I fell in love with Lee Hazlewood after discovering that he wrote “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” I’d always secretly loved that song, but never looked into the writer responsible for it (probably because Billy Ray Cyrus made it too embarrassing for awhile). After a little time and with a little luck, I stumbled upon Cowboy in Sweden in the WZBC archives. Once “Pray Them Bars Away” began to play I knew that I had found something very special. Hazlewood’s distinctive voice and pseudo-country arrangements struck a chord with me. His deep vocals, sarcastic tone, and knowing attitude betrayed a dry sense of humor and intensity harbored by many of my favorite artists, not to mention the cut of his sharp wit and earnestness. He had all the grit and attitude I associated with outlaw country tempered by romantic inclinations and a slightly more psychedelic sound. I kept poking around and found out I liked nearly everything he did.
He’s known and admired for a variety of records and songs, but my favorites come from the time he spent working with Nancy Sinatra. Her sweet voice contrasted against his gritty delivery made for some electrifying moments. His colorful brass accompaniments and dramatic string arrangements, which are characteristic of his work with Nancy, complimented his direct approach to melody and storytelling, which borrowed heavily from folk and country traditions. His sometimes mythical and exaggerated lyrics contributed to the melodrama and passion that came with his style, but they also surpassed it. It’s impossible even now to impose easy categories on his work. With elements of rock ‘n’ roll, folk, country, and pop at his disposal, Hazlewood crafted songs that tugged on the heart strings and played with the soul. His sense of humor was never far off, however, and it served as the ying to his melodramatic yang. Just watch the interaction between Nancy and Lee in “Jackson” to see what I mean.
I haven’t stopped listening to Fairy Tales & Fantasies: The Best of Nancy & Lee since I obtained a copy of it. Unfortunately, like most of Hazlewood’s discography, it is out of print and fetches ridiculous prices nearly everywhere. Hazlewood is as strong a songwriter as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, or Hank Snow, but he remains perhaps less known than any of them thanks to the obscurity of his records. He’s influenced countless musicians, written some of their best hits, and been covered by everyone from Primal Scream and Einstürzende Neubauten to Slowdive, Benoît Pioulard, Hooverphonic, Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch, Lamb’s Laughter, and Boyd Rice. Even Entombed has gotten in on the Hazlewood cover action. You can find the originals here:
Plenty of other Lee Hazlewood songs can be found online and at Youtube. I hope you enjoy him as much as I have been.
Lots of music news is out there this week, but I think I’m most excited by what’s coming out of James Kirby. I have mentioned History Always Favors the Winners on this site before, but Kirby has been hard at work the last couple of months and has updated his site numerous times since that post. His current musical direction is completely unlike anything he’s done in the past. It is titled Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was and, while it shares some characteristics with his output as both The Caretaker and The Stranger, it is far more musical and emotionally naked than anything he’s done before. His website made it obvious that I could expect something new and different from him in the near future, but I was absolutely floored upon hearing Kirby’s latest stuff. Hopefully I’ll be able to play some of this new music for you on my next show, but you can explore Kirby’s website, now and listen to the radical new direction he’s taken for yourself. It’s absolutely beautiful.
I also mentioned that Magnolia Electric Co. has a new record coming out. You can find details, as well as a free MP3, over at the MEC website.
More reviews will come in the following days. Perhaps another mix will make its way to the web before my next show. Check back for updates.
Thanks for listening!
01. Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood “Summer Wine” from Fairytales and Fantasies (1989) on Rhino — originally released in 1966
02. Andwellas Dream “Man Without a Name” from Love and Poetry (2009) on Sunbeam Records — originally released in 1969
03. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band “Autumn’s Child” from Safe as Milk (1967) on Buddah
04. Deerhunter “Game of Diamonds” from Rainwater Cassette Exchange (2009) on Kranky
05. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy “Poor Shelter” from Young Widows Split Series Pt. 1 (2009) on Temporary Residence
06. Magnolia Electric Co “Little Sad Eyes” from Josephine (2009) on Secretly Canadian
07. Pink Reason “Borrowed Time” from Borrowed Time 7″ (2008) on Fashionable Idiot
08. Wooden Shjips “Aquarian Time” from Dos (2009) on Holy Mountain
09. The Black-Eyed Snakes “Smokestack Lightnin’” from It’s the Black-Eyed Snakes (2001) on Chair-kickers’ Music — original by Howlin’ Wolf
10. The Olivia Tremor Control “A Sleepy Company” from Black Foliage, Volume 1 (1999) on Flydaddy
11. Venetian Snares “Ongyilkos Vasarnap” from Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett (2005) on Planet Mu
12. Arthur Russell “Your Motion Says” from Love Is Overtaking Me (2008) on Audika
13. Young Widows “King of the Back-Burners” from Young Widows Split Series Pt. 1 (2009) on Temporary Residence
14. US Christmas “The Light and Trails” from Eat the Low Dogs (2007) on Neurot
15. Assemble Head in the Sunburst Sound “Clive and the Lyre” from When Sweet Sleep Returned (2009) on tee pee
16. Charlemagne Palestine / Christoph Heemann “Saiten in Flammen” from Saiten in Flammen (2009) on Streamline
17. Jandek “Your Other Man” from Blue Corpse (1987) on Cordwood
18. Sunn O))) “Big Church” from Monoliths & Dimensions (2009) on Southern Lord
19. V/VM “There Was a Fish… (Missoula, MT Edit)” from There Was a Fish… in… the Percolator (2008) on V/VM Test
20. Constrastate “In Absentia” from English Embers (1996) on Dirter Promotions
21. Benoit Pioulard “Alaskan Lashes” from Flocks (2009) on Blue Flea
22. Brent Gutzeit “”So… Why Don’t You Just Get a Job?” from Losing Every Day (2003) on Kissy
23. Taj Mahal Travellers “The Taj-Mahal Travellers Between 7:03-7:15P.M.” from July 15, 1972 (1972) on Sony Japan