Albums almost abandoned, and one that was

Emmylou, Joni, and Herbie

Hissing of Summer LawnsWhile listening to Herbie Hancock in early April, his birth month, I was reminded by two albums almost abandoned by their owners to me. Another one actually WAS given to me.

Around 1995, a choir friend was complaining about the new Emmylou Harris album, Wrecking Ball, that she’d just purchased. She was a huge Emmylou fan, but Wrecking Ball was not her cuppa.

It was produced by Daniel Lanois, who had produced or co-produced albums for U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan, among others. Additionally, Lanois was also a solo artist; I’m quite fond of his Acadie album.

My choir buddy decided that maybe she’d get rid of Wrecking Ball. I said, “Give it to me!” But she decided to keep it. I wonder if she ever warmed up to it.

Emmylou, also born in April, shows up on so many of my albums. In addition to her solo stuff, she’s a background singer for Lyle Lovett, Neil Young, and so many more. She’s on albums with Mark Knopfler, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Linda Ronstadt, and of course the Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Linda, the complete set of which I bought in 2020.

Joni and Herbie

Back in 1975, Sue, the girlfriend of my friend Jon – who I’ve lost track of – picked up The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the new Joni Mitchell album. She did not know if she’d keep it because it was too different from what she had expected. I said, “Give it to me!” But she decided to keep it. I wonder if she ever warmed up to it.

The album is transitional to a more experimental sound (Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter et al.) I liked it. BTW, her birthday is in November.

My late friend Donna was kvetching about the 1996 Herbie Hancock album The New Standard. It was a jazz cover album of pop songs by Peter Gabriel, the Beatles, Babyface, Sade, Prince, and Simon and Garfunkel. She was a jazz fan, but she did not like this. She said, “Do you want this?” I said, “Heck, yeah.”

Hancock’s 1998 album, Gershwin’s World features Joni on vocals for two songs, The Man I Love and Summertime. His 2007 album River: The Joni Letters is a tribute album featuring cover songs written by Joni, with an eclectic group of singers
Connections

The songs

Though they are very different, because these three artists have been so eclectic, I think of them fondly in the same way.

From Wrecking Ball

Where Will I Be? with the songwriter, Daniel Lanois
Wrecking Ball, written by Neil Young
Orphan Girl, written by Gillian Welch

From The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the first three songs

In France They Kiss On Main Street, which could have fit on her previous studio album, Court and Spark
The Jungle Line, which would not
Edith and the Kingpin – I heard Rebecca Jade do a great cover of this recently

From The New Standard

New York Minute  – co-written and originally performed by Don Henley
You’ve Got It Bad Girl – co-written and originally performed by Stevie Wonder
All Apologies – written by Kurt Cobain, originally performed by Nirvana

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits turns 70

“Two men say they’re Jesus”

Mark KnopflerMy Mark Knopfler discography is scattered throughout my collections. The first albums were by Dire Straits, the LPs Dire Straits (1978) and Love Over Gold (1982). One of that first batch of CDs I purchased included Brothers in Arms. I was hardly alone. “The album is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first compact disc (CD) to sell a million copies, and it has been credited with popularising the CD format.”

After the first Dire Straits breakup, Knopfler formed The Notting Hillbillies in 1989, a country/folk band. It put out but one album, Missing…Presumed Having a Good Time (1990), which I’m quite fond of. Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) is a movie soundtrack, all instrumental. All the Roadrunning (2006) features duets with country music singer Emmylou Harris.

Though I’ve never heard On Every Street (1991), the final album by Dire Straits, I’m quite fond of a cover of The Bug. It was written by Mark Knopfler and recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1992; her version got to #16 on the country charts.

The group Dire Straits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Some Mark Knopfler songs:

Money for Nothing – Dire Straits, #1 for three weeks in 1985.
Feel Like Going Home– The Notting Hillbillies
Why Worry– Dire Straits
Railroad Worksong– Notting Hillbillies. A song I knew from my childhood.

Beachcombing– Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Private Investigations . Moody and atmospheric.
So Far Away– Dire Straits, #19 in 1986. Brothers in Arms’ first U.K. single, before it became an international smash. In the US, it was released as the third single, after the album had already gone to #1.
Twisting by the Pool– Dire Straits, #105 in 1983. In between Love Over Gold and Brothers in Arms, the band released a four-song EP of old-school rock and swing cuts.

Will You Miss Me– Notting Hillbillies
This Is Us– Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris
Blues Stay away from me– Notting Hillbillies
Walk of Life– Dire Straits, #7 in 1986.

Romeo and Juliet– Dire Straits. A lovely piece with references to other songs. The single didn’t chart in the US.
Your own sweet way– The Notting Hillbillies
Sultans of Swing– Dire Straits, #4 in 1979. Their debut single was described as “a masterwork of precisely pointed guitar, a ringing rhythm section and late-night cool.”
Industrial Disease– Dire Straits, #75 in 1983. A reflection of the decline of British industry, and the anxiety and ailments it caused. “Two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong.”

