Huffamoose?

Huffamoose — just hearing the name, you know you’re in for something unusual. Along with the unusual comes some superior storytelling, and more than a little fun.

We've Been Had Again1997’s “We’ve Been Had Again”(a pretty obvious play on the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) has two of the most touchingly romantic songs I know of, and one that’s pure unadulterated fun.

“Wait”, the first single from the album, is about dancing. You’ve heard plenty of songs about dancing that start out like “Wait”:

 move back just a little  let me watch your hips sway hold me  looser still  throw me like I'm wet clay

Well, except that last part. As the dance progresses, we know we’re enjoying ourselves, but it keeps getting stranger and stranger. I suspect you’ve not often heard dancing described as

 patterned prances secret glances of high strung tip toe fringe of a taut brown leather

before “Wait.” From the opening guitars, through Craig Elkins’ carefully unpolished vocals, back to the final splash of those guitars, it bounces and weaves around an intimate dance I hope you remember as well as I do.

“James” is the story of two young people who start out thinking that love is enough; James is going to change the world, she and James are going to make a difference; James

 is bigger than life he sees things he knows things he is not like you and me

but when they grow up, James

 still loves his music but he knows where his priorities lie He stepped on his dreams so many times and wore out the path he needed to take to find the life he thought would just happen to him like the changing of a season

and sometimes you know how he feels, trading his dreams for real life, and wondering where the dreams fit in, and if love really is enough. But she still loves him; still believes in him; I don’t think she cares if he changes the world or not.

Unusually melodic guitars (for Huffamoose, I mean) create a very 60s feeling that matches the lyrics perfectly. Oh; one other thing we’ve got in common: James is “never unhappy ’cause he never wears a watch.” You can’t argue with that logic.

More of those melodic guitars lead us into “I Want to Buy You a Ring.” The lyrics are assembled with a goofiness only possible from someone who’s addlepated from the overwhelming experience of falling in love.

 It feels like nothing ever felt before It's a song and I wrote it about you I love you See? I told you I was good!

 But this is nothing like I thought it would be I'm scared all the time I'm afraid I'm gonna hurt you

and later,

 What a sorry song What a stupid idea . . . I write the songs that make the whole world think about absolutely nothing. I believe (I don't believe, I don't think 'believe' is strong enough, it's band-wagon jargon)

but the chorus transcends the silliness of the rest of the lyrics:

 I want to buy you a ring Maybe I'll make it myself Do you like rubies and diamonds and emeralds and gold and silver?

Even the 60s poptune backing vocals sound right at home, surrounded by the innocence of falling in love for the first time. I think that’s part of the appeal of “James” and “Buy You a Ring”; they both talk about love with a voice full of innocence and wonder.

Definitely Glamour

It’s hard to say if it feels like yesterday or a hundred years ago that I first heard Maia Sharp‘s song “Brownstone” on the now defunct San Diego station KUPR. From her debut album “Maia Sharp's 'Hardly Glamour'Hardly Glamour“, that ambiguous familiarity is inherent to the album itself; every track sounds like I’ve heard it before. Maia’s voice, deeper than most female singers you hear on pop radio, is warm and reassuring. Her songwriting and musicianship exude the same warmth and professionalism, making for one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve discovered in years. I’m not sure why it’s taken me five years to track it down, and now that I have, I regret the pretermission. I’ll make up for it by being particularly verbose in today’s review.

If you’d like to read all about Maia’s famous songwriter father, or her struggles with the never-released album “Tinderbox”, I’m sure you can find all the details elsewhere. I’m only going to talk about her music.

