Watch Out! Levon Helm Covers Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” [VIDEO]

Levon Helm not in it for my health

RollinStone.com posted this great clip from Ain’t in It for My Health</em> , Jacob Hatley’s documentary on the musical legend.

The film will premiere in upstate New York on April 19th, near his famous barn where his rambles are held to this day. The opening will occur exactly one year after his passing,

The film show’s Hatley’s intimate access to Helm and follows his comeback with the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer album. Below is a clip from the film showing Helm performing acoustic rendition of Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” his voice raspy as a result of throat cancer treatment.

From RollingStone.com “So this clip was one of the first things we shot,” says Hatley. “We were in between takes on a music video for the Dirt Farmer record and had rented out this dilapidated motel for the shoot. We were all sick of shooting this lip synched, choreographed video and wanted to hear some real music, so Levon and Little Sammy Davis went in to one of the rooms and started playing. They did about eight songs, just for the crew. There was a heart shaped jacuzzi just off frame. The motel has since burned to the ground.”

Levon Helm Documentary To Open in Woodstock, N.Y.

levon healthOn Saturday (April 13), nearly one year to the day after his death, ‘Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm’ will open in Helm’s hometown of Woodstock, N.Y.

The documentary has been in the works since 2007, when director Jacob Hatley, who was hired to spend a weekend directing a video for Helm’s Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer, his first studio album since 1982. “Levon and I just happened to hit it off. I just ended up hanging out there. I found an excuse not to go home immediately.” Hatley says

“Jacob was the perfect fly on the wall for many months as we experienced the ups and downs of a wonderful time in all our lives,” Helm’s longtime musical partner Larry Campbell tells Newsday. “The result is a rare, artful, and honest glimpse into the fascinating world of one of our true American treasures, Levon Helm.”

The CD and DVD of the Oct. 3, 2012 tribute tribute concert ‘Love for Levon’ featuring friends, admirers and musical disciples such as Roger Waters, Warren Haynes, Gregg Allman and Lucinda Williams, has recently been released. Proceeds from the concert went to his family to help them keep his barn — the studio and live venue where his famous Midnight Rambles takes place to this day.

Ain’t In It For My Health will screen at Upstate Films in Woodstock on Saturday, April 13 (132 Tinker St., upstatefilms.org). On the same night of the film’s screening, a special “Midnight Ramble” concert will take place in Helm’s Woodstock barn. The doors open at 5 p.m., and the event will feature a barbecue and another screening of the documentary, as well as a performance and Q&A session with The Levon Helm Band. Tickets are $125 and available for purchase at levonhelm.com.

Listen Up! Neko Case – “That’s Who I Am” from Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

GhostBros_cover_5x5_rgbI haven’t seen the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, the collaboration by horror author Stephen King and , roots-rocker John Mellencamp and Americana godfather and singer/songwriter T Bone Burnett, but if the soundtrack gives us any insight into the Southern Gothic musical it’s going to be a killer.(heh)

I already posted an Elvis Costello cut from album. Now we have a sweet cut from Neko Case. A femme fatale reels off a long list of libido-fueled plays over a shuffle. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Neko’s character is not one of the good guys.

It’s been years since I’ve heard this country music tinged sound from Neko and I am a fan. What do you think? Leave it in the comments below.

June 4th, 2013 as the project’s new release date. Check the trailer for the soundtrack below.

Song Spotlight – The White Buffalo “House of Pain” from the “West of Memphis” Soundtrack

West_of_Memphis_poster“You never know how much you need music until you don’t have it.” -Damien Echols, Life After Death

Damien Echols, ason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. were convicted in 1994 of the 1993 reportedly ritual satanic murders of three 8-year old children in West Memphis. In 2011 thee men entered Alford pleas, which allowed them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Their pleas were accepted the the men and sentenced to time served. They were then released with ten-year suspended sentences, having each served 18 years and 78 days behind bars.

