Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

‘Gather Up The Brokenness . . .’

Friday, September 28th, 2018

I’m feeling pretty bruised today. Yesterday was a hard day; the events in Washington stirred up a whole lot of stuff that I keep on a back shelf in my emotional closet.

Today is a day for healing.

Here’s “Come Healing” by Leonard Cohen. It’s from his 2012 album Old Ideas.

O gather up the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Saturday Single No. 562

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Well, freezing my balky external hard drive did not do anything except make a dead hard drive icy. I could pry nothing from its cold, dead digital fingers.

But things are not as terrible as I thought they might be when Dale the computer guy first mentioned “The Clicks of Doom.”

Still, it took me most of yesterday to get to a point where I was not in despair:

My old 500-gig hard drive had 338 gigs of tunes, about 62,000 tracks sorted and tagged, as well as another 50 or so gigs of unsorted tunes. It took about four hours to copy all of that from the external drive into the C drive of my desktop desktop (where it will remain until I get two new large capacity external drives, one for use and one for backup). It took about 15 minutes to then tell the RealPlayer to delete things it could not find (in essence clearing the player of tunes), so I had lunch while the player slowly deleted its listing of the 98,000 tracks that had been on the dead drive. I then spent the afternoon and evening pulling tracks from the old (and now current) hard drive into the RealPlayer, doing that task twice because I screwed it up the first time.

(I did talk to the guys at Best Buy’s Geek Squad about salvaging some data, but given that I had on the old drive much of what I’d had on the dead drive, I decided not to spend the $100 to $600 the geek on the phone quoted me.)

So where am I? I’m about where I was four to five years ago. My rough estimate of that came from my file of television soundtracks: The reloaded RealPlayer showed me with two seasons’ worth of soundtracks from Game of Thrones. Up until the crash, I had six seasons’ worth of the show’s soundtracks. So, I have about four-and-a-half years’ worth of music to re-rip and re-load. Luckily, I have my CD log to help me along the way.

And comparing the CD log to the tracks in the RealPlayer, it seems that I will have to re-rip and re-install anything I got after the first week of January 2013. That’s about 220 CDs’ worth of tunes. And I know there is some stuff I got from friends or in odd corners of the Intertubes that I may not be able to replace.

(And there are some non-musical things, too; the scans of my slides from my time in Denmark are gone, as are some scans I did of family photos. But I have the slides, and I was not all that pleased with the way the home program I used dealt with high contrast slides, so I’m not all that upset. In time, I’ll take them down to the Camera Shop and let Frank deal with them.)

So for as wearying and worrisome as the last couple days have been, it could have been far worse. So, to mark the end of an eventful week, here’s a tune written by Bob Dylan and performed by one of my favorite current groups, and it comes from one of the last CD sets I ripped before I got the external drive that read its last byte this week.

Here’s the Carolina Chocolate Drops and their take on “Political World.” It’s from the 2012 set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan and it’s this week’s Saturday Single.

‘They Won’t Tell Your Secrets . . .’

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Things start with a familiarly slinky piano riff joined by a girl group singing softly in the background. Then, enter Mitch Ryder.

“Sally,” he says, “you know I’m your best friend, right? And four years ago, I told you not to go downtown, ’cause you’re gonna get hurt. Didn’t I tell you you were gonna cry? Mm-hmm. So you kept hangin’ around with him.”

Then, sounding utterly fed up, Ryder hollers, “Here it is, almost 1968, and you still ain’t straight!”

And Ryder rolls into his own version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses,” one that works in the chorus to “Mustang Sally” along the way:

Ryder’s cover of the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit is on his 1967 album What Now My Love, and it’s just one of numerous covers of “Sally” in the more than fifty years since the Jaynetts’ hit went to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-seven of those covers – including two in French – are listed at Second Hand Songs. There are certainly more covers of the song out there, but as usual, that’s a good starting place.

