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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

synchronizing: unexpected duets

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My poetry mentor Diane Wakoski taught me to write poems that bring unlike things together. At all costs, avoid clichés, such as comparing tears with rain, or love with fire. She showed that it is far more affecting when a poem like Wallace Stevens' "The Snow Man" connects things in surprising ways, like winter and a person's mind, as that poem does. I think good poems make you feel two things: 1) I never thought of that before, and yet 2) I always knew that, maybe I forgot it, but I've known it somewhere, sometime.

That's really the theme behind this blog: bringing things together, not that I always think about that when I post.

Two years ago when I first heard about Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin doing a musical collaboration with country/folk singer Alison Krauss I was intrigued by the pairing and wanted to buy the album, titled Raising Sand. I hadn't been excited about Led Zeppelin when they were on the radio in my teenage years, but when my son Peter learned to play guitar in the '90s, Led Zeppelin was one of his favorites, and I found myself rocking along to "That's the Way" or "Ramble On" through his discovery. So in 2007 I loved the idea of rock star Plant and country singer Krauss (that even my punk daughter listened to) singing together. I never listened to or bought the Plant-Krauss album when it came out, even though you can listen to the whole thing at their web site here - so nice. But finally about a month ago I heard it and was blown away by one of the songs: "Gone, Gone, Gone." So, as I was downloading it and putting together a mixed CD, I had the Genius Sidebar open and it was suggesting other duets, two of which I also downloaded. It would be nice to have a whole album pairing singers from different genres. Ha, I speak out of ignorance - even though rauf, Loring and João try to educate me about music. There are probably dozens of captivatingly unexpected duet albums out there, and I am going to hear about them in comments.

Pour yourself a cuppa coffee, or tea. Plug in the good speakers. Put your feet up. Relax and listen. You need some music. Rockabilly. And Blues.

"Gone, Gone, Gone" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is my favorite song at the moment. NOTE: Robert Plant is wonderfully "Zepellin-esque" in the studio album version in the link above, so I like it a bit better than the live version below. It's cute though, if you watch the video below closely you can see Krauss do a little Zepellin-esque thing toward the end, as if she's imitating her co-singer.





The second song Genius recommended was JJ Cale and Eric Clapton singing and playing the blues in "Ride the River." It would be a blast to ride the river in a boat with these two, I could paddle since they'd have their hands full of guitars and mics.





The third song Genius recommended was another duet with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and country singer Emmylou Harris singing as a couple who look at their life through a photo album in "This is Us." Here they are on the Letterman Show, and it's fun to watch them sing to each other, but I like the studio recording that follows a bit better here too. Emmylou sounds a wee bit flat in the live version. But what a cool voice she has.





Here's the studio version of the same song:





Had you heard these songs before? Are there other cool duets to add to an unexpected duets mixed CD?

57 comments:

João said...

Oh, Ruth, I would love to hear the river project also...Another musician who has done a lot ob beautiful colaboration albuns is Ry Cooder - just love is work.
And then there's Robert Wyatt and Elvis Costello and Brian Eno and...there's an album by the Incredible string band aptly titled : Be glad my friend for the song never ends...

Ruth said...

João, the Queen Bee one you posted at FB today is awesome: here.

I "goear.com"-ed the ones you mentioned here but didn't find any duets. Thank you though. I'll keep my eye and ear open.

Loring Wirbel said...

Top of my head, Ani DiFranco has done many interesting duets, but her work with the late great Utah Phillips is the best - many old folkie songs from the 20s and 30s. John Darnielle's work with Kaki King is fun. There is a brand new soundtrack to a Jack Kerouac movie, coming out in October, that pairs Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo) with Ben Gibbard (Death Cab, Postal Service). Jenny Lewis with Elvis Costello. Zooey Deschanel with M. Ward.

And your opening comments were very relevant - it isn't so much an unexpected pairing, as one you had lingering back in some pre-memory. It's like deja vu, giving rise to something that was there all along.

Ruth said...

Loring, thanks. I just listened to Phillips and DiFranco's Pie in the Sky. What a riot.

And this is gorgeous: Jenny Lewis and Costello's Pretty Bird

Annie said...

Thank you, thank you!! I worship Robert Plant! (almost) Have been to many of his concerts here in Finland.

And I like those ideas on poetry. And writing in general.

Ruth said...