“West of Memphis: Voices for Justice” is music from and inspired by West of Memphis, the documentary film written and directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (the Lord of the Rings triology), Damien Echols and Lorri Davis.

In every instance of involvement, the artists on the soundtrack decided which song they felt reflected their personal feelings about the case. There’s a connection between the music and the man remaining at its center, Damien Echols.

The soundtrack features Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp each lending their voices to excerpts from Damien Echols’ letters from death row recited over a Nick Cave / Warren Ellis score featured in the film.

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks covers of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” “Satellite” is covered by Eddie Vedder which was written for Lorri Davis, Damien Echols’ wife, as part of a collection of songs Eddie recorded for the couple in 2000. Artists also featured are Lucinda Williams, Band of Horses, Patti Smith, Citizen Cope and others each bringing particular stories around the songs that represent them on this collection.

My favorite cut on the album is from The White Buffalo (aka Jake Smith.) He lends his baritone vibrato, and moody melodic stye, to the Faster Pussycat 1989 ballad that kept Damien company while sitting on death row.

Levon Helm Documentary “Ain’t In It For My Health” Coming To Theaters/DVD

The 2010 documentary  Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, will be released in movie theaters nationwide for the first time next year.

The film follows longtime Band singer and drummer, as he works on 2010’s Electric Dirt,  the follow up to 2007’s Dirt Farmer , the winner of the inaugural Grammy for Best Americana Album.

Director Jacob Hatley shot the film over more than two years, spending time with Helm and his family at the Helm’s Woodstock, New York, home, the famed locale of Helm’s Midnight Ramble concert series.

Film distributor Kino Lorber said, “It was a privilege to meet Levon at one of his last Midnight Rambles and verify personally how insightfully this music-packed film captured the generosity of spirit, the humanity and the immense talent of one of America’s greatest musical artists. We see this as a mission now to be able to open the film, and Levon’s life, to legions of fans, followers and new audiences, who will be thrilled to discover the scope and depth of his contribution.

Levon Helm died on April 19th in New York of throat cancer. He was 71.

 

“Strange and Wonderful Things Happen” : Interview with “My Fool Heart” Writer-Director Jeffrey Martin

For a movie slated for test-screening next month in Charlottesville, VA (fitting since the the movie takes place in Virginia) details on My Fool Heart (Facebook) are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Here’s what we do know, first the official  story brief :  “… Jim Waive stars as a humble Virginia diner singer who is the target of two London hit men in the debut feature film MY FOOL HEART from writer-director Jeffrey Martin.” “Throughout the movie, Jim Waive keeps losing his treasured possessions. Justin plays the Mysterious man who finds Jim’s lost things on the sidewalks of Nashville.”

Then there’s the extraordinary cast from Americana, Country and Bluegrass music fields – Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle, Merle Haggard, Wayne Henderson, Sarah Jarosz, Jim Lauderdale, Charlie McCoy, Jesse McReynolds, Dr. Ralph Stanley and Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees

Then there’s the oddly dark “Popcorn teaser” posted on YouTube.

I contacted the writer-director Jeffrey Martin on the road to shed some light on this intriguing film. He was very forthcoming in an email interview on  his motivation for the film and how how love of music helped to influence My Fool Heart.

I very much look forward to seeing this film soon and readers of this blog might feel the same way after reading this interview. Enjoy


Baron Lane – Who are some of your influences as a director?

Jeffrey Martin – MY FOOL HEART was influenced by Cassavettes and other directors who believed even if your bank account was low you could grab a camera and make a movie. It’s a stupid idea but it obviously influenced me.  When you make a really cheap film, you get to call the shots and take extravagant chances.  Sometimes they pay off.

BL – My Fool Heart is billed as a comedy, but based on what i’ve been able to glean online it looks more like a black comedy. Is that accurate?

