Archive for the ‘1980’ Category

‘West’

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Today, finally, we go west, sorting through the digital shelves for four tracks that use the word “west” in their titles.

Sorting in the RealPlayer for the word, we get 613 tracks, but as I suspected, we have some winnowing to do. Numerous tracks have been labeled “West Coast” in the genre slot, and they fall by the wayside, Jackson Browne’s For Everyman, the City’s Now That Everything’s Been Said, and Walter Eagan’s Not Shy among them. Anything titled or tagged as having been recorded at the Fillmore West will be ignored, as will numerous blues joints that came out of West Helena, Arkansas (many of them by Howlin’ Wolf).

Most of Alfred Newman’s soundtrack to the 1962 movie How The West Was Won is lost, as are Ray Charles’ two volumes from 1962 of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music. The same holds for anything by Cashman & West (with and without Pistilli), and for a group called West, which gets double-docked for its 1968 self-titled album.

We also throw out the fight song from Western Illinois University, and numerous singles, starting with those on the Westbound and EastWest labels. Among the lost singles are “Linda’s Gone” by the West Coast Branch, “Fairchild” by Willie West, “Rave On” by Sonny West, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan, “Tennessee Toddy” by Billy Gray & His Western Okies, “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” by Kim Weston, “500 Miles” by Hedy West, “Take What You Want” by West Point, and “The Ballad Of Paladin” by Johnny Western.

Still, we have enough to work with.

Trying to tap into the spirit of the music they’d made a decade earlier, the Allman Brothers Band offered “From The Madness Of The West” on its 1980 album Reach For The Sky. In its six-plus minutes, the jam gave the listener the expected: parallel guitar lines playing arching melodies, a percussion solo, modal progressions and a technically precise guitar solo. What it could not offer, of course, were those people and things the Allman Brothers Band lost along the way: the departed Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the bypassed Jaimoe, and the ability to do things no other band could. “From The Madness Of The West” is decent listening but no more than that. If you let it roll by in the background without thinking about it, it’s pleasant music, but when you stop to think about the arc of the Allman Brothers Band, the track – and in fact all of Reach For The Sky – feels like the part in a novel where you pause and wonder if in fact there can be any revival.

In 1987, when the Grateful Dead released the album In The Dark and pulled from the album the single “Touch Of Grey,” I wonder if Jerry Garcia and the rest of the band were baffled by the result. The album went to No. 6 on the Billboard 200, and the single went to No. 9 on the Hot 100. The group had reached the Top 20 of the album chart a few times before – Blues For Allah had done the best, going to No. 12 in 1975 – but never before had a Dead single hit the Top 40, much less the Top Ten. The group’s highest charting single before “Touch Of Grey” had been 1971’s “Truckin’,” which topped off at No. 64. As it happened, the Dead’s burst of popularity coincided with the rebirth of my interest in buying tunes, and In The Dark became the first Grateful Dead album on my shelves. And one of my favorite tracks from the album – “West L.A. Fadeaway” – qualifies for today’s exercise, bringing along a blues verse that more often than not makes me chuckle: “I met an old mistake walkin’ down the street today/I didn’t wanna be mean about it, but I didn’t have one good word to say.”

With a spare accompaniment – guitars and few strings – Nanci Griffith sings:

Wash away the tears
All the angry times we shared
All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone
We have let them slip away
Because I’m standing here today
And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun

I remember times
When you’d weathered out my mind
But you always had a peaceful word to say
And you could always bring a smile
With the mischief in your eyes
Still, I’m glad the miles keep me separate from your games

You know you’re still as wild
As those old west Texas plains
Standing by the highway do you still call my name?
Lord, I can’t believe it’s been such a long, long time
Since I’ve seen that Texas boy smile

Well, I’ll be heading out of town
I may stop by next time around
Hell, it’s raining, but at least that’s something real
I came shackled down with fears
About our dreams and wasted years
And now I know exactly how to feel

Wash away the tears
All the angry times we shared
All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone
We have let them slip away
Because I’m standing here today
And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun

The track is “West Texas Sun” from Griffith’s first album, the 1978 release There’s A Light Beyond These Woods. As one might expect for a first album, it’s a little tentative; the confident story-teller that I discovered in the early 1990s has yet to show up. (I think of “Love at the Five & Dime” from The Last of the True Believers in 1986 and “Trouble In The Fields” from Lone Star State Of Mind a year later, just to highlight two great songs that came along very soon.) But even early Griffith is worth a stop this morning.

