Brian, June, Johnny, Bill Monroe, and Me

If you know me, you know that my musical taste is pathologically eclectic. Today, I’m listening to June Carter Cash and Will the Circle Be Unbroken and things like that. Yesterday I was listening to Brian Eno and John Cale.

I’m not the only one with strange tastes like this — that transition was not nearly as weird as it sounds, and was sparked by, among other things, the arrival of a rare 45RPM single that I won on ebay last week: a recording of Brian Eno singing June’s song, “Ring Of Fire.”Even though Eno is one of the founding fathers of electronica and ambient music, the music closest to his heart is much simpler, and I’ve written previously about his love for harmony singing and simple songs.

The arrival of the 45 coincided with a friend pointing out an episode of This American Life in which the lovely and snarky Sarah Vowell argues, convincingly, that Johnny and June were the great love story of the 20th century. There are other possibilities of course, even in music — Tammi dying in Marvin’s arms, for one — but the length and depth of their relationship, their tenderness and toughness, the challenges they overcame, the life they built together, was really amazing. And no one’s better suited to talk about that than Sarah Vowell.

Tomorrow is the first day of February, and you all know what that means. So, I thought I’d jump the gun a bit by posting a non-original song. This is a Bill Monroe tune, the Lonesome Moonlight Waltz. A great fiddler who comes to the jam I host almost every week plays it frequently, and I invariably screw it up. The chords are quite complicated for a fiddle tune, and the melody is somewhat tricky in that it deceives you into thinking you should use one harmonica position when in fact you should use another. So I finally sat down and learned it for real, and since I love the tune so much I recorded it. Not really for posterity so much as to remind myself of how to play it.

And, a very deliberately buried lede: After approximately four years of thinking “I really should” and a few months of sporadic work, I have finally updated my web site. Check out the new I haven’t done a links page or credits page yet but mary_wroth deserves very special credit; the photo I’m using as the main icon on the site is one she took last year at the Good Coffeehouse.

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