Mickey Newbury An American Trilogy: Looks Like Rain/Frisco Mabel Joy/Heaven Help the Child (4-CD)
Out of Print: Future availability is unknown
Format: CD (4 Discs)
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- by Jimmie Driftwood ~ Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs: The Wilderness Road ~ $17.04
- by Rodney Crowell ~ Tarpaper Sky ~ $13.74
- Number of Discs: 4
- Released: August 23, 2011
- Originally Released: 2011
- Label: Drag City
Spin - p.51Ranked #2 in Spin's 'The Top 10 Reissues Of 2011' -- "The happiest track here is about how much he loves that old-time music."
Record Collector (magazine) - p.855 stars out of 5 -- "Blessed with a falsetto capable of conveying both grief and hope, rarely has such melancholy been so uplifting as on these soulful, seductive song cycles."
Tracks on Disc 1:
- 1.Write a Song a Song / Angeline
- 2.She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye
- 3.I Don't Think Much About Her No More
- 4.T. Total Tommy
- 5.33rd of August / When the Baby in My Lady Gets the Blues
- 6.San Francisco Mabel Joy
- 7.Looks Like Baby's Gone
Tracks on Disc 2:
- 1.An American Trilogy
- 2.How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid for His Song)
- 4.The Future's Not What It Used to Be
- 5.Mobile Blue
- 6.Frisco Depot
- 7.You're Not My Same Sweet Baby
- 9.Remember the Good
- 10.Swiss Cottage Place
- 11.How I Love Them Old Songs
Tracks on Disc 3:
- 1.Heaven Help the Child
- 2.Good Morning Dear
- 4.Sweet Memories
- 5.Why You Been Gone So Long
- 6.Cortelia Clark
- 7.Song for Susan
- 8.San Francisco Mabel Joy
Tracks on Disc 4:
- 1.If You Want Me To I'll Go [Publisher Demo]
- 2.Sunshine [Alternate Mono Version]
- 3.Sad Satin Rhyme
- 4.Why You Been Gone So Long [Publisher Demo]
- 5.I Don't Wanna Rock [Publisher Demo]
- 6.Let Me Stay Awhile [Publisher Demo]
- 7.Flower Man [Home Demo]
- 8.Good Morning Dear [Publisher Demo]
- 9.On Top of Old Smokey [Home Demo]
- 10.Interlude: How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid for His Song)
- 11.Better Days [Radio Session]
- 12.How I Love Them Old Songs [Radio Session]
- 13.I Don't Wanna Rock [Radio Session]
- 14.I Don't Want Me No Big City Woman [Radio Session]
- 15.You're Not My Same Sweet Baby [Radio Session]
Audio Remixers: Brian Thorn; Steve Rosenthal.
Liner Note Authors: Ben Fong-Torres; Chris Campion; Kris Kristofferson.
Illustrator: Masumi Kobayashi.
Photographer: Robert L. Heimall.
During his lifetime, Mickey Newbury was always regarded more as a songwriter than as a singer or recording artist. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and Joan Baez all recorded his songs. That said, Saint Cecilia Knows (the Newbury estate's label) and Drag City are seeking to change that impression with An American Trilogy. It's a deluxe, limited-edition, four-disc box set collects the albums Looks Like Rain (1969), 'Frisco Mabel Joy (1971), Heaven Help the Child (1973), and a disc of rarities; it contains a poster lyric sheet/map and a 100-page booklet, with Newbury quotes, interviews, and more. The albums, whose tapes were thought lost in a fire, have been pristinely remastered. Looking back, it was a small miracle that Elektra let Newbury make these records at all. Through his shrewdness as a negotiator and his track record as a songwriter, he convinced the label to allow him to make three conceptually linked records. The sound on them is like nothing in country music before or since: they are full of sound effects, spatial ambiences and melodrama, delivered with subtlety and a novelist's attention to detail. The music merged minimal country tropes with Texas songwriter storytelling and Southern gospel, and employed contemporary folk and pop arrangements. Looks Like Rain reveals Newbury's writing range and production savvy. The sound effects (such as an incessant rain falling throughout) and delicate psychedelic embellishments etch the record in its time, but there is so much silence surrounding "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye," "33rd of August," and "San Francisco Mabel Joy" that they stun with quiet intensity. Newbury's grainy tenor and elegant phrasing keep the album from descending into desperation. On 'Frisco Mabel Joy, the studio becomes more of a musical instrument. It opens with Newbury's "An American Trilogy" which contains the Civil War-era songs "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "All My Trials." Elvis may have (over)blown it as a theatrical patriot's anthem, but Newbury's version is restrained and elegiac; as if the promise and hope expressed in those songs has been lost -- or even erased -- along history's way. It introduces the rest of the album, where rain continues to fall, women continue to depart, and problems mount; the characters in these songs question life metaphorically and literally. In lieu of the opener, it's easy to hear "How I Love Them Old Songs" and "The Future's Not What It Used to Be" are insightful questions to a nation at large. The instrumental interludes, and the depth of emotion in "'Frisco Depo" and "How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid for His Song)," are devastating personal narratives. Heaven Help the Child is a progression; it feels more more like a Jimmy Webb record than anything else. Its pop arrangements are more pronounced, but the songs, whether historical tales (the title track, which takes place in 1912) and "Cortelia Clark," broken love songs ("Sweet Memories" and "Good Morning Dear"), or even the lone redemptive paean to romance ("Song for Susan" -- Newbury's wife), lose none of their power. The re-recording of "San Francisco Mabel Joy" that closes the disc underscores the personal vision of the songwriter who inhabits each song on these three albums. The rarities disc is just that. It contains demos, unreleased tracks, and a radio performance, and is well worth inclusion. What Newbury displayed on these records was an American life, whose experiences crossed race, class, and even historical boundaries. The set is an essential document that places Newbury in the pantheon of singer/songwriters where he has always belonged. ~Thom Jurek
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