Friday, April 27, 2007

The Song in My Head


Is it too early to start thinking about summer? I hope not. Because I'm listening holes in a new song about summer from a newish (to me) band called The Decemberists.

I first heard about The Decemberists from my sister Laura, who has great taste in music. So when I read all the raves about the band's album called The Crane Wife, I paid attention. Last month I finally downloaded the album from the iTunes store.

Yes, I'm pleased to report, The Crane Wife lives up to its hype.

This band reminds me of The Band, and of CSNY, and of much of the great melodic, non-formulaic music I've always loved. I'm drawn to music that has layers of meaning and melody, like peeling an onion. And in this way, The Decemberists could be called The Onionists. Their songs are like epic dramas--every one telling a whole story with full character development.

Today, The Song in My Head, is:
Summersong
by The Decemberists

from their album
The Crane Wife

There's a guitar/melodion riff at the start of Summersong that is reminiscent of the famous guitar riff in Breakdown by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This made me love it on first listen.

The instrumentation in Summersong is fab. The arrangement of the song is strong to the point of being Beatles-esque. The tempo lilting. The lyrics are fascinating and deep.
The vocals are alluring. All in all one great song. Go here to learn about the band, and to listen to their online jukebox.

Give The Decemberists a try. I know I'll be listening to them all year long--not just in December.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Song in My Head


I had THE most vivid music dream last night.

In the dream, I was down in the mountains of Tennessee and somehow I ended up at an old cabin where they were recording a country music radio show, featuring Johnny Cash. And the radio show's producers were asking for volunteers to play three songs each with The Man in Black. You had to perform one of Johnny's songs. Then sing a cover song of your choice by another artist. Then you had to sing one of your OWN songs.

There were about a dozen other people there, all musicians, and they were struggling to come up with their three songs. The next thing I knew I was up there on the creaky stage, standing next to Mr. Cash (who smelled of beer) grinning like a fool, trying to remember what songs I wanted to do. We played a passable version of "Ring of Fire," my fave Johnny C. song. Then I pulled out a song I just learned, called "Blue Northern Lights" by Ollabelle. It's a lovely ballad with pedal steel guitar moaning in the background. Johnny Cash raved about it and wanted to play it over again.

Lastly I played him one of my up-tempo mountain-music tunes, called "I Don't Want to Be A Soldier Boy" about a reluctant participant in the American Civil War. He liked that one, too, but he LOVED the Ollabelle song. And I can see why, since it's been the Song in My Head for two weeks.

Too bad Johnny Cash is gone. In my dream he was a prince of a nice guy--very supportive of the younger artists trying to impress him. I have no idea what the dream meant, or what it portends, but it was vivid as heck. I can still smell the old cabin!

Ollabelle is a relatively new band with a great musical lineage. One of the female members of the band, Amy Helm, is the daughter of Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. Ollabelle has a very old-timey musical sensibility, without getting boringly repetitive. And since so many band members sing and play instruments, they put out a lot of different sounds. You can hear some of these songs and sounds here:

Tonight the Song in My Head is:

Blue Northern Lights
by Ollabelle

from their recent album
Riverside Battle Songs

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