Friday, January 27, 2012

My Latest Country Fave...

I haven't posted many country songs featured on this blog yet, probably because country is the the most recent genre added to my music library.  Honestly, I did not care for country AT. ALL. growing up.  Upon moving to the glorious - where am I, Midwest? Southwest? - I found myself s u r r o u n d e d by country and country lovers.  Like, get-in-your-face-and-beat-you-down-for-not-listening-to-country type of country lovers.  So I thought, hey try just a few songs to get started.  After all, I liked Hee-Haw and Dukes Of Hazzard when I was a kid.

Thankfully, over the past 10 years or so I've grown to appreciate country quite a bit - to the point of one country station actually being on my radio pre-set and owning a couple country cds. Not a lot mind you, but yeah, 1 or 2.  And as an aspiring songwriter, how can I deny the power of a song like "He Stopped Loving Her Today".  Holy smokes.

The Zac Brown Band is one of the latest groups to burst on the scene, and seem to bridge country and mainstream.  Note the serious James Taylor influence in the middle of today's song, "Keep Me In Mind".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: The Impressions

I had to go waaay back for this one, back to the days of doo-wop, men standing on the corner making amazing harmonies together.  Whether you're talking about gospel quartets, barbershop groups, or doo-wop, there is something just appealing about men singing together. Especially a capella.

Which, I'd love it if we'd stop saying "A capoco". That joke is done. Let the dead bury dead. Jeez.

Anyways, enjoy this selection by The Impressions, "Say That You Love Me". I believe this is when Curtis Mayfield was still their lead singer.  And meet me at the ice cream parlor, where we'll put a dime in to listen to the latest hits :)

Happy Baby Friday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just One Of Them Days...

Today has definitely been one of them days...when my personal soundtrack includes some DMX and Linkin Park.  Hostile? Maybe a bit. Irritated and annoyed at least.  There's nothing horribly wrong, just dealing with people being people.  And people are not always the nicest, smartest, most intelligent beings to deal with, right? Maybe I'm also a little bit hacked at the Sleepytime Geishas that have been trying to taunt me into a nap this afternoon.  But alas Sleepytime Ninja, I cannot partake in afternoon dreamland delights, I must work.  Sad face. 

Maybe I'm a little sad about a friend moving away.  Yeah, that's got me out of sorts.  And upon further self-evaluation, I find it's pretty self-centered.  What is it about good news for other people that puts me in a fight with jealousy and envy?  And not "oh how wonderful for you I wish I could go too" but a fight with "why doesn't good stuff happen to me?"  What a complete lie.  Good things happen to me all the time.  And you know the heart of the lie is really me saying to God, "why have I been left behind?" 

The truth? I haven't been left behind. I have a beautiful life, with family and friends that love me. I've experienced tears from a broken heart, and tears from a heart full of thanks.  There are people, not just ONE PERSON, but PEOPLE in my life that would drop everything to come running to help.  I used to be the one that did that but never had it reciprocated.  And I know it's more blessed to give than receive, but who said receiving for a change didn't feel good too?  The real danger of feeling left behind is that you begin to think you're wasting your time, and that ultimately you have no good ahead of you.  No future, no hope.  Hope deferred/delayed/ignored still makes the heart sick.

So, I guess I've talked myself into breaking out of the funk.  Maybe do a little kick-boxing or zumba tonight, laugh some, get to bed on time for a change, and hang out long enough to watch my tomorrows get better, like they always do. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rest In Peace Etta James

If you haven’t heard already, Etta James passed away today, due to complications from leukemia (link to google or CNN).  Known of course for her hit, “At Last” (originally written and recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra), Ms. James’ body of work includes hearty, painful, sweet, beautiful songs that will last throughout the years. One can only hope that upcoming musicians and music lovers will continue to discover and appreciate her gift, and her memory & influence will not fall to the roadside like so many great soul and blues singers have.  Having suffered through a difficult childhood, battling with drugs, illness and obesity, Ms. James never stopped singing.  She continued recording and touring throughout her life, and it was only at the November 2011 cd release that she announced she would not record again.  When I listen to her, I hear a fierce voice endued with strength and a love of life and of being in love.

