Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drinkin' Songs: Last Call Edition

It's been a crazy week (what else is new?!?)... and I seem to have run out of time - figured I'd just set up a round of drinks on the bar... and you can "choose your poison"until this place closes down at midnight.


James Taylor: Captain Jim's Drunken Dream (rum)


Jules Shear (with Freedy Johnston): Revenge (whiskey)


Todd Snider: Beer Run (beer)


Joni Mitchell: A Case of You (wine)


Crash Test Dummies: A Worm's Life (tequila)


Drinkin' Songs: Blood, Sex, and Booze

Green Day: Blood, Sex and Booze


This well-crafted, no-longer-adolescent ditty was released in 2000, in the dead zone between the punk resurgence of Dookie and the mass commercial pop appear of American Idiot, when everyone was still buying Green Day records but no one remembers the song. Pity, that -- this is a steady rocker perfectly poised to take us out of this week, and into the Green, with a good head and a touch of that old Irish bitter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Drinkin’ Songs: Blues Edition

The blues is the music of hard times, and hard times often drive people to drink. So the blues is a rich source of drinking songs. I wasn’t about to let this week pass without sharing some of them.

Memphis Slim: When I‘ve Been Drinking

[purchase mp3, CD not available]

When people think of the blues, they tend to think of guitars and harmonicas, and of the electric sound of the classic Chicago groups. But there is also a long tradition of piano blues. Memphis Slim was one of the best blues piano players, and his music is a suitable introduction to this part of the tradition.

Floyd Dixon: Hey Bartender


Of course, the other place where the piano is prominently featured in the blues is in jump blues. Floyd Dixon is credited with bringing jump blues to the west coast. Hey Bartender is his best known song, thanks to a cover by the Blues Brothers.

Big Bill Broonzy: Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me Down

[purchase mp3. CD versions are also available, but this has the best sound quality.]

Big Bill Broonzy began his recording career in 1927, and his music came in time to represent a precious link to the earliest blues styles. He only began to be well known, however, as a result of the folk revival which began in the 1950’s. And Broonzy did not have much time to enjoy his fame; he died in 1958. His best known composition was Key to the Highway.
Broonzy was a wonderful guitar player who often worked in small ensembles, which included piano and percussion. The percussion was sometimes a washboard, played by his half brother, Washboard Sam.

Chris Thomas King: John Law Burned Down the Liquor Store


Chris Thomas King is a modern-day bluesman. He has explored the combination of blues and hip-hop. But he also shows a deep love and respect for blues traditions in his work. His next album, due out this summer, is an exploration of the musical traditions of New Orleans.

Drinkin’ Songs: The Humours of Whiskey

Andy Stewart and Manus Lunny: The Humours of Whiskey


Andy Stewart and Manus Lunny have together and apart been involved in making some of the best folk music Scotland has to offer. Stewart first gained attention as a member of Silly Wizard. Lunny is still an active member of Capercaillie. And together, they have made some magic. The Humours of Whiskey is but a small taste.

Here Stewart sings about the cure for whatever ails you. And you thought drinking makes you sick!

The term for the whiskey of the title that is used in the song is “poteen”. Actually an Irish term, poteen refers to types of whiskey made in small batches. The term poteen has negative connotations, implying the Irish equivalent of moonshine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Drinkin' Songs: The Danny Schmidt Edition

Danny Schmidt: Girlwhiskey

Danny Schmidt: Drunk at the Biltmore


Danny Schmidt: Sad Songs Walking


I'm a day late and a dollar short, although no less heartfelt - yesterday was the official CD Release Day for Danny Schmidt's Instead the Forest Rose to Sing (read the song-by-song commentary here), his sixth recording... the previous five released independently and this one through Red House Records, quite a coup. Now that Danny also has a booking agency, there's no doubt he'll be getting more of the recognition he so richly deserves - he truly is in my Top Five list of songwriters, right up there with Joni Mitchell, Dar Williams, Dave Carter and Todd Snider.

I am counting down the days/hours/minutes until Danny plays this Saturday night (a co-bill with Nick Annis) in the concert series I've been presenting the last four years - I already know we're in for an amazing night of music, camaraderie and magic. I'm telling you now that you need to go to his shows and buy all his CDs to experience the phenomenon of Danny Schmidt (eloquent wordsmith, creative musician, gentle soul, generous spirit, punster extraordinaire) - you can thank me later...

Also, because I love you... I am typing up his explanations for these songs (the first two from Danny's Enjoying the Fall, the third from Live at the Prism Coffeehouse), recorded in the songbook of his first five CDs, complete with tabs, chords and commentary - really... seriously... listen... and learn...

P.S. Not being a whiskey drinker, I was not familiar with Maker's Mark and did a bit of googling - fascinating backstory...


I’ve told this story a million times, so if you’ve seen me play this song live, you’ve probably heard this story already. Sorry you have to listen to it again, honey.

I got the inspiration for this song from one of my friends and songwriting heroes, Tom House, who tells a story about going to these backroom hootenanny songwriter shows at this place in Nashville . . . and he and his buddy and their respective wives would sneak in liquor from the store down the street. And the boys would maximize their cash, and buy something cheap and on the sour side of the sour mash scale. And the girls would buy Maker’s Mark, or bourbon of some similar pedigree and sweetness. And the boys would rib the girls about their upscale taste in “Girlwhiskey”. But, of course, by the end of the evening, they’d have drained their Manly bourbon, and they’d come groveling up to the girls, trying to get them to share what was left of their Girlwhiskey.

First off, Tom could tell any story and I’d find some sort of comic tragedy in it. He has this way of talking about things, and how they transpired, that harkens back to the days of old mountain life, and real country music, with a sorta everyday plain matter-of-fact poignancy. Anyway, the Girlwhiskey story stuck with me, in part cause I really liked the term. So I nabbed it from him and tried to write a song that was simultaneously a love song to a girl and to the whiskey. . . maybe leaning a little toward the girl at the beginning, and the whiskey as things progress. I love the ambiguity of love.

Drunk at the Biltmore

If ever there was a simple stupid song fit for playing when you're so plastered you can't tell your G-string from the next fella's over, well this is your song.

I have no notes for this song. Not just is it the simplest song ever written - - but if you screw up half the chords and let the rhythm fall completely apart, well that just makes it all the better. In that small way, it's a work of indelicate genius.

I play it as a waltz. But you don't have to play in that way. I play everying in a waltz when I'm drunk. You might find that, for yourself, you play everything in 5/4 when you're drunk. Martinis'll do that, I hear tell.

I wrote this about a frat bar in Charlottesville. But we all know, there's a Biltmore in every town.

Sad Songs Walking

It's kind of a funny process, charting out these old songs. it sounds to me like someone else wrote this song. Or really, I guess what it sounds like is some kid who's been listening to too many old blues records and John Prine's first disc over and over again, trying to write a folk song.

I wonder if John Prine thinks that when he listens back to his first record. That'd be kinda cool.

As for any personal notes on this song... this is the first song that made me worry about how Christian imagery was gonna affect my Jewish family. Was I gonna be misconstrued as "goin' Jesus" on my people? This song's kinda campy, so I didn't take the concern too deeply to heart. But it certainly did cross my mind quite a few times as I shared the first recordings with various chosen family.

And it has been an issue for me, actually, with a bunch of later songs... the fear of being identified as something I'm not, or as believing in something I don't. Cause really, my religious, philosophical and political belief systems don't fit into any traditional nomenclature -- as I suspect most people's don't. But it's a vulnerable position, putting little snippets of expression out there for your loved ones, and others, to extrapolate from.

Anyway, the Jesus part doesn't mean anything. I'm no more Christian in my heart than I am Jewish, than I am Buddhist. And no less.

Drinkin' Songs: Lucero

Lucero - Kiss The Bottle (from The Attic Tapes)

Lucer0 - Drink Till We're Gone (from Lucero)

Lucero - I'll Just Fall (from Tennessee)

[purchase Lucero's music]

There is no way a drinking theme could pass without a mention of Lucero. Some of the drunken, shirtless shows from these guys are legendary. If you don't know who Lucero is then you really need to ask somebody. Shit, just head over to ninebullets and start researching. I bet I've written about them once a month since I started the site.

Speaking of ninebullets. We (both 9b and plenty of other small blogs) could use a little love from you, the reader. Please take a moment to read this post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Drinkin' Songs: Ol' No. 7

The Devil Makes Three - Ol' No. 7


Finally, a subject I know a little something about. Getting drunk. As my shirt so clearly states, I love to get drunk. Now, take my penchant for the sauce and couple it with's main musical focus and I might be a bonafide expert on the subject of drinking and the songs that pay homage to it. That said, I will attempt to be a more active poster this week.

