The Lonely Goatherd Blog

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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July 22, 2006


Young 10 year old Johnny Cash, 1942 photo Johnny Cash, 1965 El Paso mugshot June Carter and Johnny Cash, wedding day 1968
June Carter and Johnny Cash MoreThings Updates
I've grown up one of the better JC sites around, "The Yin and Yang of June Carter and Johnny Cash." I've got all kinds of groovy stuff there now, and people coming in from all directions, so I want to log this stuff in here official like on this here log page where spiders and bots and even some actual living people will see these articles and hundreds of pictures of all things Johnny and June related.

Here are the major Johnny Cash and June Carter related essays at MoreThings:
Keep on the Sunny Side: June Carter Cash, Her Life in Music
June Carter Live Recordings from the Louisiana Hayride
Johnny Cash The Legend (4 CD box set)
Johnny Cash in memoriam
"Bird on a Wire" KD Lang vs Johnny Cash for the championship of the world
June Carter make out music
Johnny Cash on The Simpsons, 1997
Final Johnny Cash composition published
Johnny, we hardly knew you
Walk the Line movie review

I also have several pages of pictures from my favorite scene of Walk the Line with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix, in which Mother Maybelle and her husband turn up with shotguns to run off Johnny Cash's dope dealer.

But the big enchilada here is my phat collection of Johnny Cash and June Carter pictures, hundreds of them on 50 pages. You'll find a featured section of those from Johnny Cash appearances on Hee Haw in the 70s, and some good 90s pictures from the Montreaux Jazz Festival with June, and John Jr. These are definitely the best pictures I've seen of Johnny playing with John Jr. Those seem a little more poignant seeing them again after the hashing out in the movie of JC's issues with his father.

Anyway, here's all kinds of Johnny Cash and June Carter wedding pictures, publicity photos, tv appearances, and all kinds of what-not:
Pictures of Johnny Cash - June Carter - 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
June Carter and Johnny Cash wedding photo
Johnny Cash gives Archie Campbell a pie in the face on Hee Haw
Johnny Cash, June Carter and their son Johnny Cash Jr
young June Carter
Mother Maybelle Carter and Helen Carter on stage Carter family - Sara, Maybelle and AP Carter


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posted by Al at 7/22/2006 03:07:00 AM

May 01, 2006


American V and the last Johnny Cash song
It is one of the indications of the strength of character underlying Johnny Cash that he channeled the suffering and loss of his human mortality into creative expression such that his last few years were among his very best ever, artistically speaking.

According to Rick Rubin, Johnny went to work on a fifth American album the day after finishing the fourth, which has been the best received commerically of the series. The album was completed after Cash passed with, among others, the continuing help of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.

American V is set for release on July 4, 2006. It features what is touted as the last song that Johnny Cash wrote, "Like the 309." Among other songs on the album are Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)," Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind," Hank Williams' "On the Evening Train," Rod McKuen's "Love's Been Good To Me."

THE YIN AND YANG OF JOHNNY AND JUNE - MoreThings Cash Central Station

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posted by Al at 5/01/2006 10:35:00 PM

February 13, 2006


Hee Haw is Schoolhouse Rock for hillbillies
I try to resist writing about my family. I do wish to avoid besmirching the good name of our chillen by association with my shenanigans. Nonetheless, let me tell you about my godson. I hope to justify this as a public issue. You'll see.

Anyway, my thug godson just turned two. When last I saw him a few days ago, I took some vintage Hee Haw videos for his Ma's benefit. I knew she'd be interested in 1969 Jerry Lee Lewis. His sex appeal was summarized to me thusly: He's sensitive - but he's mean.

But the boy won't be much interested in Hee Haw. He's into Thomas the Tank Engine, so I was tolerating it. Then he lost interest and wandered off after Ma and Auntie.

My turn, then. We went straight to the hardcore hit known to insiders as "Hee Haw Episode 9." This would have been from their first season, at which point they were a prime time CBS network show. Especially, this episode contains prime 1969 live performances from Jerry Lee Lewis. Best I can tell, this was his first such prominent network exposure for Jerry Lee in some years.

But here's the point: The boy was totally fascinated with it. Thinking through it, other than a few of the musical performances, very little on the show lasts more than one minute. I could imagine some adults growing weary of some of the classic repetitive elements of the show, but exactly that's going to be to the plus with young children. "Gloom, despair and agony on me" is funny even to a not quite yet two year old. I'm proud to report helping instruct him in moaning along. Whoooa!

