Play Lady Play in the 21st century

Songs selected by Aaron Galbraith, comments by Tony Attwood

As noted before in this series, Aaron not only selects the songs, but delivers them to me (Tony) without comment or explanation, except for an introductory note (reproduced below).  And this for the two of us is the fun of the series – Aaron is free to pick what he likes, and I never know what is going to be there until it turns up.

This time Aaron did give me a note at the start however saying, “I thought it would be a fun exercise to see if I could find covers by women artists of more recent songs, so I set about trying to find some for us to look it. We all know the old classics that are covered again and again…but are artists still listening and finding gems to cover amongst his more recent albums?

“I limited my search to include only songs released on Dylan albums since 2000. So anything from Love & Theft onwards. Heres  the ones I came up with.”

Ain’t Talkin by Bettye LaVette

As soon as you hear the orchestral introduction you just know that this is going to an inventive and  refreshing re-working; and so it proves to be.

Bettye has a fine voice with which she can do all sorts of things – but she matches them exactly to the lyrics and the strings accompanying her.   Better still the arranger knows how to keep the accompaniment exciting, interesting and under control.  No one is engaged in a fight within the ensemble, they are all taking on the person about whom Bettye is singing.   Full marks to the arranger, and indeed the musicians.

And just note what they do approaching the one last extra hour.  Oh that is so good.  Even the fade out has been properly thought thought.

Thunder On The Mountain by Wanda Jackson

I love the intro to this video – and I have no idea why I can’t get it to display – but it won’t no matter what I do, so you’ll have to click the link.  It’s so last century.

Now if you don’t know who the Third Man House Band are, well just stay with them for a moment and you will note a certain gentleman who you might recognise who is able to play the guitar quite well.   If you know who I mean you will be just waiting for the guitar solo.

Actually Jack turns up on the next track on the video too, if you want some more.  Just don’t forget to come back here to complete the series.

Life Is Hard by Renee Zellweger from the My Own Love Song movie

The film is a tear-jerker, but if you can for a moment forget the movie, it is really a brilliant rendition with such a simple accompaniment.  And yes it is important for musicians to know how to keep it simple as much as how to show every virtuoso trick in the book.

High Water (For Charley Patton) by Joan Osborne

When we hear an accompaniment that is quite different from Bob’s original and yet which really works, then the chances are the new version of the song is going to be worthy of our time.  And this certain is.

The trick is to match three elements: the lady’s voice, the new accompaniment, and something from the original that links us back to Bob – because its a pound to a penny that everyone but everyone will know the original.

But in a driving forceful piece like this it is hard to get an instrumental break right – yet here they do it.   And as the music picks up again we are just waiting for that catch line at the end of each verse.

Oh yes and they have a fake ending too.   But the point of all this is that the accompaniment is an accompaniment – it is not the main factors – those are the lyrics and the lady’s voice.   To give this much power in a song and get the balance right is a rare treat.

Sugar Baby by Barb Jungr

OK, from the first four notes we know what this, and the arranger keeps that highly distinctive accompaniment – and this works because Barb Jungr is blessed with not just a perfect voice with a stunning range, but also the ability to know when to lay off the virtuoso parts.

And just consider the lyrics she’s singing

Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff
Plenty of places to hide things here if you wanna hide ’em bad enough
I’m staying with Aunt Sally, but you know, she’s not really my aunt
Some of these memories you can learn to live with 
      and some of them you can’t

Now admit it – would you ever think of delivering lines like that within a performance like this?  If yes you either are an arranger, or you ought to be.  Go and get yourself an agent.  In fact the Aunt Sally line is nigh on impossible to deliver in a way that the audience, if they didn’t know it, would treat it seriously.

And when she sings

There ain’t no limit to the amount of trouble women bring

I cannot believe there is a heterosexual male who is not nodding his head but saying, “but I can’t give them up.”

When it comes to music I am, I always admit, an extremely emotional person and this rendition had me in tears.  Maybe it does that to no one else, but this moved me more than I can express…  I’d better move on.

I Contain Multitudes by Emma Swift…

Aaron in his note to me said he was “very surprised someone has attempted this and so soon, but I think it’s really great!”

I was totally amazed too.  Actually I could have done without the video, and after the first verse I turned the screen off.   There is more than enough in this song already, we don’t need the lyrics or pictures.  At when we do, I hope we get better than this.

Actually I want to go further than that – I think those on screen lyrics and utterly obvious images destroy the performance.  I’m stunned that someone was crass enough to think of doing this.  Or perhaps I am just being all arty and pretentious.  But do try it without the screen and see what you think.  (Or if you don’t know how to turn the screen off, just close your eyes.  That can work too).

The fact is that I don’t know the song off by heart yet, although that day will come, but I still got every word.

It is a gorgeous song with a very simple and very deep meaning that affects all of us, and this is a beautiful rendition.  Don’t let it be spoiled by the art director.

Play Lady Play

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

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  1. It may be advisable to take a breather from the constant blogs given that there is a certain album which is surely capturing most Dylan fans time and attention. You guys deserve a rest and this may help the writers to re-charge their batteries.

  2. Larry, indeed. Sorry, unable to tell if you have ants in your pants or you are as fresh as a daisy.

  3. No one is forced to read the Untold articles or listen to the videos…Instead of posting presumptuous and inane metaphors directed at those who do, feel free to write an article for “Untold” yourself!

  4. PC In relation to this, and previous comments you have made, if you find that this site is not to your liking or you feel the writers have got things wrong, there are two alternatives for you which may be more productive than reading articles and making the occasional comment.
    One would be to submit an article yourself on a subject you think we should be covering in a way you think we should be covering it. We have six regular writers, but always welcome another. No fee, I regret, but the readership is fairly high. Send your article to me at ideally as a word file, ensuring that any pics you use are copyright cleared.
    The other would be to stop reading, since you seem to disagree with all the things you comment upon. Many people disagree with what we publish, but the normal response seems to be to go elsewhere and have a more pleasant life untroubled by the ramblings published here.

  5. Sorry, guys if I have offended anyone but my original comment was intended to be complimentary ( ” you guys deserve a rest ” ) and was simply observing that comments appear to be down which may be related to people being busy listening and relating to Dylan’s first album of original songs in 8 years. From memory most of my comments are positive and informative…my favourite series is Mike’s Harp and Never Ending Tour series in which I have provided positive feedback which Mike appears to appreciate. I just feel that the writers obviously work very hard on their contributions and if no one appears to appreciate the work then that is a concern. For example, I have not been able to read and listen to Mike’s two recent NET blogs which I would normally support with a comment or two. I would dispute the assertion ” you seem to disagree with all the things you comment upon” and would suggest that I provide a different point of view which surely is what a Bob Dylan blog needs.

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