I’ve received numerous emails in the past month asking me the same question again and again: “Phillip, why are you leaving Steel White Table?” My answer: Because one blog is enough, and that blog is Mud Songs. It’s about beekeeping.
I miscounted how many days I have left. Tomorrow’s my last day here, not today. So I’m adding one more song to my list of 30 Songs. It’s “This Goddamn House” by a multi-instrumentalist group called The Low Anthem. I discovered them last night while searching for YouTube videos of Jolie Holland. They don’t exactly make upbeat music (from what I’ve heard so far), yet it’s not depressed or forlorn. I can’t describe what they do, but I’ve never heard anything like it. I’m impressed.
I put all my MP3s into one big playlist, hit the “Shuffle” button and this is first song that came up: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” Good enough.
Thus ends my list of 30 songs that left a strong impression on me at some point in my life. Some of the songs still resonate with me. Some don’t. The Buena Vista Social Club, Chirstine Fellows, Choying Drolma, Danny Schmidt, Eilen Jewell, Emmylou Harris, Geoffrey Oryema, Gillian Welch, The Gladiators, Howlin’ Wolf, Joe Higgs, John Coltrane, Lee Scratch Perry, Miles Davis, Nigel Kennedy, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Public Image Limited, Randy Newman, The Tear Garden, Toots and The Maytals and Utah Phillips all came close to getting on the list.
I could end all this with some statement about how most of people never stop listening to whatever it was they listened to in junior or high school or whatever part of their youth was the most formative. Music is like a time machine, I could say, because listening to music can bring us back to a time when we had few responsibilities and the world subsequently seemed simpler, some might even think better. It’s not the music or the world that was better. It’s how the music makes us feel that keeps us listening. But I won’t bother going off like that.
Tom Waits is heard in my house more than anyone else, so he gets two entries on the big 30 Songs list.
I can understand how Tom Waits isn’t everyone’s cup of coffee. He’s got a style that leaves most people wondering, “What the hell is that?” He doesn’t make radio-friendly music. I doubt “Black Wings” was ever a big hit. (These are good things, by the way.)
My appreciation for what he does evolved from following his growth as an artist, and watching him continue to grow. The Tom Waits of the 1970s is not the Tom Waits of the 21st century, and yet it’s all Tom Waits. Continue reading Song #29: “Black Wings”→