President’s day, it’s not just for mattress sales! Here I will talk about a few “presidential” themed songs. First up is Blue Mountain’s rousing ode to 39th president, Jimmy Carter
Next we have Hank Williams Jr’s song Mr. Lincoln. Where he surmises that the only thing that can save our country is Abraham Lincoln himself. This was in 1984. Seems Hank has moved on and nothing can save us now
Next is Tom T. Halls semi-absurd song about how a monkey can become president. This is one of those songs that liberals would have loved to trot out during the George W. Bush presidency but conservatives will have to tread very very lightly if they go around this song right now. Very disappointed this didn’t become the plot of the Planet of The Apes remake
and finally a song to wrap up how I feel about Presidents day, most Presidents, and particularly most federal level politicians. While originally written about Ronald Reagan, the chorus of “He’s the president, and I don’t care” will likely always ring true. Sing it Blaze.
It was 108 years ago today that Baltimore just about burnt to the ground. They called it The Great Baltimore Fire, and while not as well known as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it did manage to make it’s way into song. Which is why, you may be wondering, I’m writing about it here.
The fire started simple enough in the basement of the John E. Hurst dry goods store. At about 11am the local fire teams responded to the alarms. What seemed to Fire Chief George Horton to be a routine fire call (fires were very common occurrences in cities of this era), quickly turned out not to be. Fire shot up the elevator shaft of the John E. Hurst building (pictured) causing an explosion that tore the roof off the sucka and shot giant flaming embers into the surrounding buildings. The fire was spreading fast. Chief Horton had called in every fire fighter in Baltimore but it was too late, the fire was now beyond the control of Baltimore’s fire departments.
As the surrounding building burned and the wind spread the fire further across Baltimore, calls were sent to D.C. and other nearby cities for support. The first engines from D.C. arrived around 1:30 but they were useless. The couplings for the hydrants in Baltimore were not the same as the ones used in D.C. Their hoses would not fit. As more support arrived they tried wrapping canvas around the couplings as sort of a jerry rigged coupling but this proved largely ineffective. The fire continued to rage.
At around 5 it was decided that the only way to contain the fire was to literally fight fire with fire. Or dynamite to be more specific. I guess I don’t need to tell you how that went. Let’s just say it didn’t do it’s intended thing. Luckily for the city however, the wind had switched directions before the fire had taken over city hall…and in the process ruining someone’s hope of blowing it up with dynamite. Around this time engines from Philadelphia began to arrive and give some much needed support. The fire continued to spread on through the night and into the next day.
By the next morning the firefighters had slowed the spread of the fire by pumping water from the harbor, but the wind picked up and the fire soon pushed them back further burning piers, buildings and trapping some of the fire teams. The fire was finally stopped when a total of 37 steam fire engines, some from as far away as New York City and Delaware, were able to pump water from the small Jones Falls river reducing the fire to a smolder by 3pm. In little over 28 hours, the city had been near gutted by fire. It was reported that over 140 acres of buildings in Baltimore were consumed by the fire. Though the property loss was high, there were no lives lost to the fire. This is likely due to the fire starting on a Sunday morning while most were at church. A few aid workers who were helping to fight the fire died of illnesses such as pneumonia and tuberculosis likely caused by fighting the fire in the cold and wet. Shortly after the fire, a nationwide standard regarding hydrant couplings and fire hoses was enacted.
Like most great disasters of the day, a song was written, and that song was called Baltimore Fire. First recorded by noted rounder, rambler, banjo player and singer Charlie Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers in 1929, it is not known who originally wrote the song (as is the case for many songs in the folk tradition.) What is known is that the song is a re-write (also a folk tradition) of a now long forgotten song called The Boston Fire that Charlie had found while searching for songs to record for their 9th recording session. He and the band had already recorded over 90 songs by that point and inspiration this day came from a 1905 songbook called Mowry’s Songster.
More pictures and info about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 can be found on this site with it’s great interactive map (where I got most of this info), you can view the historical marker here, and more info on Charlie Poole can be found in the book Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole (where most of this info about Charlie Poole came from)
As a bonus, here is a decidedly more modern song from Baltimore’s own J. Roddy Walston and The Business who dream of burning fair Baltimore the beautiful city down once again
This is the post where I talk about a few of the big/well known albums from last year that most of yall likely already know and love (2011 sure was a great year for our kind of music).
What more is there to say about this album that hasn’t been said better by others? Just know it’s a damn good album and Isbell continues to grow by leaps and bounds with each album. I actually caught Jason and band twice last year, once that I already wrote about, and more recently in Roanoke, VA. Both shows were excellent but the band was certainly at the top of their game for the October show in Roanoke. Playing a double headliner bill with James McMurtry I must say that as good of a show as McMurtry puts on (and he puts on a hell of a show) Isbell and co. topped him. Enjoy the video below of Codeine from Here We Rest from said show, and also be sure to watch this blistering version of Try in which the band breaks into Led Zep’s No Quarter mid song also from said show. Dig that awesome cover art from former 400 Unit member Browan Lollar too.