JM – Most black comedies have a more bitter or cynical take on life. I think of MY FOOL HEART in the classical sense of comedy.  It’s about how things come out in the end and in this movie things do come out okay in the end.  But coming out okay is a serious struggle. For me, whenever you look closely at anything in life, especially the serious things like love, marriage, children, death, there is something comical. It’s like when things in life get so bad and crazy you have to just laugh.  In the South, tragedy and comedy seem tightly intertwined.  Weird and terrible things happen and people laugh about it.  Humor makes a lot of things more bearable.  Life is hard.  There’s not a lot of cynicism in this movie.

BL – What time period is the movie set in? How did that time period shape the music chosen for the movie?

JM – The movie is set today.  It’s also set in Virginia which is a place where long ago and today sit side-by-side.  That’s what I love about Virginia.  I grew up in California and Florida suburbs so when I first went to Virginia I was enchanted by the old things.  Even current things seem to have an old feeling in Virginia like a faded photograph or like you’re looking through wavy antique glass.  I love Virginia.  I spent 30 years there, but I’m not a native.  To be really from Virginia isn’t like a jacket you can buy or just put on.  The music chosen began in  Albemarle County, Virginia and moved outward.  If you’re into Americana or bluegrass music, you’ll notice all the lines and connections.  The geography lessons.

BL  – Where did your story of My Fool Heart  come from?

JM – I don’t know.  Strange things just pop into my head.  I saw Jim Waive, a local Charlottesville musician, playing for tips at the Blue Moon Diner and this whole crazy idea came into my head about a musician like Jim being hunted down by professional killers.  It seemed both serious and funny.  Like what kind of great music he might start writing under the pressure of death.  Like in the old westerns when the bad guys shot at your feet and made you dance.

BL – Cameron Crowe and Quentin Tarantino create films where the music becomes a character in the film. Does music come front and center in My Fool Heart?

JM- Music is huge in this film.  It’s the subject and it’s the air you breath watching the movie.   But the movie’s plot and characters are also commenting on the music you’re hearing which is a little unusual in a fictional feature film.  Also the bluegrass, country and Americana music – old and new – blend together in a way that maybe makes you think of the music’s history if you’re a music fanatic.  Crowe and Tarantino are both great, but they use music differently.

BL – What did you grow up listening to?

I had older brothers so I grew up deeply immersed in the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s:  Dylan, the Beatles, the Band, the Beach Boys, Van Morrison.  I went to college in North Carolina and first heard Emmylou Harris who had just moved away from Greensboro and cut her first album.  I got to see Lester Flatt when Marty Stuart was his teenage guitar player.  Also lots of bluegrass and pickers and bands like the Dillards who were playing locally then.  I was listening to that first Scruggs Brothers LP, Doug Sahm Band, John Hartford, Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Doc and Merle Watson.  The mid-Atlantic was an amazing musical region during the 70’s and 80’s with people like Emmylou Harris, Danny Gatton, Stevie Ray Vaughn playing in ridiculously tiny venues.  I stood next to all of them playing their sets, two feet away.  The Band, as well, with Richard Manuel singing in that beautiful voice.  I always liked old American sounds.

