Friday, August 29, 2008

NPR's "World Cafe"

What in the world would I do without the music podcasts from National Public Radio in the US?

My latest discovery is the podast of Philadelphia radio station WXPN's program "World Cafe". More specifically, I recently subscribed to their "World Cafe Words and Music" podcast, and you'll see that I've provided the subscription link here in this sentence.

During just this morning's commute into the office, I listened to all or part of programs featuring Martha Wainwright, Richard Hawley, and Sheryl Crow. Great stuff!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peter Bruntnell

I'm just listening to England's Peter Bruntnell for the first time. I've always been a sucker for a good singer-songwriter, and that's how Bruntnell's music was described to me. By whom? Honestly, I can't remember. (Sad, isn't it?)

So, I've started my exploration with 2005's "Ghost in a Spitfire". Has it blown my socks off? Well, not really. But there's something about his songs and delivery that makes me want give a listen to the CD a few more times before I just file him away on the shelf.

The title track "Ghost in a Spitfire" is a story that really gets to me. Perhaps so more now, since I'm living in the UK.

I've just read that he has a new CD, called "Peter And The Murder Of Crows", coming out in September.

Any Bruntnell fans out there, reading this? Thoughts on this artist?


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Listening To: "Dirt Farmer" - Levon Helm, 2007

I'm really on an "Americana" kick these days - perhaps as a result of being a little homesick for the States, maybe?

Whether that's the reason or whether this is just a coincidence, I am finally getting around to listening to Levon Helm's "Dirt Farmer" after buying it earlier this year. And what a treasure it is, too.

The CD won best traditional folk album at this year's Grammy Awards.

If any of you remember The Band, then Helm's voice will be a haunting reminder of some fabulous music from your past. But even if you don't, don't worry. Helm's plaintive tone will get into your heart anyway.

I didn't realize that Helm was born in Arkansas. So was my mother, so I have strong roots in that Southern state. In honor of his parents, Helm (along with his daughter Amy, his co-producer and background singer on many of the cuts) has put together an assortment of both traditional and new songs. Sometimes it's hard to figure out which are the old ones and which are the modern ones. I recognized Steve Earle's "The Mountain". And I believe that I've heard "Calvary" before. Otherwise, I had to follow along by looking at the liner notes.

This is very much what my grandmother would have called "old-timey music". And how I wish Nanny was still alive to hear "Dirt Farmer". She's be tickled pink!


Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm Listening To: "Coal" - Kathy Mattea, 2008

It's been a long time since I was completely mesmerized by a CD on first listen. But that's what has happened to me with "Coal" by Kathy Mattea.

I hate to admit that I just don't remember where I heard about this one. Maybe I read about it somewhere. Perhaps it was mentioned on an NPR music podcast. I'm just not sure. But I'm delighted that I did.

I don't know Mattea's other work very well. I always thought of her as more of a hard-core "Nashville" type. But according to a few articles I've read recently, that's not true anymore.

Mattea had reportedly wanted to make a back-to-her-roots album for a long time. She was born and raised in West Virginia coal mining country. The Sago Mine disaster in 2006 was the catalyst for this collection of coal-related songs.

She chose the tracks so well, and they suit her beautiful voice. I had no idea that her voice was so exceptional. The production is understated. The end result is wonderful. I hear bluegrass, blues, country and folk influences. She's brought together terrific musicians, and there's a sense that this project was incredibly special to all of those involved.

Despite the sad themes, there's something especially comforting about this CD. I can't recommend it highly enough.

And by the way, she has dedicated the album to both of her grandfathers. I was really touched by that.


Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm Listening To: "Courage" - Paula Cole, 2007

"Courage" - it's another CD I've been trying to get my hands on for awhile - well, at least since I was aware it had been released last year. I just received my copy a few days ago.

I've been a big fan of Massachusetts-born singer-songwriter Paula Cole fan since her first album, "Harbinger", was released back in 1994. I also really enjoyed "This Fire", her 1996 follow-up release.

If I ever sat down to compile my list of all-time favorite songs, three of Cole's would certainly be there - "I Am So Ordinary" and "Oh John" (from "Harbinger") and "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" (from "This Fire").

I also have Cole's 1999 release, "Amen". But you know, I remember so little about it that I now realize I need to give it another listen.

The world has been waiting for 8 years for a new Paula Cole album. You can read about what she's been doing in the meantime on her website (link in the second paragraph here). But suffice it to say, it sounds like she almost gave up on her music career. I'm so glad she didn't.

