Song 94 - - John Prine and Todd Snider 

John Prine died two months + one day ago. I never met John Prine. But his death hit me hard. I'm not sure that a "celebrity" death had as much impact on me as John Prine's. I had seen John in concert ~ 25 times, first in 1974 at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and most recently in 2018 here at the Mirriam Theater in Philadelphia. He was spectacular each and every time. John Prine never phoned it in. John Prine, simply, is my music hero,. He has inspired me to become a songwriter, and I tend to write somewhat based on John Prine's general format. Although, to be clear, I don't expect to ever be able to write a song as good as a "John Prine song." 

As a tribute to John Prine - - and to educate ourselves about John Prine and all of his music - - a group of us started a "John Prine Album Club." Each week, we listen to one of John Prine's albums, front to back, and then we meet via a Zoom meeting to discuss the album (its songs, producer, musicians, etc.) in detail. And a few of us each sing a song from the album. (Zoom is not the easiest format to do a live musical "performance," but we manage.) "Storm Windows" is this week's album. 

For a guy who has bought all of John Prine's music on LPs, CDs and digitally (and some albums / songs on more than one format), I'm amazed at how much I'm learning about John Prine and his music in our JP Album Club sessions. Part of my education is coming from the research that I've been doing to more or less lead the group discussions, but part of my education is coming simply from re-listening to each song on each album over and over again during that album's week. 

Among the songs that I didn't fully appreciate is "Crooked Piece of Time," which was on John Prine's "Bruised Orange" album from 1975. It was a great album, which included a number of my favorite John Prine songs, like "That's the Way the World Goes Round," "Fish and Whistle," and "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone," among others. But listening to "Crooked Piece of Time" a number of times a few weeks ago during "Bruised Orange" week, I came to appreciate just how good the song is. And, of course, with everything that's happening in the world right now, it seems like a particularly meaningful song. 

So, song 94 is John Prine's "Crooked Piece of Time." Here are two different versions, one by John Prine from 2010, and one by a John Prine disciple Todd Snider from 2012.

Song 93 - - Matt Lyons 

Matt Lyons released his five song EP a few months ago. It's getting a lot of radio play on Helen Leicht's midday show and local show. As well it should because it's awesome! 

And Matt is awesome, too. In addition to recording his own music, he plays lead guitar (electric, acoustic and slide) on the new Bruce Rits Gilbert & The Missing Years album which is days away from dropping. And he occasionally does acoustic shows in the Philadelphia area. Like the one he did last month at the Grape Room in Manyunk. Matt played a brilliant eight song set that included all five of the songs on his new EP, called "What You Gonna Do," along with a few cover tunes. 

Among the cover tunes was an amazing version of the Rolling Stones' "Out of Time." I don't know how many in the virtually full house knew that it was a cover or had ever heard the Rolling Stones version. But, for me, it was a highlight. "Out of Time" is a great song that I hadn't heard in quite some time. And Matt captured the song beautifully, while making it his own with just his acoustic guitar, harmonica and superb voice. 

And here is it is: Matt Lyons doing "Out of Time" at the Grape Room in Manyunk. 

Song 92 - - Simon & Garfunkel 

Talk about iconic singer-songwriters, Paul Simon is pretty much as good as it gets. Starting out as "Tom & Jerry" back in 1956, but then becoming Simon & Garfunkel in 1964, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had amazing commercial success, including three number one singles in the U.S.: "The Sound of Silence"; "Mrs. Robinson"; and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." All of them were written by Paul Simon. 

 

 

It's hard to imagine music in the 1960s without thinking about Simon & Garfunkel. Combining folk, rock and pop, their sound was pretty much a bridge between the pop and folk sounds of the early 60s and the harder edged rock of the 70s. 

Simon & Garfunkel split in 1970, although they did some projects together after that, including the highly anticipated and wildly famous Concert in Central Park in 1981. 

 

In 1972, Simon released his highly acclaimed debut solo album, "Paul Simon," which included two hit singles: "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." Both of those songs are almost anthem-like to those of us who were listening to pop radio back in the early 70s. And for good reason: They're both incredible songs. 

Simon, particularly, had a long and successful solo career, including winning a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1987 for "Graceland."

