Posts Tagged ‘mason jennings’

Have Song, Will Sing Vol. 1

July 27th, 2008 6 comments

Last year I did a series of Songbirds which seems to have been quite popular, showcasing female artists who fall within the singer-songwriter genre which unaccountably has acquired something of a bad name among the critics. In my view, the genre has not been in a more fertile state since the 1970s. Indeed, it is probably more varied now than it was then.

I”ve thought of doing a similar series on male singer-songwriters (which I might call “Singers with names like schoolteachers”, borrowing a great dig from the Welsh music writer Simon Price). In the meantime, here is a collection of some of the male singer-songwriters I hold in high esteem. What they have in common is that they write the songs they sing, and are broadly, if not invariably, acoustic performers. But the mix transcends such narrow characterisations. Their sensibilities range from folk (such as Mason Jennings) to pop (Bob Evans, Benji Cossa) to indie (Jens Lekman, Josh Ritter) to soul (Amos Lee) to country (Joe Purdy) to rock (Charlie Sexton, Scott Matthews). Most are American, but other nations are also represented, such as Australia (Evans), England (David Ford), Sweden (Lekman) and South Africa (the excellent Farryl Purkiss).

Some are well-known (such as Damien Jurado or, again, Ritter and Lekman), others are without a record contract. Josh Woodward, whose previous album I enjoyed very much, has made his new, very good double set titled The Simple Life available for free download on his website. If you like the sample track on this mix, download it and share it widely. TV viewers will recognise the Steve Poltz song from the Jeep ad, while Landon Pigg”s voice is used to advertise diamonds (albeit with a different, very beautiful, song).

My shortlist is not exhausted. If this mix proves popular, I intend to compile a volume of Songbirds and then a co-ed one. Let me know what you think.

As always, the mix should fit on a standard CD-R.

1. Steve Poltz – You Remind Me (from Chinese Vacation, 2003)
Bob Evans – Friend (from Suburban Songbook, 2006)
Farryl Purkiss – Ducking And Diving (from Farryl Purkiss, 2006)
Mason Jennings – Which Way Your Heart Will Go (from Boneclouds, 2006)
Landon Pigg – Can’t Let Go (from Coffee Shop EP, 2008)
Joshua Radin – The Fear You Won’t Fall (from Unclear Sky EP, 2008)
Jay Brannan – Can’t Have It All (from Chinese Vacation, 2003)
David Ford – Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck) (from I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I’ve Caused, 2005)
Josh Ritter – Wait For Love (You Know You Will) (from The Historical Conquests Of, 2007)
Damien Jurado – Simple Hello (from On My Way To Absence, 2005)
Charlie Sexton – Cruel And Gentle Things (from Cruel And Gentle Things, 2005)
Griffin House – Just A Dream (from Lost And Found, 2004)
Josh Woodward – History Repeats (from The Simple Life, 2008)
Jens Lekman – I Saw Her in the Anti War Demonstration (from Oh You’re So Silent Jens, 2005)
Kevin Devine – Probably (from … travelling the EU EP, 2003)
Joe Purdy – Why You (from Only Four Seasons, 2006)
Amos Lee – Long Line Of Pain (live) (from Supply And Demand, 2006)
Elvis Perkins – Ash Wednesday (from Ash Wednesday, 2007)
Scott Matthews – Passing Stranger (from Passing Stranger, 2007)
Benji Cossa – The Show Is Over Everywhere (from Between The Blue And The Green, 2007)


Music for a wedding

March 5th, 2007 1 comment

Sountrack to this blog:
Ben Folds – The Luckiest (left-click)
Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love (left-click)
The Weepies – Somebody Loved (live) (right-click and “save target as”)
Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love (right-click and “save target as”)
Sadao Watanabe & Roberta Flack – Here’s To Love (right-click and “save target as”)

Oh my, what an exciting weekend: Liz Hurley got married!!! I learned all about what must be one of the great stories of the year from Sky News, purveyors of all the modern person needs to know.

On Saturday morning, Sky interviewed a wedding planner. Because such erudite insights into matters of this nature are crucial to our understanding of the world. Explaining why Ms Hurley needed a flashy celebrity wedding reception (at which the only acceptable gift was an organic cow, going rate £3,000; presumably an ironic statement relating to Hurley”s purported character), Ms Wedding Planner excitedly proclaimed: “Imagine Liz went to the local registrar”s office to get married and then to a three-star hotel for a chicken dinner. We”d all be disappointed!“ By Jupiter, how we would be!

It is one of life”s graces that Ms Hurley does care about us, and so had a just super wedding, with even shy and retiring Elton John on the celeb-studded guest list (important, because the quality and quantity of celebrities in attendance dictate the fee Ms Hurley receives from whatever gossip magazine secured the rights for the obligatory wedding photo-spread). The threat of our collective disappointment was averted. It just makes it so much easier coping with the climate change, the impenetrable mess in Iraq, and the worrying prospect of Rudy Giuliani succeeding the putrid spawn of Satan, if we know that Liz Hurley did not have a plebian nuptial ceremony at the local 3-star dig.

I went to a wedding last week. Elton John wasn”t there, but I heroically endured that obvious cause for distress. The bride also didn”t ask for organic cows. So we gave her a lovely casserole dish, as one does. But we abstained from buying the traditional congratulatory card.

Oh, the congratulatory message is necessary, even if I one gets to see the bride only every five years (at funerals, mostly) and makes one”s introduction to the lucky groom only on the wedding day. One is delighted and genuinely touched to have been invited. But here”s the problem: you buy a carefully-chosen and diabolically expensive greeting card, and scribble an awkward message inside. It will not be remembered in competition with all the other cards from closer friends and family. And after a decent period of prominent display, it will be packed away, never to be seen again until the couple moves or splits. And then it will be (ahem) discarded.

