The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Unpublished Pictures And Tracks From Steve Roden's ... I Listen To The Wind That Obliterates My Traces

August 2011

Check pictures and tracks from the artist and musician Steve Roden's recent book and double CD

Roden's "intuitive" collection of found photographs and 78rpm recordings ... I Listen To The Wind That Obliterates My Traces: Music In Vernacular Photographs 1880–1955 (published by Dust To Digital) is reviewed by David Toop in The Wire 330. Read Roden's annotations for each track below.

Edgar Guest
"Out Fishin'"
On paper Edgar Guest’s poems don’t do much for me but the early recordings of his readings of his poems are fantastic. Guest’s homespun philosophising reminds me a bit of vaudeville performer Will Rogers and the way he ends each phrase with the poem’s title is utterly musical. I initially had two recordings of Guest as part of ... I Listen To The Wind That Obliterates My Traces, but no matter where I put them they stuck out like sore thumbs.

Kelly Harrell
"Oh Molly Dear Go Ask Your Mother"
(c 1920s)
This is my favorite recording by Kelly Harrell, and I initially had it as part of I Listen To The Wind until Rob Millis who I worked closely with on track sequencing reminded me that he and Jeffrey Taylor (both of Climax Golden Twins) had used it on their Victrola Favorites compilation. The track by him I ended up using, "Roving Gambler", is certainly my second favorite track by him, and somebody recently sent me a recording of it by the Everly Brothers, which threw me for a loop!

Furry Lewis
(c 1920s)
This Furry Lewis track was a favorite of Alan Lomax who included it on a compilation of early recordings for a set of Decca 78’s in the 1940s. I have no idea how many thousands of dollars an original 1920s pressing of this track would cost, but fortunately I received a set of the 1940s re-issues from a friend (the Dick Reinhart track on I Listen To The Wind also came from this set). Having begun my musical education as part of the punk scene in the late 70s, it always brings me back to the Clash’s version of “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” which begins with a few bars of "Stackerlee".

Ben Smith
"Do Dee Doo"
(mid 1920s)
(Columbia Records)
What I love about this track by Ben Smith is how silly the lyrics are and yet the feeling of the recording and the vocal isn’t played for laughs at all – in fact, it has a somewhat lonely feel, very much like Cisco Houston’s novelty toon “The Cat Came Back”.

Rosa Henderson
"Low Down Papa"
(late 1920s)
Just a great old blues song that i simply wasn’t able to find a place for in the track sequencing of I Listen To The Wind"

John Jacob Niles
"Jack Of Diamonds"
Niles is one of my favorite singers ever, and his low tone hand-made lute is freaking fantastic. This is the B-side to the “John Henry” track that is on I Listen To The Wind.

William McCoy
"Mama Blues"
When I was thinking about compiling recordings for I Listen To The Wind, my initial idea was to only use solo recording, and when I heard William McCoy’s "Mama Blues", it seemed absolutely perfect. The talking through the harmonica at the end is incredible. Unfortunately, when I sent Lance from Dust To Digital the initial track listings, he mentioned this track had already been slated to be used on Never A Pal Like Mother - a book/CD project including early songs about mothers, which came out right before I Listen To The Wind.

Leave a comment

Pseudonyms welcome.

Used to link to you.