Posts from the ‘Music’ Category

If I Should Fall Behind

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band performing:

The price of personal freedom

“If you can be lonely, you can be free.” ~ James Taylor

I was listening to Artist Confidential on the Sirius Coffeehouse channel yesterday which featured a one hour Q & A with and live acoustic performance by James Taylor. I’ve always enjoyed the smooth acoustic quality of his voice and his song writing style. It was a very personal interview and performance. The question was asked what advice would James have for new artists trying to make a career as a professional musician. James said that it used to be that there were a million people trying to get into the room, but now there are a million people in the room trying to be heard, due to the changes in recording industry and the internet.

He said that you have to learn to live as simply as you can with as little as possible while you’re trying to get started, specifically 1) avoid developing a major drug habit which consumes your life and talent, 2) put off having children until you’re ready for the responsibility of a parent, and 3) avoid getting yourself overloaded in debt. Then he went on to summarize by saying, “If you can be lonely, you can be free.”

I understand what he meant in the context of what he said, but it has huge implications beyond aspiring artists and to life as a whole.  There have often been times in life when obligations and expectations can be overwhelming and suffocate you. There are times when you just want to run away from them all and lighten the load on your shoulders, if even for a little while. The truth is that relationships carry responsibilities. They require effort, availability, and vulnerability, and when either of those essentials is lacking the relationship suffers. I suppose that statement could well be reversed to say, “You can be free, if you can be lonely.” 

I’ve always immensely enjoyed time alone, solitude and silence are nearly priceless in today’s culture, especially given the noise level, but after awhile silence can become deafening. Being a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend comes with responsibilities, none of which lend themselves to neglect for long. I suppose what I’m getting at is that this quote is as much a warning as a poignant observation. The freedom that you may long for, the grassy hills that look so green in the distance, is a barren lonely place that you get to only after paying a price. Instead, we should learn to cultivate our own space, our own person, and attain a measure of freedom within our circles of responibilities.

Fresh Holiday Music for Your Player

Last year I discovered Mindy Smith’s amazing Christmas album, My Holiday, and played it over and over until January. I loved it most for being fresh and original tracks sung by one of my favorite artists. I’m trying to find new songs or fresh intereprations for this Christmas season also. Here’s the playlist I’ve found so far that’s worth taking a listen to. Enjoy!

  • Celtic Woman – Christmas Album
  • “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “The Heartache Can Wait” by Brandi Carlile on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “All My Bells Are Ringing” by Lenka on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “Maybe Next Year (X-Mas Song)” by Meiko on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “Winter Wonderland” by Kate Havnevik on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “The Christmas Song” by Catherine Feeny on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “And Winter Came” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “The Spirit of Christmas Past” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “Last Time By Moonlight” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “White Is In the Winter Night” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “White Christmas” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “Grown-Up Christmas List” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “The Christmas Song” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “Some Children See Him” by James Taylor on James Taylor At Christmas
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter” by James Taylor on James Taylor At Christmas
  • “River” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “Song for a Winter’s Night” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “That’s What I Want for Christmas” by Jessie Baylin on That’s What I Want for Christmas
  • “Christmas Time Is Here” by Diana Krall on Christmas Songs
  • “Glorious” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Christmas In America” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Light a Light” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Mistletoe” by Colbie Caillat on Mistletoe – Single

If I were to go back and download the full album from any of these, it would definately be Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong, Enya’s And Winter Came, and Melissa Etheridge’s A New Thought for Christmas.

The shuffle

I haven’t blogged much about music lately. I have my favorites, favorite songs and albums and favorite artists too, but I love finding new stuff all the time. Thought I’d share what I’m shuffling lately. It’s just good stuff.

