Saturday, June 12, 2010
Every week, we find out what the new theme is, and every week there are artists I want to post who don’t have a song that fits. This week has given me the chance to get to some of these artists. Here are three more.
Tish Hinojosa: Rancherita
Tish Hinojosa is a Mexican-American. The album I have, Homeland, is a celebration of her heritage, so it’s only natural that some of the songs are in Spanish. Rancherita means “little ranch girl”, and here she is serenaded beautifully by the cowboy who loves her. The accordion part, by the legendary Flaco Jiminez, has a bit of a polka feel to it. Settlers from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe brought their accordions and their polkas with them when they came to Texas. There, Mexican migrant workers heard this new sound, and brought it back with them to Mexico. And that’s how the accordion found its way into norteno music.
Angelique Kidjo: Batonga
Angelique Kidjo hails from the African country of Benin, but her music is an amalgam of various African styles, as well as being influenced by American R & B and even rock. She has done amazing covers of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. Batonga is an original song. Most of the words are in Yoruba, but the title is a word Kidjo made up when she was a girl. She used it to respond to boys who taunted her at school, and they had no response because they didn’t know what the word meant, and they didn’t want to admit their ignorance to a girl. Batonga, to Kidjo, has come to be an assertion of a girl’s right to an education, and it is now the name of a foundation in which Kidjo is very much involved, and which is dedicated to that purpose.
Jim Lauderdale: Whisper
It’s not that I have anything against the English language. I had better like it, since it’s the only one I speak. And it is certainly possible to express oneself beautifully in English. Take Whisper. In 1978, this song would have been a country chart topper, and regarded as a classic country song ever since. Whisper is a great example of how to say I love you in a country song, and Lauderdale gives a wonderful sincere performance. The production is perfect, with the song having everything it needs and not a trace of the overpruduction that mars so many country songs. The only trouble is, Whisper didn’t come out until 1998. By then, was considered alt-country, and not nearly enough people got to hear it. I’m happy to have a chance to do a little something about that.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Azure Ray: Home
I wasn't sure where to go with this theme since there are so many possibilities, but I knew I wanted to choose a word that really meant something, that was important.
"Home" means something different to everyone. Despite my mother living longer in our current house than she ever did in the place where she grew up, that area is still "up home" for her. And then there's people who feel very little attachment to a place but instead feel it to people, either because they moved around a lot, or because they don't have fond memories of where they grew up and therefore feel no attachment to it. But when we do call something "home", it's a good thing, it's the place we want to be, the place we feel safest and more like ourselves. Sometimes it becomes where ever your family is, or sometimes it's a specific house, piece of land, or an area. Where you know the streets by heart, where they sell all the foods you grew up on, and where you can still see your 3rd grade teacher at the grocery store every once in a while.
Next month I am moving. I had moved home and was living with my folks in the house I grew up in the last few years until I saved up some money, and now I am moving to another state, and away from what I call "home", and despite loving where I am moving, and being excited about starting this new venture, I don't think any place will ever be "home" like that old farmhouse I grew up in.
This song is good because it deals with all those feelings of comfort and belonging that come from feeling "at home", and the fact that sometimes that means being around the people you choose to be your family, and not the ones given to you genetically. It's a beautiful, and emotional song that really fits the word.
Rickie Lee Jones: Satellites
Whatever became of Rickie Lee Jones? She burst on the scene thirty years ago with her huge hit Chuck E’s In Love, and then vanished, never again coming anywhere near that kind of success. Of course, I’m sure many of our readers know that she’s been here all along. Jones has released a steady stream of albums ever since that debut. She has even managed to stay on a major label. And she has proven to be a brilliant songwriter and a very good interpreter of other people’s songs. But Jones has always had a distinct persona, (her detractors call it an affectation), of this jazzy street urchin. Her best songs are poetry with mostly acoustic musical settings that suit the characters and moods perfectly.
All of this is on display in Satellites. The song seems to me to be a celebration of a friendship that is deepening into something more, but, as happens with the best songwriters, other interpretations are possible. The joy of the moment is unmistakable. The musicality of the piece is revealed in Jones’ use of dynamic shifts; the song goes from louder to softer sections in unexpected ways. Get to know the song though, and you won’t be able to imagine doing it any other way.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Pearl Jam: Porch
Pearl Jam: Breath
Pearl Jam: Corduroy
Pearl Jam: Smile
Pearl Jam: Wishlist
Pearl Jam: Sad
When I first started posting here (thanks, Ramone666!) I was adviced to keep the posts as short as possible. I always try to and I usually fail. I'm a born rambler.
But this time I will keep it short. I will only say that Pearl Jam is the greatest active American rock band, and any other band can only hope to achieve such an impressive body of work.
Kevin Salem: Amnesia
I can't remember why I posted this song.
Oh that's right...because it rocks! It's just meat-and-potatoes guitar pop, but that's not a bad thing. This song was part of my personal soundtrack in the mid-'90s, and it still sounds good today. I'm glad I didn't forget about it.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Penguin Café Orchestra: Milk
Penguin Café Orchestra: Coronation
When the Penguin Café Orchestra released their more or less eponymous album, Music from the Penguin Café in 1976, the record stores were perplexed. The music was too discordant to be classical, too melodic to be avant-garde, folk wasn’t the word and neither was pop, or prog rock. The state of confusion was perhaps added to by the musicians including Simon Jeffes and Steve Nye whose careers crossed effortlessly between classical and rock. For years the album was hard to find precisely because retailers didn’t know which bin it went into. One sure place to find it was in that category useful for any music that defied labels; contemporary jazz.
More subversive than confronting, Music from the Penguin Café Orchestra is a deceptive album. Some tracks wash over without calling attention to themselves until you take the time to listen closely. Others set you up to sit in a comfortable chair only to whip it away. Emotionally it reminds me of having hangovers on a Sunday afternoon when I was still young enough to have done something incredibly stupid the night before and think melancholic self–reflection was enough to redeem me. With subsequent albums the Orchestra mellowed, by which I mean there were less surprises in the music. About this time it started to be categorized as ‘new age’ and was deemed acceptable for actual cafes, as though it were the perfect music to sip a latte to. That is both wrong and embarrassing
Guest post by John
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Ripple
If you have followed my posts both here and on Oliver di Place, you know that I am a great fan of the Grateful Dead. Why then am I posting a cover of Ripple? Simply because Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s version is stunning and will not be denied.
Ripple is a Robert Hunter - Jerry Garcia collaboration, with Hunter responsible for the lyrics. The song comes from the early 70s, a period when many young people were engaged in spiritual searches, and Ripple reflects this. Hunter believes in a higher power, he just hasn’t identified it yet. Some of the lyrics seem to echo Judeo-Christian writings, while other parts of the song hint at Eastern beliefs. The brief chorus is in the form of a haiku. But, whatever the tradition, Ripple is a statement of faith. And that is why the song works as a whole.
For Gilmore, that statement of faith is the key. His delivery of the lines makes it clear that he believes. Gilmore’s arrangement is an added bonus, especially the fiddle solo. This one just shines.