There’s this episode from the third season of the Twilight Zone where the sun never sets. Like a relentless fever dream, it gets closer and closer to the heroine’s high-rise apartment window, until her paintings of cool water begin to melt, her thermometer breaks, and—spoiler!—she wakes up, trapped, instead, in eternal winter, crying with relief. This is s u c h a dramatic thing to think about when it’s sunny out, but it’s all just to say that El Nino is really freaky on the west coast—same for global warming, everywhere—but I love California in the Blue Ridges. So, here! A toned-down twilight mix for that.
Beginning in cycle, “Goodby Sunball” is an ode to land and perpetual endings, relentlessly beautiful. From Michael Yonkers’ warbly croon, Winter Sun is peppered with instrumentals: the prewar Cajun popular music ensemble Hackberry Ramblers’ “Crowley Waltz,” an “Instrumental Merengue” performed by the excellently-named Surprise Jazz and recorded by Alan Lomax during his trip (with Zora Neale Hurston!) to Haiti in 1936, a very old flute instrumental by Joan Sharp called “The Fool’s Jig” transferred and digitized in Excavated Shellac’s 2013 Year End Mix, and Zimbabwe Shona Mbira Music’s “Nhemamusasa Instrumental Excerpt 1,” a loping medley of xylophones and shakers recorded in Zimbabwe 1977.
Between those instrumentals, a little more of the type of stuff I pull more often for Big Sound Saturdays. Another Lomax recording, for example, made in 1959 and reissued pretty recently by the Lomax Archive and Mississippi Records as “Join the Band” by Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers: a gorgeous mourning song in call and response, “Sink ‘Em Low.” Also from Lomax—and maybe a little out of character from the typical Americana fare—one of my favorite recordings from the 1962 Carnival in Trinidad, the second recorded version of Jean Eustache Stoute’s “Ay Sí Ay No,” a meek beginning with a tremulous, big-hearted finish. Later, a sweet a capella ballad by Jean Ritchie called “The Little Devils,” where a little girl scares demons off in pairs by knocking their brains out with a stick. Just after that, a “Winter Blues” with Madlyn Davis and a hungry trumpet. And before, Charlie Feathers’ weirdly entrancing “The Man In Love,” recorded in 1958 and memorialized in “House of Broken Hearts,” what might be the best mix tape ever made.
I’m particularly excited about finally finding a home for the last three songs, and for two that I stashed in the middle. At the mix’s center is a song called “Enas Aetos – Tsamiko” by Tchousi, Damals & Company, a “primeval” Greek song recorded in 1926 that, thanks to the good graces and astounding ear of Chris King (thank you, seriously, for this!), will be reissued by Third Man in 2016. It, like Lata Mangeshkar’s 1962 “Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil [Bees Saal Baad],” is worth sticking around for. It’s hard to find words for that kind of fiddling. The penultimate track is attributed to Vengopal Chari, from the 78 collection in the Emi Archive, but the sound is only snaps, pops, and laughter from 1906, ushered in by Noel Joseph’s “Snake Dance Song,” which I can only assume is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the mix’s earliest recording, from 1890, and it’s followed by the second-to-latest. We end where we started, Goodby Sunball, with a track from Lou Reed’s 1970 acoustic demos, “Lonely Saturday Night (aka Goodnight Ladies).”
Ah, all night long you’ve been drinking your tequila rye
But now you’ve sucked your lemon peel dry
So why not get high, high, high, high, and
Goodnight ladies, ladies goodnight.