So "Courage" went into my car with me this morning. I enjoyed the first track, feeling like I was being reunited with an old friend. Then I got to track 2, called "Lovelight". It's fantastic! I just kept hitting repeat over and over, until I got to my destination (one of the Oxford-area park and ride lots). So I'll have to write a more complete review once I've heard the entire CD.

I promise that I'll try to listen beyond track 2 on the way back home today, OK?


Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm Listening To: "Sidetracks", Steve Earle, 2002

As I wrote yesterday, I finally got my hands on "Sidetracks", the 2002 release from Steve Earle - after having it on my Wish List on Amazon UK for a long time.

It was so worth the wait, too!

It's a fascinating CD full of things that, for one reason or another (sometimes because they were created for soundtracks), were never put on one of Earle's other CDs. As he himself has written...

"With the exception of two instrumentals," Steve explains, "these are not outtakes. They are, rather, stray tracks…that I am very proud of and that are either unreleased or underexposed."

For me, the stunner of the CD is his duet with Sheryl Crow on the classic Chambers Brothers' hit, "Time Has Come Today". (Crow's vocal was recorded in LA, though, while Earle was located in Nashville.) It's worth the price of the CD just for this fantastic cut!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Steve Earle at the Newport Folk Festival

Thanks to America's National Public Radio, Steve Earle fans have a couple of new treats to enjoy.

NPR's "All Songs Considered" have created and posted a podcast of Earle's recent appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. You can get it via NPR or through iTunes - look for "NPR: Live Concerts from All Songs Considered Podcast" at the iTunes store.

Also, NPR have posted a short slideshow of photos from the same event. They are worth a look.


PS Just as I was posting this piece, I got a little package from Amazon UK. Finally I've managed to track down a copy of Steve Earle's "Sidetracks" CD (from 2002), and now it's in my hot little hands! So I'm already eager to give it a listen in the car stereo, on the way home from work later today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Getting Reacquainted With - Funkadelic!

How long has it been since I've listened to this 1978 album by Funkadelic - "One Nation Under a Groove"?

John and I are in the midst of trying to catalog and organize our CD collections. Yes, we've been married just over 2 years and 7 months now and still haven't combined our music.

On top of a pile of my CDs in the dining room was this classic by Funkadelic. I selected it this morning, to listen to during my commute to the Oxford park and ride bus, because I figured it would help keep me alert on a horribly dark, rainy morning.

I guess it worked. At least the first track - the title track, did indeed get my head bobbing. However, what surprised me is how mellow the balance of the album is. It's really more "soul" than I had remembered. I especially like the 8th track, with the formadable name of
"P.E. Squad/Doo Doo Chasers ["Going All-the-Way-Off" Instrumental Version]".

And man, did this sound ever bring back the 70s to me!


Thursday, August 07, 2008

More Ting Tings

I got an email yesterday from what I consider the world's greatest "record store", to use the old-fashioned term. It's Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas.

To the right, I've done a screenshot of one of the items within the email, promoting new music.

Now, this is fantastic! As I've written before, "We Started Nothing" - and especially "That's Not My Name" - is my favorite sound of 2008 (so far). I'm just delighted to see the Ting Tings' first album being promoted in Austin so well!

In case you're interested, I've found the full page on Waterloo's website describing the CD. I enjoyed the snippets of reviews there.

Good for Katie and Jules! Now, what are these two going to do next, I wonder?


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When iPods Shuffle

At the moment, I have 789 songs on my iPod Nano in a playlist called "Faves". I often shuffle this playlist, when I want some music to entertain me, as there's not a bad song in the bunch.

As I've written before, I'm convinced that iPods have personalities. How else would they come up with such entertaining combinations of songs - randomly.

Here are the three songs - in order - that my Nano played between my exit from the park and ride bus and my Oxford office this morning. I swear this is true.

"Condi, Condi" - Steve Earle

"War" - Edwin Starr

"Cheney's Toy" - James McMurtry

You just can't make this stuff up...


Sunday, August 03, 2008

I'm Listening To: Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, "Ten Thousand", 2008

Thanks, Bob, for the introduction to this fantastic band from Calgary!

The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir sound like what my grandmother called "mountain music" - mixed with Mississippi-delta blues and gospel. It's a fantastic sound.

I liked this CD so much that, after the first listen, I went back to CD Baby and ordered their previous two CDs.

Interestingly enough, I found out last week that in the UK, this CD will be released on the same label as the one Seasick Steve is on over here. Makes sense, too.