Thursday, 17 August 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Can't Help Falling In Love
Just My Imagination

Da Elderly: -
I'm Just A Loser
In The Morning Light

The Elderly Brothers: -
No Reply
Mailman Bring Me No More Blues
When You Walk In The Room
It Doesn't Matter Anymore

A mostly packed night with plenty of players and an attentive audience. There were several new turns including an open mic debut by two young lasses who blew us away with their tight harmonies, excellent guitar playing and spot-on diction. Also a young lad surprised us by playing J J Cale's Call Me The Breeze and the bluegrass standard Momma Don't Allow. In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Elvis's passing, Ron gave a soulful rendition of Can't Help Falling In Love and had everyone singing along. The Elderlys went on at 11:45 and finished with a 'new' song - Buddy Holly's It Doesn't Matter Anymore. The usual unplugged session went on for a full hour. With a Neil fan or two in the house, I was able to indulge with a few rarities including Vampire Blues from my favourite album, On The Beach. The evening was complete when, during drinking-up time, the bar staff put Willie The Pimp from Frank Zappa's Hot Rats on the 'juke box'.

P.S. there will be no set lists next week as Ron is away and I shall be at SJP for the cup game.

Friday, 11 August 2017

David Grann - Killers of the Flower Moon - review

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David Grann – Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (352 pages, Simon & Shuster, £20) – review

Frank Black
11 August 2017

Years ago, I recall seeing Mervyn LeRoy’s hagiographic The FBI Story (1959), a fictionalised account of the birth and development of the FBI. It might not have been the greatest film ever but, as always, the presence of Jimmy Stewart made it palatable. One episode, however, stood out for me: the FBI’s role in putting an end to the killing of  Osage Indians in Oklahoma, who had suddenly been transformed by the discovery of oil on their reservation to the richest people per capita in the world in the early 1920s.
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Osage Indians meeting President Coolidge in 1924

Former New Yorker staff writer David Grann expands on the events of that period, highlighting the spate of murders which enabled local white men to bilk the Indians out of their new-found wealth, stories of which had spread far and wide, not always eliciting admiration: a feature in Harper’s Monthly Magazine warned, “The Osage Indians are becoming so rich that something will have to be done about it.”

When oil was discovered on the reservation, prospectors had to lease lands from the Osage, who weren’t thought capable of handling their own financial affairs, so white ‘guardians’ were appointed to supervise them. These men were, it will come as no surprise to learn, often unscrupulous, money-grabbing crooks, who, despite being leading citizens among the local white communities and despite their profession of friendship to the Indians, would purchase items for their new best friends from either their own companies or those owned by friends or relatives at ridiculously inflated prices.

Tales in the national press of Indians spending thousands on luxury items were soon supplanted by those of an altogether darker nature.

The headrights to the oil remained with the Osage, but they could be inherited by family members, so whites married into the tribe and that’s when their venality plumbed new depths.
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Minnie, Anna and Mollie Burkhart

Grann’s story revolves around Osage women in the Smith family. Minnie died of a mysterious wasting disease at age 27; her sister Anna was murdered with a gunshot to the head in 1921; another sister, Rita, was killed alongside her husband in a bomb attack which blew up their home; their mother, Lizzie, died under similar conditions to Minnie. The remaining sister, Mollie, also took ill but managed to let a local priest know that she felt her life was in danger, not knowing that her husband, Ernest Burkhart, was one of the men at the heart of her family’s misfortunes.

The authorities who initially investigated the case were stymied by graft and corruption and were sometimes involved themselves; in two cases, white men who got near the truth were murdered  – one in Washington DC where he was seeking help, indicating the extent of the corruption and the rich rewards at stake.
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William K. Hale

If all this sounds straight out of the roaring twenties – corrupt officials and businessmen; gangsters, huge amounts of money; the murder of innocents; heroic FBI agents; national press coverage – it has never captured the imagination of the public and the popular media to the same degree as Al Capone, Elliott Ness and contemporary events in Chicago, although the chief antagonist, businessman William K. Hale, uncle of Ernest Burkhart and self-styled ‘King of the Osage Hills,’ was a charismatic figure who had the support and admiration of many of his neighbours, including – initially – the Osage, who had at first sought his aid in getting to the bottom of these mysterious deaths.
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Tom White

