Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve mentioned before that I have a somewhat chequered experience with tribute albums.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a tribute album is where a bunch of cover versions of songs by acts who cite the writer as an influence are pulled together in one place. Sometimes it’s a load of songs which already existed, sometimes acts will be asked to record a cover specifically for the tribute, sometimes it’s a bit of both.

To my mind, perhaps as one would expect, they’re a bit of a hodge-podge, for every one decent cover you get three absolute clangers.

The first one I ever bought, I think, was the quite wonderful tribute to The Carpenters “If I Were A Carpenter”: 12 covers and I’d say that 10 of them are really good covers. Conversely, “Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M.” – who I love more than I love The Carpenters – has 17 tracks and maybe 3 of them are kind of ok.

I guess it depends on the quality of the source material, which is why it’s no surprise that “Holding Things Together -The Merle Haggard Songbook” has 24 songs and I’m struggling to find a duff cover amongst them.

Which is how I find myself typing some words that I honestly never thought I would on here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s: The Grateful Dead with a song that doesn’t go on for as long as their doobies:

The Grateful Dead – Mama Tried

We’ll be returning to this album at some point.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’m guessing by this point you know all that there is to know about Merle Haggard, and so I can just post one of his many great records with no further explanation required.

I’ve chosen this tune because I reckon with the current lockdown restrictions, this is pretty much how most people are feeling right now. Apart from Hel and Neil, I didn’t physically meet any of my friends in 2020, and I can’t wait for the day that changes.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Calm down, I haven’t forgotten about or dropped your Sunday morning dose of country music.

Truth is, I’ve been lacking a bit of inspiration for this series.

There are many things which trigger something in me and prompt me to post something, but I think without doubt there are two things which are more responsible than most for making me fire up the laptop to write something (Brexit aside, obviously):

a) something someone has posted on Twitter (as evidenced by my post yesterday morning),  and

b) the popular BBC1 tea-time quiz show Pointless.

And it is to the latter I turn this morning.

I love Pointless, but there are many things about it which annoy the tits off me. Hel and I had a text conversation about this many months ago, which I can’t refer back to as I’ve changed phones at least twice since then, otherwise this next list would be a whole lot longer. But here are the edited highlights:

  1. Contestants who clap their own answer (this isn’t confined to Pointless, to be fair)
  2. Contestants who say “I’ve got a few answers in mind, I’m just trying to work out which is the best one.” Of course you are, that’s the whole point of going on a quiz show. Get on with it.
  3. Contestants who say “I was going to give X as my answer (insert answer somebody else just gave which was really good), but now I’ve to got to think of something else…”. You don’t need to think out loud. You don’t need to show your working. This isn’t Eggheads (don’t get me started…). Stop stalling for time, give an answer and let them cut all of the silence and procrastination out in the edit.
  4. Contestants who say “I wasn’t born when most of these records came out”.

Again, to be fair, someone was called out for 3. on a show this week, and they are regularly shown yellow cards for saying 4.

Anyway, this week, one of the rounds on Pointless was “Number One” Records, or rather, records with the number one in the title, which had been a hit in the UK.

One of the answers was One Day at a Time by Lena Martell, a #1 way back in 1979, a record I remember well, partly because it featured on a thoroughly out-of-character compilation of religious songs called Peace in the Valley that my parents owned, partly because I remember the headmaster of the junior school I attended sanctimoniously extolling the virtues of a “proper song with a proper message” being a hit in an assembly one morning, but mostly because…well, it’s a record that was quite a big hit in the late 1970s and my brain is somehow wired to remember that kind of useless crap.

Mental note to self: update dating profile to read: “Handy for pub quizzes (and knowing where the (brackets) go in a song title), useless at putting shelves up, that’s me.”

What I didn’t know was that it’s a song which was co-written by Kris Kristofferson, a country artist regular visitors to this page will know I greatly admire, and who inspired the title of this series.

I literally had no idea that KK had any involvement in this song, so I checked it out on t’internet, and, unless Richard Osman got to the Wikipedia page first (and I wouldn’t put it past him), sure enough, there it is:

“One Day at a Time” is a popular Country and Western-style Christian song written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson. It has been recorded by over 200 artists and has reached No.1 in several territories.”

