Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm listening to - "Washington Square Serenade", Steve Earle, 2007

This is a long overdue writeup about this excellent CD, the latest release by Steve Earle. It's reflective of his new life, with his wife Allison Moorer, in New York City. John and I were lucky enough to get to see a lot of the material from "Washington Square Serenade" performed live in Oxford a few weeks ago.

There are the usual Steve Earle growling vocals, along with some great guitar sounds. On some of the cuts, Earle's voice is nicely contrasted with Moorer's lovely tone. And on "City of Immigrants" - one of my favorite cuts - the Brazilian (mostly) group Forro in the Dark help Earle tell his story.

Perhaps this isn't going to be my all-time favorite Steve Earle recording (that award still goes to "Jerusalem", I think), but it's really good. And having lived in Manhattan myself, I have a lot of affection for this CD.

Favorite track: "Satellite Radio"

Favorite words (not lyrics this time...from Earle's June 2007 introduction in the notes):
In the next life the first thing I'll do is find Allison before anyone else does and then I'll carry her away with me to live in New York City.

Well said, Steve. I could say the very same thing about my John!


Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm listening to - "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends", Coldplay, 2008

I've driven around for about nine days listening to this CD. I love it. But I thought perhaps I shouldn't.

There's always so much hype surrounding the release of a new CD by ultra-popular artists. I'm a big fan of Coldplay. But even I was a bit fearful that "Viva la Vida..." wouldn't live up to the hype.

But I think it's just fantastic. It flows beautifully from start to finish, layered with beautiful texture. I hear Beatles and U2 influences. I love the unexpected sound of the organ that comes and goes throughout some of the songs. There are some interesting rhythms, too, including some Middle East influence.

Coldplay have hidden a couple of tracks within the CD. I'm not going to spoil the fun by telling you where they are. Just keep a watch on your CD player's screen and you'll find them.

Favorite track: "Lost!" (I've been soundtracking it almost constantly.)

Favorite lyrics (from "Violet Hill"):
When the future's architectured
By a carnival of idiots on show
You'd better lie low.

Dare I say that I think it's Chris Martin's best work to date? Well, I do.


Friday, June 27, 2008

"Rockin' Robin" would have been a nice addition...

It's a well-known fact that iPods have personality. And they demonstrate this by their so-called "random" choices when we choose to shuffle songs.

Take a look at the six songs that shuffled up, in the following order, during my morning commute to Oxford today...

"Roadrunner" - Junior Walker and the All Stars

"Hotel California" - Eagles

"Fly Like an Eagle" - Steve Miller Band

"I Hope" - Dixie Chicks

"And Your Bird Can Sing" - Beatles

"Every Day is a Winding Road" - Sheryl Crow

Notice a pattern there? I didn't until I unlocked the front door of the office building, and I've rechecked the sequence on my Nano just to be sure.

The ads here say that "Red Bull gives you wings." I guess my iPod is trying to do the same for me today.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

I've recently discovered - Alison Ruble

While listening to a recent podcast from WGLT's "Jazz Next" series (from Monday the 16th of June), I discovered Alison Ruble. They played her fantastic cover version of Cole Porter's "So In Love" during that broadcast, and it really caught my attention. It's very innovative. I'll probably order her new CD, titled "This is a Bird".

Do any of you already know about her?


Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'm listening to - "Bump", Amy Wadge, 2008

I'm going to try - starting now - to use Auditory Cortex as a place to regularly talk about what's playing in my car stereo.

I should explain that what I hear on my iPod typically would be favorite podcasts (NPR's "All Songs Considered", KUT's "Radio Without Borders" and WGLT's "Jazz Next" are weekly musts) or recordings of the past week's broadcasts of Bob Harris' Thursday night and Saturday-night-into-Sunday-morning programs on BBC Radio 2. But what generally plays in my car, as I commute to/from Oxford, are real old-fashioned CDs. Sometimes it's new stuff, but often it's something I've had on the shelf for awhile.

So one thing I've been listening to recently is "Bump", the latest release by English singer/songwriter Amy Wadge. While she was born in England, she's now more identified with Wales; Amy studied in Wales, married a Welsh actor, and is now based in Wales.

I first got to know Amy's music when Bob Harris played her song "Scream" on one of his programs several years ago. I was hooked upon first hearing her husky singing voice and listening to her intriguing way with a song. I didn't even realize, at that time, that she was a songwriter as well.

The title "Bump" comes from the fact that Amy was about 8 months pregnant with her daughter when the album was recorded. (For any readers not in the UK, a "bump" refers here to an expectant woman's abdomen. Personally, I don't find that term especially charming...)

The songs are mostly Amy's. I think my favorite is the first cut, "I Wanna Be Loved".

But for me the other standout is Amy's cover of "Don't Leave Me This Way". It's a fantastic new interpretation of the old disco standard. I'm always intrigued when artists come up with unique ways to redo an old song, and this one is one of the tops on my list of favorite covers. I think I read somewhere that she put this song on "Bump" because of her fans - because she often performs this in concert, and apparently it's very well-received. If that story is true, I'm delighted that you listened to your fans, Amy!

Even "Who Will You Be", which could have been the standard mushy "What will my little baby be when he/she grows up?" song has the perfect balance between emotion and listenability.

Is Amy Wadge folk? Country? Alt-country? Light rock? She is - and can be - all those things. But most of all, she has a terrific voice and a way of drawing people into her songs. At least I always get pulled in.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Steve Earle - Carling Academy Oxford - 7 June 2008

Rather than rewriting the same post, I'll refer you to my main blog "Lord Celery" for a blog post about last night's Steve Earle gig in Oxford. Within that post, there's also a link to my photos from the show.

Meanwhile, go see Steve's website if you'd like more information about him and his music.

It was a terrific show!