Tuesday, 31 March 2015

She's gone (for Anna) - Darrin Hacquard

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: She's gone (for Anna), by Darrin Hacquard

We're back! Let's get serious:

Today I'm going to share a song off my favorite album of 2015, Darren Hacquard's Signs and Wonders. I know that last week I hinted that I was going to mostly highlight songs from our pop culture, but in a sense this album is like...my pop culture right now, and I'd like to share it with you.

Darrin Hacquard:

I met Darrin last August at a weeklong old-time music party in west virginia. He seemed like a colourful character, so I later contributed to his crowd-funded album, not really knowing what to expect.

When I got the digital download for Signs and Wonders I was floored. I would call it an alt-country album, and it retains so much of what's great about country music - especially storytelling - and eschews a lot of that new nashville nonsense like the cheesy harmonies and instrumentation. The sound on this album ranges from sweet to psychedelic, always with a good helping of grit, and the texture of something that - wisely - was not overproduced.

In the interest of full disclosure, the artist isn't aware of my writing this, and I bought the album myself. That said, I would be thrilled if some more people listened to (and bought) Signs and Wonders, because I do think it's great, original, music.

The song:

There are actually three waltzes on this album. I've chosen the first, which starts off the album.

I like the way this one starts out - Darrin's voice, alone, followed by the rhythm section's bass and drums kicking in. The lyrical storytelling here is great: the song is a story about a rough and tumble character "born on the thirteenth of june - it was a friday night" who had "run-ins with the law - a real backseat driver". There's a slow-motion banjo solo, an electric guitar solo, and some accordeon (I think?) and synth/or organ providing backing.

Have a listen yourself. You can check out the other songs by pressing the universal symbol for "computer: play next track": >>>

That's all for this week - tune in next time, I have lots of good songs in store!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Fallin - Alicia Keys + early mission statement

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Fallin', by Alicia Keys

I took a pedagogical week off waltz wednesday, and feel more refreshed than ever.

Now, I think most readers would agree that this isn't just a space for me to nerd out on old-time waltzes. Yes, I have posted a few, but I've purposely tried to profile songs that are within our collective pop culture consciousness.

I didn't really have a mission statement when I started posting songs for waltz wednesday, but as I keep wracking my brain and music library for waltz-form songs, I think I've developed my idea. Maybe one week I'll write a formal mission statement, but until then, know that I'm interested in showing the versatility of the waltz as a song form, with a special emphasis on popular music.

Also know that all the songs here are chosen organically - I've made it a habit of whenever I listen to music on a portable device, home computer, TV, or radio, or even when I listen to music without providing consent - restaurants, cafés, bars, or kids who inexplicably use their phones as boomboxes instead of using earphones - to immediately identify whether it's in waltz form, and note it down if it's interesting to me. I do not go through online lists of waltzes, and I would ask anyone recommending a waltz to use the same process!

Alright without further ado, waltz wednesday's song:

Alicia Keys:

This song was Alicia Keys' break-out hit: I remember pretending to not like it in high school, but really, who was I kidding. She wrote and produced it, putting her skills on display as a fine musical artist. I never knew it, but it makes sense that she graduated valedictorian at New York city's Professional Performing Arts School; it even looks like she skipped a grade or two since she graduated at age 16.

The song:

IDK if you guys remember, but this song was the shit. It was released in April of 2001, and stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 34 weeks, peaking at #1. Somehow it placed second behind Lifehouse's "Hanging by a Moment" for the year-end top-100 chart. I mean I'm trying to make this blog a safe space for all music tastes, but is "Hanging by a Moment" ever bad. In any case, it's trivial, since everbody remembers Fallin', and nobody remembers that other song.

The song alternates between two chords - if it's good enough for Miles Davis, it's good enough for Alicia Keys. There are some nice vocals to listen to, like her voice modulation at about a minute in, or the way she plays with rhythm at the end of the second verse. As the song progresses, more and more layers of sound are added on - harmonies, Alicia's vocal improvisations on the melody, strings, more cymbals on the drums, etc.