But he was fascinated by even the solid musical performances. He's getting a prime performance of "Whole Lotta Shakin" which you can understand. However, he was just as interested in staring raptly at Loretta Lynn singing Shel Silverstein's custom written latest hit, "Hey Loretta, I love you more than my Irish Setter."

Boy's transfixed by this pretty solidly, and much more than by any Thomas. Pretty soon we're adding new vocabulary, words like "Buck" and "Roy." He also knows "Ray" after watching Ray Charles playing "Crying Time" on the show along with the composer, Buck Owens. Of course, he also learned to say "Jerry Lee."

I am personally determined that he will grow up knowing the blessed name of Dave Akeman. I'm pleased to report that before his second birthday, the boy can say "Stringbean." Poor dude had the roughest job on the show. As the Scarecrow of Kornfield County, he had to try to scare off the bad jokes. Tough job, there- especially with that crow constantly screaming in his ear.

Anyhow, it came to me at some point that I'd consider Hee Haw valid educational content. It's like Schoolhouse Rock for hilljacks.

Now, granted Schoolhouse Rock had more precise historical lessons about the American Revolution and such, whereas Hee Haw was more given to the approximate history of the Grandpa Jones series "About 200 Years Ago." In one episode, for example, Grandpa Jones explained the colonists' confusion about the arriving British troops in their pretty coats and powdered wigs. They weren't quite sure whether they were supposed to fight them, or take them out to dinner.

However, Hee Haw has it ALL over Schoolhouse Rock in the critical area of music. They had vintage performances of the cream of a couple of generations of country, including repeat guest Johnny Cash among many others.

But screw that, consider just the regular cast members. For starters, I'd be real glad to have the boy grow up watching Roy Clark play guitar. That'll be setting a fairly high bar there.

The unstated because unnecessary thing about the show, the caliber of musicians justified and provided the main meat of the show. Yeah, the Southern philosopher gets blown up in animated smoke. "Uh, oh!" said the thug.

But they had no less than Roy Acuff as a regular cast member for some years. Awesome talent lineup there. Oh, and Stringbean was one of the main big early members of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. It took Earl Scruggs to replace him.

Thug'll eventually get to learn about the US Constitution and such. Obviously those kind of history lessons are pretty important.

On the other hand, so is art and culture. In my way of looking at things, it'll be more rewarding and significant for him to know about the work of Jerry Lee Lewis or Ray Charles than, say, a politician such as Jimmy Carter.

Now, Hee Haw might perhaps have run out of steam by the end of the original productions in 1992. But boy howdy, look at some of the earlier shows, and it's a pretty densely encoded set of important cultural artifacts. It's prime educational video, in bright shiny little child friendly chunks. It'll sure as hell do him a lot more good than MTV.

Plus, it's got dancing pigs.

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posted by Al at 2/13/2006 11:26:00 AM

November 20, 2005


Johnny Cash on The Simpsons
Not just June Carter in Jackson, but everyone is hotter than a pepper sprout right now for Johnny Cash, what with the Walk the Line biopic opening this weekend. I for one have Johnny on the brain. Which reminds me of a small crossing of the icons I'd forgotten.

Johnny Cash lent his voice to The Simpsons episode 3F24 "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer" or "The Mysterious Voyage of Homer" which originally aired January 5, 1997. Homer eats some chili peppers so hot that he has hallucinatory visions like an Indian shaman/Jim Morrison thing. In his vision, he meets a talking coyote that sends him on a spiritual quest. Naturally, Johnny Cash was the voice of the spirit coyote. Here he is:


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posted by Al at 11/20/2005 12:57:00 AM

November 18, 2005


Walk the Line, and all things June Carter and Johnny Cash
The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line is in theaters now, and interests in all things Johnny related are pretty much at a fever pitch.

CLICK HERE for my extensive review of Walk the Line
CLICK HERE for pictures of June Carter and Johnny Cash
CLICK HERE for all manner of things Johnny Cash and June Carter related

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posted by Al at 11/18/2005 11:34:00 PM

October 26, 2005


Halloween Music Mixes and Stuff

My favorite part of many things is the music. Halloween provides a good chance to make creepy CD mixes and such. I've conjured up a couple of new ones this season,

Country Death Songs CD Mix will guide you to some creepy and particularly maudlin songs from Cal Smith to Ralph Stanley among others.

