Rob’s Apothecary – 11

As we are in the depths of winter, today’s post is most opportune


Charm: Squeeze a frog to death in the hand

Charm: Go toward the bed as if to get into it, but get under instead

Medicine: Tea of L’Herb Cabri (coatgrass)


Medicine (Cajun): Red wine in which a melted tallow candle has been mixed

Medicine: *Mamou tea made with the beans or the roots. Also, crapeau (toadgrass) tea

Treatment for pleural complications: Mare’s milk rubbed on the back of the neck will cure pleurisy

Medicine for croup: Powdered birdeye vine added to milk

Charm to prevent: Wear a dime and some salt in the heel of your shoe

* The Mamou plant whose seeds or roots are used to make the flu remedy is the native Erythrina herbacea, called Indian Bean, Cherokee Bean or Coral Bean. It is an 8- to 10-foot shrubby perennial plant that is sometimes killed back in winter, but returns from the roots in spring. It is propagated by its bright red seeds or by division of the clumps. Standing high above the foliage, 8- to 15-inch red tubular spiky flowers bloom off and on during the summer months.

Today’s Music (notes from All Music Guide)

Living Room Suite – Harry Chapin – 1978 – Listening to Living Room Suite today, you’d never know that it marked the commercial nadir of Harry Chapin‘s career — the songs have such touching and startling intimacy, and are so beautifully produced that it’s just a damn imposing record, just in the listening. Coming at the tail-end of the second disco boom, the cresting of punk, and the full flourishing of power pop, however, it got buried. When he opened up his heart on “Jenny,” it was a phenomenally personal moment, but that wasn’t the kind of love song that was selling in 1978; “Poor Damn Fool” was a wonderful song as well, with a glorious sound, but in tone and sound it was a million miles from “My Sharona”; “Flowers Are Red” was a startling ode to non-conformity, a subject much too serious for a pop record at the end of the 1970s; and “Dancin’ Boy” and “I Wonder What Would Happen to This World,” with their bluesy and gospel sounds, respectively, were even farther from what radio stations were playing. Of course, the very attributes that made Living Room Suite seem so dated in 1978 that neither of its singles charted makes it seem completely timeless and enduring today, as a body of music and a personal statement.

The Long Riders – Ry Cooder – 1977 – soundtrack for The Long Riders received a top-notch treatment from Warner Bros. (Japan), who not only did an excellent remastering job, but backed it up with English lyrics to the songs, notes, and a Japanese insert. Cooder was in fine form with this score, using original material, unusual and anachronistic instruments (saz, tamboura, electric guitar), and elements of traditional songs from the Civil War period. As a result, the album can be appreciated as a unique entity, away from the film — and bonded to the film, the music provides grace and power to the onscreen events.

Lonnie Mack and Pismo – Lonnie Mack – 1977 – Country-rock (mostly) from the versatile and unpredictable master picker. Pismo’s members included bassist Tim Drummond and keyboardist Stan Szelest (frequent Mack cohorts), while Troy Seals, Graham Nash, and David Lindley contributed to the product as well

Looky Here – Mike Morgan and the Crawl – 1996 Longtime frontman and vocalist Lee McBee left Mike Morgan’s the Crawl after the recording of Let the Dogs Run. Morgan chose to replace him not with another harpist but with Chris Whynaught, a powerful vocalist and saxophonist. His presence gives the band a stronger R&B edge, which revitalises the group’s Texas blues and makes Looky Here into their most enjoyable record in years

Lost In The Lonesome Pines – Jim Lauderdale – 2002 – Songwriter and vocalist Jim Lauderdale‘s second pairing with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley retains much of the vitality of 1999’s I Feel Like Singing Today, and if anything, the duo seems to have become more comfortable working together on Lost in the Lonesome Pines. One can only imagine the jitters Lauderdale must have felt working in the studio with one of American music’s true treasures, so the hints of apprehension revealed in the cracks of the earlier album have been brushed away, and the two sound like old pals sitting on a sunlit porch trading songs and licks. The gruff sentimentality in Lauderdale‘s lead vocals provides the perfect canvas for Ralph Stanley‘s high lonesome tenor to colour, echoing the close harmonies of the Stanley Brothers from 50 years earlier. In many ways, this album is reminiscent of the spectacular collaboration between Steve Earle and Del McCoury on The Mountain; both albums paired a respected maverick singer/songwriter with a legendary bluegrass figure, and the results on both are not quite bluegrass and not quite contemporary folk, but both feel just about right.

Rob’s Apothecary – 10

Two for the price of one today.


Treatment: Wrap in clay mud
(makes sense, early form of plaster I guess)


Cajun Treatment: If you burn your finger while lighting a cigarette, stick it quickly behind your ear

Charm for Burns: Read the ‘fire passage’ in the Bible. Those who know these passages never reveal them till their death, for to do so would cause them to lose the power

Today’s Music: (Reviews taken from the All Music Guide)

Just As I Am/Still Bill – Bill Withers – 2003  (first two albums were arguably his best works, his most personal and unaffected music with a distinctive sound by virtue of their lean production, especially his debut, Just As I Am. At the turn of the 1960s into the 1970s, he was a unique presence, as we’re reminded by this Raven Records two-LP-on-one-CD package. Withers‘ first album is otherwise unavailable on CD, and the mastering here brings the audio quality up dramatically, making the listening experience close and intimate, almost like a private studio performance. Withers‘ songs are so personal that they only gain intensity from this treatment — not just the original songs, such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” or “Grandma’s Hands,” but even his cover of “Let It Be.” The only real decision that fans will have to make concerns his second album, Still Bill, which is available in the United States with two live bonus tracks; for anyone owning this disc, buying Sony’s domestic release of that album may prove superfluous. As an added enticement, Raven has also included bonus tracks of “Better Days,” from the soundtrack to the movie Man and Boy, and a version of “It’s All Over Now,” by Withers and Bobby Womack.)