Co-written, not written, you idiot, Osman! You really should make that laptop of yours, that you don’t even bother to pretend to refer to, actually work so you can check these things (now I mention it, actually, make a non-working laptop as a prop No. 5 on the list).

Anyway, putting aside my beef with Osman (who I actually quite like: he was once kind enough to respond positively to a Tweet I sent about the reboot of Porridge, which scores immense plus points in my book. See also: the Reverend Richard Coles) and with it being described as Country and Western-style as opposed to just Country (or Country Gospel, if you must), I decided to see if I could track down KK’s version. And as far as I can find, he’s never released his own version of it (citation needed). Which shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, given his early-days reputation as being a songwriter rather than a singer/performer in his own right (I’m talking Kristofferson now, rather than Osman or Coles, by the way).

So instead, here’s Merle Haggard’s not-too-shabby version, lifted from his 1981 album Songs for Mama Who Tried, which it turned out I have a copy of but have never really listened to (I have a lot of records that fall into this category. Which goes some way to explaining why I own an unplayed CD by a group called Fannypack, although I think you can probably work out the main reason for me owning that just from me revealing their name):


Merle Haggard – One Day At A Time

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I don’t claim to know everything (no, really, I don’t!). Every now and then something happens that just blows my mind.

Serendipity. I think that’s what it’s called.

Let me explain.

I’ve thought recently that I was turning into a Dad (Oh, how my mother wishes….), sitting here chuntering on about how they don’t write songs like they used to, is that a boy or a girl?, turning off Top of the Pops and then going to the corner shop in my slippers. Not my Dad, but a Dad.

What I mean is, now I’m old (50 is disturbingly close, if a few years off yet), and those moments where you hear a song for the first time and it just takes your breath away don’t happen so much these days. Few and far between. Seen/heard it all before.

But a few years ago, someone out there (thank you, whoever it was) posted a song by Candi Staton that I thought was just one of the greatest records I’d ever heard.

You all know Candi from such hits as “Young Hearts, Run Free” and “You Got The Love”, but this particular tune hit a nerve; soulful, reflective, defiant, gorgeous:


Candi Staton – You Don’t Have Far to Go

Then Merle Haggard died. It’s 2016, that’s what much loved people do. And I got myself a 4 CD retrospective of his. Popped it on my iPod, and, as usual, left the rest to the Gods of Fate and Shuffle.

And so it was that I was on the bus home from work the other day when this came on, and I was gobsmacked. The clues were there in the Candi version – the slide guitar for example – but I had no idea it was a cover version, and even less so that it had been written by Merle (and Red Simpson, credit where credit’s due):

merle-haggard-and-the-strangers-you-dont-have-very-far-to-go-capitolMerle Haggard – You Don’t Have Very Far to Go

You’ll love either one of those versions. Or, if you’re sensible, both of them.

Let them both into your life, is my advice.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

As many of you will know, this little corner of my blog has pretty much turned into a little corner of Country music, which seems just perfect for Sunday morning listening.

So there’s no way that I can’t make mention this week of the latest addition to the 2016 Deceased Club (seriously, they’ll be having one hell of a party up there right now), with the passing of Merle Haggard, a country legend if ever there was one.

Haggard is the archetypal Country star, a reformed bad boy, and his road to redemption is particularly astonishing, for in 1958 he was in the audience at a gig by one Johnny Cash, who played a gig at San Quentin prison where Haggard was residing at the time.

Haggard drew inspiration from Cash’s appearance, becoming a Country star in his own right, eventually, years later upon his release.

(Note: this is not the same gig as immortalised in Cash’s “…at San Quentin” album, the lesser known off-spring of his “Live at Folsom Prison” album.)

So, here’s some Merle, one of his best know songs (and that’s no bad thing), about him going off the rails and how his mother tried her best to keep him on the right side of the tracks:


Merle Haggard – Mama Tried

Sleep easy, cowboy.

More soon.