Category Archives: Garland Jeffreys

Today’s Top 5: Songs XPN Should Play

After investing in a refurbished Iomega external CD burner in 2001, or thereabouts, for my low-budget DIY computer, I stopped relying on the radio for my on-the-go music needs. Instead, I made CD copies of favorite albums, created cool compilations and best-ofs, and (generally) only turned on the radio to check traffic or the weather via all-news KYW-1060AM – a routine I’ve mostly maintained, though the CDRs were eventually replaced by my iPod, iPhone, Pono Player and, now, Apple Music via my iPhone.

Prior, however, my go-to radio station was WXPN, a listener-supported AAA station in Philadelphia. They played a good-to-great mix of new and old, singer-songwriters and alternative country, plus non-alternative rock. They went deep on albums, routinely playing more than just one cut, and generally avoided the tried-and-true tracks found elsewhere on the dial. I liked it enough that Diane and I became members at some point, and renewed every year until…

…the summer of 1996, when we found ourselves – thanks to an acquaintance who owned a CD store – at a Penn’s Landing luncheon for businesses that supported the station. When the station’s program director, whose name I’ve long forgotten, stopped at our table, I mentioned my surprise that they weren’t playing anything from Maria McKee’s recent Life Is Sweet album – my favorite of the moment. My memory, and it may be exaggerated by time, is that he glared at me, shook his head and said “never” and “not on my watch” (or words to that effect), and made haste for the next table.

Granted, the glam-infested Life Is Sweet was a dramatic departure from the country-rock stylings of 1993’s You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, which XPN had featured a fair bit, but the title track wasn’t. It should’ve been played. The (perceived) rudeness of the program director annoyed me even more, however. I let our membership lapse.

Anyway, through the 2000s and first half of the 2010s, the only time I listened to XPN was when Diane was with me and, for whatever reason, requested it. And for a time, whenever we tuned in it seemed a Steely Dan song was playing. Odd, that. Then, in 2015, First Aid Kit was booked for the station’s annual three-day XPoNential Festival and members paid less for a ticket, so – sound basically unheard for umpteen years – I rejoined.

I assumed, because they played First Aid Kit (and, according to their searchable playlist, they did – “My Silver Lining” on and off for six months, then “Stay Gold” pretty much ever since) that the rest of what they programmed would be similar. I began listening – and was quickly disappointed. They rarely play more than one song from a new release, instead going the FAK route – one song for months, then maybe replacing it with another – and seemed more a descendent of the long-gone WDRE, a modern-rock station that never quite gained traction during the mid-‘90s, and WMMR, a mainstream rock station, than the XPN of yore. Maybe it had to do with when I tuned in – mornings on the way to work, and late afternoons on the way home – but…

I let my membership lapse again.

But still, sometimes, I find myself listening – it’s easier, and safer, than tapping on my iPhone while driving, so when an album ends I sometimes switch to XPN. Once in a while, I hear something and think, “wow, who is that?” Then they play ZZ Top, the Moody Blues or any of a number of “classic” acts that leave me flipping to KYW or, of late, WOGL, an oldies station that is enjoyable in small doses.

All of which leads to today’s Top 5: Songs XPN Should Play…

1) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Near You.” In April of this year, I asked – via a tweet – why they weren’t playing anything from Courtney’s Honest Life album, which was released last October. Back in the day, they would have been all over it, playing “Put the Fire Out,” “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” and “Irene,” plus the title track and “Table for One.” One of their deejays liked my tweet, in fact…but, nothing. Nada. Zip. Months later, however, and a search of their playlist shows that they have played “Irene” a handful of times.

They should followup by placing this track, a new recording of an older song that she’s releasing on September 15th, in frequent rotation. It’s a powerful, moving tune.

2) Lucy Rose – “No Good at All.” I reviewed Lucy Rose’s recent Something’s Changing album yesterday, and included this clip. It’s a wondrous, addictive number that, according to XPN’s playlist search, has been played exactly once, three days after the album’s release.

3) Paul Weller – “Long Long Road.” They’ve played Paul Weller – a man without whom “modern rock” would not exist – exactly 14 times this year. Think about that. He’s scheduled to play the TLA in October, however, so the time is ripe to up those numbers. This is a standout track from his recent A Kind Revolution album.

4) Garland Jeffreys – “14 Steps to Harlem.” Here’s another artist without whom “modern rock” would not exist; and, to XPN’s credit, they do play him from time to time. But instead of dipping into his past catalog, why not feature something new? This, the title track to Garland’s latest album, is a beaut.

5) Karrie – “I Don’t Hear You.” The Irish singer-songwriter’s summer single is utterly addictive.

