The 25-year career of singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding has skyrocketed of late with the publication of no fewer than three critically acclaimed novels under his birth name, Wesley Stace. Equally amazing, the artist named for Bob Dylan’s misspelling of Texas gunfighter John Wesley Harden has just released the finest album of a career that’s seen him record at least 18 longplayers for labels ranging from high-profile majors to imprints so small the back catalog was stored in somebody’s garage between the cat box and the washing machine. Produced by old pal Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and fleshed out by no less than R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the Decemberists, The Sound Of His Own Voice (Yep Roc) is a full-bore stunner with Wes (nobody calls him John) weaving his usual lyrical magic through knockout arrangements of extraordinary songs that revive the ghosts of the Kinks, David Lynch soundtrack guru Angelo Badalamenti and wall-of-sound maestro Phil Spector. For yet another career-topping milestone (gasp), JWH will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week for (yes it’s true) the second time. Read our brand new Q&A with him.
Harding: On my birthday a couple of Saturdays ago, I took 10 minutes to go to a garage sale outside the local ice-skating rink. Disappointingly, there was only one box of about 60 records, and the first I randomly pulled out was Andreas Vollenweider, an ill omen. But the third was a mint and shrink-wrapped copy of One Year by Colin Blunstone, and the one behind that was John Kongos’ amazing first record (of which there were two copies), not to mention the follow-up Confusions About A Goldfish. And tears came to my eyes, because it was as if that box of records had been put there specifically for me, on my birthday, for me and no one else to find, as if someone had spent $25 on each on eBay and then cleverly predicted where I would be on the Saturday morning of my birthday. I bought about 25. They were all mint and a buck a piece. Other treasures included a beautiful copy of American Gothic by David Ackles, a lovely O Lucky Man! soundtrack, Ralph McTell’s best record and some great Ian Matthews albums. It was the second best birthday present of all time. (See another entry for the best.)
The absolute clincher was that there was a white-label, white-sleeved record, with no identification on it at all, and I thought, “Well, whoever once owned these records seems to have precisely the same taste as me so I might as well risk a buck.” It was a beautiful 1969 bootleg of Joni Mitchell at the Edwardsville Folk Festival, as I discovered the moment I dropped the needle on the vinyl.
You may not want any of these particular records, but imagine that they were records you really did want. I mean, if you’re reading MAGNET, you probably know that secondhand record shopping gets no better than this.
Photos after the jump.