Song #27: “Mexico City”

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.

Song #26: “Things Have Changed”

Years ago I got stuck in the back of a car during a road trip with some friends who played early heavy-on-the-harmonica Bob Dylan non-stop for about three days, and I just about lost my mind. That experience prevented me from getting on board the Bob Dylan bus until he released Time Out of Mind in 1997. I still don’t listen to much early Dylan, but I’ve come to appreciate the overall body of his work and his development as an artist, how he absorbs (and steals from) traditional music and makes it singularly his own. (I like Tom Waits and Jolie Holland in the same way.) He’s a master vocalist and lyricist too. I don’t know what most of his songs are about but they’re about something and it draws me in. I like how his songs are open to interpretation. You can take what you like from them regardless of his original intention. I’d pick “Moonshiner” as the first song of his that made a strong impression on me, but I can’t find that anywhere on YouTube, so I’ll pick “Things Have Changed” instead.

(It was a toss up between “Things Have Changed” and Mississippi.) I also admire Dylan for playing his music the way he wants to play it. Instead of replicating the studio versions on stage — which seems to piss off a certain segment of his audience who’d rather hear “Like a Rolling Stone” exactly like it sounds on the album — he’s always trying new things with his songs during live performances, often completely transforming them. Here’s a bootleg video for “Things Have Changed” that doesn’t sound anything like the studio version. I love that.

Song #25: “Canned Goods”

Greg Brown is a storyteller. He’s what I like most about folk type musicians: He’s down to earth. He could be flashy and famous, but he shows up on stage and sits down to play his guitar and tells stories, like the one in “Canned Goods,” about specific but ordinary and every day things. He excels at keeping it real.

This 14-minute version of “Canned Goods” exemplifies the storyteller vibe that comes from Greg Brown.

See You at The Movies

Yesterday’s comments on Midnight in Paris constitute the last movie review type thing I’ll post to Steel White Table. About a week from now, I’ll be done with this blog altogether. Probably. Anyhow, if you really can’t stand missing out on what movies I’ve been watching, I offer you my two big movie lists available through the Internet Movie Database.

List #1: All the most recent movies I’ve seen with a rating out of 10 (click the image to view the list).

I’m not too stringent with the 10 star rating scale. I was used to thinking within the 4 star scale with no half stars (because then it would just be an 8 point rating system, and if you’re using 8, what not just use 10?). So for me 8, 9 or 10 stars = a 4-star movie. Most movies are such a total waste of time and brain energy, when I come across something that engages me, makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me think or feel something I wouldn’t have otherwise thought or felt (besides annoyance), then it’s a 4-star movie. A 3-star movie, an average okay kind of flick, is 7 stars using the IMdB rating system. Anything lower than that is pretty much crap. Okay then…

List #2: Movies that, according to my brain, aren’t too shabby — the more or less 4-star movies (click the image to view the list).

My current favourite or most recommended movies (and television series) will show up near the top of the list (the first 10 or so), but the list can be ordered according the release date and other criteria.

I might add comments to some of the movie descriptions and I might create a list of guilty pleasure movies some day. But otherwise, that’s it. See you at the movies.

Song #24: “Highway Kind”

Townes Van Zandt was, I suppose, a country-folk artist, but primarily he was a songwriter. I know more people who have passed on his music than got hooked because his songs seem ordinary and unremarkable. I felt the same way until I learned to play a few of his songs, and then they began to feel like my songs, like they were coming from me. I’ve spoken to musicians who have had similar experiences with Townes’s music. It takes a while to catch on to it, and then it subtly penetrates and resonates and takes over. “Highway Kind” was the first song that crept up on me like that.

The YouTube video for it can’t be embedded, so here’s the straight up audio: Highway Kind

“It’s a shame that it’s not enough. It’s shame that it is a shame.” I rarely listen to Townes Van Zandt these days because he’s unbearably sad most of the time, but I still appreciate him. He led me away from conventional white rock music and got me listening more to music that could be played by one person as opposed to produced in a studio. The calm, quiet water often runs the deepest. Or something like that.