BOB DYLAN ENCYCLOPEDIA: A BLOG 2006-2012

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

HEAVY RAIN ON HIGHWAY 301

I left Statesboro yesterday morning to drive up to Athens GA. The rain was phenomenal for the first part  -  just when I had to run across the carpark from the lobby of the Baymont Hotel to my rented car about 70 yards away. Less than a minute, and under an umbrella, yet my shoes, socks, feet, and the lower part of my jeans and coat were absolutely drenched, and three hours' driving in the warm car still had me arriving in Athens with the coat distinctly damp. Just got to the horrible Athens Holiday Inn in time to turn around and get collected by Hugh Ruppersburg to do the soundcheck for my Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues talk at the University of Georgia. Big place. Been before. Big audience, mostly students but also at least one couple in their 80s, I was told afterwards. It seemed to go down well. Good sound system, and a good large screen.

One of the people who came to the Dylan Discussion Event in Statesboro the previous evening, and who introduced himself afterwards, was Jack Sherman, long an LA-based studio sessionman who now lives in Savannah GA. He has worked with Barry Goldberg, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Hiatt, Gerry Goffin and others, and played in the studio with Dylan at the time of Knocked Out Loaded. He's on 'They Killed Him' and the 'Freedom For The Stallion' outtakes. It was good to meet him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

STATESBORO SYNCHRONICITY

A great audience tonight at the Holiday Inn Statesboro GA for a sort of compressed version of a Bob Dylan Discussion Weekend  -  on the topic of Dylan & the Southern Musical Landscape  -  with much thanks to Professor Richard Flynn for compiling the music tracks we agreed upon, which ranged from the in-the-field footage of 'Only A Pawn In Their Game' to the "Love and Theft" recorded version of 'Mississippi'.

In a sports bar immediately afterwards, I was sitting over a glass of red wine when on the TV screen in front of me it said NEXT: KEVIN McHALE... What was the likelihood that two famous sons of Hibbing would pop their heads over this southern parapet within an hour of each other?

Kevin, you won't be surprised to learn, comports himself with a lot less cool than Bob.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CURLEY & SOLOMON & TOM WILSON TOO

More births and deaths to note:

Solomon Burke would have been 75 on March 21st (he was born in Philadelphia, 1936), the same day Leo Fender died 20 years ago, aged 81, in Fullerton CA.

Blind Willie's greatest musician-friend, Curley Weaver, was born in Covington GA 105 years ago on March 24: the same day of the year that Dylan record-producer Tom Wilson was born, in Waco TX, 80 years ago.

Blonde On Blonde (and more) musician Charlie McCoy turned 70 on March 28; he was born in Oakhill WV.

Monday, March 28, 2011

HAIL ON INTERSTATE 85

I'm in an airport hotel in Atlanta Georgia en route between the gigs I've done in Alabama & downtown Atlanta and those to come in Statesboro & Athens Georgia and then up on the east coast.

Last night they kept interrupting the TV programmes to give out tornado warnings for a patch about 18 miles southwest of here, and severe storm warnings all over. The weather stations were also reporting record-breaking hailstones, allegedly up to 4 inches across (bigger than your usual golfballs), that had fallen somewhere else, and showing pictures of I-85 South, not far from the patch I'd been driving on the day before, with the hail lying so deep it looked like several inches of snow.

I flew out here on Tuesday, and on Wednesday drove the 205 miles southwest to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to sit in on a Thursday morning World Music class, have a lunchtime chat & sandwiches with some interested students, and give a Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues talk at the end of the afternoon. The academic who had been so keen to arrange my visit was away with a bad back, so I couldn't complain to him about his complete failure to read the info I'd sent him about it. He put me in a room with two walls filled with windows and no way to darken it, at a brilliantly sunlit time of day, so the film footage he might have noticed I'd be showing was near-invisible. The room also had the worst sound system I've ever been given anywhere. Which is saying something. It wasn't the fault of the poor woman who had to look after me all day in his place, nor of the students, who were terrific.

On Thursday I drove back to Atlanta, found my way to a very interesting arty/bohemian enclave very close to downtown, just off Highland Avenue (one of the places Blind Willie McTell had once lived), where in the old Stove Works on Krog Steet I was the second half of an evening about McTell, the first being Mark Miller's gospel trio performing some of Willie's gospel material, plus a live 'Statesboro Blues'. Fine guitar-work and a brilliant harmonica player.