  • Kings of Leon is my new favorite band. I heard them on SNL a while back and just can’t get enough. Sex on Fire, Be Somebody, Use Somebody, Manhattan, and Revelry are my favs
  • Matt Nathanson is just good stuff. Come on Get Higher just won’t get out of my head
  • Amos Lee’s newest album Last Days at the Lodge is as good as any he’s put out and possibly grammy worthy in my opinion. Several of the tracks are getting national airplay but everyone of them are golden
  • John Mayer is a staple in my iPod. He’s got an amazing version of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ that is as good and fresh as the original
  • Matt Wertz released an acoustic version of one of my all time favorites, 5:19
  • Ray Lamontagne’s long awaited new album Gossip in the Grain is out this month and is as brilliant and pure a sound as any he’s put out there. It’s sensual, raspy, and bluesy
  • Marc Broussard’s new album Keep Comin’ Back is great. I wasn’t a big fan of the last album Save Our Soul. It was a departure from some of his most well known work, but I’ve got to support a Louisiana boy when I can. I haven’t heard all of the new album yet but it sounds great. His duet with Leann Rimes, When It’s Good, is just amazing. 
  • And of course, there will always be Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen, Will Hoge, and Mindy Smith spinning in my player

This one really hits “Home”

The funniest girl I ever knew
had hair as orange as Halloween
The bluest eyes that saw right through
all the b.s. in everything
She was an artist from the start
and she always sang from the bottom of her heart

And though her road was so long
she finally made her way back home
yeah she finally made her way back home

The loneliest kid I ever saw
owned an old man’s callused hands
sitting barefoot in front of an dime store
in a place some called the promised land
He had hollow sunken eyes
but he was smiling big like he’d won some kinda prize
He was ragged, he was rolling like a stone
in the dirty city streets that he called home
yeah the dirty city streets that he called home

Hobos, tramps and troubadours
don’t ride in boxcars like they did before
Seems like most of my heroes
just ain’t around no more

I know I’m lucky to sing my songs
and if you want to, you can sing along
We’ve been on this road so long
Won’t you help me find my way back home?
Help me find my way back home

– “Home” by Shawn Mullins from songlyrics.com

“Home” is the latest in a long list of songs that have resonated with me very personally. Shawn Mullins is a great singer/songwriter, and this song from his album Honeydew from Vanguard Records is a great example why. I’ve always been impressed by people who can paint pictures in your mind with nothing but their words or music. I realize that music, like books and all forms of art, speak differently to each of us. I like to write about all things that move me, books, movies, wine, and music especially.

I work on the road. I’m a traveling salesman so-to-speak. I pay the bills as a marketing rep in healthcare and travel a pretty large statewide sales territory and beyond. I get road weary quite often, but then again, when I’ve been home too long, I enjoy heading out. Miles have a way of really wearing you down but also a way of teaching you about life and yourself. There isn’t much about my job or my daily life that is as romantic as a troubadour riding a boxcar across America, but I like to think there are some similarities.

Mullins sings as one who’s seen the road. He knows people. He watches them, listens to them, learns from them. I like to think his eyes and mind are open when he describes the “funniest girl” and the “loneliest kid” he’s ever seen.

The orange-haired singer he croons about reminds me of many different free spirits and artistic types I’ve known. It’s pretty typical of those I know to go far from home, whether in body or in spirit. No matter how far any of us go we always carry a piece of home with us, whether we want to or not.

When I hear about the “loneliest kid” sitting in front of the dime store, I can’t help but think of hundreds of kids I saw and met in the Philippines who lived in conditions that we aren’t allowed to subject our dogs to in the U.S. but had huge glowing smiles brightening their dirty faces and ragged clothes. From them we learn that home is not a 3 bedroom brick in the burbs and happiness is not a balance in our checkbook.

“Hobos, tramps, and troubadours don’t ride in boxcars like they did before.” In a strange way that many of us may not ever understand the road is home to all the characters Mullins sings about. This one line marks a bygone era of Americana that many may find hard to imagine. Security is the buzz of the decade, and we have yet to fully realize the price we have paid for even the illusion of it. We share an acute sense of loss that may be conveyed best by our poets.

