Monday, February 14, 2011

Mickey Newbury

This news makes me very happy. Mickey Newbury's classic trio of albums from the early '70s, long out of print, are about to be reissued. Newbury was a Nashville outsider long before the days of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, etc. He didn't cultivate an outlaw image. He just wrote devastating songs about the downtrodden and the losers, and his album Looks Like Rain (one of the three about to be reissued) hit me right in my adolescent gut. His songs were unspeakably sad; little vignettes of lives unraveling in cheap motel rooms, lonely people sitting by themselves watching a phone not ring. It's no wonder Music City didn't know what to do with him. This wasn't glitzy Nashville heartbreak. This was the real, 3:00-a.m.-staring-at-the-ceiling deal.

Check out these albums and discover a songwriter's songwriter.



Mickey Newbury. The name may not be familiar to everyone, but the songs and the performers they are associated with should be: “An American Trilogy,” (Elvis Presley) “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” (Kenny Rogers and the First Edition) “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” (Jerry Lee Lewis), “Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings,” (Tom Jones) are just a few of the songs in the Newbury catalog.

He was a songwriter’s songwriter at the dawning of the era of the singer-songwriter, yet he was also an unknown name on the Billboard charts. His early success writing in Nashville and his selfless and relentless championing of his friends and contemporaries paved the way for Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and David Allen Coe. Newbury songs have, to date, been recorded over 1300 times by more than 1000 performers including Johnny Cash, Scott Walker, Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, the Box Tops, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Nick Cave. He is the only songwriter ever to have number one hits (with different songs) in the pop, country, R&B and easy listening charts within the space of one year (and three of those songs were in the charts simultaneously!). But Mickey Newbury himself was by far the best interpreter of his own songs.

A visionary album in the vein of Love’s Forever Changes and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Looks Like Rain immerses the listener into a vividly-painted emotional landscape of heartbreak, madness and despair tracked by the sound of wind chimes and rain. Mickey followed this masterpiece with another, 1970’s ‘Frisco Mabel Joy—recently voted number 6 in an Uncut reader’s poll of the 50 greatest ‘lost’ albums. Here he broadened the palette, incorporating the sound of the Nash philharmonic, an ‘orchestra’ consisting of electric and steel guitars, to produce what Mojo described as “an hallucinatory suite of sad, soulful songs”. The cycle of Cinderella Sound albums ended in 1973 with a third epic, Heaven Help The Child, by which time Mickey’s increasing confidence in the studio was clear and he had definitively laid out his stall as a recording artist.

Grammy winning engineer Steve Rosenthal and mastering engineer Jessica Thompson have restored the original analog master tapes believed for many years to have been destroyed in a fire but recently re-discovered in the Elektra records vault and created stunning new remasters of each album specifically for this release, making this the first ever CD issue of these landmark albums using the original tapes.

An American Trilogy provides a rich and compelling trip to the deep space of Mickey Newbury, one of the most extraordinary and unique artists in American popular music.


Spencer said...

tellin it like it is about MN - thank you; I am too emotional talking about Newbury but you've got some great information laid here - nice work. this is an exciting new release - I have all the LP's and the original box set but alas, they do great things in mastering now...I will be among the 1000 -fer sure

Spencer said...

any way to contact you directly?