It’s time again for the music issue of the Oxford American. I have not read a word of it, though it appears to be chalk full of many of my favorite authors: Peter Guralnick, Cintra Wilson, Tom Piazza, Bill Friskics-Warren, and Charles Wolfe.
There you go. Who can bear to open a magazine knowing some of the last new words of his await you at the end?
I did, of course, immediately rip open the CD and stick it in the player.
It’s good. Strong all the way through, with some nice treats. Uncle Dave Macon does “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy” and the way he plays banjo is just creepy as hell. Listening to it is a little like being haunted by a crazy moonshiner who died in 1931.
They’ve got a really nice version of “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep” which makes you want to grab hands with a small kid and dance around your living room. I don’t know what it is, maybe how they drop the tempo just a little and give it a little swing, but it’s cool. Bruce Springsteen has a much different version on We Shall Overcome which is also good fun, but Bruce sings like he’s motivating an army marching for justice. The Swan Silvertones sing like the battle’s been won, if only folks would open up their eyes and see and bother to move their hips to dance.
Then there’s an incredibly sweet version of “Three is a Magic Number” by Bob Dorough.
Towards the end there’s Townes Van Zandt doing my absolute favorite song of his, “Nothin'” which is the kind of song that rips out its heart and eats it right in front of you. This version sounds like it must be more recent than the one I love best, but I don’t think it’s worse, just different.
Anyway, it’s, as always, good fun.