My musical diet in recent months has kinda fallen off the radar. I’m as likely to listen to some unknown band I stumbled across on Bandcamp, or someone’s online mix of obscurities, as I am to pull out something by an established artist.
The Los Angeles-based music blog Aquarium Drunkard is one of my recent favorites, posting mixes of independent or lesser-known music on a fairly regular basis. (Their Thanksgiving: Late Autumn Light mix was a particular favorite; it seemed to work very nicely with that time of year.)
Not long ago, Aquarium Drunkard posted a mix by Andy Cabic, a folk singer-songwriter who performs under the name Vetiver.
I’m not a huge fan of solo artists who hide behind band names — just put your own damn name on the record already — but I can’t argue with the Vetiver collection, which runs the gamut from echoey Spanish-language pop to Fifties summer-love balladry to snarly Lou Reed-style garage-rock.
Not to mention the tune that has my ear tonight: “Country Mover” by Claire Lawrence, which sticks out as the only song I’ve ever heard that was a straight-on Jefferson Airplane rip. What “30 Days in The Hole” is to the Stones, or maybe even “Lies” is to the Beatles, “Country Mover” is to the ‘Plane.
I have no idea if it was intentional or not, as I know nothing of Claire Lawrence. Google doesn’t say much except to mention that Mr. Lawrence — I’m presuming his is the male lead voice, not the female harmony — released an album called Leaving You Free in 1973 on a Canadian record label, Haida. (Canadian folk veteran Valdy was a labelmate.)
I do know the following, though:
– Lawrence possesses a voice in the same range and timbre as Paul Kantner’s, only vaguely less creaky around the edges. He phrases like Kantner too.
– Lawrence and his unnamed female harmony partner seem to be using the same harmonic intervals used by Kantner and Grace Slick. (Sure, Paul and Grace didn’t copyright ’em or anything, but listen to the song and you’ll hear what I mean.)
– There’s no equivalent to Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady’s instrumental fireworks on “Country Mover,” but it rests on a bed of piano that’s firmly reminiscent of some Airplane-family songs from circa 1969-’71.
The least Airplane-like part of “Country Mover” is the lyrics, which paint an idealized portrait of a freewheeling young woman who travels coast to coast without being burned, molested, bummed out, hung up, or falling victim to the sundry darknesses of the American road.
In fact, the whole thing sounds like what you’d get if you gave a Madison Avenue jingle-writer a copy of Volunteers (or maybe Sunfighter) and told him to write something for an extended-length Amtrak ad.
Still, it is not charmless for that. And for those of us with a fondness for the vintage Airplane sound, it’s a curious pleasure.
If you want to hear it, it starts at about 2:30 in, here.