Country Murder Songs CD Mix will set you right with the country murder ballads and such what from Porter Wagoner, Elvis Costello, and (of course) Johnny Cash, among others.

Also, among past Halloween and related CD mix ideas, you might consider the suicide, bug, or woman-killing mixes.

Also, you probably ought to swing by the Blogcritics Halloween 2005 master post, where we've got probably a couple hundred new Halloween themed stories of all kinds.

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posted by Al at 10/26/2005 12:38:00 AM

September 13, 2005


June Carter on the Louisiana Hayride
June Carter was officially a comedienne rather than a singer per se for a good part of her early career, kind of a more high rent Minnie Pearl. This largely gets lost in her studio recordings, naturally.

CLICK HERE to read my notes on the live CD of June's classic early 60s performances on the live Louisiana Hayride radio show. It's a really unique document of this part of her illustrious career.

June Carter and Johnny Cash

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posted by Al at 9/13/2005 05:42:00 PM

August 09, 2005


The definitive "Bird on a Wire"
It's Johnny Cash versus KD Lang in the (bird) cage match for best interpretation of the Leonard Cohen standard "Bird on a Wire." CLICK HERE for the exciting blow by blow.

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posted by Al at 8/09/2005 12:33:00 AM

August 04, 2005


New Johnny Cash box set
This week there's a new 4 CD Johnny Cash box set out, The Legend.

CLICK HERE for my extensive notes on this collection.

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posted by Al at 8/04/2005 01:10:00 AM

August 02, 2005


New album releases, week of 8-2-2005
June Carter and Johnny Cash each have new multi-disc anthologies this week, Keep on the Sunny Side: June Carter Cash - Her Life in Music and The Legend tespectively. Start with June's two CD set. It's a beauty. See full review.

Johnny's four CD set seems to have all the hits, and is comprehensive of everything except his American recordings. It may be the best place to start if you for some odd reason do not own any Johnny Cash records. And what's with you non-Johnny owning people anyway, are you communists or what? Still, you probably have some Johnny, but no June. Fix that now.

My beloved Alice Cooper has a new album this week, Dirty Diamonds. I'm not really expecting much from Alice at this point, but maybe he'll surprise us with a late career renaissance.

When I think of a stupid drunk whining bitch in some country bar who wouldn't know real country music if it bit her in the ass, boo-hooing about some ex, I naturally think of Faith Hill. If I'm describing you, you may wish to check out her new Fireflies album. I'm sure you'll think it's the berries.

There's a Public Enemy hits album, but it's only 10 songs, three of which are from the classic Fear of a Black Planet. You'd probably be better to just buy that instead, with used copies on Amazon as cheap as $3.50.

CLICK HERE for the complete list of this week's major new releases.

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posted by Al at 8/02/2005 01:18:00 AM

December 24, 2003


A Country Christmas CD Mix
Here's the programming for a groovy CD of country Christmas music. It adds up to just over 78 minutes for 28 songs of country holiday goodness.

If We Make It Through December - Merle Haggard
Christmas Time's a Comin - Bill Monroe
Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley
Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy - Buck Owens
Christmas Eve Can Kill You - The Everly Brothers
Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas - Commander Cody
White Christmas - Ernest Tubb
Reindeer Boogie - Hank Snow
Pretty Paper - Willie Nelson
My Favorite Things - Kenny Rogers
I'm Gonna Tell Santa On You - Faron Young
My Mom and Santa Claus - George Jones
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - John Mellencamp
Go Tell It On the Mountain - Dolly Parton
Santa Claus Is Watching You - Ray Stevens
Leroy the Redneck Reindeer - Joe Diffie
To Heck With Old Santa Claus - Loretta Lynn
I'll Be Walkin' the Floor This Christmas - Ernest Tubb
Christmas Carols by the Old Corral - Tex Ritter
'Po Folks Christmas - Bill Anderson
Let's Put Christ Back in Christmas - Tammy Wynette
Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Johnny Cash
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - The Louvin Brothers
O Little Town of Bethlehem - Dolly Parton
The Little Drummer Boy - Johnny Cash
Away in a Manger - Dwight Yoakam
O Come All Ye Faithful - Johnny Cash
Nothing But a Child - Steve Earle

"Nothing But a Child" may be the best song ever written about the birth of Jesus.