The Devil Makes Three's a vaudevillian mashup of country, punk with a little pirate, and ragtime tossed in for good measure from Santa Cruz. This song is their tribute to Jack Daniels whiskey. It come's off their 2002 self-titled album. The Devil Makes Three have a new album, Do Wrong Right, coming out in April. Here is a drinking song from it:

The Devil Makes Three - Gracefully Facedown

IMO: Tennessee whiskey isn't fit for consumption by civilized people. Kentucky Bourbon FTW!

Drinkin’ Songs: I Gotta Get Drunk

Redbird: I Gotta Get Drunk


Last week, I posted a song by the “folk supergroup” Cry Cry Cry. They were a trio of well known folk artists who recorded one album, consisting of other people’s songs that they had all admired. For one album, Jeffrey Foucalt, Kris Delmhorst, and Peter Mulvey were Redbird, “the other folk supergroup”. Their album was also a collection of other people’s songs. One of these is I Gotta Get Drunk, by Willie Nelson.

Nelson explains how expensive a drinking habit can be. This has almost nothing to do with the price of libations. It’s just that when Nelson’s character is drunk, he gives money to anyone who asks for it.

A request: I’ve never heard Willie Nelson’s original version of this song, Can anyone post it in the comments? Thanks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Drinkin' Songs: Another Irish Drinking Song

Da Vinci's Notebook: Another Irish Drinking Song


Old Grand-Dad begone! - helloooo, Jameson... in the form of this enthusiastic, exuberant, erin-go-bragh Irish Drinking Song by the now-defunct-but-always-hilarious a cappella group Da Vinci's Notebook...

Raise your glass and follow the instructions in the chorus - Happy early St. Patrick's Day!

Drinkin' Songs: Rum and Coca-Cola

The Andrews Sisters: Rum and Coca-Cola


I think it would be hard to enjoy a rum and coke and not want to start singing this song to yourself, especially if you've already had a few drinks. This song is a classic, quite literally. It was a #1 hit in 1945 for The Andrews Sisters, but this calypso song has earlier versions, just none quite as popular as this one.

It is a WWII era song about American troops on leave in Trinidad. When the song originally hit the air-waves in the 1940s it was controversial (and later banned) because of it's prominent mention of alcohol, but also because of it's lyrical content. At the time, The Andrews Sisters, as well as most of the listeners, did not pay much attention to what the song was actually about, which was the Trinidad harems the American troops were visiting on their leave. All the same, the song remains well-loved and is a lot of fun to sing along with and takes the situations as pleasant and not sinful or dangerous.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Drinkin' Songs: I Drink

Mary Gauthier: I Drink


Sorry to start the week off with a Debbie Downer song... but, hey... if the bottle fits - this one used to apply a little too close for comfort. But I digress...

1998 found me discovering, and then fully immersing myself in, our local folk community - seems I had just missed the South Florida Folk Festival... but was asked to be on board for the following year's event. We were known for our songwriter competition and my volunteer position was as preliminary judge - along with 3 others, we would rate the incoming songs (listen and lyrics, artists not revealed to us) and narrow (over 200 entries/400 songs) down to a Top Twenty, for the final judges to then choose a winner...

At that time, the songs were being dubbed onto cassettes and I would load one into my Walkman for my daily 45-minute walk around the neighborhood, making it through one side of a tape - when one particular song came on, I burst into tears and had to sit down on the curb to continue listening... and compose myself...

It was the first I'd heard of Mary Gauthier (pronounced go-shay... I of course later found out her name) and became an immediate fan - her songs were dark, taking us to those places we didn't want to go, but needed to in order to do things differently in our lives. Her website quotes such juxtapositions as "hope and anguish"... "faith as well as fear"... "accomplishment and devastation" - one of my favorite lines of hers (from Drag Queens in Limousines) is: "sometimes you got to do what you gotta do... and hope that the people you love will catch up with you"...

I Drink had me re-examining the history of alcoholism in my family - my father "inherited" it from his father and, for years, I worried it would trickle down to me. In January 2003 I made the conscious decision to quit drinking - I didn't set a time frame, but figured I'd just take it, to use the AA vernacular, one day at a time. I kept expecting it to be more of a sacrifice, but it wasn't - I found I was still fun to be around, and could continue to have a good time, without artificial stimulants. When a year had gone by, I realized I was in no danger of addiction and began drinking again - you can't imagine what a relief it was to know I had power and control over the substance...

"...and the wisdom to know the difference" - thanks, Mary...