And we close this morning with a recent version of a song that’s been around for nearly ninety years: “West End Blues.” Written by Clarence Williams and King Oliver and first recorded in 1928 by King Oliver & His Dixie Syncopators, “West End Blues” was one of the tunes that New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint selected for his 2009 album The Bright Mississippi. In his review of the album at AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that “although straight-out jazz is uncommon in Toussaint’s work, this neither feels unfamiliar or like a stretch,” adding, “Upon the first listen, The Bright Mississippi merely seems like a joyous good time, but subsequent spins focus attention on just how rich and multi-layered this wonderful music is.” As I listened to the most recent cover of “West End Blues,” I noted that the digital shelves also hold a copy of one of the earliest covers of the song: A 1928 release by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five.

Saturday Single No. 521

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

There is a temptation as we get to the end of a calendar year to offer something here to sum up the twelve months ending today and then offer good cheer as we head into another trip around the Sun. That’s not an attractive idea this morning.

Why? Well, things are unsettled both here along Lincoln Avenue and in the world at large, and I wouldn’t know what to say about any of that right now. Resolution of our local concerns may come in the first few months of the coming year, and that would be welcome. Resolution of my concerns about the world at large will take longer, and I’m not particularly hopeful.

So we’re going to leave all that alone. Instead, I’m going to carry on today on the path I’ve taken here for the last three days: Offering a tune original to the date, and today that means finding a track recorded on December 31. There are a few candidates on our digital shelves:

On this date in 1973, the Allman Brothers Band played the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and I have recordings of the entire concert, which went on for nearly four hours. I also have one track – “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” – from the Allmans’ gig a year earlier in New Orleans.

In 1963, a girl group called the Gems gathered at the Chess studios in Chicago and laid down a peppy version of a near-novelty tune: “That’s What They Put Erasers on Pencils For.” It was released as Chess 1882. The record didn’t chart, nor did it make it onto any of the 1964 surveys collected at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive.

We find two tracks recorded on this date in 1955 by Marty Robbins: “Mean Mama Blues” and “Tennessee Toddy.” They’re decent country tunes, and they were released on Columbia 21477 but did not chart.

The last of the December 31 recordings in the digital stacks (and recording date information is attached to maybe 10 percent of the nearly 90,000 mp3s in the RealPlayer) comes from a familiar source. On New Year’s Eve 1980, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band played Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Two of that evening’s performances showed up not quite five years later as tracks on the massive Live/1975–85 box set: “Held Up Without A Gun” and “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Regular readers, I’m sure, already know where things are headed here. Here, recorded thirty-six years ago this evening and offered as both our year-end marker and our regular Saturday Single, is “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Time Out

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me was “If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anything or anyone else.”

So I took this week for me. I’ve been sleeping late, reading a bit more than usual, enjoying the World Series and generally recharging my batteries. I’ve had a few errands to run and regular things to do around the house, but otherwise, it’s been a pleasantly light week.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s recently published autobiography. It’s well written, and Springsteen is sometimes surprisingly frank about his shortcomings as well as his successes. Maybe I’ll pull it apart a bit more cogently than that for a post here when I’d finished with it.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten to the point of the book when, in the period of 1979 and 1980, Bruce and the E Street Band are recording track after track for the album The River. Bruce notes that a lot of good stuff was left behind. Some of that stuff that was left behind came out not quite a year ago on the set The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. I dug into those outtakes again this week, and here’s one I’m liking a lot: “The Time That Never Was.”

See you Saturday!

