1997, Streaming Now
1st May 2018
Palace Music - For The Mekons, Et Al - Streaming Now
The go-to venue in Chicago in the mid-1990s was Lounge Ax. It was there that the first Drag City Invitational occurred, where all active DC artists performed sets over multiple nights; the running order was determined by drawn lot. It was easily Will Oldham’s favorite venue at the time. It was decided that a 7” single containing two songs from a 1994 Palace Show would be released, in support of the venue that was now facing threats of having to close doors for permanent. The band included Charlie Snell (drums), Pooh Johnston (keys), and Jason Stith (bass). The recording was made by Steve Good. The songs chosen were “For the Mekons, et al” (the ‘studio’ version of this song is on the compilation HEY DRAG CITY) and “Stable Will”. The record came in a plain white sleeve and with a paper ID slip included in case a jukebox owner wanted to throw the single onto a machine.
Palace Music - Lost Blues And Other Songs - Streaming Now
The 1990s were a time of transition in the music business; but then, what decade isn’t? Vinyl was on its way out and compact discs were embraced by most buyers. The 7” single already had a limited audience: a potential buyer needed to have access to a store that carried singles; the buyer had to have a functioning record player; the buyer needed the energy and dedication required to perform the act of putting a single onto her record player (possibly having t insert a wide-hole-to-small-hole vinyl adapter into the record or onto the player), changing the speed to 45 rpm, and then flipping the record 3-6 minutes later in order to the B-side. Many folks were just giving up altogether, going with the flow and neglecting the vinyl format in favor of CDs. It was with this in mind that Will Oldham and Drag City decided it might be time to assemble most of the Palace music that had been released over the previous years in one compiled album, LOST BLUES AND OTHER SONGS. Audiences had responded strongly to the material hitherto only available on 7” vinyl records, with “Ohio River Boat Song”, “Horses”, and “West Palm Beach” among the most-loved in the live repertoires of Oldham-assembled ensembles. It wasn’t an all-inclusive compilation, as it was deemed to be more essential that the record work as a record rather than just as a document or collection. It ought to reward the listener. So songs (“Drinking Woman”) were left off, and unreleased material (“Valentine’s Day” and an early recording of “Riding”) were brought in. The cover featured a big black rectangle that Oldham intended as a mershed Rothko reference. The font was lifted from Madonna’s BEDTIME STORIES (which contained the Bjork composition “Travelling”, inspiring Oldham’s “(End of) Travelling”). Oldham dedicated the comp to the Royal Trux and to Paul Greenlaw for their powerful inspiration. Supplementary artwork was commissioned from the great Steve Keene. Keene was asked to make full-color and monochromatic paintings that could be used in print ads and posters. Keene, in exchange for a big box of Drag City records, painted over 50 amazing pieces, all coincidentally executed on (and dated) Oldham’s birthday.
Will Oldham - Patience - Streaming Now
Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Joya - Streaming Now
It was a twisted road that led to the record called JOYA. Someone played a sweet trick on Will Oldham and on the Dirty Three: each was told that the other artist had expressed an interest in meeting and collaborating. It was a nice gambit. Oldham met Mick Turner in London and they hit it off right away. Oldham suggested that the Dirty Three meet him in Cotati, California to make a record. The Dirty Three agreed. After the (artistic) success of ARISE THEREFORE, Oldham didn’t want to mess too much with a formula and so he invited Ned Oldham and David Grubbs back for the Cotati session, as well as Tiffany White from the Memphis “Lost Blues” recording session. At the last minute, the Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis got separated from his passport and couldn’t make the beginning of the session. That’s when the heavy lifting tends to get done. Oldham mini-panicked and called in Colin Gagon to bring his accordion skills to the session. Steve Albini was the recordist. Once again, as had happened in Hueytown and Cannon Falls, Albini had to expend some serious effort getting the 2” tape machines up to acceptable working order. Ellis was able to get a new passport in time to arrive during the overdub/mix part of the process. Overall, there was a lack of an emotional center to the whole affair due to the scheduling chaos, and when Oldham played the finished record for Drag City, back in Chicago, he realized that the record wasn’t something that should be released. He went back to the studio in North Liberty, Iowa where he had recorded BLACK RICH MUSIC and re-recorded all of the songs from the Cotati sessions, this time alone with a guitar. It was from this recording that the songs “Patience” and “Take However Long You Want” were pulled for a 7” single release.
Over the following months, the rest of the songs from the Cotati session were worked and reworked. All was not lost; about half of the recordings ended up on singles and an EP, and friendships were struck between Oldham and Jim White and Mick Turner that would bear fruit in years to come. The rest of the songs were rebuilt and a further handful of songs came into being in the hope that Oldham could make a full-length record. Oldham invited David Pajo to Birmingham, Alabama. The idea was that the two of them would make a record, with Pajo engineering, at Ned Oldham’s house while Ned and his wife were out of town. Things didn’t click. Oldham felt like he was forcing the issue and decided to give the whole thing a rest, fooling himself into thinking that he was through with making music altogether. Dan Koretzky from Drag City suggested that they give the record one more try, with Koretzky and Rian Murphy acting as producers. Oldham again asked Pajo (drums), Gagon (bass and piano), and Bob Arellano (guitar) to join him at the Chicago Recording Company with the CRC house engineer at the board. It was exciting to be on those premises; R Kelly had worked extensively there on his R record, and Slint’s SPIDERLAND was also made there. The session was booked last-minute over the 4th of July holiday weekend. Tracking and mixing were completed in four days. A good time was had by all. The front cover of the record features a photo by Bryan Rich of his pet goat “Chevre” in Bujumbura, Burundi. Oldham visited Rich in Burundi and they ate the goat. The back cover features a photo by Joe Oldham. The LP sleeve was plain brown cardboard with the name of the record printed in black; the sleeve was die-cut to reveal the label artwork which was the above-mentioned photographs. The CDs themselves were gold in color rather than the standard silver (inspired by early entries in Smithsonian-Folkways Music of Indonesia series), and the CD trays were made of a smooth shiny black plastic instead of the standard textured charcoal gray plastic. The record was named JOYA and given the artist credit “Will Oldham” so that the stores and distributors would be able to find a place to put it.