This is also the story of the nascent FBI. Even at this early stage, the bureau had been tainted by corruption during the Harding administration in the early 1920s; its new director, appointed in 1924, was the ambitious and zealous J. Edgar Hoover, who was keen that to make an impact and to this end, he appointed Tom White, an intrepid Stetson-wearing former Texas Ranger, who headed up a small group of similarly dedicated undercover agents to work with the Osage and investigate what became known as the ‘Reign of Terror.’ White was clearly a formidable-but-just character and was able to root out and bring to trial the villains of the piece in face of constant threats and appalling corruption. The FBI bathed in White’s glory and claimed to have solved the murder of 24 tribal members; in fact, the success of the investigation created an atmosphere of trust between the Bureau and Indians in general up until the late 1960s and early 70s when civil rights activism at Alcatraz and Wounded Knee brought them into conflict.

The final section of the book sees the author in Oklahoma visiting relatives of those killed, learning about the tribe’s own investigations and digging a little deeper himself to unearth more guilty parties, including the doctors who were 'treating' the Osages by poisoning them, and he comes to the conclusion long held by the tribe itself that the number of victims far exceeded the FBI’s figures and actually ran into the hundreds...

This well-researched book is part thriller, part journalistic account – and I have to say that I wish there had been a little more of Grann’s own enquiries amongst the modern day Osage – that shines a spotlight on a series of events almost forgotten outside of the Osage tribe and while this sort of thing has been going on in the Americas since 1492, it seems particularly pertinent considering the current struggle over the Dakota pipeline.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit York: -

Ron Elderly: -
House Of The Rising Sun
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

Da Elderly: -
Romancing Tonight
Love Song

The Elderly Brothers: -
I'll Be Back
The Boxer
Then I Kissed Her
I Saw Her Standing There

It was a strange night at The Habit - plenty of players, but a dearth of punters until quite late on. Regular Deb surprisingly covered Dan Fogelberg's To The Morning from his 1973 debut Home Free. Dave from Leeds paid tribute to the legend that was Glen Campbell with covers of Gentle On My Mind and Wichita Lineman. Between our solo and duo sets I was asked to support taxi-driver Chris on Birds and Only Love Can Break Your Heart from Neil Young's 1970 classic After The Gold Rush. The Elderlys introduced a 'new' song Stay covered originally by The Hollies and later by Jackson Browne. Closing proceedings for the evening we finished, as we started, with a Beatles song.

And because we love you, here are last Wednesday night's set lists too:

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
One More Cup Of Coffee
Suspicious Minds

Da Elderly: -
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Harvest Moon

The Elderly Brothers: -
When Will I Be Loved
Then I Kissed Her
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Walk Right Back
Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues

Right from the off, the place was packed with punters and players, right up until last bus-time. Just as last week more punters arrived around 11:30 and we had a good crowd in until chucking-out. There was a fine array of players doing their own songs and covers. Two lads (acoustic guitar and electric bass) entertained us with The Ink Spots' I Don't Want To Set The Earth On Fire, Scarborough Fair (with flute replacing guitar at the end) and The Doors' People Are Strange. The Elderlys played on unplugged after the open mic had finished and the usual sing-song continued till closing time. A fab night once again.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Glen Campbell RIP

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Glen Campbell: the guitar prodigy represented the best of pop and country
The man Dolly Parton called ‘one of the greatest musicians’, who played with Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, was also one of America’s most relatable stars

Mark Guarino
The Guardian
Wednesday 9 August 2017

Glen Campbell may always be associated with hits such as Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman and statistics like 50 million in record sales, but the legacy he leaves behind is one even more expansive, spanning musical genres, time periods and even instruments.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO, Kyle Young, told the Guardian: “Had he ‘only’ played guitar and never voiced a note, he would have spent a lifetime as one of America’s most consequential recording musicians. Had he never played guitar and ‘only’ sung, his voice would rank with American music’s most riveting, expressive, and enduring.”

In an emailed statement, Dolly Parton called Campbell “one of the greatest voices that ever was in the business”. “He was also one of the greatest musicians. A lot of people don’t realize that, but he could play anything,” she said.

Campbell, who died on Tuesday, aged 81, of Alzheimer’s disease, was a guitar prodigy at age 10. He spent his childhood on an Arkansas farm with no electricity, where he was the seventh son in a family of eight boys and four girls. Not one for manual labor, he left at age 16 and worked the south-west honky-tonk circuit for eight years until landing in Los Angeles. It was the early 1960s and his impressive guitar skills earned him a place in the Wrecking Crew, a collection of LA session musicians who played on hundreds of recordings for the era’s biggest names – Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Simon and Garfunkel, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and many others.

