EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: It’s the End of the Year As We Know It
Image by Nile / Pixabay
There’s nothing more torturous than reworking a song title into a headline and then innocently inserting an earworm. Can’t speak for y’all, but at the moment that R.E.M. chorus is endlessly looping inside my head and won’t stop. Maybe if I take a few minutes and just listen to the darn song we can get moving onto the subject at hand, whatever that is.
Ok, that’s better. And I feel fine.
By the time this column reaches your eyes you’ll likely be in the final days of 2019 or perhaps already moved on into the new year with a rare visit to your local gym. You’ve recovered from drinking too much egg nog, made amends for your behavior at the office holiday party, and — with a doorway that’s finally clear of daily Amazon Prime deliveries — your life will soon return to its regular pace and rhythm. I also know that by now you’ve been bombarded with so many end-of-the-year lists, polls (click here for mine), reflections, and reviews that you’ve had it up to here. But wait … there’s more.
The Last Great Album Released in 2019
Nobody ever puts out a new album in December since it’s likely to get lost amid all the holiday hoopla, cheer, and despair. It’s too late to publicize it, nobody will put it on their “best of” list, and you probably can’t mobilize a tour. But if you come from Malmö, Sweden, play country and rockabilly to a niche audience of hardcore fans, and are more American than Americana, I suppose you can do whatever the heck you want. The Country Side of Harmonica Sam’s third album, Broken Bottle, Broken Heart, is on heavy rotation at my house, and if you like this song, you’ll love ’em all.
The Last Great Live Album Released in 2019
This is the 30th anniversary of MTV Unplugged, and Courtney Barnett did a live show in her hometown of Melbourne this past October for the Australian music channel. It was released on streaming sites in the first week of December. She’ll be touring the US beginning in mid-January at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for two nights, and most of the dates are already sold out. The eight-song MTV collection is a mix of covers and her own work and features several guests.
“I love playing to Melbourne crowds … ,” Barnett said in a press release. “I wanted to have a mixture of old songs, new songs and covers, and tracks that we don’t perform all the time – it’s been interesting to see the songs through a different filter, and it brings out this other emotional side to the music and the lyrics. ‘Unplugged’ is so nostalgic for me. We had two ‘Unplugged’ records in our CD collection growing up and I know those records inside out because we listened to them every day.”
A 60-Year-Old Throwback on Kinescope
If you’re of the age where you hardly can recall what a Betamax was, you might need a refresh on Kinescope. The system was used back in the 1940s and ’50s prior to the invention of videotape. It was basically a camera with a fixed lens pointed at a video screen, recording the images on either 16 or 35 mm film. The reels were then sent out to television stations across the country for rebroadcast.
Earlier this year marked 60 years since the release of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” single, and I found a Kinescope of an appearance they made in 1959 on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. I’m pretty sure it’s a “Milli Vanilli style” recording, but watch the fingers of Johnny’s hands, as they are incredibly synchronized.
What Kyla Fairchild Turned Me On To
I connected with No Depression’s former owner and publisher a few months ago, and she shared some new music with me. Katherine Paul is a Portland-based musician who records under the name of Black Belt Eagle Scout, and this year she released her second album, At The Party With My Brown Friends. She grew up on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington’s Puget Sound region, experiencing powwows through her family’s drum group. In her teens she went to Rock and Roll Camp for Girls in Portland and was into grunge and riot grrrl bands.
At Kyla’s recommendation I’ve been listening to both albums and read a few interviews where she mentions that “old white cis men” like myself aren’t necessarily the audience she wants. She prefers performing for queer indigenous people of color like herself, who are more open to her thoughts and actions as an activist. As a fan it’s an interesting place to be, yet her music does touch me and maybe it will you as well.
Let There Be Songs to Fill the Air
The world has lost a good man. My friend Rich was a co-worker, and we bonded over music when we first met about seven years ago. Both of us played guitar, were music writers, and were longtime Dead fans. Several years ago he began to develop leg pain and mobility issues, and was eventually diagnosed with ALS, which you may know as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There is currently no cure.
I hadn’t seen Rich since shortly after his diagnosis, but I followed his journey on social media and through the videos he posted. Active in the ALS community with helping to raise awareness and money, he was a gentle soul with the spirit of a warrior. Last week he passed, surrounded by his loving family. He was 56. At the end of the funeral service four friends led us in singing this song.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.