Music

Jim Lauderdale: Patchwork River

This is country is supposed to sound like, something whose wholesomeness derives from being coarse rather than refined, like whole grain flour and blackstrap molasses.


Jim Lauderdale

Patchwork River

Label: Thirty Tigers
US Release Date: 2010-05-11
UK Release Date: 2010-06-21
Amazon
iTunes

Most country and folk music fans know the Appalachian murder ballad “Knoxville Girl”. The song has been covered by everyone from old time acts like the Blue Sky Boys, the Wilburn Brothers and the Louvin Brothers to more contemporary performers such as the Lemonheads, Elvis Costello, and Nick Cave. “Knoxville Girl” is said to have deep roots that can be found in places as early as the Elizabethan era, but its theme about killing a girl who has rejected her suitor has proven to be timeless for many male singers. The same is true of the murder ballad “Banks of the Ohio”, which shares the same story. The traditional song has been a staple of the country folk repertoire and famously covered by such luminaries as Johnny Cash, John Baez, Pete Seeger, and Doc Watson.

Jim Lauderdale and Robert Hunter have rewritten these two songs and combined them into a new one, “Louisville Rock” on Lauderdale's new release, Patchwork River. The story is the same. Boy meets girl. Girl rejects boy. Boy kills girl. The details about the town of Knoxville and the Ohio River are slyly alluded to, as well as the fact that “this story has been told before”, but Lauderdale adds a new slant by adding a horn section and turning this into a rhythm and blues song. This effect makes the song simultaneously fresh and timeless.

Lauderdale and Hunter co-wrote all 13 songs on the new disc. Hunter, famous for penning the lyrics to many a Grateful Dead tune (re: American Beauty, Workingman‘s Dead) adds his trademark eccentric style of associative wordplay to many tunes, especially the title track (an example would be, “Served you breakfast on a supper tray/Got no eggs but I saved some shell/Lost the clapper but I found the bell"). Other songs may have more conventional style country lyrics, but there is always a certain amount of weirdness to be found in the lines. Whether the songs concern young love (“Turn to Stone”), a love that never blossomed (“Far in the Far Away”), the love of friends (“Jawbone”) or a long time love (“Good Together”), love seems to be at the center of almost every track.

Musically, Lauderdale’s tunes have a natural flow that allows him to use his guitar to forward the melody and play rhythmically at the same time. He’s ably joined by such notables as James Burton (Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, Emmylou Harris) on electric guitar, Garry Tallent (Bruce Springsteen) on bass, and Al Perkins (Flying Burrito Brothers, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen) on pedal steel guitar for several cuts. They turn even the simplest song into something meaty and substantial through clean and tasty playing.

Purists might quibble that this disc is not really country. As noted, there are elements of rock, folk and rhythm and blues here, and every song seems to incorporate more than one musical style. The record will probably be lumped into the Americana section of most music stores, but that seems to be a cheat. Patchwork River’s title refers to a patchwork, and like the artifact to which it refers the music borrows bits and pieces to create a whole larger and more complex than just the sum of its parts. This country is supposed to sound like something whose wholesomeness derives from being coarse rather than refined, like whole grain flour and blackstrap molasses. The music’s value resides in its materials' richness instead of its distillation.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image