His guitar touched the landmark recordings of his time. That’s his rhythm playing on Sinatra’s Stranger in the Night, his comeback hit from 1966; his ringing lead riff on I’m a Believer by the Monkees; his guitar ringing out on Viva Las Vegas by Presley; and, on the Beach Boys’ landmark album Pet Sounds, Campbell’s guitar and vocals are heard throughout. His association with Brian Wilson was particularly fortuitous. The Beach Boys auteur co-wrote Guess I’m Dumb, Campbell’s first single. Even though the song failed to chart, Campbell joined the band for a five-month tour in 1964-65 where he replaced Wilson, playing his bass and singing his falsetto leads, after Wilson suffered a breakdown and refused to go on the road.

All that experience meant, by 1967, Campbell was a different kind of country artist. Despite a few attempts to go solo during the Wrecking Crew years, it took Campbell’s association with songwriter Jimmy Webb where he forged his own territory between country and pop. Songs like Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, and Where’s the Playground Susie told strong narratives, were draped in melancholy and, through the use of stirring string arrangements, transported the listener into three-minute dramas that had cinematic sweep.

Campbell credited the fact that he and Webb grew up within 150 miles of each another as one of the reasons why they had similar sensibilities.

“That’s what we grew up with – the good songs, the good lyrics, the good big-band stuff. I miss that era,” he told this writer in 2005. Webb’s “melodies and chord progressions were as good as anything I’d ever heard”.

As the Woodstock generation emerged later that decade and tastes changed, Campbell remained deceptively clean-cut despite his own demons. He was the type of star the crosscurrent of America could relate to. While his peers Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and other country stars claimed to be outlaws, Campbell’s songs were middle-of-the-road relatable, and often cast in a sad light.

Charlie Daniels said in an emailed statement that Campbell “filled a niche in American music that very few people have ever reached … He represented the best of the pop and the best of country, and he pulled people in from both sides. It was a great thing for country music, and frankly, for pop music”.

Campbell racked up 48 country hits and 34 pop hits under his belt between 1967 and 1980 – a remarkable accomplishment, considering such versatility in reaching both audiences predated the new country trend that Garth Brooks and others would develop in the early 1990s. Like Cash, Campbell hosted a popular television show that defined genres in the artists it showcased. When disco dominated the pop charts, he showed an uncanny ability to adapt by releasing Southern Nights, the Allen Toussaint song redone with a stomping dance beat, and Rhinestone Cowboy, which became ubiquitous at dance clubs and roller rinks across middle America.

“He was a multimedia star before almost anyone else – music, film, television, he mastered all of it with a totally unpretentious charm and joy,” said singer-songwriter Cait Brennan.

Once the hits dried up, Campbell struggled with alcoholism and turbulent marriage battles. He also became a born-again Christian and recorded religious albums while never cutting back on touring. By the late 1990s, he discovered a new generation of younger artists were citing him as an influence – partly due to a massive reissue campaign by EMI/Capital, but also to a new wave of interest in Americana music spurred on by artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Freedy Johnston, Michelle Shocked, and REM, who all happened to cover Wichita Lineman.

Songwriter Peter Himmelman said: “There are so many songwriters and players wondering how to ‘make it’ in today’s music industry. It’s not hard – just sing, write, and play your ass off like Glen Campbell, one of the greatest American music-makers ever.”

In fact, Campbell’s 2010 album, Ghost on the Canvas, released following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, features songs written for him by latter-day rock statesmen Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices, Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, Jakob Dylan, among others, and features guitars by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. Campbell waited until this year to release AdiĆ³s, his final album, which came out in June.

On that album, for one more time, Campbell turned to the songs of his old friend, Jimmy Webb, among others including Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, and Willie Nelson. The songs hold true to his early days, when AM radio emphasized songs, not the sound.

“I felt my music wasn’t aiming at anybody. Everything I was doing was because it was a good song,” he told this writer in 2005. “Music is music. It doesn’t matter if I am trying to aim at country or trying to aim at pop. I am just trying to do a song the best possible way I can.”

Saw him with a small band on his very last tour, after the diagnosis had been made public and there was a lot of love for him in the house. He occasionally stumbled and didn't always know where to put himself between songs but his singing and playing were in another world. I couldn't help wishing that more of his released songs hadn't been swamped by strings. Grown men cried when he played a stripped down version of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Well, I did anyhow. RIP, Glen.

Here you go: