Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sniffin' my undies

Willie Nelson said around the time of Teatro that if he could, Emmylou Harris would sing harmony on every song he recorded. It's too bad someone didn't hold lovable Willie to this when Jessica Simpson and Kermit the Frog came a calling. I have the feeling that Gram Parsons felt the same after Grievous Angel as probably did Bob Dylan following the completion of Desire. As much as I love Harris' Lanois-produced Wrecking Ball and the Lanois protégé Malcolm Burns-produced Red Dirt Girl, my favorite Emmylou albums are the guest spot ones above. Which is saying a lot because those are also among my all-time favorite albums.

In ode to chw and as a reaction to good feedback from Satisfied '75, here are top recordings that pair the two sexes.

"Perfect Day" Evan Dando & Kirsty MacColl
I am not a sap, but if I was, I'd quote the chorus penned by Lou Reed:
It's such a perfect day/I'm glad I spent it with you

Dando and MacColl both lead/led such full, yet tragic lives. Dando is a swirl of drugs, celeb-f*cking and unrealized songwriting potential. MacColl died at the height of her world music appeal in front of her two children because of the irresponsible actions of a wealthy Mexican businessman and his speedboat. This makes the idea of a perfect day is any day spent with you all the more powerful.


"In Spite of Ourselves" John Prine & Iris DeMent
This song was recently brought up at a wedding I attended. If you've lived in the South, you probably know a lovable couple like this.

He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays/I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies/He ain't too sharp but he gets things done/Drinks his beer like it's oxygen/He's my baby/And I'm his honey/Never gonna let him go


"Four Leaf Clover" Old 97's Rhett Miller & Exene Cervenka
This selection is as much about giving props to the vocal harmonizing of Cervenka and former husband John Doe as part of the band X, as it is recognizing this tune. Cervenka, like Harris, has become a voice so many younger bands would love to have on their albums. With this upbeat track, the Dallas band got so lucky.


"Fairytale of New York" The Pogues' Shane MacGowan & Kirsty MacColl
MacColl gets another nod for pairing with everyone's favorite slurrer on this classic holiday song set in a New York drunk tank.


"A Campfire Song" 10,000 Maniacs' Natalie Merchant & Michael Stipe/"Your Ghost" Kristin Hersh & Michael Stipe
If R.E.M. wasn't one of the biggest bands in the world, Stipe would be at the top of many's Most Underrated List -- right behind, I'm sure, Paul Westerberg. These two songs show the subtlety of his talents.

Ten years back, I saw 10,000 Maniacs (free tickets) perform at Universal Amphitheatre. Midway through the Maniacs' set, Merchant began "A Campire Song." On the recording of this song, Stipe plays a small, almost hushed part. On that night and minutes into the song, Merchant motioned to someone in the audience. Seconds later, motioned again. Stipe got up from his general-admission seat and walked down the aisle without much notice from the crowd. He reached the edge of the stage and Merchant leaned down. She handed him a mic and on perfect cue, they traded verses. The crowd went crazy.

I know this list leans heavy to alt country. And, I know it is far from complete. So with that, I turn it over to you.


At 8:40 PM, Blogger CHW said...

Excellent post. Agree with all. I would only add...

"Hungover Together" by Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers and Kelley Deal.


"Gimme Shelter" with Mick Jagger and Mary Clayton. I have yet to hear any woman throw down a vocal track as serious as Mary. She gives me chills...every single time.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

absolutely solid. i just sent you an email per this post in fact.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

appreciate the links as I dont know some of these!

At 8:45 AM, Blogger princessmalin said...

"Whiskey Lullaby" with Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.

She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette/
She broke his heart he spent his whole life tryin' to forget/
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time/
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous James said...

Speaking of 10,000 Maniacs/Stipe stuff, they do a stunning version of "To Sir to Love" from the Clinton inauguration party in 92. Not sure if you've heard it or not, but, it really captured the optimism of the time, at least when I look back on it now.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

"September When It Comes" with Roseanne and Johnny Cash is absolutely heartbreaking.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

And I'm sure the music snobs will pooh-pooh it, but I liked Loretta Lynn and Jack White's "Portland, Oregon."

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Luke said...

How could you forget Donnie and Marie doing "I'm a Little Bit Country..."? Sorry...couldn't resist. I'll shut up now.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger TripleJ said...

No snobs here ... keep'em coming. I'm learning about songs I didn't know ("Hungover Together"), seeking out some rarities I'd forgotten ("To Sir With Love") and kicking my ass for the ones ("September When It Comes") I would've included.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger tj1972 said...

Great list. There are a few I'd like to add, but there's one that jumped to mind which I am sure to get teased about later ... "As Soon As You Pick Up The Phone" with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Yeah, Conway is really talking, but this is just classic, and I love almost any Loretta Lynn duet. "Portland, Oregon" was a great addition as well as "Whiskey Lullaby". Nice.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

I love that Lorett/jack white number. Favorite line:

"sloe gin fizz goes mighty fast when you drink it from the pitcher and not by the glass, uh huh"

At 12:48 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Oh, shit, how can I forget Tom Waits and Bette Midler's "I Never Talk To Strangers," Tom Jones and Cerys Catatonia's "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Modern Nature" (Sondre Lerche and Lillian Samdall), or "Can't Go Home Again" (Tony Joe White and Shelby Lynne)?

