2.18.2007

If I Were a Carpenter

Time for a bluegrassy post, y'all:

Here's some info for you, something that i learned from a good picker here in Charleston: next time you're playing a gig and you're finishing up that last song make sure one of your band members (or your tech, if you're fancy enough to have one) has a finger near the cd player. The moment you hit that last note, turn on your background music.

When my buddy Allen told me about this i realized i'd heard it done hundreds of times at larger shows, but never really considered how important it was. But even playing a little beach bar it makes a big difference. It re-directs what is usually an awkward and silent expectancy from your audience members toward a new business-as-usual tye of background noise.

Number two on the bill:

Singer/songwriter Tim Hardin wrote a song called "If I Were a Carpenter" long about ...oh, say, 1965. It was made popular by singer Bobby Darin. Not that it really matters, but Tim Hardin died of an overdose in 1974. And not that this really matters that much either, but had he stuck around he would probably be laughing into his mailbox because of the number of near-daily royalty checks he would receive because of this little tune.

You've probably heard it:

If i were a Carpenter
would you be my lady?
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?


Well, this is one of the tunes on the cd player that we turn on between sets--just like in the way i described above. It's a fine bluegrass version by Bill Emerson and Cliff Waldron. Today at a show i thought--much like i think at every show--Man, i gotta learn that song.

Alright. #3: When you're gonna do a cover of someone's song, you gotta know somethin' about its provenance. The art of doing a great cover is (1) to pick a great song--known but perhaps not too known and one you think you might improve with your own twist, and (2) to recognize the double responsibility of making the song your own while paying homage to the original version.

(a quick note: now, in bluegrass music there's really no such thing as a "cover" by the way. any bluegrass song is practically community-held property from the moment it is written. Now, that doesn't mean that you don't do the "pay homage" thing, it just means that doing someone else's song in bluegrass is so business-as-usual that you don't even call it a cover--you just call it a song.)

You know something? I couldn't write a short post if my life depended on it.


Anyway: So i did my homework.... Because of this cover thing..... And because of the responsibility thing and everything. You with me?

Okay, so i got on itunes to get both the Bobby Darin version and the Tim Hardin version. I already know the Emerson/Waldron version. Well, get a load of this: here is a partial list of people that have done covers of If I Were a Carpenter:

Johnny and June Carter Cash, Harry Belafonte, The Four Tops, Luka Bloom, Doc Watson, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, The Small Faces, The Seldom Scene, The Warren J. 5, The Electric Rubyyat, Thomasina, Dave Moody, Randy Newman, Robert Plant, Swanee...and on and on. Give it a listen. You'll have to hear it on there. i don't think i'll be doing it.

1 comment:

Bookninja said...

If you can afford it, get a subscription to emusic. It is legal, it is cheaper than itunes, it has no digital rights management and the sound quality is much higher. The catch? It doesn't have super popular stuff like Pink and Snoop Dog. I can hear you crying. In any case, check it out, they give you a bunch of free songs (forever) just for stopping by.