Tuesday, September 13, 2016

                                                                September 14, 2016


Interview with author Tom Wilmeth about his new book on music, 

Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening (Muleshoe Press, 2016)


Question:  Your new Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening book has a lot of Bob Dylan in it.  How are these essays different from what’s already out there?

Tom Wilmeth:  I try to look at a few unexplored topics.  I have a piece that examines the edits made to Dylan’s introductory remarks just before his “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” recitation on The Bootleg Series.

Question:  That sounds pretty obscure.  You mean you compare the released Bootleg Series version of the work to the unedited, unreleased recording?

Tom Wilmeth:  Right.  Some interesting things were cut from that introduction.  I also have an article that discusses Dylan’s use of different keys when playing songs in concert.  That’s one where I learned a lot about Bob’s ability as a musician.

Question:  How so?

Tom Wilmeth:  It gets pretty involved, but I’ll summarize by saying that Bob’s guitar skills are underrated.

Question:  What else do you cover in Sound Bites that relates to Dylan?

Tom Wilmeth:  I include my 1978 interview with Eric Weissberg, where I ask him about his involvement with Blood on the Tracks.  Both Weisberg and his band, Deliverance, had some interesting things to say about that session.

Question:  I assume you have the normal stuff like concert and CD reviews?

Tom Wilmeth:  Right.  Dylan concerts since 1974 and various album releases.  I also review some books that have fallen off most Dylan radars.

Question:  Such as?

Tom Wilmeth:  One by Dave Engel from 1997 jumps to mind, called Just like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues.  It goes deep in to Bob’s Hibbing days.  I spoke with the author, and he had really done his Hibbing homework.  Useful book.

Question:  And is Sound Bites a useful book?

Tom Wilmeth:  I believe that it is.  I think lovers of music will really enjoy it.  In addition to my pieces on Dylan, I have a detailed discussion of the history of Hank Williams’ releases, and a piece that praises 8-track tapes.  I include my interviews with jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, and concert reviews from Stevie Wonder to Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland to Dwight Yoakam to Yes.  It is a varied collection.

Question:  Back to Bob, as we wrap up.  Anything else distinctive about your book regarding Dylan? 

Tom Wimeth:  I guess I would say that Dylan’s presence permeates my writing about music.  There are pieces on specific topics, such as one that discusses jazz recordings of his songs.  But Bob Dylan has been so important to my musical life, he can’t help but appear throughout all the sections of my book.  And he does.

Tom Wilmeth’s new book is called Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening.  It is on the Muleshoe Press, and is available on Amazon.



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26, 2016
I am back.  My book -- Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening -- should be available soon, on the prestigious Muleshoe Press.  Keep checking back.

In the mean time, here is a review of Lyle Lovett's recent concert at The Pabst:

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band                       
Pabst Theater
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
July 23, 2016
Review by Tom Wilmeth

The two words that repeatedly came to my mind during Lyle Lovett’s concert at The Pabst Theater on Saturday were “generosity” and “faith.”

This Texas native is the most generous of performers.  He would not need to carry a backing band of over a dozen musicians with him on tour.  That has to be expensive.  He would not need to make certain that each musician is featured – either within a tune or with an individual selection.  But Lovett does.  And his generosity extends to the audience, presenting them with two-and-a-half hours of excellent music. 

The generosity Lovett displays to those around him relates closely to the evening’s unmistakable theme of faith.  Joining the Large Band for part of each concert is a Gospel Choir, selected from a church in the community where the band is performing. 

After an instrumental “Blues Walk” that showcased the group’s piano, steel guitar, violin, acoustic bass, electric guitar, cello, and four-piece horn section – front man Lovett entered to sing three distinctively gospel-tinged selections: “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord,” “I Will Rise Up,” and Lovett’s own “Church,” a song about making a preacher so hungry that he stops preaching.

The set list contained many crowd pleasers, including “She’s No Lady,” “Here I Am,” “North Dakota,” and “That’s Right (you’re not from Texas).”  Francine Reed was given her own vocal spotlight on “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” and Luke Bulla played a fiddle tune, “The Temperance Reel,” with Lovett remaining on stage to observe in admiration.  But in spite of some individual solo spots, this was a concert of ensemble performances.  Drummer Russ Kunkel and acoustic bassist Viktor Krauss took few solos.  They instead seemed to be featured constantly, providing tasteful and interesting rhythmic backing for this night of varied music.

Similar to performances by Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett takes time during concerts to honor his own musical heritage.  He spoke of the recent loss of Guy Clark, and recalled an acoustic show that he and Clark had played at this same venue.  It seemed clear that the speaker was in awe of Guy Clark – as a musician, but also as a person.  Stories of their friendship preceded Lovett’s performance of Clark’s most introspective number, “Step Inside This House.” 

Later in the concert, Lovett described the importance of a favorite school principal who had recently died.  Lovett’s cousin asked Lyle to sing “I’ll Fly Away” at the principal’s funeral.  Initially crestfallen that one of his own songs had not been requested, Lovett complied.  He told the audience he soon realized that – even in death – this man was teaching him new things, for Lovett needed to learn the chord changes to this song before playing it at the funeral.

If any somberness lingered after “I’ll Fly Away,” it was quickly dispelled.  “Well,” said the performer, adjusting his capo to a very high fret, “We don’t do a lot of political songs, but we’ll do this one.”  And with that, Lovett went into the opening finger-picking pattern of “If I Had a Boat,” one of his best loved (and decidedly apolitical) numbers.  

As with the beginning of this concert, its conclusion also featured a trilogy of songs about faith.  The Gospel Choir returned, and the combined 20-piece ensemble of singers and large band instrumentalists performed “I’m Gonna Wait ‘til My Savior Comes for Me,” “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Going to the Place,” and (as the encore) “Savior, Hear My Humble Cry.”  As the Gospel Choir departed the stage for the last time, Lovett applauded and smiled, telling the audience:  “And you can hear them again tomorrow morning at church!”  It sounded to me like Lovett planned to be there.