But my favorite Paul Simon song is still "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." So today's song is a Simon & Garfunkel live version of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" from the 1981 Concert in Central Park. And, as an added bonus, here is Nick Gunty, along with Matt Lyons (off screen) and me, doing a rehearsal version of "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard"  right here in this kitchen. 

 

Song 91 - - Joy of Cooking 

Since we're on a run of groups from back in the day, I thought that I'd sneak in a short post about one of my favorite groups from the 70s: Joy of Cooking. Joy of Cooking wasn't around for that long, but their three studio albums were all great, and the group somehow did a spot on job of representing the San Francisco (or Berkeley, to be precise) hippie sound of the early 70s. 

 

Joy of Cooking was among the first rock & roll bands fronted by women. Guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown shared lead vocals. And their harmonies were simply splendid. They released two albums in 1971 and then another in 1972. Terry and Toni then released albums under the name Toni & Terry in 1973 and 1977. And that was it for the two of them together. 

 

Terry then did some solo work, focusing a good bit on jazz. And Teri became a clinical psychologist. 

Finding a video of Joy of Cooking (or Terry and Toni) performing live is nearly impossible. But their albums live on YouTube. So here is a song called "Lady Called Love,"  which I must have played a thousand times on my turntable back in the day. It's among the most infectious songs ever. So I think. 

Song 90 - - Gary Lewis & the Playboys 

I'm not sure why this song popped into my head, but it did. "This Diamond Ring" is a classic guilty pleasure song that you might hear on the Sirius XM 60s station. It reached number 1 on the U.S. charts in 1965, and its catchy melody has held up well over the years. 

Gary Lewis & the Playboys started off as "Gary & the Playboys," but, after they got a job playing at Disneyland in the early 60s, a record producer told them to add "Lewis" to the name to take advantage of this: Gary Lewis is comedian Jerry Lewis's son. And then that record producer, a guy named Snuff Garrett, brought them "This Diamond Ring" to record. 

 

But, as it turns out, several members of the Wrecking Crew played the music on the recording, and Gary Lewis's vocals were heavily mixed in with a session vocalist, and voila!, a hit song was created. The limitations of the band became an issue when they were booked, though Jerry Lewis's connections, to play on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ed Sullivan wanted the band to play live, like all of the other bands who appeared on the show. But, since the band members couldn't create the song anywhere close to the recorded version, they ended up having Gary Lewis sing along to prerecorded tracks and members of the band pretended to play their instruments. 

In any event, it's a fun song. And here are two versions of "This Diamond Ring," one with Gary Lewis "playing" the drums, and one with Gary strumming an acoustic guitar.  

Song 89 - - The Rolling Stones 

The Rolling Stones just canceled a bunch of scheduled concerts because Mick Jagger has some health issues. I don't know the details, but Mick reports that he's on the mend, and the band hopes to resume touring soon. 

Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie (the core four of the Stones) are getting up there in age. I mean, back in the heyday of Rock & Roll in the 60s, it was entirely unfathomable that a Rock & Roll group would be around 50+ years later. So the idea that The Stones, who I first starting listening to in 1964, would still be performing (and not simply as an oldies act) in 2019 was, well, no way. 

 

But here we are, 57 years after the band was formed in 1962, still listening to among the best Rock & Roll bands ever. (I've already declared The Beatles as the best Rock & Roll band ever, and The Band  as the second best, so The Stones are, at best, the third best Rock & Roll band ever. FYI.) 

 

I, of course, am a little bit stuck in the past with certain groups, so I generally prefer the older Stones records. And, among the best Stones albums, so I think, is "Out of Our Heads," which was released in 1965. The American version of "Out of Our Heads" included "The Spider and the Fly," which was not included on the UK version of the album. It's a classic Jagger / Richards blues tune. And here's a live version of "The Spider and the Fly" from circa 1995.

Song 88 - - The Band 

Two plus years ago, in late 2016, I wrote about The Band and featured "The Shape I'm In" from the "Stage Fright" album. The Band, as I said then, was the second best rock & roll band of all time. They were awesome. 

I listened to The Band incessantly in high school. But, somehow, when I was 15, in 1969, I totally missed The Band's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I never knew about this. But, yesterday, out of the blue, on my Twitter feed (yes, I know, Twitter is a little addictive and not always the best forum, but I kinda like it), a link to The Band on The Ed Sullivan Show popped up. So, of course, I watched it. And it's great! 

