Roo and I have just finished watching “The Queen’s Gambit”, a Netflix mini series set in the late Fifties and Sixties about a girl who is a chess prodigy. As well as battling the attitudes of older men towards a gifted female chess player, she also has to face up to the demons of her addictions. It’s a great programme with amazing attention to period detail, incredible cinematography and great acting, especially from the beautiful Anya Taylor-Joy who also plays the eponymous heroine in the recently released “Emma”. The film is based on a book of the same name by Walter Tevis, who also wrote “The Color Of Money” and “The Hustler” both of which were made into films starring Paul Newman.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is initially set in Kentucky which is a State that I’ve never visited. Muhammed Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky and so was Dawn Landes. Tori Murden McClure, a transatlantic rower moved to Louisville when she was fifteen. The great series “Justified” was set in Kentucky. Donald Trump is forecast to win Kentucky by 18% next Tuesday.
I’d never heard of Dawn Landes before a review in UNCUT two years ago piqued my interest. She has released five full length albums and several EPs. She started as a sound engineer in New York. At one time she was married to Josh Ritter who, last year, released a fantastic album called “Fever Breaks” that he made with Jason Isbell. She gave a TED talk (and sang a song) about Tori Murden McClure.
It’s about eighteen months since Fred Foster died. He produced Roy Orbison’s early hits, he signed Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson to his record label and produced many of their early recordings. He was also highly influential in the development of Willie Nelson. “Meet Me At The River” was the last album that he produced. It was an interesting development for Dawn Landes to move into country as her previous collaborations had been with Sufjan Stevens, Norah Jones and Bon Iver, none of whom would fit into a “country” genre. However, she recorded the album after a move from New York to Nashville and as someone who is constantly seeking to re-invent herself, the move was a good one; this is a great solid country album, full of excellent songs, lovely singing and brilliant playing from a large number of established Nashville musicians.
Charlie McCoy has played harmonica on hundreds of albums including “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Blonde On Blonde” and “John Wesley Harding”. Eddie Bayers has played drums with many well known artists including Elton John, Mark Knopfler, John Denver and Dolly Parton. Larry Franklin has played violin on albums by Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris as well as being a member of the country group, Asleep At The Wheel. And so it goes on – another album with magnificent playing by gifted musicians.
“Why They Name Whisky After Men” is classic country. A song by a woman who has suffered emotional hardship at the hands of a man. Both whisky and men come on strong, keep you warm but then do you in. Despite that, she goes back for more. It’s set to a honky-tonk beat with a great chorus.
“Travelling Girl” describes her journey, both literally and emotionally, from New York to the American South. The “gypsy” in her blood has led her to a travelling life and maybe this explains why she has moved from the Indie-Rock of her previous albums into Country.
“What Is The Colour Of The Soul Of Man” asks a good question. “Black or yellow, white or tan. What is the colour of the soul of man?” The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood who wrote over six thousand folk songs between 1927 and 1975. He also wrote “Battle Of New Orleans” which was recorded by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Louisville, Kentucky. Tom Cruise’s parents were both from Louisville. Sid Griffin of The Long Ryders and Hunter S. Thompson, a writer with Rolling Stone were born there.