GROOVES & CUTS – John Apice
Spinning vinyl quiet until the tonearm needle touches the intro groove – ah some blissful scratches like insects emanate from the speaker hive. Moments pass and then music radiates. There was a special warm sound from analog records in those early years. The music then didn’t just fill the room it shaped it. This is what is influence, what creates mood, an atmosphere in the pit of your belly. The happiness it produced could be glorious. A rush. A private smile & satisfaction.
A record player decades ago was like a genie’s magic lamp.
For those unacquainted, the ritual of placing the vinyl disc down, picking up the stylus & setting it down. Listening with closed eyes. Wearing headphones wrapped deep around the cranium created anticipation in a private stereo world.
A ballroom came to life where no one could invade. Some have a stash of grass in their shoebox under their bed, or a bottle of Southern Comfort in their underwear drawer, a collection of comics in the closet. Others had their precious records. Maybe 45’s, maybe albums. Records…with music that took you to places you could escape to.
I did this with many obscure & famous artists. I had my moments down at the heartbreak hotel, & journeyed north with the boy from New York City, whose girlfriend Cara-Linn was asleep in the backseat of my Chevy 409.
I liked the adventure. I wanted artists who sang to me alone – not to millions. I wanted to discover. Americana Highways does this today.
So, I found this guy from Memphis, TN – Don Nix.
The man wrote many great songs & one classic covered by many artists: “Goin’ Down.”
Jeff Beck did it, Freddie King, Deep Purple, JJ Cale, Bryan Ferry, Pearl Jam, Gov’t Mule, Sam Kinison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Sammy Hager, Joe Bonamassa, Sturgill Simpson, The Rolling Stones with John Mayer & Gary Clark, Jr. Queen’s Brian May even played with him on later LPs.
Then Beck took Don’s “Black Cat Moan,” over to Beck, Bogart & Appice (no relation) & recorded that.
“Goin’ Down,” live:
“Black Cat Moan”:
Nix, having worked at Stax Records was always associated with or produced major artists: Furry Lewis, Leon Russell, George Harrison, John Mayall, Delaney & Bonnie, & Eric Clapton. He along with Harrison & Russell collaborated on the production of the Madison Square Garden Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. Bet you didn’t know that trivia.
Nix issued many exceptional Americana-blues/rock LPs through the 70s. Some incredible songs were recorded in London, & Muscle Shoals, Alabama. George Harrison & Klaus Voorman (bass, worked with The Beatles) appeared on Nix’s classic 1971 LP “Hobos, Heroes & Street Corner Clowns.” It also featured octogenarian bluesman Furry Lewis.
“She’s a Friend of Mine”:
“Rainy Night In Paris”:
“The Train Don’t Stop Here No More”:
On his next LP “Gone Too Long,” (1976) George Harrison was aboard again. A song surprisingly sung half in French by an unnamed French female singer & Nix on the English chorus (“A Demain – Until Tomorrow”) was one of the most original songs I ever heard from a Memphian (who went to England & France) to record these.
Then it was Texas for “Skyrider,” & his stunning cover of the classic “Long Tall Sally.”
Nix continued to record sporadically. Some mainstays have passed: Harrison, Furry, & singer Jeannie Greene (who also sang backup for Elvis).
These songs are all worth revisiting. Nix should’ve been a major artist. The musicianship friends, the voice, technical ability, songcraft, & opportunities. He just didn’t have the faith & dedication of a big label. He recorded only for Elektra for a short time.
Everything else was independent. Don Nix – a Loss Leader. (oh, we’ll be talking about those Warner-Reprise LPs soon).
SPILLED MERCURY: A timely new single drops Sept 18th manages to address issues & avoids political talk. The beautifully poignant Isabel Fryszberg’s “Every Day a Little Less,” with musician/producer Mitch Girio from a forthcoming CD from SpeakMusic. You watch Isabel as she walks Toronto streets taping & photographing homeless, jobless, empty stores, buildings. The impact is felt at the conclusion after a day’s sojourn at a café & she peers out into the streets. Let’s out a flustered sigh.
Says it all. The lyric’s included in the video. Curious? It should be on Vimeo & YouTube or Isabel & The Uncommons website. https://www.isabelfryszberg.com/music-1
I missed this last month — worth a mention:
Karen Jonas’ The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams (Independent). A creatively conceived collection of 10-cuts in a Nanci Griffith tradition (“Out in Palm Tree Paradise” “Tuesday,” a little jazzier “Pink Leather Boots” & the intimately sung “Don’t Blink Honey”). Not quirky. Just delightfully genuine melodic upbeat tracks. A unique vocal. Likable. Jonas has an alt-country nourished vocal that teeters on traditional country. Good storyteller. “Farmer John,” is a nice dark tale. Excellent musicians loaded with catchy potential hits.
From the forthcoming Mike Skill LP — the MC5’s Wayne Kramer revisits his past with expertise & plays guitar on Mike’s “’67 Riot.” Kramer joins the Detroit guitarist/bassist/vocalist Skill who was one of the founding members of The Romantics (now based in Portland, OR).
It’s a little gruff, rough-hewed but skillfully (no pun intended) rendered with drummer Russell Ayers. Recorded in Carver, OR. Produced by Mike Skill & Chuck Alkazian. Out digitally now & as a 7” limited edition vinyl around Aug. 29th (SkillSongs Release). https://www.mikeskill.com/about