The casserole dish will soon be forgotten, but our good wishes hopefully not. For our mode of conveying congratulations was at once creative and thrifty: in lieu of tacky cardboard, the bridal couple received a mix-tape (on CD-R, but let”s continue, for sake of tradition, to call it a mix-tape). Don”t think I”m cheap: I spent the best part of three hours collating appropriate songs — and at my hourly rates, the couple easily recouped their financial outlay for two wedding dinners.

Selecting appropriate songs wasn”t easy. For one, I don”t know what sort of music the happy couple prefers to listen to. For all I know they are devotees of Gorgoroth and their death metal chums. Or perhaps they are faithful only to the deplorable Celine Dion, Anastasia and Simply Red “” and a spot of Coldplay if they feel really edgy. (In the event, Joshua Kadison provided the first “waltz”, and Al Green the exit dance). This lack of knowledge complicates the song selection. And yet, the reason I enjoy making mix-tapes is to share the music I love, perhaps introducing the recipient to new favourites. Because I have excellent taste in music, obviously.

But it isn”t good enough to bang together a mix-tape for virtual strangers on one”s egocentric speculation. Not many people want to hear 20 unknown tracks by obscurities they have never heard about, and probably never would have. The trick is to sprinkle such a collection with tracks the listener can identify with, even at the cost of compromising the compiler”s integrity.

And then there was the challenge of finding songs with the right lyrics. I have discovered that there are many love songs that sound perfectly romantic ““ until a subtle twist in the lyrics rendered them useless for purposes of expressing “true love”. Few things in life are more embarrassing than two lovers playing James Blunt”s “You”re Beautiful” to each other because, you know, she really is beautiful. I”ve heard of couples playing this at their weddings, as if the line “she was with another man” did not subtly hint at a lyrical context quite at variance with the notion of a romantic union saturated with perpetual bliss.

In short, only about half of the songs are representative of my musical evangelisation work. But if this mix-tape inspires the couple to get into, say, the Weepies or Iron & Wine or Ron Sexsmith, my mission will have been accomplished.

So every song a proper love song, with lyrics and music better than Will Young”s ubiquitous “Evergreen” (OK, open goal. Shoot already!). Listening to this CD of love songs, I contemplated building a fireplace, shoot and skin a luxuriously furry animal, put on these 22 songs on loop, and make long passionate love to the love of my life.

So, here”s what the newly-weds listened to, I hope, as they consummated their marriage:

The Platters – With This Ring
“˜Baby, I never thought so much love could fit in a little band of gold. But I”m telling you, darling, I feel it in my heart, got it in my soul.”

Sadao Watanabe & Roberta Flack – Here’s To Love
“˜You fill my life with love and joy”¦a toast to all the things you are, my light and shining star”

Eric Ben̩t feat. Tamia РSpend My Life With You

“˜The years will roll by, but nothing will change the love inside of you and I”

Shawn Colvin – When You Know

“˜When it’s clear this time, you’ve found the one, you never let him go”

Lifehouse – You And Me

“˜Everything she does is beautiful, everything she does is right”

Ben Folds – The Luckiest
“˜And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it e

veryday, and I know.” (Possibly the greatest love song of all time)

Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love
“˜The world exploded into love all around me, and every time I take a look around me, I have to smile” (Not too sure whether the lyrics don’t invite alternative interpretations, actually… Download it and hear.)

Ben Harper – By My Side

“˜My care for you is from the ground up to the sky it’s over under up above down below and to the side.”

Al Green – Let’s Stay Together

“˜Lovin’ you whether, whether, times are good or bad, happy or sad.”

Minnie Riperton – Loving You

“˜No one else can make me feel the colors that you bring. Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in springtime.”

Earth, Wind & Fire – Be Ever Wonderful

“˜And be ever wonderful, stay as you are. Stay as you are, won’t you stay in your own sweet way.”

Anita Baker – Giving You The Best That I Got

“˜I bet everything on my wedding ring, I’m giving you the best that I got, givin’ it to you baby.”

Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes

“˜The sun alone will never do, without your love to shine on through”

Jonny Lang – Beautiful One

“˜I gave my word, I made a promise And I’m gonna keep it til the end”

Alexi Murdoch – Love You More

“˜I’m gonna love you more” (That’s the lyrics, basically)

Peter Mayer – Now Touch The Air Softly

“˜And I”ll love you as long as the furrow the plow, as However is Ever, and Ever is Now.” (I owe the Late Greats blog for this.)

The Weepies – Somebody Loved

“˜Now my feet turn the corner back home. Sun turns the evening to rose, stars turning high up above. You turn me into somebody loved.” (Another one I’m not 100% of, but it’s a lovely sentiment.)

Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light

“˜But I believe in you and now I’ll show it. And as life goes on you know you don’t have to hate all you find. Baby, you’re my light.’

Rascal Flatts – I Melt

“˜Don’t know how you do it, I love the way I lost it every time. And what’s even better
is knowing that forever you’re all mine.”

Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love
“˜And all the while I ‘m dreaming of the ballad for my one true love, searching for the perfect way to say: I love you sweetheart, this is my dream come true.”

Eastmountainsouth – So Are You To Me

“˜As the ruby in the setting, as the fruit upon the tree, as the wind blows over the plains, so are you to me.”

Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights

“˜I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they are perfectly alligned.”