Category Archives: Tom Petty

Today’s Top 5: And That’s the Way It Is

Sometimes I listen to music in the car. Other days, however, I tune in KYW-1060AM, the Delaware Valley’s all-news channel. It provides local and national headlines, breaking news, traffic reports, business updates, weather and sports, and at 6:30pm – if I’ve left work late or am just stuck in traffic – a simulcast of the CBS Evening News. I also read/subscribe to the digital edition of the Washington Post, and check out the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer from time to time – aka the “fake news” outlets so labeled because they report actual facts, not the partisan propaganda our dear leader prefers.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: And That’s the Way It Is.

1) Neil Young – “Ambulance Blues.” This song percolates through my synapses pretty much every time America’s answer to Erdogan speaks. The line “I never knew a man who told so many lies” may have been inspired by Nixon, but it describes him, too.

2) Juliana Hatfield – “When You’re a Star.” I came to the conclusion, long ago, that Juliana is basically Generation X’s Neil Young. Think about it: She started her career in an influential, but commercially under-appreciated group; she’s at home on acoustic and electric guitar, solo or with a band; and has a distinctly idiosyncratic outlook on life. And no one can write her songs but her. This week, after the sordid news from Hollywood broke, she tweeted a link to this song, which was inspired by both the lecher-in-chief and a former Jell-O salesman. It’s from her Pussycat album.

3) Bob Dylan – “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues.” Originally slated for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but yanked by Columbia due to lawsuit concerns, this classic satire of political paranoia remains relevant today. The dear leader and his minions, after all, see enemies everywhere.

4) First Aid Kit – “This Land Is Your Land.” Diane and I watched the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory a few weeks back. Great movie. It got me to thinking that that era, more than any other, is the era Trump and the GOP want America to return to – where some have plenty, but most nothing at all. First Aid Kit’s cover of the song includes the two “radical” verses that speak to the song’s message that America is for all its people, not just the rich and well-off. (See the Wikipedia entry for more.)

5) The Long Ryders – “Masters of War.” The Ryders’ cover of Dylan’s classic, about old men sending young men to their deaths, still rings true today. (The pulpit’s bully is itching for war, after all.)

And two bonuses…

6) Grant Hart – “Now That You Know Me.” During the winter of 1989-90, I played Hart’s Intolerance CD more than most – and this song wound up on many a mixtape. I won’t lie and claim to have kept up with Hart’s career in the years since, but the news of his passing in September shook me all the same. Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade and New Day Rising were monumental albums in my life.

7) Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Peace in L.A.” The L.A. riots of 1992, sadly, weren’t the last riots spurred by racial injustice. One of Petty’s best yet lesser known singles, this call for peace was recorded mere days after the figurative fires were put out; and was on the radio a day later. “Stay cool. Don’t be a fool.”

 

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Today’s Top 5: Cool Sounds, Vol. Whatever

On Tuesday, a former supervisor mentioned to me that she’s been obsessing over Jason Isbell’s latest album, The Nashville Sound.

I wasn’t aware that he had a new album out. 

In my defense: I’m not overly familiar with Isbell, his oeuvre or that of his former band, the Drive-By Truckers. Diane is, however, and informs me that we actually had tickets to see the Truckers during the Isbell years, but didn’t go because one of us was ill. In 2015, we saw him accompany his wife Amanda Shires on three songs at the World Cafe Live, when she opened for Lee Ann Womack – well, “see” is being generous. Our seats were to the right of the soundboard, blocking the left half of the stage – where he stood, more or less.

Shires is another of Diane’s artists. Just as, say, First Aid Kit are one of mine.

Until this summer, when we consolidated for air-conditioning purposes, our desks and computers – where we both do much of our listening – have been in separate rooms for decades. So while there is plenty of music we enjoy together, there’s much that we each like that the other knows primarily from osmosis, if at all. Back in the pre-Internet era and our 5-CD player, that was far less frequent. Oh, we both had artists we enjoyed more than the other, but nights-long Acquire or Tetris tournaments ensured that we heard just about everything the other was listening to.

Which is a longwinded way to say: I could and probably should have been familiar with Isbell long ago.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Cool Sounds, Vol. Whatever.

1) Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Last of My Kind.” So, Tuesday, I pulled up Nashville Sound in Apple Music and listened to it on my commute home from work; and this, the opening track, sent not the proverbial chills up or shivers down my spine, but a flash of recognition through the synapses of my soul. True, the song charts an experience far from mine – that of a country kid in a big city – but the haunting refrain is a universal lament for any of a certain age.

We, the children of the ‘70s and ‘80s, are indeed the last of our kind.

2 First Aid Kit – Glastonbury, 6/21/17. Klara, Johanna and band deliver a great set at the annual Glastonbury Music Festival in Somerset, England. Among the highlights: “Ghost Town” and a song from the ‘70s…”The Gambler.” (Yes, the Kenny Rogers hit.) Also, in an interesting development – Johanna has traded the keyboards, which is what she primarily played on the 2014-15 tour, for bass guitar. There’s only one drawback…

3) First Aid It – “My Silver Lining.” …which is, if you watched all 45+ minutes of the above, you’ll have suffered concert interruptus due to the exclusion of the set’s last song, “My Silver Lining.” But it’s okay: BBC Music posted it.

