Kenny Rogers: My New Favorite Bass Player

Kenny Rogers and The First EditionI was thinking about this song the other day because of the dream sequence in The Big Lebowski. That movie didn’t really do much for me. However, the song is great! This video came up while looking for an original version. I love everything about it!

Probably, by now everyone knows Kenny Rogers recorded it. If you didn’t know that, you are likely incredibly surprised as he is famous as a country singer and for being paired with Dolly Parton. What else you might not have known – Kenny Rogers (a bass player) was born in Houston as was the songwriter, Mickey Newbury (the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame). Evidently, Kenny Rogers sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

You are gonna love this! (and, I’m being serious)

– More Info –

Artist / Musician / Band: Kenny Rogers and The First Edition
Song: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Genre: country, pop
Instrument: bass, vocals
From: Houston, Texas
Twitter: @_KennyRogers

Imitation: Mentors and Impersonators

Jean François Millet “Two Men Turning over the Soil” (1866) and “Two Peasants Digging” Vincent van Gogh (1889)

A recent conversation with a friend revisited the topic of imitation in art and music. In my previous post, “Imitation: Bobby Osborne and Ernest Tubb“, I discussed how first imitating an idol (looking to the idol as a mentor) can lead an artist or musician to develop his or her own unique style.

However, occasionally mimicking an idol fails to transform the musician and instead develops an impersonator void of individual characteristics. As you know, many copyright debates argue the question of “is the impersonator using another body of work to capitalize their own career”? Of course, a famous example is Queen – Under Pressure (1981) versus Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby (1989).

But, let’s back out of such a heavy topic and have some listening fun. Below are some of my favorite comparisons of musicians and those that came before them. Sometimes the influence is obvious and sometimes more subtle.

Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me (1966) versus Janis Joplin Ball and Chain (1969)  Notice Roky’s opening scream at about 0:15 and Janis’ scream at 1:15. Definitely, Roky was a mentor to Janis.

One of my favorite musicians Slim Harpo – I’m a King Bee (1957) versus one of my favorite bands The Rolling Stones – I’m a King Bee (1964). It’s well documented that American blues influenced English musicians. Another example: Freddie King as a mentor to Eric Clapton (both singing and guitar). There are too many examples to list here, such as Led Zeppelin, and you already know them anyway.

I always thought the drum intro from Lee Dorsey- Get Out Of My Life Woman (1966) is peculiarly similar to the drum intro on Amy Winehouse You No I’m No Good. It is doubtful that Amy was responsible for the drums, but Lee Dorsey was definitely an influence on the person that was.

It’s not all about blues influence, George Jones If You Were Mine (starts at 0:17) originally sounded quite a bit like Lefty Frizzell She’s Gone Gone Gone.

Side note: If you enjoy learning about musicians and their influences, I recommend listening to American Routes. Next, I might write a whole post about American Routes, I like that show so much.

Music: Unique and Familiar

Fantastic Sam by Gap Dream came on SiriusXM radio while I was driving the other day. A new-to-me song, I liked it immediately. Why? It’s hard to say. Not overly complex or necessarily brilliant musically, it is catchy and easily identifiable.

I think music is generally better in the car on the road. There’s something about motion and sound, which is why dancing probably goes so well with lively beats. However, I still liked the song when played again at home. It survived the “sitting still” test. Ha!

Another good quality – it resembles probably about 10 different songs from different eras. Good songs, it seems, are familiar to you in some way even if the music is completely 100% original. We all like what’s comfortable to us. A real challenge with artists of any type is to create material that is both unique and familiar. In this sense, Fantastic Sam is a success.

Gap Dream - music– More Info –

Artist / Musician / Band: Gap Dream, Gabe Fulvimar
Song: Fantastic Sam
Genre: American psychedelic synthpop

Creativity: Exploring Inspiration

Bill O’Brien writes “The arts and sciences, technological progress, economic prosperity—nearly every significant advance achieved by entire societies—are driven by human creativity…,” in the report “How Creativity Works in the Brain“. However, the report concludes that despite decades of research on creative thinking the neurology behind an aha moment remains elusive.

