Friday, August 31, 2007

Lee Hazlewood Tribute This Sunday Night

If you’re not familiar with the recently departed Lee Hazlewood, Wikipedia describes him plainly as “an American country singer, songwriter, and record producer, most widely known for his work with Duane Eddy during the late fifties and Nancy Sinatra in the sixties.”

But to many musicians here in LA, he was much more than the lifetime and career compressed into just that simple sentence. We checked in with a number of artists who are playing this Sunday’s Lee Hazlewood tribute event at Tangier about what they’ll be performing that night and what his music meant to them.

Claire McKeown from Dirt Bird and The Afternoons

"I picked Summer Wine because I was attracted to the story: The beautiful woman who fools a man with her charms and walks off with his silver spurs and all the money in his pocket. Lee Hazlewood was a master of melody, which I think is shown proudly in this song. I was also surprised at how few chords he uses. His simplicity is his genius."

The Spires

“The two songs we chose are Girl on Death Row and Cold Hard Times. Jason loved Girl on Death Row right out of the gate, [though] when he first heard it on WFMU, he didn't even realize that Lee wrote it. (Duane Eddy covered it). It's got a great spooky twangy guitar riff.

“We're both amazed that it was a single [that was] popular in the 50's. (The words are pretty harsh.) Clearly Lee was doing things his own way, as he always did. Cold Hard Times is off the favorite Lee record, Cowboy in Sweden. Jason picked it because of its repetitive nature and wonderful oddball lyrics. It also seemed sort of timely. “

“Lee had a lot of songs about peace and love and the insanity of Vietnam and he could always spin it in his own darkly comical way so that it didn't seem like he was shoving it down your throat. We're going to be joined by Trevor and Brian of Franklin for Short on bass and conga, respectively.

"We love you, Lee. Hurry back!”

Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs from The Finches -

"Nancy and Lee was the first LP I ever bought that wasn't explicitly punk or gothic. I wore the record raw singing along to it in my hovel of a high-schooler room. Good times!"

Angela Correa from Correatown

“I really only found out about Lee Hazlewood about five years ago, so his music has been something new and wonderful that I've been exploring over the past few years. What I like most about Lee Hazlewood is that he made the music he wanted to make. His whole life it seems, he had an idea about a sound, or way of recording a part, or a song... and he just did it his way and made the music that he wanted to. Period. All those strangely titled albums he put out later in his life that in my mind basically meant "I'm playing what I want, fuck what anyone else thinks about it" Holy shit, I love that! And it's a hard thing to do, to live, consistently, so I really admire that.

“I'm really just a big fan of his work. I LOVE what he did with Nancy Sinatra... The arrangements are so lush and gorgeous and he was able to capture such stellar performances out of her. That's why I chose Sundown, Sundown. I like how the lyrics flirt with the age-old conflict of independence. Not wanting to not need anything or anyone but really actually needing a little something or someone some of the time, you know.

“I also love the swell of the strings and that moving bass line that just groves underneath it all, pushing the big gorgeous gooooooey golden sound along in the original version. (Uh, but my version will be a little stripped down in comparison, to say the least.)

“The other song will be one of his early 1950's hits, The Fool. Tom Brosseau and I have been singing The Fool in our group Les Shelleys for years, so it's an old favorite and I really love the story telling quality of the lyrics. And that classic 50's reverbed-out guitar sound along with the swooping melody just kicks my ass. Ouch! It's so sweet. I only hope to do his songs what they deserve.”

Matt Popieluch from Big Search

“I'm playing Long Black Train and Son of a Gun, both off of his first album Trouble is a Lonesome Town. This is in truth the only record I have owned of his, having borrowed or burned one or two others.”

”My story with Lee Hazlewood has simply to do with his voice. He's like a big bear singing these simple gorgeous melodies in the woods, with this cinematic reverb! He sounds like the voice of an animated Disney character, but like a smooth renegade one. Every song on his first album tells a different story of this town Trouble. It just a very cool, cinematic structure for a record, most of the tracks preceded by talking!

“I also just respect him as a songwriter, having similar ambitions myself to write songs for others to sing. It should be a really fun night. Getting a band together as we speak!”

Anders & Woods

“Lee Hazlewood is a huge inspiration to Anders & Woods, both as a songwriter/producer/record label founder and as a figure himself. The songs we have chosen are The Performer, which shows more of his cynical and "tell it like it is" style, still all the while maintaining his dark humor.

“The other song we are doing For A Day Like Today has a somber poetic tone, as well as a political message. These contrasts really show his realm as a songwriter.

"I was fortunate to play a tribute show for Lee which he attended some years back. He was slobbering drunk and took the stage after the show and talked about the Columbine shootings for and almost an hour. While most see Lee as the rugged cinematic cowboy, I think there are aspects of him that get overlooked. He was passionately political and very involved in current affairs even at an old age as he demonstrated a few years back.”

Erin Armstrong

“I will be performing Ladybird and Elusive Dreams. I believe people should speak from the gut, having said that... I confused Lee Hazlewood with Lee Greenwood. Classic. (I was really close to asking Claire at The Fold if I could do I'm Proud to Be An American.) Ben Fordham, the violin/mandolin/vocals friend in the band helped me out, and here we are doing a tribute to a man who I know as "the guy who worked with Nancy Sinatra."

“My musical influences consist of what was given to by my sister's friends on cassette tapes and what my Mama and Daddy had playing before supper time. Just so happens to be that Mr. Hazlewood didn't fall into those categories.”

Holly Palmer -

These Boots Are Made For Walking is one of those songs that comes on, and makes me feel happy no matter what. Digging around a bit more into Lee Hazlewood’s music lately, I found one of his versions of it on an album called, Memory Train, The Best of Country.

"In it, he prefaces each verse with a little something like, 'This is the part of the record where every body said, ‘Why, that can’t be number one?’... And, 'This is the part of the song where Billy Strange raised his hand and asked if he could leave the room.'

"The horn and string lines in the middle of the song, twist it up even more in the most kookily beautiful way. For Lee Hazlewood lovers and new listeners, I think it's a must..."

Mike Stinson

“I first heard of Lee when I worked in the tape room at Polygram Music Publishing and we administered some of his song catalog. Shortly thereafter I made the connection that he was the guy who financed and released Gram Parsons' first record, the International Submarine Band's Safe At Home.

“I love that record and Gram's music continues to influence and inspire me. I've always been grateful to Lee and thought he was cool for helping Gram in that way. I'm sorry to say I don't know much else about him, but I did buy a few of his records recently and I'm looking forward to the show.

“I did impress the hell out of a cute waitress at The Viper Room once [because of Lee]. She told me her name was Phaedra and I asked if she'd been named after Some Velvet Morning and she had. She couldn't believe I knew that song that well. I don't think she gave me any free drinks, though.”

The Lee Hazlewood tribute event takes place at Tangier on Sunday night at eight and the proceeds from the $10 door price go to The Salvation Army.


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