Epic albums

I wish I could say I came from a musical family but, if I'm honest, it would be more than a bit of a stretch.  I took piano lessons until I was thirteen and I have dabbled in a lot of other instruments (guitar, fiddle, hammered dulcimer) but not made a lot of progress on them.  I can read music but only as far as eighth-notes and standard key signatures.  I'm pretty good at Appalachian dulcimer but, alas, it's not my favorite instrument to listen to so I haven't been very motivated lately.  My parents played music when they were younger, but we're mostly listeners.

I think my parents still did pretty well with us, though, for people who are mostly just listeners.  Obviously, everybody has tastes and priorities, and our family's ran to folk.  My dad was a Bessie Smith fan but I think there was too much in there that he didn't want to have to explain to me until I was a lot older, so I mostly remember Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie's Hobo's Lullaby, the Red Clay Ramblers, and the immortal Golden Ring albums.  And Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"; it and Guthrie's cover of "1913 Massacre" are probably responsible for my near-obsession with historical ballads.

When I was older, I discovered Hank Williams, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake.  I asked for two Norman Blake CD's for Christmas when I was eighteen because the older guitar-playing guys at dulcimer club liked him.  I picked Back Home in Sulphur Springs because one of those guys liked it, and Whiskey Before Breakfast because it had the most songs on it that I knew.  I'm not going to argue that Doc Watson wasn't one of the best Americana guitarists ever, but Norman Blake (I would give almost anything to be old enough to have been at this concert.  The pants, though, suggest that it predates me) in the 1970's will always be my ideal.  (If you're an acoustic guitar fan, do yourself a favor and give Eddie Biebel a listen.  No, I don't know him personally.  I heard him for the first time in 2003 when he was playing with Wayne Hancock, and he's darned good.  He's in Wisconsin, though, so Texas doesn't see much of him these days.)

Anyway . . . a few years ago I finally got a CD set of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken.  I've known about this since I was a little kid--I know that pretty much everyone knows about it, but not all six-year-olds do, right?--but we didn't have it when I was growing up because it was so expensive.  

Mom and I were talking about it recently.  She remembers regretting that they didn't have the money for it.  I told her that, while I don't actually remember hearing her or Dad talk about it, I know I must have because I remember seeing it record stores and knowing that it was something to which I should aspire as a lover of music, even when I was such a little kid that I was kind of afraid of David Dixon Porter on the cover.  You know how, in the movies, when the protagonist sees the object of his or her desire it's surrounded by a halo of light and there is a little chorus of angels singing background music?  That's how I saw this album.  I guess it might just have been the fluorescents at Sam Goody's, but I'm pretty sure there was a halo.  (I can't explain the angels.)

Twang Nation posted a blog entry yesterday, though, that looks as though it has the potential to steal the limelight from Circle.

Apparently there is a Civil War tribute album due out this fall. 

The roster of musicians actually made me a little bit breathless.

I'm not familiar with all of these artists, but the ones I do know . . . wow. 

I will confess that I started out as an Old Crow Medicine Show detractor.  Their first album is still not my favorite, and I saw them at a show here in Houston that was annoying (faked Texas accents, strenuous flirting), and they wind up my anti-hipster forcefield.  Since then, though, I feel like they've grown into their neo-old-time schtick, gotten better at songwriting, and become more convincing and, I hope, more sincere.  I could see them covering "Marching Through Georgia" if they could do it without too much corniness.  Fingers crossed.

The tracks that really have me on the edge of my seat are "Just Before the Battle, Mother" and "Faded Coat of Blue". 

One, these are two old favorite songs.  My dad used to sing us "Just Before the Battle, Mother" when we were kids.  Steve Earle and Dirk Powell are already two of my favorite musicians.  Powell is a sincere old-time and Americana musician and Earle, of course, is a roots/folk-rocker with very long fingers in Celtic and bluegrass and an affinity for clawhammer banjo.  If it's as good as it should be, it could be a religious experience.

"Faded Coat of Blue" is a song I know really well but have never been able to play through without dissolving in tears.  I know, I know, but some of us are sentimental.  Blake is not a great singer but he has a natural waver in his voice and is a master of sounding mournful without going sappy.  I'm not sure I can think of anyone who would be more of a natural for this song.

Amazon doesn't even have it on preorder yet.  It's killing me!


Julie said…
I'm older and I did have that album. It is pretty great and this new one sounds fabulous! Thanks for the tip!
amy said…
Oh wow! What a wide range of artists. Have you ever heard AA Bondy? His voice perfect for this.
amy: I had to look him up on Amazon (for the sound clips). Definitely.

Just the prospect of this is making me a little anxious: It could be so perfect, and I'll be kind of devastated if it doesn't go as well as I know it could. Overinvested, much? Oh, well.