Segment 23

Every now and then we have visitors here in the Way Back Studios. Some are mysterious drifters while others are vague acquaintances hiding from the law. But this one time, I was out here with my friend and fellow writer, Jim Fusilli. Jim is the author of some fine crime novels and one of my favorite short stories, “The Ghost of Rory Gallagher.” He also wrote a terrific book on the classic Beach Boy’s album, Pet Sounds. And, as if that’s not enough, Jim’s also the pop and rock critic for the Wall Street Journal. In other words, dude knows his music. So anyway, we’re out here smoking cigars, and I’m trying to stump-the-music-expert, though without much luck. But I figured I could get him with something from the late, great Willy DeVille, the man Doc Pomus described as looking like a cross between a bullfighter and a Puerto Rican pimp. But I was wrong. Turned out Jim’s been a fan since Willy was Mink, back in ’77 when DeVille’s Cabretta came out. Well, at that point I knew I was wasting my time trying to stump Jim, so I decided to give that up and just make a set of it. And that’s how we got today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl.

Well, one thing led to another, and before you could say lower middle-class hillbilly hipster, I’d pulled a Ricki Lee Jones EP, because we both wanted to hear her version of “Walk Away Rene.” And what we discovered was a really nice mix into Willie DeVille’s “Assassin of Love.” Well, that led us to Dire Straits, JJ. Cale, and Stevie Wonder. But we’ll start with something from an album that landed right in the middle of the Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It sold five million copies. It won three Grammys. And it hit the top of the Billboard charts. She’s “Nobody’s Girl.” From the Way Back Studios, here’s Bonnie Raitt.

Bonnie Raitt Nobody’s Girl
Stevie Wonder Superwoman
Ricki Lee Jones Walk Away Rene
Willie DeVille Assassin of Love
Dire Straits Six Blade Knife
J.J. Cale Cajun Moon

One of the enduring mysteries of life is why certain musicians never reach a mass audience. The phenomenon of the cult artist. I mean if Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and Lynyrd Skynyrd like you, how come everybody doesn’t? The answer? Don’t ask me. But we just heard from several artists who suffered that very fate. Like for example, J.J. Cale. We just heard his “Cajun Moon” from his album Okie. In the middle of the set, two more talents relegated to the pop culture sidelines. Ricki Lee Jones, the Duchess of Coolsville, came out of the gate with a huge album, featuring the hit “Chuck E.’s in Love.” After that, no matter how good her records were, she never reached that level of popularity again. Here we heard Ricki Lee’s cover of “Walk Away Rene.” After that, the cultest of cult artists, the late, great Willie DeVille. A guy who made some brilliant albums but who remains largely unknown. DeVille’s debut album, Cabretta, was a sleeper masterpiece. It came out about a year before the first Dire Straits album and I was always struck by how similar DeVille and Mark Knopfler sounded but I thought I was the only one. So imagine my surprise a decade later, when Knopfler produced and played on Willie DeVille’s “Assassin of Love.” And, just to prove the point, we followed Assassin with “Six Blade Knife” from Dire Straits.

At the top, Bonnie Raitt, who started out on the cult circuit but who finally broke through to the masses with her tenth album, and just in the Nick of Time. After that, a guy who was always a star: Stevie Wonder. We heard “Superwoman” from Music of My Mind. By the way, if you’re looking for any of the set lists or if you’re just curious about the show, drop by my website or track me down on Facebook. I’m Bill Fitzhugh and I’ll be back sooner or later with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, right here in the Deep Tracks.

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