November 25, 2010

broken hearts and dirty windows

broken hearts and dirty windows

I started my morning with a hearty sing-in-the-shower rendition of “Angel From Montgomery” (those acoustics!) in the sticky warmth of Florida, and am ending it tonight back in the ten degree weather in clear cold Colorado. My sister asked over coffee what song I had been singing, and a discussion on John Prine followed. John Prine has stuck in my mind today, all his perfect lyrical constructions and simple folk truth, and was the soundtrack to my flight home this evening (while I finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and openly cried fat hot tears on the plane, but hey that’s another story).

If you own an old pickup truck (or can borrow one) to traverse some dusty roads in the countryside, this year’s Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows compilation of John Prine covers sounds especially good. The title of the album comes from the 1972 song “Souvenirs” (“Broken hearts and dirty windows / make life difficult to see”), and I’ve been meaning to mention this comp for months. The whole record is obviously rich because of the fodder to work with and the superb gathering of artists contributing, but I think Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band contribute my favorite cover of the bunch:

My car is stuck in Washington and I cannot find out why
Come sit beside me on the swing and watch the angels cry
It’s anybody’s ballgame, it’s everybody’s fight
And the streetlamp said as he nodded his head
It’s lonesome out tonight

Stylistically this absolutely fits in with the rollicking twang of their own compositions on 2008′s Outer South, and Conor’s caged, restless energy shines through brilliantly.

But there are so many great tracks on this collection, from the Avett Brothers singin’ about blowing up your TV and moving to the country, to Josh Ritter’s “Mexican Home” (which I got to see him perform live in Telluride), to My Morning Jacket’s “All The Best” (reminiscent of the golden buoyancy of the track they contributed to the I’m Not There soundtrack). Add to that a glowing Justin Vernon, the pensive Justin Townes Earle, the heartbreak of Deer Tick, then pin it all together with Prine’s first-rate songwriting and I am sold.

Stream the whole thing and buy it over on Bandcamp for just ten bucks. They’ve got it tagged with classifications of “indie, Nashville.” Sounds about right to me.

My only frown came from the fact that no one covered “Speed of The Sound of Loneliness,” my favorite Prine tune. Luckily Amos Lee did a perfect one in 2003:

Speed Of The Sound of Loneliness (John Prine) – Amos Lee

March 3, 2008

There is so much more to love than black and white :: Amos Lee on KCRW

I’m sitting in a hotel business center in San Francisco paying 49 cents a minute to hop online real quick using what sounds like dial-up. Awesome. The Noise Pop Festival and related blogger-nerd activities have been an absolute hit this weekend. There’s been great energy in the crowds, some surprising new talent, an even waffles for free. Yes, free waffles at the Noise Pop Expo. Pretty sure it doesn’t get much better than that.

While I process through some of the new music I’ve seen, here’s what San Francisco makes me feel like singing. The newest live set added to my iPod is from Amos Lee, and it’s one that I’ve been looking for on and off for over 2 years now. Every now and again I would half-heartedly click around on some sketchy torrent site looking for it, find questionable Romanian links, and eventually chicken out and not end up downloading anything. But I wholeheartedly and completely adore the gorgeous honesty in his voice and the stark, soulful way that it shines in a live setting, so when I finally found his set archived on the KCRW site I decided to take matters into my own mp3-ripping hands.

Amos Lee first popped on my radar in May of 2005 while I was travelling to Seattle for a conference. I went right out and bought his self-titled first album (out on Blue Note) and have fiercely loved it since. He’s almost exactly my age, maybe one year older, and used to be a schoolteacher in Philadelphia for a time before he struck out with his musical career. For a relative newcomer, he’s had some pretty impressive gigs opening for the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, and John Prine. Incidentally, he does a beautifully sad cover of Prine’s “Speed Of The Sound of Loneliness” that I truly love.

So it’s been me and Amos’ music for the travelling portion of this trip to the gorgeous city of San Francisco. Something in his songs makes it perfect for walking around some fresh downtown somewhere, or sitting just looking over the city.

LIVE ON KCRW, 3/25/05
Seen It All Before
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
(watch him do this at Abbey Road)
Bottom Of The Barrel
Give It Up
Supply and Demand
Arms of a Woman


If you want to hear the interview portion, you can stream the whole show here. There was also a very interesting article about him and his 2006 sophomore album Supply and Demand in the NY Times.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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