4) Beau + Luci – “Muddy Water.” Here’s another sister act, this one from the swamplands of southern Georgia. (For more on them, see my Q&A with them.) This is another gem from their recent Fire Dancer EP.

5) Kasey Chambers – “Crossfire.” So I’m still buzzed from the Kasey show we saw on the 5th – how could I not be? Here, she and the band perform one highlight (of many) from her 2001 album Barricades & Brickwalls.

And three bonuses…

6) Joe Pug & Courtney Marie Andrews – “Insider.” So Joe and Courtney are touring Down Under – and, as Joe explains here, discovered that they both like Tom Petty. (How could anyone not?) Here, he plays Tom to Courtney’s Stevie Nicks on this classic song from Petty’s 1981 album, Hard Promises.

7) Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Something in the Air.” So Diane and I saw Tom & Co. way back in 1989 – a great show that included their cover of this Thunderclap Newman classic. Here’s their Live Anthology rendition of it…

8) I’m With Her – “Little Lies.” Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan band together in a wondrous folk collective they call I’m With Her. Beautiful work.

Today’s Top 5: As Brought to You by Karrie

In the first of what I hope to be an ongoing, occasional feature, I’m turning today’s Top 5 over to someone else – in this case, the Irish singer-songwriter Karrie, whose 2016 album Perpetual Motion I reviewed a few weeks back. She released the single, “I Don’t Hear You,” a few weeks back, too.

As detailed elsewhere, she got a late start in the music business, swapping horse training for singing after the economy tanked in 2009 -, though you wouldn’t know it from her music. (More on that here.) Job change aside, she still maintains her farm – and took time out of making hay (literally) to field my questions.

Did you sing around the home prior to transitioning to music? You have such a wonderful voice, I can’t imagine that you didn’t share it with, at the least, family and friends – and horses, for that matter. 

I come from a family of nine children. (I’m last in the line, the youngest.) Everyone can sing. When it’s not an unusual thing, it’s a given. We always sing at family get togethers. Having a big family puts you in line. My older sisters and brothers pretty much chose what music the younger ones heard. Joni Mitchell’s song “Carey” is on her 1971 album Blue; I was nicknamed after it.

I won’t ask your age, but it sounds like you were in your mid-30s when you shifted to music.

I was born in ’75 . That in mind, my influences were well embedded in my head by the time I wrote my very first song at 34, “Stay Away.” (It’s on my first album, Jelly Legged).

That first open-mic night – about how many people were in the audience? What song did you sing?

I don’t really like to recall my first gig . I think it was an ill chosen venue in Cork city. An open-mic night for rock music . Think I bombed!

About “I Don’t Hear You” – it’s such a wondrous piece. What inspired it? 

“I Don’t Hear You” is a song I wasn’t very careful about writing. Its content must be a delayed reaction to continuous pressures. Kinda like getting numb to something.

I hear what I imagine are several influences in it. The opening bass (as short as it is) reminds me of the opening to “Wichita Lineman,” for example, and the horns conjure the Style Council (my wife hears it, too, but we’re also Paul Weller fans; or she’s just saying so to humor me). Both add to my delight with the song. Were those nods intentional? Happy accidents?

I really love hearing about what people get from my music . This is funny because “Wichita Lineman” is right up there in my most favorite songs. An interesting note on this might be that I don’t write the instrumental music for my songs bar having some ideas here and there. I mostly write a cappella, probably 99% of the time. I do make sure my song is complete when I give it over to “wardrobe.” It’s a selfish thing I guess. Jimmy Smyth produced here. I don’t tell him how to play guitar.

——————–

And, with the Q&A out of the way, here’s today’s Top 5: As Brought to You by Karrie. They are not (necessarily) her all-time favorites, just songs that she loves –

1) Joni Mitchell – “Carey.” My memory of it is I was very small  My sisters would pick me up  in their arms and dance with me singing along to Joni. Joni Mitchell influences me now in almost everything I write.

2) John Martyn & Danny Thompson – “Sweet Little Mystery” from Live In Dublin. John Martyn lived in Ireland. He was alive here and I didn’t I know how important his music would be to me. I was still training horses when I heard him first on the radio and thought this guy is out on his own. It very nearly made me turn from horses years before I did. I wish I had sought him out. I think It would have made a very big difference to my then poor decision making. It still bothers me that I ignored my own self wanting to go hear him live. Such a regret.

3) Elvis Costello – “Brilliant Mistake.” This song is like a movie. It’s perfect in every way.

4) Rickie Lee Jones – “Flying Cowboys.” This, along with its video, is also so perfect. (Unfortunately, the video isn’t on YouTube. But the song is…)

5) Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

And one bonus…

6) Thom Moore & Midnight Well – “Soldier On.”