Saturday Single No. 285

With chores and errands waiting for the second half of the day, it’s time for a six-track random walk through the junkyard this morning, and then we’ll select one of those six for this morning’s feature.

First up is “Ledbetter Heights,” the title track to Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 1995 debut album, recorded while the blues guitarist was still in his teens. Thom Owens of All-Music Guide said, “It may still be a while before he says something original, but he plays with style, energy, and dedication, which is more than enough for a debut album.” I admit I’ve not kept up with Shepherd’s career as closely as I once thought I would. I’ll have to rectify that.

From there, we stop at “C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)” from Richard Ashcroft’s 2000 album Alone With Everybody. That was the first solo effort from the one-time frontman for the Verve, and it’s an album I find myself digging into more and more frequently. I never paid too much attention to the Verve at the time, but as I find Ashcroft’s solo work to be thoughtful and engaging, I’m tempted to go back to his group’s catalog.

I’ve written once before about Shelagh McDonald, whose tale is one of the strangest in pop-rock history and whose catalog – collected on the anthology Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – is beautiful and heart-breaking. Our third stop this morning is McDonald’s demo of her tune “Stargazer,” recorded in London in December 1970. The tune was recorded the next year with a full band and became the title track of McDonald’s second (and last) album. As nice as the album version is, there’s an amazing intimacy to the demo.

“Eclectic musical polymath” is a hell of a title to lay on anyone, yet it truly fits Ry Cooder. From the blues of the legendary Rising Sons through roots music to soundtracks (with some stops in between), Cooder’s  journey touches on just about every facet of American popular music (and a few other cultures as well). The track that popped up this morning was “Goodnight Irene,” the Leadbelly classic, which Cooder derivers with a touch of what sounds like Zydeco accordion. The track is the closer to Cooder’s 1976 classic, Chicken Skin Music.

No random journey here would be complete without at least one piece from a movie soundtrack. This time it’s “Creole Love Call,” a piece popularized by Duke Ellington but evidently written – according to Wikipedia – by Joe “King” Oliver. The track – with a haunting wordless vocal augmented first by a solo muted trumpet and later by full-throated trumpets and mellow woodwinds – is from the soundtrack to The Cotton Club, the 1984 film by Francis Ford Coppola. (The late John Barry is credited with the soundtrack work on the film, and he did compose several tracks. Did he also arrange “Creole Love Call” and other classic works for the film? I don’t know.)

Our final stop this morning is the late Sandy Denny’s “Bushes and Briars” from her 1972 self-titled album. Recorded with help from – among others – Richard and Linda Thompson, Allen Toussaint and Sneaky Pete Kleinow, the album is a delightful trip through folk-rock with a decidedly British tinge, and “Bushes and Briars” is one of its highlights.

Those are six fine candidates, but as soon as the Shelagh McDonald track popped up, I was leaning that direction, and nothing happened to change my mind. So, here’s McDonald’s December 1970 solo demo of “Stargazer,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 285”

  1. Larry Grogan says:

    That Shelagh McDonald tune is lovely. I’d never heard of her before.

  2. porky says:

    remember the bumper crop of teen-aged blues guitarists from the mid 90’s? Impressive but what are you when you’re not teen-aged anymore? A regular blues guitarist, I guess. Ho hum.

  3. […] although I recall listing my thirteen favorite albums in a very early post here (the post is here, but I’ll warn you, it wanders around for a while before getting to the list). I revised that […]

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