My most surprising new find amongst these holiday favorites was the Kenny Rogers version of "My Favorite Things" - though I suppose you could question how well that qualifies as "country music." Who woulda thunk I'd go for a Kenny Rogers record of ANY kind- much less a Christmas record. It's pretty good.

"If We Make It Through December" may be the best song of Merle Haggard's career, certainly one of his top 10. You could also look at it as the greatest ever sad Christmas song.

I had some of these in stock, lots of good Christmas stuff can be found at the library, and of course, you can DOWNLOAD MOST OF THEM conveniently enough.

Actually buying one or two of these artists is always nice of course. Check out the very attractively priced Ernest Tubb box set.

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posted by Al at 12/24/2003 03:58:00 AM

October 29, 2003


The season for suicide: A Halloween CD mix to DIE for!
Sure, the "Monster Mash" and the "Purple People Eater" are fun Halloween theme songs for the kiddies, but they're hardly a contribution to the creepy crawling scaredness that makes for a properly morbid holiday. We can do better.

For your Halloween listening pleasure, then, hunt you down these two dozen plus songs for a lovely CD mix to share with people you love. Maybe they'll take a frickin' hint...

"Gloomy Sunday" - Billie Holiday Numerous actual suicides are associated with this song, including the songwriter.

"Ode to Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry This classic was the biggest actual chart dominant hit single of the Summer of Love in 1967. The movie some years later provided an interesting answer to Billie Joe's why.

"Auf Wiedershen"- Cheap Trick Truly one of the most beautifully cold sentiments in the history of rock music, a kiss-off in many languages.

"Jeremy" - Pearl Jam I don't necessarily object to foolish teenagers choosing to climb out of the gene pool. I just wish the dumbasses wouldn't insist on taking others out with them.

"The House Carpenter" - Doc Watson Family This old Smithsonian recording of an old folk standard tells the creepy tale of a woman lured away from her husband and children by a sailor. Bitter and despondent away at sea, she ends up calling down some kind of divine curse to sink the whole boat- her, the sailor, and any other poor schmucks unfortunate enough to be on board.

"Richard Cory" - Them This is the only instance I know of Van Morrison singing a Paul Simon song, and a particularly unfairly overlooked classic song it is. The Simon and Garfunkel original rates a close second.

"I Hate Myself and Want to Die" - Nirvana

"Don't Fear the Reaper" - Blue Oyster Cult

"Suicide Is Painless (MASH theme)" - Kenny Primus

"The Letter" - Macy Gray This must be the most cheerful suicide note ever.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"- Joy Division The song does not specifically describe a suicide, but it's generally taken as the lead singer's suicide note. It's certainly morbid enough, even without the biographical detail.

"Sister Morphine" - The Rolling Stones There are few recordings as utterly beautiful and yet simultaneously totally pathetic as this story of a junkie's last fix.

"Suicide Solution" - Ozzy Osbourne I add this pick as a peace offering to Ozzy, in the hope that he will thus see fit not to hex my next computer as he apparently did when last I made the error of speaking against him. Look, I'm even giving him the lucky #13 spot on the CD. What more do you want, oh Dark Lord?

"Poor Jud Is Daid" - Oklahoma! (1955 Film Soundtrack) Gordon McRae as Curly leads Rod Steiger's Jud Frye in fantasizing about how upset everybody would be at his funeral if'n he hung himself out in the smokehouse. The pure self-aggrandizement and self-pity of Rod Steiger singing right along makes one of the funniest moments in movie history.

"Rock and Roll Suicide" - David Bowie Poor Ziggy Stardust. It's tough being beautiful.

"So Like Candy" - Elvis Costello This song about a girlfriend's suicide gets at a bit of the guilt often left for the loved ones. "What did I do to make her go?"

"One Dyin' and a Buryin'" - Roger Miller Pretty sobering meditation for someone usually associated with happy-go-lucky novelty songs.

"Three A.M." - Bill Anderson Between this and the Roger Miller and Bobbie Gentry, it occurs that most country singers seem to prefer jumping in the river as their suicide method of choice.

