Jackie DeShannon, When You Walk in the Room. There are colossal
songwriters roaming the earth, sometimes remembered but often not, who
are still capable of greatness. Jackie DeShannon had a hand in writing
"Put a Little Love in Your Heart," "Bette Davis Eyes," and "Breakaway."
And that's just for starters. The woman hit big with "When You Walk in
the Room" during the early '60s, making that song a high-water mark for
the British Invasion and beyond. Her voice was just as fine as her
songs, which is well-known among cratedigger vinyl collectors everywhere
pursuing those first Liberty Records releases.
What a welcome surprise in 2011 to find Jackie DeShannon still
capable of melting hearts at the turn of a verse. Her voice has
deepened, sure, but with lyrics like these that only makes the emotions
expressed even more inescapable. "Heart in Hand" is a two-hankie song at
minimum, and her cover of "What the World Needs Now is Love" feels like
a prayer that needs an immediate answer. Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono's
"Needle & Pins" is even better now than then, and that includes the
Searchers' almost-perfect cover.
Pop music is at its best when the borders are invisible and
nobody's card gets pulled when they cross the half-century mark. When
You Walk in the Room is the finest proof that sometimes age actually
works in the artist's favor, allowing them to slow down and find their
own pace. Jackie DeShannon shines so bright today it's like a distant
star has returned closer to the planet, allowing all who want to see
what was once there. It's a beautiful thing when the present and the
past come together and find each other. Call it the miracle of music and
, Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie
this land is your land and this land is my land, but there was a lot
more to Woody Guthrie's inner groove than those words. A revealing peak
inside that mindset is written all over this album, full of longing, hardship, happiness and wild shenanigans that only Woody
Guthrie could capture in song.
Rarely has as diverse a bunch been
gathered to show just how broad that reach really is. Project director
Rob Wasserman focused on primarily unpublished Guthrie songs written
between 1942 and 1954 when the folk icon called New York City and
Van Dyke Park's unique orchestral sweep is given full view on the
title track, and whether you're already a Van Dyke-type or not, this is
music for the ages. It's just too bad he and Guthrie never got to hobo
around the country together. That's just for starters, too.
singers like Madeleine Peyroux, Tom Morello, Nellie McKay, Lou Reed, and
others paint a picture of intrigue and delight. Feelings get scuffed
and feathers are ruffled, because Woody Guthrie was no boy scout. He was
mad as hell, even if he had to take it some more, and didn't mind
turning up the heat every chance he got.
Two of the most haunting tracks are Studs Turkel's "I Heard a Man
Talking," where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author riffs around a
discussion between a petty thief and a barfly while Beatnik heaven
rumbles in the background, and the late Chris Whitley's "On the High
Lonesome." That star-crossed Southern man never really found his
rightful place in the musical landscape before dying semi-young, but the
luminous light he often cast onstage comes through loud and dear here.
Shivers are surely delivered. The whole album is like that: a constant
surprise of what one man's take on the world could stir in a nation.
Woody Guthrie's footsteps are still being followed. Long may he walk.
, Live & Deadly
. Fire up the semi-wayback machine and
revisit Armadillo World Headquarters in November 1979. The Cobras were
recording a live album at the venerated former armory building in
Austin, and the full-tilt boogie meter was turned up to twelve. Maybe
that's because the Cobras were a blasting rhythm & blues band whose
ranks had once included a young Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Or possibly the
group was busting at the seams to show the world what their mamas gave
them, which was a totally excited style of barroom moves and bigtime
playboy grooves, featuring the psychedelicious guitar of Denny Freeman,
tenor man Joe Sublett and singers like drummer Rodney Craig, Paul Ray,
Angela Strehli, and the late Larry Williams. Lovingly produced, then and
now, by Hank Alrich, it captures one of Austin's true treasures right
before the world turned and the lights went out.
For reasons known only to the cosmos, the almost-released album got
scuttled - until now. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be, because
it's like a completely knocked-out time capsule has been discovered,
buried beneath the long ago-bulldozed Armadillo. What we hear will singe
the ears, sending blue flames rocketing through soul brothers and
sisters near and far. It's like a fireworks stash got torched, and goes
off for a full hour. Seriously.
Mostly featuring burning cover songs like "I Only Have Love,"
"Further on Up the Road," and a blistering "Sugaree." Live & Deadly
is just that. There are no aggregations playing like this these days.
They've been banished from the land for reasons unknown. Don't tell that
to closet Cobras fans, who've probably been waiting for this release
even if they didn't know of its existence. It fits to a T what Robert
Johnson once sang: "It's really gonna bust your brains out and baby make
you lose your mind." So turn up, dig in and freak out. Help has