Back on the road tomorrow, heading for Thomson GA and then Statesboro. Weather permitting.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

BOB DYLAN ENCYCLOPEDIA GREATEST HITS CD

Although release date for the CD isn't till April 27, I'm pleased to say that it can now be ordered from my website (www.michaelgray.net). And here's the YouTube promo video:


Sunday, March 20, 2011

WEEK'S BIRTHS & DEATHS/FRED NEIL

The 16th saw the 105th birthday of Sleepy John Estes' mandolin & guitar player James 'Yank' Rachell; he was born in Sleepy's hometown of Brownsville Tennessee. It was also the 35th anniversary of the death of Arthur 'Baby Let's Play House' Gunter in Port Huron MI aged only 50.

The 16th would also have been the 75th birthday of Fred Neil. He was born in Cleveland Ohio and became one of the stalwarts of the folk revival scene in Greenwich Village. "Neil," as Dylan writes in Chronicles Volume One, "ran the daytimee show at the Wha?...was the MC of the room and the maestro in charge of all the entertainers. He couldn't have been nicer... he said I could play harmonica with him during his sets. I was ecstatic." Neil's own recollections made him an invaluable interviewee for David Hajdu's book Positively 4th Street, not least for his memories of Richard Farina.

As it happens, I was sent a CD in the post yesterday, a new album by the Newfoundland-based Superpickers! called Blues on the Ceiling. The title is that of a song by Fred Neil, and the album contains a fine version of it. The uncredited sleevenotes describe him as "the highly original and dark blues songwriter". He died in July 2001.

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the death of Tampa Red (in Chicago, aged 78). Dylan credits him with 'It Hurts Me Too' on Self Portrait and opened most of his great 1978 concerts with a song by Tampa Red: mainly 'Love With A Feeling' and 'She's Love Crazy' but occasionally 'But I Forgive Her' too. Michael Bloomfield knew Tampa Red  -  and describes visiting him in his memoir Me and Big Joe (1980). Finally  -  or rather, not, since this is not a death  -  Wyclef Jean has been shot in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during the presidential election campaign. On a 1998 track, 'Gone Till November', he sang the line "Gotta do some knockin' on heaven's door like Bob Dylan'. Dylan appears in the promo video. Wyclef Jean duly appears in the Mark Ronson 'Most Likely You Go Your Way' re-mix video.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NEW WEBSITE BUILT AND UP ONLINE AT LAST!

I'm very pleased to say that today has seen the launch of my website, www.michaelgray.net.

It won't replace this blog or my Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes blog -  though both can now be reached via the new site as well as by the traditional routes  -  but the aim of the website is to offer a solid body of material and information, actively maintained & developed; a way for people to contact me without having to log in to a blog to send a "Comment"; and, since my work is my living, a clear, consistent way of being able to offer my work for sale without having to post recurrent blogs about these things.

As ever, your views and suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DEAD HEAD

Owsley S & Jerry G

I'm sorry to report that, as the New York Times news report/obituary put it, "Owsley Stanley, Artisan of Acid", has died in a car crash in Australia. Their report maintains a fine tone of voice throughout, and is online here.


Monday, March 14, 2011

ODDS & ENDS AGAIN

1. Change of time, and added venue & price details, for my event Searching for Blind Willie McTell at the Cúirt International Literature Festival in Galway, Ireland on April 16th:
TIME: 3pm
VENUE: The Druid Theatre, off Quay Street, Galway City
PRICE: €8 (€6 concessions)

2. Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Doc Pomus (of lung cancer, age 65) in NYC.

3. Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the birth of Elvis' great Sun Records drummer, D.J. Fontana, in Shreveport Louisiana, and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lightnin' Hopkins in Centerville Texas.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MICHAEL GRAY SPRING TOUR, 2nd LEG: USA & IRELAND

Just a few extra bits of information coming through about this:

First, I'm pleased to say that at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on March 24, ahead of my Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues event at the Gorgas Library at 5pm, I've been invited to sit in on that morning's World Music Class run by Dr. Jennifer Caputo, at 9.30am, to talk about Blind Willie McTell.

Second, an extra Searching For Blind Willie McTell date has now been confirmed for 7pm on March 25th, at the City Church Eastside in Atlanta. The address is: the Stove Works, 112 Krog Street NE, Suite 5, Atlanta 30307. This event also includes live performances of some of McTell's gospel songs by Mark Miller and his band. Details here.

Third, as suggested on the poster for the March 29 event in Statesboro GA, tickets ($35) are on sale at Georgia Southern University's Zach Henderson Library, at the Statesboro Holiday Inn and at the local Book & Cranny bookstore. This event, Throw My Troubles Out the Door: Bob Dylan & the Southern Musical Landscape, starts at 6.30pm at the Holiday Inn, Statesboro, and the ticket price covers the event (discussion with music led by me and GSU's Richard Flynn) plus two drinks plus a gourmet buffet.