  • “I Need This To Be Love” — ‘You said, “I’m going to California” so I was going to California, too.’ Leaving everything she knows behind, our heroine surrenders to the fantasy that love is a good enough reason for the madness of a cross-country crime spree. Co-writer Mark Addison and Daris Adkins keep adding layer upon layer of sliding, shimmering guitars, building this country-tinged number to a big round conclusion, even though the lyrics never really tell us whether it was love or not. Nice upbeat track in spite of it.
  • “Good Thing” — After the simplicity of the opening track, it takes more than one listen to absorb the more complex rhythym of this sad song’s chorus.
     To live without your touch Could never feel too much Like a good thing

    Despite dad Randy’s mandolin and acoustic guitar, this doesn’t sound like a country or folk tune. Maia’s voice and the arrangement of the mandolin solo combine with the time signature to lend a very jazzy feeling. And that’s a good thing. Co-written with Randy Sharp.

  • “The Apology” — Maia plays a number of keyboards and the tenor sax on this edgy/funky jazz tune. The keyboard solo doesn’t come to a tidy conclusion; everything just seems to dwindle to a near silence, making way for the next verse. Very nicely done, and not at all your typical pop schmaltz. It’s becoming clear we’re listening to a composer, not just a singer. The next track nails that down pretty securely.
  • “Brownstone” — A simple acoustic bass and guitar opening, with vocals to a completely different beat. Too many words for each line. Fuzzy, almost angry guitar over the gently vocals of the chorus. Suddenly, it’s raining, and a couple soprano saxes are dueling with a pair of electric guitars, but the prodominant sound is co-writer Janet Robin’s acoustic guitar, carrying the melody. Challenging, fascinating, complex, beautiful; this one track is worth the price of the entire album. A spectacular recording, showcasing Sharp’s mature writing and singing.
  • “Broken” — Another upbeat song about betrayal and unhappy love. It’s hard to empathize too much with the tragic lyrics when they’re surrounded by all those perky guitars doing their best George Harrison imitation. Another partnering with Janet Robin, who plays multiple guitars. Not quite country, but headed that way.
  • “Only Way Of Knowing” — A patient song about the freshness of first love. Co-writer/dad Randy provides some really stes/m backing vocals which make his new album “Connections” sound like a good bet.
  • “Don’t Come Around Tonight” — Opening like a Steven Bishop ballad, “Don’t Come Around” turns into the kind of rocker Jimmy Buffet might do if he had the notion. A good solid rhythmic piece which should have become a big hit.
     Don't come around here tonight But that doesn't mean forever

    In the old days of two-sided vinyl albums, this was the kind of rousing tune artists loved to have leading off side two.

  • “Solitaire” — Tr

Comment: Finding Iz

From Leogennaro8:

“I too was mesmerized and stopped dead in my tracks as the credits began to roll, when I heard that voice and rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I didn’t even realize he was singing the timeless song because I was so moved by the voice and, although I am not a musician, I know when something is good. I was blown away and didn’t want the credits or this song to end. I skimmed through the bio and wanted to share my same feelings immediately because I, too, was blown away by the clarity of the voice, and reading the bio you say he is dead? What an absolute shame for such a talent that can move emotions to be gone. I am a bit confused though. Didn’t Finding Forrester come out after 1997? When did he record this?”

I wish it weren’t true, but Iz died in 1997 at the age of 38; it really affects my perspective that we were almost exactly the same age.

“Facing Future” was released in 1993, and Iz’s cover of “Over the Rainbow” was first popularized in the US when a portion of it, the intro of Iz humming the tune, was used in a commercial for eToys (they’re gone too, but it doesn’t make me as sad.) Even then, Iz was already gone. “Finding Forrester” was released in 2000.

Tip: If you submit a comment and give me your complete address, I promise a personal response direct to you, rather than the impersonal method of posting it here first.

Extra credit: What other movie used Israel Kamakawiwio’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow” on its soundtrack?

Used Songs – Step Right Up

It’s typical of Tom Waits that his retrospective album compiled from his first six releases is called, not “Greatest Hits” but “Used Songs.”

