Monday, July 2, 2007

Luxury Liner 40 tons of steel

A strange song, a great album. The song was written by Gram Parsons and first appeared on the International Submarine Band's LP Safe At Home. The remastered version by the good folks at Sundazed is worth hearing.

Emmylou Harris' album of the same name from 1977 is a pivotal record for me.

In 1993 I decided to learn country music so I could share with my dad and my mom's father. I was 20 and had been playing guitar in earnest for a year or so. But I wanted to learn all that I could from these musicians that were my family.

As luck? would have it, some things happened for my Dad's band. On Father's Day of 1993, Stillwater Savage opened for Ricky Skaggs. I met Ricky and Keith Sewell, then lead guitar. It was a hot day. But unlike the Waylon opening show 9 months prior, I was fully interested in country music. (For the Waylon show, I remember with gleeful shame that I had worn some ridiculous Z. Cavaricci pants and a silk shirt. I know. It may have been a statement about how urban I imagined I was. Fucking dork. Unfortunately I remember doing that, and more unfortunately, there are pictures.)

An instructional video tape had found its way to my Dad because Albert's '53 Tele was of interest to him. I remember him telling me "Boy, you gotta see this crazy English guy. He just goes berzerk on this old Tele." I immediately took it home. Albert Lee's Star Licks from 1983. Very very near this time, a new magazine appeared on the shelf. The first issue of Country Guitar, published by Guitar World. Of course I still own it. I learned every crappy song tabbed out in it. I read and reread and reread about country picking. There is a short article about Albert's style. There is also an article about required listening for country lead guitar style. I was familiar with a couple of the discs and one selection had been sent to me only months prior. Damn CD clubs: the Allman Brothers, Live at the Fillmore. I've since grown fond of that CD, but disagree about it having anything to do with country. I went to the music store and picked up my first Buck Owens CD. I hadn't really heard Buck before, but my Dad did sing Together Again occasionally. I 'special ordered' Luxury Liner at some ridiculous inflated 1993 price. I had to hear this Albert fellow in context. The instructional video had hit me like a train, so I was hoping to start the recovery process. I still haven't.
The album contains a Townes Van Zandt song, already made famous by Waylon an Willie (but then unknown to me) and two Gram Parsons songs. The album features instrumentalists Albert Lee, James Burton and Ricky Skaggs. Rodney Crowell sings on the album as well as getting two songwriting credits.

It is a blurry summer because I wasn't up to much. I played a gig with Trent Kinnier at some Elks or Moose or Rotary gathering in Orland. I was just kind of fuckin' around, my first experience doing so as an adult. I moved into a one bedroom apartment on Citrus Avenue and began to decorate it music posters and guitars. I started to watch The Nashville Network, getting cable TV for that purpose. I taped endless horrible videos and shows and one in particular. An appearance of Townes Van Zandt on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now. I also caught Ricky Skaggs on some other similar show. The Ricky tape survives, but not the Townes one. Funny, that.

Do you see why I'm nuts?

So when I got into songwriting five years later in 1998, I had some reference for Townes as well as Rodney. I knew that Gram was going to be a biggie for me. I just wasn't ready. That would wait until about the time of my first shared bill with Dave Gleason in 2005. I had tried, but the GP/Grievous Angel album just didn't speak to me then. And an accidental brush the the Flying Burrito Brothers' self titled but 3rd album had soured their music to me. I got it on vinyl in Palo Alto, excitedly put it on and was like "What the hell is all the fuss? This kind of sucks." It was their stuff with Gram that I finally got around to in 2005. Gilded Palace of Sin just waited until I was ready to come into my life.

So to hear Dave's new album starting off with the unmistakable mark of Albert Lee was about as full circle as anyone could ever hope to come, short of having Albert on my own record. It was a great weekend with Dave and the Wasted Days. I don't know why these guys are such resonant characters in my music career. I will one day learn to let go of these coincidences? and just get to pickin' and writing. Songs, not blogs. (This one did come out in less time it takes to spin Gillian and David's Revival.) These damn spiderwebs. This is actually about Emmy Lou and Luxury Liner. Listen to She where she sings 'HAAAAAAAA lle lu ja'. Breathtaking. Perhaps this album will change your life too.

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