June 13, 2006

Check the Bargain Bins: Sweet Relief

Occasionally you open the old CD cabinet (which heart-breakingly gathers dust due to the prominence of your iPod with its sleek digital casing and nyah-nyah ability to hold thousands of CDs) and find an old cracked case containing a gem of a disc.

You can probably find the Sweet Relief benefit CD at any number of used record store bargain bins (or on Amazon for a blessed PENNY) – for reasons unknown to me because this is a GREAT album.

Released in 1993, this was a fundraiser for musician Victoria Williams, stricken with degenerative neurological disorder multiple sclerosis. All of the songs on this album are Victoria’s songs. In most cases (may God strike me dead), I prefer the covers to the original because Victoria has a voice that can best be described as unusual (although quite haunting as background atmosphere in “Crazy Mary” with Pearl Jam). But she is a phenomenal songwriter, and this album shows the beauty she is capable of.

There is a lovely alt-country vibe to this disc, featuring Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, Buffalo Tom, among others – and these two favorites:

Frying Pan – Evan Dando
I love this song dearly, and found myself singing it the other day on a late golden afternoon (which inspired this post). Evan Dando was meant from Day One to sing this song. I love the simple imagery of the opening:
“One laugh in the middle of a struggle
A diamond at the bottom of a puddle
Did you ever stare at the moon ’til you saw double?”

This Moment – Matthew Sweet
Fabulous to have in your pocket for all those goodbyes, all those *moments* that you want to capture, appreciate, and pin down in your memory before they vanish.

By the way, the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is still doing good works for the ill & struggling.


  • I frickin love that Sweet song. The sound of the drums. The loneliness in his voice. The ache of the lead guitar line. A real jem. Yeah-hoo!

    Duke of Straw — June 13, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  • Thanks for a great blog. I think someone steered me this way from the Pearl Jam message board.

    Thanks for some great MP3 links.

    Anonymous — June 13, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

  • Ah yes…so whatever happened to Buffalo Tom?

    Bruce — June 13, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

  • Heather:
    At their best, tribute albums are beautiful things and essential tools for appreciating both songwriting and interpretation (and will yield a bucketload of stylistic forays by Ryan Adams, Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello, to name but three notable homage ho’s. This, from someone who has a box of 60 or so, lovingly filed alphabetically by artist covered, and has had a tape of “Big Star, Small World” since 1997.

    Check out “For the Love of Harry” (Harry Nilsson); “Real” (Tom T. Hall); “Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye” (Roky Erickson); “This is Where I Belong” (The Kinks) and “More Oar” (Skip Spence) for some fantastic, unadulterated artist-to-artist love.

    Dan Aloi — June 13, 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  • This was unquestionably my favorite album of 1993. Every song a gem, though you definitely picked a couple of my favorites; “This Moment” could make stones weep. What amazes me is that Williams songs can lift your heart as easily as break it–Michelle Shocked’s take on “Holy Spirit” has pulled me out of many a blue funk.

    Rah — June 14, 2006 @ 2:06 am

  • hear, hear.

    this is a terrific album. never lost the love for ‘frying pan’.

    MB — June 14, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  • very bizarre… i was racking my brain trying to remember victoria williams’ name just the other day and thought of this album for the first time in YEARS. thanks for the tracks.

    mgdistrict — June 14, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  • I thought I was alone in my insane love for this album. I bought this on cassette when it came out for Soul Asylum and Pearl Jam, and as a result, I discovered Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks and Matthew Sweet. I just recently re-bought the album on CD and it still is amazing.

    Also, I’m with you – I hate to say it too, but I’m no fan of Victoria Williams voice. I’m going to hell for that, aren’t I?

    Brendan H. — June 14, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  • Oh this CD is super good, I love it. someone mentioned the roky erickson tribute and that is another one of my favorites. it’s not all great, but a whole mess of good. thanks!

    superclea — June 14, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  • This cd is probably one of the best tribute discs ever.
    Vic’s voice on album may seem a little harsh but trust me, see her live you will be absolutlely mesmerized. She is amazing.
    Catch her while you still can

    -tom — June 14, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

  • Summer of Drugs.Now i remember why i liked Soul Asylum so much.I stopped buying tribute albums after my Rutles and Knitters tributes didn’t live up to expectations.Oh wait i just bought that Big Star one.Sorry

    Philco Brothers — June 14, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

  • Don’t forget the second release for Sweet Relief – which was a collection of covers of the great Vic Chesnutt. Great songs and some inspired covers.

    DWood — June 16, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  • Dando is one of the best when it comes to covers. What a voice. “Frying Pan” also shows up on 1996′s “Heavy” soundtrack. I look forward to hearing the Matthew Sweet song. Thanks! Have you ever heard his cover of the Carpenters’ “Let Me Be the One”? It’s a heartbreaker in the very best way.

    Mulberry Panda 96 — June 19, 2006 @ 11:38 am

  • sent you an email that I’m thinking you didn’t get pointing out that the release date of this record was in ’95 or even ’96 and not ’93. Still great and I love the way Lucinda Williams sings “The Main Road” and how Maria McKee belts out the title track.

    dbrociner — June 23, 2006 @ 9:50 pm

  • Oh my God, I’d totally forgotten about this album, and I listened to it endlessly and endlessly that year in 1994. Listening to Matthew Sweet right now is sending high-school-nostalgia chills up and down my spine.

    Am loving your blog. Thanks for it, you’re doing great work.

    j u s t i n a — June 27, 2006 @ 4:20 am

  • Hi Heather,

    I just now discovered your AMAZINGLY sweet website and am excited to go through it with a fine comb in the days ahead.

    I found you looking for an mp3 download of ‘Frying Pan’ by Evan Dando, which is no longer available for download. Neither are any of the other mouth-watering files you have here by the Leomonheads & Dando.

    Don’t know what your policy is regarding re-upping things, but I would certainly love it if you could do that here (wow, just noticed you posted all this in 2006…uh, how about a revisit??) Thanks so much for all your fine work here, can’t wait to see newer entries.

    All the best,

    Steve — March 10, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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