PART ONE – AMERICANA RAILROAD – CARLA OLSON AND ALICE HOWE
This Friday, November 26, is Record Store Day’s Black Friday. Americana Railroad is one of the special vinyl releases in independent record stores that day. This nineteen-song double album has been assembled by Carla Olson and Saul Davis, the couple who gave us the tribute album Ladies Sing Lightfoot earlier this year, which we discussed with Olson in a 2021 Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides interview article.
Last year we featured Rocky Burnette for the debut of our Goldmine One-Hit Wonders series, celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Tired of Toein’ the Line.” Burnett is included on this new compilation with “Mystery Train,” with a rhythmic motion that recalls Johnny Cash’s hits. Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut Top 40 single “Marrakesh Express” is covered by the American roots orchestra Dustbowl Revival, recreating the up-tempo fun and harmonies of the original, augmented by touch of brass. Gary Myrick, known for the early 1980s new wave songs “She Talks in Stereo” and “Message is You,” powerfully takes on “Train Kept A-Rollin’” with his guitar and the drums standing out, delivering the excitement rock fans heard in the 1960s with The Yardbirds and the following decade with Aerosmith on their versions of this 1950s blues song. In the opposite direction is a relaxing acoustic reading of “City of New Orleans” by John Fogerty, where you feel you are a guest in the living room of the Fogerty family.
GOLDMINE: Congratulations to you and Saul on another wonderful compilation this year.
CARLA OLSON: Thank you. The idea for an album of railroad songs was Saul’s about ten years ago.
GM: The collection begins and ends with you and Stephen McCarthy. The opening number captures a Byrds/Tom Petty-like sound and when you come in with the harmonies, it doubles the enjoyment.
CO: Thank you. One of the songs that Saul thought would be a place to start was “Here Comes That Train Again” written by Stephen McCarthy and recorded by his then band The Long Ryders. We approached Stephen about cutting a new version of the song for the project. He was enthusiastic about the project. Other songs that came to mind early included two Gene Clark songs, “Train Leaves Here This Mornin’,” which Kai Clark performs on the new album, and “I Remember the Railroad,” which Stephen and I end the album with. I produced about half of the album and Saul’s role again, like with Ladies Sing Lightfoot, was A&R, finding the right people and the songs, and the album concept.
GM: Alice, the first time I heard “500 Miles” was in the early 1970s by Heaven Bound with Joan Medora as their lead vocalist, and this became a favorite of my best friend John and me. Had John’s older sister Jane still been living at home, she probably would have turned us on to the Peter, Paul & Mary version she grew up on a decade earlier from her collection. Your version of “500 Miles” is so beautiful, right up there with those recordings.
ALICE HOWE: Thank you so much for your kind words. “500 Miles” is a classic, beautiful song, and I really enjoyed working with my producer, Freebo, to come up with the arrangement for Americana Railroad. “500 Miles” is just one of those songs that has always been there in my life. I grew up on my parents’ extensive vinyl collection, and I’m sure I heard versions by Peter, Paul & Mary and others. We sang it when I was a kid at summer camp in Vermont and at the weekly song-circle I used to lead at a music store in Seattle. “500 Miles” has a powerful nostalgia to it, and while it seems like a simple tune, when I got into the studio, it proved to be an interesting challenge. I had to find a way to honor the original while making it my own. That’s where Freebo came in to help, arranging it with some beautiful new chord shapes and leading the band to create a track that supported my vocals and allowed me to float with the melody. I’m so happy to share this recording with you and to be included on this compilation record.
Peter, Paul & Mary
Flip side: 500 Miles
A side: Settle Down (Goin’ Down That Highway)
Billboard Top 100 debut: January 19, 1963
Peak position: No. 56
Warner Bros. 5334
GM: You and Freebo did a great job, reminding me of Rosanne Cash.
AH: Thank you again. Freebo also produced my new album, which is due out at springtime. It was recorded at the iconic FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and it features ten new original songs backed by an outstanding group of musicians.
Carla Olson and Alice Howe links:
PART TWO – ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK
Every year in the past five years, we have interviewed Engelbert Humperdinck in our Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides online weekly series, highlighting his new releases. At age 85, he still sounds strong, delivering his smooth vocal style, balancing power and tenderness. His new OK! Good Records EP Regards contains five songs including his new classy versions of “Let It Be Me,” which reached the Top 40 four times from 1960 by The Everly Brothers to 1982 by Willie Nelson, and “What a Wonderful World,” which originally peaked at No. 116 in 1968 by Louis Armstrong, and finally reached the Top 40 for its 20th anniversary due to the inclusion in the popular Good Morning, Vietnam film and soundtrack.
