These are ten songs that I’ve been listening to regularly over the past few months. Some are songs that I’ve known for many years, and others I’ve only recently come to Appreciate. For a while my mp3 Player was dead and I ended up listening to a lot of Music on the Radio. I was struck by the fact that the Mainstream Rock, Pop, and Hip Hop stations tend to Play Music that is Loud, Confrontational, and almost Willfully Abrasive to the Ears. It’s this Strange Role Reversal—Mainstream Music is now shaped to Assault the Senses with Overbearing, Compressed Drum Sounds and Vocals that often Balance Precariously Between Singing, Screaming, and Moaning (see Heart Attack by Demi Lovato), while Less Popular Artists are going for something a bit Lighter, a bit Easier to Digest. I’m not saying what’s Right and what’s Wrong, I just find it Interesting that Willfully Confrontational Indie Music (Savages, Death Grips) can now easily be Sonically Overwhelmed by Mainstream Pop (Taylor Swift - Trouble) and Rock (Imagine Dragons - Radioactive). I guess I typically prefer a more Peaceful Listening Experience, and I think these ten songs Reflect that.
1. Bert Jansch | Reynardine (Traditional Old English Ballad)
The first Bert Jansch song that really Captured my Imagination was Needle Of Death. Along with The Velvet Underground's Heroin, Needle Of Death is probably the Best Heroin Song Ever Written. I Love Jansch’s Voice—it’s Formal, but also Gruff and Craggy. Everything he sings feels True and he’s one of those Singers that just has this Indefinable Majesty— each word that he utters makes you focus in and listen Carefully. Reynardine is a Beautiful Traditional English Ballad that I was first introduced to by Fairport Convention, who recorded a rendition on the Liege and Lief album. But Jansch’s is the Ultimate Realization of the Song’s Intrinsic Powers. His Voice and Guitar are so Beautifully Suited to One Another. The Deep, Ringing Emotion that Resonates from Reynardine Affects me Every Time I Listen to it. I Love this Verse in particular: He kissed her once... He kissed her twice... Till she came to again... And modestly she begged him... Pray tell to me your name... He said, my dear if you look for me... Perhaps you'll not me find... But I'll be in my castle... Pray enquire for Reynardine...
2. Reverend Gary Davis | Coco Blues (W. A. Nichol's Western Aces' 'Cocaine Blues' Cover)
There are Many Different Versions of this Song, but I prefer a couple of Reverend Gary Davis’ versions—the Instrumental One especially. The way he picks the Guitar is Elegant and Tuneful. It provides such Beautiful Accompaniment. I’ve been enjoying this Period of Music recently—the Time when Older Blues Musicians were Finally Getting Some Recognition and Working with Young Kids in New York City on Records and Shows. There Weren’t Too Many Barriers Back Then Between Folk and Blues Music and Everybody Seemed to Benefit From That. I started Learning this Song last night and it’s a bit Trickier Than It Looks. I’m going to have to Practice it some more. I discovered this song via some of Nick Drake’s Home Tapes. Nick did a lot of great Covers of Blues and Folk Artists Before He Wrote Any of His Own Material. I’ve been tracking down his Favorite Artists for a while now, which ultimately lead me to the Reverend Gary Davis. It’s Interesting to Hear an Upper Class Englishman Sing This Song. Nick takes it in a more Melodic Direction, but the results are actually quite Extraordinary. A Wonderful Piece of Music.
3. Gene Clark | Where My Love Lies Asleep
A Beautiful, Beautiful Song from an Artist that Wrote Some of my Most Cherished Albums. Gene Clark was Everything a Songwriter Would Ever Need To Be. His Words were Poetic, but Resonant and Never Indulgent. This Music just Moves in such a Perfect Way. I was teaching Guitar for a while and I got one of my Students really into Gene Clark. She ended up loving the White Light Album and we learned a few songs off of that record. Where My Love Lies Asleep was her Favorite Song, and one that I had overlooked in spite of the many times I had spent listening to the Album. The song moves along at its own pace and the Guitar stuff is just so Perfect and Understated. It’s a Romantic song and I Love it so much. I’m Thankful He Wrote It.
4. Sandy Bull | Blend
Sandy was a Good Family Friend of Mine. When I was a Kid, my Brother and I would go Spend Time at his House with his Kids KC, Jackson, and Jesse. I actually think the reason my Mother named my Brother Jesse is because of Jesse Bull. They lived in Marilyn Monroe’s Old House in Brentwood, CA. We had some Fun Times there. It was only later in my Life that I Started to Really Listen to Sandy’s Music. Blend was the piece of Music that changed the way I looked at him forever. It’s a Work of Genius and I immediately tracked down all of his Vanguard Records to see what else he had in store. The other Records were All Equally Amazing, and I reconnected with KC and we talked a bit about her Dad. She came to a Show I did in San Francisco and it was Good to See Her Again. His Music is Unlike Anything Else. His Sense of Creation and Interpretation was Completely Insular and Unique. He was really a Special Guy.