Waits is a songwriter’s songwriter. The first track on his first album, “Ol’ ’55”, was also one of the earliest tracks recorded by the Eagles, on their Tom Waits' '1973-1980 Used Songs'top 20 debut album. Although Tom’s recording evince fine musicianship, one doesn’t listen to a Tom Waits album for the guitar playing. The first attraction is a desire to see whether it’s possible to sing an entire album in that unbelievably gravelly low voice. It’s not long until you’re so wrapped up in the stories he tells that even that remarkable voice is secondary to the tales it tells.

Waits’ songs seem to be populated from film noir, or in fact, from almost any old movie. Except, we rarely hear a complete story. Instead, we catch a snippet of conversation as we pass on the street; we overhear a private conversation in the next booth; we carry on a brief pointless conversation with a total stranger; never quite hearing the whole story, we still feel like these are real people, and that somehow they’re important to us. While many of his tunes display a ready wit, the sad songs never seem trite; they’re too simple and real to be dismissed so lightly.

get yours today.

Warren Zevon Diagnosed with Inoperable Cancer

Excitable Boy Warren Zevon, 55, (“Werewolves of London”, “Excitable Boy”, “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”) was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer last month, according to a Reuters news release.

Zevon has collaborated with the Everly Brothers, R.E.M., and Jackson Browne, but his biting wit was best displayed in his solo works spanning the last 33 years. Warren is heading for the studio for a final recording session.

The same Reuters release says he will be “spending his remaining weeks with his two adult children, son Jordan and daughter Ariel.”

New York State of Mind

One year ago today, lives changed forever; some ended, some forever scarred, but at the same time, some began. Yes, there are children celebrating their first birthday today, because, in spite of the occasional madness in the world, life does indeed go on.

More than one of those who perished were men I consider brothers from a religious standpoint; not helpless victims, but voluntary victims — firefighters who, knowing they were risking their own lives, didn’t hestitate to enter the dual inferno to help others.

Music has a marvelous healing effect. There are some songs which I’ll always associate with the 11th of September. One tune which has seen a resurgence of appreciation is Billy Joel’s Billy Joel's 'Turnstiles'New York State of Mind.” The first time I heard it was 22 years ago; the last time I heard it was ten minutes ago as I was wending my way through the city streets to work here in beautiful southern California. Joel once commented that meeting Ray Charles was like meeting the Statue of Liberty. “New York State of Mind” always reminds me of the homage he pays to the great jazz artists, and the fact that he’s always done so without sacrificing his own style. It’s a wonderful song which carries just a little bit more meaning than it once did.

The Watchtower, All Along

Written by “Bob Dylan and recorded on his 1967 album “Bob Dylan's 'John Wesley Harding'John Wesley Harding“, “All Along the Watchtower” is one of those songs which seems to work no matter who’s performing it. Certainly, only a Dylan purist would complain of its treatment at the hands of “Jimi Hendrix's 'Smash Hits'Jimi Hendrix, whose version is certainly the best known among casual rock listeners.

Perhaps not as well known is “U2‘s cover on their big live album, “U2's 'Rattle & Hum'Rattle and Hum.” If we are to believe the clips from the movie, the band figured out the song in the trailer just before the show, with Bono scrambling to find someone who knew all the lyrics. Hendrix didn’t; at least, he mangles some lines pretty badly. U2’s version is a bit clearer, although not adventurous by any means.

As always, my favorite is even farther afield. Discovered and signed to Windham Hill Records by William Ackerman, “Michael Hedges was a remarkable live performer. I hope someday to find a copy of the PBS special containing Ackerman, Hedges, and Shadowfax; Hedges performs “All Along the Watchtower” solo, on an acoustic 6-string guitar, and turns in the hardest rocking version I’ve ever heard. I haven’t had a chance to sample the version on his live album “Michael Hedges' 'Live On The Double Planet'Live On The Double Planet but it’s safe to say it won’t disappoint.

It’s no match, though, for the impact of seeing the man perform it; this white Detroit boy with dreadlocks past his shoulders, pink zebra pants, and blue leopard spotted shirt. Not a sight you’ll soon get over; nor a sound you’ll soon forget.

