365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 20 (Inauguration Day)
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 20 (Inauguration Day)

Woody Guthrie—This Land is Your Land

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters;
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley;
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding;
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 19
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 19

Rickie Lee Jones—The Last Chance Texaco

It pains me to accept it, but the truth is, some people still don’t really understand just how incredibly hip Rickie Lee Jones was upon arrival.

Admittedly, much of that hipness was eclipsed by the reputation of her romantic partner at the time, Tom Waits.

It’s true that Rickie Lee may not have done herself any favors by coming to our speakers with a style and sound that weren’t all that far afield from the finger-poppin’ hobo chic style that Waits was affecting to perfection during those years, but a deeper look into Jones’ debut makes very clear she was capable of something equally rich, and at times, quite different. …

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 17
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 17

Nina Simone—Why? (The King of Love is Dead)

Paul Zollo published an article about this song earlier this year, in which he wrote the following:

Nina Simone performed it only three days past the assassination on April 7, 1968, at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in New York. In an impassioned, epic performance of almost fifteen minutes, delivered in a voice weakened by rage and sorrow, she spoke, she sang, she sermonized, and prayed for the hatred to end. Her words are a tragic reminder that in more than fifty years since that night, systemic racism in this country persists.

The title of the song begins with a question: Why?

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 17
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 17

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane — In a Sentimental Mood

Yesterday’s song recommendation got me thinking about classic ballads, and for my money, this performance ranks among the most beautiful, most romantic, most moving pieces of music ever recorded.

“In A Sentimental Mood” is, of course, a standard, and rightly so, and it exists as such in both its instrumental and sung forms.

Duke first wrote the piece in 1935, and one should most definitely listen to the original recording:

As to vocal versions, the song is a rare instance where the superimposed lyrics actually do justice to the brilliance of the music. My personal favorite vocal version comes from Ella Fitzgerald, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. …

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 16
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 16

The Spaniels — Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight

When you hear that swinging bass voice lead the way in, you know you’re headed for Doo Wop town, and it’s a glorious place to be when that flutteringly soulful lead vocal starts in to soothe you, and when your hosts are none other than The Spaniels, who hit their musical heights with the classic track “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight,” first recorded in 1953.

I have 3 reasons for featuring this song today.

First, it’s simply an incredible, beautiful, romantic song, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you need to. I’ve written elsewhere of how important the American Graffiti soundtrack was to me when I was very young (as but one example, it’s how I discovered Chuck Berry!), and this is one of the many tracks I discovered on that soundtrack. …

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Soul Coughing — Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago

As I was thinking of my collaborator’s previous recommendation for this #365Songs series, I couldn’t help but think of Chicago. The City, not the band. The City. Drag City, to be precise.

Smog (the band, not the pollution) signed to Drag City in the very early 90’s, and became one of their seminal lo-fi heroes, alongside Palace (aka Bonnie Prince Billy), The Silver Jews, and more. Drag City, of course, began in Chicago.

“Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago” isn’t actually all that Chicago-sounding of a song. Rather, it’s very New York—very downtown, very early 90's.

It wasn’t actually the first Soul Coughing song I ever heard. “Screenwriter’s Blues” was. Hearing it was one of those “where have you been all my life?” moments. I was genuinely flabbergasted. The song sounded like everything I wanted from music at that time. It was so moody, and so vibey, and it brought together so many things I loved—Bomb-Squad-esque beats and samples, beatnik rhymes and poetry, super fat and funky grooves, a super vibey soundscape soundtrack, and the kind of film noir story that John Fante might of written, had he written Hollywood noir. Needless to say, I was mesmerized. …

Post-pandemic, we’ll need two things to get independent live music off life support: fans and venues.

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This is a call.

This is a call to musicians — and those who love music — to start thinking realistically about the future.

Let’s begin with the reality that live music was already struggling before the pandemic.

Note: for the purposes of this essay, when we talk about music — and live music in particular — we are talking about “independent” music. Not corporate capitalist garbage. Not well-funded and algorithmically optimized “mainstream” disposables. Not the going-through-the-motions auto-piloting of rock-star music whose success was fly-in-amber frozen at the timequake moment when Napster launched. …

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When one is a fan of the country blues, one is a sufferer of a peculiar kind of fate — the material is finite, and what little is available is constrained by forces that time has placed beyond our influence.

We are left to wonder what more Robert Johnson could have done with another recording session; what more he could have done with another ten years of life lived; what more he could have done if the recording technology of the time didn’t hold him to three-minute compositions.

And think of that other Johnson! Tommy; he of the startling falsetto and haunted tones — what if he’d recorded an 18th, a 19th, a 20th song? …

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 6
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 6

It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 5
365 Days of Song Recommendations: Jan 5

Rock n’ roll and religion have always had an uneasy relationship, and it’s rare for any artist to take on the subject of god directly—and when they have, the results have usually been, well, not very rock n’ roll.

Framed this way, the first question we run into when we consider the song Dear God is this one: is XTC actually even rock n’ roll?

To answer this, we can defer to context. In other words, objectively, no, XTC probably isn’t rock n’ roll by any conventional definition. But, at the time Dear God was released, XTC were very much representative of what was generally being called “college rock,” and as such, we can accept the song as rock n’ roll for the purposes of the conversation, given the context. …


Preacher Boy

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist , poet, writer. Vintage guitars, vintage typewriters, new Moleskines.

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