5. Alasdair Roberts | Lord Gregory
I’ve been Obsessively Listening to Alasdair Roberts over the past month. I’ve had his Records for a while, but for some reason I decided to Listen a bit Closer this month. I’ve been rewarded with some of the Most Remarkable Music Being Recorded Today. Roberts' Voice is the Crucial Instrument—one of the Most Beautiful Singing Voices I’ve Heard. Lord Gregory is a Devastating Song and Roberts sings from Multiple Perspectives, Delivering this Tale of Loss and Despair. The Story is so Vivid and Remarkable. Here are a few Lyrics:
Lord Gregory's not here and
Henceforth can't be seen,
For he's gone to bonny Scotland
For to bring home his new Queen.
So leave now these windows
And likewise this hall,
For it's deep in the Sea
You should hide your downfall.
Do you remember, love Gregory,
That night in Callander
Where we changed rings on our fingers,
And me against my will?
For yours was pure silver, love,
And mine was but tin;
For yours cost a guinea, love,
And mine but one cent.
Sleep down you foolish son,
Sleep down and sleep on:
For it's long ago that weary girl
Lies drownin' in the Sea.
6. Andrew Cedermark | Canis Major
I’ve been enjoying Andrew Cedermark’s New Songs a lot recently. His Previous Album, Moon Deluxe, was really a Great Listen, and his new one—Home Life—is Just As Good. Andrew’s Music just Sounds so Effortless to me. His Songs are Beautifully Constructed and they’ve got a Strong Emotional Foundation. Ostensibly he makes Rock And Roll kind of Music, but there’s a lot of Depth to it. It’s very Expressive. I talked to him recently and I think it’d be Cool if we did a Show Together in New York City.
7. Angel Olsen | The Waiting
Angel is a Friend of Mine and she also happens to be one of the Better Singer/Songwriters Making Music Today. This song is a Stone Cold Classic. There is sort of a Girl Group Vibe to it, but it’s not just some kind of Genre Exercise. The Lyrics are Killer and the Ending is so Bracing and Powerful. When she yells out I need you to be the One!... Man, that’s a Great Musical Moment.
8. Doug Paisley | What About Us?
Doug is a Great Guy and a really Fantastic Singer and Songwriter. I went On Tour with him a couple of years ago and had a very Blacked-Out Night where I did a Number of Stupid Things. I Woke Up the Next Day Feeling like a Shell of my Former Self. I spoke to Doug for a while that day and told him that I’d like to Hear Him Play my Favorite Song of his What About Us? at the Concert that night. He told me he would and he did— Dedicating the Song to Me and my Delicate Physical State. We had planned for a while to Record an Album Together—an Imaginary Soundtrack to a Western Film that I Had Written. I wrote a lot of songs for the project, but It Never Came Together. Maybe Someday It Will.
9. Julian Lynch | Just Enough
Julian Lynch’s Mare was a Big Record for me. I Loved it when it Came Out and I still listen to it on a Regular Basis. There is just this Indescribable Feeling to the Album—it occupies this Very Specific Time and Space for me. The Music is made in such a Special and Careful Way. Each Part is Thoughtfully Composed and the Sounds he uses are Unlike Those of Any Other Artist—his Drum and Bass Clarinet Sounds especially. Julian Lynch was the Reason I Became Obsessed with the Brooklyn Record Label Olde English Spelling Bee. I started diving into their Back Catalogue and got myself into some Really Cool Records by Alice Cohen, The Pigeons, James Ferraro, and Flashback Repository. Those Albums inspired me to send an Email to Todd, who runs OESB, and now we are Working Together on Releasing an Album of Mine. It’s Exciting to be a part of this Family.
10. Palace Music | Ohio River Boat Song (Traditional Scottish 'Loch Tay Boat Song' Ballad Adaptation)
This song was Will Oldham’s First Release and it still stands as one of his Finest. I’ve Loved this Song For Many Years Now and it’s one of my Favorite Songs. Both the BonnieBonnie "Prince" Billy – Sings Greatest Palace Music and Lost Blues And Other Songs versions are Wonderful in Their Own Different Ways. I think Will is one of the Best Songwriters We’ve Got and Everything He Does is so Consistently Grand and Beautiful. I worked with his Brother Paul on my First Album and we just Recorded an Album of New Material Together this Summer. Paul is a great Songwriter, Musician, and Engineer in his Own Right, and it’s been Fun Getting to Know Him Better and Become Friends. He has a Project that he’s Currently Working On with His Wife Amber that is going to Release some Really Great Stuff in the coming year.