Music Monday: Grammy Winners

Well, as I said, Whistle Down the Wind didn’t win best folk. Instead, the Punch Brothers album, All Ashore did. I’d never heard of them before. Reading their Wikipedia page suggests that they could easily be a critical darling, so maybe that’s it?

I’m listening to it now and I’m finding it actively unpleasant. And I don’t think it’s just or even primarily sour grapes. The snippet of Gautier’s Rifles and Rosemary Beads I got accidentally when cueing them up seems appealing.

As the opening instrumental bits of the opening track started up I was hopeful. It seems like it could be nice bluegrasses, but the first four songs made me unhappy to listen too. The sixth,” Jumbo” at least doesn’t hurt my ears:

Though it does seem to go on for a long time. And the chorus isn’t nice, And the last verse, eh.

Ok this definitely isn’t anywhere near my cup of tea. I’m giving up and going to listen to Gautier.


Music Monday: Some Dar Williams

I love a lot of Dar Williams stuff (though it can be hit or miss for me). These three are probably my absolute favourite. They are perfect:

Alleluia is clearly the best of her “funny” songs, though “Flinty Kind of Woman” is excellent as well. Alleluia is just so dry and sweet and funny:

Ron and Nancy got the house but Sid and Nancy rule
I died eight years ago; I’m still a legend at my high school
I stole a Chevy and I wrapped it round a tree
But that’s OK ’cause no one’s gonna make the next century
I’m up in heaven now they say I’m here to stay
Where the clouds are really puffy and the angels sing every day

It’s funny in a wistful, not laugh out loud, sort of way. The ending is perfect:

The waves are perfect and the sun will always shine
But there’s got to be more to death than surfing all the time
I know the signs of self-destruction so I try to stop each new kid
Don’t be like me, forever young, forever stupid
Yeah, I found love here, but I’ll bet you’ll find it there
Where they don’t always make the same joke,
“Gee, you make a heavenly pair.”

Every time I see the stodgy older angels yukking it up to this joke.

Travelling I and III are her best songs, esp. poetically. I don’t know if there’s a II. “Travelling Again (Travelling I)”:

Have I got everything? Am I ready to go?
Is it going to be wild, is it gonna be the best time?
Or am I just a-saying so-o-o-o? Am I ready to go?
What do I hear when I say I hear the call of the road?
I think it started with driving, more speed, more deals, more
Sky, more wheels
More things to leave behind, now it`s all in a day for the
Modern mind
And I am traveling again
Calling this a ghost town, and where is the heartland?
And I`m afraid, oh, was there any good reason, that I had to go
When all I know is I can never come back.

The B part always gets me. I’m not a big driver. Indeed, I’ve not driven in over 10 years. But when “I think it started with driving” hits my ear I get it.

This is “Graceland” quality. Indeed, “Graceland” might be the only road song that rivals it.

Finally, “Iowa (Travelling III):t

I’ve never been to Iowa and I’m not a big fan of the Mid-West or West. But this is haunting:

I’ve never had a way with women,
But the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could
And I’ve never found a way to say I love you,
But if the chance came by, oh I, I would
But way back where I come from,
We never mean to bother,
We don’t like to make our passions other people’s concern,
And we walk in the world of safe people,
And at night we walk into our houses and burn.

Damn! And the music stands up to the lyrics. And the last verse…

Once I had everything,
I gave it up for the shoulder of your driveway
And the words I’ve never felt.
And so for you, I came this far across the tracks,
Ten miles above the limit, and with no seatbelt, and I’d do it again,
For tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion,
For I woke up from a nightmare that I could not stand to see,
You were a-wandering out on the hills of Iowa,
And you were not thinking of me.

Just for “screen doors of discretion” this is a masterpiece.

Travelling I and III have a parallel structure: First verse sets the scene, second version talks about another person, third verse is about the singer and their relationship, directly addressing their lover. Both are saturated with regret, but in “Travelling Again” the loss is permanent, but ok. Her life has a cost, perhaps an immeasurable one, but she’s ok with it. She made the choice and, while  she’s wistful about some things, that is her choice.

In “Iowa”, we don’t know what will happen. Instead of leaving love for the road, she’s thrown everything away for the chance of love.

Wonderful songs and even more wonderful in conjunction.

And if you had told early 90s me that I would adore a song who’s chorus was “Iowa” repeated over and over, I would have laughed in your face.

ETA: Evidently, Google really really hates the “copy URL and paste it elsewhere” because all my YouTube links got munged by both YouTube and WordPress. It’s not enough to, you know, have something playing and get the URL in the address bar. It’s not enough to get the “Share” link because WordPress has no idea what is.

I hopes this works.

Music Monday: Birmingham Sunday

I finally got around to listening to Birmingham Sunday, which seemed like a great choice for MLK day. It’s a Joan Baez classic as well which fits in with this year:

The similarities to “The President Sang Amazing Grace” are obvious and…depressing.

I definitely need to listen to more Richard Fariña.

Rhiannon Giddens did a very worthy version:

In many ways I prefer Rhiannon’s a lot. I like her voice better. I mean, I get Baez’s purity, but she uses vibrato a lot and I don’t like that at all. I think the recording and arrangement is better.

Hmm. I just listened to Giddens’ again. She does use vibrato, but a lot less I think. Also, I think her voice is richer. It’s less crystalline and more textured.

Music Monday: One Little Partridge

FINALLY!! Finally finally.


So, this is my favourite Xmas carol. I can’t really call it a War on Xmas song, but it’s so awesome and given that the starting point is everyone’s favorite carol to hate, “The 12 Days of Christmas”, just the leap from that abyss to this sky is mesmerising:

The video is definitely like a home made cookie: very little polish but a lot of enthusiasm.

The obvious comparison is Frederik Silver’s “The Twelve Days After Christmas” which is also a god damn masterpiece:

The second day after Christmas, I pulled on the old rubber gloves
and very gently wrung the necks of both the turtle doves
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

(Alas, I hate all the recordings I could find. Zoe sings it in a light and lovely matter-the-fact way which really makes it. I’ll see if I can get her to record a video today!)

What makes “After” so good is that it is a (super amusing) way of hating, specifically, of hating the “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. What makes “One Little Partridge” so good is that it is a way of loving “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

It still flabbergasts me.