Monday, September 07, 2009

10 albums a day #37

Michelle Shocked
- The Texas Campfire Tapes (1986, CD)
- Short Sharp Shocked (1988, LP)
- Captain Swing (1989, CD)
- Arkansas Traveler (1992, CD)
- Kind Hearted Woman (1996, CD)
Midge Ure - The Gift (1985, cassette)
Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mining (1990, CD)
Mieka Pauley - Elijah Drop Your Gun (2008, Amazon download)
Mississippi Fred McDowell - Live in New York (1971, mp3 download)
Moe Bandy - Picture in a Frame (1994, CD)

And then one day I walked into Sundance Records and heard "Memories of East Texas" from Short Sharp Shocked. I bought the album immediately. Michelle Shocked (real name Karen Michelle Johnston) is a Texan musician who probably now can best be described as an Americana artist who spent some time in the NYC punk scene.

The Texas Campfire Tapes was recorded by some Sony rep with a digital tape recorder at the Kerrville Folklife Festival. This recording was released as an album against her will, which is a long complicated story and is probably better read elsewhere than here; but still it was her first and it got her noticed. The sound is very raw, as might be expected. Crickets are heard chirping in the background and the occasional sound of a car driving past interrupts the music. Many of the tracks on this album were remade later in the studio, so that's an interesting thing about it. I put off buying this one for a long time because Shocked herself didn't want it out there, but then later she changed her mind and it's now available from her own website. So anyway, eventually I bought it just out of curiosity.

Short Sharp Shocked was her first studio album and is straight Americana (not quite country, not quite rock--it does include one old country song, ("The L&M Don't Stop Here Anymore") and is a great album. One seemingly out-of-place song is "Fogtown," the final track, which is not listed on the record or the jacket, and is more of a punkish number, and which Shocked herself only sings backing vocals on--the lead is by a man (I forget his name). This is one of the songs that can be heard in the raw, sung by Shocked, on Campfire Tapes.

Captain Swing slides sideways into the "swing" genre, sort of. It has some backing horns and is in the flavor of the swing bands, although still quite clearly the music of Michelle Shocked.

Arkansas Traveler is a truly great album, with songs that span the genres of pop/rock, folk and country. I would recommend this as a good starter album for anyone who is interested in hearing her stuff.

Kind Hearted Woman makes another change with a collection of songs that tend to defy genre categorization. One particularly interesting song on this album is "Eddie," which updates and tells the real (and dark) truth behind what happened in the song "V.F.D.," which was on the Shocked album.

Michelle Shocked has been very busy and has released several more albums since those dark days of the 90s when I ran out of money to buy albums. Sometime after the released of Traveler, she filed suit against her record company to break her contract, and won the suit by citing anti-slavery laws. Since then she has continued by producing her own CDs and selling them at concerts. She also has a website at which you can purchase all her albums as either CDs or mp3 downloads--all of which are now on my list.

Midge Ure was/is the lead singer of Ultravox. I have a couple of their albums that I've always really liked. This was his first solo album so I bought it when I saw it. If you like Ultravox, you'll probably like it.

I'm sure everybody is already familiar with Midnight Oil. I downloaded the Mieka Pauley album from Amazon when she offered it there for free.

Live in New York was downloaded from Kathleen Loves Music. It's a two-record set from bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell, just him singing and playing his guitar. It was the last recording he made before his death, and if you want to hear some real blues, go download it.

The Moe Bandy CD is a "best of" compilation, and is another one that I wouldn't feel right without.

Album count: 372.

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