GM: Engelbert, another year, another wonderful EP. In 2019, “Angel on My Shoulder” was my favorite from Reflections. Last year, your version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” was my favorite on Sentiments. This year, it is the opening song, your version of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” which is my favorite. You know that I always love when you add your treatment to country songs. This song is the one I have heard the least in the past, so that may be another reason why it jumps out at me, but all five are great. There is also a new version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” included here.
ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK: First of all, thank you. I hope you have been doing well. Regards includes new recordings of songs that I performed on my YouTube special Live at Home. With “Smile,” which we ended Sentiments with last year, it was different from the other songs, just using a piano, played by Eddie Tobin, who I have known for a long time. He used to be my musical director and he lives in Florida, like you. At my request, Eddie came through, recorded the track, and sent it to me. We left the recording as is last year, but for this year we have added orchestration to it so that it blends in better with the other songs, so it is an updated version.
GM: Speaking about last year, thank you again for your Christmas special. Watching it online from home in Florida during the pandemic, I felt like I was with you and your family in California. It was beautiful and classy.
EH: Thank you so much. After all these years, that was my first Christmas special and I enjoyed making it so much, that we will be doing it again this year.
GM: Then it is only fitting that you end Regards with a Christmas song, “Blue Christmas,” which we first learned by your friend Elvis Presley, and it is not the first time I have an Elvis song recorded by you in my growing Engelbert Humperdinck collection.
EH: That is true. I asked his permission in the 1970s when we were in Las Vegas together, “Elvis, is it OK to record your songs?” He said, “Yes, I’m doing a lot of yours.” Which was true for him as well. “Release Me” was on his On Stage album. He was one of the greatest performers and a great entertainer. He had humility and was charismatic. I learned a lot watching his shows and I look forward to returning to concert stages soon. Thank you again and have a wonderful holiday season.
Engelbert Humperdinck and Elvis Presley, 1970s, courtesy OK! Good Records, Engelbert Humperdinck, Getty Images
Engelbert Humperdinck links:
PART THREE – LISA LAMBE
GM: Lisa, fans of last year’s Juniper will certainly embrace Wild Red. You did it again! Let’s start at the beginning with “Blue Star,” a gentle and pretty opener with a slight bounce and a "wish you were here" sentiment.
LISA LAMBE: OK. This is the first song written for the Wild Red project, by a crackling fire in West Cork in a studio with one of the most amazing vistas of the Atlantic, on the furthest southern tip of Ireland, with the next stop on the ocean being the U.S.A. “Blue Star” is a song for those who have gone before us, and in the big celestial night sky above us this is a prayer, I guess, to those we miss and love who are looking down on us. My hope is that this is a song to bring comfort.
GM: Well, comfort continues with the next song, “First to See the Sun,” with an acoustic guitar leading to a bit of a country backdrop. What an intriguing title!
LL: They say about this part of Ireland, that it is the first place to see the sun and the first place to see the rain, since it is the first bit of land where the Atlantic meets from the US. Yes, the sentiment again is one of comfort and a reminder to ourselves, in these lockdown days, that we will be all right, and that being in nature and looking out at nature can be a great healer.
GM: It is no surprise that “Sea Queen” is my favorite song, reminding me of some of my favorites from Juniper, with your Stevie Nicks-like vibrato and poetic lines including "drifting out on the ocean tide.”
LL: I am thrilled that this song resonates with you! “Sea Queen” is inspired by a very old Irish folklore myth. The original folktale is one of a mermaid who comes to shore and marries a man on the mainland, but after seven years she goes back to the sea to her sea family, torn between land and sea. My take on it is that this beautiful mermaid is a queen and when the night comes, the sea queen takes to the ocean and feels the water in her eyes. It is wonderful as a songwriter to engage with old stories that can inspire new takes on them.
GM: “One Drop of Rain” is a beautifully sung folk song which begins with a touch of The Beatles’ "Across the Universe" melody.
LL: This is a song of love and a song for the heart. When “One Drop of Rain” was written I think it set the tone for the project, intimate, close and heartfelt and if you listen closely you can hear the fire crackling in the background.
GM: “The Lonely Bones” is hauntingly captivating, and again I hear a touch of Stevie Nicks when you sing about the hawthorn tree.