Next let’s talk about Hayes Carll’s equally impressive album KMAG YOYO (and other american stories).
Again what is there to say about this album that hasn’t been said better elsewhere? It’s a great album and one you likely already own. My favorites off this include the subterranean homesick blues on meth sylings of the title track, the rousing Bottle In My Hand (featuring Todd Snider and Corb Lund), Stomp and Holler, Another Like You (featuring the lovely Cary Ann Hearst), Hard Out Here…hell every song is great. I’m especially fond of the video for Another Like You as seen below.
I actually caught Hayes last year in Nelsonville, OH and it was a damn fine show. The show was shortly after Bill Morrissey died and he did a touching tribute (Bill Morrissey wrote the song Live Free Or Die off Hayes’ first album). Sorry no video from that show, but enjoy this bonus video of KMAG YOYO acoustic
Now let’s talk about Todd Snider’s live Storyteller album/DVD from last year
I am particularly fond of the DVD, as it’s the only full Todd Snider performance DVD there is. However…as good as it is, I am going to be a little critical of it. Critical because the thing I love most about Todd Snider is his frantic energy, and it seems to be tamed down somewhat with this Storyteller set. As a fan it is essential, but I still prefer the massive Moondawg’s Tavern bootleg. That said, it’s not bad, it’s really cool to see/hear him with a backing band, especially one as skilled as Great American Taxi, I just don’t feel it captures his live energy as well as say Near Truths. Check out an example from the DVD below
Now listen to this version of Is This Thing Working (where he is damn near channeling Chuck D) from his March 5th show at the wonderful V-Club in Huntington, WV.
Talk about energy…the V-Club is a place where I’ve never seen a bad show, and Todd was feeding off the crowd and the crowd was feeding off him in a perfect performer-fan symbiotic relationship. I will actually be seeing Todd again next friday and I’ll let yall know how his new songs off “Agnostic Hymns” sound
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way shall we. Here are some things I dug last year in no particular order
Robyn Ludwick – Out Of These Blues (get it here)
Now I know I said no particular order, but this here was definitely my most favorite album from last year, and it held that title for the better part of the year too. Just a damn fine album, produced by Gurf Morlix, and full of that “grit, groove, and tone” he is famous for. Not to mention the songwriting, if the album only featured the title track I would still feel the need to mention it here. Now I know you guys know that song as I’ve posted it here before and it was on last spring’s Truersounds comp, check out this video below of Robyn in the studio teaching the song to her band…just beautiful.
I love every song on this fine album, I love the production, I love the songwriting, I love the playing, I love that it’s available on vinyl, I even love how the cover is an homage to Late For The Sky. When I first heard this album I stated that Robyn had a voice that I wished I could have sex with. That may sound crass, but at least I didn’t get the depression over it like Jimi.
Some of the songs call to mind Lucinda, but there is sweetness to her singing that goes beyond the gritty sultriness and sets her apart. Robyn certainly belongs up there with artists such as Lucinda, Kathleen Edwards, Eliza Gilkyson, Betty Soo, Julie Miller, Kasey Chambers, et al. That is to say, she is damn good at what she does and worthy of your attention. I feel I should talk more about this album, but hell just listen to a couple of the songs below and that will save me a lot of typing. The fantastically written “New Orleans” and the very Robison-esque “Can’t Go Back”
Last summer I had lofty goals of not letting this happen…but alas…it happened. Then it got to be so long between posts I felt like I had to post something spectacular if I was going to post something…Like some grand re-entrance. Well eff that, I’ll just post a quick blurb of what’s up.
Basically for the past year and half I’ve been going through some significant life changes…divorce…yadda yadda…who really cares. The point is this site became a reminder of that “old life”. I’m sure anyone who’s been through a divorce or major breakup can understand that. So where does that leave us. Well….I’ve got big plans for this site…and if I follow through on at least a third of them I think you folks will glean hopefully a little enjoyment. Expect a mild redesign of the site, a slight shift in focus, details will come. I also still owe everyone a massive sampler to make up for Summer-Fall-Winter….Been listening to plenty of great music so that shouldn’t be an issue.
To conclude this supposedly short blurb, I give y’all my apology…OB Dan pronounced the site dead a couple days ago! ha!…Over 2 months between posts in internet time is like an eternity, so who can blame him? Thank those who have continued to check the site and thanks to all who have left comments.
Updated lyrics: where I take famous lyrics and update them for these modern times
Man from the famous blog, said I was on my way / but somewhere I lost connection, ran out of songs to play