Annie, I liked listening to your '80s Dolce Vita today too. :)

Susan said...

Well, Ruthie, you couldn't have perked me up more if you had given me a shot of pure caffeine in my veins! At least 4 of my favorite musical artists on one page!!!

There is no one to compare to Alison Krauss. Her voice just sends cold chills through me...so haunting and pure. I don't know if you have DirecTV, but on channel 101 they show concerts. If you ever get a chance, watch Alison's concert there. It is wonderful, and she's so funny, too. The pairing with Robert Plant is great and I love that song...so fun!

I hadn't heard that one with Clapton and JJ Cales. It's really good. I'll bet Jaye has it. Clapton is one of his rock gods, with good reason. And you would do a fabulous job of rowing them down the river! :)

Emmylou is one of my all-time favorites. I have her boxed CD set. I love her plaintive voice, but she can also rock it out. She's definitely not hitting the notes as well as she did 30 years ago, but who among us is? I love Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, too. That's dancin' music, baby!

Ruthie, you rock my world! :)

ewix said...

Alexander Pope in the 18th century said that poetry was "what's oft been thought ,
but ne'er so well expresst"
I rather like this.....
Yes, avoid cliche at all costs - except children and beginning poets don't know this yet!
Ah! the rose is beautiful........but it has thons
how much each person delights in their discovery of what has often been discovered before.
I will take tea, please......

Ruth said...

Susie, in defense of Emmylou, it must be extremely difficult to hear your pitch when performing live. We went to a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert, and their "harmony" was so off, I didn't enjoy a single song. Half the time I didn't even recognize them.

I don' know if we get DirectTV either. :| I'll ask Don.

I hope the energy from this music gets you through your day after being so tuckered out.

Ruth said...

Elizabeth, art forms are tricky. In photography not only do I want to take a picture well - including composition, focus, etc. - I also think: How many times have I seen a scene exactly like this before? How can I see this in a fresh way? If we see a piece of art or hear writing that seems uninteresting, it might be because we have trodden that road too many times. We need the individual spark of how someone sees the world differently than anyone else.

Ruth said...

. . . Elizabeth, like in your post of the Hudson River's gray, the bike basket and the bike lock. Those grays through your lens and thoughts connected in ways I hadn't thought of before. They are a nice, neutral backdrop to the colorful world of NYC.

ds said...

You asked for it, Ruth. One of my favorite CDs is Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company," in which he is paired with the likes of Norah Jones (ahh), Elton John (!) and Willie Nelson (in a poignant rendition of "It was a very good year"). He also does "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"--a cliche I suppose, but not with the fellow who's with him and whose name is lost at the minute (along with the CD; will locate & report back on that)My fave? Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris doing "The Scarlet Tide" on his album The Delivery Man. It reminds me of the novel Cold Mountain (I have not seen the movie; there are some things that should not be spoiled) for some reason. I am wearing that track out, I hit repeat so often!
Love the last line of your reply to Elizabeth about the "individual spark"--but if I don't get out of here & get some work done, you'll never know why (think later. Much later.)...

ewix said...

Ruth!
I try to be a little bit original always
but as somene said "there is nothing new under the sun"
s maybe a little different 'take' on the familiar.
Love your blog......

ellen abbott said...

Thanks for these. Eric Clapton is one of my favs.

I heard an unexpected duet on a PBS fundraiser show between Roy Orbison and k. d. lang singing Roy's 'Crying' and it was incredible.

Loring Wirbel said...

Ruth, did I ever tell you about flying home from a War Resisters League conference in Minneapolis a few years ago, and how I got to sit in the airport lounge and chat with Utah Phillips for the better part of an hour? That was only a few months before he died. I don't have a lot of true heroes, but he's WAY up there in the pantheon.

*jean* said...

super cool, ruth, thanks for the great listening this morning!!

Oliag said...

This is so much fun!...Not only is Raising Sand one of my favorite albums but you sample three of my all time favorites...Eric Clapton, Alison Krauss, and Mark Knopfler...and the suggestions that have been contributed...I can't wait to check a few out...like Roy Orbison and kd lang...I know I would love that...anyways, lots of fun!...I will have to think for awhile to see if I come up with any additional duets...

As usual, your post is about more than one simple thing...going from Wallace Stevens to Emmylou Harris... and has started me thinking about new ways to express myself...new ways to bring things together:)

xo

Jeanie said...

