301. Hey Joe

Jimi Hendrix didn’t write Hey Joe but he definitely owned it, a song that many tried their hand at back in the day, but nobody else came close until 1975 when the band known as Spirit dropped a loose, meandering impression that didn’t bother trying to measure up, just wandered beautifully off in its own cool direction. Philip Random remembers stumbling onto it in the late 1980s sometime. “The album Spirit of 76. I think I paid two bucks for it, two records, four sides of mostly easy (yet weird) reflections on the theme of America, two hundred years young and rather confused as nation states go. Because come 1976, The Vietnam War had just been lost, Richard Nixon had finally been jettisoned, the whole hippie thing was fading fast with nothing palpable (yet) to fill the void. So yeah, Spirit’s casually wasted take on the murder ballad in question made perfect sense.”

spirit-1975

502. country death song

The Violent Femmes‘ debut album tends to get most of the hype, but the follow up Hallowed Ground is better. It goes deeper, rocks harder, bites more fiercely, covers more ground. And it kicks off with Country Death Song, a murder ballad that gets all the more harrowing when you realize that Gordon Gano was still in high school when he wrote it.  The opposite of a feel-good unless you just can’t enough of that those toe tapping backwoods American myths and legends and brutal truths.

violentFEMMES-1984-promo