A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Great Singer/Songwriters of whom you have probably never heard - and note the refusal to end the title with a preposition, no matter how odd it sounds

Tonight I played guitar at our Saturday evening church service, even though there is really no such thing as Palm Sunday eve. We closed the service with "O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded," which to those of you who follow such things is the same tune used by Paul Simon to such wonderful effect in his song "American Tune."

Verses one and two of the song from the Episcopal Hymnal goes like this:
O sacred head, sore wounded,
defiled and put to scorn;
O kingly head surrounded
with mocking crown of thorn:
What sorrow mars thy grandeur?
Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor
the hosts of heaven adore!

Thy beauty, long-desirèd,
hath vanished from our sight;
thy power is all expirèd,
and quenched the light of light.
Ah me! for whom thou diest,
hide not so far thy grace:
show me, O Love most highest,
the brightness of thy face.

The melody, of course, was arranged from a secular love song by J. S. Bach. And though I may have done this before, here's Paul using a variation of the melody to perform his paean to the uncertainty and weariness we have all felt at one time. This song... I can't help but wonder at the timelessness of the message of this song in light of the situation in America right now. I will be honest: this version coexists with the hymn in the jukebox of my mind.

Then I started thinking about all the wonderful singer-songwriters whom I am enjoying right now. Here's a short list of what I am listening to right now, and I commend them to you:

Suzzy and Maggie Roche: Zero Church. Religious Music for those who do not like religious music. Then there's Why the Long Face-- especially "A Day in the Life of the Tree." I got to see Suzzy Roche with The Four Bitchin' Babes in concert. She is a treasure. With her sister Maggie, the harmonies are more than a New York state of mind.

Jonatha Brooke: Careful What You Wish For and Back in the Circus. "No Net Below" is the story of life. I probably own every solo album and with the Story.

Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days and The Shepherd's Dog. "The Boy With the Coin" is a personal favorite.

Joni Mitchell: has there ever been a bad Joni Mitchell album? But Blue is probably my favorite, or perhaps Song to a Seagull. What? You were expecting Court and Spark? She has had so much influence on so many other artists, God bless her.

Deb Talan: A Bird Flies Out. Her work with the Weepies is even better.

Ray La Montagne: Till the Sun Turns Black. What heartbreak is in his voice!

Rachel Yamagata: Happenstance. Why hasn't she put out more wonderful work? Her cover of the Hollies' "Jesus Was a Crossmaker" is amazing.

Patty Griffin: Flaming Red. Take out "Wiggly Fingers," and this was perfect. Then there's her cover of "Moon River."

Tony Lucca: Canyon Songs. A guitar and a voice- it's that simple as that.

Beth Orton: Central Reservation. Try "Stolen Car."

Elliott Smith: Either/Or. "Between the Bars" is probably my favorite, although "Alameda" is also fine. How sad that he is gone. And that he couldn't conquer his demons.

If you are not familiar with these amazing artists, please give them a listen.



At 3/15/08, 11:47 PM, Blogger McSwain said...

Joni Mitchell's "Mingus" is a long-time favorite of mine.

At 3/16/08, 6:18 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I believe it is true that I have every album Jonatha Brooke ever recorded. You want to talk about mind-blowing harmonies? Find the two albums she did with Jennifer Kimball as The Story. Yikes!

I think my favorite from Flaming Red is Tony.

I go through musical phases, and right now I'm high on Michael McDonald's Motown remakes and Dave Matthews. Go figure...

At 3/16/08, 6:46 AM, Blogger cupcake said...

I LOVE Beth Orton. Love her. I nearly rolled off the chair when I saw you mention her.

At 3/16/08, 8:10 AM, Blogger Diana said...

I enjoy this list! I have loved the Roches and Joni Mitchell for decades. Also like Elliott Smith (I want to hear that last recording) and Iron & Wine. Some of the others are familiar names but I haven't gotten to them yet. I think Beth Orton would be the first that I'd check out next.

Have you listened to the Radar Bros.? Or Granfaloon Bus, or Okie Rosette? Or Art of Flying? Or 20 Minute Loop? Or Helene Renaut? These are some of my favorites, and I think you might like them. (But I know how it is with music recommendations--people recommend so many things to me, and I can't get around to much of it.)

At 3/16/08, 9:13 AM, Anonymous Betty said...

Thank you for all of the suggestions. I love music and will see about adding some of them to my Ipod. I'm a big Josh Grobin fan and also like Dave Matthews.

At 3/16/08, 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elvis Perkins: Ash Wednesday

I bet you'll love it!

At 3/16/08, 10:48 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I really appreciate the suggestions, and will get right on them (God bless iTunes!).

Then there's Mary Chapin Carpenter's Stones in the Road,

I love the song "Tony" by Patty Griffin, too. I worry about my students who are in that situation, even in 2008.

At 3/17/08, 4:21 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

LOVE Beth Orton and The Weepies are a fave around here- even with my kids. Joni Mitchell - esp. "Blue", but I'm also a huge "Court and Spark" fan- I know, how pedestrian.
Have you listened to Josh Rouse? He's got a really mellow sound- love him.

Great list- and Paul Simon is so awesome- have seen him in concert twice- most recently 2 years ago at the Milwaukee Summer Fest.

At 3/26/08, 3:02 PM, Anonymous Trina Cole said...

Patty Griffin and Iron & Wine are big favorites of mine, too. :-)

At 4/13/08, 11:34 PM, Blogger Chanman said...

"She Cries Your Name" by Beth Orton is one of my all-time favorite songs! So haunting. She is definitely the queen of folktronica.


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