 

So, read more about The Band on Song 24 on this Blog, and take a peek at The Band doing "Up On Cripple Creek" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969 right here. 

Song 87 - - The Cactus Blossoms 

Back in August of 2016, I featured The Cactus Blossoms and their song called Clown Collector. So, for the very few of you who read that post, you know that brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are the second coming of the Everly Brothers. And you know that they are very good. 

But what you may not know is that The Cactus Blossoms have a new record dropping this coming Friday, March 1. And a week and a half ago, Jack and Page, along with their touring band, did a WXPN Free-at-Noon concert in which they played a handful of their new songs. So I had a preview of what's to come. And what's to come is amazing! 

 

Still a throwback band, and still sounding like they could have come directly from a 1950s sock hop, the new songs are sophisticated and beautiful. And I'm so much looking forward to the new album, Easy Way, which I pre-ordered on iTunes, when it arrives on Friday.  (Yes, I still actually buy albums of certain groups and singer-songwriters, and The Cactus Blossoms are a "must buy" band, even though I could easily listen to their new tunes on Spotify.)

 

One of the early released songs from the new album is Got A Lotta Love, which, of course, features the lovely harmony of Jack and Page, and is just beautiful. So here it is: Got a Lotta Love by The Cactus Blossoms

Song 86 - - Buddy Holly & The Crickets 

February 3, 1959. It was the day that Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), and Richie Valens died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. And it was, really, the day that the music died. 

When I started this blog back in 2016, the first song that I featured was Dearest by Buddy Holly. The song is beautiful. And Buddy Holly was a genius. He was a major influence on The Beatles. And he remains near and dear to my heart. I could listen to Buddy Holly anytime. Anywhere. 

 

Buddy would be 82 if he was alive today. It's hard to imagine where his career would have taken him if he hadn't died tragically when he was 22. (But it wouldn't surprise me if he had, at some point, been a mainstay on the Las Vegas Strip. Know what I mean?)

 

So, on this 60th anniversary of the day that the music died, let's hear an interview with Buddy Holly shortly before he died, and then here is a live version of Buddy Holly and The Crickets doing Peggy Sue  on a TV show called The Arthur Murray Dance Party on December 29, 1957. 

Song 85 - - Greensky Bluegrass 

I saw Greensky Bluegrass yesterday morning. Yes, morning. The five-man group was in town to tape a World Cafe (the radio show produced at WXPN) session at World Cafe Live (the music venue adjacent to the WXPN offices). Talia Schlanger hosted the taping, and I was lucky enough to be in the group of folks who were invited to see the taping live. 

I knew about Greensky Bluegrass, and I heard a few of their songs on the radio. But I really didn't pay much attention to them, and I had exactly zero of their songs in my iTunes collection, and I never punched them up on Spotify. But, when the invitation to this taping arrived, I knew that it was time for me to learn more about them. 

I've always liked bluegrass - - enough to often listen to the Bluegrass station on SiriusXM now and again. And enough to listen semi-regularly to bluegrass legends like Doc Watson and bluegrass new(ish)comers like Trampled for Turtles. So I was anxious to learn more about Greensky Bluegrass. 

Until I looked at their website, I had no idea that Greensky Bluegrass has been around for 18 years, or that they play up to 175 shows a year, or that they have a "Grateful Dead"-like following. This Michigan-based group is a seriously big and successful jam band. And they're very good. 

 

They're an engaging group of guys, led by Anders Beck, the dobro player, along with Dave Bruzza on guitar and vocals, Mike Devol on upright bass and vocals, Paul Hoffman on madolin and vocals, and Arlen Bont on banjo and vocals. Their sound ranges from traditional bluegrass to kind of a harder-edged rock & roll bluegrass. And it's all great. 

Their new album, All For Money, was just released two weeks ago. And, along with the, as always, charming and insightful interview by Talia Schlanger, we heard Greensky Bluegrass play a bunch of songs from the new album. It was a most delightful morning. 

Here is Murder of Crows, my favorite of the songs that Greensky Bluegrass played yesterday. 

Coming Soon: New LP: "Twisting in the Wind"

Coming Soon: New LP: "Twisting in the Wind"

"Twisting in the Wind"

Ten original songs + one John Prine cover. Please go to the  "Music and Lyrics" button on the top of the page. Thank you!