King Biscuit Time – Sonny Boy Williamson – features Sonny Boy‘s early Trumpet sides from 1951. The original “Eyesight to the Blind,” “Nine Below Zero” and “Mighty Long Time” are Sonny Boy at his very best. Added bonuses include Williamson backing Elmore James on his original recording of “Dust My Broom” and a live KFFA broadcast from 1965.

The Last of the Jelly Roll Kings – Frank Frost and Sam Carr – 2007 – Guitarist and harmonica player Frank Frost was essentially an Arkansas version of Jimmy Reed when he hooked up with drummer Sam Carr in the early ’50s. Carr, the son of bluesman Robert Nighthawk, and Frost worked in Nighthawk‘s band for several years before striking out as a duo in the early ’60s, and when they added guitar player and bassist Jack Johnson in 1962, they became the Jelly Roll Kings (although they wouldn’t use the name for a couple of years yet). Working the Reed side of the street with a distinct Mississippi juke-joint feel, the Kings recorded for the Sun, Jewel, and Earwig labels before Johnson left in the late ’80s — the original trio reunited in 1997 for Fat Possum’s Off Yonders Wall — after which Frost and Carr began working with an ever-rotating cast of guitarists, one of whom was Fred James. James ran tape on the Kings in Helena, AR, in 1998 for an album that was eventually released as The Jelly Roll Kings on Hightone Records a year later in 1999. James also released on his own R.O.A.D. Records a live Jelly Roll Kings set recorded by a Swiss radio crew at the 1993 Lucerne Blues Festival. This collection is made up of outtakes and alternates from the Helena sessions (the first ten tracks) and a few stray songs from the Lucerne gig (the last five tracks). There are no real surprises, since with the Kings what you got was what you got, and that generally meant no-frills Southern juke-joint jams with plenty of harp breaks from Frost. Highlights here include the lead track, “Better Take It Slow,” the spunky “Done with You,” and the majestic and ragged “St. Louis Serenade.”

The Natch’l Blues – Taj Mahal – 1968 – second album, recorded in the spring and fall of 1968, opens with more stripped-down Delta-style blues in the manner of his debut, but adds a little more amplification (partly courtesy of Al Kooper on organ) before moving into wholly bigger sound on numbers like “She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride” and “The Cuckoo” — the latter, in particular, features crunchy electric and acoustic guitars and Gary Gilmore playing his bass almost like a lead instrument, like a bluesman’s answer to John Entwistle. Most notable, however, may be “You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til Your Well Runs Dry)” and “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” which offer Taj Mahal working in the realm of soul and treading onto Otis Redding territory. This is particularly notable on “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which achieves the intensity of a gospel performance and comes complete with a Stax/Volt-style horn arrangement by Jesse Ed Davis that sounds more like the real thing than the real thing. “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” by contrast, is driven by a hard electric guitar sound and a relentless bass part that sounds like a more urgent version of the bassline from the Spencer Davis Group‘s “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

Natural Born Days – Tommy Malone – 2013

Nick The Knife – Nick Lowe – 1982 – Following the dissolution of Rockpile, Nick Lowe recorded Nick the Knife with the group’s guitarist, Billy Bremner, and drummer, Terry Williams, accentuating the real reason behind the band’s split — the difference between Dave Edmunds‘ rigid roots-rock and Lowe‘s carefree, funny revisionism. Nick the Knife may work in the conventions of classic rock & roll and pop, but it never sounds enslaved to his roots — any record with a song as infectiously ridiculous as “Ba Doom” can’t take itself too seriously, and that’s the charm of the album. While the songs aren’t as consistently strong as those on Labour of Lust, Lowe contributes a handful of classics, including “Heart,” “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Shine,” “Too Many Teardrops,” “Burning,” “Queen of Sheba,” “Couldn’t Love You (Any More Than I Do),” and the silly “Zulu Kiss.” And even in its weakest moments, Nick the Knife has a sunny, relaxed charm that makes the album a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson – 1971 – Nilsson had a hit, a Grammy, and critical success, yet he still didn’t have a genuine blockbuster to his name when it came time to finally deliver a full-fledged follow-up to Nilsson Sings Newman, so he decided it was time to make that unabashed, mainstream pop/rock album. Hiring Barbra Streisand producer Richard Perry as a collaborator, Nilsson made a streamlined, slightly domesticated, unashamed set of mature pop/rock, with a slight twist. This is an album, after all, that begins by pining for the reckless days of youth, then segues into a snapshot of suburban disconnectedness before winding through a salute to and covers of old R&B tunes (“Early in the Morning” and “Let the Good Times Roll,” respectively), druggie humor (“Coconut”), and surging hard rock (“Jump Into the Fire”). There are certainly hints of the Nilsson of old, particularly in his fondness for Tin Pan Alley and McCartney melodicism — as well as his impish wit — yet he hadn’t made a record as cohesive as this since his first time out, nor had he ever made something as shiny and appealing as this. It may be more accessible than before, yet it’s anchored by his mischievous humour and wonderful idiosyncrasies. Chances are that those lured in by the grandly melodramatic “Without You” will not be prepared for either the subtle charms of “The Moonbeam Song” or the off-kilter sensibility that makes even his breeziest pop slightly strange. In short, it’s a near-perfect summary of everything Nilsson could do; he could be craftier and stranger, but never did he achieve the perfect balance as he did here.