Some argue that necessity is the mother of invention while others claim the best ideas are happy accidents, such as the discovery of penicillin. We’ve all heard the quote “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Yet, also notorious is the Greek and Roman mythical goddesses of inspiration and source of knowledge, the muse.

John Kounios believes insights are generated by unconscious processes that eventually deposit their results into awareness. His research, supported by the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, the Creativity Research Lab at Drexel University has been looking at what goes on in the brain when a person is problem solving. His report finds that conscious thought strategies are not effective means for enhancing insight. The best problem solving happens by your brain when you are not aware, in the subconscious through a state of positive mood and defocused attention. (What happens when ‘Aha!’ strikes)

Perhaps scientific methods are a little overwhelming and reading about them is not boosting your creativity. Here’s something a little more digestible “10 Daily Routines for Honing Your Creativity“, published by Fast Company. A combination of these tips may bring about inspiration useful in meeting a big deadline or even assist in making important daily decisions.

A Song about Thinkin: Dweller

Once on a seven-hour drive back home I realized towards the end of the trip that I had been thinking about the same things the whole way. In my mind, I’d been reworking scenarios and repeating the same thoughts over and over. I was dwelling on it and in the last 30 minutes of the ride this song was born from that realization.   (Click the photo or click here to listen)

The album cover for my single song "Dweller" - Jodi JenkinsIt’s been fun working on this song and focusing on music instead of dwelling on other things. My goal is to record a new song once a month because I want to and because creating music keeps me happy. Hope you enjoy the song, too.

– More Info –

Artist / Musician: Jodi Jenkins
Song: Dweller
Album: Recorded as a single
All Rights Reserved. Copyright July 2015

A Song for Dennis: Out to Palo Duro

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the AcoustiGanza benefit concert for my friend Dennis. But, that doesn’t mean a slow song in a minor key won’t still cheer him up. ha ha. My first song to both write and record. This one’s for you Dennis!

If you don’t know Dennis, one of his favorite past times has been to go off roading at Palo Duro Canyon, TX with his Jeep.

The album cover for my single song "Out to Palo Duro" - Jodi Jenkins– More Info –

Artist / Musician: Jodi Jenkins
Song: Out to Palo Duro
Album: Recorded as a single
All Rights Reserved. Copyright June 2015

Music: BB King at Sing Sing Prison

BB King at Sing Sing PrisonAs you know, BB King passed away this month. There are, I’m sure, numerous musical guitar tributes and memories being shared. I didn’t know BB King personally, of course, nor was I very familiar with his music. However, I am a big fan of powerful performances. And, one of the most powerful performances has to be BB King at Sing Sing Prison.

BB King at Sing Sing PrisonHis band and rhythm section are on top of it. BB King really gives his all to the concert. It’s stunning how much emotion and soul go into each song. A stark contrast to today’s performers, who deliver hollow songs without, it seems, enough life experience backing their music to move anyone emotionally.

Years ago, on youtube, I discovered footage of his performance at Sing Sing Prison in 1973. That exact video is not on youtube anymore, unfortunately. A different clip of the concert is included below.

BB King – How Blue Can you Get, live at Sing Sing Prison in 1973. (This clip has also since been removed from YouTube.)

Music: Singing about hard times

women doing laundry in washtubs Every now and then I have a bad day and start to get down about how things are hard. We all do. Lines are long at the store, working late, bills to pay, one-thing-after-another type of challenges.

Then, something comes along as a reminder of those in the past that faced incredible struggles. For some just staying alive each day was difficult, not to mention having food to eat or enough health to make a living.

I have written before about how music can be a release and reflection of what troubles us. Sometimes, singing has been the only thing a person has for comfort, literally – in prison, working in the fields, in protest, in the face of death, in any situation where the odds are stacked against you.