LL: As you can probably tell at this point, I have a great love of nature and Irish trees. The hawthorn tree is again a huge part of old Irish folklore. The tree is said to have magical properties and can be associated with fairies and the otherworld. For me following on from Juniper, I wanted to do another ode to nature. Walking this landscape in West Cork there is a very strong sense of the past with old stone houses, holy wells, old burial sites, ancient wedge tombs, and I was thinking of those ghosts that still walk the same roads and paths as you or me, the lonely bones beneath us.
GM: Your beautiful finale “East to West” has a "gone too soon" sentiment.
LL: This song is an ode to the traveling soul from birth to autumn of our years and the setting sun. It’s also the journey for me from the east of Ireland traveling west to record this special music. I think it’s a nice way to finish the project with a little moment of reflection.
GM: It sure is. I looked on Amazon and iTunes and am not finding Wild Red, like I did with Juniper. How can Goldmine readers access your new music?
LL: At this point, it is available exclusively at my website. I am so thrilled to be part of the Goldmine family and it is a great privilege to be featured once again. Thanks again for this honor.
Lisa Lambe links:
PART FOUR – PEGGY JAMES AND JIM EANNELLI
GM: After the sad Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories of the passing of music producer Mike Hoffmann and the iconic record store owner James “Mr. G” Giombetti, from The Exclusive Co. record chain, it was nice to hear good news from your town, your new Daystorm Music album The Parade.
JIM EANNELLI: Oh yes. Thank you for having us back.
GM: Peggy, last year “Holdin’ Hands” was my favorite song from your Paint Still Wet album for personal reasons. With the first eight words on your new album, I found my favorite song, with you singing, “I’m getting the itch again to move away.” My wife Donna and I have felt and have done that many times over the years. Jim also provides wonderful atmospheric strings, like what I enjoy on John Lennon’s solo songs in the 1970s. I was so drawn to “I Go with Me.”
PEGGY JAMES: "I Go with Me" represents the idea behind the belief that by merely relocating, a person might be happier, but we know that this isn't always true. We are who we are no matter where we are.
GM: I guess you can’t run away from some things, but sometimes distance does help. I was just thrilled that you tackled that subject the way you did. The strings continue on “Indoor Cat,” a haunting nautical tale which ends with another unique line, “It’s so good to be an indoor cat tonight.”
PJ: "Indoor Cat" speaks to the unpredictable nature of the weather, more specifically the rain, and how it impacts people's plans. I happen to be a person who enjoys the rain, the changing weather and the seasons. To me it adds some excitement even to the boring life of an indoor cat.
GM: You certainly have the changing weather in Milwaukee, a place we have intentionally visited only in the summertime, when we were living in Chicago, where the winters there were even more brutal than our hometown of Cleveland. Those were some cold times. Now “Hard Times” is steady and catchy with Eagles-like harmonies even though the subject matter highlights issues elevated with hatred in recent years, yet there is hope for a better future with your emotional vocal delivery.
PJ: “Hard Times" is my plea for sanity to prevail during these everchanging times and about my hope that we will stand together as a nation to bring about a better future for our country.
GM: Well, that sounds like a great John Lennon theme. I mentioned his 1970s solo sounds. I also enjoy the George Harrison-like 1970s slide guitar sound on the rocking finale “The Parade.” I am sitting beneath black and white photos of both of those Beatles in my office right now.
JE: The strings you hear on "I Go with Me," "Indoor Cats" and "Crossroad Moment" are actually performed by my nephew's girlfriend, Ana Vafai from Buffalo, who we talked about last time with “Let’s Fly Away.” They were in town for the day, so I put her in front of a microphone with an old violin and said, “Go!” She proceeded to play the most beautiful parts. We were so lucky to have recorded her. Now, on to your George Harrison guitar comparison. I've always regarded George as a terribly underrated guitarist and began to study his style over the years. What I discovered was a brilliant, sensitive, and effective mixture of Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry and Ravi Shankar in his styles. I am sure he was listening to Hawaiian slack-key slide guitar music in order to get that sweet, singing feel. One listen to "My Sweet Lord" and I was hooked.
GM: The photo I have of George Harrison, that my daughter Brianna bought me, actually has Ravi Shankar by his side. We featured the 50th anniversary of his George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album with “My Sweet Lord” recently in Goldmine, and I am pleased to feature your work again for our readers.
JE: Thanks for your interest again.
PJ: Yes, thank you for always supporting our music.
Peggy James links:
Coming next week to Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides are recent reissues and updated recordings from Electric Light Orchestra Part II, Tiffany and Natalie Schlabs.