Saturday, July 30, 2022

Playlist: July 30, 2022

Buddy Guy, Hello San Francisco
Taj Mahal, My Baby Done Changed the Lock on the Door
     Sat 8/06 @ Center for the Arts
     Sun 8/07 @ Stern Grove Festival
Trombone Shorty, Come Back
     Thu 8/04 @ Golden State Theatre
     Fri 8/05 @ Center for the Arts
Lee Fields & The Expressions, Out to Get You
     Fri 8/05 @ Felton Music Hall
     Sat 8/06 @ Silver Oak Winery
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
     Fri 8/05 @ Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
     Sat 8/06 @ The Mountain Winery
Rainbow Girls, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Marty O'Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra, Samson and Delilah (live)
Dirty Cello, Last Time Blues
Levi Lloyd & Friends, Red House/Sweet Little Angel (live)
     Sat 8/06 @ Petaluma Music Festival
Janiva Magness, Oh Pearl
     Tue 8/02 @ Yoshi's

Buddy Guy, First Time I Met the Blues
Buddy Guy, I Cry and Sing the Blues
Muddy Waters, Good Morning Little School Girl
Buddy Guy, She Suits Me to a Tee
Buddy Guy, Red House
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Messin' With the Kid
Buddy Guy, Damn Right I've Got the Blues
Buddy Guy, I Put a Spell On You
Buddy Guy, The Price You Gotta Pay

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Hallelujah for American Pie

I kicked off this past week’s program with a pair of songs that are the ostensible subjects of two new documentaries I’d seen earlier in the week. The first, The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie, is about the hit title track from McLean’s 1971 album; the other, Halelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song, explores the very much non-hit from Cohen’s 1984 album Various Positions. Neither film is the first to take the story of a single song as inspiration for what is otherwise a biopic; the one that leaps most quickly to mind for me is 1988’s Imagine: John Lennon, which used footage from the recording sessions for that song as a framing device for the first feature film about a former Beatle. But I’m a sucker for rock ‘n roll documentaries, so with affection for both “American Pie” and “Hallelujah” (and a further connection to Leonard Cohen as a native Montrealer) I got to watching them.

It occurred to me that the two films could in some ways be seen as funhouse mirror images of each other. For starters, The Day the Music Died is streaming for home viewing on Paramount+, while Hallelujah is currently out only in limited theatrical release (I saw it at the Roxie in San Francisco). The former is built around recent interviews with Don McLean (presumably for the film itself), while Hallelujah features only archival encounters with its subject—though Cohen did give the project his formal blessing in 2014 and provided the filmmakers with access to his notebooks and more (he died in 2016).

The song-subjects themselves are also epics in curiously divergent ways. McLean says he wanted to write a “big song about America,” and so took a nationally and personally traumatic event—the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the J.B. “The Big Bopper” Richardson—and looked outward at the American journey that ensued. “Hallelujah,” on the other hand, largely describes an inward-looking spiritual quest. Cohen famously said that he worked on the song for years and had written and discarded dozens of verses (many of which are shown in the film), while McLean explains how the bulk of “American Pie,” after he’d settled on the opening verse and chorus, came to him in a relatively concise burst of composition.

Even the recordings themselves proved to be different kinds of pivot-points for their singers. The sessions for “American Pie” comprised the bulk of the work for that album and did not truly come together to everyone’s satisfaction until producer Ed Freeman brought in Paul Griffin to play piano. As noted by producer John Lissauer, Leonard Cohen had been composing many of the songs for Various Positions on a tiny Casio keyboard, and the contemporary synth-y sound of the album very much broke from Cohen’s previous work (notwithstanding his Phil Spector-produced album of 1977, Death of a Ladies’ Man). The album turned out to be so divergent—and disappointing—to Cohen’s record label that they actually refused to release it in the United States, thereby relegating its centerpiece song to initial obscurity and its author, at least temporarily, to the musical wilderness. American Pie, on the other hand, shot to #1 and secured Don McLean a place in the modern American songbook.

