Category Archives: 2010s

Today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes

It’s early morn on Thanksgiving Day as I write and, all through the house, not a creature is stirring – aside from the feline who’s stalked me since his breakfast at dawn. Just now, he poked his head up beside me and bellowed a mew. It’s his version of “please, sir, may I have some more?” but instead of “sir” it’s “serf,” and he’s added and subtracted a few other words, too. “Serf, I want seconds. Now!”

I jest, of course.

Thanksgiving is, as its name makes clear, a time for giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for this year, as there is every year, even though – as a whole – 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the all-time worst. It sometimes feels as if horrors from a parallel universe are bleeding into ours.

But here’s one reason (of many) to give thanks: Tomorrow, sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor, aka the Staves, release a new album, a collaboration with the chamber sextet yMusic titled The Way Is Read. The three tracks they’ve released to promote the project are breathtaking. “Silent Side,” which they shared last week, is aural beauty personified:

Their show at the World Cafe Live in March, I should mention, was a highlight not just of this year’s concert slate, but of all my years’ concerts. It was akin to stepping through a portal to a magical, mystical land where everything’s groovy and everything’s alright. In other words, it’s in the running for the Old Grey Cat’s esteemed Concert of the Year Honors.

One of the things I like about them, aside from their songs and vocals, is their knowledge of music past, which they obviously use to inform their music present. One can hear it in the borrowed tunes they sometimes sing – as I’ve written before, a well-chosen cover song is like a glimpse into the soul of the singer(s); and the sisters’ picks, which range from the sublime to silly, are illuminating.

Here’s today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes.

1) “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young)

2) “These Days” (Jackson Browne)

3) “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)

4) “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

5) “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks)

And two bonuses…

6) “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

7) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)

Advertisements

Today’s Top 5: Thanksgiving…& Rumer

As a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. And why wouldn’t it be? There were gifts to give and get, roast turkey to be had, stuffing to be savored, and family to be enjoyed.

Once, in my early years, I sneaked out of bed at what must have been 4am, saw that a bounty of presents had magically appeared beneath the Christmas tree overnight, and scampered around the house like a mini-Paul Revere screaming “he’s been here, he’s been here!” But unbeknownst to me, Santa’s two adult elves had just turned in after a long night of arranging everything just right. And though they shepherded me back to bed, the cat – so to speak – was out of the bag. I was back out in the living room within minutes. They corralled me again, I snuck out again, and around and around we went.

The elves drank a lot of coffee that day, I’m sure.

By my teen years, aka the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the gifts shifted from action figures (not to be confused with dolls!) and assorted toys to LPs, Mattel Electronics handheld devices, and clothes; and the giving of presents became as much fun as receiving.

Thanksgiving, back then, always seemed somewhat of a rehearsal holiday to me. There were no gifts, just turkey and stuffing, and if dinner was at an aunt’s, as it sometimes was, then the stuffing was never as good as my mom’s.

That said, it did provide the grist for a classic TV moment –

Through the decades, however, a funny thing happened: Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Family and friends come together. Family breaks bread. And a good time is had by all. There is no stress, no worries beyond (not) eating too much.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Thanksgiving…& Rumer

1) Rumer – “Thankful.” To my ears, Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul is one the greatest albums of the new millennium. Here’s a live version, from 2010, of one of its key tracks…

2) Rumer & Daryl Hall – “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got.” Rumer later recorded a wonderful rendition of this song for her 2015 Love Is the Answer EP, which is well worth the purchase.

3) Rumer – “Home Thoughts from Abroad.” This mesmerizing cover of Clifford T. Ward’s classic song is from Rumer’s sophomore set, Boys Don’t Cry.

4) Rumer – “Better Place.” This lovely tune hails from Rumer’s third album, Into Colour. The video was shot by me from the front row (a bad angle) from her 2015 visit to Philly – a great show that we took our mothers to.

5) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now.” There’s a reason why I chose This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook as my top album for 2016 – a year on, and it remains timely and timeless at once. This song, especially.

Today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. IVIX

It seems like yesterday that Diane and I made our way to the World Cafe Live to see the Staves, our first official concert of 2017, but it’s been eight months since that wondrous show – the first of many good and great live-music experiences in 2017.

Yeah, I’m already looking back.

There’s been a lot of great music released this year, too, including gems from Garland Jeffrey (14 Steps to Harlem), Lucy Rose (Something’s Changing), Paul Weller (A Kind Revolution) and, in the archival department, Neil Young (Hitch Hiker) and Paul McCartney (Flowers in the Dirt). Over the next few weeks, I plan to revisit all my favorites and – in the second week of December – reveal the OGC’s top pick for 2017 at our annual awards fete. And though I already have an inkling as to which will come out on top, the process is guaranteed to be fun.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. IVIX.

1) Neil Young & Promise of the Real – “Already Great.” Neil and the Real unveil The Visitor on December 1st, which if this, the lead single, is any indication – was inspired by Neil’s resident-status in the U.S.A and the 2016 presidential election. Past and present will intermingle on the 1st, too: He wrote on Facebook that “my archive will open on that same day, a place you can visit and experience every song I have ever released in the highest quality your machine will allow. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. In the beginning, everything is free.”

2) The Staves & yMusic – “The Way Is Read.” On Nov. 24th, the sisters Staveley-Taylor release their latest project, a collaboration with yMusic, a chamber ensemble. This, the title track, is the second song they’ve shared. Like the first, it bodes well for the project.

Here’s the first preview:

3) First Aid Kit – “Postcard.” Siblings Johanna and Klara Söderberg have a new album, Ruins, scheduled for release on January 19th; and a (sold-out) tour of America in January and February, to boot.

4) Lucy Rose – “End Up Here.” The singer-songwriter debuted this video, shot by her husband, last week. (She’s currently on tour in the U.K., with an Australian jaunt slated for February.) The song itself is from her 2017 albumSomething’s Changing.)

5) Erin O’Dowd – “Trick Pony.” Erin’s full-length debut, Old Town, is slated for an early digital release next month for Kickstarter backers and will see a wider release early next year. Here’s she is on VDub Sessions:

And two bonuses…

6) Bob Seger – “Busload of Faith.” Here’s a preview of Bob’s forthcoming LP, I Knew You When, which is due out on the 17th. It’s a cover of a Lou Reed track…

7) Bob Dylan – “Slow Train (Rehearsal With Horns).” The bard’s latest Bootleg Series entry, Trouble No More, covers the years 1979-81, when he fell hard for faith.