That list of twenty-five covers in English range in time from a 1965 version by Ike Turner’s Ikettes that doesn’t roam very far from the Jaynetts’ original to a 2012 version from the album Moving In Blue by Danny Kalb & Friends – Kalb was a member of Blues Project in the 1960s – that’s instrumentally exotic but vocally drab.

There have been plenty of others along the way. One that I’ve heard touted as worth hearing is a live performance from 1966 by the San Francisco group Great Society with Grace Slick. I found it uninteresting, as I did a 1974 version by the all-woman group Fanny (on the album Rock & Roll Survivors). Yvonne Elliman traded in the Jaynetts’ slinky piano for some weird late Seventies electronica when she covered the song on her 1978 album Night Flight, and that didn’t grab me too hard, either. More interesting was the funky 1971 version by Donna Gaines (later Donna Summer) released on a British single.

At a rough estimate, covers of “Sally” by female performers outnumber those by male singers by about a three-to-one ratio. Joining Ryder with one of the relatively few male covers of the tune was Tim Buckley, whose 1973 cover from his Sefronia album has an interesting folk vibe (though he wanders away from the lyrics and the melody for an odd bit in the middle).

Another folkish version of the tune comes from the British band Pentangle, who included the song on its 1969 album Basket of Light. The group’s version is one of my favorite covers, as is the version by the far more obscure group Queen Anne’s Lace, which put a cover of “Sally” on the group’s only album, a self-titled 1969 release.

But the honors for strangest version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses” that I came across go to singer Alannah Myles, who found an utterly weird – but compelling – Scottish vibe for the song on her 1995 album, A-Lan-Nah.

‘The Time Has Passed Us By . . .’

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

In a career studded at least partly with lush, heartfelt and romantic songs, the Bee Gees might never have written and recorded a track as lush, heartfelt and romantic as the song that belongs to today: “First of May.” Released as a single from the trio’s 1969 album Odessa, “First of May” went to No. 37 that spring in the Billboard Hot 100. (It went to No. 18 in the Cash Box chart, and to No. 6 in the U.K.)

And if ever there were a day to check out covers, today is the day to look at a few covers of “First of May.” Several popped up shortly after the Bee Gees’ version came out. Among those listed at Second Hand Songs are 1969 versions by Fausto Pepetti and José Feliciano (on his Feliciano 10 to 23 album) and a 1971 cover by Cilla Black (on Images). And a 1970 cover brought “First of May” into the idiosyncratic and decidedly adult contemporary sights of the Mystic Moods Orchestra from its English Muffins album:

Another cover of the tune that caught my ear this morning came in 1979 from a Nigerian singer named Patti Boulaye, who included the song on her 1979 album, You Stepped Into My Life. The name was new to me, but Wikipedia says she was “among the leading black British entertainers in the 1970s and 1980s.” And that was the last cover listed at Second Hand Songs for eighteen years.

The listings at Second Hand Songs are likely not comprehensive (as I’ve said before), but I noticed in the website’s accounting of “First of May” a pattern I’ve seen there with other popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s: Frequent covers in the years immediately following a song’s first release followed by a slowing of interest in the song until, roughly, the years right around 2000. At that point, many songs have what can only be termed a renaissance, and I wonder if there is a correlation between the proliferation of covers and the growth in Internet marketing of music track-by-track. I suspect there is, and I imagine I could find evidence for that correlation if I wished to research the question, but I have other things in which to invest my time. (I also suspect there is a correlation less easy to research between the proliferation of covers of 1960s and 1970s songs with the quality of the songwriting during those times.)

In any event, the evident resurgence of interest in “First of May” included a pairing of Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees with G4 (described at Wikipedia as a “British opera boy band”) to record the song for the 2005 album, G4 and Friends. (There are several videos at YouTube of Gibb and G4 performing the song live in various venues.) And the most recent version of “First of May” listed at SHS comes from the Universal Daughters, whose 2013 cover – included on the album Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me – featured British singer Jarvis Cocker.

