Welcome to RootsnBlues.com, the musical playground of Troy Mumm. I've been exploring roots music for over 20 years, through my years at college (KVSC), community (KRCL) and now Internet (UtahFM.org) radio. This is place for me and friends to collect music, photos, videos and thoughts that celebrate the roots of American music - blues, country, gospel, cajun, zydeco, rhythm and blues, and more - in all its forms and across generations. Explore, connect and enjoy.
I am a total musicaholic. I have been hooked on music since I figured out how to play the many boxes of 78s in the attic. From there I moved to the White Plains, the Osmonds, Deep Purple, Styx, REO, Head East, and Cheap Trick until I reached the nexus of today. I like singer/songwriters, alt.country/classic country, power-pop, Brit-pop, and whatever road Elvis Costello deems worth travelling. I have been doing one form or radio or another since about 1984. Currently I have a show called "Semi-Twang" on the Voice of Sacramento in, of all places, Sacramento, California.
Website URL: http://about.me/paulhefti
I have long been of the opinion that a great song is best heard in a stripped down, acoustic setting. If a song can be played on an acoustic guitar and you love it as much as an auto-tuned, 1,001 strings version, it's probably a great song. I don't think it matters if it is a prog-rock epic by Rush or a Howard Jones synth-pop song. If you can play it on an acoustic guitar and it has great lyrics and you think "whoa" when you hear it, then it's a pretty well-written song. Remember the first time you heard "Layla" unplugged? That's the kind of feeling I mean.
It's always a great encore when someone like Richard Thompson brings out a "Hit Me Baby One More Time" and you think, "What the heck was that?" Then you think about the song and realize, I guess that was good song in the first place. I imagine that the Brill Building songwriters had those types of moments all of the time. Can you imagine Neil Diamond playing "I'm a Believer" for the first time on an acoustic guitar? Someone had to say to him, "Neil, Neil, that's what we're here for. Do that again"
Bright Littlefield has merged those two concepts together on their new release called "Treatment Bound." It is a ukulele tribute to the Replacements and the songs of Paul Westerberg.
First and foremost, this is clearly a novelty record that after a play or two becomes less of a chuckle and more of a true listening experience. Paul Westerberg's songs were always funny. Whether it was subject matter like Tommy getting his tonsils out or wearing a lampshade at a party or being a waitress in the sky, Westerberg could turn a lyric and make you laugh. On the other hand, he wrote equally of loneliness and alienation that made him sentimental without ever being schmaltzy. Westerberg was a punk with a heart of gold.
The ukulele is a funny instrument. Outside of Hawaii, the uke is seemingly reserved for encores or ladies with tiny dogs in purses or guys like Tiny Tim. Yet somehow Tom Littlefield and Jonathan Bright have steered clear of both the tiny dogs and Tiny Tim and found the humor in Westerberg's music that somehow seems like it was made for the treatment. Hence the title.
Bright Littlefield are clearly in on their own joke but the songs are played with both attention to detail and loving care. While "Treatment Bound" makes me want to crack out my old Twin Tone vinyl, it also makes me want to hear what next these guys have up their sleeves. Hopefully it's not a Chihuahua. I'm going two thumbs way, way up to Replacement fans for "Treatment Bound." I guess you can't spell punk without, at least, a little bit of uke.
I missed the Nirvana revolution and all the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle. Those sounds were lost on me having already enjoyed the noisier days of the Replacements and even before that with the first wave of real hard rock in the form of a continuum from Deep Purple and Uriah Heep to Rainbow and Rush to Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, and AC/DC with Bon Scott. I spent my "grunge" years without a beard spinning classical music in Texas, busy catching up on piles of music made by everyone from Guy Clark to Townes Van Zandt. By the time Kurt Cobain was dead, I was fully aware of Bob Wills and my musical tastes had either been changed or, at least, seriously broadened.
In 1992, The Jayhawks CD Hollywood Town Hall again changed the way I listened to music. Here were guys from my neck of the woods, creating beautiful harmonies with enough twang to be considered country but enough feedback to show they meant rock'n'roll business. I suppose this record marks the formal beginning of the all-encompassing term called "Americana." Hollywood Town Hall came from a world once inhabited by CSN&Y circa Déjà Vu, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Emmylou Harris. Yet the Jayhawks also had an Exile on Main Street and Faces vibe.
I loved this record. It is a stone cold classic. Not a genre piece but a record for anyone who loves music to nod in approval. I would consider Hollywood Town Hall to be a record that every good record collection should have--a true Desert Island disc.
Columbia records has just reissued this fantastic release with a couple of bonus tracks along with its follow-up Tomorrow the Green Grass, featuring the song, Blue, that should have catapulted these guys to super-stardom. Triple A radio was just getting started when Blue was released in 1995. Surprisingly, the song became minor hit, a bumper on VH1, and then the Jayhawks fell apart. All of us rapid fans know the story.
The reissue of Tomorrow the Green Grass includes a second disc called The Mystery Demos which is, I suppose, a foreshadowing of what Mark Olson and Gary Louris would have done had not they spilt. It is curious to listen to The Mystery Demos knowing that Ready for the Flood would eventually bridge the gap from 1995 to 2010. It seems like hardly a difference fifteen years makes.
Or did it? I must admit that I was "one of those fans" who initially and vocally lamented the departure of Mark Olson from The Jayhawks. Gary Louris soldiered on with The Sound of Lies but I whined about the lack of harmonies. Olson and Louris both, rather fortunately, possess very interesting and engaging voices. While apart they are appealing, together they are magical.
As Mark Olson seemed to pull his post-Jayhawks music closer to the bone, Gary Louris channeled his inner Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney and started to write amazing pop songs. With Smile and, even more so with Rainy Day Music, Gary Louris made a record maybe even more marvelous than Hollywood Town Hall. Rainy Day Music was not genre-bending record but rather a collection of hooks that would not go away.
I remember that Rainy Day Music came with a sticker referencing the New York Times article "What If You Made a Classic, and No One Cared?" about Smile. How poignant that by the times Louris shut down the Jayhawks, it appeared that the band had reached maximum density in a music world ignoring real, honest art and finely crafted songs. Louris was creating classics and most everyone was not listening.
So now, as a fan, holding reissues of two classic albums by the little band that should've, the former leader and the guy who carried on, are together again. What's not to love as Olson & Louris are again making those sweet Jayhawks harmonies? Their long-forgotten debut is on CD for the very first time, these two reissues, a new Jayhawks record is in the can, and the 1997-era band is playing live gigs. What is not to love, huh? Everything is coming up Jayhawks!
Well, let's not forget that Gary released three albums without Mark. One was spotty, one was excellent, and one was another stone-cold classic.
No one was happier to see Mark and Gary together again than me. I saw them play four times in five days at SXSW a few years ago. I think these guys, more than lots and lots of other bands deserve another chance at getting people to hear and enjoy their music. I just hope they rethink the reunion and remember some of that music the band made while Mark was dipping his toes in some other creek. I further hope this is not a situation like KISS with and without Ace Frehley. KISS still has to play "Rock & Rock All Night" whether Ace is there or not.
Have I thought about this too much? Sure. Am I fanatical about these Minnesotans? Yep. Are these two reissues worth your hard earned, music dollar spending? To use vernacular from the Jayhawks homeland, who woulda thunk these CDs would ever be reissued? Buy them, listen to them, and be happy that old friends can find their way back together.