Random In The ’80s

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Simply because we don’t visit the decade very often around here, we’re going to make a four-stop trip through the 1980s this morning. When I sort for the decade, the RealPlayer offers us somewhere around 6,200 tracks. (I have to estimate because of things like catalog numbers – Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” Coral 61985, for example – and releases from box sets and other re-releases that note a date in the 1980s for things recorded earlier.) So here we go:

First up is Wynton Marsalis with “Soon All Will Know” from his 1987 album Marsalis Standard Time, Vol. 1. Modern jazz is not a territory I know well or travel in confidently, but a while back – after Marsalis and Eric Clapton recorded a live blues album – I grabbed some Marsalis CDs from the library and dropped them into our mix here, figuring I might learn something. I’m not sure I have so far, but I keep letting the tracks fall here and there as I roll on random. After seeming to wander around for a while, “Soon All Will Know” grabs a decent groove and offers a nice intro to today’s wanderings.

Steve Forbert’s music has been for years on the margins of my interest. Folks might recall that his 1979 single “Romeo’s Tune” showed up in my Ultimate Jukebox six years ago, but that was more a consequence of its getting radio play at a time when I wasn’t hearing much I liked on the radio. This morning, we land on “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You)” from Forbert’s 1980 album Little Stevie Orbit, a work whose tracks pop up on occasion but on which I’ve not focused much attention. The album went to No. 70 on the Billboard 200, clearly following on the success of 1979’s Jackrabbit Slim, which hit No. 20. But there was no interest in any singles from the album, even though Nemperor released “Song For Katrina” as a promo. As to “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You),” the lyrics have some nice putdowns for poor Lou and the music drives along quite nicely. I probably wouldn’t have changed the station if it had come on the radio back in 1980, but I don’t know that I would have anxiously waited to hear it again.

We move on to “Crazy Feeling” a track from The “West Side” Sound Rolls Again, a 1983 album by Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, the guys who years earlier were the heart of the Sir Douglas Quintet and its hit, “She’s About A Mover.” Sahm has shown up in this space a number of times over the years (as has Meyers, though almost always unmentioned while Sahm’s music played), and “Crazy Feeling” is a remake of a 1961 Sahm single that hews very, very close to the original; the major difference seems to be that the 1961 version doubled up on the crazy and was titled “Crazy, Crazy Feeling.” As to the album, there’s not a lot out on the Interwebs about it (and I’m not at all sure how it came to be in the digital stacks), but I do note this morning that a copy of the LP is going for $219 at Amazon. (That’s the asking price, of course; how much it actually sells for could be an entirely different matter.)

Anyone trying to keep track of the various unreleased works by Bruce Springsteen that end up bootlegged in the corners of the ’Net would have an impossible task. I don’t try to keep track; I just listen to the boots when they show up and keep some of them (well, most of them). One of the tracks that I’ve come across that way is “Sugarland,” which showed up on a board somewhere as part of a collection called Unsatisfied Heart, a group of outakes from the Born In The U.S.A. sessions in 1983 and 1984. According to Setlist.fm, Springsteen has performed the song live twice, two days apart in Ames, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska in November 1984. It’s a plaint about the prospects of a farmer (and that makes sense of the locales of its performances):

Grain’s in the field covered with tarp
Can’t get a price to see my way clear
I’m sitting down at the Sugarland bar
Might as well bury my body right here

Tractors and combines out in the cold
Sheds piled high with the wheat we ain’t sold
Silos filled with last year’s crop
If something don’t break, hey, we’re all gonna drop

Plugged In For Jackson

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

I’ve mentioned it before, but I was pretty disappointed during the summer of 1980 when Jackson Browne’s Hold Out was released. The Other Half and I had gone to St. Paul to see Browne in June of that year, just after the album came out, and I’d been underwhelmed by the new stuff I’d heard at the concert. The music was fine but the lyrics had seemed a bit lacking.

(The same was true for Jon Bream, who reviewed the show for the long-departed Minneapolis Star. In a review that I clipped and stuck inside one of my music books, Bream wrote: “Oddly, the tunes from Browne’s new album, Hold Out, were more noteworthy for their musical adventurousness than their meaningful lyrics, something he usually has been self-conscious about in the past.”)

Still, I bought the album and learned to at least like it. Not so the Other Half. She’d rather have had silence. And it wasn’t just Hold Out. That had been the case for some time for Browne’s earlier work as well as work of many other artists and groups I loved. So she bought me a gift, probably in 1979 when I got the first major stereo system ofIn Monticello, ca. 1980
my life, and here I am using it in a photo found in the old scrapbook that I pulled apart recently.

