Summer Cassettes 2018, Cassette One: Bourbon Glass Reflections

April 11, 2018 by Darren Clarke

Despite Spring’s reluctance to get its’ game on I have to believe that warmth, sunlight and long lazy afternoons are on the way. Last year I provided twelve summer cassette playlists that ultimately filled my long drive from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia via New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. This year, beginning with the mix included here, I will provide another twelve 90-minute playlists, destination unknown.

Bourbon Glass Reflections blooms out of one song, Peter Laughner’s Baudelaire. My first introduction to Peter Laughner was via the liner notes in Wilco’s 1996 album, Being There, wherein the band credited Laughner for his line, “Take the guitar player for a ride,” which Tweedy sings in his epic, “thank you all for nothing,” ode to unemployment, cigarettes and detachment, Misunderstood. Beyond the introduction I forgot about Laughner for twenty-plus years until a few weeks ago when a friend introduced me to his live, bootleg, album, Take the Guitar Player For A Ride released in 1994, some twenty years after the show in question. bourbon 12bourbon15The recording isn’t great, the bass sounds like it is a two-by-four, but the overall result is absolutely riveting. Laughner is everything I dream of discovering when exploring for music. First and foremost, Laughner is brilliant, second, he is almost entirely unheard of, third, his poetry easily inhabits straightforwardness, contradiction and ambiguity.

Sylvia Plath woke up and turned on the gas
Then she put her head down and completely forgot about lighting a match
The rest of the details
Are just too boring to attach
But let’s see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Aw, let’s see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Yes, let’s see you do one thing as senselessly cruel as Sylvia Plath

(From the song Sylvia Plath)

This is the stuff that floats boats, that makes bread rise, that holds clouds in the sky. Many may have the ingredients, few can create something as dazzling, as memorable as what Laughner delivers consistently on Take the Guitar Player for a Ride- Gems and more gemsLaughner captures compelling moments in all their elusive splendour, his voice, his words, his music, delicately transporting you to potent intersections of people, time and place-

Now Lily White, she leans so close to you and whispers
And you will see diamonds falling all around her mouth
Ah, but Ruby moves her lemon-scented body
Just like the breezes from the south.

(From the song Baudelaire)

Laughner passed away at age twenty-four in 1977 with his only formal work in the recording studio consisting of playing on one Pere Ubu album. Thankfully someone recognized the importance of sharing his talents and provided us with this live show.

Baudelaire is followed by a rendition of the Everly Brothers Love Hurts by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Many have covered Love Hurts, from Rob Orbison to Nazareth, but Parsons and Harris break your damned heart with it. (And what after all feels better than having your heart broken by the right people?) Love Hurts flows seamlessly into Guy Clark’s deliciously melancholy Instant Coffee Blues wherein Clark shares a relatively unremarkable moment between two relatively unremarkable people and somehow makes all of our relatively unremarkable lives seem necessary and beautiful in simply happening at all. Kind of like a decent cup of coffee-

“And him he hit the driveway with his feelings in a case
And her she hit the stop light and touched up her face
So you tell them the difference between caring and not
And that it’s all done with mirrors, lest they forgot
I said it’s all done with mirrors, of which they have none
To blend the instant coffee blues into the morning sun.”

Clark’s ode to the morning after is followed by the brilliant Italian composer Piero Umiliani’s Nel Villagio where we are  wordlessly transported down a lazy river of xylophone to a different continent, a different time, a different rhythm.

Man I love Piero Umiliani.

The fifth tune is where I’ll leave you to fend for yourself. And really I couldn’t leave you in any kinder, more enchanting, company than Vashti Bunyan. Nothing is more enchanting than Vashti Bunyan. Nothing. Just Another Diamond Day was the title track off her 1970 debut album, a debut that faired so poorly commercially that Bunyan elected to leave the music business entirely.

It’s really an amazing story.

In the wake of creating a stunning debut album the lack of any meaningful reaction by the outside world was taken by Vashti as a signal she had no future making music. So she rode off into the countryside to try and live as simple a life as possible. But the world caught on. Slowly and without her being aware of it maybe but it caught on. Some thirty years later Just Another Diamond Day had reached a crescendo of cult status and Bunyan returned to musically enchant again.

But that’s another cassette.

There’s eleven more cassette to come this spring and summer. There will be more Vashti Bunyan, more lost country music, more Russian space disco, more Italian movie composers, more self-indulgent pop music, more undiscovered gems introduced to me by friends and strangers.

Thank you for joining me on your way to wherever you are going.