Now this is a fun post -- I'm going to be doing a little linking here in a few minutes, I think!

rauf said...

i shoot my mouth off Ruth, hoping no one would check. i told Ramesh that Alison Krauss has bagged eighteen grammys. i thought i might regret as Ramesh is a journalist. i said wait wait let me check. Big shock waiting at wiki. She has won 26 grammys.

You are right Ruth, both knopfler and Emmylou are off colour in this video. But thankfully she is standing there singing gracefully
for once, she normally stands like John Wayne. Still beautiful after all these years. i tried 'goear' search for 'slow surprise'.
Not there.

The Bug said...

Fun! I have the Raising Sand CD & I think it's great. VERY different stuff these two produced.

I haven't listened to it in years, but we have a CD called Rhythm, Country & Blues - pairing country singers & blues singers. One of my favorite tracks from that CD is Rainy Night in Georgia with Conway Twitty & Sam Moore - it's really fun.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh! Here is St. Vincent, along with Matt Berninger from The National, singing Eric Bachmann's "Sleep All Summer." Tragic and beautiful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztzfr1PjFCY

CottageGirl said...

I love your contrasts that work so surprisingly well! Love the Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. When I first saw it a few months ago, I was very skeptical ... 2 ends of the spectrum! But I liked the way they played off of each other... and Allison actually looked like she was having a good time. I think sometimes she doesn't smile at all!

Was the CSN concert you saw recently?

We saw their concert a few months ago and walked out. They were so bad! Harmony was not just off ... but way off! And their song choices were so very bad. With all of the songs they have to their credit, they were singing others' songs ... and badly. We were so disappointed. We had just seen them a few years before and were thoroughly entertained.

shoreacres said...

Ruth, this makes so much sense to me: "If we see a piece of art or hear writing that seems uninteresting, it might be because we have trodden that road too many times."

Musically, one of the best solutions I've found is Pandora radio. I love creating my own stations, and then allowing Pandora to search their database for related music. I've found so much I never would have discovered myself.

As for the music - there are favorites here! I love Clapton and Knopfler's acoustic version of Layla, and Emmylou Harris with Ian and Sylvia Tyson or Iris Dement is splendid.

My favorite Clapton video of all time has him paired with Sonny Landreth, a slide guitar player from just down the road in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. They teamed up for the first tme at the Crossroads Guitar Fest in Chicago in 2007.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-d5HLfCtHU

And while this is for duets rather than ensembles, I just have to mention the Traveling Wilburys: George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.
If I could take only one song to that mythical desert island, it would be End of the Line:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG-ww7JsnOA

Ruth said...

DS, I couldn't find Ray Charles' on youtube singing "Over the Rainbow" with anyone, just solo. And hey, that was pretty good, so thank you for that indirectly.

I did find "The Scarlet Tide" with Costello & Harris, thank you. I think their voices and styles work together very well.

Hey! I've read through your found poem once, and I want to keep reading it to give it justice. I love projects like that! I think you did it before a long time ago if I recall.

Ruth said...

Elizabeth, true, nothing new under the sun in a way. Things are just familiar enough to make us feel safe. But even our skin is new every day! Yet we look the same. It just takes a little deeper, closer look to see.

Ruth said...

Ellen, I'm listening to their version of "Crying" now, it's beautiful. You can't beat Orbison, and Lang's voice is so resonant, together they are moving and powerful.

Ruth said...

Loring, what a thrill to be able to chat with Utah Phillips! I love his historical album, listened to a few of those pieces yesterday. He was quite a guy, thank you for the introduction.

As for St. Vincent - gorgeous sweet voice, with Matt Berninger in "Sleep All Summer" - wonderful! Their voices, whether harmonizing or singing the same melody, create that perfect kind of duet because of their broad range, yet similar timbres. Wow, I love her voice. And his too. Thank you once again, my friend.

Loring Wirbel said...

Hillary Acton pointed out that I forgot Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, a constant duo. And I didn't mention Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, perhaps the best folk duo in history - though Dave died in 2002.

My personal favorite Gillian and David album is "Time the Revelator" in 2001 - here is the title song, tho it's mostly Gillian singing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db_7Lr5Rb3Y

There is very little Dave and Tracy video on the Internet, which is a darned shame. here's a couple:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Niia1u4vp0I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imf2GYV0xNo

Rumor has it that Planet Bluegrass is sitting on a video performance of Dave and Tracy at Folks Festival in August 2001. What a treat that would be to see it released.

