Each month, I highlight an album as part of the ACC’s Employment and Labor Law Network’s outreach and engagement, and just to give you something non-legal related to enjoy every month. I hope you join us on our Forums and at today’s monthly teleconference . If you’re an in-house counsel and not part of the ACC or the ELLN, you can join ACC and ELLN today and see what we’re all about! I hope to (virtually) see you soon.
ELLN January Music Quick Pick
Former ELLN Chair Doug Hass has long been a music buff (he founded country music site Roughstock.com in 1993) and had plenty of windshield time for work over the years. That’s given him lots of time to indulge and explore his music interests! To help entertain you on your commutes or at the gym, office, home, or on the go, Doug is offering another year-long series of picks that will showcase some of the best albums you may have never heard, or that deserve another listen. We hope that each monthly choice piques your interest in these albums and artists. These may be titles that you have never heard of, but our hope is that your interest will be piqued and your musical world enriched!
Last month, we featured Dwight Yoakam and the “cow” side of Bakersfield and L.A. “cowpunk,” as he has termed it. This month, let’s turn to the “punk” side of “cowpunk” and Yoakam’s friend and musical collaborator Beck. You might be thinking, wait, Beck, the guy who co-wrote and recorded Loser back in 1994? Yes, that same one. But you don’t have to be all that familiar with Beck’s music to find the country influences in it. Country music legend Johnny Cash did when he recorded Beck’s song “Rowboat” for his American Recordings album Unchained in 1996. He discussed the reasons why in a later interview before his death.
Beck is proof that you can pick up musical influences from any genre. He grew up in L.A. but says that in his teens, he wanted to yodel like Jimmy Rodgers and immersed himself in the “Bristol Sessions” — the 1927 recordings made in Bristol, Tennessee featuring Rodgers, The Carter Family and other early country music pioneers. He even based his guitar style on Maybelle Carter. That early influence seeped into his progressive rock-punk-country style, and I think it was most evident on his 2014 album “Morning Phase,” which Beck told Rolling Stone was his “ode to California music.” Critics agreed, as Beck picked up 3 Grammys in 2015 for Album of the Year, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Rock Album for this record.
The album has a slow, almost-cinematic quality to it, perhaps in part because the record’s string arrangements come from Beck’s father, David Campbell, an accomplished composer who has done everything from writing film scores to directing orchestras to composing arrangements for artists from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to Bon Jovi and Radiohead. Compared to the progressive sounds of some of his early albums, “Morning Phase” is simple and more melodic, but not nearly as dark as 2002’s Sea Change. You hear the refinement come out in Gram Parsons-influenced “Blackbird Chain” and on two of my favorite tracks (which weren’t recorded in L.A., but in Nashville): “Say Goodbye” and “Waking Light.” The former gives you hints of Neil Young’s Harvest, and the latter is a perfect coda to Beck’s modern cowpunk twist to the 1970s Lauren Canyon music scene.
I hope you enjoy (or enjoy rediscovering) this month’s pick! For those of you looking for more of the original, retro Bakersfield sound, pick up the box set in our “Further Listening” selection. It is a comprehensive collection of what makes Bakersfield unique. Even if you can’t spring for the box set, it will give you an incredible playlist for your exploration of this excellent sub-genre.
Can’t get enough? Further Listening:
Various Artists – The Bakersfield Sound – Country Music Capital Of The West 1940 – 1974 (2019) (no streaming option, available on Amazon)
Buck Owens, Early Recordings 1956-1961 (2013) (via Spotify)