Listen Closely Now

You may not recognize the name George Baker, and in fact, there is no George Baker in the George Baker selection. But if you’ve been listening to music in the US or Europe at any time during the last thirty years; in fact, if you’ve been to the movies, you’ve almost certainly heard their song “George Baker Selection's 'Little Green Bag'Little Green Bag.” Making it to number 5 on the US charts when it was released in 1969, it took the spotlight thirty years later as the title song for the 1999 movie “Reservior Dogs.” A raucous and fun number, it features snappy basslines, infectious guitar, and the almost-Tom-Jones voice of Johannes Bouwens, the Dutch singer/songwriter behind the group.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I want to know what a little green bag has to do with anything. Think about it; which makes more sense, poetically or otherwise:

 Looking back On the track For a little green bag

or

 Looking back On the track For a little greenback ?

Okay, maybe it’s farfetched to believe that even the group’s official website would perpetuate the wrong lyrics, but it’s not impossible.

One of the biggest hits Cream had, owing partly to the distinctive guitar of someone billed as “L’Angelo Mysterioso” but who was in fact George Harrison, was a song called “'The Very Best of Cream'Badge.” But it wasn’t supposed to be called that; George’s solo is the transitional section between the first half of the song, and the second half — the bridge. Bridge. Not badge. But a studio technician saw ‘bridge’ written in the sidebar of the sheet music, took it for the title of the untitled piece, and that’s how it went to press.

Gordon Lightfoot’s first album “Gordon Lightfoot's 'Lightfoot'Lightfoot” contained, among other masterpieces, a tune called “Rich Man’s Spiritual.” Lines like

 I'm gonna buy me a poor man's troubles, Yes, Lord, to help me home

make it clear that this is a rather sarcastic look at the commercialization of religion. Or something like that. But on the album’s liner notes, Lightfoot points out that, either due to some deepseated feelings about the general brotherhood of man, or because it was late and the technician was tired, it was almost recorded as “Richman’s Spiritual”; a different proposition entirely.

So unless someone can dispel my ignorance, when you hear me singing it, you’ll hear ‘little greenback.’

Sorry George.

Come Away with Norah Jones

While we’re on a “Norah Jones‘ roll, we might as well make it a clean sweep. I got my copy of her debut album “Come Away with Me” on Thursday, and I’ve listened to it almost constantly.

Norah Jones' 'Come Away with Me'You’ve probably heard “Don’t Know Why” on your favorite radio station. The first time I heard it on KPRI here in San Diego, it was arresting. Norah’s voice is smoky sweet and subtly powerful, but just as powerful was the piano accompaniment. I’ve long been a fan of country pianist Floyd Cramer, who played with such luminaries as Chet Atkins. The piano on “Don’t Know Why” sounds so much like Cramer; his style and grace, a musical maturity not found in many keyboard players today. I was astonished to learn that the sultry singer was also the accomplished pianist. But then, “Come Away with Me” is full of surprises; surprises, but no disappointments. It is a delightful collection from start to finish.

Jones studied music in Texas, and while her country roots are audible in much of “Come Away” she’s certainly not going to be pigeon-holed as a country artist. Not exactly a surprise from the daughter of the most famous sitar-player ever, Ravi Shankar, major influence on George Harrison of the Beatles. A vocal chameleon, she runs the gamut from country to jazz, blues, and torch songs (one sounds like a cut from “Rare Django”, songs recorded in French jazz clubs in the late 20s), a slow klezmer tune (if there is such a thing), with plenty of soul along the way. Of the fourteen songs on the album, Jones wrote or co-wrote three, bassist Lee Alexander four, and lead guitarist Jesse Harris five. Sixpence None the Richer's eponymousThe three songs not written by band members were culled from the best of Norah’s roots: one by Hank Williams (the real Hank Williams, not the pseudo-performer currently using his name), one by John D. Loudermilk, and one by Hoagy Carmichael.

