Monday, January 30, 2006

The Greatest Album of All Time

I had a very interesting and lengthy conversation with the best guitar picker I've ever had the pleasure of knowing late late last night, Johnny Fingers.

We had startling similarities in our depth of appreciation for old westerns, Ennio Morricone, Jimi Hendrix and Tom Waits. We agreed that conversations about the 'best' and 'favorite' albums/songs/artists were difficult. But the most surprising thing happened when I said, "but I could easily pick the best album ever." In unison we uttered "Revolver" followed by a moment of surprise that two random guitar players who don't really know each other simplified the universe to one moment in music history.

I'm in the office finishing some unattended items needed for Monday, and I just finished listening to Revolver in my wonderful Shure E2c headphones. I've moved onto Rubber Soul now. The Beatles Revolver is the greatest album of all time.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Country Bass Players

Jerry Ward: Great country bass playerJerry Ward: Great country bass player
Jerry Ward is the first guy to come to mind. These are the only pics I could find: at left from The Strangers first instrumental album, and at right from here. Jerry did really cool stuff on Merle's recordings from 12/65-12/68. This period pretty much includes every GREAT song Merle ever recorded. He may have continued; info on this guy is a little hard to come by. He died in early 2002.

Chuck Berghofer played standup on The Fighting Side of Me and electric on Workin' Man's Blues. That was 1970. His electric stuff sounds like he uses a pick. Very tasteful choice of notes; both of these guys get away with chomatic runs, particularly b7-7-tonic. The b7 seemed off limits to me for strict country until I started checking out Jerry. Hey folks, I've only been playing bass since November.

I just remembered something echoing my last blog I thought of in a Nyquil haze. Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are still alive. They won't be much longer. Though they aren't able to perform with their youthful vigor, and no, they haven't really reinvented themselves as Cash did, we as fans of country music, should honor the living legends somehow. The heroism that mainstream America gives to Johnny Cash should have been delivered well before now. Oh well, if a movie doesn't get made, most Americans won't know about it. But shit, I got into country music in 1992 (that is to say what the hell do I know). The first stuff I bought was Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens. Each of them remain mainstays for my music listening, and I dare say, Merle and Buck offer something that Johnny Cash does not (besides drums, he he). They have not been marginalized by mainstream culture. Get 'em while you can! Here's the NPR archive on aired in honor of Merle's lifetime achievement award from the recording academy.Merle is still on tour. Maybe check out a show. Buck performs frequently at his Crystal Palace.

Doyle Holly was the Buckaroos bassist from 63-71. This my favorite period of Buck Owens. It was a long run. Seems to me his standout contribution is really creative walking. The 1-5 songs, well, he does just that. Looks like he's still around; here he is at Buck's 75th birthday party in 2004.[web image lost] He is 68 himself, and looks like he's playing a newer Precision Bass.
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Henry P. Strzelecki is on Waylon's Honky Tonk Heroes sessions and probably many more. Don't know if I like this guy all that much, but that Waylon beat is linked with this guy. He seems to use a pick and a lot of 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 to drive the song.

Dennis Hromek also was a Strangers (Haggard's band) bass player in the mid 70's. Have to check into this some more.

Bob Moore may have the title for most recorded appearances. I love his older standup stuff, like White Lightning, and am looking forward to checking out some of his electric stuff.

Man, oh man, a little postscript. I am so glad I looked into Jerry Ward yesterday. I went out and bought a brand new Fender Jazz bass. Not because he had one, but it felt and sounded the best. No surprise since what sounds the best in country is Jerry Ward.

I put Fender flatwounds on there and also got a Peavey pro 500 head, with a 12ax7 tube pre amp stage. It was the best bass sound I've heard in a long time. We'll see if the Pyramid Gold flatwounds add even more.

We had a great crowd and a great time. Onward to see Willie Nelson tonight and play with Johnny Fingers and Leroy afterwards!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Roots, Random, Reggae

I seem to be obsessed with the 'roots' of things. I am totally into stuff that is old and 'the first'. Remakes of films really bum me out, with the surprising exception of War of the Worlds. Both versions are cool, but I liked the new one a lot.

I've been repeatedly playing Toots and the Maytals "Bam Bam" from 1966. The pure, pre-reggae roots come alive to me. The melody very is tricky. A harmonic leapfrog kind of thing. There are no real verses. Under the lyrics, 'bam bam' with two part harmony is sung.

I want you to know that I am the man who fights for the right, not for the wrong.
Going there and staying here. Talking this and talking that.
Soon you will find out the man I'm supposed to be.

The statospheric falsetto of Toots following this is just fucking awesome. If you ever hear this song and don't sense the raw, beautiful talent of those guys, well, I guess I don't really care. I'm just glad I do. But more to my point, I feel like I can sense their calypso influences, yet they were starting reggae. It's just freaking great. The first, the source, the real shit. Built on a lot of influences, but driven by their innate, but honed abilities. That's how I want my life to be.

It's cold here in Reno. But Reno is pretty great. I played a show, and since I've made friends with so many musically gifted folks, it wasn't hard to hear some more dudes doing their thing. Last night it was Luke and the Atomiks. But these musical friendships evidently have something to do with me actually being one them. In Cali, I'd be just a nobody. In Reno, I can pretty much do whatever music I feel like. I can chase any number of various musical goals, all just because I want to (and more importantly, I have time). Today I worked on new cover songs for Hellbound Glory with Leroy. It was fun. Then I went home.

So I hope it all works out. I am loving playing bass. I like to sing. Guitar is pretty damn fun too. In everything, I seek the source, or a truth. Mandolin pursuits, I found that with Bill Monroe. The country voice? Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Guitar is more difficult to pin down. There are a lot of 'sources', depending on the style. That may be for another blog. But for bass playing? The source is those no name guys who did all those great recordings for Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. I am committed to learning about the rad groove dudes and will know their names before the month is out. And my dad. I love him for being such a kick ass bass player. And he never taught me anything directly on the bass. But I channel my memories of pops quite often on stage. No, he ain't dead folks. But he doesn't do too much music these days.

Aaah. It's a Tanqueray and Tonic night. I just finished watching John Ford's The Searchers. It was pretty great, especially the Technicolor. John Wayne, eeeenh. The obvious thing I saw was Once Upon A Time In The West everywhere, primarily in the location shots. What was surprising is that I saw very clear homage to the burning homestead paid by George Lucas in Ep. IV. Wait Luke, it's too dangerous!. I swear there is a snow shot of two main chararacters coming down a snowy steep slope that was copied in the Fellowship of the Ring. My favorite shot was pretty late in the flick where the camera pans down to the younger character in a narrow, bedrock canyon. It's like a 15 or 20 second move. I love that shit.

The most inquisitive and curious-minded of that family was called Smeagol. He was interested in roots and beginnings.

So there you go, that is how Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, and Toots and the Maytals can be linked together. From watching the Searchers from 1956. Roots. Random. Reggae.

Goodnight strangers :)

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