I have no idea what I was listening to when she took that picture. It might have been a record. It could have been the light jazz radio station in Anoka that got my attention for a while around 1980. But let’s assume that I’d just laid Hold Out on the turntable. Here’s the opener, “Disco Apocalypse,” a track that seems better now, thirty-five years on, than it did that summer.

‘That’s The Way . . .’

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

I’m tired, but I have housework to do, what with company coming Saturday. So I better get off my duff – as my dad used to say – and get on with it. Nothing’s getting done unless I get up and do it.

So while I go clean the kitchen, here’s Herb Alpert’s cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way Of The World.” It’s from his 1980 album Beyond.

A Bit Of James Last

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

One of the better uses I’ve found for the files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 is to introduce me to new artists, performers whose work I never had a chance to hear, either because I wasn’t paying attention to pop music at the time or because their work languished in the lower levels of the chart during the years I was paying attention.

And this morning, I’m making a minor acquaintance with one such performer after his name caught my eye in the Hot 100 released on January 29, 1972, forty-three years ago today: James Last.

In that long-ago chart, Last’s “Music From Across The Way” was sitting at No. 85 in its third week on the chart; it would hang around one more week, rising to No. 84, and then drop out of sight. It would get to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart, which tells me I might have heard the record on WCCO, but the odds of that are slender; the kitchen radio was still tuned to ’CCO, but I wasn’t often listening there anymore.

Nor was I likely to have heard the bombastic cover of the tune that Andy Williams took to No. 30 on the Easy Listening chart about the same time. Five years earlier, when trumpet tunes, soundtracks and easy listening made up a lot of my musical menu, either version of the tune might have grabbed my ear and my allegiance, but not in early 1972, when pop and rock ruled my universe.

James Last had a long and incredibly successful career in Europe and Great Britain, as the biographies at All Music and Wikipedia make clear, but he was much less prominent on this side of the Atlantic. A few years after “Music From Across The Way” peaked at No. 84, a seemingly aimless “Love For Sale” disco-danced and bubbled under at No. 106 during the summer of 1975. Last’s most successful U.S. release came in 1980 when he recorded “The Seduction (Love Theme)” from the movie American Gigolo. The record, featuring the saxophone of David Sanborn, went to No. 28 in the Hot 100 and to No. 22 in the Adult Contemporary chart.

Am I going to dig deeper into Last’s work? Despite my love of easy listening music, probably not, with one exception: I saw a listing at YouTube for a 1973 album titled James Last In Russia, a collection of mostly Russian tunes (with the addition of “Midnight In Moscow,” No. 2 for Kenny Ball in 1962, and the ever-present “Lara’s Theme”). Given my love for easy listening music and my long-time fascination with things Russian, I might have to hunt that one down.

‘Our Love’s Got No Reason . . .’

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

When I started digging into the song “Even A Fool Would Let Go,” I figured I’d find more versions out in the world than I did. It’s a great song, I thought, with a catchy hook musically and lyrically. (In a post last week, I featured the 1974 original by Gayle McCormick and the 1982 cover by Levon Helm that brought the song to my attention.)

But it’s a song that’s never gotten much attention – I’ve found eight more covers so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the well is dry after those eight – nor has it had any presence that I could find on the major Billboard charts.

Nor, among the few covers I’ve found, have I found anything that grabs me very hard. Three years after McCormick first recorded the song, Kerry Chater – one of the song’s co-writers – released his version on Part Time Love, but the album got little attention. (A single release of the title track got to No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100.)

Sporadic covers showed up for a little more than a decade. Among those I’ve listened to without much interest are versions by Kenny Rogers (1978), Dionne Warwick (1981) the Marshall Tucker Band (1982), Gloria Gaynor (1982) and Joe Cocker (1984). The worst of that bunch is the lifeless take on the tune by the Marshall Tucker Band, although Rogers’ cover was dull, as well.

Was there anything good? Well, I found a few covers that piqued my interest. Dolly Parton did a nice take on the tune on her Dolly, Dolly, Dolly album in 1980, and I find myself intrigued by the version country singer John Anderson offered on his 1985 album Tokyo, Oklahoma.

Finally, I took a listen – not for the first time – to the cover of the song offered in 1990 by the British folk-rock duo Clive Gregson and Christine Collister on their album Love Is A Strange Hotel. It doesn’t blow me away, but the duo’s very spare approach offers another way into the song than I’d heard elsewhere.

‘I’ll See You In My Dreams . . .’

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

As noted in a couple of recent posts, the lovely Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song “I’ll See You In My Dreams” first showed up in 1925, recorded by Jones with the Ray Miller Orchestra, with Frank Besinger handling the vocal. According to Joel Whitburn in A Century Of Pop Music, the record was No. 1 for seven weeks starting the first week of April and wound up as the No. 3 record for the year (behind “The Prisoner’s Song” by Vernon Dalhart and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” by Gene Austin).

Covers naturally followed. While I don’t think that “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is necessarily one of the most-covered songs of all time, it’s nevertheless a song that’s stayed in the public ear: The list of covers at Second Hand Songs – a listing that’s not necessarily comprehensive but which probably provides a good cross-section and starting point – shows versions of the song from every decade since but the 1940s, and I’m not sure if there’s a reason for that gap or not. Add to those versions the other covers I’ve found at YouTube, and the song is clearly one that’s remained popular.

Since the middle of last week, I’ve been wandering through many versions of the song, and I’ve found quite a few I like. My pal Larry, who hangs his hat at the fine blog, Funky 16 Corners, recommended the 1930 cover by Ukulele Ike, otherwise known as Cliff Edwards. (Edwards, perhaps better known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinnochio, covered the song again in 1956 on his album, Ukulele Ike Sings Again.) Another early cover that caught my ear was the 1937 version by Guy Lombardo. And jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt  gave the song a whirl in 1939.

Perhaps the most surprising of the covers I found was the nimble-fingered instrumental version by Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded during a session for Sun Records in 1958; the take was finally issued on a Sun collection LP in 1984 and since then on CD. Other versions I generally like from the 1950s and 1960s included covers by Henri René & His Orchestra (1956), the Mills Brothers (1960), The Ray Conniff Singers (1960), Cliff Richard (1961), the Lettermen (1963) and my man Al Hirt (1968).

The only version of the song to hit the modern charts was an unsurprisingly bland take from Pat Boone, whose 1962 cover went to No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 in and No. 9 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart.

Some versions baffle me (and you can easily find these – and others mentioned but not linked – at YouTube). I mean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (1980)? Then there’s some very odd percussion and production in a 1965 effort by Vic Dana. And in 1975, the Pearls took the song to the disco.

There were some other interesting versions. I found a cover by the Paul Kuhn Orchestra that was released on LP in 1980, but it sounds very much like something Bert Kaempfert would have released in 1965 or so. (Kuhn passed on in September, and his death inspired one of the great headlines: “Paul Kuhn, German jazzman who lamented Hawaii’s lack of beer, has died.”) Chet Atkins, recording with Merle Travis, did a nice cover for the 1974 album, Atkins-Travis Traveling Show, although the linked video offers what seems to be a shorter version of the tune, as included on a later compilation.

Howard Alden did a very nice guitar version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” ghosting for Sean Penn’s character Emmet Ray – a 1930s jazz guitar player – in Woody Allen’s 1999 film, Sweet and Lowdown.

And finally, one version that I like among the more recent covers is the faux-vintage and slightly rough-edged take from 2005 by folk singer Ingrid Michaelson along with singer (and ukulele player) Joan Moore.

‘Violet’

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

As promised yesterday, we’ll continue today with the next installment of Floyd’s Prism, and when we search in the mp3 stacks for tunes with “violet” in their titles, we get a minimal result: only thirty-six titles.

And most of them have to be discarded, as is generally the case. First off the pile are a couple of singer-songwriter albums: Madison Violet’s Americana-tinged 2009 album, No Fool For Trying, and Sarah Alden’s 2012 effort, Fists Of Violets, which is more difficult to characterize.

