John Grant to release followup to ‘Queen of Denmark’

johngrant-pale-green-ghosts

Three years ago I had never heard the name John Grant. But that year, Mojo named his debut solo album Queen of Denmark their favorite of the year. And like a lot of people who read that review, I was at first puzzled. Then I listened, and based on the deeply personal songs, his haunting vocals, and the warm arrangements (he was backed on the album by the band Midlake), I understood. It’s been a favorite album in regular rotation for me ever since.

It’s great news, then, that Grant finally has a followup album. Called Pale Green Ghosts, it’s already out in the U.K. and is due in stores in the U.S. on May 14.

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The Songwriters: Gene Crysler

The other day I posted the album cover for Freddie Hart’s The Neon and the Rain. The title track is credited to Gene Crysler, whom I knew little about.

Doing some digging, though, turns out he wrote some cool and unusual songs. Like this one, “I Didn’t Jump the Fence,” which has been cut by the likes of Red Sovine and Cal Smith:

On the surface it’s an oddball song about a guy who admits to eating the “fruit” from his neighbor’s “tree,” but says he wasn’t “stealing” because it just “fell” into his yard. It’s not hard, of course, to read between the lines of what he’s really talking about.

Another Crysler song was “Don’t Make Me Go To School,” cut by Tammy Wynette.

And I always loved this Crysler song cut by Billie Jo Spears, about a small-town Kansas woman who gets a big-city job as a secretary in New York, but who quickly gets fed up with the old boys’ club.

Spears’ version of the song–the title track from her second album–peaked at No. 4 on the country charts in 1969.

Spears just comes off so damn down-to-earth appealing in this video, the kind of honest country artist we could use more of these days. Sadly, she passed away in 2011.

Vintage Album Covers: Freddie Hart

Freddie Hart The Neon and the RainFreddie Hart’s deeply dark “The Neon and the Rain”–the title track from his 1967 album–falls into the same homicidal category as Porter Wagoner’s classic “The Cold Hard Facts of Life.” Freddie covers the latter song on this album as well, though it’s hardly necessary. He’s already taken us down the deep hole with these opening lines:

As I sit beneath the steerin’ wheel a gun in my right hand
I watch the girl I married keep a date with another man
The neon sign above her head blinks motel vacancy
And through the rain it’s flashin’ like the storm inside of me

The black leather gloves he’s sporting in the cover image–and what those gloves are holding–add to the menace.