Big Sound Saturdays: Spring and All

It is spring. That is to say, it is approaching THE BEGINNING.

Yes, The Beginning. Welcome, spring! This mix sits squarely in the 10-ish year period of 1966-1977, plus an irresistible tune from 1987—the year of the mystical collaboration of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt—and the wonky, dulcet tones of Josephine Foster in 2005. At its center, Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever.” RIP!

Blind Willie Johnson has a version of what most 21st century ears would recognize as “This Little Light of Mine,” called “Let Your Light Shine On Me” on the Columbia label issue from 1929. Probably most famous for having his wrenching “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” sent off into outer space in a capsule, “Let Your Light Shine On Me” is the only song in his recordings in which the listener chances to hear both the throaty growl that characterizes the rest of his songs and his pure, soaring falsetto. The way he throws his voice in and out of the verses makes me feel like I’m crossing the plains, or ascending and descending (I’m not sure in which direction), or jumping out of winter and into the sun. No Blind Willie Johnson on this mix, but that gorgeous, glimmery song marks the sound that I wanted for this mix, and it won’t disappoint. These songs are like floating a few inches above the water, dragging your fingers across the top!

Oh life, bizarre fowl, what color are your wings?

“Spring & All” starts with a perfect country song, moves deep into some transitional folk and country psychedelia (don’t miss Eric Von Schmidt’s “Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm”—he sounds a lot like Johnson), cruises through cosmic Americana, and ends in Memphis, 1968. Just like Big Star, Gimmer Nicholson recorded Christopher Idylls in Ardent Studios with local engineer Terry Manning, but unlike Big Star (who released #1 Record on Ardent Records in 1972), his 1968 recordings didn’t get released until 1990 and hadn’t been reissued until Light In The Attic picked up the record early this February. The album is gorgeous, and “Hermetic Waltz” is really special—its shimmering delay-pedal sound is a languid and perfect companion with Big Star’s orchestral masterpiece, “Watch the Sunrise.”

Suddenly it is at an end. THE WORLD IS NEW.

Happy spring—

  1. Shell Game—Jerry Jeff Walker (1969)
  2. Everybody’s Talkin’—Harry Nilsson (1968)
  3. Stones Throw From Heaven—Josephine Foster (2005)
  4. Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm—Eric Von Schmidt (1961)
  5. Jesus Was A Cross Maker—Judee Sill (1971)
  6. Those Memories of You—Trio (Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt) (1987)
  7. Phases And Stages (Theme) No Love Around—Willie Nelson (1974)
  8. Ramblin’ Fever—Merle Haggard (1977)
  9. You Can’t Make It Alone—Plain Jane (1969)
  10. That’s The Bag I’m In—Fred Neil (1966)
  11. Hermetic Waltz—Gimmer Nicholson (1968)
  12. Watch The Sunrise—Big Star (1974)

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