Ruth said...

Jean, thank you for listening!

Ruth said...

Oliag, sometimes discovering a new way to express yourself results from just a very minor shift, one step to the right, opening one chink in your heart.

But it feels much bigger than that, I've found.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I love to hear about your experiences, because you must have met so many artists through your job!

Ruth said...

Oh my, rauf, I had no idea Alison Krauss won that many grammys.

Emmylou is very beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen her smile, but I haven't seen her that much. I love the Annie Liebovitz portrait of her with her guitar on a wet dirt road, which I saw at the art institute in Detroit. Even in this portrait she is not smiling.

Ruth said...

I think I sent you that portrait after I saw it, rauf.

Ruth said...

Oh thank you, Bug, I'm listening now, and I love it - I mean Rainy Night in Georgie with Twitty and Moore. They look like they had fun in the studio recording it here.

Ruth said...

Hey, CottageGirl. I noticed in this video Plant doesn't pay that much attention to Krauss, but she looks at him a lot. It annoyed me a little, I have to say. (Him not paying attention to her.) There could have been better chemistry. But hey, they're singing.

No, the CSN concert was maybe 10 years ago at Lugnut stadium in Lansing. It was BAD. I would have walked out if it wasn't such a pleasant venue - outside - and my SIL had not been with us for her birthday treat.

Ruth said...

Hi, Linda. Pandora is wonderful - except when you're not sitting close to it to say "no" to the ones that are going off in a direction you don't like so much. But it can be really great, and as you say, recommends artists you might not have known.

Thanks for the intro to Sonny Landreth. He has a great blues voice!

Funny you'd mention the Traveling Wilburys, Don was just talking about them last week. Did you hear how they got their name?
'"Wilburys" was a slang term coined by Harrison and Lynne during the recording of Cloud Nine as a pet name for various types of equipment in the recording studio; Harrison, referring to errors caused by malfunctioning equipment, jokingly remarked to Lynne: "We'll bury 'em in the mix".' Found the quote here. But wow, they're an amazing combo of talent.

Ruth said...

Oh Loring, I love that Gillian Welch song. I think Lesley had it on a mixed CD for me some time back. Actually no, I have the Welch CD somewhere . . . where is it?? When I listened to this song (listening again now) I always wondered what a "revelator" was. And I like the banjo-esque sound of Carter's guitar.

I remember the Dave story, early death. I think we've talked about this pair before too. It would be nice if they get some recognition now through Planet Bluegrass.

Oh said...

Coffee, please. (ans. to above)

Yes, this duo rocks. i couldn't believe it either when someone told me about their pairing last year...the cool thing here is how you went from a poetry lesson (love poetry - can't write it, though) to talking about two "opposites" in music.

I just love coming over here.

ds said...

I am back, at long last. (It has been a long day). The Somewhere Over the Rainbow duet version was with Johnny Mathis (but it works!). There's also a cool Van Morrison song...anyway, it's a fun album.(and I just read your comment above--I love the Traveling Wilburys! Great road music!)

You're right, I have posted one other "found" poem: the one in honor of Shakespeare's birthday.
What's visible in the window now was written in 2007, so it has been sitting in the computer for a while. The "spark" I mentioned above was a pun on the late Dame Muriel's name & I have spent a lot of hours getting nowhere with a piece on a couple of her novels. I've been debating posting that "bookshelf" for a while, wondering if it was in fact proper to do so. It is not meant to impugn poetry--or the very demanding process of it. I was in a jam when I put it together. I wouldn't really classify it as a poem (except that Annie Dillard did with her newspaper stuff in that book--the one with Merton in it, Linda probably knows it-- & I saw the technique used with high school students.), but there is more "me" to it than to the other.
When you haven't got words of your own, as I have not this week, hide behind the words of others, particularly when you lack, in words cited on another blog, "the impenetrable shield" of a self. Cowardly, but true.
Did any of that make sense?

The Shakespeare one was just a silly fun thing,every word his on purpose, the 445th line from each play, not meant to be anything other than a geeky kind of homage.

Arti said...

What a coincidence! First of all, your poetry mentor's advice about avoiding cliches is the same I'm getting lately... and, your two points about a good poem is what I've been dwelling on and posted just now! I call it the 'eureka' feeling. Hey, thanks for all the music notes... interesting post!

gemma said...