Lucinda, who co-produced the movie, was from Charlottesville, Virginia and took me up there when I was 18.  She’s from really old Virginia culture.  Her great grandfather, Col. Charles Marshall, was General Lee’s military secretary who spent the entire Civil War on Lee’s personal staff and wrote Lee’s famous Farewell to the Troops and is the guy between Lee and Grant in the schoolbook Appomattox painting.  Lucinda introduced me to the mountain people still living in Sugar Hollow where they had a farm.  Hand-churned butter, brown eggs, horses and wagons – I thought I was dreaming but there it was:  time frozen.  A lot of that gets into the movie somehow.  Lucinda went to country dances out there in the Hollow with the Virginia Vagabonds playing, some of those guys played at the White House for FDR.  For her, this would have been as a litle girl around the early 1960’s when Paul Clayton had his cabin near there. Bob Dylan visited the area for a week in 1962 and it seems to have revolutionized his world when he went back to New York and came up with “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”  Dylan writes about all that in “Chronicles.”  Dylan’s deep inside this movie.  Jesse McReynolds and other older bluegrass guys told me about Dylan’s influence on them.  We tend to think the river flowed the other way, but it was definitely two directions according Jesse.  It’s hard to underestimate the influence of Bob Dylan on music.  He’s way bigger than Hank Williams and that’s a stupid comment to make if you haven’t thought about it too much.  I dug into Appalachian music up one side and down the other and kept seeing Bob Dylan peeking out.  Growing up though I also listened to whatever came on the radio.  It was a great time.  As a teenager, I moved to Winter Haven, Florida where Gram Parsons was from.  He was a Snively so he was related to everyone down there.  I remember my next older brother talking about him and all that country music.  And in college in Greensboro, N.C., Emmylou Harris was playing down on Tate Street just a few years before so I picked up on her when the first album came out and never let go.  I remember being 15 in Florida and turning out all the lights in the house and listening to Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison” and imagining I was in jail.  Until I left Florida, part of me was.

BL – The cast for My Fool Heart –  Merle Haggard, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle – reads like a who’s who of classic country and Americana. What was the motivation behind casting such a heavy assortment of musicians?

JM – My joke rule was that nobody who was a SAG member could be in the movie.  Keep it to nonprofessional actors.  We did become a SAG movie though when Merle joined us.  The inspiration or idea came from this thought I had. I sat and watched Jim Waive play at the diner for tips and drew this imaginary line from the guys at the bottom playing for free and going all through the middle level and to the very top of the music business, the icons.  I thought the story was about that.  What is success?  Is it talent?  Luck?  I knew people at the top always considered themselves just a step away from that diner tip jar because you never forget where you came from.  And sure enough, a bunch of them dug the idea and wanted to play a part in it.  We wound up with Dr. Ralph Stanley and Jesse McReynolds, two IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame members.  Also Merle Haggard and Charlie McCoy, two Country Hall of Fame members.  I used to sit on my bed reading Dylan’s liner notes and I would always see the name Charlie McCoy.  It came full circle for me when Charlie agreed to give me a tour of Nashville and that old recording world of working with Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash – all the greats.  That’s in the movie.  It’s worth the price of admission.  And Jesse McReynolds tells about playing with Bob Wills, amazing stuff.  But it’s not a documentary.  This all unfolds in the course of the story.

BL – Finding one musician that can act is pretty rare, where you concerned with the high odds of bad acting in such a large roster of musicians?

JM – Filming musicians is like handling dynamite.  You have to be on your toes.

Everybody gets nervous.  Merle was nervous.  I was nervous.  Ralph Stanley told me that he’d been dreading it for days.  But if you can help them relax and just take the temperature down and get into that space, strange and wonderful things happen.  Merle is powerful and mesmerizing. I wrote his lines, but Merle went deep into the country preacher.  And Justin Townes Earle is fantastic.  Most of the film, he’s silent.  Then at the end, he finally talks and he has the entire film on his shoulders.  Justin is a sweet, soulful, deep guy and he brought something  to the film that I never expected.  I actually expanded his part to use all his great footage.  Merle too.

BL – What was your background in music and how did you choose the music for the movie?

JM – I have no background in music.  I sang in my elementary school choir until the director tried to isolate where the bad voice was.  When I stopped singing and just faked it, she said, “That’s better.”  I have no talent which is good.  I’m 100% enthusiastic fan.  Musicians fear no competition from me.  I’m in awe of musicians.  I can’t duplicate what they do.  I’m not a director or writer with a guitar at home.  I suck at everything musical except loving it.   MY FOOL HEART’s soundtrack is the music I love:  Elizabeth Cook, Merle Haggard, Charlie McCoy, Jesse McReynolds, Wayne Henderson, Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley, Justin Townes Earle.

