Sunday Morning Coming Down

If you’ve seen the unedited version of Ken Burns’ docu-series Country Music, you’ll already know the extraordinary story of how this morning’s song came about.

Kristofferson relates how he went with friends to a church service; he had never thought of needing help, but he was at a low point in his life. When the pastor asked the congregation, “Is anybody feeling lost?” “Up goes my hand,” Kristofferson says. The Pastor then asked, “Are you ready to accept Christ? Kneel down there.” “I’m kneeling there,” Kristofferson continues, “and I carry a big load of guilt around…and I was just out of control, crying. It was a release. It really shook me up.” Kristofferson later said, “It was just a personal thing I was going through at the time. I had some kind of experience that I can’t even explain.”

Shortly afterwards, he recorded this Larry Gatlin composition, which appears as the closing track on his 1973 album Jesus Was A Capricorn, and features Gatlin and soon-to-be Mrs Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, on backing vocals. It went on to be his biggest ever selling song, and is just stunning, irrespective of your views on religion:

Kris Kristofferson – Why Me

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

When I last posted something by The Handsome Family, it was Far From Any Road, the theme tune to TV drama True Detective and was rather well received by y’all.

‘Bout time I posted something else by them, then, so here goes. This from their 2006 album Last Days of Wonder, which sounds like it’s going to be quite an upbeat, summery record until the lyric “Why do you leave a trail of death? Air turns brown, trees fall down” catches your ear and focuses the mind. Yes, we’re in gothic Americana territory here:

The Handsome Family – Our Blue Sky

I’ve recently *coughs* acquired pretty much their entire back catalogue, so you can probably expect them to pop up more frequently here once I’ve had chance to check it all out. Early signs are that I may be in love with them.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Here’s something newish, which I know is a bit out-of-kilter with the kind of stuff I usually post here.

This is Phil Hooley, who used to be in The Woolgatherers (not to be mistaken for The Woolpackers, the soap off-shoot/cash in on the line-dancing phenomenon who managed to have a hit in 1996 with Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll).

No, this is from Hooley’s first solo album, Songs From The Backroom, which I think is rather fine. He reminds me in places of John Prine, Don Williams and Mark Knopfler; doubtless you’ll have your own opinion as to whether that constitutes a recommend or not:

Phil Hooley – Learning to Be Still

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Since we’re looking at historic Glastonbury performances, there can be only one act that can feature this morning.

No, not Dolly Parton – although her set attracted more viewers.

Before Johnny Cash walked on stage on the 26th June 1994, the Sunday afternoon “Legend” slot wasn’t a thing.

By the time he walked off the stage jut over an hour later, it was.

Johnny Cash – Live At Glastonbury 1994

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve written before on these pages about my admiration of the TV series Fargo, and I’ve spent the evenings of the last week binge-watching the fourth series (airing on Channel 4 and streaming on All4 in the UK).

Here’s what wiki has to say about the idea behind the show generally:

Fargo is an American black comedy/crime drama television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name, which was written and directed by the Coen brothers, and takes place within the same universe. The Coens were impressed by Hawley’s script and agreed to be named as executive producers. The series premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX, and follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era and location, with a different story and mostly new characters and cast, although there is minor overlap. Each season is heavily influenced by various Coen brothers films, with each containing numerous references to them.

Basically, if you like the Coen brothers’ movies, then chances are you’ll like this too. But, since the body count piles up in all four series, then perhaps avoid it if you’re even slightly squeamish.

Which would be your loss, for each series features fine interweaving multi-strand storylines, where you’re not always immediately sure how they are linked (plot-wise, they’re not afraid to throw not exactly a twist (although there are plenty of them) but a total curveball in from time to time too), and has been exquisitely filmed, often with gorgeous overhead tracking shots. You can tell not just by the cast of each series (Series 1: Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks; Series 2: Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Jesse Plemons (if you don’t recognise the name, I dare say you’ll recognise him when you see him); Series 3: Ewan McGregor, David Thewlis, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Series 3: Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw) but by the look of the show that a lot of money has been thrown at the production of each series.

Here’s the spoiler-free plot for the current series (again from wiki):

In 1950, the Cannon Limited, led by Loy Cannon (Chris Rock), threaten to usurp the Fadda Family, led by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman), as the ruling crime organization in Kansas City, Missouri. In an effort to maintain peace, the groups agree to honor a tradition of trading the youngest sons between the two households. However, the alliance is jeopardized by the arrival of Josto’s brash brother Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), as well as the unorthodox actions taken by a nurse named Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley). Meanwhile, Oraetta’s teenaged neighbour Ethelrida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutchfield) discovers her parents are in debt to the Cannon Limited, which gets her entangled in the criminal activities of Kansas City.

I have to say Rock – who I’ve only ever really encountered via his legendary stand-up routines – is an absolute revelation in his role, which is not to detract from any of the others; there’s not one duff performance on show here.

And, as when I last mentioned the show, there’s the soundtrack, a mix of blues, gospel, country and bluegrass guaranteed to pique the interest of anyone who regularly reads this series here.

As an example, this features in the current series, and it’s an absolute beauty:

Ola Belle Reed – High On A Mountain

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Last time I posted something from this album, it got quite a good reaction, so I figured it was about time to give another track an airing.

Michelle Shocked – Secret to a Long Life

The secret to a long life is…well, I won’t spoil it for you, but I think I’m in agreement. Wise words, mate! This is another little cracker from Shocked’s back catalogue which, if you’ve never investigated, I can heartily recommend.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s not the first, it won’t be the last, but an album that has just come out which features people covering Kris Kristofferson songs.

It’s a rather fine piece of work, demonstrating the universality of Kristofferson’s compositions, featuring as it does covers ranging from Dean Martin (Just the Other Side of Nowhere) to Isaac Hayes (the titular For the Good Times).

What makes For The Good Times – The Songs of Kris Kristofferson different is that amongst all the cover versions, there stands KK, performing The Taker; presumably it’s the compiler’s favourite and nobody had covered it.

King of all included, in my opinion, is this rather fine bluegrass version of the song from which the title of this series is pinched:

Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press – Sunday Morning Coming Down

I suspect we’ll be returning to this album at some point.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve mentioned many times on these pages that this is one of my favourite songs ever, and have posted several different versions of it. But never before have I posted the version recorded by the man who wrote it, Mike Nesmith of The Monkees fame (or Michael Nesmith as he is known here, a bit like when footballer Andy Cole started insisting he be referred to as Andrew as he wanted to seem a bit more grown up and sophisticated).

There’s a compilation album out which brings together a load of “lost” recordings from when he was signed to the RCA Victor label, and which features the song in question. I’ve not had chance to listen to the whole album yet, but the songs I have listened to leads me to think this is as album which will feature on these pages again.

In the meantime, this, a more honky-tonk version than I’ve previously featured:

Michael Nesmith & the First National Band – Different Drum (Alternate Version)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s a Don Williams song for you this morning, but a version performed as a duet with Emmylou Harris on her cunningly titled Duets album:

Emmylou Harris & Don Williams – If I Needed You

And, since I missed posting last week, here’s a song which that reminds me of, from a truly magnificent film, one of my absolute favourites, A Mighty Wind, which does for folk music what This Is Spinal Tap did for rock music, which is hardly surprising given the same people were behind both films:

Mitch & Mickey – Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow

If you’ve never seen it, seek it out. It is beautiful, funny and moving. I’ll say no more.

Except: More soon.