Today’s Spin: Gram Parsons “Grievous Angel”

gram-1Thursday night after the Nick Cave Documentary at the Capitol Theater we motored down Detroit to catch the 2nd set of The New Soft Shoe; Cleveland’s Gram Parsons tribute.  We rarely get to see them perform because they mostly do one night at month at the Happy Dog.  Every once in a great while you will catch them doing a one off weekend gig here and there, but for the most part you’ll find them at Happy Dog on at least one random Thursday night every month.

The New Soft Shoe is a collaboration of musicians you will find in many other bands around town.  Brent Kirby does the majority of the vocals, Al Moss on Pedal Steel, Tom Prebish on Bass, Andy Leach on guitar, Jon Niefeld tucked away on drums, and Chris Hanna on keys.  I cannot attest to the live performance of Parsons himself but I kind of imagine these guys might pull it off just as good if not better.  Parsons was known for writing amazing songs just as much as he was known for partying way too hard.  Parsons album Live 1973 is actually a decent recording of the band in action, but you will not come across many live videos or shows online.  So, the next best thing to Parsons is actually right here in Cleveland.

Gram Parsons has a decidedly mixed reputation as a country artist for people who don’t like country music.  He is the father of Cosmic American Music.  Fringe country, alternative country, Americana; call it what you want his influence stretches generations.  So does the New Soft Shoe show.  There are old timers and younger hipsters enjoying the spin Kirby and the crew put on the Godfather of Americana.  They pick songs from his time with the Byrds, International Submarine Band, Flying Burrito Brothers and his small but mighty solo releases.

photograph-dominique-tarleI was never a huge Parsons guy until I saw these guys play his songs.  I liked him sure but I would never go seek out an album from that guy that got covered by Nazareth.  What an awful version of that song that is for the record.  So I started trying to compile his catalog after the first show I saw at the Happy Dog a few years back.  My humble opinion, the Byrds suck without him, The Flying Burrito Brothers suck without him as well.  His GP self titled album is excellent but Grievous Angel is pretty amazing all the way through.  It’s hard to say here’s my favorite tracks on this album so I will say this “I can’t Dance” is pretty much the only song I am not a huge fan of.  This record has “Brass Buttons”, “$1,000 Wedding”, “Love Hurts”, and “Ooh Las Vegas” to name a few.

The more you learn about the Parsons the more you understand the legend behind the man.  Even the quirky Johnny Knoxville flick Grand Theft Parsons isn’t half bad.  A movie based on the theft of Parsons dead body, and what great lengths his road manager Phil Kaufman took to give Gram his burial at Joshua Tree National Park.  Granted it was horribly botched and at times come off as a comedy of errors, the movie isn’t a bad way to kill a Saturday afternoon.  Neither is spinning this record for that matter.

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