Norah’s voice reminds me somewhat of Edie Brickell‘s, and of Leigh Nash of “Sixpence None the Richer“, but with a huskiness more appropriate for the genre she’s chosen to include on this album. Refreshing and relaxing, “Come Away with Me” has style.

  • “Don’t Know Why” — An obvious single, this is a simple song about the confusion that often surrounds what we think is love. Jones’ piano sparkles, her voice seduces, the entire effect is like dancing alone in a darkened room with your eyes closed. Very Patsy Cline, which is a very good thing. Perfect torch song.
  • “Seven Years” — Musically more focused on guitars and Norah’s voice, this includes a dobro solo which lends a feeling of an early Carter Family recording, but with that same honey-smoked voice.
  • “Cold Cold Heart” — This Hank Williams classic has never been in better hands. It’s not easy to take a song so completely identified with one genre and transform it completely to another, but Norah does it beautifully. An extremely sparse arrangement, leaning heavily on rhythym and blues bassline, some brushes on the drums, and bits of piano to accentuate Norah’s vocals. She manages to completely ignore the natural cadence of the tune and either push the lyrics out just a little early, or leave them just a bit late, making for some perfect jazz phrasing. It’s a tribute to her musical sensibilities.
  • “Feelin’ the Same Way” — This one would be at home with Reba McEntire or Bonnie Raitt; it’s an almost-country pop tune which, without noticeable effort at uniqueness still manages to be memorable among so many memorable tunes.
  • “Come Away with Me” — The title song makes you want to do just that; a seductive tune about the simple joys we associate with being in love — walking through fields of grass together, the intimacy of unashamedly kissing where the whole world can see you, the warmth of just being with someone you love, and who loves you. Delicate multi-layered guitar work and Norah’s piano in just the right places merely emphasizes the intimacy of the piece.
  • “Shoot the Moon” — While the music to many of these tunes sounds like they should have sad lyrics, most don’t. “Shoot the Moon” is an exception; an indefinite poem of love leaving, undisturbed by the musical accompaniment.
  • “Turn Me On” — One of my favorites, a gem among gems, Norah seems especially inspired by blues great John Loudermilk’s lyrics. This is the one tune where she nearly lets her voice out of the box; more than once, we get a glimpse of the barely restrained power behind that softness. Reminiscent of Aretha Franklin, a long time ago. I’d love to hear more; not that there’s anything wrong with the way Jones uses her voice, but there’s plenty of room for more of the soulful intensity of “Turn Me On.”
  • “Lonestar” — Simple honest country tune. Every instrument sounds like they’ve gone home to Texas; even Norah’s piano chording is traditional 1-4-5 with the bass runs I remember so well from my father’s piano playing. Mournful lyrics, aptly suited to this homage to her home state.
  • “I’ve Got to See You Again” — Probably actually a rhumba or samba, this has all the earmarks of klezmer, the joyous music of Jewish festivities, but slower, more passionate. Jenny Scheinman’s violin adds just the right touch of mystery to an unusual arrangement. A standout, even among so many outstanding tracks. Fascinating vocal harmonies provided by Norah herself, which makes me wonder how some of these tunes would fare in a live setting, without the ability to overdub her own harmonies. More on that below.
  • “Painter Song” — This would fit right into so much of the jazz from the 20s and 30s. Unusual climbing chord progressions, a meandering melody not quickly grasped, and friendly accordion make this shorter song fun.
  • “One Flight Down” — Like a m

Comment: Racing Toward the Future

Regarding “Racing Toward the Future, One Second at a Time, this comment from artlung:

“Norah Jones is great, for sure. I saw her live last month and she’s a dynamic
performer. She did an awesome version of Tenessee Waltz. I grabbed some
alternate stuff of hers on Limewire, and there are some sound clips on norahjones.com.”

So, Joe, how about a review of the show? I missed it, and I’d love to have a first-hand account for Know Your Music.

