Round the Dial
Wednesday 23 October @ 09:37:07
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Excuse me, I couldn’t hear you. I was talkin’...”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “When I Was Cruel”
Damn, I’m tired...so tired, tired of waiting...I’m plumb tuckered out, beat, bushed, wore down, laid out, in the bag, fittin’ to hit it, rode hard an’ put away wet. You ever have one of those weeks (months, years, lifetimes) that just seem to grind into your very fiber and make ya want nothing more than a big, fuzzy blanket, a hot cider, and a great read? One where you pull the plug on the stereo, the phone, the TV, the can opener and the doorbell? When a loud, smoky bar and a stage fulla half-crocked, wild-eyed musicians seems about as appealing as a night in a small, unfurnished white room with George W. and that guy who took over as host of The Weakest Link? Well, join the club.
We all go through such heavy-handed down-age from time-to-time, especially those of us whose passion for most of the above activities and proclivities consumes most of our waking hours, and especially when just walking from your job to your car at the end of the day is nearly enough to convince you that, best music scene in the country or not, maybe your inner compass was a few degrees off when you decided to carve out a life here in the ice kingdom. I was having one of those weeks myself not long ago, when, after far too many hours flipping through the pages of mindless horror novels and irrevocably staining at least half-a-dozen white coffee cups with blood-red tomato soup, I restlessly wandered into my office and began flipping through a stack of CDs I’d set aside for eventual review. There, about five discs into the stack, was the latest from singer/songwriter Jack Logan and his old pal Bob Kimbell.
You wanna talk about guys who have every reason in the world to pack it in and turn their back on the music world forever? Logan is one of this generation’s top contenders, buddy. A relatively humble start, writing songs with pals and playing dumpy clubs in Illinois, then—boom! Discovery!! Unearthed by legendary Twin/Tone Records co-founder Peter Jesperson (who’s still a big Logan supporter) in the mid-’90s, a 42-song extravaganza of a debut album (Bulk) on Medium Cool/Restless; appearances on network television; tours all over the world; and at the end of the day, you’re back in Winder, Georgia, working a day job at a pants factory and wondering what the %@!#$& the hoopla was all about. Not that the whole ride wasn’t more than most struggling singer/songwriters ever dream of accomplishing, but when you’re constantly told by respected music biz folks, gushing critics and rabid fans that your %@!#$& is a cut above the norm, you start wondering why you can’t seem to break through that final barrier and just make, by God, enough money to feed your family and MAKE MORE RECORDS without kissing some suit-and-tie-wearing monkey’s ass who’s probably heard more of Dave Matthews’ material than he has yours.
Well, Logan did say %@!#$& it, for a little while, anyway. After a couple of mostly ignored releases on his own Backburner label, he settled back into his daily routine and proceeded to start a little family (he and his wife, Sharon, are expecting child #2) of his own. Thankfully, diapers and round the clock feedings didn’t crush the talented wordsmith’s muse in a landslide of dirty baby wipes and fave T-shirts forever stained with regurgitated formula. If anything, Jack’s latest finds him more at peace with himself and his never-ending pen than ever. Here’s a little peek at an album that’ll surely both soothe and inspire you should you ever have a week like the one I recounted earlier:
Jack Logan & Bob Kimbell
2002 Parasol Records
Working with gifted singer/songwriter/guitarist Bob Kimbell has always seemed to have a calming effect on the notoriously ubiquitous and eclectic Logan. Their first collaboration for hip little Illinois label Parasol, Little Private Angel, was chock full of lush, sonic beauty and breathless, romantic vocals and lyrics. For Woodshedding, Logan and Kimbell actually wrote and recorded much of the material long-distance—one sketching an aural idea on tape and sending it back to the other for illustration or dialogue, much like the groovy little comic books Logan digs creating in his spare time. But if this were a comic book, it’d be a funky collage of R. Crumb-esque psychedelia, heart-break romance pulp like Lorna Lovelorn, a smidgeon of lost wonders like Little Lulu and O.G. Whiz, and those cool Classic Comics that featured the works of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and others penned and colored and brought to mind-blowing life on the page.
That’s Logan for ya—he even finally sat down and learned to play “some guitar” for this album, and actually wrote much of the music as well as the lion’s share of the lyrics. Not to shortchange collaborator Kimbell at all, who not only provides the aforementioned inspiration but absolutely sublime vocals and guitars. Special guests include longtime chums William Tonks on guitar and dobro, John Neff on pedal steel, Possibilities co-founder Kevin Lane, Nick Rudd, Tim Stephens, and Brendan Gamble. You’ll have to go the extra mile to discern—or even really be very concerned—about who plays what, though, because the whole album just flows together like a nice, stiff hot toddy and a couple of 5 mg Valiums on a cold fall day.
