I first heard "A Good Year for the Roses" as Elvis Costello's cover version, and I have to admit that George Jones—who died last week at the age of 81—was not a country artist I listened to very much. My loss. There's a reason he was called the SInatra of C&W. Here's the original.
I bought Richie Havens' "Alarm Clock" in 1971, only having heard "Here Comes the Sun," his cover of the Beatles song that was a highlight of Woodstock. But it turned out this album was full of gems, including my favorite, "Younger Men Grow Older." Tell me about it.
Richie Havens died last week at the age of 72.
I was listening last Saturday to Joe Nick Patoski's essential Texas Music Hour of Power, his fantastic weekly show on KRTS, the public radio station in Marfa. He played this classic from San Antonio's mid-'60s soul scene, which has been released on a compilation by the Chicago-based Numero Group. This collection from its Eccentric Soul series focuses on San Antonio's Dynamic label, which was owned by Abe Esptein. He put out records by a number of black and Mexican-American bands, some of them mixed, like the Commands (above, second from left, is a guy named Jack Martinez). I swear I hadn't heard this song since it was a big hit in San Antonio in 1966 (covered the same year by the O'Jays), and it brought back memories of summer days listening to the radio with the Flores sisters next door. But mostly it made me think of my brothers, Rudy and Willie, who turned me on to so much great music.
It was in the mid-1970s that I first saw the work of documentary filmmaker Les Blank. His seminal films on conjunto music, "Chulas Fronteras" and "Del Mero Corazón," gave me a different kind of appreciation for the music I heard coming out of the jukeboxes at a series of bars my dad owned on the South Side of San Antonio. (Especially the scene in "Chulas Fronteras" with Flaco Jiménez and Fred Ojeda, who used to occasionally perform at my dad's place.) Those films led me to a deeper exploration of Blank's work, which included the classic from 1967, "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins." It's just a beautiful, funny, wondrous film that perfectly captures that place and time in Texas. (You can buy that, or any of Blank's fantastic films, at his website.) Les Blank died today at his Northern California home at the age of 77.
I've been intrigued by Solange Knowles ever since she recorded this cover of a Dirty Projectors song in 2009. Since releasing her debut album at the age of 14, Beyoncé's little sister has been going her own way, knowing she couldn't compete with the family superstar. Solange is 26 now, and exhibiting proof that developing her artistry on her own terms has paid off. Above is her great performance at this year's SxSW of a song from her "True" EP, released last fall. And below is my favorite cut from her last full length album, 2008's "Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams." (She co-wrote this Motown-ish song with Pharrell Williams, who produced it with his Neptunes partner, Chad Hugo.)
What is amazing is that he wrote that in his head as he mopped a school on the West Side. He never learned to read or write, yet he could compose those songs. His sons still play them.