Alex Chilton

Electricity By Candlelight

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On the night of February 13, 1997, Alex Chilton and his band were getting ready to play their second set of the night at the Knitting Factory in New York City when the lights went out. What happened was this album, a spontaneous off the cuff performance by Alex on a borrowed acoustic guitar with his drummer Richard Dworkin sitting in for half the set. Fortunately Chilton fan Jeffrey Vargon was there with his tape deck and microphone.

This is Alex Chilton thinking on his feet, totally in the moment, bouncing songs and ideas off the folks that stuck around for a real one-of-a-kind exchange. This is as close and personal as it gets. Anyone who ever saw Alex over the years will recognize the artist who always did it his way in this simple recording, a surprising amount of country music, some beloved Beach Boys and a few he probably played for the first time that night...

Chilton, who passed away in 2010, was that rare artist that re-invented himself over and over again often abandoning earlier successful formulas. He ran the gamut, working in many genres including the Memphis blue-eyed soul of the Box Tops (singing the number one hit “The Letter” at age 16) the Beatles meets Beale Street high harmony of Big Star (three classic cult albums) a stint as a ‘77 punk provocateur at CBGBs and a co-conspirator in the mutant Memphis art rock of Panther Burns.
In the early 1980s Chilton escaped his hometown and settled in New Orleans to recuperate from years of hard living. There he soaked up the music around him and developed a stripped down musical style and a sardonic persona. Instead of playing his greatest hits he played songs that spoke to him personally; lost obscure soul and blues tunes, jazz standards and rockabilly.

After younger musicians like REM and the Replacements began singing his praises to a new generation he put together a pair of touring outfits, one in the ‘80s made up of Rene Coman and Doug Garrison and another group in the 90s with childhood friend Ron Easley and Richard Dworkin. It was the latter group Alex was playing with when the lights went out. Ron hung out in the balcony and snapped some pictures while Richard eventually set up a snare and played along.

Electricity By Candlelight adds something to the Chilton canon, the sound of the man himself unencumbered by electronics or amplification getting down and thinking off the top of his head, searching for that perfect folk song that can bring it all to a close. He never finds it but he takes those that stuck around that night on a musical joy ride rolling through decades of song.

Alex Chilton: Electricity By Candlelight

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Solar System Alex Chilton
I Walk The Line Alex Chilton
If I Had A Hammer Alex Chilton
You Can Bet Your Heart On Me Alex Chilton
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