Another week, another major musical death to note here. This time, it’s Don Everly, the remaining half of The Everly Brothers. I don’t have as much to say about Everly as I did last week about Tom T. Hall because I’m not as huge a fan of the former. But if anything, are The Everly Brothers underrated? I don’t feel people talk about them as much as they should. They are one of the 10 most influential acts of early rock and roll, with an equal influence in country music. They sang so great together. Their key songs are among the most important in mid-century popular music. There’s actually a lot to build on here from my Hall post. The Everly Brothers were every bit a product of that great Nashville songwriting stable as anyone else, one Hall was absolutely part of during his early years. In the case of the Everlys, it was Felice and Boudelaux Bryant who provided them with most of their best material. The Bryants’ wrote “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Bird Dog,” and several other big Everly songs. In fact, many have suggested the reason for the band’s downfall was that they left the umbrella of Acuff-Rose Publishing, which housed the Bryants and many other A-list Nashville songwriters. There were certainly other reasons they declined too, especially drugs. But this was a piece of that story. For that matter, Don Everly was a top flight songwriter himself early on his career, writing Kitty Wells 1954 hit “Thou Shall Not Steal.” Like Willie Nelson, his production as a songwriter decline after he began recording a lot. That happens. Fame makes it hard to write, the reason for the decline of many great artists. He did write several key Everly Brothers songs though. Anyway, great artist, huge loss for the musical world.
I don’t really have a lot to say about Charlie Watts, so I will leave that for others. Excellent rock drummer for a band who last released a good album maybe at best early in the Reagan administration. Less of a scumbag than Mick and Keith.
Why is it that we need to see Dolly Parton as a saint? This question was raised by several people I respect after it came out that Dolly Parton had bunch of property in a Black community of Nashville. The assumption here was that she was saving that community. But did she? As others stated, wasn’t she just gentrifying Nashville by looking for cheap opportunities for her money? Did she hire Black people as anything but janitors and the like? Almost unquestionably, she was not involved in managing these properties as she has a lot better things to do. It was just a piece of empire. This certainly doesn’t make her unusual. But why the assumption that she is the Greatest Person in the World? What does that say about us? Amanda Marie Martinez goes into this at NPR. It’s well worth your time:
Parton explained she purchased property in what was then a Black neighborhood in Nashville, Sevier Park, saying it was “the perfect place for me to be considering it was Whitney,” adding, “I just thought this was great and I’m going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well.”
After the interview aired, several articles appeared quickly, pointing to the story as proof of the singer being akin to a longstanding civil rights icon, supporting the Black community long before Black Lives Matter was mainstream. Most notably, the Washington Post ran a story (triggering several additional stories) incorrectly stating Parton purchased the Sevier Park property in 1997, and portraying the singer as a champion of the Black community in Nashville without direct evidence beyond her purchase of the property in question. These claims come after the singer was forced in recent years to change the name of her “Dixie Stampede” dinner show for its celebrations of the confederacy, and also fail to look into the details of Parton’s property ownership claims.
Online property records from the Nashville Planning Department indicate Parton acquired the properties in question, two neighboring parcels at the corner of 12th Ave S and Elmwood Avenue, in 1990 and 1991 (then transferred to Parton’s trust in 1997) — before the massive success of Houston’s cover, released in 1992 as part of The Bodyguard soundtrack. These stories have also been presented without clear indication about how she contributed to the Black community beyond purchasing property — the compound then had a large gate constructed around it — in a neighborhood that has heavily gentrified over the past few decades, an area now called 12 South and one of most-white, tourist-driven and expensive areas of Nashville.
According to Jessica Wilkerson, an associate professor of history at West Virginia University and someone who has written about Parton’s presence in the popular imagination, Parton’s recollections regarding the property in question are part of a pattern in how the singer has described her property investments, and in how she has branded herself.
Just as the singer has now claimed to have purchased the Sevier Park property as a way of giving back to the Black community, Parton has offered similar explanations when discussing property she owns in Sevier County, the area of East Tennessee where she is from and where she now co-owns a popular theme park bearing her name, Dollywood.
“[Parton] has a pattern of claiming that when she purchases property, she invests in a place that she’s helping people,” explains Wilkerson. “I think she can get away with that when she’s doing it in her hometown. It gets trickier to do that with a Black community, where she doesn’t live, she’s not from there, and she’s doing it as a rich white person who can buy up real estate.”
Parton’s purchase of property in what then was Sevier Park, a central area of Nashville, also paralleled broader national trends of “urban revitalization,” where large numbers of white Americans began moving back into city centers and displacing residents of color in the process. Downtown Nashville likewise began undergoing renovation efforts in the 1990s, which included restoration of the historic Ryman Auditorium in 1994.
According to Learotha Williams Jr., associate professor of African American and Public History at Tennessee State University, Parton’s purchase of the Sevier Park property shouldn’t be interpreted as a conscious contribution to the Black community there, but part of a larger story of gentrification in Nashville.
