Tag: folk music

MUSIC REVIEW | James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)

James 1
The first time I ever heard of James Taylor, it was the mid 90s, I was a teenager, and he appeared on the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes an astronaut. I was so unfamiliar with him, I didn’t even know it was a celebrity cameo until years later when the song he sang in that episode popped up somewhere else. In the years since, Taylor in general, and that song in particular, have popped up constantly. It’s been a couple of decades now since I’ve know who he is and that he’s a bit of a folk legend, but I’ve still never voluntarily listened to a second of his music. Until now, with Sweet Baby James.


Gentle and flowing and soothing and easy on the ear, the opening, title track is exactly what I expected from James Taylor and Sweet Baby James based on the very limited amount of second hand information and exposure I’ve had to him. That might sound dismissive, and it’s kind of meant to. I in no way dislike the song, but it doesn’t really excite me either. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Joni Mitchell – Song to a Seagull (1968)

Joni Mitchell
I have spent the last couple of decades hating the music of Joni Mitchell.  Well, more accurately, I have spent the last couple of decades assuming I hate the music of Joni Mitchell based on the one and only Joni Mitchell song I know, Big Yellow Taxi.  That song boils my blood.  It’s just so wet, so precious, so feeble, so everything that makes folk music and a certain version of the 60s make me want to vomit.  And that little giggle she does after singing in a deep voice for half a line?  That might be the most infuriating second or two ever committed to tape.


But when she was rushed to hospital a few months ago, a lot of musicians and music journalists I really like felt compelled to wax lyrical about how much Joni Mitchell and her music means to them.  I know this isn’t the most open minded approach, but when I decided to listen to Song to a Seagull, I never expected to like it.  At best, I thought I might just have a little more context for my hatred.  So, with my less than honourable intentions out there for all to see, here goes. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Neil-Young-Harvest

I can’t deny that Neil Young is a legend. I also can’t deny that I’ve never really got it. Well, I do. I can see why others love him so much, I can appreciate everything he’s done. I just can’t make myself love it as much as I feel like I should. His high pitched, wavering voice on quieter songs generally just shits me. And I’m starting to think that the invention of the harmonica might be the worst thing that has ever happened to music. But if I’m gonna write about music, writing about Neil Young seems like something I’ll have to do sooner or later, whether I like it or not. So here it is, with Harvest.


If you hate the idea of 60s and 70s musicians with harmonicas and acoustic guitars, you’ll hate Out on the Weekend. If you love the idea of 60s and 70s musicians with harmonicas and acoustic guitars, what’s wrong with you? Out on the Weekend certainly is a 60s and 70s musician with a harmonica and acoustic guitars. Make of that what you will, but I’m sure that description will steer you in the right direction. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | The Avett Brothers – Country Was (2002)

Avett Bros

Folk, country, a little light rock. The Avett Brothers have brought their gentle spin to many a gentle genre, and more often than not, they make it work. I’ve been a fan since 2009’s I and Love and You. By ‘fan’, I mean have I’ve given one or two listens to every album that’s come since then, liked them all, but reverted back to repeated listens of I and Love and You instead of persisting with the newer stuff. And I’ve never gone through their back catalogue. Until now, with Country Was.


It seems like they didn’t take putting the word ‘Country’ in the album’s title lightly. Because Pretty Girl From Matthews might be the most countrified I’ve ever heard the brothers Avett. I’m used to Scott Avett’s banjo from later albums, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it quite as a-pluckin’ as this before. Same with the rich harmonies. I know the band has it in them, it just has an extra country spit and polish here. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

BoB

I don’t get Bob Dylan. I don’t care how many articles I read that declare him, his songs and his albums, up there as the best ever. I don’t care how important he may be or what kind of influence he may have. I just don’t get him. And I’m probably too old now to expect any sort of Dylan epiphany where I finally see the light. But I do get that I am in the wrong here. The whole world and every rock snob in it can’t be wrong. The least I can do, is listen to one of his seminal albums, so next time I’m being berated for not getting Bob Dylan, I can at least say I gave him a chance, with Blonde on Blonde.


Opening in a way I never would have predicted in a million years, Blonde on Blonde kicks off with Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Starting out like a New Orleans second line, marching toward a funeral, with added folk harmonica. Once Dylan’s whine comes in, it’s more like a drunken sea shanty or something barley slurred in an old timey saloon just before closing. The honky tonk piano and “Everybody must get stoned” refrain is just begging for a group of drunks to join in. (more…)