Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”
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Record Review: Laura Marling’s single “Blues Run the Game” – – Third Man Records
by Dave Carew
So the Nashville skyline is dark, heavy, overcast, and I’m walking into Jack White’s Third Man Records for the first time. It is a Tuesday afternoon—nothing going on, the afternoon endless, sleepy-dreamy—and then I’m standing in the forefront—about twenty feet by twenty feet—and I see on the rack the first 45 I’ve seen in a store since . . . well, another lifetime. It is Laura Marling’s new single, and the A side is “Blues Run the Game,” a cover of a Jackson C. Frank tune, the B side Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” I prove my unhip cred by thinking “I’ve never heard of Laura Marling OR Jackson C. Frank,” but I plunk down $6 anyway, thinking, “Hell, if Jack White thinks she’s cool—and wants to sign her, produce her, and carry her 45 in his store—I’m in.” Or at least I’ll give it a spin. Which is kind of the idea behind Third Man Records.
So I get “Blues Run the Game” home and I play it on a beat-up turntable a friend has stored in my house for 300 years and . . . and . . . gold, man. Gold. I get INSTANTLY why Jack White is interested in this artist, why Laura Marling has recorded this obscure (to most Americans) song, the beauty and mysticism they must have felt as they brought this song back from the mists and started working on it. Written by a man (Jackson C. Frank) whose bouts with depression, mental illness, and homelessness give the song a particularly poignant authenticity, “Blues Run the Game” is rendered perfectly by Marling, in a voice seemingly no stranger to suffering or despair—or hope. If suffering and human yearning against despair can be tuneful—melodious—“Blues Run the Game” captures that poetic landscape in a way that will touch you profoundly.
“Blues Run the Game” sung by 21-year-old English folk singer Laura Marling, is available as a single (7” vinyl, 45 rpm) at Third Man Records in Nashville or by visiting: store.thirdmanrecords.com/index.aspx?page=2
David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and copywriter.