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Link Wray is mostly known as the inventor of the power chord and the writer of a number of instrumental blues hits in the 50's, but in 1971 he set up a three-track recording studio in a chicken coop and recorded an album of bluesy, backwoods country-rock with a folksy flavor and a few nods to his Shawnee ancestry. It didn't go over well with his fans and remains mostly unknown, but for my money, it's as good as any album that CCR ever recorded. Wray lost a lung to TB in 1953 and as a result, his singing voice is hoarse as hell -- when he's really belting it out, you can feel the effort.
I gave this album (actually, the double-disc Three Track Shack box set) to my dad for Christmas a few years ago, and I think he liked it more than anything else I ever got for him or tried to get him to listen to. My dad and I didn't see each other too much -- just a couple times a year -- and we didn't have too much to talk about. The story of our lives together is that he just wanted to fish and go camping and I mostly just wanted to read by myself somewhere. My dad was a woodworker who didn't particularly enjoy his work and was always a few steps behind getting enough freedom to do the things he enjoyed -- bad luck and trouble dogged him constantly -- and so he was always puzzled and disappointed that I didn't enjoy those things as much as he did. My dad's friends were all blue-collar guys: natives and bikers whose kids mostly took up trades in the BC interior. I don't think he ever understood what it is that I do, but he was always eager to tell me that he was proud of me and happy that someone in our family was getting an education and making it in the city.
Most especially, I think he was pleased that his nerdy, awkward son who read a lot of sci-fi novels and was very serious about church in his adolescence eventually got into music and didn't turn out to be a total square.
So what I'm getting at is that the one thing my dad and I could talk about was music, and I always brought some for him when I came to visit. I associate this Link Wray album with my dad more than anything else. Raw, blues-inflected music always went over with Dad, and the themes of this album really struck a chord with him. Link sings a lot about poor working people, about living in the mountains, about how the rich never get tired of fucking people over, and about divine vengeance and apocalypse. There's also a few tunes about how much trouble women are (something else Dad could relate to), and about how sweet rock n' roll is.
I wish I could still listen to it with him, but my Dad passed away last week. His heart gave out. Now, life was not a great pleasure for Dad. In a way, he is at least free now from the bullshit, frustration, and disappointment that oppressed him while he was alive. I hope that he is now enjoying the peace that mostly eluded him while I knew him, but I'm sorry that he couldn't have enjoyed more of it while he was still with us.