Decibrity Playlist: Young Widows (Part 2)

Last week, we brought you the beginning of Evan Patterson’s “dark country and folk” playlist. In two-and-a-half years of doing these, it’s safe to say that his picks–most of which originated on 7″ singles–are some of the more obscure, yet fascinating, we’ve encountered. While Part 1 tackled tracks from 1956 to 1963 (don’t miss the fuzz on Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry”), Part 2 covers tunes from 1966 to 1971. Young Widows‘ guitarist/vocalist even threw in a bonus playlist that you can check out after perusing his 13 other selections. What a guy. While you’re at it, be sure to pick up a copy of his band’s latest LP, Easy Pain, here.

Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” (from 1966’s Fred Neil)
While Fred Neil is more folk than country, his voice is as dark and as low as folk could get, and has gotten since. Even though he was a part of the Greenwich Village scene, I see him as being a bit more of a country singer. He wrote songs for Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison in the ’50s, and was a fill-in, on set singer for Elvis’s early films. “The Dolphins” is off Fred Neil’s self-titled third album, which features his more well-known number “Everybody’s Talkin'”. Later in 1969, “Everybody’s Talkin'” was made famous by Harry Nilsson. I like thinking that “The Dolphins” isn’t actually about dolphins, but after Fred Neil retired from music he moved to Florida to refocus his life on the preservation of dolphins. Wild. I’m betting most of his time was spent lounging on a sailboat until he died of skin cancer in 2001.

Nancy Sinatra’s “Lightning’s Girl” (from 1967’s “Lightning’s Girl”/”Until It’s Time For You To Go” 7″ single)
The first time I heard “Lightning’s Girl”, I was floored by its arrangement and production. The kick drum might be the best sounding recording of a kick drum I’ve heard. The dark fuzz guitar, string section, choogling bass line, king-of-the-jungle operatic background singing and the threatening lyrics are a combination unlike any other. The powerful and direct Nancy Sinatra, daughter of Frank, doesn’t beat around the bush with Lee Hazlewood’s pitchfork in her hands. They were out to kill with this song, and kill they did. “Lightning’s Girl” is a theatrical song and again, Hazlewood has no rules or guidelines with his writing or production. A Billy Strange arrangement and an absolutely epic country song.

Mickey Newbury’s “How Many Times (Must The Piper Be Paid For His Song)” (from 1968’s Harlequin Melodies)
Mickey Newbury…well, he just dropped in to be one of the most prolific songwriters to ever walk the face of this tiny planet. He has influenced many, many artists and songwriters. His legacy will continue to influence many, many more. In this song, the tension between the hollow percussive plucked fiddle strings and Mickey’s charred dense voice is unlike any I’ve felt while listening to a song. “How Many Times” is off Mickey’s debut album Harlequin Melodies. From beginning to end, a perfect country album.

Roy Drusky’s “Such A Fool” (from 1969’s My Grass Is Green)
Roy Drusky had too many records. I discovered him last year when I purchased his New Lips album for a dollar. From what I can tell, the album is a collection of singles that came out in 1969 and prior. It features “Jody and the Kid”, one of the first Kris Kristofferson songs to ever be recorded. When Drusky stretches out “Such a Foooooooooool,” I can’t help but smile.

Jody Reynolds’ “Endless Sleep” (from 1969’s “Endless Sleep”/”My Baby’s Eyes” 7″ single)
Like Sanford Clark’s “The Fool”, “Endless Sleep” is a bit of a rockabilly country crossover. The original 1958 version actually features the same guitarist as “The Fool”, Al Casey, who was a sidekick to Lee Hazlewood on his early productions. I prefer the darker, more haunting and reverb drenched harmonica 1969 version of this song. I can only imagine that this is a true reflection of Reynolds’ tiresome attitude–he had to be sick to death of performing the song for well over a decade. A group from Vancouver called The Poppy Family did an even darker cover version of “Endless Sleep” in 1969 that I might enjoy more, but it doesn’t fit this playlist’s theme. The 1958 version was Jody Reynolds’ first single and his second was the song “Fire of Love”, which later was covered by MC5 and The Gun Club. The Gun Club even named its album after the song. Reynolds eventually started working with Hazlewood and in the late ’70s had signed on to write songs for this singer named Elvis, but Elvis died just before recording any of Reynolds’ tunes.

Karen Dalton’s “Same Old Man” (from 1971’s In My Own Time)
Like Fred Neil, Karen Dalton is a Greenwich Village folk artist. The song was arranged by Steve Weber. Weber was a founding member of The Holy Modal Rounders. The droning strings, the traditional banjo and her incredible creeping voice together make a sound that I can’t get enough of. “Same Old Man” is from her album In My Own Time. The album is more upbeat, bluesy folk–it’s great, but “Same Old Man” is a truly unique folk song that will be held timelessly above the rest.

Bonus playlist of inspiring voices:

Love’s “Signed D.C.” (from 1966’s Love)
Captain Beefheart’s “Blabber ‘N Smoke” (from 1972’s The Spotlight Kid)
Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” (from 1973’s For Your Pleasure)
Iggy Pop’s “Mass Production” (from 1977’s The Idiot)
Public Image Ltd.’s “Flowers of Romance” (from 1981’s The Flowers Of Romance)
Wipers’ “Romeo” (from 1983’s Over The Edge)
Crime & The City Solution’s “Hunter” (from 1988’s Shine)
Scott Walker’s “Face On A Breast” (from 1995’s Tilt)
The For Carnation’s “Emp. Man Blues” (from 2000’s The For Carnation)
Smog’s “Song” (from 2001’s Rain On Lens)
Angels of Light’s “Evangeline” (from 2001’s How I Loved You)
Mark Lanegan’s “Hit The City” (from 2004’s Bubblegum)

*Photo by Amber Estes Thieneman

**Pick up a copy of Young Widows’ Easy Pain here and check them out on the following dates opening for Minus The Bear:

10/21 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
10/22 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
10/23 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
10/24 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
10/25 Des Moines, IA – Wolly’s

***For past Decibrity entries, click here