There’s a lot from the 1980’s in this week’s list, and a bit more bluegrass than usual, as well as a few fewer lyrics. I’ve included a song off Josh Groban’s new album, and another song each from Bearfoot (who I saw in concert 2 weeks ago) and SHEL (who I missed seeing in concert this week). It’s a fun mix, and includes a few too many songs I like singing along to, considering that I am supposed to be resting and getting over a sore throat before it turns into a lingering cough. Having a persistent cough would be very annoying, after all, considering that I spend so many evenings at music and comedy shows. Maybe next week’s list will have to veer more towards foreign-language songs so that I can’t sing along to any of them. In the meantime, here’s this week’s List-
1. “Once in a Lifetime”- Keith Urban (Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing): One of the Keith Harkin original songs that turned up on his youtube channel this past week really sounded like something Keith Urban could cover easily, or maybe the two of them could team up and record it together. I suspect that the fact that the Celtic Thunder lads went to see Keith Urban on one of their unexpected extra days off, might have contributed to Mr. Harkin channeling Mr. Urban in his performance for this ‘busking’ video. Anyway, thanks to the Celtic Thunder guys I’ve had the occasional Keith Urban tune on my spotify this week, and might as well start of this list with one of his hit songs.
2. “Bella Luna”- Jason Mraz (Mr. A-Z) : I always think of the cheap commercial pop sounds that turn up overhead at McDonalds when I think of Jason Mraz, which clearly is not quite fair. This track always fools me when it comes on because if this song came on the McDonalds overhead speakers I would be taking note of the artist in order to hunt down the album. Maybe teenagers wouldn’t go for this sort of music, but I’d be thrilled if songs like this replaced the overplayed stuff I am graced with whenever I am out at fast food and retail shops.
3. “We’ll Be Together”- Sting (Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994) : As a kid I absolutely loved the music video for this song, a black-and-white mini-movie involving a party, a fight, cops and a glamorous woman. That’s about all I really understood at that age, which I suppose is a good thing. That glamorous woman worked her way into my ideal image for myself, of course, an ideal that is far from likely or practical, unfortunately, but at least so far I have not yet hooked up with a fellow like the troubled hero in this video.
4. “Boots of Spanish Leather”- The Airborne Toxic Event (Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International) : Here’s one of the songs I’ve always known was a Bob Dylan song, but without ever really knowing what it sounds like. It’s not ever been on the radio that I recall, anyway, and most people seem to want to cover his flashier songs. This cover is nicely light and carefully crafted, and really sounds like an old traditional folk tune. The band on this track was named after the funniest section of Don DeLillo’s book White Noise, a book worth reading just for this section really.
5. “Footloose”- Kenny Loggins (The Essential Kenny Loggins ): This is one of those songs every generation rediscovers and falls in love with, perhaps guiltily, leading to its appearance at weddings, proms and house parties once the guests are tipsy or otherwise distracted enough not be be keeping close track of everyone who knows all the words. Of course if these parties are drunk enough they also result in a few people trying to dance to it as well, an entertaining sight for us non-dancers. The movie Footloose is also pretty decent, though obviously dated by the fact that the actors are stylishly dressed for the 80’s; the dancing in the movie would make anyone look good even on a modern dance floor.
6. “Belfast Polka/ Pennsylvania Railroad”- Celtic Thunder (Take Me Home) : The new Celtic Thunder album comes out in just over a week from now, on February 19th, so while I’ve been trying not to feature Celtic Thunder EVERY week, I had to include one of their earlier songs again this week. This one is among my absolute favorites, even though it has no words, because it is a fun challenge to whistle along to. I could almost keep up with the melody lines this afternoon, but I am definitely a bit rusty and need a lot more practice.
7. “Stars & Stripes Forever”- Jake Shimabukuro (Song of America) : Again, no lyrics! Do I have a fever? After all, I always complain about rock music without enough lyrics. Actually, yes, I do have a fever, but I don’t think it has swayed my music tastes just yet. This one is a patriotic tune we Americans all know, though I always think of the “Web-Footed Friends” lyrics first when I hear it. Jake Shimabukuro plays ukulele, and this is one of his impressive fast ukulele arrangements.
8. “Laisse-Moi Dire”- Django Reinhardt (Festival in the Desert): I needed more music in languages other than English, so this is one that found its way onto the list by virtue of its language, not France-French but Africa-French I think, though I know far too little French myself to say for sure. It is a recording from a festival in the Sahara Desert, so it is at least more likely that this is a song in the French dialect spoken by some part of Africa. Anyway, it sounds cool, and while my French is rusty, I can almost understand some of the words. (Time to review my French, I guess.)
9. “Vinyl Memories”- SHEL (SHEL ) : These ladies have been recording new music, which is an exciting thought. They played a show last week on the CSU campus, which apparently was fantastic, and were on the radio earlier today, ahead of their upcoming shows in Chicago, Madison (Wisconsin), and several non-Chicago dates in Illinois. They are still on my short-list of local bands destined for great things.
10. “The Hawaiian War Chant”- The King Sisters (Imagination- The Blend and the Elegance) : I’ve wanted to add this song to a list for a while now, and it’s not sung in English… I love the “Camptown Races” insert near the end. I have no idea how well the King sisters pronounce the Hawaiian in this song, or how ‘Westernized’ this is, but it sounds cool and is fun to sing along to. Back when these ladies recorded this song, the issue of Hawaiian statehood was still very decidedly current, and Hawaiian culture was still a lot more healthy and intact, so my best guess is that this is a pretty good attempt, all things considered.
