Wednesday, December 5, 2012


See? This is why I try not to listen to music too much. I have been sitting here for two hours obsessing over Richard Thompson versions. And crying. Just some little twang or touch here or there in an unexpected place, a fresh bass line from Danny Thompson, an unusually soft and tender syllable of a word in a song I know well, just stops me. Goosebumps. Tears. Awe...

And here's where I really miss my younger brother, Carl. He was always available and enthusiastic about deconstructing songs and music. If I didn't know or understand how or why something sounded some way, or what the difference was that someone was playing a '55 Les Paul on one song and then changed to a Strat or a custom guitar on another song, he could explain, in plain English, what were the nuances and my (quite burning) curiosity would be soothed.

Not sure who took this, so no permission.
Now, my friend Kim will sit for hours and deconstruct and compare arrangements, nuances of tempo, distances from mics on vocals, recording technology, and all that stuff, although she is not as much of a guitarhead as Carl was. I visited one afternoon with a pile of cds and we spent four or five hours listening to things repeatedly, in utter communion, and that was lovely. I think we got the most hung up on RT's Guns are Tongues. Now, I suggest you really stop and check out that link. Turn up the speakers and listen at least three times. Plus, the comments on this are good and true, my favorite being "This song shows how overrated Dylan is..." I mean, I don't actually think of the mandolin as a rhythm instrument but somehow it is both lead and rhythm in certain passages of this song. (This should come as no surprise as it is RT himself playing mandolin and he plays a bass line and lead utterly uniquely.) Yeah, passages, phrases, phases. 

Here's a bit about it from RT's blog:

I have been very moved by ‘Guns are the Tongue’s on the new album. It seems that Carrie is using her charms to recruit new members into the IRA. Is / was Carrie a real person, or based on several females that actually worked this way? I downloaded the album from ‘iTunes’ so I have no liner notes. Brilliant Album. Thanks, Richard Sanders

"Guns Are the Tongues" is as fine a song as any you've written (no mean feat, as you know much better than I). I've yet to encounter a less dogmatic, less simplistic portrait of the tragic seductiveness of terrorism. Though I'm normally loath to ask an artist to explain his work, I was curious whether the song is based on an IRA incident or whether the Carrie and Little Joe characters are entirely your own creation. Either way, thanks for opening a door that we normally don't get to see past. Jim Scheiner

This song is fiction, and not based on any real characters. Put it in Ireland if you like, but I left the setting a little vague. The politics is supposed to be more of a backdrop to the human drama.

Actually, I have to include two more little Q&A's from that installment:

Dear Richard: Have you always had the guitar-playing abilities you have now? In other words, if You in your ‘Human Fly’ days had met the You of today, in Borges-like fashion, would the younger You have been able to play songs like "Beeswing" and "1952" or would you think "How the heck did he (me) do that?" Just wondering, because your playing sounds brilliant from all eras. Thank you for the great show in Cleveland last week! Seeing a song like "One Door Opens" performed live is a real treat. Very best wishes, David Fedan.

I think I play better now – better technique, better harmonic ideas, better feel. On acoustic, I really developed some new techniques in the 80s, that my younger self could definitely not play. He can back me on rhythm, though…and I’d like to have a word with that young chap, talk some sense into him.

Richard, is it possible that, in this life, we can expect to see you and Neil Young together on stage? If not, why? hopefully, Peter Dees

Well, one of us is an unrepentant old hippie with a slightly crippled guitar style – and the other one is Neil Young! We don’t seem to move in the same circles. 

I swear RT's playing shoots sparks and lights. At least they go off in my head.

Okay, now we are at 2.5 hours but at least I digressed into writing. Now on listening to an RT/David Byrne version of Psycho Killer ... yeah, read that and weep. Killer indeed. If any of you are burning to hear my RT Faves mixes, let me know. It will be a couple of weeks before they are anywhere near finished. I just uploaded another 2 hours of RT material this morning.

Now we're on to an updated version of Phil Ochs' I Ain't Marching Anymore which RT updated after speaking to Phil's sister. Damn him. Crying again.

I've gotta gotta get busy to get ready to get down to Queens and that means laundry. Our dryer is out, so I'll have to trek out to dry it. 

Don't miss this either: Tam Lin.

Don't know if I'll be writing from New York City, but at least my ocd focus on music will have been broken.

Not sure who took this, so no permission.

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