BL  – If you could make a biographic film of one musician’s life who would it be and why?

JM – I don’t think I’d be interested.  The magic is in the songs, not the person. Documentary is a better angle on hitting that target.  A biopic wouldn’t be my thing.

Listen to Pistol Annies “Run Daddy Run” from Hunger Games Soundtrack

Singer/songwriter/producer and Americana stalwart T Bone Burnett seems to be practicing a sort of genre alchemy  with the upcoming Hunger Games soundtrack (March 20.)

Mr. Burnett seems to be taking poetic license with Suzanne Collins’ trilogy which follows the heroine, whose home in District 12 that encompasses current-day Appalachia, an region Burnett knows something about. The setting of the books is a sort of future version of the old frontier which also plays to Burnett’s wheelhouse.

Burnett excels  in making neo-rustic music that would appeal more to Hunger Game readers parents. The young women that are the primary demographic for the books are more likely to be fans of indy rock, pop or country pop.

Burnett displays his craft to fuse his world to the new audience adeptly on the  Taylor Swift and Civil Wars track “Safe and Sound.” Now he’s done the same for the same for the Pistol Annies’ cut Run Daddy Run. The song is sung by the group, which consists of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, and sounds more akin to O Brother’s Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch. This is a different sound than the sassy country found on the recent Pistol Annies debut.

Check out the track below and let me know what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYhvKabzUZ4&feature=player_embedded

The Hunger Games Soundtrack Champions Americana/Country Music

The Secret Sisters announced this morning via their Facebook page that their song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”  (below) would be included on the soundtrack to the upcoming film The Hunger Games. I had known about (and more surprisingly actually enjoy) the song “Safe & Sound” with The Civil Wars and Taylor Swift. Two songs hardly make a theme so I looked up the soundtracks track list on MTV.com ans was pleased to have my suspicions verified.  Miranda Lambert with the Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Neko Case shows a hearty helping of Americana/Country music represented (0r as MTV.com describes it “…the album is bursting with twang!) I haven’t read the books but will definitely be getting the soundtrack when it’s released on March 20th.

1. “Safe & Sound” (feat. The Civil Wars) by Taylor Swift
2. “Eyes Wide Open” by Taylor Swift
3. “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire
4. “The Ruler & The Killer” by Kid Cudi
5. “Run Daddy Run” (feat. Pistol Annies) by Miranda Lambert
6. “Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars
7. “One Engine” by The Decemberists
8. “Take The Heartland” by Glen Hansard
9. “Lover Is Childlike” by The Low Anthem
10. “Dark Days” by Punch Brothers
11. “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by The Secret Sisters
12. “Just a Game” by Birdy
13. “Oh Come & Sing” by Ella Mae Bowen
14. “Rules” by Jayme Dee
15. “Reaping Day” by Carolina Chocolate Drops
16. “Give Me Something” I’ll Remember by Neko Case
17. Video “Safe & Sound” (Bonus Video) by Taylor Swift

Drive-By Truckers – The Go Go Boots Episodes

The mighty Drive-By Truckers have been releasing videos. entitled The Go Go Boots Episodes, in anticipation of their upcoming ninth studio release Go-Go Boots (3/15.) The segments are being shot and directed by Jason Thrasher and edited by Eddie Whelan and so far the we get to see Patterson Hood spin a vinyl test pressing of the Used To Be A Cop for made especially for Record Store Day last year, and  some cozy-looking acoustic versions from the upcoming album.

The Drive-By Truckers’ documentary,  The Secret to a Happy Ending, where filmmaker Barr Weissman followed the band during three critical years of touring and recording, will be released on the same day as Go Go Boots. In te meantime, follow the link above to many local screenings.

News Round Up:Billy Joe Shaver / Ray Wylie Hubbard’s The last Rites of Ransom Pride

  • Country Music Prisde has a great interview with this indie sweethearts of country punk Those Darlin’s.