“Further South” lopes out of the gate like a trail-weary palomino on its way back to the dust, cotton fields and front-porch pickers that were once so abundant in that warm, green land: “Got a teapot in my tempest/Gonna drive ‘er up to Memphis/Get drunk with all the lap brats way up there/Hang around with Little Milton, Howlin’ Wolf an’ Alex Chilton...” “Host Of The Party” finds Jack with that “what, me worry?” expression in his voice and swirls of the wicked sense of humor that helped forge classics like “Shrunken Head” and “Cosmic Janitor.” “Legs And Brains” recalls a Harry Nilsson weekend, done up to toot-and-whiskey perfection on the streets of Athens, rather than NYC: “Now my water pump and my old brown jug got sucked through the fireplace flue/Rocks tumblin’ down from the mountains/Fruits swelling up on the banks/Parts of the Lord’s manufacture/Too much legs and brains...”
“I Still Miss Her Dog” is self-explanatory by its title alone, but toss in a skittish honky-tonk shuffle, understated, faux country vocals and one helluva universally identifiable subject, and you’ve got another Logan classic in the bag: “I don’t miss her at all/I got no words to call/But I would truly love to call her dog...chasin’ rubber balls across the yard...” Kimbell’s angelic backing vocals are absolutely pristine on this track, and a great impetus for those not in the know to go back and check out his terrific pop/rock band Weird Summer, who were also on Parasol. “Nothing But Sky” is graced with Neff’s spine-tingling pedal steel flourishes, and captures the freedom and omniscience man feels as he cruises over the green fields and tiny lights in a massive hulk of steel and wire.
“Nothing But Sisyphus” is, hands down, the best song Logan’s written in ages—a dreamy, modern update on the classic tale of a guy who keeps trying to roll a stone up a mountain, and keeps on trying no matter how many times it comes tumbling down upon him. A nifty allegory for Logan’s career, and probably how a lot of us feel these days, even in the good weeks: “I try to live and learn/Mostly I just live...people watch me as I hammer and scratch away/One will turn to the other, lower his voice and say/Here comes Sisyphus pushin’ that rock on up the hill...it’s gonna roll on back and crush his ass/He oughta know/Better than that.” Yum. Super-tasty.
“Ripped It Away,” “Holes In Your Story,” and “Navigator Type” are a dark trilogy of sorts, ending with the humble cry for mercy—or is it a veiled warning?—from our protaganist in the latter: “Don’t crush me with an eyelash/I feel your giant eyes/I’m building ships down in the basement/Oh, you’re gonna be surprised/I’m the navigator type/Maybe sooner or later/We’ll get there just fine...” More honey-laced backing vocals from Kimbell, some tasty, flamenco-style pickin’, and then it’s time for the album closer.
“Just As You Are” is a slow-burning, jazzy number that’s so cynical and warm at the same time that the most vivid visual I could come up with was Mark Eitzel singing to himself in front of a crackling fire in some dark cabin in the woods: “Sure good to see you with egg on your face/Covers those burning cold eyeballs of yours/You sit getting drunk and listening to old records/The books on your shelf tell a twist today/The contents of your sad refrigerator/Well, is there a word that I need to say?/Don’t get me wrong, you were right all along/You’re fine as you are/Just as you are...” Amen, Jack. So are you.
Don’t change, call me, babe, let’s do lunch....screw the music business, screw the media, and screw the doldrums. If there’s one thing you can take away from this album—or any of Logan’s wonderfully skewed, always-entertaining musical installments, it’s that lettin’ the whole %@!#$&-factory get ya down only means “they” win. Don’t think they ain’t happy as dung beatles on a steaming pile that you’re beat, down, whipped, too tired to rock n’ roll. Hell, if Logan can go through the big-label ringer, tour the world and ride out a thousand phony backslaps, you and I can get up off the couch just one more time and buy a new album, see a live gig in a smoky bar, or just take his advice and sit getting drunk and listening to old records. Hey, there’s a show goin’ on tonight I know I shouldn’t miss—if you still don’t feel like goin’ out, the tomato soup is in the cupboard and the TV remote is buried in the couch cushions. Have fun. Until next week—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to complain that tomato soup leaves you groggy and disoriented, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.