The Weird, Old America

“I remember driving then with the song on the radio.” So Greil Marcus wrote in his indispensable 1997 book Invisible Republic about being haunted by the “inescapable” sound of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” in the summer of 1967, a song powerful enough in its hush that time could be “brought to a halt.” He continues: “Trying to follow its sliding phrases, drifting into its miasmic trance, and plowing straight into the car in front of me.”

Marcus may have caused a ten-car pile-up had he heard “The Boy Called Billy Joe,” an answer song penned by Stephenville, Texas country singer Carroll. It’s creepy and peculiar, his molasses-thick Texas accent barely getting words like “Choctaw” and “Tallahatchie” out, yet it nevertheless sounds like it’s being whispered from the beyond by the titular character (who, if you aren’t familiar with Gentry’s original, jumps off the bridge).

Billie Joe’s ghost, slot machine singers, day-drinking husband-wife duos, The Sound of Memphis through a 4-track wood chipper, Ernest Hood, a Lynchian battle of the bands, and Weird Al’s old roommate all comprise this Weird Old America.

Even Weirder Old America for Bandcamp

Journey Through the Secret Life of Neighborhoods

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A while back, I had the privilege and honor of bestowing Best New Reissue upon Ernest Hood’s 1975 album, Neighborhoods, over at Pitchfork. If I were to try and summarize it in one line, it would be: “Hear children shouting out songs, crickets chirping, and the noise diesel engines rumbling past and feel the illusion of time dissolve.” The review has most of the bio/ backstory in it so won’t go into much detail here, save that it was a real thrill to finally hold a physical copy of it in my hands. Freedom to Spend label did an incredible job, even digging up the master tapes for it (a real rarity in this age of the easy-rip reissue).

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