And two bonuses:

6) Courney Marie Andrews – “How Quickly Your Heart Mends.” And, just because, here’s one of those Honest Life songs XPN should be playing at least once a day. This is from a recent appearance on Swedish TV…

7) Maria McKee – “Life Is Sweet/After Life.” Finally, the song that obstinate program director refused to discuss in 1996 should have the digital dust blown off the CD and played. It a true lost classic.

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Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live Upstairs, 6/8/2017

Another night, another great show. Since March, when we saw the Staves, Diane and I have witnessed a string of magical concerts by favorites old and new. Some nights we’ve been the oldest folks in the room; others we’ve mingled with our middle-aged peers; and, at least once, I looked around and realized we were likely the youngest in attendance.

This night, Thursday June 8th, found us sitting with fellow travelers/longtime fans of Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live Upstairs in West Philly; aka, a middle-aged crowd or, more to the point, our peers. It’s the smaller of the venue’s two rooms, and intimate as intimate gets. This was our view of the stage:

That’s the DuPont Brothers, a Vermont-based duo, who opened. Their songs and harmonies conjure the likes of Jackson Browne and CSN, among others; I look forward to exploring their music in the weeks and months ahead, and hope to see them again.

Then, it was time for the headliner: Garland took to the stage to the propulsive beat of “Coney Island Winter,” one of many highlights from his 2011 album The King of In Between

It was the perfect start to a rockin’ hour-and-change set that mixed latter-day songs, including a wealth of tracks from his sterling 14 Steps to Harlem album, with such past classics as “Ghost Writer,” “35 Millimeter Dreams,” “96 Tears” and “R.O.C.K.”

Somewhere in there, I found myself drifting back to a show in New York in maybe 2002 or ‘03 at the Village Underground, Joe’s Pub or…? Whenever, wherever, Diane and I had made the long trek up the railways to see the Brooklyn-born bard on his home turf, and – as has been the case with each of the dozen times (give or take) we’ve seen him since – he more than exceeded expectations. That night, he rocked the packed house and then, afterwards, greeted fans and friends alike.

Understand that, at that point, he and Diane had bonded through an in-depth interview she’d done with him for the original Old Grey Cat website (which, now that I’ve located it, I plan to resurrect here in the near-future). So when he saw Diane, as one might expect, he hugged her.

He also – totally unexpected – hugged me.

Now, I can count on one hand the number of men I’ve hugged. I’m of my father’s stock, in that regard; a handshake more than suffices. (I hasten to add, it’s a gender-equal disposition – other than my wife, mother and one or two others, a hug and/or kiss from a woman seems a tad touchy-feely to me. Juliana could well have written “Got No Idols” about me, in other words.)

Anyway, now 73, Garland’s still going strong, still writing songs that resonate with the soul – such as “Time and Again,” which he didn’t sing this night (but should have – even without his daughter’s beautiful voice, it would be powerful), or the title song to 14 Steps, which he linked with “Harlem Bound” from his 1973 solo debut.

And this night, as with that long-ago night, he hung out post-show to meet and greet his fans and friends. For my part, I attempted to circumvent the expected hug by asking for a photo instead – the first time for that.

It kinda-sorta worked.

 

Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem – The Review

Since the dawn of what I’ve decided to dub the fast-track century, aka the 21st, there have been a few constants in my life. Family? Of course. Feline? Check. Music? Well, duh! I listen as much now as ever – new artists and old favorites forever intermingle on the ever-evolving soundtrack of my life. Some new artists become old favorites in short order. And old favorites, though they may fade to the background for a spell, always resurface.

There’s just not enough time – not for music, and not for life. It “goes away as quick as a wink. Quicker than you think.” Those lines come from “Time Goes Away,” a meditative gem on this, Garland Jeffreys’ latest long-player. (If it was on YouTube, I’d embed it here.) It’s a beautiful, plaintive tune buttressed by the addition of Garland’s 20-year-old daughter Savannah, who echoes her father’s simple yet profound words: “Time goes away/Till you don’t have many/Till you don’t have any.” (That young voice deserves an album of her own. Just sayin’.) It’s a topic Diane and I discuss often these days, actually: yesteryear often seems like yesterday to us. And our tomorrows…we both know there’s less of them to come.

As a whole, 14 Steps to Harlem finds Garland looking back, surveying the present and contemplating the future – and doing it all to melodies that linger long after the music has ceased. This morning, for instance, I woke with the title track in my head:

Other highlights include “When You Call My Name”…

…and “Venus.”

His cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man,” written by his old friend Lou Reed, is great to have on album. (It’s been a concert staple of his for the past good while.)

And “Luna Park Love Theme,” which features Lou’s wife Laurie Anderson on electric violin, is the perfect cap to a great outing. Unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube so, instead, here’s a clip of another high point: Garland’s slowed-down spin on the Beatles’ “Help.”

(Here’s the AP’s review; and an excellent USA Today article on the album.)