Wednesday, November 11, 2020

This Land Is Your Land - Avett Brothers take on Woody Guthrie classic

Riding high in the Americana and the Folk Charts with their in July released "THE GLEAM III" album and its rather dark and somber mood, their new single, an adaptation of the Woody Guthrie classic, "This Land Is Your Land" stipulates less of a call to arms and more of a hopeful beacon of (becoming) a unity (again). This sentiment is also propagated by the beautiful black and white video, Samuel Bayer helmed. 

The political anthem, written in a furor by folk hero Guthrie against Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," and borrowing a melody from the Carter Family's "When The World's On Fire" - which was based not only on Baptist-Church and probably African-American influences - isn't really a staple in the Avett Brothers' live show repertoire and does not stem from their latest release, but happened more out of synchronicity. 

Enter award-winning visual artist, Samuel Bayer, a photo- and videographer known for his music video work (Nirvana - "Seems Like Teen Spirit"; Green Day - "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" and many others - Drivin'N'Cryin's "Smoke" being an all-time favorite of mine) as well as commercials (for instance his unforgettable, Emmy-award winning Chrysler Superbowl Ad "Born Of Fire", an Ode to Motorcity Detroit with its native son, Eminem from 2011) and his commercially as well as critically-lauded excursion to the silver screen with a remake of the horror flick "Nightmare On Elm Street."

Working on a documentary about the COVID virus, Bayer, inspired by listening to the Avett Brothers' music, wanted to hear them do their version of this American classic as he explained in the press release accompanying the new single: 

"While visiting testing sites in vulnerable populations, I was listening to The Avett Brothers music and was inspired to make a music video. I contacted them and told them I wanted to hear their interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s classic anthem.  This is a hopeful video during a time where the Country is so divided and I hope Americans will be inspired to be thoughtful during this trying time.”

Filmed in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, and the Navajo Nation and ultimately at the home of the brothers, in North Carolina, to film their performance, the video mostly speaks with its lovely black and white videography honoring diversity as well as unity. Watching the video on repeat since this morning, I had to stop it several times to really cherish many of the portraits depicted in the video. 

Another nice touch is that the Avett Brothers included the often left out 4th, rather political, verse about property ownership. They did omit three others, namely the third, the fifth, and the also political 6th verse about hunger and poverty in the US.  

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side, it didn't say nothing 
This land was made for you and me.

This is an interesting concept as e.g Swedish law allows you to camp on private property for at least 24 hours and as the revenue of Norwegian oil - extracted from Norwegian lands - benefit the whole population in the so-called oil fund, instead of a single corporate entity making a profit at the expense of all the people who own the land. That fund is now being transferred into more conscious investments and away from coal.   

In the press release, Seth Avett commented, “Samuel has highlighted the timelessness of perhaps the most quintessential American folk song by creating a timeless music video marrying performance with the most lovely imagery of American people. We are honored to be a part of such an endeavor in the like-minded spirit of unity and love.”  


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Dwight Yoakam Marries Longtime Girlfriend Emily Joyce

As one of the last true country music honky tonkers since the mid-'80s, Dwight Yoakam is not necessarily known to be a crooner of love songs, but more for lamenting heartbreak as in "Ain't That Lonely Yet" or "It Only Hurts When I Cry" and to find solace in a honky tonk by reaching out to the bottle as in "Two Doors Down," "Since I Started Drinking Again," or "It Won't Hurt."

But all the hurt and misery seem to be a thing of the past now, as the 63-year-old finally said "I Do" and married his longtime love Emily Joyce in a very small, private ceremony in Santa Monica, California in March. 12 years her senior, the pair started dating in 2010 and were engaged for several years, before now exchanging their vows. His team announced the good news with an Instagram post.

The surprising news, it's the first marriage for Dwight, is "a happy moment in these uncertain times" as his team wrote.

Keeping his romantic life private, he's known to have dated Sharon Stone or Karen Duffy, but that never became extensive fodder for tabloids and/or the paparazzi.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

When I Get To Heaven - Remembering John Prine

It was mid-October 1988. Nashville was a dump. Boarded-up, lower broadway had more sex-shops and massage parlors than live music venues.

It was my first time in Music City USA and after attending the CMA Awards as a journalist, all I wanted, besides making contacts with record label promo-heads, was to see some decent live music. Both tasks were quite fruitless. What I had envisioned as a "Sing Me Back Home"-journey, was rather tone-deaf. Even so in the middle of "Music Row," I stayed mostly in my room at the old Shoney's Inn on Demonbreun, watching stupid game shows on TV and trying to order mail-order greatest hits compilations hawked off during the commercials. But my - at that time Swiss zip code - just wouldn't work either. The only highlight was a visit down the street by Step One Records and its founder Ray Pennington. He, the writer of "I'm A Ramblin' Man" didn't only load me up with the newest releases (Ray Price, Buddy Emmons, Curtis Potter, etc.) from the label, but also suggested to go and visit the by now legendary Bluebird Cafe.

A short cab ride passing all the music-publishing offices on 17th street and then 21st street took me to the half-empty place. Some people were already playing and I took a seat at the small bar towards the back. There was a guy already sitting there and we started some small talk which quickly evolved into a "change-the-world" conversation, including politics, Nashville, Europe, and general wisdom, mostly ignoring the pickers in the circle.

Then we were suddenly interrupted, one of the pickers in the circle, rose his voice and announced special guest, John Prine. The buddy I talked to for the last or so hour, turned to me, told me he that he will be right, so we can finish our conversation and stepped up on stage and started playing. After a short set of about six songs, he came back to the bar, grabbed the same chair and sat down. I felt bad and apologized for not recognizing him earlier, his last album "GERMAN AFTERNOONS" didn't really have a portrait-cover and he brushed it away: "Instead of having a meaningful conversation, you probably would have asked me stuff about me, my career and songs or songwriting, like this I had a really pleasurable night."

Sure our conversation drifted for a short while to his career, he asked me for a card, so I could promote his new album "JOHN PRINE LIVE" on the radio, but we soon found ourselves talking about the world. We were the last ones, besides the working crew to leave the Bluebird and this evening by happenstance became one of my favorite memories. Needless to say that when I arrived back in Switzerland after staying a week in Texas, I had a package from "Oh Boy" records in my mailbox, even with a zip code that worked.
I probably could have written a more in-depth retrospective of his music, his career, and his genial writing, but other people have already done that way better than me - one of the best obituaries is by Holly Gleason.

So, John, tonight have a cocktail, start your band and please play one for my friend Mike, who preceded you, just a week ago. As a Vietnam vet, he was a huge fan of yours and we often listened to your songs either at the bar or while we were doing chores around the house.