This is the first song in the hip-hop sphere of things. Don't think I haven't been trying to find more, but I just can't. Frankly, the entire genre's unwavering loyalty to the 4/4-multiple time is disappointing, and smacks of a lack of creativity or willingness to take risks.

On that note, I'm going to embed the original song first, followed by a remix that they completely changed to 4/4. It's a good study in what a waltz is/isn't, if it - understandably - isn't entirely clear.
The genuine article:

And now in 4/4 because, for some reason, Busta Rhymes couldn't figure out how to rap in a 3-multiple time signature..? Weak.

...and for good measure, Sarah's favorite Alicia Keys' video, featuring the rapper Mos Def:

...and my all-time favorite Alicia Keys song, featuring Lucas from one-tree-hill, and an actress from the Wire? Seriously this is one of my favorite songs of all time:

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Cher Bassette - Balfa Brothers

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Cher Bassette, by the Balfa Brothers

Wellsir, I didn't waltzwendesday last week, but fear not, I am returned.

In this early stage, I feel as if this blog and its loyal readership is a little fragile, like Rome in the whhhhhhhisper speech by Marcus Aurelius in the Gladiator (Richard Harris co-starring Rusty Crowe's best role ever).

But fear not, for if I ever abandon this project - due to lack of interest, or lack of waltzes - I will surely let you know.
On to today's waltz:

Balfa Brothers:

The Balfa Brothers were a traditional Cajun band headed by Dewey Balfa playing fiddle and singing, along with his brothers Will, Rodney, and Harry on fiddles, guitars, and triangle and Hadley Fonetnot on accordion. They brought their "chanky-chank" to the attention of the greater American - and world - public during the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, best described here:

It's a rare thing to be able to point to one event as changing the course of a culture's history, but in the case of Cajun culture, Dewey Balfa's participation in the 1964 Newport Folk Festival was pivotal. That year, in the midst of a revival of American public interest in folk and regional culture, folklorist and traditional music promoter Ralph Rinzler (who later went on to found the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) invited a Cajun group to perform at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival. Dewey actually went to the Rhode Island festival as a guitarist—a last minute replacement in an ensemble that included the great Cajun accordionists Gladius Thibodeaux and Louis "Venesse" Lejeune. To their amazement, rather than laughing at them, the largely urban audience of 17, 000 went wild. As Dewey recalled many years later:
"I had played in house dances, family gatherings, maybe a dance hall where you might have seen as many as 200 people at once. In fact, I doubt I had ever seen 200 people at once. And in Newport, there were 17,000. Seventeen thousand people who wouldn't let us get off stage."

The song:

Alright well Mardi Gras passed us by last month, and with it the beginning of Tim Horton's the Roll Up the Rim to Win season (this post is sponsored by Tim Horton's family restaurants), and I didn't get to post any cajun tunes. Which reminds me, my friend Collin has a project making beautiful old-timey Mardi Gras costumes. I think they'll be an esthetic reminder - if less creepy - of HBO's recent miniseries True Detective.

The cajun triangle lays down the 1-2-3 in this song clear as day (reminder: what's a waltz). Dewey Balfa comes into the song in his yell-singing voice, all full of remorse for his lost Bassette. The melody sections are played by two fiddles, which is typical for cajun tunes. There might be an accordion in there, but I can't hear it well if so.

Before listening to Dewey Balfa sing, I'd never heard Cajun French. I suppose I didn't know what to expect, but was surprised to hear similarity to french spoken over here in Quebec. I'll put the lyrics below the song for your consideration. Enjoy!


Chère Bassette, ayoù toi t'es?
Moi j'peux pu de te r' trouver
Quoi moi j'fais, tu t'en r' viens pas à la maison, bébé

Chère Bassette, quoi c'est t'as fait?
T'as cassé, ouais, not' ménage
Pour t'en aller si loin d'moi avec ein autre

Tu connais moi j'ai du r'gret
J'ai du r'gret pour tout ça moi j't'ai fait
Pardonne-moi, viens-t'en donc à la maison, chère