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Let’s Get Obscure

Posted by purplemary54 on May 2, 2013

Chet Baker liked to get lost.  I like to get obscure.  Specifically, I like to listen to musicians hardly anyone else has ever heard of.  They’re not completely unheard of, because they’ve almost all got websites and recordings available for purchase.  Some of them have even had major label recording contracts. And Top Forty hits.  Granted, most of these hits were their songs as recorded by other artists, but it’s better than toiling in complete obscurity forever.

Jules Shear made the charts with “If She Knew What She Wants” (via The Bangles).  After succeeding and disappearing with the Hooters, Eric Bazilian hit it big with “One of Us” (as sung by Joan Osborne).  And sometimes I’m pretty sure the only reason anyone ever heard of John Hiatt is because Bonnie Raitt made him famous (by recording “Thing Called Love.”)  An interesting pattern is developing here: These guys all had hits recorded by women.  Jules Shear has added feminine cache by being the former boyfriend (and musical subject) of the wry and witty Aimee Mann (his version of their break-up is a lot more bitter than hers).  Turns out there’s a great male singer-songwriter behind a lot of great female musicians and singers.

But those aren’t behind tonight’s obscurity (and I know that any followers on the East Coast will be getting this tomorrow; I’m running a little late tonight).  Tonight, my computer decided to remind me of the hidden treasure that is Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith’s Evidence.  This is one of those albums I wouldn’t have heard if it wasn’t for the record reviews in Rolling Stone, which I still read to this day.  Back in 1989, RS gave the disc 3 and 1/2 stars and a stellar write-up (note to anyone interested in using RS reviews as a buying guide: pay more attention to the write-up; the stars are kind of arbitrary).  Based on that review, I went down to Tower records and picked up a copy of Evidence on cassette.  I was never sorry.

There’s really not a clunker in the bunch, but the song that came up tonight was “The First Chill of Winter.” It starts out soft, but there’s an ominous rumble beneath the delicately plucked guitar.  “I believe, I believe, I just felt the first chill of winter.  Was it me?  Was it you?  Who let the cold in here?”  This is a break-up song extraordinaire (hint: winter is a metaphor for the end of the relationship).  But it builds from the worried implication of the beginning to a vaguely hymnal sound, the singer exhorting someone to “Get up, get up, get up.”  There’s a strangely inspirational feeling to the second half of the song, as if the singer knows the relationship is over, but keeps fighting anyway.  I find it kind of uplifting, even though it’s really not a happy song.

I hope you go out and hunt down some obscure little gem of your own, that song you haven’t heard for years, but still remember every word to (and I’d love to hear about any lesser known wonders you’ve already found).  I found a new copy of this on CD some years ago, probably trolling through the used bins at Fingerprints.  I’m still not sorry I bought it twice.


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