At 2:06 PM, Blogger sasefina said...

You've got my mind on alt country so I'm struggling a little bit, but how about "Candy" with Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson (Satisfied, you put it on your playlist! I love that song!) and "We Will Become Silhouettes" from the Postal Service (Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley).

At 2:08 PM, Blogger CHW said...

Shit, there are so many...I forgot...

"You're Still Standin' There" by Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams.

Also, check out the duet with Thom Yorke and Bjork called "I've Seen It All". Totally creepy.

And the tune "God's Child" by David Byrne and Selena from the "Blue In The Face" soundtrack is killer.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger tastho said...

Sorry, this is heavy on the country but here goes: “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash , “Golden Ring” by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, “Flame In My Heart” by George Jones and Melba Montgomery, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty, “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” by Tammy Terrell & Marvin Gaye, “If I Needed You” by Emmylou Harris and Don Williams, “Way It Will Be” Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, “Going Back To Georgia” Nanci Griffith and Adam Duritz, “Picture” by Kid Rock and Allison Moorer (I prefer her rendition over Sheryl’s), and that new Neko Case and John Doe duet isn’t bad either…And for good measure a few guilty pleasures like “Islands In The Stream” by Dolly Parton & Kenny Rodgers and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John & Kiki Dee. And don’t even front, ya’ll know you know every word to both…As soon as I hit send, I’m going to think of 5 more. Like Buddy and Julie Miller. Shit, I can’t stop. And I haven’t even gone to the rock side yet.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Luke said...

Lyle Lovett and Francine Reed..."Here I Am"
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis..."Angry All The Time"
Radney Foster and Abra Moore..."I'm In"
Pigpen and Janis Joplin in the way olden days.
Tony Bennett and KD Lang's duets
Every Neil Young song that has Linda Ronstadt supplying harmonies (not sure if those count)
Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds' tunes in "Singin' in the Rain" (can't help it...love that movie)
Another Mick Jagger duet: this one with Bette Midler on "Beast of Burden"

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Luke said...

SO glad tastho mentioned the Elton and Kiki tune...I didn't have the guts. Good on ya!

Mentioning Nanci Griffith brought to mind her duet(s) with Townes.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Luke said...

A question: why the preponderence of country and alt-country tunes? Do male-female duets just not exist elsewhere in music?

At 2:59 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Two more to add to the fire: "Oh My Sweet Carolina" - Ryan Adams & Emmylou Harris. And what about a song or two featuring Victoria Williams and Mark Olson. Love stories don't get much better than that one.

At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon Says Listen Here:


At 4:21 PM, Anonymous James said...

Thought of another, the PJ Harvey and Thom York duet "The Mess We're In" on her Stories by the City... is devastating in a good way.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger tj1972 said...

To address Seldom Seen's question above, here are some recent non-country/alt-country duets that I think worked:

Nelly and Christina Aguilera, "Tilt Your Head Back"
Usher and Alicia Keys, "My Boo"
Pink and Steven Tyler, "Misery"

At 4:58 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

"Lemon Incest" with Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" and "Bonnie and Clyde" with Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, and Frank and Nancy Sinatra, "Something Stupid."

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up." Ray Charles and Diana Krall, "You Don't Know Me." Roy Orbison and kd lang, "Crying."

And dare I add Moon and Frank Zappa, "Valley Girl?" And I seem to recall something called "Fame 90," a remake David Bowie did for the "Pretty Woman" soundtrack with a Queen Latifah rap in the middle of it.

And did Kevin Spacey and Tom Cruise cover "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?" from "My Fair Lady" or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

At 5:08 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Adding to the comments: I prefer Nelly's song with Kelly Roland (though I like where you're taking it). Playing 'six degress' from that, Jay-Z's "03 Bonnie and Clyde" featuring Beyonce.

What a great video that was for "Don't Give Up."

I didn't want to go here, but since others did: "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes (somewhere at least Kathy Formagus is agreeing with me).

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Luke said...

tj1972: Being blissfully anachronistic, I know none of those duets you cite (though being an old fart, I do know who Steven Tyler is). But let me rephrase the question: does one find these M/F duets more often in the country/alt-country world than elsewhere? If so, why? If not, well, never mind.

While Gabriel/Bush and Roy/KD are awesome calls, Bankston rules because of his wishful thinking.

I am, however, starting to wonder about TripleJ.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

ok, I have to add that the Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips album has some nice duets.

Also, after Tj & TripleJ introduced me to Thad Cockrell I bought thr Cockrell/Caitlin Cary Duets album "begonias" which is great.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger sasefina said...

Ok, how about:

Diamonds and Pearls - Prince and Rosie Gaines
Elevator Love Letter and Heart - Stars
Letter from an Occupant - New Pornographers
Anything by Yo La Tengo

At 12:44 PM, Blogger celtopunk said...

Nick Cave/PJ Harvey - Henry Lee
Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue - Where the Wild Roses Grow

Lemmy (from Motorhead)/ Wendy O Williams (from the Plasmatics) - Stand by Your Man

Shane MacGowan /Sinead O'Connor - Haunted


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