Tuesday Evening Listening: When You Awake Mixtapes

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Our pal Jody over at When You Awake has a new mixtape up, put together by Akron/Family member Dana Janssen. It’s called Top 10 Songs To Ride A Bike Thru NYC To and it features pedal-pushing hits from Harvey Milk, Fela, Tinariwen and Lil Wayne. It’s an annotated mixtape, naturally, so you can also look for tips on what to look out for (curbs) and drink after the ride (kombucha). Check it out here.

She also reminds us that Akron/Family will be playing a three-night run at the Steve Allen Theatre here in Los Angeles on March 10, 11 and 12, no doubt previewing material from their new album, Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free, due out on May 5. The show is presented by Arthur and Aquarium Drunkard, and all you need to know is found by clicking here.

While you’re over at When You Awake you should also totally check out their double-disc set of post-Valentine’s Day jams, Music For The Morning After, featuring one disc of songs selected by bands like Vetiver, Howlin Rain and Beachwood Sparks. Disc two has another set of jams picked by writers, bloggers and DJs including Aquarium Drunkard, Little Radio, and a very special foresty nugget contributed by your humble Arthur Magazine contributing editor. Go get it here.

More on our selection, Kate Wolf’s “Early Morning Melody,” plus a bonus track after the jump.

A couple years ago your contributing editor was “getting lifted” with Nabob from Brightblack, backstage at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. We were looking at the wall covered with all of the shots of people playing at the historic Southern California club — Robbie Basho, Townes Van Zandt, Michelle Shocked and on and on — when Nabob paused at one image of a young woman folk singer. “That’s Kate Wolf, man,” he said. “That woman’s voice is the sound of Northern California wilderness.” I’d never heard of her, and considering Nabob’s last recommendation to me was Sandy Bull‘s E Pluribus Unum — possibly one of the most melted psychedelic guitar raga records the West has ever produced — I went out in search of her tunes.

The song “Early Morning Melody” is from her 1979 album Safe At Anchor (and can also be found on the 2000 anthology Weaver of Visions) . It’s an incredibly melodic bit of country folk — killer steel guitar — filled with sweet images of domestic life shared by two musicians: Wolf sings about listening to her lover getting up before sunrise and picking out songs, singing to “the coffee pot and kitchen wall.”

Wolf died of leukima in 1986 at the age of 44 and though I have no personal connection to her, I always get choked up over it when I listen to this song. I’m also susceptible to bouts of sentimentality as Wolf’s tunes are perfect for sitting on the front porch, reminiscing with a brew or two. The imagery is so personal, it leads me to think about how much she must be missed by whoever she wrote it for. Yeah yeah weepy cheeseball but seriously: You gotta hear this song.

On a lighter note … There’s a festival named after her that’s held annually in Laytonville, a small town in Northern California’s Mendocino County. The 2009 festival is scheduled for June 26-28 and features Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Richard Thompson, for starters. Yow. We should totally go, actually. More info at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival site.

On to the bonus track: Will Oldham contributed a gorgeous version of “Early Morning Melody” to the compilation that went along with the 2002 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival curated by Shellac. Here it is for your listening pleasure: Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “Early Morning Melody”

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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