Sunday, 31 May 2015

Going Forward - Digging The Past

It's the last day of may and the last blog post I did was the 888th on this this blog , I don't know if that's significant but there's probably someone who knows and old saying that means something but it was a precursor to a pretty amazing week for me personally, and that week it still continuing to throw up thing that are good , make to think , and make you enjoy life.

A friend had mentioned to me about a project to record  some unrecorded Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967 around the time of the original Basement Tapes when Dylan and the Band were jamming in a basement and the tapes were bootlegged and eventually released. I read a blog review and that inspired me to get the album and to write this post.The copy from Amazon says all about it:

Going Back
"Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is a music event 47 years in the making. It's an historic album project from five of music's finest artists -- Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) -- in unique collaboration with a 26-year-old Bob Dylan. Produced by project creator T Bone Burnett, the album was recorded in March, 2014 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where the artists and Burnett convened for two weeks to write and create music for a treasure trove of long-lost lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of the legendary Basement Tapes.

 The collective completed and recorded dozens of songs, 20 of which appear on this deluxe edition."

T-Bone Burnett has lots of experience delving into the history of Americana , and his work on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers' "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" (Itself based on Homer's Odyssey)  , is testament to that.

It got me thinking of other times people had effectively scramble under artists' beds to dig out and create  a contemporary vision of their music . When Jimi Hendrix died , unfinished tapes were taken to produce the albums Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning with varying amounts of success. You couldnt help wondering what would have really happened had Jimi lived.

War .... What Is It Good For?
Country Joe McDonald set the poems of Robert Service to music for his "War War War" album which is similar to what Burnett and Costello have done with Dylan's lyrics. I first heard "The Twins" in the seventies and it's still with me today as we see governments send men to war and abandon them when they return.

Again this is a great example of a contemporary artist, taking worthy material from the past and spreading the word to a brand new audience.

Billy Bragg and Wilco completed recordings of Woody Guthrie's unrecorded lyrics on their Mermaid Avenue triumvirate of albums. Again there is an excellent synopsis this time from the BBC that tells you all about the history of this:

"Thirty years after his death, Woody Guthrie was a distant memory when Mermaid Avenue came out in 1998. But he’s never been far away. You can hear the original Depression troubadour in the dustbowl romanticism and blue-collar unrest of every alt-country band that’s picked up a guitar – and the recession of a new century seems a good time to be remembering that.

Bob Dylan has come almost full-circle, back to the folk and blues with which he first channelled Guthrie as a teenager, and Springsteen has turned out This Land is Your Land at SXSW. But nobody has picked up on Woody as effectively – or unexpectedly – as this transatlantic get-together. Back in 98, the idea was simple: winnow out the best of the thousands of lyrics Guthrie had written without music, and turn them into songs.

The first album’s success spurred Mermaid Avenue Vol. II in 2000. And this package adds in the unreleased, more-ragged final 17 tracks from the sessions (including some non-Guthrie folk standards), without dimming the charm of the original. Wilco’s languid, dogged strumming and Jeff Tweedy’s now yearning, now rabble-rousing vocal perfectly capture the Guthrie that has seeped into every crack and crevice of Americana.

But it is Billy Bragg – the one who is an anachronism, really, a banner-waving socialist in a 21st century world of indie brats and pop divas – who guards the soul of this resurrection. The Englishman can spit the word “fascists” with rare contempt, even if few listeners will feel the political charge the word once carried.

But he brings a British folk lyricism, too, that deepens and sweetens the brew. The words show Woody’s range, from inspired poetry to rhyme-free rambling. But like a time-machine Basement Tapes, the free-flowing musical clamjamfry buoys up the folk icon in a way that makes a virtue out of inconsistency. There are memorable contributions from Natalie Merchant, Eliza Carthy and Corey Harris. And at root, really, it isn’t about musical taste any more than it’s about politics. Bawdy, smart, big-hearted and mischievous, Mermaid Avenue is simply all about a personality that is rich with life.

--Ninian Dunnett "

The Costello / Burnett project is unusual because Dylan is still with us , but it's great that Dylan can hear the results of this. There are many more examples of this sort of thing , but it's good to get your hands on something of this quality. Enjoy your Sunday

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