But the recent cover that I liked most came from English singer Mari Wilson, whose generally restrained version contrasts nicely with the over-performance that “First of May” often seems to invite. Wilson’s version is on her 2012 album, Cover Stories:

‘If Someone Comes Along . . .’

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

I dug around last week into the origins of “Get It While You Can,” noting that it was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman and originally recorded by soul singer Howard Tate. My familiarity with the song, I noted, came from Janis Joplin’s cover on her posthumous 1971 album, Pearl.

I’ve continued to dig, looking for more covers. There are a few out there, but there are also a few other songs with the title “Get It While You Can,” and that complicates things. A jazz guitarist named Norman Johnson did a sweet version of a song with the same title, a track that I liked a great deal, but it wasn’t the same song, so I noted his name for later and moved on.

I did eventually find some more covers of the Ragovoy-Shuman song – not as many as I thought I would – and I thought a few of them were pretty good. Sadly, the one additional cover that was already on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios is not one of those: Koko Taylor covered the song for the 1990 tribute Blues Down Deep: Songs of Janis Joplin, but I’ve never cared for the track, even though I’ve enjoyed much of Taylor’s work over the years.

One version that did work was by the Hudson River Rats, which offered the song as the title track of a 2007 album. The band is led by singer and harp player Rob Paparozzi and includes well-known drummer Bernard Purdie.

I also came across covers – or portions of them at Amazon – by performers that perhaps I should know, among them Big Joe Fitz, Carolynn Black, B.J. Allen & Blue Voodoo, and Peter Malick & Amyl Justin. There was also female impersonator Paul Capsis, who channels Janis pretty well, if that’s your thing.

Then I found Zoe Muth & The High Lost Rollers, a country band from Seattle that recorded “Get It While You Can” for its 2012 EP, Old Gold. On the band’s website, Muth notes that she gets asked all the time how a kid growing up in Seattle in the 1980s ends up playing country music.

She writes: “Growing up we were raised on the classic rock and roll, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan . . . . I didn’t learn about the really old stuff until high school when my fascination with the labor movement and the histories that never got brought up in textbooks led me to seek out the roots of all that music. The field recordings of Alan Lomax and Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music had just been rereleased and I devoured it all. . . . I traveled in my mind down the roads of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family, weaving elements of history and traditional country and blues into my music and lyrics.”

Muth adds, “Somehow, the country sound just lends itself to the way I feel, and the stories I want to tell. Tired workers and lovelorn losers with a folk intellect, not the jet set but the old Chevrolet set.”

Here’s Muth and the High Lost Rollers covering “Get It While You Can.”

‘You’re Never Too Old To Change The World . . .’

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Pete Seeger passed away yesterday. His story is well told in today’s edition of the New York Times (and told in great detail at Wikipedia), and I thought that instead of trying (and failing) to tell the whole story this morning, I’d just share a few moments of Seeger’s musical life and heritage.

Seeger was a founding member of the Weavers, the early 1950s folk group that had a No. 1 hit with Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” and was blacklisted for its liberal leanings during the 1950s Red Scare. This is the Weavers’ 1950 recording of “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song),” written by Seeger and fellow Weaver Lee Hayes.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Seeger was considered by many to be a dangerous man. As Wikipedia relates, “In 1960, the San Diego school board told him that he could not play a scheduled concert at a high school unless he signed an oath pledging that the concert would not be used to promote a communist agenda or an overthrow of the government. Seeger refused, and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained an injunction against the school district, allowing the concert to go on as scheduled. In February 2009, the San Diego School District officially extended an apology to Seeger for the actions of their predecessors.”

