Pull Up A Chair and Put On Headphones

One of my vices (the number varies depending upon with whom you speak, and the number is greatly exaggerated no matter…trust me) that I will admit to is music.  I enjoy many different kinds of music.  I think I get it naturally, which is another way of saying, “Hey it’s not my fault…blame my parents.”  One of my earliest memories as a child was listening to my 45’s (hey kids, those are small vinyl record discs with one song on each side…and usually the “B” side sucked).  I had a small record player and a lot of silly fun 45’s like “How Much is That Doggie…”, which would take a whole different turn in today’s music.  I also remember my mom and dad always having music playing on our family stereo, which was almost as big as the family car.  I can picture all the LP’s stacked, leaning  against it with the sides worn out of those we played the most.  The LP’s  ranged from Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis to Al Hirt, Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick.  Until I got older…about ten years old.  Then you would see Elvis, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Herman’s Hermits and Dave Clark Five.  Every Sunday, while getting ready for church, that stereo would be played.  And after church before wrestling and the soccer games on television, we would have it going again.  Every chance we got, music would be streaming through the house.

Not much has changed.

Music still fills the void in our house.  Diana and I enjoy many different types of music.  We try to go to several concerts a year.  We have our favorites, but still like to hear someone new or a little under the radar.  I believe the boys all follow the same path.  I am sure they got (still get) tired of dad saying,”okay, for 10 points name this song and 5 bonus points if you know the artist”. (actually the shoe is on the older foot now…they do it to me)

So when the end of a year comes around, it is sometimes interesting to see all of the “lists” put together by the experts from the trade sources.  Music of the Year.  Top Songs.  The Year’s Best Concerts.  Albums of the Year.  This top ten, that top twenty, and on, and on.  Newspapers.  Magazines.  Web Sites.  Everyone has them…and actually I do not mind.  I don’t pay much attention to them in terms of “the best” or the “top ten”…it is too subjective.  I just check to see out of curiosity and my love for music.

No, you don’t have to worry.  I am not going to post my “Top Anything”.  But I am going to list some of my favorite songs that you might have missed.  Ones that probably did not see much time atop a list, much less radio air time.  (for those who still listen to radio…FM or Satellite).  These are in no particular order.  Just as I write them.  Some may be more familiar than others.  But I thought they were all good, and in some cases unique, for different reasons.  So, Pull Up a Chair.  Put on the headphones and here we go…

Hustle and Cuss  by Dead Weather. This song has about everything in it.  Energy. Electricity. Percussion.  Sexual Tension.  Bass.  When you hear this song…you fight the urge “to do something”.  Jack White has done it again…with attitude, flair, and flat-out “hair in the eyes” craggy music that leaves you asking, “it’s over?”  Hear this and you want more like it…good luck finding more like this.

Everlasting Light by The Black Keys. This is a great CD.  This is my favorite song from a CD with a lot of uniquely strong songs.  Take your pick of any of them…but listen to this rock steady flow of funk and blues music with a falsetto voice just hovering overhead.  Almost eerie.  A little edgy.  Perhaps even bewitching.  But definitely one of my favorite songs for the year.

Angel Dance by Robert Plant. I know, it is a cover.  But like the music Plant did with Alison Krauss, he takes this and turns it into something all his own.  Close your eyes, and if you have ever seen Plant on stage, you can picture him delivering this song moving his shoulders and shuffling his feet.

Harlem River Blues by Justin Townes Earle. Rootsy.  Rockabilly. Folk.  JTE takes a song about a man contemplating suicide and makes it an upbeat tune.  But what would you expect from the son of Steven Earle, stepson of Allison Moorer, who was named after famed songwriter Townes Van Zandt?  Nothing but original music that makes you think.

Burn It Down by Los Lobos. The amigos from East LA are at it again.  Just as they have done for over 30 years, these guys travel a road that is filled with Blues, Rock, Soul and traditional Mexican story telling so they may fill our ears with powerful music that almost always misses the airwaves, but should not be missed.

