Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fire On The Mountain

Hope all y'all had a nice holiday.

'Spect it's time for the Big Rock Candy Mountain best of list for 2006. I guess best of isn't necessarily the right word for it. As I've read through the various publications who do the whole "best of" thing, I find the majority of what is deemed important or best holds little appeal to me. I'm probably not alone in that. Things have become so niche-oriented that it's difficult to fully take in the broad spectrum of music that's out there. Look at all the music blogs that specialize, this one included. We've been so overwhelmed by genre that a common, shared voice is difficult to pinpoint. I'm not sure we could produce another Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, or Eminem again. Artists who, for one reason or another, transcend their genre, who reach across imaginary market share lines. I could be wrong.

This is the year that one of the most perfect songs ever written, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, has been co-opted to hawk a business that I will not patronize. Parliament is hawking some kind of SUV thingy.

I've purchased somewhere around 100-150 albums this year. The majority of them were not released in 2006. That probably makes me sound a bit the fogey. I'm too young to start sounding like my parents, right? There's great music being made every year, and I'm not keen on sacred cows or status quo's. I see no reason Yo La Tengo, f'rinstance, shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles. Music didn't begin and end with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I find myself more and more drawn to strange little compilations from no-name or overseas labels featuring a bunch of never-remembered hillbilly honky-tonkers, blues jumpers, trashcan bangers, and whatnot. There's gold in them there hills. Important? Maybe not. There's a reason some folks never made it down the mountain, tablet in hands. But, you know, it's what I like.

Which is why this is not a Best Of list. There's no context to judge Best. No remove. Get back to me in 10 years when we see if we're still listening, when we see if there's influence.

So this is part 1 my list of favorite albums of the year, plus some other odds and ends sprinkled in over the next four days. They're albums I listened to the most, or think I'll appreciate for years to come. Maybe you will too. Or not.

Favorite Box Sets

1. Rockin' Bones : 50's Punk and Rockabilly (Rhino): The motherlode of trash. Sure, there's a couple thousand songs left off, but it's tough to argue with the songs included. Great as a primer, or as a nifty little all-in-one package for those of us who have these songs spread out over 101 other compilation cd's or records. This is the kind of music the Mountain's all about.

2: Waylon Jennings: Nashville Rebel (Sony/BMG): Good gravy! We got your Outlaw Country right here. Ol' Waylon had some schmatlz in 'im, and some of that is included on this career-spanning set. But all the classic honky-tonk goodness is here, from the personification of the Outlaw movement. I'm pretty sure Hank would have done it this way.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain Top 10 Albums, Part 1

I'm cheating already. This album was released in 2005. But I didn't get it 'til this year. Seems likely this would have finished higher on last year's list, but I figger it's not fair to the albums that came out this year. Or something. Cast King, 79 and recording his first proper album, makes mountain music, lonely and faded, burnt and dirty, creaking and caked by mud. For a more in depth look into how great I think this record and Cast King are, you can check out what I wrote 11 months ago. It's a perfect record, the way god intended: A man, a guitar, a back porch, a mountain.

I was fully prepared to dislike this album. Gob Iron is Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt and Anders Parker of Varnaline. Ostensibly a collection of Farrar and Parker's take on traditional folk songs with musical interludes, it could easily have been a tossed-off, ego-driven affair, on it's way to the bargain bin of history. What it turned out to be, though, was a bit of a revelation. Farrar has the kind of voice made for the dusty corners of America, and he puts it to good use, with Parker's cracked voice serving as counterpoint. With respect to the originals, the two men forge a new modern traditionalism. The spirit of the old with a new weariness of time infused. A creaking, desperate affair.

Stop back tomorrow for Part 2, and a list of runners-up. Thanks.


Craig said...


Donnie said...

You know, Rockin' Bones would have been great had Rhino done their due diligence and not included 25%(!) dupes I already had on their previous rockabilly release: Loud, Fast and Out of Control. Rip off! Oh and for them to make the comparision of 50s rock with 70s punk or today's psychobilly is waaaaay off the mark. Like trying to go back and paint a skull on the back the Fonz's jacket to try and make 70s nostalgia of the 50s relevant to today's lil' punks.

bigrockcandymountain said...

Holy cats, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Oddly enough, I have the Loud, Fast, and Out of Control collection too, and somehow I don't feel remotely ripped off. Hell, I've got most of the songs on the box on other collections. Still don't feel ripped off. And probably the folks who don't have that set, or most of these songs collected elsewhere, will feel even less ripped off. Did you read the track listing before you bought the set? Might have saved you some time and aggravation.
So far as the comparisons to other forms of music go, I'd say, first, that I generally buy albums for the music not the liner notes. I'd then say that one could legitimately make a comparison from the trash rock of the 50's to punk and, erm, psychobilly. Influences are important, and it's the natural course of things to feed off what has come before.
As for the "lil' punks" getting exposure to this stuff, isn't that a good thing, don't we want people getting exposed to Wanda Jackson, Jack Scott, Hasil Adkins, Link Wray, etc.? It's a good leaping off point for folks to go and explore these artists in a more indepth manner.
Or are we so concerned with being the most obscure,hippest kid on the block, and we don't want to share our toys. What an elitist attitude, to hoard good music and lord it over the "lil' punks" that you're somehow superior to them, when their only fault is that they haven't heard the "good stuff". 'Cuz you want to keep it from them. I'm sure Hasil Adkins would have like the exposure. And the paycheck.
Maybe you just need a hug.

Donnie said...

"Sure I'm pissed, but what difference does it make?"
-Steve Martin

I didn't buy the set because I did look at the track listing first. I was just torqued off at Rhino for being so lazy when they could have substituted those dupe tracks with 25 of the thousand or so they could have used. So maybe I don't get to complain but I get to flip Rhino the bird when I borrow and burn it from the library.

And by no means do I want to keep this music from the kids (or anyone for that matter.) You're misinterpreting where I'm directing my peeved attitude toward. The rockabilly scene across the US is pretty D-E-A-D (with the exception of So. Cal.) and kinda sorta halfassedly being replaced with the psychos, which is just how things progress when you still want your music to rock but your image requires bigger hair, more tattoos and thicker eyeliner (see also 80s metal.) I would LOVE to have a thriving and kick ass scene from coast to coast, but you're right in the fact that we've genrefied ourselves out of existence.

BUT...it's revisionist and wrong for Rhino to call this music punk when it's not* and even worse, package it as such with all these photos in the liner notes of stuff that is retro homage when in actuality would have gotten you thrown in the klink back in the day (they must have sent someone to the Hootenanny show for "research".) Did they nail what the music represents today? Yeah, but it sure doesn't sound like that. So then gimme a comp of 70s revival up to now instead.

Call me a traditionalist, but I'd rather have the music presented as is instead of some interpretation of what Rhino THINKS it is. The music's inherently cool on its own. So go ahead and gimme me a hug but don't call me elitist for wanting historical accuracy over sham marketing.

Whew, a whole lotta vitriol over a box set that probably sold 10,000 copies.

* Might as well start calling early jazz "punk" too in terms of shaking up the musical status quo.