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”→
Ladies and gentlemen, “I Believe in You,” by Black Dub.
Black Dub has Daniel Lanois on guitar, piano and lap steel; Trixie Whitley on vocals and a bit of drums; Daryl Johnson on bass; and Brian Blade on drums. What a band. Although Daniel Lanois is known for his wizardry behind the console as a producer, the Black Dub debut album feels raw most of the time as if the effects were turned off so we could focus more on the band playing off each other. I listened to the album at least once a day every day for the first month I had it. It left a huge impression on me. They’ve posted several videos recorded Live Off The Floor.
I put Jolie Holland in the same class as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits because of her ability to assimilate traditional music into a sound and style that is singularly her own. She also happens to have an unusual voice that, not unlike Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, doesn’t exactly have mass appeal. One reviewer said she sings like she’s got a mouth full of marbles. Maybe, but she makes it work. Her music first fell into a folky weird bluesy category and has gradually moved towards a more full-on band rock sound, kinda like Bob Dylan. Every album builds on what came before it and, although she doesn’t hit pay dirt every time, it’s usually pretty damn good. The first song of hers to grab me was the ghostly Wandering Angus. Her interpretation of Pure Imagination is way out there too. But I’ll pick “Mexico City” because I don’t know what else to pick.
P.S.: The Daytrotter Sessions from 2007 and 2009 are essential Jolie Holland recordings, perhaps more so than any of her albums. It’s the best sample of her music I’ve found online. Wolfgang’s Vault has performances of some of her latest songs.