Tuesday, January 11, 2011

John Jacob Niles-I Wonder as I Wander

The true voice of sorrow and desolation married with a weirdo homemade dulcimer equals your tears. Dylan often discusses Niles influence. Folkies still give him some cred. Outside of the cult, there doesn't seem to be nearly as much hype for this guy despite his massive contributions to American music. Not joking, without this guy contemporary music would have a much different topography. This will not make you feel good. So it's just like every other day. This makes all modern weird beard folkies sound utterly irrelevant.



  1. Well, well, well...
    JJN came to my small midwest town, south and west of Chicago when I was a senior in high school(1969.) He happened to come for dinner after giving a concert at the local small Baptist college.
    I was to afraid to engage him in conversation so I went into my bedroom and played my BEST version of Fahey's version of "In Christ There is no East or West."
    I was fingerpicking it out to the max and soon there was a knock at my bedroom door, Mr. Niles would like to have a word with you."
    He said he had never heard anything like that before.
    So I said,"Likewise"
    Man, those days are to be cherished.
    Thanks for the memories!
    Many thanks for your time, effort and passion. I really enjoy your sensibilities.
    Rave on!

  2. Wow, that's a truly amazing story. That must have been an amazing experience.

    I wonder what suburb you're talking about. I'm from Chicago and know the outlying area fairly well.

  3. Suburb?
    Shit fire and save the matches,
    I'm in Kansas.
    (and that's to the South and West)
    but I do have stories to tell about Chicago...
    I grew up in Kalamazoo for Gawd's Sake
    best wishes

  4. Well, Viles I thought you were talking about something a bit closer. But yes, it is South and and West. Still, good to hear from some Mid-Westerners.

  5. And Sam, glad you like this. Let go out tomorrow for a drink. Life has been...erratic. I could use some good company if you're available.

  6. All small talk aside, I listened to this and bless my soul this man could sing. Tie the horses up and step inside. Nellie bar the door. Shiver me timbers, Great Caesar's Ghost.
    Thank you "Jerry Orbach" for the past and the present. Too bad he and Pete Cosey never recorded together.
    Thanks for making my week!

  7. Oh, Pete Cosey. Still my favorite guitar player.

  8. Holly, I owed you anyways, but you're welcome

  9. As a Country Teasers obsessive, it was great to hear the original of "Go 'Way From My Window."

  10. Country Teasers are great but the original wins out for me in this case.

  11. This weekend I was reading "A Freewheelin' Time" a memoir by Bobby Zimmerman's girl friend in the early 60's NYC Greenwich Village and stumbled upon this quote:
    “At one of those folk concerts I saw the singer John Jacob Niles, who looked like an ancient balladeer brought forth from the dead. With his special appearance and eerily high voice-which I later learned was a classic countertenor-he provoked thoughts of the castrati of bygone times. Watching him perform, reaching for a still higher note, made me feel that he might lose control and dissolve onto a puddle on the stage-or maybe disintegrate into a pile of bone and ash instead. He truly scared me.”


  12. That's a great encapsulation of his sound. That voice is just...umm...spectral, I guess. Nearly impossible to describe but instantly affecting. On that description, I did post the last castrati album some time back and if you haven't heard that, it might be worth a listen. Something sampled heavy by Current 93, if that matters to you.