Music throwback: Telling Me Lies

Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

One Clear MomentListening to Telling Me Lies from the Trio album (1987) always affects me greatly. Part of it is the tight harmony among Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris.

The song was the album’s second single, and it reached #3 on the US Billboard country singles charts. The recording was nominated for a Grammy award in 1988 for Country Song of the Year.

The message is painful:

You told me you needed my company
And I believed in your flattering ways
You told me you needed me forever
Nearly gave you the rest of my days

Should’ve seen you for what you are
Should never have come back for more
Should’ve locked up all my silver
Brought the key right to your door

The song first appeared on Linda Thompson’s One Clear Moment album (1985), her first solo collection “after divorcing husband and former collaborator, Richard Thompson.” The track was written by Linda Thompson and Betsy Cook, as were most of the songs on the album, which many critics believed included many well-written songs, often marred by that era’s heavy-handed production.

Don’t put your life in the hands of a man
With a face for every season
Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

Listen to Telling Me Lies:

Linda Thompson here

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris here or here

I cover my ears, I close my eyes
Still hear your voice and it’s telling me lies
Telling me lies

***
For good measure, another 1980s female trio with tight harmonies, though a somewhat different style:

You work too hard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose

Listen to Keep On Doing What You Do/ Jerks On The Loose – the Roches, written by by Terre and Suzzy Roche, from the Keep On Doing album (1982)

Emmylou Harris turns 70

No other mainstream star established a similarly large body of work as consistently iconoclastic, eclectic, or daring;

When a friend of mine, who was a big fan of Emmylou Harris, first heard the album Wrecking Ball in 1995, she complained that it wasn’t at all what she was expecting. She threatened to give it away, and I expressed my interest in taking it, but ultimately she held onto it.

I had quite a few Emmylou Harris LPs, and Wrecking Ball wasn’t what I expected either, but I meant that in a GOOD way. Read about the 2014 re-release.

The CMT page describes her well:
“Though other performers sold more records and earned greater fame, few had as profound an impact on contemporary music as Emmylou Harris. Blessed with a crystalline voice, a remarkable gift for phrasing, and a restless creative spirit, she traveled a singular artistic path, proudly carrying the torch of ‘cosmic American music’ passed down by her mentor, Gram Parsons. With the exception of only Neil Young — not surprisingly an occasional collaborator — no other mainstream star established a similarly large body of work as consistently iconoclastic, eclectic, or daring; even more than four decades into her career, Harris’ latter-day music remained as heartfelt, visionary, and vital as her earliest recordings.”

For her sheer range of work – from background singer, to solo artist, to duets with a range of artists including Mark Knopfler, to her best selling collaboration with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt – her distinctive sound always enhances her many projects.

I expect Eddie at Renaissance Geek will feature Emmylou Harris today.

The links below are in roughly chronological order, from the most recent.

The Traveling Kind (with Rodney Crowell)

My Name Is Emmett Till

Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)

Beachcombing (with Mark Knopfler)

Flesh and Blood (with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sheryl Crow)

Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby (with Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch)

After the Goldrush (with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton)

1917 (with Linda Ronstadt)

Orphan Girl

Where Will I Be

Wrecking Ball

Love Still Remains

Songs from the Trio album (with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt)

Two More Bottles of Wine

Blue Kentucky Girl

Save the Last for Me

Together Again

The death of Emmett Till

In January or February of 1986, I saw the Capitol Repertory Theater’s performance of Toni Morrison’s Dreaming Emmett, based on his life and death.


Emmett Till disappeared 60 years ago today; his mutilated body was found three days later. His mother allowed photos to be taken of his open casket, and the horrifying pictures helped galvanize the Civil Rights movement, including the “I Have a Dream” speech eight years, to the day, later.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I want to know why it is that I can see that photo in my mind’s eye when the event took place when I was but two years old when it took place. I’m guessing that on the fifth anniversary in 1960, Ebony and/or Jet magazines reran the photos, I saw them, and the image seared in my mind to this day.

When I was in high school, a bunch of us raised money for some poor, rural folks in Tennessee. One day, I was (foolishly) walking alone down some dirt road down there. I see a sign indicating that I was about to enter the state of Mississippi. I crossed into the new state, my mind screamed, “Emmett Till!” and I literally jumped back into Tennessee.

In January or February of 1986, I saw the Capitol Repertory Theater’s performance of Toni Morrison’s Dreaming Emmett, based on his life and death. I don’t remember if was particularly well-acted or -written. All I remember was that I felt again the pain that was Emmett.

The last time I had seen the picture in print was when his mom, Mamie Till-Mobley, died back in 2003.

In 2005, the case had been reopened by the FBI, with the exhumation and re-examination of Emmett’s remains, based on advances in DNA testing, followed by a reburial in June. After the gravesite was disturbed in 2009, the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum, which will open in 2015, acquired the Emmett Till casket.
***
Emmylou Harris : My Name Is Emmett Till from her 2011 album Hard Bargain.

This is an edited version of my blog post of August 28, 2005.