Bobby Charles, Doug Sahm and Mark Knopfler : Tennessee Blues

A true message always gets through.

Songs that speak truthfully to the ebbing and flowing tides of our lives take on a life of their own cutting distinctive channels in our hearts.

Such songs as Bob Dylan says ‘get up and walk’ away from their composers and become community treasures.

Treasures cherished by what I still think of as the ‘record buying public’ and perhaps even more so by fellow songwriters who recognise a classic song with such lyrical and melodic grace that it seems to demand new interpretations.

The song taking pride of place on The Immmortal Jukebox today is an absolute Peach – ‘Tennessee Blues’ written and first performed by the late, great, Bobby Charles.

I can imagine brows being furrowed at the name – Bobby Charles?

Now, you may not be a fully paid up, got the T Shirt and the Box Set, fan like me but believe me you know and can croon along to several Bobby Charles songs.

How about, ‘See You Later Alligator’ or ‘Walking To New Orleans’ not to mention ‘Before I Grow Too Old’ or ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You, But I Do’ for starters.

Bill Haley, Fats Domino and Frogman Henry had the Chart hits but they all came from the pen and piano of Abbeville La native Robert Charles Guidry – Bobby Charles.

Bobby’s own versions of his songs are uniformally lovely with, ‘Tennessee Blues’ from his glowing 1972 album produced by The Band’s Rick Danko winning the garland for the most lovely of all.

 

From the ‘Trust us, we’ll take our own sweet time with this one’ opening bars you just know Tennessee Blues is gonna be a Keeper!

There’s a free flowing lazy certainty to the way the song proceeds.

Everything feels natural, unhurried, ripe and right.

Listening you feel like you’re gently rocking to and fro, deliciously half asleep, in a summer hammock.

By now, having lived with this song for decades, as soon as the song starts I can feel the tears welling up and my Boot Heels get ready to go wandering once again round the dance floor with my Darling.

And as we twirl, lost in the Music, we find a place where we don’t have to worry.

A place where we feel loose.

A place alive with the sound of running water and the trills of birds in the trees.

A place to forget all those regrets.

A place where we can settle and stay.

A place to be at peace.

To be at peace.

Oh, a place where you lose all those blues.

All those Blues.

Those Tennessee Blues.

Here, Bobby Charles has written and sung a Song that enchants.

A Song that’s balm for the bruised heart, the weary mind and the thirsty soul.

I’m not 100% certain of the musician credits but that’s surely Amos Garrett (of Midnight At The Oasis fame) playing the tender guitar licks and The Band’s instrumental maestro Garth Hudson playing the heartbreaking Accordion.

N. D. Smart on Drums and Jim Colegrove on Bass.

Violin courtesy of Harry Lookofsky (the Father of ‘Walk Away Renee’ writer Michael Brown.

The sense of ancient sway they create together is truly magical.

A magic that was recognised by one of the most good hearted of all musicians San Antonio’s own favourite Son – Doug Sahm.

Doug cuts deep, imbuing Tennessee Blues with tender Texas Soul.

 

 

Doug’s vocal takes us up to the Mountain Tops and down to the lapping lake side waters where we might bathe and be born again.

Born again.

Across the wide Atlantic Ocean Mark Knopfler, taking time out from his leadership responsibilities with Dire Straits, found peace and nourishment returning to the Americana sounds that had first inspired him to take up the Guitar and search out the chords for the songs he would write himself.

His companions, collectively The Notting Hillbillies, were Steve Phillips and Brendan Crocker.

In their hands Tennessee Blues takes on the character of aching night prayer – a compline service for lost saloon souls.

We are all searching for that place.

That place of shaded valleys and cool reviving streams.

That place where our regrets and worries dissolve in the warm breeze.

That place of peace.

Bobby Charles’ Tennessee Blues takes us there and gives us the strength to carry that peace within us as we travel on.

 

Notes :

Tennessee Blues can be found on the Rhino Encore CD ‘Bobby Charles’ – unreservedly recommended!

I also love:

The Bear Family compilation, ‘See You Later Alligator’

‘Last Train To Memphis’ from Rice and Gravy

‘Home Made Songs’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’

Bobby Charles died in 2010

His songs will endure.

Madeleine Peyroux sings Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen & Hank Williams

Charisma is hard to define but easy to recognise.

It’s nothing to do with how loud you shout or how sharp you dress.