Enjoy her performances of "The Very Thought Of You", "Somethin's Got A Hold Of Me" (that Flo Rida sampled in "Good Feeling") and "Take It To The Limit".  That's right, a cover of The Eagles - and she NAILS it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oldie of The Day: Brown-Eyed, Handsome Man

Alright, alright, alriiiiight!! I've finally worked in a Chuck Berry song!   I don't know enough to make a call on his true king of rock & roll claim yet, but the more I listen, the more I like him. 

"Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" (aka "Brown-skinned Handsome Man") was inspired by some experiences during Berry's travel through heavily black and Latino areas of California.  He also saw a good-looking Chicano being arrested for loitering until, as Berry put it, "some woman came up shouting for the policeman to let him go." This song made it to #383 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 top songs of all time. 

Of course it's been covered by everyone from Elvis and Buddy Holly to Waylon Jennings.  Below is  a live concert version Chuck Berry did with Robert Cray (note Keith Richards in the band).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday: MLK Day

MLK Quotes to ponder:

A lie cannot live.

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Songs for today: "I Have A Dream" by Common & Will.I.Am. and "Blackbird" by The Beatles.  The first song is one of the few songs I actually enjoy with Will-sir on it.  Also, I had no idea the inspiration for Paul McCartney writing "Blackbird" was the turbulent racial tensions in the late 1960s.  In fact, "bird" is a common UK expression for woman, so the song also points to black women rising.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dr. House Has The Blues

If you like the blues, the piano, Dr. House, or just good music, you need to check out Hugh Laurie's cd, released late 2011.  I got stuck on the very first track, "St. James Infirmary", just because that song always gets to me.  Months later I'm finally getting to the other tracks, and I'm enjoying it.  He does sound a bit like Dr. John to me, but maybe because it is piano-based blues. 

Here's a couple to whet your appetite - "Swanee River" and "After You've Gone". 

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: Cherie Amour

You can't have a name like "Cheray" - or Cheryl, Cherry, Sherry, Cherie - and not be serenaded at some point in your life with "My Cherie Amour".  So I have a certain affinity for it.  Yet another song ripe with unrequited love that I have mirror-performed and car-performed on multiple occasions.  So here's two versions of it - the original by Stevie Wonder, and one by the latest artists added to my arsenal, Elaine Elias.  I watched a performance of her trio - and she almost makes me consider quitting piano.  The woman is seriously gifted....and plays barefoot. 

BTW, all those other names I listed above - yes I've been called that before. Major annoyance factor for me. I can give you Sherry, but Cheryl - really? Do you see an "L" anywhere in there? And Cherry - you're just not even trying.  Ugh. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

December Soul: Farewell

This little parade of December/January blue-eyed soul artists comes to an end today.  There are many that haven't been featured...the obvious History of Rap co-conspirator Justin Timberlake, ivory princess Teena Marie (RIP), Jon B., Average White Band, Joe Cocker, Adele, etc. etc.  However, I absolutely can't end this without mentioning 2 final names - Marc Broussard and Michael McDonald. 

The first song I heard of Broussard's "Home" was actually performed on Clash of the Choirs by a choir directed by Blake Shelton.   A friend of mine called me all excited (as music nerds can be sometimes) and literally yelled into the phone, "you've GOT to listen to this guy!"  I did and loved it (good call Christy).  Before then, I'd heard Broussard's cover of Al Green's, "Love and Happiness". But for some reason it didn't click with me the 'hugeness' of his talent until that call.  I think what impresses me is his ability to go from hard core soul classics like "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" as featured on his S.O.S. Save Our Souls album to the pop sound of "Cruel" from his 2011 project Marc Broussard.  Below is "Let Me Do It Over" from that same project.

