“When we touch the center of sorrow, when we sit with discomfort without trying to fix it, when we stay present to the pain of disapproval or betrayal and let it soften us, these are times that we connect with bohdichitta.”
In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903. from Letters to a Young Poet
it’s not a day of certainty. the only resolve i can come to: sit with the questions.
After some initial research, Tia Blake remained a mystery to me. She recorded just the one album in 1970 as a teenager living in France, had one performance (above photo), and left France never to perform publicly again. Blissfully unaware the album I held is considered a lost gem of psych folk music–a rare collaboration between a young American woman living in France and European musicians enamored with American traditional music–and highly sought after by collectors, I was struck by Tia Blake’s warm, deep and and powerful vocals. The arrangements are sparse and very skillfully arranged, accentuating the intimate sadness of Blake’s voice. Made up entirely of traditional tunes in the public domain, the album feels familiar but the casual grace of Blake’s vocals and the acoustic accompaniment make for a remarkable and lovely listening experience.
Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn's debut full-length is a true indie pop triumph. From beginning to end, You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This hovers majestically on a cloud of songcrafting genius and, as the title suggests, is constantly in a state of shapeshifting. Tones change from elegant to pensive to heavy but still manage to drift by graciously with the help of Mirah's wistful voice and intimately personal lyrics. A great deal of the instrumentation is assisted by the Microphones' Phil Elvrum, but he only complements Mirah's lonesome yet optimistic vocals as she rethinks the relationships that continue to haunt her. A certain cheapness in the production of You Think It’s Like This — perhaps the work of a four-track recorder and vintage instruments — also lends much character to the overall tone of the record. The guitar fuzz actually seems to translate the feelings of “the earthquake…making the house shake” in “Of Pressure,” and the hollow reverb of “La Familia” intensely echoes Mirah's heartbroken vocal wanderings. A masterpiece of lo-fi beauty.
"There’s a song in my album called 'California Earthquake' and the opening line is:”
'I heard they exploded the underground blast / What they say is gonna happen is gonna happen at last / That’s the way it appears / They tell me the fault line runs right through here / So that may be, that may be / What’s gonna happen is gonna happen to me / That’s the way it appears.' "That’s where it’s at. My sister is a part-time clairvoyant. She says ‘Get the baby out of here; move to Kansas’. I say, ‘Look, I’m here now. There must be a reason I’m here.’ If that’s fatalistic, be that as it may. Where my work is, is where my life is, and if we’re falling into the ocean, we’re falling into the ocean."
"The second verse says:"
'Atlantis will rise / Sunset Boulevard will fall / Where the beach used to be won't be nothin' at all…'
"And what could be more timely than that? It’s where it’s at."
"A song that seems to hail the dropout life for those who can take it segues into compassion for those who have dropped out of bourgeois surroundings. ‘Rolling Stone’ is about the loss of innocence and the harshness of experience. Myths, props, and old beliefs fall away to reveal a very taxing reality."
Robert Shelton, Dylan Biographer
the actual version on “Spirit of ‘76” is so much better than this; however, it’s such a large file, i can’t post it here… check it out!
"This 1965 recording, Roderick’s second, reveals her as an early exponent of the swinging, jazzy feel that artists like Fred Neil and Tim Hardin would soon add to folk music. Unlike Neil and Hardin, though, Roderick was a dyed-in-the-wool folk/blues singer, interpreting works from America’s rich musical tradition instead of crafting new material informed by that tradition. There’s a clarity and purity to Roderick’s voice, but her inventive phrasing and subtle timbral manipulations place her in a different class from more strident contemporaries like Joan Baez. Though Woman Blue is presented in an acoustic folk format, Roderick is as much a blues singer as a folkie, the feminine counterpart of someone like Dave Van Ronk (who contributes to this reissue’s liner notes). Not one to overstate her case, Roderick keeps the mood low-key (but not mellow) throughout the album, using restraint and understatement as powerful tools.” CD Universe Review
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she placed her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
On Texas Gladden:
Most of Granny’s singing was done at home and she modestly claimed she didn’t sing anything but lullabies. Raising nine children during the Great Depression certainly left her with little time to do much else. Her public appearances were rather sparse. She sang on occasion at community events at the old Fort Lewis School and at the festivals at Whitetop Mountain during the 1930s. She and her brother, Hobart Smith, performed at the White House in 1933 at the request of Eleanor Roosevelt. Her only other known public appearance came in 1941 at the request of Alan Lomax.
"Fran Vandiver is (or was; I haven’t been in touch with the Vandivers since the ’60s) one of a couple of Kentuckians who went to Bera College in that state, where a strong emphasis on Appalachian culture and music was in place even before it was cool. She and her husband had a stock of ballads and Jack tales from Kentucky that they shared with the youth of St. Michael’s parish (as you guessed). They were part of the great diaspora of Southerners who came north (or a little bit north in the case of DC) after the war to work for various government agencies."
This song would appear to be another ballad of unrequited love, but in actuality is a folk lyric made up of various entire stanzas taken from other songs and ballads. Other songs with similar stanzas include Old Smokey, East Virginia, and The Un-constant Lover. The soon-to-be-deserted young lady of the song resorts to several ruses to hold her departing lover, including telling him that his horses and wagon aren’t really ready for a trip. But all to no avail. The Kossoys learned this version from an Old mountain recording of Buell Kazee.