Then, we lose some individuals tracks whose titles come close: “Violetta” from the 1962 album A Taste of Honey by exotica master Martin Denny; “Goodbye To the War; Goodbye To the Violets” from the 1973 album Weltschmerzen by the People’s Victory Orchestra & Chorus; “Violets for Your Furs” from Frank Sinatra’s 1954 album, Songs for Young Lovers; U2’s “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” from the 1992 album, Achtung Baby; and versions of Eric Andersen’s “Violets of Dawn” from the Robbs (1967), Rick Nelson (1969), Mary Chapin Carpenter (2009) and Andersen himself (1966, as noted here yesterday).

That leaves us with six tracks, which was our target. So on we go.

The British-based folk rock band Eclection recorded only one album during its two-year (1967-69) existence, but the self-titled album, released in 1968, is pretty good and not as Brit-centered as one might expect. In the liner notes for the 2001 reissue of the album, Richie Unterberger wrote, “The combination of male-female harmonies, optimistic lyrics with shades of romantic psychedelia, folk-rock melodies, acoustic-electric six- and twelve-string guitar combinations, and stratospheric orchestration couldn’t help but bring to mind similar Californian folk-pop-rock of the mid-to-late 1960s.” The track “Violet Dew” doesn’t quite cover all of those bases, but it covers a lot of them. Perhaps the most noticeable thing as I listen this morning is the remarkable voice of singer Kerrilee Male, who left the band later in 1968 to go home to Australia and seemingly, from anything I can find online this morning, never recorded again.

Shawn  Phillips’ work from the early 1970s has shown up frequently in this space (though perhaps not for a while), but his later work not so much. That’s unfortunate, as Phillips’ later work is worth hearing. The difference, I suppose, is that his work from the latter portion of the 1970s does not carry the same time-and-place weight for me as does his earlier stuff; I didn’t hear much of the later work at the time it came out. Still, nearly every time something pops up from his late 1970s albums, I’m glad it did so. Today, it’s “Lady in Violet” from his 1978 album Transcendence, about which I said in 2007: “It’s a pretty good album, of a piece with the rest of his work, although the lyrics don’t seem to stand up as well . . . . Musically, it’s enjoyable with a breath-taking moment or two.” Whether any of those moments show up in “Lady in Violet” is your call, I guess. I think they do.

Without doubt, the finest offering among the six surviving “Violet” tracks is “Violet Eyes” by Levon Helm. Found on his 1980 album, American Son, the track offers harmonies and an overall feeling that echo the best albums of The Band. According to All Music Guide, the track was recorded in Nashville: “While recording a few songs for the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, in which he played Loretta Lynn’s father, Levon Helm and friends just kept the tape rolling.” And as I listen this morning, I wonder why no solo tracks from Helm showed up on my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox. So, in what I imagine could be – perhaps should be – the last instance of Jukebox Regrets, I’ll acknowledge that “Violet Eyes” and “Even A Fool Would Let Go” (from Helm’s 1982 self-titled album) should have been part of the Ultimate Jukebox.

Maybe it doesn’t happen so much anymore (or maybe I just don’t see it), but a few years ago the simple mention of Coldplay at a forum or bulletin board – during a time when that band was perhaps the most popular band in the world – would spark arguments, dismissive comments and utter vitriol aimed at Chris Martin and his mates. I never understood that. I don’t count Coldplay among my favorites, but I don’t find the group’s music unlistenable. And I do like very much several tracks from the group, including “Violet Hill” from the 2008 album Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends.

To label something as “glossy Americana” might be a contradiction, but that’s what I hear when I listen to the 2011 CD Barton Hollow by the duo called the Civil Wars. The album by Joy Williams and John Paul White offers mostly rootsy ballads that seem to have been worked over until they shine, which is not an awful idea, but some part of me wants a few unsanded and unvarnished bits in my folk music. Still, I find Barton Hollow enjoyable, and that holds true for the instrumental “The Violet Hour” this morning.

I’m not sure how I got hold of Jeremy Messersmith’s 2010 album, The Reluctant Graveyard. There are a number of public relations firms that email me regularly, offering CDs or downloads, so I’m assuming that’s how I heard of Messersmith, who is based in Minneapolis. And having done some digging and some closer listening this morning, I have to add Messersmith – who’s gained a lot of critical acclaim in the past few years – to that long list of musicians to whom I should pay greater attention. As to this morning’s task, “Violet!” is one of the better tracks on The Reluctant Graveyard. Here’s the (rather quirky) official video: