Apologies again for the lack of posting. I got really busy starting last July, and it’s only now starting to slow down (and I’m just starting to catch up). But, for my loyal readers, I do have something new to share. A new mix of county singer/songwriters, that I’m quite excited about. Extended thoughts below the fold but I’m definitely curious to know what people make of it. A lot of this music is new to me, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to a bunch new music to work on this, and I’m happy with how it turned out:
1: Walkin’ — Willie Nelson
2: Honkey Tonk Girl — Eilen Jewell (by Loretta Lynn)
3: Saint Anthony With The Broken Hands — Katy Moffatt
4: Hard On Equipment (tool for the job) — Corb Lund
5: West Texas Waltz — Butch Hancock
6: Burning The Toast For You — Suzy Bogguss (by April Barrows)
7: Wander — Paul Burch
8: Listen To The Radio — Kathy Mattea (by Nanci Griffith)
9: Anyhow, I Love You — Lyle Lovett (by Guy Clark)
10: Please — Mary Gauthier
11: Glasgow Girl — Rodney Crowell
12: Six Nights A Week — Peter Case (by Chris Gaffney)
13: Gimme A Ride To Heaven, Boy — Terry Allen
14: Mystery Train Part II — Steve Earle
15: Out In The Parking Lot — Guy Clark
16: Sittin’ Still — Andrew Jacob Holm
17: Boxcars — Joe Ely (by Butch Hancock)
Blame Willie Nelson and Shawn Camp for the fact that I decided do this.
When I started to appreciate Willie Nelson I realized that I’d made it from listening to some country-influenced singer/songwriters (like Townes Van Zandt) to real country music (albeit unconventional) and really enjoying it. Over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve picked a couple of different albums that have made me appreciate the strength of the songwriting tradition in country music. Most recently I got the new tribute album to Guy Clark, organized by Shawn Camp, and loved it. It’s one of the best new albums that I’ve heard in a long time and it absolutely makes the case both that Guy Clarks catalog is an impressive body of work, and that there’s a whole community of country singer/songwriters that I needed to know more about. I ordered CDs from a couple of people who were on that album and, as I started listening to them, I decide that I needed to do a country songwriting mix, and this is the result.
A couple of things strike me, after I’ve finished it. First that my tastes definitely show. I have noticed that, as I start listening carefully, the songs that really attract me are the ones where the performer is emotionally invested in the material. That does, I’m afraid push the mood of the set towards the more serious. I have left in a couple of sillier songs but as it came down to making the final selections the weightier songs tended to make the cut but they are fantastic*.
The second thing that I realized is that, without meaning to, I’d made a mix that was appropriate to the season. I’ve made the argument that one of the things I like about Country Songwriting is that it can very specific. Broadly speaking when I think of great pop songwriters I tend to think of either people who can write wonderfully about universal emotions, or who tend towards playful wordiness (like Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello). I know of more country songs that are about some specific experience that happened to the writer. There’s also, of course, a noble tradition of country songs about heartache. When I arriving at a final selections of songs I realized that I have a number of choices which sit at the intersection of those categories, and are songs about people in the process of figuring out their own lives. There is a good amount of heartache, but there are also a lot of songs in which the song feels like part of making the situation better — songs about the moment of making a choice or coming to a realization, or taking stock of life. That does make it seem like a good mix for Springtime, when things are changing and possibilities opening up.
* To single out one song in particular, I hadn’t listened to “Sittin’ Still” before. I’d been given the album as a gift, listened to it part way through, hadn’t been quite in the mood for it, and put it away and forgot about it. But as I soon as I listened to the song I knew both, that it was too good not to include and that it was a strong emotion that it was going to be tricky fitting it into the mix. Andrew Jacob Holm’s liner notes for the song are (in full), “After leaving a longtime lover in Colorado I moved to Madison, WI to a small one bedroom apartment in the rear of a small house. I wrote Sittin’ Still there one December night after driving nails in 5 degree cold. Wisconsin is cold.” It’s a heavy emotional song, and absolutely great.
Hopefully you will enjoy it as well.