"Ode to Billie Joe" - Sinead O'Connor You might be surprised how awesomely good this Bobbie Gentry cover came out, and how well the gloomy mysticism translated into Sinead's Irish styling. Her version is distinctive enough from the original classic as to merit a separate entry.

"Pictures From Life's Other Side" - Grandpa Jones Family I'm not sure who wrote this bluegrass/folk standard, but Grandpa Jones acquits himself well with these three tales of sad and untimely ends, including the unidentified suicide of the last verse. Again, the country song suicide method of choice involves jumping in the drink.

"Dear Sweet Filthy World" - Elvis Costello This suicide note turns into a seemingly hallucinatory nightmare.

"Did She Jump or Was She Pushed" - Richard and Linda Thompson You say "po-TA-to" I say "po-TAA-to"

"Suicide" - David Allan Coe

"Stan" - Eminem Tragic though it may be, Stan really did humanity a favor by eliminating himself and his white trash seed from the gene pool.

"Shot Gun Blues" - Blues Brothers

"Fade to Black" - Metallica

"The Wall" - Johnny Cash From his album recorded live at Folsom Prison, this is the story of a prisoner committing suicide by cop, or in Johnny's words, "suey-cide."

"I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" - Elton John This comes from the lovely Honky Chateau album.

"Parole Board" - Junior Brown A weepy ballad from a desperate prisoner at the end of his rope hoping against hope for his release, or else he'll let the good Lord take him home.

"A Day Without Me" - U2 One of my very favorite all time U2 songs

"Stuff Up the Cracks" - Frank Zappa This was the last song on Ruben and the Jets, an album of doo wop parody. Zappa bitched repeatedly about the negative effects of sappy, unrealistic pop love song lyrics. This recording constitutes his harshest criticism of where that nonsense leaves you, with a narrator about to snuff himself because his cheesy teenage romance didn't go like they do on the radio.

"Don't Try Suicide" - Queen I suppose I should end with something urging folks not to Do It, so as to prove that I am not insensitive.

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posted by Al at 10/29/2003 03:31:00 PM

September 13, 2003


Johnny Cash Mastermix
Johnny Cash left a lot of good music, some of it mega-popular, some of it less well known. Here is the track list for the approximately 77 minute Johnny Cash Mastermix CD I compiled. It gets at the whole time and mood range of his career.

Ring of Fire
Sunday Morning Coming Down
The Ballad of Ira Hayes
Straight A's in Love
Boy Named Sue
Tennesse Stud
Get Rhythm
Hey Porter
I Walk the Line
Ballad of a Teenage Queen
One Piece at a Time
San Quentin
Folsom Prison Blues
Delia's Gone
Man in Black
I Walk the Line
The Beast in Me
Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)
I Won't Back Down
Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
The Man Who Couldn't Cry
Angel Band

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posted by Al at 9/13/2003 04:16:00 AM


Johnny joins June Carter Cash in Jackson
It was time for Johnny Cash to die. You hate to give him up, but it was clearly his proper time. He was old and sick. His body was worn out. His wife and savior went on ahead of him in May. They got married in a fever, and now he's gone off to join her in Jackson. This picture makes a beautiful thought for the couple now together forever.

Cash recorded many great songs of despair and sadness, and dark nights of the soul, but it's not the time for those. His struggles and pain are through. I find myself today blasting "Jackson" in celebration of Johnny and June's reunion.

On the other hand, this is my favorite picture of Johnny:

It's not just the picture here that's so cool, though it's certainly a classic. It's that Johnny absolutely had this placed as an ad in Billboard, literally giving the industry the finger for their lack of support for what turned out to be a Grammy winning album. Yeah, that's our guy.

What to say about his legacy? It's been sliced and diced and described beautifully many times. Rolling Stone has a particularly nice essay on the occasion of his passing, and my fellow Blogcritics have lots of good stuff, including a message from Kris Kristofferson.

His deep voice had a unique primal power, like the voice of God, or God's messenger anyway. He would never have been accused of self-righteousness, but he had this incredible implicit moral authority. No one in the history of recorded music could put across a tone of rebuke like Johnny. I'm thinking of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" in particular. "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" may be my favorite recording of Cash. He packed it with great intense sad stoicism, comedy and moral judgment. Incredible.

You hate to give up such a legend. It's especially unfortunate for us in that he's done some of his best work over the last 10 years in the American Recordings albums. We could have used another half dozen albums like them. I'd probably pick the first one of these as his greatest album ever.

