As promised, I’m back after my second Jack Johnson acoustic cover song (posted on Saturday) to bring you my first installment for “New Bands Week.” Since I wanted to make sure that I’m pulling my weight around here (and considering that Jim is swiftly adding to a list of at least ten new artists he plans to cover!), I decided to bring not only one but two new bands in one day to the best cover song music blog in the universe!
Okay, so maybe I’m talking up my contribution here, since the song I chose — “Walt Whitman’s Niece” — was recorded as a collaboration between the two artists, songwriter Billy Bragg and alternative rock band Wilco. But, still… in the spirit of “New Bands Week,” two new bands!
There’s a really interesting story to go along with this cover song. This is the first track on Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue album, a collection of songs based on the lyrics of Woody Guthrie. Guthrie essentially ended up writing countless songs over his years as a songwriter, many of which he never put to music. He literally had boxes of them. I read that Guthrie actually offered them to a young Bob Dylan when Dylan went to visit him in the hospital. He even made the long trip out to Guthrie’s house, but there was only a babysitter at home and she did not want to let a stranger in. (Little did she know he would soon be anything BUT a stranger!) Then, decades later, Billy Bragg and Wilco got their hands on the lyrics, chose their favorites, and wrote music for the words. The result is an amazing album that I first learned about through my Journalism II teacher, who was also a big Dylan fan.
They came out with a sequel a few years later, simply called Mermaid Avenue Volume II, but it really wasn’t as strong as the first time around. This is simply one of those moments in rock music, in my opinion, that came down to initial inspiration. That first album is such a strong, enjoyable, and interesting collection of music. In fact, I initially wanted to record “Ingrid Bergman” (which I did and stored away for later), but then remembered about “Walt Whitman’s Niece.” I figured it would be a much stronger choice, as it is the first track on the album, upbeat, and of course, highlighted by a crazy harmonica solo that I could never duplicate. All in all, a really fun song to sing. As Jim and I figured out, it was a lot of fun to improv lyrics to the tune!
As a final note, Jim and I saw the latest Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, tonight. Although I’m always a big fan of seeing him in the movies, this was a really interesting film even if he didn’t play an acting role. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the voiceovers initially, but I really got into the characters and especially the situation. I think this is one of those movies that will cause viewers to think about their own ideas about love, trust, and what their lives will be like in several decades. How do you find happiness? I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop here.
This may be all for today’s post, but don’t forget to rush back tomorrow for another all-new band and another all-new cover song by Jeff Copperthite. If you haven’t already, you should scroll down the home page and check out Jim and Jeff’s first picks of the New Bands Week.
In the spirit of the blog, I’ll be posting on several topics tonight. First, let’s get down to business and talk about my choice for an acoustic cover song session. “Ingrid Bergman” is my second selection from the Wilco and Billy Bragg album Mermaid Avenue. This album has one of my favorite back-stories; essentially (as I described for my “Walt Whitman’s Niece” post), Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and British folksinger Billy Bragg were given access and rights to boxes full of Woody Guthrie lyrics. They recorded this album by writing music to fifteen of Guthrie’s songs, and it is an excellent recording. Unfortunately, the second volume is not nearly as fresh and exciting as the first…
That being said, I had such a good time and a good response for my first Mermaid Avenue track that I decided to record this one also. “Ingrid Bergman” is a song that I have oftentimes gotten easily stuck in my head and I find it peaceful to sing along to in my head. It was actually more difficult to figure out the strumming pattern than I thought it would be. Other than that, it was a pretty straightforward performance that I hope you’ll enjoy listening to!
In other news, it was a bad day to be a Mets fan… After yesterday’s AMAZING outing by Johan Santana, I thought that there might be enough energy and momentum built up to translate into an important win of this, the last game played at Shea Stadium. I’d like to jump on the bandwagon and blame the bullpen, but the great point has been made that, really, it takes both defense AND offense to make a winning team. Not to mention the reasonable argument that Santana is essentially the sole reason why the Mets were in the race for so long to begin with. Well, I suppose I can’t really complain. I haven’t been a Mets fan for all that long, and this is really the first year that I watched or paid close attention to each game (thank you iPhone!!). Let’s hope that management and the team in general has learned some important lessons for next year…
And last, but certainly not least, I will second Jim’s reflections on friendship. I think that, all too often, with family, friends, lovers — we get so busy with our day to day lives and we lose perspective. I know that I have been guilty of that. And I’ve also been guilty of not taking a firm stand for those that I care about. Life is a crazy, crazy process, and every time I think that I’m getting ahead of the curve and finding happiness, I get set back a step. Ever felt that way? Ever felt trapped by a paradox, or a no-win situation? For those that don’t know me, I’m generally a pretty positive person — sometimes positive in the face of all logical proof to the contrary.
Contradictions, controversy, and general confusion are some of the best reasons we write. I know that they’re my motivations. And let’s just say I have a lot to write! (More about that on my upcoming Original Wednesday…)
Thanks for stopping by for your daily dose of Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song excitement; don’t forget to hurry back tomorrow for an all-new cover by Jeff.
For Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, & Wilco chords and lyrics, CLICK HERE!
By Chris Moore:
As promised, I’m up to the plate for the second time this evening, as I sonically celebrate New York Mets baseball opening day 2009!
For my next trick, I picked my familiar acoustic guitar up and learned a song from Mermaid Avenue, Volume II. This album is comprised of songs whose lyrics were composed by Woody Guthrie, predominantly in the 1940s. Then, in the mid to late 1990s, Billy Bragg and the boys of Wilco (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Jay Bennett, and Ken Coomer) teamed up to write music to the words. The result was Mermaid Avenue. The first album is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. In both individual tracks and the sequence of songs as a whole, the first album is amazing. There’s something about the production quality and the combination of vocals — alternating between Bragg’s deep clarity and Tweedy’s roughness — and instrumentation is masterful.
The second collaboration is essentially a compilation of tracks left off the first release. As Bragg and Wilco had had a falling out, I can’t imagine that there was much in the way of actual collaboration on the second album. This is evident, and it perhaps accounts for why I have never really gotten into the second album as much as the first. Still, there are some standout tracks, such as “Airline to Heaven” and “Someday Some Morning Sometime.”
Admittedly, “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” is not a song I would, under normal circumstances, choose to record for a Laptop Session. (And it’s a bit of an anomaly, as the music is written by Bragg, yet Tweedy sings it — a good decision, in my personal opinion!) That being said, I couldn’t think of a more perfect track for today. Although Joe DiMaggio was a player for the Yankees (and I’m a Mets fan!), I think DiMaggio belongs to an era of baseball history that is timeless. There are certain players — Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and others — that fans of all teams can appreciate.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mets won 2-1 over Cincinnati, led by the strong starting pitching of Johan Santana and a home run by Daniel Murphy to name a couple. Even though I wasn’t home to watch the game, I was able to watch via live phone feed — um, I mean the internet connection to the Mets homepage on my iPhone. As Mike texted today, “We’re back to iPhone scoreboard watching!”
As a final note, today is special for another reason…
It’s fellow Laptop Sessions contributor Mike Fusco’s birthday! Here’s to the big 2-3, Fusc! His birthday seems to come at the best time of the year for him — just as the weather is starting to turn warmer (not that you could tell from today’s weather!). For those of you who don’t know, one of Mike’s favorite pastimes is going to the beach. I was there this weekend, and let me tell you… it’s just about time!
Well, that’s about enough for one post. I mean, two posts. Have a great week and don’t forget to stop back regularly this week for more all-new cover song music videos and posts; the second installment of my “Together Through Life” article is coming this weekend…