A great example of this is the subject of coal mining and the many songs around the life of a miner and family. Specifically miners at the Brookside Mine in Harlan County, Kentucky and events in June 1972, which is documented in the movie Harlan County USA. Here is a clip from the movie where Florence Reece, the daughter and wife of coal miners, sings Which Side Are You On?”. Folklorist Alan Lomax, who collected it from her in 1937, claimed she wrote the song at age 12.

Most famously, Loretta Lynn effectively tells her experience and hardship through music in Coal Miner’s Daughter. Listening to Loretta’s song reminds me that my daily troubles are nothing. For instance, I don’t have bloody fingers from constantly doing the laundry by hand. And listening to Florence’s song reminds me to be thankful that I am living a better life because of those that came before and made a difference.

Imitation: Bobby Osborne and Ernest Tubb

Recently while on a long drive I caught an interview with Bobby Osborne on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction. It was amazing! I loved listening to Bobby’s stories and his music. Most interestingly, he spoke about being influenced by Ernest Tubb. In fact, Bobby set out to be a country singer. That’s one reason why his singing style is unique. (Bobby Osborne bio)

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But, it’s funny that in trying to sound like someone else, he ended up sounding like no one else. I think many other great musicians and singers started out trying to replicate a musical hero. That leads me to believe that one truly does need to master an art form first before having the ability to make it your own.

In visual art, students sometimes spend years copying the masters and trying to make a replica that is so perfect it is indistinguishable from the original. According to the Smithsonian magazine, Degas insisted “You have to copy and recopy the masters and it’s only after having proved oneself as a good copyist that you can reasonably try to do a still life of a radish.” This seems counter intuitive and I think many entrants into music wish to immediately be a master without taking even a single lesson. As evidenced by Bobby Osborne, it is a myth that “taking lessons will ruin originality”. He took lessons from Ernest Tubb even though it wasn’t in person.

Listen to Bobby pay homage to Ernest in Half a Mind. Boy this is good! Below that is Ernest’s version. (Oh how I love pedal steel, too!) Even though the influence is detectable, isn’t it amazing how different they both sound from each other?

– More Info –

Artist / Musician / Band: Bobby Osborne and The Osborne Brothers
Song: Half a Mind
Album: Nashville on label Pinecastle, released June 10, 2014
Genre: Bluegrass
From: Leslie County, Kentucky
Additional reading: Pinecastle to release lost Osborne Brothers’ recordings

Music: Whitehorse

Whitehorse bandWhat a surprise today to hear inspiring new music on the radio from a relatively new band that released a new album about three weeks ago. The band is Whitehorse, a duo. They have a song with an immediately catchy beat and bass line. Then, second to immediately, fantastic harmonies!

Gosh, I just hit play again to get that intro another time.

Now, it’s your turn. Don’t watch the video – just sit back, listen, and absorb “Baby What’s Wrong”.

The music seeps into you a bit, which is nice. I looked up the band to listen to other music by Whitehorse hoping it would be similar quality. To my surprise, it was. It seems there is a bit of rockabilly influence deep down, and possibly some Latin. Nice combination.

Next I found their interpretation of “I’m On Fire” originally written by Bruce Springsteen. I’m jealous because I love that song. However, I have to admit my favorite performance of the song is this one done by Bruce live. It must have been something to be there and witness Bruce’s performance in person! Finally, my favorite arrangement of  “I’m On Fire” is by Town Mountain.

Though, I digress. Whitehorse has a playlist on YouTube where you can sample all their music. And, they are currently on tour. If they stop near me, I’ll definitely catch their show.

– More Info –

Artist / Musician / Band: Whitehorse, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland
Song: Baby What’s Wrong
Album: Leave No Bridge Unburned, released by Six Shooter Records on 2/17/2015
Genre: acoustic/electric rock
From: Canada
Where to buy or purchase: Direct from their website