Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day to honor the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, and those that did not. It was a black mark on Canada’s history and this day is a step toward repairing the damage that was done. I chose today to honor Robbie Robertson, whose mother was both Cayuga and Mohawk. Robbie would often visit Six Nations Reserve to visit family and it was there that he learned to play guitar. So we have the peoples of Six Nations to partly thank for the incredible music Robbie has given us.
Songs From Big Pink by The Band. No, not the band Steel Panther, although that title suits them perfectly, but The Band. They began as The Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, then later were the backing band for Bob Dylan. In the late 1960’s Bob Dylan lived in Woodstock NY and The Band took up residence in nearby West Saugerties NY. The siding on the West Saugerties home was pink, hence the nickname Big Pink. Not only this album but also Dylan’s The Basement Tapes were first played there. In fact 100’s of songs were conceived there in a short period of time. The talent level in that home may have been unlike any other home ever. The Band went to studios in NYC and Los Angeles to record this album but they wanted it to sound just like it did in the basement.
Tears Of Rage – One of 3 songs on the album that Dylan had a had in. Robbie’s guitar wails so amazingly on this one I could swear it was an organ. The keys work is amazing, the drums so pronounced, the horns hauntingly creepy and even the rattlesnake-like tambourine set this album off on an amazing musical journey.
To Kingdom Come – The bass is more pronounced here. It has both piano and organ work, both excellent. The vocals are amazing of course. It is The Band. However, I think Robbie’s guitar work may be the best part of this song, and that’s saying a lot.
In A Station – Old timey keys start this one off. It could have been a throwback song played in a western saloon during the gold rush. However it was more modern. A mix of clavinet and piano that sounds very psychedelic at times but 100 years old at others.
Caledonia Mission – I’m always happy to see the name of a Canadian town in a song title. Not surprising since 4 of the 5 members are Canadian. Again Robbie’s guitar may the best part of this song, but the keys and vocal harmonies are really great as well.
The Weight – What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said? A perfect song that we’ve all heard a million times.
Time to flip the record over folks.
We Can Talk – Thankfully it’s not a Joan Rivers song. It’s just a song with great vocal harmonies and even a shuffle beat.
Long Black Veil – A haunting song originally done by Lefty Frizzell. Lefty has that old man whistling ‘s’ sound that reminds me of the creepy old dude on Family Guy though. Johnny Cash does an amazing version. However, this version is perfect. SOOO GOOD!! One of those few examples of a cover that is better than the original.
Chest Fever – Those keys. Those amazing keys. The wicked drums. The unique guitar work. Another perfect song. The vocal harmonies and amazing production by John Simon are enough to make Brian Wilson go crazy. Sorry(how Canadian of me), bad choice of words. One of the heavier songs in The Band’s repertoire, and one of the best.
Lonesome Suzie – This one has an almost Motown like soul sound to it. Robbie switches up the guitar tone (I assume he used a unique guitar on this one).
This Wheels On Fire – Early wah pedal funkiness and psychedelic keys mixed with Bob Dylan co-writing credits can never be a bad thing.
I Shall Be Released – The album closer is the only one written entirely by Bob Dylan. As usual it is written wonderfully. A different version was used on The Basement Tapes, however I much prefer The Band version. Richard Manuel’s vocals here are so high and so right.
Since today was also called Orange Shirt Day I wore my orange Miami Dolphins jersey while I wrote this. I suggest to all my fellow Canadians to don your orange shirts and play some music by indigenous artists. This one might be a great place to start.