Seeger’s songs and music were without doubt popular and important far beyond the reach of radio and pop music. Still, in the 1960s, a few of his songs provided hits. “If I Had A Hammer” was a hit for both Trini Lopez (No. 3, 1963) and Peter, Paul & Mary (No. 10, 1962). (It’s likely, for what it may matter, that Lopez’ version of the song is the first Pete Seeger song I ever heard, as a copy of Lopez’ single came home with my sister one day in one of those record store grab bags of ten singles for a dollar. I still have the single, with “Unchain My Heart” on the flipside.) The Byrds (No. 1, 1965) and Judy Collins (No. 69, 1969) reached the charts with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” And “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” was a hit for the Kingston Trio (No. 21, 1962) and Johnny Rivers (No. 26, 1965), while a version by guitarist Wes Montgomery bubbled under the chart (No. 119, 1969).

Perhaps the greatest attention Seeger got in the 1960s was when he was scheduled to perform his Vietnam allegory, “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy” on the CBS television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, in September 1967. Wikipedia notes, “Although the performance was cut from the September 1967 show, after wide publicity it was broadcast when Seeger appeared again on the Smothers’ Brothers show in the following January.” Here’s that January 1968 performance:

This morning, after I heard the news of Seeger’s passing, I dug around at YouTube for something different to post at Facebook. I came across a mini-documentary detailing how Seeger came to recite Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” for the 2012 collection Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. It’s a piece that tells as much about Seeger as it does about the recording he was invited to make. I was especially moved at the end of the piece when one of the Rivertown Kids, the Seeger-organized choir of young people involved in the recording, seemed to sum up Seeger’s life about as well as can be done: “You’re never too old the change the world.”

Saturday Single No. 316

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

We’re feeling a bit random here this morning, so that’s the approach we’re going to take in finding a Saturday Single: As we occasionally do, we’ll wander six times through the mp3s in the RealPlayer and almost certainly use our sixth stop as our tune for the day. (The exceptions would be: Nothing weird for the audience, like Bulgarian folk music; nothing we’ve featured here recently; and nothing that cannot either be found or posted at YouTube.)

A few years ago, I ran across a vocal group called Mediæval Bæbes, which Robert Cummins of All-Music Guide describes as “a crossover vocal ensemble whose unique style features a deft mixture of medieval music, multi-language texts, modern arrangements, and both ancient and modern instrumentation. . . . Consisting of about six to twelve singers, Mediæval Bæbes are typically attired in long, sometimes provocative gowns or gothic-inspired costumes, and may wear, depending on the concert’s theme, vampiric teeth, flowered headwear, or other exotic accoutrements.” I was intrigued enough to find copies of Salva Nos (Save Us) and Worldes Blysse, the group’s first two CDs, and although a steady diet of the Bæbes would be a little wearisome, I’ve enjoyed having the tracks pop up now and then. This morning’s track, and our first stop today, is “Gaudete” from 1998’s Salva Nos (Save Us).

More than once (but not for a while, I believe), I’ve mentioned the music that the late Kate Wolf left behind when she passed on in 1986. With her band Wildwood Flower and then on her own, Wolf released five albums of melodic and lyrically wise and gentle folk music. Those who want a good cross-section of her work should check out Gold from California, a two-CD anthology, or perhaps the live Give Yourself to Love. The latter set is where I found the version of “Medicine Ball” that shows up this morning. And we move on.

About four months after this blog went online, I shared an album by the little-known artist Jerry Riopelle. Take A Chance was raw (and sometimes derivative) mid-Seventies country rock, but finding the vinyl in the stacks spurred me to dig a bit more into Riopelle’s catalog. A couple more unfocused (and not very good) albums later, I shrugged and moved on, but the mp3s lived on in the hard drive. This morning, we land on the title tune from 1975’s Take A Chance. Like a lot of the albums and CDs gathered in the cyberstacks – including the Mediæval Bæbes, as I noted above – one track at a time is fine, but that’s about all I need from Jerry Riopelle.