No. If present it surrounds the possessor like a solar corona that exerts invisible influence on distant objects.

Madeleine Peyroux has a charisma that is insistently present in her recordings and in performance.

When Madeleine sings she doesn’t come at you like a full force gale. Rather, standing still and singing softly she invites you to still yourself, lean in and listen closely.

She selects songs that have emotional depth; songs that resonate with our lived experience and our dreamscapes, songs that never let us go, songs that no matter how many times heard always retain a core of unfathomable mystery.

Songs a true singer can sing over and over again because they continue to engage the person and the performer.

Madeleine had a peripatetic bohemian childhood and adolescence taking in Canada, France, England and the USA.

Her parents were radical academics who had a record collection which exposed her to Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

As she was beginningto play guitar she was struck by the self possessed quiet authority of Tracy Chapman.

While living and busking in Paris as a teenager she encountered the Chanson tradition through the works of Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf.

All very good preparation for taking on songs by the greatest songwriters of the 20th  century!

Embed from Getty Images

 

Let’s start with her languorously hypnotic take on Leonard Cohen’s, ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’.

 

Now, it’s immediately obvious that Madeleine swings.

She feels where the beat is and chooses when and how to engage with it.

She’s both above and within the song slyly pausing and eliding notes to emphasise the ritual cadences of Leonard’s lyric.

She’s barefoot dancing through the song, her voice burning incandescently as like the homeward dove she leads us safely through the suppressed panic till we’re safely gathered in.

Safely gathered in.

In a sense every song Madeleine sings becomes a tent of shelter against the cruelties of the world both for herself and through her singing for her audience.

For the duration of the spell cast no matter how threadbare our spiritual and emotional raiment we are given glimpses of wholeness and redemptive hope.

You can bet that Leonard laboured long and hard to write, ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ juts as you can safely assume that Bob Dylan received, ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ as a more or less direct transmission from his extravagant Muses.

The miraculous flow of the song is Bob at his Olympian best entrancing us with his sensuous mastery of language.

The song is a tapestry of images strartling in their freshness, beauty and tenderness.

It would be idle to pick out individual lines in a song which has such imaginative, lyrical and musical unity.

Madeleine gives the song  a highly attentive reading so that time seems to meander and eddy as we listen.

 

Perhaps the gretest Songwriting Forefather for both Bob and Leonard was the one and only Hank WIlliams.

Hank is dead for 60 years now.

But, of course though Hank is dead he will never be gone.

For Hank wrote songs that speak with shocking intimacy to the bare forked animal inside every one of us.

The snow falls round the window and dream worlds fall apart.

Fall apart.

Oh God forgive us if we cry.

Forgive us if we cry.

Madeleine knows that with a Hank Williams song only minimal ornamentation is required. Hank has put so much feeling in the song that to sing it truly is to become a Medium channeling his spirit.

 

 

I’m going to leave you with a grand cadeu for the New Year.

Madeleine paying homage to Josephine Baker and the Chanson tradition with a song from 1930 written by Vincent Scotto, Henri Varna and Geo Koger.

Now wasn’t that pure pleasure!

Madeleine has had an erratic recording career. It’s clear from my choices above that I have  a particular fondness for her, ‘Careless Love’ album.

Yet, every record she has made will surely repay your interest as she illuminates a treasury of great songs within Jazz, Blues, Country, Folk and Chanson.

Load up your Jukeboxes!

Sandy Denny : Who Knows Where The Time Goes

 

Darkness.  Darkness.  Darkness.

Silence.  Stillness.  Stasis.

BANG!

Light.  Space.  Time.

Travelling towards Darkness again.

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Treasure the Time.

Treasure the Time.

Who knows where the Time goes.

It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.

Across the evening sky all the birds are leaving.

Who knows where the time goes

Who knows where the time goes.

If I ventured in the slipstream.

The bloom hung along the bough.

Each Spring a miracle.

How many more?

How many more?

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Treasure the Time.

Treasure the Time.

It’s not dark yet – but it’s getting there.

Who knows where the time goes.

Kids out in the street collecting bottle tops.

Dry your eye. Say Goodbye. Wonder why.

Nothing but a stranger in this World.

At my back I hear …

Sad deserted Shore.

Who knows where the Time goes.

Who knows where the Time goes.

 

Soft sift in an Hourglass.

Soft sift.

Come the storms of Winter.

The days are hastening on.

Hastening on.

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Treasure the Time.

Treasure the Time.

Who knows where the Time goes.

 

In the beginning was the Word.

Through a glass darkly.

Now and at the hour of our death.

Now and at the hour of our death.

Is now and ever shall be.

Is now and ever shall be.

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Treasure the Time.

Treasure the Time.

It’s not dark yet – but it’s getting there.

Before the Winter fire.

The swift flight of the Sparrow.

The swift flight of the Sparrow.

Ye know not when the Time Is.

Who knows where the Time goes.

Who knows where the Time goes.

 

Notes :

Who Knows Where The Time Goes was the second song Sandy Denny ever wrote.

It will outlast The Pyramids.

The first version featured here is the classic version to be found on the Fairport Convention     Album, ‘Unhalfbricking’ from 1969.

This is one of those recordings that has a magic which cannot be analysed only surrendered to.

Sandy’s vocal and Richard Thompson’s Guitar outshine the stars.

The second version is a searching solo version for the John Peel radio show.

The third version was recorded during Sandy’s brief tenure with The Strawbs.

It has a tremulous charm that will never leave you once heard.

In writing this Post I found myself crafting a patchwork quilt of poems, prayers and songs that called out to me as I listened to, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’.

So proper acknowledgement should be offered to:

The King James Bible, The Venerable Bede, A E Houseman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Andrew Marvell, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

The first image that appeared was that of ‘The Flight of The Sparrow’ from Bede’s  great work, History of The English People’ – a Book that is one of the glories of Civilisation.

I recently completed a once every 40 years ‘thinning out’ of my bookshelves with some 800 volumes sent to my favourite Charity.

I still kept 3 editions of Bede.

Through the wonders of the Internet I found this reading in Old English which now echoes in my mind.

Across the Centuries there is a telling here about the mysteries of  life and time that still calls out to us today.

Contemplative Music 2 : Chopin, Dowland, Herbert Howells, Janet Baker

And breathe again!

Janet Baker is an artist of the highest order.

 

Her utter technical command and her ability to unerringly find emotional truth resulted in a legendary career garlanded with landmark recordings and never to be forgotten stage performances.

Her performance of, ‘Che faro senza Euridice’ will live with me always as I make my journey through the dark wood.

Spirit refreshing music courtesy of John Dowland who can genuinely be described as a Renaissance Man in view of the time he lived in and the depth of his talents as a composer, Lutenist and singer.

His works will enter your consciousness like a pebble dropped into a pond with ever widening circles of effect.

Julian Bream is another musician with, ‘The Touch’.

Music played by Bream flows purely and naturally from his fingers to our hearts.

 

Devotees of Chopin and his piano works, especially The Nocturnes, can spend long hours debating which great pianist has searched their depths most successfully.

I have never wavered in my conviction that the magical recordings made by Claudio Arrau must wear the crown.

His version of The Nocturnes has the quality of meditative prayer.

 

Herbert Howells music has an English reticence which belies the oceanic depths of feeling it can summon from the listener.

His, ‘A Spotless Rose’ especially when sung with the aching purity of The New College Oxford Choir tenderly ushers the cosmic into our mortal consciousness.

For music to take you away from the daily tumult I offer you a precious work of the heart.

‘A Stor mo Chroi’ as performed by The Voice Squad (Phil Callery, Fran McPhail and Gerry Cullen) insists that we each attend to what is truly important in all our lives; the love we offer and the love we share.

Where else is your treasure to be found?

 

Jukebox Jive 

This is the last Post of 2017.

Many thanks to all my readers and followers and especially those who take the time to comment.

I was touched by so many good wishes at Christmas and for New Year and such kind words about The Jukebox.

When I started The Jukebox I little thought I would find so many kindred spirits!

Contemplative Music 1 : Arvo Part, Kathleen Ferrier & Bill Evans

And breathe!

To initiate the contemplative mood I turn to the contemporary Estonian Composer, Arvo Part with his luminous, liminal setting of Mary’s eternal prayer, ‘The Magnificat’.

Part has been labelled a Minimalist and a retro Medievalist.

I prefer to think of him as having the gift to make time past, time present and time future bloom before us through his music.

When Kathleen Ferrier recorded, ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ the shadow of death was looming over her.

This is music making of the very highest order.