Really we can't bitch, though. He left us a heller legacy, and even in fact a whole bunch of unreleased recordings with Rubin in the can, already scheduled for release as a box set.

With his passing, the whole revolutionary Sun Records crew has gone, all but one. Who would have thunk that Jerry Lee Lewis would be the last man standing?

June Carter and Johnny Cash
Pictures of June Carter and Johnny Cash
Pictures page 2
Pictures page 3
Pictures page 4
Review of the Walk the Line movie
Link for this story

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posted by Al at 9/13/2003 02:23:00 AM

June 15, 2003


A Barger father's day mix CD
My old man ain't right. Howard Barger's messed up enough to spawn the likes of me. In recognition and celebration of that, I whipped him up a little father's day CD.


"Boy Named Sue" - Johnny Cash
"Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man" - Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton
"Psycho Dad #4" - Al Bundy
"Get a Haircut, Dad" - Austin Lounge Lizards
"Dad, I'm in Jail" - Was (Not Was)
"Give Dad a Hug" - Dr Evil
"Don't Jump Off the Roof, Dad" - Homer and Jethro
"Homecoming" - Tom T Hall
"Daddy's Girl" - Red Sovine
"Father and Daughter" - Paul Simon
"That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" - Everly Brothers
"I Dug My Daddy's Grave" - Ferlin Husky
"Daddy Won't Be Home Anymore" - Dolly Parton
"A Letter to Daddy" - Jim Ed Brown
"My Son Calls Another Man Daddy" - Hank Williams, Sr.
"Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" - Wayne Newton
"Don't Cry Daddy" - Elvis Presley
"Fool to Cry" - Rolling Stones
"Cat's in the Cradle" - Johnny Cash
"So Long Dad" - Randy Newman
"Daddy Did His Best" - Dolly Parton
"My Dad's Gone Crazy" - Eminem
"Papa Was a Rolling Stone" - Temptations
"Papa Don't Take No Mess, Pt 1" - James Brown

By way of getting a head start on next year, I'm looking for help getting an mp3 of Baby Jane's signature song "I'm Writing a Letter to Daddy" from the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? movie. Anyone? [Howard really digs when I get down on one knee and sing him a verse of this, "I'm writing a letter to Daddy/ It's postmarked to heaven above..."]

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posted by Al at 6/15/2003 10:50:00 PM

February 13, 2003


Top Records of 2002
What were the best songs of 2002? The Oracle of Laurel aka ol' Al has spoken. The correct answers:

1) Get Over It - OK Go
The underlying song has an outstanding power pop melody. The lyrical viewpoint of the song is bracing rather than saccharine or whiny. This may be the best song that Ray Davies never wrote.

2) We Are Going to Be Friends - White Stripes
They dropped a clean, pretty, quiet schoolyard love story in the middle of all the alternative rock. It's a tender and catchy tune. The lyrics are pure but direct and simple poetry. And unlike many modern pop records, this song is entirely appropriate for even very young children.

3) Makes You Feel That Way - Blackalicious
There's actually some songwriting under this deal. It may be the most uplifting rap record you'll ever hear. One funny thing about most rap: despite being so overwhelmingly about words, the big majority of rap lyrics are exceedingly redundant and stupid. Besides having a tune, these words are actually imaginative and poetic. They even read good on the page.

4) Hate to Say I Told You So - The Hives
This recording gives you the best of a couple of worlds: the shrieking abandon of good old fashioned punk rock- along with the skillfully sculpted songwriting very few punk acts ever achieved.

5) When I Was Cruel No. 2 - Elvis Costello
Long, slow trip hop electronic groovery in the classic title song of his latest album sets up long and twisted but memorable melodic phrases. The whole thing throbs with an involuntary empathy for just the type of petty scheming entertainment industry jackasses whom he has classically regarded as his most hated enemies throughout his career. "Things were so much easier when I was cruel."

6) Hot in Herre - Nelly
Doggone, but there's a smooth, catchy tune running under this dance floor monster. Those spare guitar chords cast some nice harmonic accents into the rhythm. Also, he sets up a really classic image leading to the best lyrical hook of his career, describing the girl dancing in front of her mirror at home, talking to her girlfriend on the phone, declaring "I think my butt's getting big."