And we fly back to 1960, with a swirl of string and a flutter of persistent percussion introducing Brook Benton’s version of “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread).” The record went to No. 24 (No. 5 on the R&B chart), and was the sixteenth of fifty-eight records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 for Benton. His biggest hits were “The Boll Weevil Song,” which went to No. 2 (No. 2 R&B as well) in 1961 and “It’s Just A Matter of Time,” which was a No. 3 hit (No. 1 for nine weeks on the R&B chart) in 1959. In these parts, the South Carolina native is fondly recalled for “A Rainy Night in Georgia,” which reached No. 4 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1970.

Bob Brozman is a guitar player and singer who handles with seeming ease not only current and classic blues and folk but also the genres and styles of other eras, perhaps most notably the 1920s and 1930s. His studies in ethnomusicology have also spurred him to explore a wide range of other musical environments. One example of that exploration was his work with local string bands in Papua New Guinea in 2003 and 2004; the results were released on the CD/DVD Songs of the Volcano in 2005. I’ve heard only a little of his work, but his name is on my very long list of performers whose work I want to explore further. This morning, our next-to-last stop brings us Brozman’s “New Vine Street Blues,” a 1930-ish piece from his 1997 album Golden Slide.

Earlier this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International was celebrated with the release of Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan. The four-CD collection of Dylan’s songs includes performances from a number of obvious choices – Johnny Cash, Billy Bragg and Joan Baez – and from a number of not-so-obvious choices, including a take from Miley Cyrus on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” (Cyrus actually does a pretty good job. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AMG notes that Cyrus “may not know who Verlaine and Rimbaud are, but she focuses on the melody and winds up selling the song in the process.”) The track from the massive set that shows up here this morning is “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” as covered by Cage the Elephant, a fairly obscure band from Bowling Green, Kentucky. It’s an effectively atmospheric take on the tragic tale of the kitchen maid and her death at the hands of a socially connected rogue, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘You Better Start Savin’ Up . . .’

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Quiet times here in the past few days, as the Texas Gal buried her nose in her textbooks and I stayed out of the way. She’s studying employment law and supervisory management this quarter, and although I’ll help where I can – I routinely review and edit papers quite gladly – I’ll have little to add to the conversation. (That’s not always been the case as she heads toward her paralegal degree; her several courses in constitutional law brought us some truly fascinating discussions.)

Anyway, as she studied, I did the minimum required housework and some cooking, watched a lot of football and continued to fight off a sinus infection that’s perplexing both me and Dr. Julie. As a result, I’ve done even less prep work for a post than my usual minimum. But something caught my eye Sunday as I read Jon Bream’s review at the Minneapolis Star Tribune website of Sunday night’s concert in St. Paul by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Bream noted that a sign in the audience requested the band play “Savin’ Up,” a tune Springsteen wrote for the first album recorded by the now-departed Clarence Clemons, an album titled Rescue, credited to Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers. Springsteen quickly taught the basics of the song to the band, the background singers and the horn section and then let loose a pretty darned good performance on the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

After listening to the live version by Bruce and the gang, I went digging, pretty sure I had Rescue. And I found it in the stack of LPs waiting to be ripped to mp3. But something else nagged at me, so I ran a search through the 65,000 mp3s. And there was “Savin’ Up,” collected as one of twenty-eight tracks on the 1997 two-CD set titled One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen. And a quick search at YouTube saved me some time.

Personnel on the Clemons’ version of “Savin’ Up” are: Clarence Clemons, saxophone and background vocals; John “J.T.” Bowen, lead vocals; David Landau, guitars; Bruce Springsteen, rhythm guitar; Ralph Schuckett, keyboard; John Siegler, bass; and Wells Kelly, drums.

This, That & The Other

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

In the category of things I learn from readers: A frequent commenter who calls himself “porky” dropped by Tuesday after I wrote about “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys and the nearly simultaneous answer record by Wendy Hill.

He said that there was another version of the song out there at about the same time – Musicor put out a single by R&B singer Sammy Ambrose – and that both singles were highlighted in Billboard magazine the same week. He also said that Lewis got to perform his version of the song on Ed Sullivan’s influential television variety show. That exposure, along with Lewis’ Hollywood connections – his father was comedian Jerry Lewis – might have provided the younger Lewis’ version of the tune with a significant boost, porky said.

