Friday, July 28, 2017

Give Me Flowers - How A Bluegrass Song Became A Yodeling Tune - Gib Mir Blueme

Polo Hofer (l) and Hanery Amman (r) - Friends and Composers
On July 22nd, 72-year old Swiss Rockstar Polo Hofer passed away. Often credited as being the first (or one of the first) artists to use the Swiss-German dialect in Rock music, in his case the German of Bern or Bernese, he became larger than life, actually a national treasure.

A composition he co-wrote with his former neighbor, Hanery Amman called "Alperose" (Rose of the Alps) was voted to be the ultimate Swiss song and is now taught to grade school children more than three decades after its original release. His music simply became the bedrock of Swiss dialect music to come.
Polo, who used his boy scout name, whose real name was Urs Alfred, constantly reinvented himself, from his first commercially successful band Rumpelstilz to Schmetterding which was replaced by Schmetterband. Then the Alpinistos were in charge and finally, he recorded solo albums and guest artist projects. But what was always common through all the years was a huge love of music from the American South: Roots, Blues, Rock, Singer/Songwriters, Country - he especially loved the melting pot of what the Texas capital, Austin used to be and loved singers like Delbert McClinton and Lucinda Williams. Songs like Little Feat's "Missing You" (Paul Barrere) became "I Vermisse Di," Bruce Springsteen's "Jersey Girl," penned by Tom Waits got adapted into "Meitschi Vom Wissebueehl."

 So after his passing, friends were sending me obits, links to TV specials, and even to one of his films he starred in. Well, this morning I had "Gib Mir Blueme" in my Inbox, in a version where Polo sings it together with TV host and Schlager-Singer Nik Hartmann, while being accompanied by the Swiss TV orchestra, SF Husmusig recorded in Grindelwald in July of 2010.

The song and its theme sounded awfully familiar and sure enough, it's an old bluegrass or bluegrass-gospel composition "Give Me Flowers, While I'm Living," originally recorded by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1957. Written by their wives, Gladys Stacey (Flatt) and Louise Certain (Scruggs) together with Elvin Bigger (known as a former member of the Four Virginians in the 1920s), Flatt & Scruggs recorded it for different albums, so I'm not completely sure, which version the one below is.

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs

Knowing that Polo wasn't that much a bluegrass fan per se, I started wondering where he may have heard this song, there was a missing link. And sure enough, I found it, on the Amazing Rhythm Aces' fifth album "How the Hell Do You Spell Rhythum?" released in 1980.

Amazin' Rhythm Aces

Polo recorded his first version of "Gib Mir Blueme" for a live album that was released in 1993, and nine years later a studio version with Schmetterband for his album "Xangischxung" (Bernese for "Singing Is Healthy"). I assume that the resophonic guitar (dobro) part was played by my former English teacher Martin Diem on this recording.

Polo Hofer & Schmetterband

So let's forward from 2002, when Polo recorded his studio version, to the live TV show on top of the page, eight years later. Done in the TV show in Swiss Volksmusik style, even though not in its purest forms, Yodel club Wiesenberg from the state of Nidwalden, saw potential in the composition and recorded the tune acapella for their 2012 album "Bluämäpracht." The clip below shows the Jodlerklub Wiesenberg performing the song for another TV show.

And that's how a bluegrass song became a yodeling tune.

Mick Jagger Releases Two New Singles - Proves He Still Matters

Yesterday, he celebrated his 74th birthday, today (7/27) Mike Jagger released two brand new singles repressing the changing political landscape. He again demonstrated that as an "old" man, he can still tell the youngsters how to react and put to music, an engaging form of criticism and be viable not only to contemporary politics but also music. In the year since Brexit and the half-year since the Orange Agent sits in the White House, we should have experienced a bigger criticism from artists abroad and statewide.

In "England Lost!" he takes a football loss of the English national team, which during the whole song evolves from England lost to England's lost. In a great black and white video, featuring Welsh actor Luke Evans, who fears to be followed and starts on a bizarre, running escape through London, the countryside and at the end reaching the ocean to be pulled back by bystanders and told by a little girl to "Pull Yourself Together."

★★★/★★★★★ (3 out of 5)

Jagger also mentioned that he wanted to use UK Rapper Skepta for a version of his "England Lost!" single - he did so, in the lyric video, where he added the moniker "Reimagined" to it

Right from the off when I started writing England Lost, I imagined having a British rapper on the track .. Skepta stepped in at a moments notice and I just loved what he did.