Fourth, that at Connecticut College, New London CT in early April, in addition to delivering a version of my event Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues at 4.30pm on April 4, I'll also be taking part in Janet Gezari's and Charles Hartman's Dylan class at 11.50am on April 5.

Fifth, at Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland, on April 13, the ticket prices have now been set, and tickets are on sale, for my Dylan event, which starts at the late-ish time of 8.30pm. Tickets are €12 (€10 concessions).

Lastly, I hope to publish the poster for these Irish dates soon. The venues for the Blind Willie McTell and Early Elvis dates are generating their own artwork.

For the full list of the gigs (now updated) see here.

BOB DYLAN DISGUISED AS HENRY ROLLINS

Henry Rollins, c/o www.streetteaminterviews.com

I've followed with keen interest the indefatigable research by Scott Warmuth and Ed Cook, tracing what 21st Century work by Bob Dylan is, er, not necessarily by Bob Dylan. We've had the archeology of Henry Timrod; we've had the plethora of works by Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson and others smuggled into Chronicles Volume One (I commend Warmuth's excellent New Haven Review essay about this). And now most recently there's this discussion of what Dylan might be said to have mined from the prose works of HenryRollins: see Scott Warmuth's blog  -  not least as it affects that tremendous "Love and Theft" song/recording, 'Mississippi'.

But the thing surely is: these lines read better, and sound better, and manage to be so Dylanesque, coming from Dylan. Which is what he's so often achieved when he's reprocessed lines and phrases from old blues songs (as I've long been saying in my own work). This isn't meant as an adequate argument against all notions of plagiarism on Dylan's part: just as an observation about the Rollins-Dylan case.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

DYLAN IN CHINA

News from channelnewsasia.com (c/o Desolation Row Newsletter this morning):

 

SHANGHAI - American music legend Bob Dylan will play in China for the first time in his illustrious career in two April concerts timed to mark his 50 years as a performer, Beijing-based promoters said Friday. The news comes a year after a Taiwan promoter said its bid to take Dylan to China was scuttled after the Beijing government refused to approve shows by the writer of some of rock's most iconic and politically charged songs. Dylan, who will be 70 in May, will play in Beijing at the Workers' Gymnasium on April 6 and then hold a concert at the Shanghai Grand Stage in that city on April 8, promoters Gehua-LiveNation said in a statement.

"These Bob Dylan concerts are destined to be one of the year's major tours and a musical event of depth, grace and greatness," the promoters said. Tickets go on sale [this] week. Prices start at 280 yuan (US$42) and reach 1,961.411 yuan for VIP tickets. The amount represents the date of Dylan's first official New York gig, on April 11, 1961.

 

I love the idea of Dylan in the Workers' Gymnasium.

 

 

Monday, March 07, 2011

AN INTERVIEW WITH TEITUR, A FAVOURITE OF MINE

This is part of an interview with the brilliant young Faroese singer-songwriter Teitur, published on www.music-scan.de/infos/stories/details.php?id=1135. It starts by asking about his new album, which is called Let The Dog Drive Home. I think it might resonate with anyone interested in the possibilities of the medium Bob Dylan has worked in for so long.
 
Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about how approached this album? Did you do anything differently than with your previous efforts?
Teitur: I wrote for two years and prepared arrangements with my friend Tróndur Bogason for the last few months before recording. The recording itself took only 10 days. I believe strongly that the recording process should be an execution - not a place where you search for something. That's why preparation is everything. You can't bring 30 people into a studio if you don't know what you are going to do. The album was also recorded in an environment where I feel at home, in Copenhagen. All my other records have been recorded in far away locations. Spain, California, London, and my previous record was recorded in an old princess estate on an island in the Baltic Sea. It was time to get comfortable.
Musicscan: Is there something like a larger theme running through the different songs on the album?
Teitur: Yes. Most of the songs are about letting go, about being small, about the fact that you cannot decide everything that happens in your life. I wanted to make a record that was generous and clear. Everything is tuned really well and there is always a solid pace in the songs that drives them, even though the pieces are slow and mid-tempo.  I wanted to make the opposite of intense. I wanted to make body & soul music. For the sake of it being healthy and not driven by fashion or a want to impress or being cool.
Musicscan: How did you grow and develop as an artist from your own perspective since your last album?
Teitur: I feel that I am not driven by fascination anymore, like one does when starting out. I'm older now. I would rather share what I know, say it clearly and give what I have and look forward. I am quite tired of music that is solely driven by the need to be different from others. I think that kind of music is more of a personal identity crisis more than it is great music or art. The best music is the music that only you can make and the song that only you can write. Not music that others have never done or music that tries really hard to be different, weird or cool. You can hear it and feel it immediately. That is pure shallowness and insecurity from an artistic perspective and it doesn't contribute much to the history and heart of music. I think I felt the need to be a bit provocative toward myself and make something that is as uncool and untrendy as West-Coast sounding music. I never think that I was trendy anyway. Why bother? I want to make music that still sounds good in 30 years.
Musicscan: What are you looking for in a song? How would you define something like a perfect song?
Teitur: You know when you are at a family dinner... And your dad tells that story at the dinner table that he's told 17 times. The story that everybody knows? And he'll happily tell it again. About the time when he met so and so - or about the time that this and that happened? That's one of his songs! That's his song, that's the one that only he can tell and write. It will communicate something important, about how he is as a person, about what he has learned, about how life is, about how things work, or something like that. You could take that story and easily accompany it with music. You could re-write it, make it better, shorter, longer, whatever. That's a perfect song for me. And I think that's how songs are naturally born. Not in a studio, from the sound of a keyboard or a guitar amp. That's not where songs should be born. Songs are born from the inside. You could play that song on a plate. No need to go to the studio with the Philharmonics. That's for the process after the song is written. That's for sound and arrangement, for taste, for the art of recording, for sound painting, for more dimension and storytelling. That's not the song. The song is neither words nor music, it's the story.
Musicscan: Is it necessary to create a certain distance between you and the music in order to get a better understanding of its inherent quality?
Teitur: I would actually think that connection would be better than distance. The more you know about the music the better. But you need to have perspective, so you're not just inside of a bubble. You must be able to look at the big picture. Sometimes a producer can help an artist or songwriter do that, sometimes not. Depending on the artist. I am all for collaboration. It's all about making the music as good as possible, like having a wine waiter in your restaurant. That's a good thing. But someone needs to have the eyes and imagination that overlooks the whole thing.
Musicscan: Where do you currently live? How has being from the Faroe Islands influenced your music?
Teitur: I have a small house in the country on the Faroe Islands where I wind down and I also rent a room in Copenhagen. I change between the two. I feel the need to be in familiar places after having traveled and learning about new cultures and societies for so long. I still travel a lot. I think the Faroes are very minimal. You know, the ocean is only blue and the hills are only green and there is only one kind of spider and one kind of ice-cream. But then you see 150 nuances of blue and green in one day and you know the exact taste of your ice-cream. That's minimalism for me.
Musicscan: Could you briefly describe the music and arts scene on the Faroe Islands? Are there any artists that you have collaborated with or that you admire?
Teitur: I like Orka and we sometimes work together. They build their own instruments. We just recorded a song at my house last week. I played a harp made from a satellite dish. Jens, the guy who formed Orka, started to make instruments in his father's barn, his father is a farmer and Jens likes to build things.
Musicscan: Do you think there are still genuinely new sounds to be discovered or can modern music basically be said to be a recombination of already existing forms and elements?
Teitur: Absolutely, new sounds and directions will always be discovered. There is no stopping that. Music is a part of nature. It's not like that's going to stop. I think that a lot of artist and genres in particular run out of ideas if their whole and only motivation is to make something new within their genre or perception... But new music has a life of it's own. Someone will always find it, sense it and make it more physical and bring it to life for others to experience.
Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?
Teitur: I think you will find the answer in motivation. In asking why is this person doing this. Why has this been created....What is the drive behind this. Art is more about discovery and communication.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

SOME RECENT BIRTHS & DEATHS

FEB 15: 20th anniversary of the death of Michael Bloomfield (in San Francisco CA, aged 37)
FEB 15: 115th anniversary of the birth of Kokomo Arnold (in Jonesboro GA, 1896)
FEB 16: 15th anniversary of the death of Brownie McGhee (in Oakland CA, aged 80)
FEB 18: 70th anniversary of the birth of David Blue (in Providence RI, 1941)
FEB 24: death of Suze Rotolo (in New York City, aged 67)
MAR 6: 75th birthday of Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson (of Mickey & Sylvia, and more; in NYC, 1936)
MAR 7: 20th anniversary of the death of Little Hat Jones (in Linden TX, aged 81)


Saturday, March 05, 2011

BRANDEIS REVISITED

I'm very pleased to learn from Sony Legacy that Brandeis is going to be released as a 12" vinyl LP as well as on CD  -  and the LP will look exactly as it might have looked in 1963. As far as I'm concerned, this is good news.

Friday, March 04, 2011

THROW MY TROUBLES OUT THE DOOR

The March 29th event in Statesboro GA that has long been listed among my Spring Tour dates has re-shaped itself slightly, and been finalised now as this:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

BOB'S BIRTHDAY, BRISTOL FASHION