Friday, April 21, 2017

Billy (Dylan, Rawlings, Welch)


Well, they say Pat Garrett has got your number
So sleep with one eye open when you slumber
'Cause every little sound might be thunder
Thunder from the barrel of his gun.
This Bob Dylan song first surfaced on the soundtrack of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a 1973 Western I've never seen (and in which Dylan has an acting role). The song has a number of verses, but this much later live cover by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings pares it down to four, in keeping with the starkness and simplicity of the performance (and the black-and-white cinematography). Rawlings's guitar work, in fact, is anything but simple, but he plays, as always, with such unassuming, seemingly effortless command of his instrument (a vintage Epiphone archtop) that it never jars or interferes.

Four verses, four plain-spoken lines each, scraps of a tattered tale about a long-dead gunslinger, it's almost enough to reconcile one with a world that is, more evidently than ever, far too much with us. Hopefully there's a quiet corner of the future where things like this still matter.

This version of "Billy" is available on a DVD entitled The Revelator Collection, which can be purchased from Gillian Welch's webstore.

Update (November 2017): The New York Times reports on a newly-discovered tintype that may show Pat Garrett and Billy together.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reservoir



Though I never really gave much thought to it at the time, I grew up in a region whose contours were profoundly shaped by the requirements of New York City's water supply, and by a series of remarkable engineering projects that created a system of interlocking reservoirs in an area that had previously been criss-crossed by a network of modest streams. Vast tracts of farmland were inundated, or seized by the city in order to protect the watershed, and in a few cases whole communities were flooded (or moved). Today you can drive along certain winding roads (as I like to do) and see miles of largely unbroken woodland, almost none of which existed a century ago.

All of this was accomplished well before I was born, and large-scale modification of the landscape is, at least in the Northeast and for understandable reasons, no longer in fashion, but I can't deny that the changes have had their aesthetic, as well as utilitarian, benefits, adding an element of grandeur to an area that, whatever its virtues, might otherwise have lacked drama.

The video above shows a portion of the spillway of the New Croton Dam, inaugurated in 1906, at about 6:30 on an April afternoon.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Reykjavík Blues, revisited (again)



I've just discovered that the complete contents of several KK & Magnús albums have recently appeared as playlists on YouTube. As I write this, there are no previous views for these files. Go for it!



The three albums, originally issued between 1996 and 2000, were combined into a three-disc set called þrefaldur that was released in 2011. Of the three, Lifað og leikið is a live album and a bit more blues-oriented than the other two.

Earlier posts:
Reykjavík Blues
Reykjavík Blues, revisited