Recorded in just four days at Ocean Way in California, the terrific Stitch of the World was produced by Beam and Tifts band, a band that also includes Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), Jay Bellerose (Sara Watkins, Punch Brothers), Jennifer Condos (Over the Rhine) and Eric Heywood (Pretenders, Son Volt).

As an artist who has most certainly put out her fair share of classic albums already, we invited Tift Merritt to present 5 albums that changed her life. She graciously returned with some interesting picks in addition to some lovely prose to match.

 *   *   *

George Harrison: All Things Must Pass

I listened to this record so much in the early days of our band, on tour. The playing, the chords, the music are so creative, so beautiful. The lyrics are poems. I love that George was not the main writer for the Beatles, but had all of this elegance in the wings. Such a beautiful way to talk about an ending. What I take most is his spiritual hunger, that music and sound can be how one searches for meaning, for peace, for depth.

 

Emmylou Harris: Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town

I learned every song on this album. “Two More Bottles of Wine” and “One Paper Kid” were both in my earliest gig setlists when I was 19 or so.  I remember searching for a female role model in music — When I found this record, everything started to make sense.  Emmylou, Carole King, Kitty Wells — those were the women I wanted to be like and looked up to.

 

Delaney & Bonnie: Home 

This record really influenced my writing after Bramble Rose. I love the loose, earthy feels. The players are mostly Stax house band, Steve Cropper! This record is teaming with good feel.

 

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde 

My dad gave me this record and it was in the cassette deck of my car turning over and over and over for a couple years straight. The power of the words as a driving force in a song really unlocked my mind about what kind of worlds could be made.

 

Joni Mitchell: Ladies of the Canyon

Talk about someone who is one of a kind.  Her tone, her point of view, the worlds she makes, her raw power.  Joni is inspiration on so many levels as a female, an artist, an individual. Her music really does sound like a painter made it. The chords are colorful and dissident and evocative in completely creative ways. This was a soundtrack to my a certain period in my life, but anytime I put it on even now it envelopes me.

Originally published on read.tidal, January 2017
Bjørn Hammershaug