11. “Hazy Shade of Winter”- The Bangles (Eternal Flame: The Best of the Bangles) : I think one of the common underlying themes to this list is “Mama Lenny withdrawl”, as evidenced in this and a few other songs. I loved this band and this song in particular as a kid, in part because the ladies in this band looked so amazing in the video for this song. They weren’t trying to copy the guys in the hair bands really, because they were cool enough as rockstar women, and the more they acted like a rock band the sexier they became. Mama Lenny and the Remedy doesn’t have a female drummer or bassist, but Kelly Keeler, who sings and plays guitar in this band’s shows, reminds me very much of the ladies who play bass and drums in the Bangles. The rest of the ladies of Mama Lenny just add to the effect, so that now the Bangles remind me of the always cool ladies of Mama Lenny & the Remedy, who unfortunately are not yet back on stage.
12. “Send Me a Letter”- Joy Kills Sorrow (Darkness Sure Becomes This City ): Hang out at bluegrass jams enough and bluegrass starts to seep more and more into your rest of your week. The title of this song drew me in, as it is very similar to one I posted earlier by Better Than Bacon, but that was a rock tune, and this is decidedly not. I suppose it is not quite bluegrass either, but the band plays a lot of bluegrass and this is the sort of folk song bluegrass bands seem to play a lot while resting their fingers between super-lightning-fast instrumental songs.
13. “J’T’Emmene Au Vent”- Louise Attaque (Louise Attaque) : This was the first popular French song I found that I really liked, back when I was still taking a French class in college. We heard a clip from it in class, actually, since it utilizes a grammar structure we were learning at that time, and it took a while to find the song again because the instructor forgot what song she had used and no longer could find the slideshow file by the time I thought to ask. I found the song anyway, and felt quite triumphant about it for weeks, though none of my friends have ever quite been suitably impressed with this fantastic feat of internet research- finding a song I’d heard part of, once, and for which I vaguely knew a couple words from the chorus, when most websites that might mention the song or artist would be in French, and not first-year French… It’s a great song, really, well worth all that effort it took me to find it.
14. “Casualty of Love”- Charlotte Church (Tissues and Issues) : Her voice is gorgeous, still, in this 2005 track, and is put to great use in this pop song. In fact, much of the youthful breathiness that Charlotte’s voice naturally had in her earlier albums is gone by this one. While I’m sure she’d sound great singing an Ave Maria with this voice too, this song has a nice edginess and power to it that is more than welcome in the contemporary pop-music spectrum. Hopefully the new music she’ll be releasing soon is as good as this 2005 stuff. Her first new EP was pretty good, anyway, so I am optimistic.
15. “Little Lies”- Fleetwood Mac (Greatest Hits ): More classic music, that I grew up listening to as a kid, and yes, I liked this music video too. I saw a note recently somewhere, I’m guessing maybe in the online Guardian entertainment page, about that Fleetwood Mac is going to be starting a new tour, so there may be more news to come on this band.
16. “I’ll Be There For You”- Bon Jovi (Cross Road) : 80’s throwback week? This is another one that reminds me of Mama Lenny & the Remedy, actually. Maybe it is a combination of the harmonies and my thinking that Mama Lenny & the Remedy could do a great cover of this one. It’s definitely not their usual style, though, so this may be a comparison aided by my lingering fever. hmmm….
17. “The Most Lonely”- Bearfoot (Follow Me ) : I saw this band two weeks ago, and they played a very good show, including this lovely song. This song lately comes to mind whenever I see posts from Australian Celtic Thunder fans lamenting that this group is nearby but that they can’t go to the Celtic Thunder show(s). It is after all no different for us having the Celtic Thunder guys in town or back in their homes in Ireland and Scotland, except if we actually see them in person, yet knowing they are around we do miss them as if they ought to be with us if they are in town. Yes, I know that this Bearfoot song is more about a romantic relationship, not crazy fans and the singers they obsess over, but it really does justice to both situations.
18. “Sincera”- Josh Groban (All That Echoes) : It’s a foreign language song, AND a brand new Josh Groban song. All That Echoes came out on the 5th, and Josh has been very excited and very busy ever since. He played a live-streamed concert today on Iheart Radio, and has been doing lots of promotional and just generally proud-excited-singer posts about his album all week. Well, it is his new baby, after all, and a very well-made album. This song is one Josh cowrote for the album, btw.
19. “Shelly in the Heather/ Linda’s Reel”- Cherryholmes (Cherryholmes) : Another bluegrass track, and all instrumental- I realized over the past 2 weeks, while hanging out at bluegrass sessions, that I know a lot of tunes, but I almost never know the names of any tunes, and rarely know the words for any of the classic or popular bluegrass songs well enough to actually sing any harmony parts, let alone the main vocals. So, while the other bluegrass tracks this week sort of nudged themselves onto the list, this one was intentional. I figure if a few really good recordings of instrumental bluegrass are on these lists I’ll be more familiar with them, and can gradually add to the bluegrass songs I actually know.
20. “Takin’ My Baby Along”- Katie Glassman (Snapshot) : There have been a few things on twitter and in the general online media world about timing and artists that release albums with a nice big splash at launch time, but with very little sustained interest. I suspect a lot of this pattern comes down to the media itself, that when we talk about music, we preferentially focus in on brand new music, as if it gets necessarily stale after a few months, weeks or even days. After a few conversations with other entertainment writers on this topic, I am even more convinced that we as entertainment media voices create the dynamic we complain about, and as my readers no doubt have noticed by now, I refuse to consider any album obsolete or uninteresting just because it is not brand new. So, as a late add to the list I went back to some of the albums I focused on a lot more at the beginning of these lists, and added in another favorite track this week from one of those albums. Amusingly, amazon.com seems now to have settled on Country as Katie Glassman’s genre, an odd fit for this gorgeous song, which draws on the old-timey style of the 20’s and 30’s.