Your new blog banner is awesome.
Yes! I love interesting duets.
:-)Very cool!

Peter said...

It's nice when some of these artists do something "different". One of my favourite discs is one with the Irish folk music group Chieftains, where Mark Knopfler, Mick Jagger and some others pariticpate.

Sandy said...

I've liked Knopler since my sis had a CD. The videos are enjoyable, thanks.

I've found a new liking to certain types of music when my son(s) would re-introduce somebody I use to like or I'd discover new artists through them.

Sandy said...

p.s. My mind is blank right now, but I've got lots of cool duets I've heard and loved, in my tons of CD's...around here.

Ruth said...

Hi, Oh. I wish I was literary like you. I wish I read and read, and that it was what I looked forward to more than anything. You, and DS, and Arti write such rich book reviews. But I just don't have the itch, in spite of being an English major. I really can't figure out how someone could want something but not want it like this.

I'm sort of like that with music too. I have the house quiet most of the time, especially if I am alone. And driving I only turn on music sometimes.

Anyway. I'm feeling weird about myself at the moment. :|

But it's ok! I am weird! We all are.

Ruth said...

DS, I can't remember if I told you this after the Shakespeare one, about Robert Kelly's project called Mont Blanc? He took P.B. Shelley's poem, and then he inserted his own words and lines into the poem, making up a small volume. It was a very interesting project and would take a certain amount of hootspa.

It's cool to create in new ways, stepping out of previous forms and expectations. I admire you for the found poems.

And I can see/hear Mathis and Charles!

Ruth said...

Arti, I just love it when synchronicity happens. Yay!

Ruth said...

Hi, Gemma. Thank you, I'm glad you like the banner, being an artist yourself. I brought it back from last autumn.

I am looking forward to what you post from your NM trip. You have gorgeous artistic sensibilities.

Ruth said...

Peter, bonjour! Nice to see you for a minute between your trips.

I enjoyed the Chieftains when we heard them at our university years ago. And I love it when Mick Jagger adds his individuality to a musical project. And Knopfler is, well, he's unique too. I always recognize his guitar playing.

Ruth said...

Hi, Sandy. Now you have the pleasure of seeing life through your grandchildren's eyes and experiences. I wonder what new music you will learn to like with them. I don't even know what kids are watching in the nursery these days. I bet it isn't Barney any more.

dutchbaby said...

When I saw this post earlier this week I decided to save it for my Saturday morning. I'm so glad I did. I have my cup of cafe au lait, with vanilla and cinnamon, my laptop, and these uplifting duets. Life doesn't get much better.

The unexpected is a great design element in any creation. I have never been brave enough to attempt poetry beyond the occasional homework assignment. All my poems were riddled with clichéd blandness. I'm much more comfortable with visual creation and with numbers - there's a surprise combination :)

My favorite duet CDs: Ray Charles' and Tony Bennett's.

ds said...

ROBERT KELLY?!!! "My" Robert Kelly?! (I knew him--sort of--Horatio). Must. Find. This. But where? How?

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, you are so cool. I just love that you are a computer engineer and a floral designer. And your rose arrangement with olive berries (?) and sculpted grasses blew me away with its unexpectedness! You ROCK with surprises. I'll bet even your so-called "clichés" are even creative! :D

Oh I do love me some Tony Bennett. The thing about him and collaboration that is so very cool is how big and generous his heart is and small his ego (apparently). He wants to promote anyone he can it seems. And talk about COOLness.

Ruth said...

DS, I sent you my RK story (great personal connection at a writing workshop), now I'm dying to hear yours!! Since his remarkably approachable larger-than-life persona blew me away, he has been a favorite.

I found Kelly's Mont Blanc here! I googled it and it was the first link - CRAZY!

ds said...

Hey! I did answer you. Hope you got it. Many thanks for the link.
Thank you for all of the kind words.

Ginnie said...

Well....there's Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang, whom I never would have thought to pair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9sesopGFqA

And then there's Barbra Streisand with ANYONE, like Il Divo (my favorite, even if cheating): http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2nptf_somewhere-barbra-streisand-with-il_music

How fun to imagine putting singers together that haven't actually done it yet! :)

Ruth said...

Oh yes, Boots, good ones!