Welcome to my first spin-off blog! I pretty much like all kinds of music, though I hardly ever listen to Classical, but one strain of music that I have become more and more obsessed with in the last several years is a style that Gram Parsons dubbed "Cosmic American Music." I don't want to demystify Gram's rather undescriptive term too much, but the kind of music we'll be highlighting here is a little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll, a little bit folk, but all pretty modern, like 1965 and onwards. We're not focusing on roots here. We're focusing on exciting new hybrids that emerged from the 1960s generation's rediscovery of traditional styles like Blues, Country, Gospel and R&B. And this won't be limited to just "American" artists as I have a particular soft-spot for countrified British rock as well, ala Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance (sorry, the song links are dead on that post - stay tuned for more Ronnie).
This inaugural post is the inspiration for the blog's title, taken from the Lowell George song "Willin'". Little Feat recorded the song as "Willing" for their debut album and then re-recorded it for their sophomore album. I would have to say that most times a song is re-recorded by the same band the second version generally pales in comparison, but in this case Little Feat's second take on the song produced the definitive version though many other artists have taken a go at it. Here we have Lowell's good friend Linda Ronstadt doing a faithful cover version of this classic road tune.
The reason I named the blog after this song is because it is the ULTIMATE road-trip song. It merges the freedom of cross-country travel with the longing for permanence, a place to settle down. It describes the best parts of long drives as well as the worst. It taps into the great American tradition of road songs, but injects it with some hippy-era indulgences. It's been covered by every country-rocker from The Byrds to David Allan Coe and Steve Earle. It is truly a "Cosmic American Classic."
Little Feat - Willin'
This is the second version of the song from the band's second album, "Sailin' Shoes." The production on this version is cleaner and the piano line is more prominent than in the earlier version.
Linda Ronstadt - Willin'
Linda's version follows pretty closely the blueprint of the previous version. I like to imagine Linda behind the wheel of a semi-truck "smuggling some smokes and folks from Mexico," which happens to be my favorite line from the song.
Little Feat - Willing
The original version of the song still holds a special place in my heart. I like how the soaring chorus from the later version of "Weed, Whites & Wine" started off in its original version as a plodding, descending laundry list before triumphantly declaring ,"and show me a sign and I'll be willing).
I know that the early 70s were different times, but I cannot imagine long distance driving while ingesting all three of the song's crucial ingredients. Maybe one or two of them at any one time would be fine for me. I imagine the impressionable Little Feat fans found that driving under the influence of Weed, White and Wine frequently resulted in another "W", Wrecks!
VIDEO: Little Feat - Willin'
VIDEO: Linda Ronstadt - Willin'