Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Born A Little Ugly: Lee Hazlewood- Trouble Is A Lonesome Town (1963), N.S.V.I.P. (1964)
"You won't find it on any map, but take a step in any direction, and you're in Trouble."
Here are two storytelling albums from Mr. Lee Hazlewood. Trouble is a portrait of the titular town, told in vignettes: each song begins with Lee drawling drolly about this-and-that character from the town, then lackadaisically transitioning to a song-sketch more or less on the theme of the story. Absent from these songs is the artful production value he had developed with Duane Eddy, and which he would expand further with Nancy Sinatra and on albums like Love and Other Crimes. Here, it's nothing but a guitar, a voice, and the occasional harmonica, but it's rich like butter on a biscuit, and if the songs are a touch slight, the stories are delightful. Each one a quick, knowing look at a small-town personality told in a small-town way, they're mostly misfits and criminals, but they're described with, if not a love for the characters, a love for characters as a concept, and the way they enrich a dull situation, unwittingly building obscure myths in the lexicon of Americana. This is a great album, and it's really funny in its way.
And so is N.S.V.I.P.'s (Not So Very Important People). Not quite as strong musically or thematically, it's nonetheless pretty excellent, and a good bit funnier, even if that cheapens it a bit in places. One of my favorite songs of his is here, "Go Die Big City," which introduces itself with a yarn about a feller who just don't like cities, so the town sends him off to get psychiatric help (not from a psychiatrist, but a chiropractor who was prone to doing a lot of heavy thinkin'), and he comes back such a changed man that his wife "shoots him for a trespasser! .....It was a beautiful funeral, and you would never know from the look on his face that he had ever been a city hater." Just typing it out does not do it a molecule of justice, of course, but Hazlewood's delivery is the very definition of understated hi-larity, a masterclass in inflection. The song is just about as good, with the unexpected lyric of, "Go die big city..... cause I know, tomorrow, it's goooooonna rain...................my blood."
Of all the things you can say about the man, and a lot can be said, the fellow is weird. Surprisingly weird. There's a story about a drunk who wrassles mules ("now you can't hardly keep a good mule around Henry..."), that shifts into a song, sung from the wrassler's point-of-view, called "Have You Made Any New Bombs Today?" that is basically just as sanctimonious as you would imagine... weird. There's another song about a woman named Emma Jean Dork, who has a funny-lookin' bush. No one knows what to call it but, "we all called it somethin.'"
Here is both albums, and I hope you like them, friends.
HERE is both of them, combined