Again, this doesn’t make Dolly a bad person. But why does she have to be a saint? Why do we allow ourselves to believe anything she says in exactly the way she wants us to believe it?
A live version of A Love Supreme is about to be released from a show Coltrane did in late 64 in Seattle. The original Live in Seattle is not my favorite Coltrane work, so this will hopefully replace that in my mind.
This week’s stupidest and most cynical story is the man who was the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind is now suing the band for child pornography. I mean, c’mon…..This would be ridiculous on the face of it, but it’s even more so that just a few years ago, this guy was trying to make money by replicating the cover as an adult. From 5 years ago:
“It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.
“It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image.”
Spencer is now an artist living in LA.
Sorry your “art” is not making you money, so I guess a naked cash grab is the next move.
Corey Ledet, Zydeco
Ledet is a Black Cajun who comes out of the fecund musical world of Louisiana. His grandfather, Bunk Johnson, was Clifton Chenier’s bassist, among other things. While zydeco is not exactly a worldwide trend today, it still exists among those who love it and Ledet is the face of a new generation. This is a very fine album combining some songs I know “Flip Flop and Fly,” which Doug Kershaw has recorded among others, and a French cover of “I’m Walking” called “Mo Marché” with a lot of songs I don’t know. Was unable to tell if he wrote some of them or if these are all traditional tunes. In any case, it’s a lot of fun and you should listen to it.
Jane Weaver, Flock
A fantastic pop album. One of the best releases I’ve heard this year. After hearing her last album, Modern Kosmology, I was real curious about her new release and if anything, it’s even better. What makes this so great is that it combines nods to traditional pop music with Weaver’s wide-ranging tastes that include Lebanese chanteuse music and the like. That Weaver makes this album at 49 years old is even more cool. This is what modern pop can be and so often isn’t. Even though I think we are in an age of very good pop music being made, including my young artists who are extremely mainstream, there’s nothing formulaic about any of this, making the more formulaic music seem tame by example.
Olivia Rodrigo, Sour
For an album directly targeted at teen girls, this is pretty smart stuff. By that I mean the lyrics are mostly about teen girls who’s guy has fucked them over and is sleeping with their friends and the like. Angry and working blue, Rodrigo, who is a Disney TV star, makes the ideal album for the pissed off 17 year old girl. Lest you say that I am being dismissive here, I am not! It’s not the easiest album for the old man like me to relate to, but that’s OK. It’s still a good album. This is someone who is worth following as she matures and starts writing about adults. This album has also gone huge–it’s big single “Driver’s License,” has over 1 billion listens on Spotify. I’m sure she’s made a solid $15 on that.
Media Jeweler, The Sublime Sculpture of Being Alive
Interesting and smart album. Voice takes some getting used to. Lyrics are largely based on the ideas of Walter Benjamin. The band’s first two albums mostly focused on instrumental tunes with titles based on advertisements, if you want to know what interests these people. Whether this really gets across the Benjamin, well, I’d probably have to listen to it 4 or 5 more times. At the very least though, it’s a pretty good rock album.
The Julie Ruin, Run Fast
I had never heard Kathleen Hanna’s late-career band The Julie Ruin, for some reason. So finally fixed that with their 2013 album Run Fast. It’s another solid piece of work from one of the seminal female rockers of all time. Her soprano shriek was still in full effect here, despite her long battle with a very difficult and debilitating case of Lyme disease. The deeper voice of Kenny Mellman on the duet songs provides some nice contrast, although I don’t think his skill is the same level as hers. It’s maybe not the greatest album ever made, but it’s a damn good rock album.
James McMurtry, The Horses and the Hounds
Oh I was excited for this one. Typically, it is great. Now, not every McMurtry album really is the same, even though the songwriting quality is equal (has he ever recorded a bad song?). Production matters. That often doesn’t get enough attention with music fans. McMurtry has a pedestrian voice–though the way he sings it is like he is attacking you with the words–and his guitar is certainly good enough but he’s not a whiz or anything. He isn’t always the most musically adventurous in his recordings. I thought his last album, Complicated Game from all the way back in 2015, was more good than great. But his new release? It’s great. And it’s the energetic production. He sounds energetic. He sounds like a star. “Canola Fields” is just a classic McMurtry song in its place-oriented thinking. He returns to his productive Forever War songs with “Operation Never Mind.” He pulls out a little Spanish in “Vaquero.” This is just about the perfect McMurtry album. Very good.
Yola, Stand for Myself
Yola follows up her mindblowing 2019 debut with another very solid release. It’s interesting in that she is this Black British woman playing soul music who finds Nashville her ideal home. She writes frequently with the great country writer Natalie Hemby and in this case Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. What’s important here is that Yola is so much more than just a 60s or 70s nostalgia act. For as great as people such as Leon Bridges or Charles Bradley or many other more recent soul acts are, there is a strong sense of nostalgia for that era. With Yola, it’s a different vibe, one where modern protest politics and grit combine with the musical styles that have influenced her, from soul to country. Another very strong release.
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics or disease.