Ace has previously surveyed the singular oeuvre of musical iconoclast Lee Hazlewood on a number of releases including Califia: The Songs of Lee Hazlewood and, more recently, Shazam! and Other Instrumentals Written by Lee Hazlewood. Now, on Son-of-a-Gun and More from the Lee Hazlewood Songbook, the label has returned to the territory of Califia with a twist. Whereas that compilation focused on Lee’s vivid, quirky songs as performed by Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Ann-Margret, Dino, Desi & Billy, and other artists in Hazlewood’s orbit, Son-of-a-Gun primarily (but not exclusively) looks at his influence on a younger generation of indie musicians including Primal Scream, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley, Marc Almond, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and others. As such, it’s one of the most contemporary and unusual of Ace’s long-running, gold-standard Songwriters Series.
The selections chosen by compiler/producer Mick Patrick strikingly showcase the pliability of Hazlewood’s memorably eccentric songs. Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley took Sanford Clark’s “A Cheat” into stark, dark territory in a version from 2002. That same year, Primal Scream and supermodel/occasional vocalist Kate Moss delivered a radical electropop take of the haunting, psychedelic “Some Velvet Morning” with Moss in Nancy Sinatra’s “role” of Phaedra. Decidedly more faithful is the fine 2007 rendition of another Nancy and Lee classic, “Summer Wine,” by Polish-German actress Natalia Avelon and Finnish rocker Ville Valo. (Though the Nancy and Lee version is best known, Lee actually introduced “Summer Wine” with Suzi Jane Hokom. The talented singer-producer is represented here with “Lady Bird,” a duet with Virgil Warner of the song first sung by Nancy and Lee. Got that?)
Boyd Rice embraces Hazlewood’s mordant, dry wit on “I’d Rather Be Your Enemy,” and his more serious, even tender side is reflected on Mick Harvey’s moody, elegant reading of “First Street Blues.” The Jesus and Mary Chain turned down the feedback for “I’m Glad I Never” (a 1989 B-side for the post-punk heroes), finding a lost gem in this song from Hazlewood’s Requiem for an Almost Lady, with its brutal yet casual “twist” ending. Lee wasn’t usually thought of as an R&B writer, but Billie Dearborn’s “Friday’s Child” for his own LHI label offers a tantalizing might-have-been. Dan Michaelson’s soft, croaked vocal on “No Train to Stockholm” from 1970’s Cowboy in Sweden is somewhat less successful as it’s no match for the resonance of Hazlewood’s own instrument.
A handful of tracks here from the 2010s prove that the late Hazlewood’s music is as relevant as ever. The most recent track on Son-of-a-Gun is 2015’s “Paris Summer” from Frances Ruffelle (Les Miserables’ original Eponine) and Rowan John. Polish band L. Stadt and vocalist Ania Dabrowska make the case for “Leather and Lace,” introduced by Lee and Nina Lizell on Cowboy in Sweden, sticking close to the sound and sweeping style of the original with their 2013 recording. Pixies’ Frank Black takes the lead on a selection from Thriftstore Masterpiece’s remake of Hazlewood’s debut LP, the concept album Trouble is a Lonesome Town (also from 2013). Black’s “Long Black Train” is spirited rock-and-roll with surf rock guitars and a mariachi band - two very Hazlewood-ian touches! (Trouble also inspired Gallon Drunk and Ian Johnston’s cover of “Look at That Woman,” with Johnston admirably filling Hazlewood’s laconic pipes.) David Bowie’s longtime collaborator Tony Visconti helmed Dean and Britta’s evocative “You Turned My Head Around,” a mind-bending cut originally sung by Ann-Margret.
A few familiar performers of generations past dot the landscape here, most notably Waylon Jennings. The country legend is heard on “She Comes Running,” a track from Jennings’ Singer of Sad Songs, the 1970 LP produced by Hazlewood for RCA Records. The baroque-tinged, folk-rock production fit the forward-thinking country singer like a glove. (As part of the same deal with RCA, Hazlewood also went into the studio with Eddy Arnold. Their collaborative album Standing Alone has recently been reissued for the first time on CD by Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music as part of Each Road I Take: The 1970 Lee Hazlewood and Chet Atkins Sessions.) Hazlewood produced two other tracks on this collection, as well: Loy Clingman’s 1958 cinematic rockabilly meld “The Man Who Made an Angel Cry” (if ever a song was made to be a western movie theme!) and Sanford Clark’s loping cowboy tale “Son-of-a-Gun,” from 1959.
What Lee Hazlewood anthology would be complete without a nod to “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”? Son-of-a-Gun has the punk-infused 1978 version by Nick Cave’s early band The Boys Next Door, its bold lyrics certainly being ideally suited to the punk attitude. But there was always more to Hazlewood than just that anthemic hit. Son-of-a-Gun, much like Ace’s past volumes Califia and Shazam!, showcases the depth and variety of his writing. Ian Johnston (see above!) has provided the copious track-by-track annotations in the 24-page booklet, and Duncan Cowell has newly remastered all tracks in this latest, enjoyable addition to Ace’s invaluable Songwriters and Producers series.
- A Cheat - Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley (City Slang/Virgin 20195-2, 2002)
- Some Velvet Morning - Primal Scream and Kate Moss (Columbia 508923 2, 2002)
- Long Black Train - Thriftstore Masterpiece featuring Frank Black (SideOneDummy SD1523-2, 2013)
- My Autumn's Done Come - Mark Morriss (Fruitcake Music FCCD 110, 2008)
- Won't You Tell Your Dreams - Gold Leaves (Light in the Attic 024, 2012)
- Paris Summer - Frances Ruffelle with Rowan John (Lovechild LVMCD 3, 2015)
- For One Moment - Marc Almond and The Willing Sinners (Virgin/Some Bizarre GLOW 2, 1986)
- I'd Rather Be Your Enemy - Boyd Rice and Friends (New European Recordings BAD VC CD1969, 1990)
- Summer Wine - Ville Valo and Natalia Avelon (Warner Music Group 5051011-9191-2-1, 2007)
- No Train to Stockholm - Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards (The state51 Conspiracy CON180DX, 2014)
- She Comes Running - Waylon Jennings (RCA LSP 4418, 1970)
- First Street Blues - Mick Harvey (Mute LCDSTUMM 249, 2005)
- I'm Glad I Never - The Jesus and Mary Chain (Blanco y Negro NEG42Z, 1989)
- The Man Who Made an Angel Cry - Loy Clingman (Swan 4017, 1958) (*)
- Leather and Lace - L. Stadt featuring Anna Dabroskwa (Mystic Production MYSTCD 220, 2013)
- Lady Bird - Virgil Warner and Suzi Jane Hokom (LHI 1204, 1968)
- Son-of-a-Gun - Sanford Clark (Jamie 1139, 1959) (*)
- Friday's Child - Billie Dearborn (LHI 1210, 1968) (*)
- You Turned My Head Around - Dean and Britta (Zoe Records 01143-1105-2, 2007)
- Look at That Woman - Gallon Drunk with Ian Johnston (Clawfist HUNKA 011, 1992)
- These Boots are Made for Walking - The Boys Next Door (Suicide 103140, 1978)
- Sand - Holly Golightly with Brian Nevill (Vinyl Japan ASKLP 56, 1996) (*)
Stereo except (*) mono