—Sleeve Notes, "The Wagoner’s Lad," The Bowling Green. 1956
The musical bow is a simple string musical instrument present in most archaic cultures as well as many in the present day. It consists of a string supported by a flexible stick 1.5 to 10 feet (0.5 to 3 m) long, and strung end to end with a taut cord. Usually made out of wood. Often, it is a normal archery bow used for music rather than as a weapon. Although the bow is now thought of as a weapon, it is not clear whether it was used in this way originally. Cave paintings in southern France dated to around 15,000 BCE, show a bow being used as a musical instrument, so this use certainly has a long history. Musical bows are still used in a number of cultures today, almost all over the world. The berimbau, a musical bow from Brazil, is quickly gaining players worldwide as a result of its association with the game of capoeira. In the United States, the musical bow was apparently introduced by African slaves. Today, it is primarily found in the Appalachian Mountains, where it is called a mouthbow or mouth bow. The usual way to make the bow sound is to pluck the string, although sometimes a subsidiary bow is used to scrape the string, much as on a violin. The Onavillu of Karnataka sounds when struck with a thin stick. Unlike string instruments used in classical music, however, they do not have a built-in resonator, although resonators may be made to work with the bow in a number of ways. The most usual type of resonator consists of a gourd attached to the back of the string bearer. The bow may also be stood in a pit or gourd on the ground, or one end of it may be partially placed in the mouth. This last method allows the size of the resonator to be varied as the instrument is played, thus allowing a melody to be heard consisting of the notes resonating in the player’s mouth. As well as these various forms of resonators, the bow is frequently played without a resonator at all. The musical bow is generally played on its own, as a solo instrument, although it is sometimes played, amplified, as part of an ensemble in Appalachian old-time music.
With his debut, I’m a Stranger Too!, Chris Smither had already proven himself to be a rare combination — a Cambridge folkie with roots in New Orleans, a great writer who knows when to look elsewhere for material, a masterful guitarist who understands simplicity and a powerful singer with restraint. Released in 1972, Don’t It Drag On continues this mix and is every bit as good as its predecessor, maybe better.
Smither’s folk-blues have a soul and intelligence that mesh well with current covers by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, yet seems as ageless as Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” (also included here). Tracks such as “Another Way to Find You,” “I’ve Got Mine” and “Lonesome Georgia Brown” are as enduring as contemporary blues and folk get. And while the bulk of Smither’s material has a ruminative, melancholic tone, don’t expect typical singer/songwriter fare. There’s a maturity and depth to songs such as “I Feel the Same” (also recorded by Bonnie Raitt), “Every Mother’s Son” and the title cut that’s beyond that of most of his peers. Smither’s originals may not have the energy of “Statesboro Blues” or Dylan’s “Down in the Flood,” but there’s an easy, rolling assurance and plainspoken eloquence at work that more than make up for it. Smither went on to record one more album for Poppy, but was dropped by the label before its release. The record, Honeysuckle Dog, remained in the vaults for over 30 years before being issued in 2004. Don’t It Drag On, which was re-released in 1997 as part of a two-fer with his debut, I’m a Stranger Too!, would be his last until It Ain’t Easy in 1985.
Spirit of Love has a hymnal, rural English vibe that is more folk than folk-rock. Palmer’s vocals are very calm and soothing and this disc is completely acoustic in nature. Tracks like Music of the Ages and Serpent’s Kiss are simply spellbinding, sounding hundreds of years old and only getting better with the passage of time. Some of these songs have exotic instruments like the Harmonium and Dulcitone while the banjo instrumental Banjo land has unexpected ocean wave sound effects. At times, Palmer and company sound completely lost in space, as heard on the excellent Evening Air. But it’s this naive charm and willingness to sound different that makes Spirit of Love such a great, ancient folk album. Other tracks such as the beautiful Wade In The Water and When He Came Home seem to have biblical references within the lyrics and a strong gospel influence.
"Long before recording as a solo artist in the 1970s, multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow was a well-known musician and trusted sideman in Los Angeles’ tightly knit music scene. In 2009, Los Feliz CA-based Everloving Records is honored to reissue two classic Chris Darrow solo albums, 1973’s Chris Darrow and 1974’s Under My Own Disguise. Both titles were originally released via the United Artists label. Proficient on guitar, bass, fiddle, violin, banjo, Dobro, lap steel and mandolin, Chris Darrow never actively sought employment as a musician, but the work always managed to find him. Even if you have never heard his name before, Darrow’s fingerprints remain in conspicuous corners of the public consciousness. His early career was spent playing in bluegrass combo The Dry City Scat Band with David Lindley, and fronting electric rock group The Floggs. With Lindley, he co-founded revered psych outfit Kaleidoscope — hailed by Jimmy Page as his “favorite band of all time.” A stint with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band led to the formation of The Corvettes, which later resulted in long-term touring relationships with Linda Ronstadt and John Stewart. He contributed to pivotal session gigs with Leonard Cohen, James Taylor and Hoyt Axton and crossed paths with Sly Stone, Sonny and Cher, Gram Parsons, Gene Vincent, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa and even Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner.”
"This cautionary ballad has everything, including one of the greatest tunes. Ewan MacColl taught it to me when I was twenty. A flat, documentary opening, reporting a private act by a conscience-torn young girl. Then the confrontation of the young mother by the ghosts of her murdered twin babies, and her damnation. The refrain has the quality of an incantation, raising one wretched being to an archetype of remorse."
— Shirley Collins. Liner Notes, The Sweet Primroses (1967).
"Yoon Youn Sun’s beautiful, brooding vocals breathe hope where before there was despair; there are retro-’60s touches that are reminiscent of French yé-yé music of the François Hardy, France Gall type — sultry, yet nurturing a languid innocence; this album by Yoon Youn Sun was released in Korea in 1972, which makes Yoon Youn Sun a contemporary of Kim Jung Mi, which is a good reference point; the record has several modes: there are duets with a male singer; the songs that groove the best (tracks 5 & 6) occur when the Farfisa organ gets involved; the second half of the record features complex arrangements (a few strings find their way into the mix)." (Promotional Copy)