Of course the afterlives of both “Hallelujah” and “American Pie” are less different from each other, and both films spend a good deal of time chronicling the huge impact each song had on other musicians and the culture at large. I got a particular kick out of the segment immediately following the dramatic high (or low?) point of Hallelujah—that is, the failure to launch of Various Positions—which features a mid-1980s Bob Dylan describing how the best music being made at the time was unlikely to be heard on the radio. Dylan and Cohen famously hung out in Paris during Dylan’s 1984 tour of Europe and engaged in what Cohen, in a contemporary interview in the film, calls “shop-talk.” Dylan was impressed enough by one of Cohen’s songs that four years later, when Dylan performed in Cohen’s hometown of Montreal, he played “Hallelujah” (and again later that year in Los Angeles, where Cohen was living). This was three years before John Cale’s cover that appeared on the Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, itself the template for Jeff Buckley’s 1993 recording that set the song on its path into the modern American songbook (with an important stop in Disney’s Shrek along the way).

Listeners to Fog City Blues may be aware that I have, to say the least, a bit of a Bob Dylan obsession. And while it may be harder to find the Dylan in Don McLean’s story—in The Day the Music Died, McLean specifically refutes the interpretation of “the jester” in his lyric as referring to Dylan—there is a connection. When Dylan’s Time Out of Mind won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1998, in his acceptance speech Dylan noted how when he was 16 or 17 he’d seen Buddy Holly perform at the Duluth National Guard Armory: "I was three feet away from him and he looked at me. And I just have some kind of feeling that he was … with us all the time when we were making this record.” That Duluth show took place just days before the music died after the fateful final concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. For what it’s worth there’s an even more direct musical connection: the same Paul Griffin whose gospel-infused piano pushed the recording of “American Pie” over the finish line also played piano on Dylan’s first two albums with backing musicians, 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, which of course includes Dylan’s own meisterwerk, “Like A Rolling Stone.”

For better or for worse, the bit that tickled me most in either movie was seeing a couple of shots of the choir loft in the Montreal synagogue that Leonard Cohen’s family belonged to and where I actually sang as a baritone for three years in high school. But that parochial connection aside, both movies were satisfying in their own ways—not least because the music in both is so meaningful and resonant.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Playlist: July 23, 2022

Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah
     from the new film Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song
Don McLean, American Pie
     from the new film The Day the Music Died: American Pie
Jazz Mafia, Love Riot
     from the new album Suite San Francisco
Quinn DeVeaux & The California Honeydrops, Very Best Thing
Quinn DeVeaux & The California Honeydrops, Take You Back
     Sat 7/30 @ Club Deluxe
Junk Parlor, Crocodiles
     Thu 7/28 @ Club Deluxe
Lucky Losers, The Ragged Heart
     Sat 7/30 @ The Saloon
Janiva Magness, Strong as Steel
     Thu 7/28 @ Wine Country Radio
George Cole Quintet, Sentimental Friend
     Fri 7/29 @ The Back Room
     Sat 7/30 @ Top of the Mark
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Stardust
     Fri 7/29 @ Shoreline Amphitheater

Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite, Birds of a Feather
Charlie Musselwhite, When the Frisco Left the Shed
     Sat 7/30 @ SFJazz Center
Terrie Odabi, When You Love Me
     Sat 7/30 @ SFJazz Center
Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, She Wanted to Give It to Me (live)
Joe Louis Walker, Uptown Girl Blues
     Thu 7/28 @ SFJazz Center
Ruthie Foster, Mack the Knife (live)
     Sun 7/31 @ SFJazz Center
Pamela Rose, You Was Right Baby
Mimi Fox, Get Away Blues
     Sun 7/31 @ SFJazz Center
C.J. Chenier, Baby Please Don't Go
Marcia Ball, Watermelon Time (live)
     Fri 7/29 @ SFJazz Center
Aki Kumar, Watermelon Man
     Thu 7/28 @ SFJazz Center

Blue Rodeo, Andrea

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Playlist: July 16, 2022

Con Brio, Heart on the Dance Floor
PC Muñoz, Dance With You (feat. Amelie Anna & Miguel Muñoz)
Martha Redbone Roots Project, The Garden of Love
     Tue 7/19 @ Freight & Salvage
Circus Bella All-Star Band, Slackrope
     Sun 7/17 @ Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor
     Sat 7/23 @ The East Cut
Rob Reich, Elevator Up!
     Wed-Sat 7/20-23 @ Zuni Cafe
Lee Rocker, A Dirty Martini
     Sun 7/17 @ Yosemite Jaz Train
     Fri 7/22 @ Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
Alabama Mike, Upset the Status Quo
     Fri 7/22 @ Club Deluxe
Noah & the Arkiteks, Soul Fire
     Fri 7/22 @ The Ritz
T Sisters, These Goodbyes
     Sun 7/17 @ Redwood Ramble
     Fri 7/22 @ SOMO Concerts
California Honeydrops, Grazin' (live)
     Fri-Sat 7/22-23 @ Felton Music Hall
Delta Wires, Monkey Man (live)
     Sat 7/23 @ Wise Girl