Don’t Miss the ‘Jazz Me News’

I’ve listed “Riverwalk” on my links page since Know Your Music’s inception. If you love music, and enjoy learning about the music and the people who made it, “Live from the Landing” is an absolute must. The detailed and personal background to the music, as provided by host David Holt and a remarkable array of guests, gives insight not possible from just listening to a CD you bought in town.This just in: courtesy of “Riverwalk, Live from the Landing” – their fun and fact-filled ‘Jazz Me News’ archives are indeed available online. I’ve been enjoying it for some time without giving a thought to passing it along. I’m sure I’ll find a suitable way to do penance, but in the meantime, dig into some meaty and entertaining info, written from the vantage point of the Jim Cullum’s historic “Landing” in San Antonio Texas, origin of their not-to-be-missed weekly broadcasts.

Sign up for the newsletter, and while you wait for next month’s catch up on the past issues. If you missed the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee in May, they’ve do a nice review every year.

At next year’s Jazz Jubilee, expect to see me in Jim Cullum’s shadow, soaking up all the jazz I can.

Ride of the Tarzana Kid

Some time back I commented on Jimmy Buffet’s cover of John Sebastian’s “Stories We Could Tell.” It’s time I caught up with the original, and the phenomenal album it comes from.

John Sebastian's 'Tarzana Kid'John Sebastian is most famous for writing and singing the theme song for television’s “Welcome Back Kotter.” A truly forgettable song, it was a far cry from the jug-band roots which led to the formation of “The Lovin’ Spoonful” in 1965. The Spoonful’s finely crafted lyrics and skillful instrumentation still sound good three and a half decades after the group’s dissolution in 1968.

Sebastian’s solo career never really attracted popular attention. It’s incomprehensible to me that “Tarzana Kid” never even registered on the charts. Perhaps it’s just an indicator of my eclecticism, but “Tarzana Kid” is on my very shortest ‘desert island’ album list.

When I sat down to write this, I couldn’t find my vinyl copy; sadly, it’s never been released on CD. Panic ensued; my office was pretty thoroughly rearranged before I discovered it amongst some recently (read ‘during the last 10 years’) played albums. As soon as I replace my tired old turntable, I can build that entertainment center and organize my 1500 slices of vinyl.

“Tarzana Kid” is a slice of Americana, long before ‘Americana’ was a buzzword in the descriptions of bands like Sonvolt. Sebastian combines a delightful selection of his own compositions with country classics and traditional tunes. It’s a testament to his writing and arranging abilities that songs by reggae great Jimmy Cliff and rock icon Lowell George flow smoothly through tunes written for this album to traditional tracks and a new arrangement of a Spoonful hit.

  • Emmylou Harris's 'Pieces of the Sky'Sitting in Limbo — written by Jimmy Cliff and Guilly Bright (variously credited as ‘Gully Bright’) for Cliff’s 1972 album “The Harder They Come” which introduced the oft-recorded “Many Rivers To Cross”, this quiet unassuming arrangement sets the pace for the album. It reminds me quite a bit of Lester Flatt’s singing of Johnny and Roseanne Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone.” The two guitarists on this track bring a wealth of experience and tangential potential: Russell Dashiell’s only solo album (“Elevator”, 1978) featured Doug Clifford and Stu Cook of “Credence Clearwater Revival.” Amos Garrett has recorded with Todd Rundgren (on “Something/Anything?“), Emmylou Harris (on “Pieces of the Sky“), Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Jerry Garcia, and Paul Butterfield.