7) Stairway to Heaven - Dolly Parton
This recording is not as unlikely an idea as you might imagine. "Stairway to Heaven" by rights was really a folk song guilded in fancy Led Zeppelin guitar work. Dolly brings out the more pastoral aspects of the song. The arrangement is intricate and flawless, her voice as good or better than ever.

8) Without Me - Eminem
The guy's getting substantially overexposed and overrated. Geez, he's probably already sold more records than James Brown. Nonetheless, this is one of the top good time jams of the year. It's got a real song underneath the rhythmic elements, strong hooks, and probably his best ever lyrical celebration of the pure joy of bad-boyism. Note the distinctly celebratory natue of this song versus the free floating anti-social anger of, say, "The Real Slim Shady." It also has an exceptional video.

9) Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground - White Stripes
Real rock and roll romance, a strong tune, and some harsh guitar for that extra dramatic edge.

10) John Walker's Blues - Steve Earle
Personally, I think John Walker Lyndh deserved to be shot. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Despite me being really unsympathetic to the idea, the actual song is probably the best thing Earle's written in a dozen years or more.

Honorable mention also to "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash; "My Ride's Here" by Warren Zevon; "Lose Yourself" by Eminem; "The Last DJ" by Tom Petty; "Tear Off Your Own Head", "Alibi", and "Episode of Blonde" by Elvis Costello; "None of Us Are Free" by Solomon Burke; and "Lord Franklin" by Sinead O'Connor


posted by Al at 2/13/2003 01:22:00 PM

February 08, 2003


Albums of the Year 2002
Truthfully, I have to say it was a pretty disappointing year musically, though I must acknowledge that perhaps many groovy things went on that have just escaped my notice.

Among things that I have heard, perhaps six albums made the grade of being worth making the annual top 10. Operationally, "made the grade" here means that an album has at least two exceptional songs.

1) Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
This one is clearly the best Western pop album of the year. It absolutely has more outstanding songs than any other album all year. At least nine of these tracks are classics. CLICK HERE to get my full comments on this modern classic.

2) White Stripes - White Blood Cells
The effective raw Neil Young style performance of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" constitutes the top reason for this album's inclusion. The other main beauty is the tender schoolyard romance of "We Are Going To Be Friends."

3) Eminem - The Eminem Show
"Without Me" was just one of the catchiest damned tunes of the year. "Cleanin' Out My Closet" may not have had the perfect anti-social outrage of, say, "97 Bonnie and Clyde." It does, however, constitute his best dramatic presentation, having something of an actual SONG underlying his story points. [Turns out he was on a roll with the drama thing, besting himself a couple of months later with "Lose Yourself."] Several other songs are catchy enough to merit repeated listening, particularly "Business."

4) Dolly Parton - Halos and Horns
Dolly does a really beautiful re-casting of "Stairway to Heaven." She takes the song backwards to the folk roots of the original composition. Also, ponder on the weird sadness and pluckiness of "These Old Bones." The affectation of her voice as the old granny witch doctor strikes me as incredibly cheesy and then again as a really effective unique Dolly style. It perplexes me. Indeed, most of the album bears repeated listening.

5) Johnny Cash - American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around
Cash has this amazing vocal power, this old school Old Testament prophet of Yahweh thing. He can sell a song, and he has picked out some alternative rock songs of merit, and some perhaps less than obvious standards. Alongside the apocalyptic Biblical drama of the title track, he records a beautiful simple reading of "Danny Boy." His dry reading of John Lennon's "In My Life" drains away any easy sentiment or perfunctory prettiness of the Beatles' classic original recording.

6) Sinead O'Connor - Sean-Nos Nua
I'm not entirely sold on some of the production choices here. Sinead has always been about mixing old misty Irish mystic roots with modern production. You could, however, say that the exact way she's going about it here is arguably a little ham-handed. She's singing traditional ballads in strict traditional stylings, but adding obvious flourishes of modern studio vocal production. The effect is certainly novel, but may be more distracting than artistically meaningful.

Nonetheless, Sinead O'Connor is the singingest bitch on the face of this planet. When she wraps her lungs around "Lord Franklin" or "Peggy Gordon", she exudes a powerful draw in a very quiet and understated way. This album makes some strong listening, give or take minor production effects.


posted by Al at 2/08/2003 05:47:00 PM

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