Michael McDonald always brings a smile to my face; I enjoy his music, his lyrics and imitating his voice.  So much soul, so little enunciation.  Thank God for cd jackets and websites dedicated entirely to lyrics.  I have done many stellar performances of "This Is It", "I Keep Forgettin'"(with that killer bass line as stolen by Warren G and Nate Dogg), and "What A Fool Believes".  Of course the words for "Fool" for me kinda went like this: "He came from somewhere back in derr long ago, somethin' somethin' SOOOOMEthin, sunting sunting alriiight...Sheeeeee had a place in his life, heeeeee never made her think twice, as she riiifal to hur apologeee...".  LOL.  McDonald's recent projects have featured remakes of golden oldies - some tracks are just "eh", but many are well done, keeping true to the era but still in his style. I think what I like about Michael is his likable persona, and he seems to record, write, sing both behind the scenes and on stage because he loves it.  No selling out, no unnecessary short cuts, just simply a musician making music.

Below is a video of his performance at Berklee's commencement ceremony, graciously performing with their students.  There's 2 things I'd like to do - graduate from Berklee, and perform with Michael McDonald.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Oldie of the Day: Jon Gibson

Truly unfairly not known R&B/Christian/gospel artist Jon Gibson freaked out a lot of folks because he looked like he belonged in a Ferris Bueller movie scene but sounded like Stevie Wonder.  It pains me that his music has never been widely known or distributed.  It's like he was too Christian for the secular market, but too on the edge musically for Christian companies.  Definitely sad.  Whether he was performing one of his well-written songs (he's a self-taught musician and songwriter), or covering Stevie Wonder or Andrae Crouch, he has a voice not easily forgotten. 

I was in absolute love with today's first song, "Friend in You" in junior high; I realize now that part of the reason is because it is similar to Wonder's way of crafting a song with simple accompaniment (like "Overjoyed").  This song also mysteriously played on the radio repeatedly for 30 minutes one Friday night when I was 15; it was the same night that a friend told he planned to commit suicide.  Thank God he didn't.  I don't know if he heard this song at all that night, but I do remember many tears and much praying that night.  And I remember the relief and gratitude when I saw him again.  Sadly this friend passed away years later due to cancer.  Although we had lost touch by then, I still cherish the memory of him and our jr. high comraderie.  I think of him every time I hear this song.

The second song, "So Blue, doesn't have such a deep meaning to it; I just  like it ;). My favorite lines: "I think too much, sometimes I think myself right into a jam". This is from the Love Education album, which I consider to be Gibson's best work.  And in checking my cherished cassette copy (yes I said CASSETTE), I see the copyright is 1994....this thing is 18 years old.   Oi and vey.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and Merry 2012!  I hope you had an amazing holiday season and that you're getting geared up for the next 12 months.  If 2011 was tough (as it was for a lot of people), may 2012 be the complete opposite, an upturn for you, full of peace, relief, fun and accomplishment. If 2011 was great for you, may 2012 blessedly continue your winning streak.

My 2012 has already begun quite awesomely, simply because I have not heard any silly year-themed rhyming phrases.  I'm absolutely t h r i l l e d. You know the ones: 2008 is gonna be great (#gag), 2009 is gonna be fine (#ACK!), 2010 we're gonna win (#RETCH!!), 2011 the year of heaven (#commeresoIcancutyou).   All 2012 rhymes, please pass me by.

January will continue the December soul theme, simply because the holidays were so good I missed a few posts.  Recently a friend reminded me to post as part of blue-eyed soul theme UK-born Joss Stone.  Like Duffy, she grew up listening to R&B/soul artists, and began training her voice by singing along with Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits album in her early teens.  She's performed both original music as well as some great oldies such as For the Love Of You and I Put A Spell On You (with Jeff Beck). This past fall the group Super Heavy, whose members include Joss, Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, A.R. Rahman and Dave Stewart, released its debut. 

What do you think about this Super Heavy collaboration?