As She’s Walking Away by Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson. Two of a kind, a few years apart.  Zac Brown is one of Country Music’s rising stars…rising fast.  Alan Jackson  still ranks among the royalty in Nashville.  This song shows you how similar they are, at different stages in their careers.  The story is one to be paid attention to, while their harmony takes me back to CSN&Y.  Do something.  Don’t let her get away. Enjoy.

Need You Now by Lady Antebellum. This is one of Country music’s finest new acts to surface in recent years…that have been around for a while.  Yes, you read that right, it has just been recently that they have “hit it” and they have hit it in a big way.  This song is one reason.  A ballad for late night companionship and longing…also known as a booty call…but the song is too good to be classified like that.

Lonely At the Top by Jamey Johnson. Just like the new album by The Black Keys (Brothers) Jamey’s new album, The Guitar Song is filled with treasures for the music lover.  Lonely At the Top is one of my favorites from Music Rows’ latest bad boy in the boots of Merle, George and others.  This gritty redneck sings of the times of “everyman” trying to make rent.  The song tells of a blue-collar ol’ boy in a bar striking up a conversation with one of the band members who calls himself a country music star…and is complaining about life.  Finally the local patron tells the “music star” that “it might be lonely at the top, but it is a bitch at the bottom”.  WARNING…major twang ahead in this one.

If It Wasn’t For Bad by Leon Russel and Elton John. What do you get when you mix someone who practically invented and carried pop music in the seventies (Elton John) and someone who has spent his life staying out of the glaring light of pop music (Leon Russel) ?  You get a wonderful collaboration that brings out hints of gospel, blues, pop, soul and rock.  This song is my favorite because it showcases the songwriting of Bernie Taupin with the smooth voice of Russel and the pounding of the piano keys courtesy of Elton.  By the way, it is produced by T. Bone Burnett…so it’s got that going for it.

El Camino by Elizabeth Cook. An entry from another new voice. In this song Cook sings about a classic car, a classic haircut (well, kinda…a mullet), a classic romance destined for trouble and she does it with enough sassiness and twang to make it one of those songs you might find yourself singing when no one is around.

Beg Steal or Borrow by Ray LaMontagne. I guess it might be unfair to try to place him in a genre…but if so, the only one I can think of is Contemporary Folk.  And yet that doesn’t seem to do this singer/songwriter, or this song, justice.  Think Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, maybe even Ryan Bingham.  Lyrics from the heart and a voice from middle earth…this former carpenter delivers a smoothness that can be easily overlooked…but I hope you don’t.

You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples. This matriarch of Blues and R&B lets us know our surroundings.  She provides reassurance that we have company at all times with a touch of gospel singed blues music.  Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame does a great job of putting it together, but mother Mavis “takes us there.”

In the “It’s Not Fair” Category…we have a couple of legends.  Bruce Springsteen issued unreleased songs recorded over 30 years ago on The Promise, which delivered like they were written today.  The single The Promise is another one of the Boss’ classic takes on the “working man’s”  life.  And the Stones re-issued their classic Exile On Main Street in deluxe fashion with a new song, Plundered My Soul.  Vintage Stones mid-tempo, bluesy groove that pours it all out in front of you.  You ask yourself…”who is he talking about?”  It feels real personal and heartfelt.  But we shouldn’t feel sorry for Mick.

Others worth listening to:  The Poet, by Ryan Bingham; Bad Angel, by Dierks Bentley, Travelin’ Alone, by Eric Clapton; Soldier of Love, by Sade; Born Free, by Kid Rock; Nothin’ But the Whole Wide World, by Jakob Dylan.

And then there were a few that made your feet tap and made you want to sing a long, but just didn’t quite “make the (my) cut” for whatever reason:  “Fight You” (radio edit) by Cee-Lo Green; Heartbreak Warfare, by John Mayer; Wake Up Everybody, by John Legend and The Roots; Runaway, by Kanye West; That’s How Country Boys Roll, by Billy Currington.

Again, these may not be the best.  But they caught my attention.  I liked them.  I know I left some good ones off.  And there were some albums that on a whole provided some great music.  But these were individual songs.  If you are not familiar with more than half of them.  Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself.  Do yourself another favor and do it when no one is looking.  Why?  Because if you are like me, you are a better dancer when no one is looking!  And some of these will make you wanna dance!

Here’s to our life…

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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