MUSiC: Windham Hill Records

I’ve been really digging some Windham Hill releases recently. Mostly Michael Hedges. But also pianist George Winston and now Alex de Grassi. I’ve not checked out founder Alex Ackerman yet.

I love the whole aesthetic of the label: beautiful mostly instrumental music, and a really lovely album cover design style. I’d love to have some suggestions from anyone more familiar with this interesting label’s output.

This just looks sooo appealing! Great design.

MUSiC: Michael Hedges, Artist Profile (1998)

With the recent passing of Dino Danelli, and the icy frosted fingers of winter gripping us in their cold embrace, Death is in the air!

That made me think of the amazing talent of Michael Hedges. The above-linked YouTube video is a 1998 docu-bio, featuring interview footage, and music from a 1996 concert.

Right between this concert performance, and the release of the Artist Profile doc’ dedicated to him, Hedges died in an auto accident. It was 1997, and Hedges was only 43. What a loss to the world of art and music! Thank goodness for his recorded legacy.

I nearly called him ‘the incomparable’, but was then going to follow that up be saying ‘like a collision between Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and, er… Well, anyway, comparisons, or at least influences, can be heard. But his remains a now widely imitated style, that is, at its core, his unique extension of guitar-based music.

Hearing his soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, channelled through Hendrix’s reading, and played in a Joni-esque wide and deep tuning, is really something. And then there’s all his original instrumental stuff.

I’m out doing some Amazon deliveries for a few hours later today, to top up my meagre teaching earnings. I shall be digging Aerial Boundaries and Breakfast In The Field. Even the album titles (and cover art, etc) are fab. And then there’s the music!

FiLM REViEW: Coalminer’s Daughter, 1980 / Loretta Lynn, RIP.

I found out, via a pal’s FB post, that Loretta Lynn died today. I’m not a big country music fan, but I did enjoy the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter. And Loretta’s sister, Crystal Gale, recorded One From The Heart, with Tom Waits, which is a sublime album.

So, in memory of Loretta, here’s my review of Coal Miner’s Daughter (originally posted to Amazon UK, some years ago):

Exactly how near the true facts of the Loretta Lynn story this is, I don’t know. For all that some difficult moments are depicted, I suspect it’s still a somewhat sanitised version. But, gol’darn’ it, it makes for a very entertaining and moving viewing experience.

Sissy Spacek is excellent in the lead role – both she and Beverly D’Angelo, who plays Patsy Cline, sing their songs (an album was released alongside the film) – and Tommy Lee Jones, despite shockingly dyed red hair, acquits himself well as her man, known variously as ‘Mooney’ (from a stint running ‘moonshine’), and ‘Doo’, short for Doolittle. Recently deceased drummer for The Band, Levon Helm, plays Lynn’s titular coal-mining father. ‘Ted’.

The real Loretta, plus ‘Doo’ and kids.

Director Michael Apted handles the whole film very well, evoking an America that one suspects is nearly vanished. At one point in the film they receive several telephone message by the means of a neighbour, who has a ‘phone, hollerin’ the news at them from his nearby property. How real all the hillbilly shacks, honky-tonks, pie-auctions, dungarees and dancing, the “coalminin’, moonshinin’ or movin’ on down the line” really are, is hard for me to estimate. But it paints a very evocative and charming picture.

I got to this via Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, Gayle being Lynn’s sister (the Waits/Gayle collaboration for Coppola’s One From The Heart being an instance of a pretty duff movie paired with a beyond-words-brilliant OST), and the Levon Helm connection.

Even after watching this and loving it, I’m not sure I’ll be getting into Lynn’s music too deeply. But that just shows that this Country & Western star biopic has an appeal beyond Lynn’s fan base. As told here, hers is both an interesting and at times very moving story.