“Most of my heroes just ain’t around no more.” Times, they are a changing… without a doubt. A huge part of that change and sense of loss is the failure of leadership we’ve seen in every part of our culture. Personally, I never had all that many heroes growing up. I loved movies and toys but never to the point of idolizing or believing in them. If I could say I had one hero in the first 20 years of my life, it would have to be my paternal grandfather. In recent years that man who was larger than life for me has become very human, frail, and flawed. I don’t judge. I love yet I grieve.

Going home then isn’t so much about going back to a place, though pilgrimages have been significant in our lives. Going home is more about going back to something we feel we’ve lost… to something we wish we had. It is an ideal worth believing in, but a trip we realize we can’t take alone. For that reason we’re invited to sing along… to take the trip together.

The Secret to being Satisfied

Satisfied
by Darden Smith / JD Martin

If I could love you like Elvis
Elvis back in ‘62
Hips on fire, full of desire
It wouldn’t be good enough for you
And if you could love me like Marilyn
In the Garden back in ‘63
Singing ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’
It wouldn’t be good enough for me

‘Cause that stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

A raindrop falls on the mountain
Slowly rolling to the sea
And it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream
And the difference in between

That other stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

I have a weakness for acoustic/folk songwriters. Recently I stumbled upon Darden Smith, just such a character from Texas nonetheless. There’s something about west Texas that has such a magic about it, but it may be from reading too many Robert James Waller books. This guy is good. I like the grit in his voice and the heart in his songs.

There’s a certain awkwardness in writing about music. It’s sort of like trying to describe art. It’s something you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate, nonetheless I’m going to take a shot at it from time to time when I hear songs or artists that make an impression on me. This particular song, “Satisfied,” really grabbed my attention. At first reading the lyrics about Elvis and Marilyn threw me, until I heard the song. (You can hear and download it on Darden’s myspace page.) I’ve listened to it a number of times now and can’t get it out of my head.

Sometimes love songs can be over the top, you know, sensational and dramatic. Many people often feel disheartened for never having felt that way about someone or for not having someone feel that way in return. At other times that feeling is elusive and fleeting. We find moments in our relationships where those sentiments resonate with us, but in between there’s life with bills, kids, work, and stuff. This song strikes me about married love or at least the nature of love over time.

This song talks about the simplicity of love, “lying with you in the dark,” and the maturity of love, “it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream and the difference in between.” Over time we come to know what love is by learning what it’s not, as much as what it is. It is a feeling, but much more than that it is a choice. Feelings are fickle and subject to circumstances. Real love transcends circumstances. I think this song captures that sentiment beautifully.

I think a lot of people aren’t “satisfied,” neither with love nor with life. Maybe it’s because we sit around waiting to feel satisfied, for all the stuff in our life to line up just right. That’s chasing after the wind. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” Philippians 4:11. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Being content or satisfied is something that you learn, although you may never master. The first step is to choose to be satisfied, to embrace every circumstance, every person, and every moment in your life for what they are and not for what you want them to be. If we spend our lives wanting to be in another place in another time down the road, we may or may not ever get there but will have wasted years and precious moments in between.

Hope you enjoy the song.

Leann Rimes: What I Cannot Change

Wow! Leann Rimes has really come into her own. Her latest song “What I Cannot Change” shows the depth and maturity of her voice with rich and delicate reflections on life. Her voice is as tender as the lyrics are profound.

It is a tremendous step forward in life to recognize the truth that “all the rest is out of my hands.” We cannot fix everything, nor do I believe everything is meant to be fixed. Some things just are. The sooner we stop trying to resist the “divine flow” (to borrow from Chopra) and learn to embrace complexity, mystery, and wonder, we will find an enormous source of peace.

When we come head to head with what we cannot change, we have a choice to let it go, to forgive, or to love. Perhaps the latter is the hardest for most to understand. I think it’s wise of the songwriter to say “I will learn [to let go, to forgive, to love] what I cannot change.” It is not easy. It is a process, and one that we may not fully understand until we’ve been there and come out on the other side. It is possible to love what you cannot change, to embrace it, and to find beauty and truth in even the smallest of joys and heartaches. Read more…