Here Kathleen Ferrier does not so much perform a song as become the song.

The rare emotional reach of her extraordinary voice bringing flesh and spirit to Mahler’s masterwork touches something very deep and unnameable within humanity.

Bill Evans was the supreme lyric poet of the piano.

Listening to Bill’s unique sense of musical time and weight I find my spirit awakened, refreshed and released.

‘Blue in Green’ showcases the amazing precision and delicacy of his touch as a musician.

He is always instantly recognisable – the hallmark of true greatness.

This version of what has become a Jazz standard is from the Christmas 1959 session issued as, ‘Portrait in Jazz’.

You have to believe in telepathy when you hear Bill Evans play with Scott LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motion (drums)

This trio remains the benchmark for all piano trios.

 

From the Hebrides.

The Christ Child’s Lullaby or Taladh Chriosda in Scots Gaelic is full to the brim with maternal feeling for the vulnerable new born.

Mother and child, once one, now two, create together a sacred space where love and mutual regard dwells.

The standing stone vocals of Mae McKenna and Mairi Macinnes, switching fluently between languages, supported by the pellucid instrumental playing of William Jackson and Tony McManus casts a timeless spell.

 

 

 

Now Heart stilling music composed by one of the most extraordinary figures of the Middle Ages (indeed of all Ages!).

Hildegard of Bingen was a Benedictine Abbess whose haunting compositions refelect her mystical experiences and her philosophical beliefs.

I vividly recall the first time I heard this music in Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus in London. As the gorgeous vocal lines enchanted me I knew, at once, that this record would be a life time companion. And so it has proved.

The majestic soprano Emma Kirkby wonderfully complemented by The Gothic Voices under the direction of Christopher Page takes us into mystical terrain where every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

Terrain where Hildegard’s vision of herself as a feather on the breath of God makes perfect sense.

We are all feathers on the breath of God.

Christmas Alphabet : H for The Holly & The Ivy – Kate Rusby

There is a power beyond all analysis in the Christmas Carol – especially those which emerged from the folkloric tradition of England’s rural heartlands.

I could give you a learned analysis of, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ noting it is numbered 514 in the Roud Folk Song Index and waxing lyrical on its symbolism and use of Christian iconography.

Somehow, as soon as Kate Rusty starts to sing all that appears superfluous.

For Kate is for my money the finest English Folk Singer since Sandy Denny and you would have to be made of stone not to be moved by the tender beauty of her voice.

Hearing her singing such a song I feel as if I had wandered from the snow into a Yorkshire Romanesque church.

Resting in a time worn pew, hunched against the draughts all around I am startled by the emerging sound of a rustic band straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel.

As the sound swells and soars to the rafters my eyes sting with tears as Kate in a voice at once wholly of the people and wholly unique brings all the moods and colours of the carol to blood beating life.

In Kate’s vocal you can feel in your heart and soul the rising of the sun and the quick running of the deer.

Oh such sweet singing in the choir!

The revelation of the mythical, mystical, significance of the landscape of the natural world is one of the glories of Folk Song.

Intertwined in Nature and our lives are the blossom, the Berry and the prickle of the thorn.

Even as we dance to the merry Organ we know (we know) that no life escapes bitter gall and no life needs not redemption.

Sinners need a Saviour.

Of all the trees that are in the wood the Holly bears the crown.

The Holly bears the crown.

Gerry Rafferty : Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway

I believe in Ghosts.

No, not the ghouls and spectres of Halloween or graveyard apparitions.

The Ghosts I believe in lie dormant in the labyrinthine halls of the mind and the secret chambers of the heart.

And, these Ghosts, lingering traces of people and places no longer with us, can come to visit, unbidden, in afternoon reveries or in the quiet watches of the night.

A few bars of a tune from decades ago.

A once familiar fragrance floating by.

An overheard accent in an unexpected place.

And, suddenly, a Ghost appears and asks, ‘How is it with you these days?’

Do you still remember me?

Of course, sometimes, we summon up these Ghosts ourselves as we try to come to terms with the longing for and the loss of our past loves.

‘The coat she wore still lies upon the bed’.

Embed from Getty Images

With , ‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’ Gerry Rafferty wrote the most exquisite song I know examining the bittersweet persistence of the Ghosts of a former romantic relationship.

Now that’s a song that, once heard, will always linger in your heart.