After reading porky’s note, I was a little annoyed with myself for not checking to see if any other versions of “This Diamond Ring” had made the charts. Muttering at myself, I wandered off to YouTube and found Ambrose’s version. It turns out that the record spent one week in January 1965 at No. 117 in the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a decent take on the song.

Early this month, I saw the news that on March 5, Robert Sherman had passed on, and there was a twinge. Along with his brother Richard, Robert Sherman wrote many of the songs and soundtracks for Disney’s movies. A list at Wikipedia of major film scores to his (and his brother’s, I assume) credit run from The Parent Trap in 1961 through The Tigger Movie in 2000 to an announced 2013 release titled Inkas the Ramferinkas. The Shermans also wrote what is perhaps the most annoying song in show-biz history, “It’s a Small World,” used first for the Pepsi pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and then at rides at Disneyland in California and at other Disney parks around the world.

But that annoyance aside, the Shermans’ work resonates most loudly for me in their work for the 1964 film Mary Poppins. The duo won Academy Awards for “Best Substantially Original Score” and for Best Song, with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” winning the latter honor. For a few hours after I read of Robert Sherman’s passing, that tune and the others from Mary Poppins were roaming through my brain. Along with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” came “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” the mammoth nonsense tune “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and a few others.

But the song in my head that augmented the twinge of sadness I felt at Sherman’s passing was “Feed the Birds.” From the first time I heard the song in a movie theater in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1965, it’s been a favorite of mine. Here’s the scene from the movie in which Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins sings “Feed the Birds” as a lullaby to Jane and Michael Banks (played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber).

I think I’ve probably seen the word “dystopian” in the news more this month than I have in the 702 months of my life that came before this one. The word’s use has come, of course, in descriptions and reviews of the film The Hunger Games, which comes out tomorrow. That’s not to say that “dystopian” isn’t a perfectly accurate description of the world that Suzanne Collins has created in her trilogy of young adult novels. (The Hunger Games, 2008; Catching Fire, 2009; Mockingjay, 2010.)

The first of the three – and forgive me if you’ve read or heard this elsewhere – introduces readers to the land of Panem, a nation on the North American continent where things have gone horribly wrong. Each of twelve generally poor districts is required to send two children each year to the Capitol, where residents live lives of excess. Those twenty-four children compete in the Hunger Games, a nationally televised lethal competition that ends when only one child – the winner – survives. The series’ heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from District 12, the poorest of all districts, which is somewhere in what used to be called Appalachia.

I’ve read The Hunger Games and I enjoyed it. It didn’t pull me in so hard that I’ve had to go find the next two books without having breakfast, but I will likely read them soon. And I think I’ll get to the movie, though probably not for a few weeks; I’m going to give the crowds of young’uns time to thin. One thing I likely will do soon, however, is get hold of a copy of the film’s soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to bit by bit on Spotify.

Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack – titled The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond – in fact sounds like the book felt, with strains of Appalachian music and other Americana combining with tougher and disquieting rock songs. The roster of artists on the soundtrack is pretty impressive: Neko Case, Arcade Fire, Secret Sisters, the Decembrists, Miranda Lambert, the Pistol Annies, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, the Civil Wars, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and more.

Heather Phares of All-Music Guide likes the soundtrack, too: “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond would be an impressive collection even if it weren’t associated with one of 2012’s most anticipated films, but the care put into the soundtrack makes it an experience that much richer for fans of the books, the movie, and any of the artists here.”

There are a few tracks that don’t seem to work. One of those is Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open,” though I suppose it might grow on me. Her collaboration with the Civil Wars on “Safe & Sound” is, however, one of the album’s highlights. Other tracks that caught my attention positively during the first couple of listens were “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire, “Dark Days” by the Punch Brothers, “Just A Game” by Birdy and “Come Away to the Water” by Maroon 5 featuring Rozzi Crane. Here’s that last:

‘The Sun Don’t Shine Anymore . . .’