    Paul Butterfield's 'Better Days'
    Paul Butterfield’s “Better Days” was the album which introduced me to Amos Garrett’s fluid guitar playing, neatly juxtaposed to Geoff Muldaur’s flashy technical prowess and Geoff’s then wife Maria‘s scrapy-but-perfect fiddle, and anything-but-scrapy-but-still-perfect voice. Another piece of vinyl to be resurrected, this will most certainly resurface here at EGBDF.
  • Friends Again — A Sebastian composition, it features the interesting contrast of his banjo and backing (but not background) vocals by the Pointer Sisters. More upbeat than “Limbo”, “Friends” is a nice segue into the “Little Feat” cover to follow.
  • Dixie Chicken — Covering a song by a song-writing giant like Lowell George can be a tricky proposition; but when said writer plays guitar and sings on your cover, it provides a certain seal of approval. Include the angelic voice of EmmyLou Harris, and you have a version of one of Little Feat’s best songs which I like even better than the original. The lyrics just seem more at home in Sebastian’s folk-infused surroundings than the original funky/bouncy “Little Feat” arrangement.
     Well it's been a year since she ran away Guess that guitar player sure could play He was always handy with a song I guess she liked to sing along Later on in the lobby of the Commodore Hotel I chanced to meet a bartender who said he knew her well And as he handed me a drink he began to hum a song And all the boys there at the bar began to sign along

    Lowell George’s lyrics told tales, usually from a slightly skewed perspective. Perhaps it was the influence of his time with Frank Zappa’s “Mothers of Invention.” Zappa convinced George to form his own band after hearing “Willin'” (recently called the best truck driving song ever.) This track is also the first appearance of the tragic Jim Gordon on drums.

  • Stories We Could Tell — A simple melodic ballad with lyrics designed to evoke memories of times past and opportunities missed, but with a hope of those still to come. Jimmy Buffet’s excellent cover surfaced here in Paris or Alaska?. Barely discernible background vocals courtesy of Phil Everly.
  • Face of Appalachia — With music co-written by Lowell George and John Sebastian, Sebastian’s lyrics weave a heart-rending picture of an old man’s struggle to impart his childhood memories to his grandson; memories of places and people who no longer exist; of an era long gone. With the largest ensemble of any of the album’s tracks, this conveys a larger, fuller sound as well; almost as if it wanted a full orchestration. Songs this good deserve more attention than it ever received. Fortunately, it’s available on Sebastian’s “John Sebastian's 'Greatest Hits'Best Of” album, which also includes “Sitting in Limbo” and “Stories We Could Tell.” Witty and sensitive fiddle by the infamous David Lindley.
  • Wild Wood Flower — Every folk or bluegrass guitarist wants to record a distinctive version of this traditional tune. John injects a definite jazz feeling, swinging just enough to remove this version from the ‘bluegrass’ genre and make it his own. Fun and spritely, unlike the fiery or morose feel of most bluegrass versions.
  • Wild About My Lovin’ — Another traditional tune, covered by the Spoonful as well. This version reminds me quite a bit of my father’s jam sessions with his brothers and sister when I was a child. There’s so much joy, and an unmistakeable wry humor. Harder-than-it-sounds guitar opens the track, and holds its own throughout. Mandolin and slide guitar delivered by the venerable Ry Cooder.
  • Singing the Blues — Never successful as a singer, this song’s composer Melvin Endsley saw his tunes recorded by such artists as Guy Mitchell, Andy Williams, Paul McCartney, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Stonewall Jackson and Ricky Skaggs. Despite my indoctrination into Marty Robbins’ version as a very small child, this remains my favorite version.
  • Sportin’ Life — This sounds more like a traditional tune, and “Wild About My Lovin'” sounds like something the Spoonful would have concocted. In reality, it’s the other way ’round. “Sportin’ Life” was written as a collaborative effort by the members of the Spoonful the year it was recorded. This cover, spare and simple, is about the lyrics; and the lyrics are a bleak blues of a misspent life.
  • Harpoon — The second instrumental on the album, this is a fun, albeit slightly disorganized track. The closest thing to a disappointment on “Tarzana Kid”, it sounds like it couldn’t decide whether to be rock, blues, or jazz, and misses just a bit on all fronts. Not unlistenable, mostly because the lead is John’s harmonica, but not up to the fine standards set by the rest of the cuts, and not really in sync with the feel of the album.

The strings on the album were arranged by David Paich, who founded “Toto” in 1978. David is the son of pianist and arranger Marty Paich, who worked with such jazz luminaries as Art Pepper and Mel Torm