Gerry Rafferty was a songwriter to his fingertips.

There was nothing accidental in a Gerry Rafferty record.

Consider the artistic intelligence and emotional acuity in opening a song about romantic reverie with a 40 second introduction of wispy woodwinds and muted brass accompanied by humming revealing what spoken words are not yet ready to say – mama you’ve been on my mind.

And, now the Ghost appears.

Now the memories cascade.

Cascade.

No point in pretending that these are not in many respects memories that warm as well as chill.

Memories that offer more insights when uttered than the bearer of those memories may care to consciously realise.

‘The book I gave her that she never read’.

Perhaps, that was one of those books men are so prone to giving as romantic presents – a book meant to signal the special intelligence and sophistication of the giver rather than one chosen to delight the recipient.

Gerry sings the song in a tone of melodic regretful intimacy.

Trying to make sense of it all.

Where did it go wrong?

Where did I go wrong?

What else could I have done?

Maybe it wasn’t just my fault.

These things just happen.

Her father didn’t like me anyway.

Her father didn’t like me anyway.

‘She left without a single word to say’.

Yes, at the end, there really is not a single word to say.

How many times can you say Goodbye?

Just the echoing sound of the closing door.

The closing door.

‘She always wanted more than I could give.’

Now, that’s a young man’s phrase.

You give how much you choose to give.

You can give so much more than you ever think you can give.

Time will teach you that lesson.

‘She wasn’t happy with the way we lived’

Living and loving every day is hard work.

You really have to want to do it from the depth of your being.

‘I didn’t feel like asking her to stay’.

If you don’t maintain that commitment things must fall apart.

‘To tell the truth I didn’t have the nerve’.

It’s so easy to let things drift and drift and drift until there’s no way back to harbour.

No way back.

‘So now she’s taken leave of me today’.

So, one of you comes to realise the spark has been extinguished and it’s past time.

It’s always past time when you finally decide to go.

And, there’s release in decision and action.

Even for the one left behind.

‘I know I only got what I deserved’.

How well the masochistic coat can fit!

Dim lights, strong drink, remember again.

Remember again and again and again.

Narrators can be very unreliable.

You know, we all know, it wasn’t really Daddy’s fault.

Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway.

Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway.

What a rich and resonant song!

‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’ takes its honoured place as A25 on The Immortal Jukebox.

Notes:

Her Father was written and recorded by Gerry Rafferty when he was a member of The Humblebums with Billy Connolly who, of course, went on to be a major star as a comedian.

Long before the world wide success of ‘Baker Street’ Gerry Rafferty had recorded a series of superb songs distinguished by their melodic grace, their sardonic lyrical deftness and the care and attention with which they were sung.

Songs like, ‘Mary Skeffington’ (after his Mother), ‘Patrick’, ‘Steamboat Row’ and ‘Shoeshine Boy’ match Paul McCartney all the way for melodic flow and memorability.

There will be much more to say about Gerry Rafferty on The Jukebox later.

For now I urge you to purchase a Humblebums compilation and the solo records, ‘Can I Have My Money Back?’, ‘City to City’ and, ‘Night Owl’.

These records, the work of a major songwriter, will endure.

Jukebox Jive :

Recently several loyal Jukebox afficianados have written in to ask what music I’m listening to apart from that featured in the weekly Post.

Your wish is my command!

Top of the Music mountain this week:

Van Morrison ‘The Lions Share Shows’ – astounding live performances from 1971 (available on YouTube)

Tom Russell ‘Play One More – The Songs of Ian & Sylvia’ – characterful takes on folk standards.

Curtis Mayfield – ‘No Place Like America Today’ – A mature masterwork by one of the greatest figures in modern music.

From The Archive

Another faithful Jukebox fan wrote in to say he had just discovered the Post on Maura O’Connell and said, ‘How did I miss this one!’

Well, there’s over 200 Posts here now so there’s treasure aplenty to be mined!

So, each week I’ll provide links to 3 previous Posts so you can make a discovery or reminisce.

Here’s that Post on the tenderly wonderful Maura

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-mT

Now here’s a rarity! One of my poems ‘Static’ – something of a meditation on exile and Father’s and Sons

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2U

Finally the death of Chuck Berry reminded me of how world changing the original Rock ‘n’ Roll Forefathers were.

Here’s a tribute to the inimitable Little Richard.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3J