In the email, he mentioned that he started these songs recently and had an urge to publish them, while they still matter

I started writing these two songs a few weeks back and wanted to get them out to you straight away.

While not as poignant in "England Lost!" in "Gotta Get A Grip" he re-emerges as a protest singer, actually pulling himself together. He's lamenting the clowns in government, the constant lies we are fed, the ignorance of the electorate, the shunning of intellectuals, greed, and xenophobia. Sir Mick paints a dark, but a too real picture of the current state of affairs and proves at 74 that he still matters! 

But read for yourself: 

Gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick
Gotta get a grip
She goin' for the hit
THe world is upside down
Everybody lunatics and clowns
No one speaks the truth
And madhouse runs the town
Well you gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick
You gotta get a grip

Everybody's stuffing their pockets
Everybody's on the take
The news is all fake
Let 'em eat chicken and let 'em eat steak
Let 'em eat shit, let 'em eat cake
You gotta get a grip
You gotta get a grip
You gotta keep it zipped
And shoot 'em from the hip
Yeah, yeah, you gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick

I tried diversion and I tried coercion
Mediation and medication
LA culture and aquapuncture
Overeating and sex in meetings
Induced insanity, Christianity
Long walks and fast drives
And wild clubs and low dives
I pushed and I strived
But I can't get you, can't get you
Can't get you out of my mind
Gotta get a grip

Oh you, oh you
Oh you, beat it with a stick
Immigrants are pouring in
Refugees under your skin
Keep 'em under, keep 'em out
Intellectual, shut your mouth
Beat 'em with a stick
Oh you
Gotta get a grip
Gotta get a grip
Chaos crisis instability, ISIS
Lies and scandals, wars and vandals
Metadata scams and policy shams
Put 'em in a slammer
Gotta get a grip
Gotta get a grip
Come on

The song features a heavy, great guitar riff that helps transpond the dark message into an almost positive fighting song. We "Gotta Get A Grip" and fight the demons that are here.

★★★★(★)/★★★★★ (4 ½ out of 5)

Sources: Universal Music, Twitter, YouTube

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Evan Michaels - "Ain't No Stopping This" - EP Review

Not that there is anything wrong with "Ain't No Stopping This," it's a genuine six-song EP in the Texas/Red Dirt genre. But the EP, produced by Stillwater, OK singer/songwriter Evan Michaels and his keyboard player (Andrew) Bair, somehow isn't inciting enough to light a fire. Their current radio single "Bet On A Backroad," sounds too much like a Nashville Bro-Country song with all its cliches forefront and is currently bubbling right outside the Top 100 of the Texas Regional Radio Report and can't be found in the CDX Traction Texas Chart. This is songwriting lite, I normally don't expect from great Red Dirt music.

I bet it's on a backroad
In the middle of nowhere
We take the shortcuts
to get us there

I love the idea behind "Too Big For The Both Of Us" which stipulates that a relationship may only survive in a small town as it is predestined to fail in the big city. But the contemporary, almost Nashville-like arrangement kills the song. A nice change of rhythm, with a jingle-jangly feel, gives us the mid-tempo reflection of an ex-girlfriend; but "Like It Should" seems like it was copied out of Reckless Kelly's songbook.

The only outstanding track is the opener and title song "Ain't No Stopping This" with a great Chris-LeDoux feel to it. Even though knowing that an encounter is doomed from the beginning, there is nothing that can stop it from happening: Temptation is bigger than reason.

As to "Must Have Been Drinking" and "Tomorrow Today," there are some good approaches, but in the end, both songs fail to grab me. Most likely, even after multiple listens, because nothing new is offered. The arrangements sound like run-of-the-mill country-rock fare a 70s cover band would cover.

With just one song really grasping my attention it will be difficult for Evan Michaels to really stand out from an ever-increasing crowd of Red Dirt singer/songwriters and bands. There are some great ideas on this EP, but better songwriting and having his own sound are recommended. This six sampler still sounds as he would be trying to find his own self, lyrical-wise as well as musically - I miss an edge that sets Evan Michaels apart from the mediocrity that now seems to sweep through the Texas/Red Dirt scene.

As to Evan's voice, it's pleasant and strong enough to sing hits. Unfortunately, there are some blocks on the road, and his way to the top may take a little longer than he stipulated with "Ain't No Stopping This."

★★(★)/★★★★★ (2 ½ out of 5)

Sources: RPR Media,