(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
Apart from the usual country hits these days, I’ve been listening to some treasures that are coming in over the transom. (A free CD goes to the first five readers who know what a “transom” is. Without looking it up in the dictionary. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure “transom” is in the subject line.) Here’re a few of them:
• “Little Glass of Wine” sung by Paul Burch with Ralph Stanley. At the risk of being impeached by the bluegrass purists, I think Burch is the best duet partner Ralph Stanley has found since his brother, Carter Stanley, died in 1966. This is from Burch’s fine new Bloodshot CD, East to West, which I am just getting into and like a lot. Burch first impressed me with his debut album, Pan-American Flash from 1998, which remains one of the best albums of the recent past. Burch is a thoroughly modern troubadour channeling a bit of Buddy Holly grafted onto Jimmie Rodgers and Ralph Stanley, if that’s not too grotesque an image.
• “Your Cheatin’ Heart” sung by Fats Domino. A triplet-laden piano beat with a searing sax solo, a screaming audience and the Fat Man grabbing hold of Hank Williams’ classic words and making them at once a sad lament and a steamy dance shuffle. This is from a great performance by Domino on Live From Austin, TX from the series of CDs and DVDs originally recorded for Austin City Limits. Recorded Oct. 22, 1986, this has 16 more songs, including his hits such as “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “I’m Walkin’.” Domino produced truly a timeless sound.
• “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” sung by Delbert McClinton. The veteran Texas roadhouse song belter uses his raspy, urgent voice to alternately caress and then shout the words of this Otis Redding classic above a soaring Hammond B-3 organ and a wailing horn section. Also from the Live From Austin, TX series, this is from McClinton’s Dec. 18, 1982, performance on Austin City Limits. The 14 other cuts include such McClinton classics as “Givin’ It Up for Your Love,” “I Wanna Thank You Baby” and Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”
• “Aunt Shine’s Facelift” sung/recited by Minton Sparks with musical accompaniment. If you haven’t experienced Minton Sparks, you should check her out. This is sharp and earthy Southern comedy/commentary backed by some very smart musicians. And Sparks’ appeal is not limited to just Southerners. The woman is just plain funny. This is from her first DVD, Open Casket. This fall she will be opening concerts for Rodney Crowell.
• “Would They Love Him Down in Shreveport” sung by Kate Campbell accompanied by Spooner Oldham. They don’t sing any better than Kate and nobody’s rootsier than Spooner.”If they saw him riding in /Long hair flying in the wind/Would they love him down in Shreveport today/If they heard he was a Jew and a Palestinian, too/Would they love him down in Nashville today?” So you gather who it’s about. An incisive song written by the co-writer of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” — Bobby Braddock. Campbell is a lovely, under-appreciated singer, and she’s supported here by the equally great Muscle Shoals musician Oldham. From the CD For the Living of These Days (Large River).
• “Gun Show” sung by Bobby Bare Jr. “Momma’s gonna find a place to hide/And my girls are gonna wonder why/Why did my daddy have to die and he does he hear us when we cry.” Bare Jr. remains a worthy successor to his still-sturdy and very innovative father. I don’t know if Bare Jr. knows or cares about it, but he’s the closest thing I’ve ever heard to the more lucid moments that came from the very innovative Roky Erickson and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators from many years ago in Texas. From the new CD The Longest Meow (Bloodshot).
• “Biloxi” sung by Charlie Sexton and Shannon McNally. This Jesse Winchester song shines again in this duet. They also do a marvelous job on Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall.” This is from the CD Southside Sessions (EMI). A very interesting album, especially coming from Sexton, who has been projected as the next big Austin prodigy in some circles for years. Maybe now he can just be a singer and musician for a while and have some fun.
• “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” sung by Maria Muldaur. She turns this Bob Dylan classic lament into a jazzy, steamy torch song. It seems like a goofy idea — a woman, albeit one of Muldaur’s very impressive pipes, singing an album of Dylan love songs. But it works. Muldaur’s Heart of Mine: Maria Muldaur Sings Love Songs of Bob Dylan (Telarc) is a gem. Other standouts include a syncopated “On a Night like This” and a jaunty “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” Guest pickers include fiddler Richard Greene and guitarist Amos Garrett.