February’s Desert Island Discs are brought to you by another Texan and one of the most genuinely nice guys I know, Mr. Al Giesler. (Check out his equally super nice wife’s amazing sewing blog, Moon Thirty.) I first met Al in the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon 2010 while waiting for Langhorne Slim to play what was to become one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Al is an avid concert goer, and has seen most everyone worth seeing (and usually right before they got huge), so it doesn’t surprise me at all that so many of the tunes on Al’s list are live recordings. There’s just something different about the energy from a live show, and few people appreciate that more than Al…
1) The Weight (live at The Last Waltz) by The Band (featuring The Staple Singers)… Volumes have been written about this song and its impact on the landscape of history, musically and otherwise. One of the best things I have ever done is see Levon Helm perform. Frail and ill of health, he presided over his drum kit with the energy of a twenty year old. It breaks my heart knowing how much Levon didn’t want to see The Band come to an end.
Fact: Mavis Staples’ clapping in this song is the best clapping in any song of all time. Period. – Allie
2) Let Me Roll It (live on Wings Over America) by Paul McCartney & Wings… I saw my first concert of my choosing when I was 12 years old. I have watched people perform on stage as often as I can ever since. I haven’t seen Sir Paul live, but this song represents to me what a concert should feel like… the energy of the crowd, that guitar lick, lighter in the air, singing along at the top of your voice … absolute bliss! (For the record, that first show was current Geico pitchman Eddie Money opening for April Wine.)
3) The Next Best Western by Richard Shindell… Good songwriting will put you right in the heart of the story. Richard isn’t writing hits, but he is writing songs that inspire other songwriters.
“At four a.m. on 80 East, It’s in the nature of the beast
To wonder if there’s something missing…
I am wretched, I am tired. but the preacher is on fire
And I wish I could believe”
4) All Things Must Pass by George Harrison… I have a lot of love for The Beatles, and have also spent a fair amount of time with the solo works of both John and Paul. Outside of a greatest hits compilation, I had not given George’s offerings much attention. But recently I purchased a turntable, and I have hit a few jackpots at the casinos (read: really good vinyl at Goodwill stores). My love for George grows with every spin of this tune.
5) Dreams Can Chase You Down (Daytrotter version) by The Low Anthem… A band that I had to see live to fully appreciate. They make music with the most unique and unconventional instruments ever to grace a stage. This song was written by Dan Leftkowitz, a founding member of the group. He had left by the time they recorded this as a bonus track on a numbered, letterpress printed version of their third studio album Smart Flesh. The version they recorded for their second Daytrotter is absolutely gut wrenching with the emotion they deliver.
6) Houses on the Hill by Whiskeytown… Oh to be a fly on the wall when Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary and crew were penning these songs. Musically and lyrically this gets about as close to perfection for me as it gets.
7) Box of Rain by Grateful Dead… Damn, that A chord comes crashing in and is your entry to one of the most important recordings of the last 50 years. American Beauty and the Grateful Dead shaped my musical horizons permanently. Their live energy was the benchmark that all others are held against. It’s not about musicianship, but they can hold their own. It’s not about lyrics, but they are strong. It’s about that sense of “we are all in this thing together,” about enjoying the show with every sense of your being with all your brothers and sisters in synch. Not many measure well against this benchmark but every once and awhile a band comes along with another course correction…
8) Salvation Song (live at Merlefest 2006) by The Avett Brothers… I live a blessed life. I see a lot of live music and I love sharing the experience with my friends. Several years ago my wife, best friend and I went on a roadie to see Dylan in Vegas. On the trip we were spinning the current (Feb/Mar 2006) Paste Magazine sampler disc. One of the tunes kept coming into our consciousness and inevitably one of us would ask, “Who the hell is this again?” The tune was Talk on Indolence by The Avett Brothers. To be honest I wasn’t sure if loved or hated it, but the song got my attention. We all saw them live later that year and a new benchmark was set. Maybe it’s their live show…with its unfiltered, give-all-you-got-every-time performance. Maybe it’s that they (band and crew) are some of the most genuine people you could ever meet. Maybe it’s the absolute respect they give to their fans, their peers and themselves. Maybe it’s the tunes. Whatever it is, it is pure, honest and true and you are missing out if you haven’t heard about “our” little secret.
Note that I couldn’t find the Merlefest version, but the one in the link is from the same year and similarly awesome…
Thanks so much, Al!!!