 Saturday 7/23: Oakland Art+Soul Festival

Alphabet Rockers, The Word Is Love
Bay Area Caravan of Allstars, Down Hearted
Kev Choice, Movements (feat. AïMA the DRMR)
Jonah Melvon, Expiration Date
The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, We Remember Greatness

George Lewis, I'll Be Glad That You're Dead You Rascal You (live)
William Bell, You Don't Miss Your Water
Desmond Dekker, 007 (Shanty Town)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Heart Attack and Vine
Steve Freund, Turtle Blues

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Playlist: July 9, 2022

John Brothers Piano Company, Spin Echo
     Sat 7/16 @ The Great Northern
Ira Wolf, Love Song for the Apocalypse
     Thu 7/14 @ Bottom of the Hill
The Caliopians, Spaghetti
      Sat 7/16 @ Joe's Bar
Silent Partners, Ain't No Right Way to Do Wrong
     from the new album Changing Times
John Németh, May Be the Last Time
     from the forthcoming album May Be the Last Time
Maria Muldaur, I'm Vaccinated & I'm Ready for Love
     Tue 7/12 @ Todos Santos Plaza
Shemekia Copeland, Too Far To Be Gone
     Wed 7/13 @ Stanford Jazz Workshop
Paula West, Like A Rolling Stone (live)
     Thu-Sat 7/14-16 @ Feinstein's at the Nikko
Old Crow Medicine Show, Wagon Wheel
     Tue 7/12 @ Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
     Wed 7/13 @ The Mountain Winery
HowellDevine, Long Distance Call
     Sat 7/16 @ Club Deluxe
Bluesadelix, Come Out to Play
     Sun 7/10 @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall

5¢ Coffee, On the Regrettable Turning of Lost Boys Into Men
Three Drink Circus, Gin
     Fri 7/15 @ Hotel Utah Saloon: Songs of Booze, Brothels, and Breakfast
Thee Hobo Gobbelins, Rapier and the Wave
Junk Parlor, Vultures and Weasels
Beso Negro, Self Control
Barrio Manouche, La Foule
     Sat 7/16 @ Peri's Tavern
Little Charlie & Organ Grinder Swing, Nuages
Mavis Staples, Wade in the Water (live)
Ringo Starr, Rock Around the Clock
The Beatles, I Wanna Be Your Man (live)
Ringo Starr, Pop Profile

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Playlist: July 2, 2022

John Németh, Fountain of a Man
Dennis Johnson, Talk to You
     from the new album Revelation
Linda Ronstadt, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Ann Hampton Callaway, Nice Work If You Can Get It
     Sat 7/09 @ Frost Amphitheater: A Celebration of the Music of Linda Ronstadt
Spin Doctors, About A Train
     Thu 7/07 @ Guild Theatre
     Fri 7/08 @ Amphitheater at Quarry Park
     Sat 7/09 @ Sweetwater Music Hall
Big Blu Soul Revue, More (alterate)
     Mon 7/04 @ Veterans Park
     Sat 7/09 @ Almanac Alameda
Bill Withers, Railroad Man
Syl Johnson, Talkin' About Chicago
Chicago All Stars feat. Willie Dixon, 29 Ways
Ron Thompson, Meet Me in the Bottom (live)
Huey Lewis & The News, Free

Blue Rodeo, Stealin' All My Dreams
Blue Rodeo, The Opening Act
Cowboy Junkies, The Way I Feel
Tragically Hip, Last American Exit
The Duhks, You Go East I'll Go West
Tin Cup Serenade, Manitoba
The Travellers, This Is Your Land
Leonard Cohen, The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien Errant)
Bob Dylan, Song For Canada (One Single River)
Leonard Cohen, Democracy
Oscar Peterson Trio, Hymn to Freedom