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

In the early autumn of 1987, as I was settling into my new digs in Minot, North Dakota, I got a call one Saturday from my ladyfriend in St. Cloud. She’d been to the record store the night before and – knowing my affection for The Band – had picked up The Best of The Band, a 1976 anthology.

“It’s all good,” she said, “but there is one song that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.”

What was the title? She’d paid no attention. Nor did specific lyrics come to mind. All she knew was that the track was gorgeous and she’d lost herself in it for a few minutes.

And I was stumped. My regard for The Band at that point was based on three albums’ worth of music – Music From Big Pink, The Band and Stage Fright – and my awareness that The Band had been Bob Dylan’s back-up unit for a good length of time. I’d heard Cahoots – the album that followed Stage Fright – and had been underwhelmed, and the only attention I’d paid to the group after that came in the context of its work with Dylan: the live Before The Flood and the studio album Planet Waves.

I was aware that the group had released a few more albums before calling it quits with The Last Waltz, but I’d paid no attention. As my interest in music – like my interest in life itself – had been renewed earlier in 1987, I’d put The Band on a list of performers whose work I wanted to explore further, but time was short and the list was long. So I wasn’t thinking at all about the group’s 1975 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross, which was on my want list, and I wasn’t even aware of “It Makes No Difference,” one of two truly great tracks on that 1975 album. (The other one? “Acadian Driftwood.” As for “Ophelia,” I like it but don’t see it as quite on the same level as the other two tracks.)

By the end of that long-ago weekend, my ladyfriend had made a note of the title of the track that had so impressed her. Not long after that, I got hold of a copy of the two-LP Anthology of The Band’s work released on Capitol on 1982, and I concurred with her opinion of “It Makes No Difference.” (I also, between that Saturday in 1987 and early 1989, completed a collection of The Band’s original albums from its first incarnation, leaving for later years my own copy of The Best of The Band, the anthology that began this tale.)

My friend called “It Makes No Difference” the “most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” and there’s no doubt here of its beauty. But is it the most beautiful track recorded by that first version of the group? I lean toward saying yes, with the only other contenders being “I Shall Be Released” from Music From Big Pink and “Whispering Pines” and perhaps “King Harvest Has Surely Come” from The Band. And here it is:

There’s a reason “It Makes No Difference” came to mind recently. Among the performers who have come to light in the past few years, one of my favorites is Ruthie Foster, who performs blues, R&B, gospel and the wide swath of what’s come to be called Americana about as well as can be imagined. And when I had a chance to take a listen to her newest album, the recently released Let It Burn, here’s one of the tracks I found:

Intrigued and impressed, I started to look for other covers. I’d already heard – and was unimpressed by – the version that My Morning Jacket had recorded for the 2007 tribute, Endless Highway: The Music of The Band. But things got better pretty quickly. The late country-rock guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow recorded the tune for his 2001 album Meet Sneaky Pete, and another departed legend, soul singer Solomon Burke, also covered the song, recording a stirring version for his 2005 album Make Do With What You Got.

There were some I didn’t track down: Cajun performer Terrance Simien covered the song for his 2001 album The Tribute Sessions, and I heard snippets of numerous other covers of the song by folks with unfamiliar names as I wandered through the mp3s available at Amazon. That’s where I came across the cover version by South of Nowhere, which I like very much, that I shared here the other day.

But the most interesting cover I found – not necessarily the best; I think that title might go to Foster – was by a group of Norwegian musicians calling themselves Home Groan. The group’s performance of “It Makes No Difference” comes – if I’ve figured this out correctly – from a Norwegian radio program called Cowboy & Indianer (translating to Cowboys & Indians) that celebrates Americana music. A collection of performances from the radio show was released in 2007 as Cowboy & Indianer Sessions Vol. 1, and that’s where I found Home Groan’s performance: