Judy Collins is an American treasure. From her early Folk recordings – her debut album was released in 1961 – up through her brush with the Pop charts in the latter half of the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, she has possessed one of the most beautiful voices in Pop music. With hits like “Both Sides Now,” “Chelsea Morning” (both penned by Joni Mitchell) and Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns,” Collins has built up a catalog of remarkably timeless recordings that never seem to age – much like the singer herself. Her gentle, moving performances have inspired generations of performers spanning all genres. Whether she is performing a song she composed or interpreting someone else’s musical creation, the song becomes Judy and Judy becomes the song. And fifty-six years after she made her recorded debut, Judy’s voice sounds better than ever. If you have ever fallen under the spell of Judy Collins, I’m fairly certain you are still hypnotized by her talent.
DAVE RAYBURN: The new album is titled WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and is your second record under your given name that you’ve reverted back to. I understand that, among several factors involved in choosing the title, there was a bit of a nod to Jeff Lynne in the mix. Can you elaborate?
WESLEY STACE: I can. My last album, SELF-TITLED, was the first released under my real name, Wesley Stace, but I felt the word didn’t quite get out, so I thought it was worth clarifying. Secondly, I happened to see the new version of ELO. For whatever legal reason, they are billed as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, presumably partly to differentiate it from any other rogue version of ELO. This reminded me that, though I had, in a sense, broken up John Wesley Harding, I didn’t want any interlopers touring under that name, playing my songs and pretending to be me, when I was elsewhere being me too, playing those same songs (better). With WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, I am reminding you that this version of John Wesley Harding is the only version that counts. And finally, I wanted to differentiate myself, once and for all, from the Bob Dylan album of the same name. I have many times been mistaken for this album, due to a certain similarities between the name of this artifact, an LP from 1967 made of vinyl and cardboard, JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and my erstwhile performing name, John Wesley Harding. Obviously, it’s a ridiculous mistake, but still. So this isn’t Bob Dylan’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING; it’s Wesley Stace’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: STITCH OF THE WORLD is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the journey you took to make it?
TIFT MERRITT: I’m feeling really proud of this writing, these performances. I feel really, really lucky to have worked with this cast of characters. Marc Ribot is my favorite musician and one of my favorite human beings. He’s plugged into the sun. And I am forever grateful to Sam Beam for his input and generosity. To be in conversation with him about songwriting gave me a new eye on lyrics, on what to look for in third verses, on countermelody. But honestly, I don’t know that I ever truly have perspective on my work. I just have the sense of having had a creative experience that hopefully opened me more and will inform my next creative experience. I think that is what it is all about.
Back in the ‘glory days’ of Rock music – the ‘60s through the ‘80s – listeners were assaulted on Top 40 radio by ‘protest’ and ‘political’ music wrapped up in a good melody. From Bob Dylan to The Clash – just to name two of many – artists were inserting thought-provoking messages into those catchy tunes that you hummed throughout the day. Politics has weaved its way into lyrics for decades but when those artists became mainstream, their messages were embraced and understood by some while others remained blissfully unaware. And while politics has remained a hot topic in music ever since, there is very little that makes it into the Top 40 these days. But do people listen to radio anymore? Think about it – radio, the greatest platform for messages from the heart, has become a desolate desert of manufactured, mindless nonsense. Then again, people do like to feel safe and comfortable, so you can’t fault them for that…