Simple Twist of Fate

The incomparable Ralph Ellison published an article for Esquire in 1959 called “The Golden Age, Time Past.” Eulogizing Minton’s Playhouse, the small performance space from which bebop would emerge and change music history forever, this was a major piece by Ellison, capturing a significant moment in African American culture. Ellison started the piece with linesContinue reading “Simple Twist of Fate”

Shelter from the Storm

In September 1974, Bob Dylan entered A & R Studios in New York with an acoustic guitar and a notebook full of new songs. Over the four days he was in the studio, he experimented with the structure of each song, but one song needed only four takes to achieve a master recording, seemingly arrivingContinue reading “Shelter from the Storm”

Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)

There’s a moment during the climax of Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 ultra-violent Western The Wild Bunch that is a direct connection to Bob Dylan’s song “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” off of his 1978 album Street-Legal. In the film, the outlaw gang, who serve as the plot’s anti-protagonists, are engaged in the biggest, bloodiest shootout depictedContinue reading “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

“This is the best song I ever wrote.” So said Bob Dylan with evident pride about “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” to journalist Robert Shelton in a Denver hotel room during an impromptu performance on March 12, 1966. Dylan was showing off the song and a few others (including “Positively Van Gogh” covered previously onContinue reading “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”

One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)

During the last days of the month of May, gypsies from across Europe make a pilgrimage to the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Southern France and gather to celebrate what is known as the Roma Festival to worship their patron saint, Saint Sara, otherwise known as the Black Sara or Sara the Black. Legend has itContinue reading “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)”

Romance in Durango

The film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum set the parameters for Acid Westerns as a film genre in his review of Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 film Dead Man. Rosenbaum writes in this seminal piece that Acid Westerns “confound much of our mythology about the western — reversing some of its philosophical presuppositions by associating a westward journey withContinue reading “Romance in Durango”

Isis

The idea of the film genre “Acid Western” was created by the film critic Pauline Kael in her 1971 review of the film El Topo in The New Yorker. She wrote: “The avant-garde devices that once fascinated a small bohemian group because they seemed a direct pipeline to the occult and ‘the marvelous’ now reachContinue reading “Isis”

If You See Her, Say Hello

Since the release of Blood on the Tracks in 1975, it has been one of Dylan’s most acclaimed and loved albums. Detailing the ins and outs of a relationship, many critics and fans thought that  Dylan was embracing the California confessional singer/songwriter style and musical approach, exhibited most beautifully and successfully on Joni Mitchell’s 1971Continue reading “If You See Her, Say Hello”

Going, Going Gone

When I first got together with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, she introduced me to the band Son Volt. Their first album Traces has a front-loaded first half, which includes the absolute gems “Windfall,” “Live Free,” and “Tear Stained Eye.” The simple chorus of “Windfall” is a perfect match-up of words and melody that resonates with the listenerContinue reading “Going, Going Gone”

Abandoned Love

Officially released nearly 10 years after the studio recording, this song of doomed love marks a transition between Blood on the Tracks, released in January 1975, and Desire, which came out exactly a year later in January 1976. “Abandoned Love” demonstrates traits from both projects. The only known performance of the song was July 3,Continue reading “Abandoned Love”