Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Posts Tagged ‘Music Review

Mother of God by Patty Griffin

June 4, 2010

Mother of God

Written and performed by Patty Griffin.

I told myself that I’d write about “Mother of God” because we have tickets to see Patty Griffin (and the Avett Brothers, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Richard Shindell, etc.) at the Appel Farm Festival this Saturday (thanks to Paddy and Jamie for the tickets). Truth be told, this song’s been running round my mind for many months. Griffin’s singing and the ethereal, yet muscular longing of the music persists in memory and functions like the pebble in the oyster agitating its way to something beautiful. The song sounds less like a performance and more a woman talking aloud, as if hearing her own words will help her find some peace and understanding. Far from a mere pop song or simple singer-songwriter confessional, “Mother of God” struggles to understand family and faith, life and purpose, and it avoids easy answers. The song evolves into a type of prayer, an offering of hope in the face of near certain futility.

Griffin builds the song around two women: a mother and the titular Mother of God. The singer/narrator, perhaps the eldest boy in the family or perhaps another sibling, is the third character in a kind of familial trinity, three separate, yet unified characters. Points of view fluctuate, the three main characters conflate and, though we follow a certain story and timeline, in many ways, the song views the same women and same relationship from different viewpoint. It is a song as cubist painting.

You Gotta Sin to Be Saved by Maria McKee

May 20, 2010

You Gotta Sin to Be Saved

Written and performed by Maria McKee

There’s going to be a lot of saving going on cause if you listen to this song, you know there’s a lot of sinning happening. Full of gusto and heart, this raucous song puts forth a clear proposition: someday I may be saved, but before I get there, I’ve got some living to do. Think gospel song only this one marches down a different aisle.

Maria McKee’s voice – full-throated, even full-bodied – makes the case and the carousing band offers the full support with saxes, a Hammond organ, guitars and rousing vocals. No doubting the conviction of McKee’s singing, the song captures the spirit of an amuck Vegas weekend and you want to go along for the sheer fun of it.

The gambit offered is simple enough. McKee turns to her fiancé (“ya been my Romeo ever since we was in school”), reaffirms her love (“”I’ll love you till I die), then lets him know her predicament: “I could never be your bride ‘til I tame my wicked side.” She swaggers, she vamps, but this is no tease; she’s pure lustiness, you can just picture the wicked grin.

Beer and Kisses by Amy Rigby

May 18, 2010

Beer and Kisses

Written and Performed by Amy Rigby.

Amy Rigby traces the arch of romance in a tightly crafted 3:41 seconds from when “we loved like it was something new” to “It’s sad how we both forget/The thing we had for each other/Way back when we first met.” “Beer and Kisses” is a pop-song for grown-ups, wry and subtly structured lyrics knitted to a winsome melody.

The ex-punk singer living in the East Village turns out this country-tinged duet with John Wesley Harding as if they are the second coming of Tammy Wynette and George Jones. The tale opens in the first glimmers of new love, the couple meeting in the supermarket and though boy-meets girl has reoccurred forever, Rigby knows that for those inside the love, it’s like a new world. Thus the lines:

We loved like it was something new
From day one we could not be parted
You had me and honey I had you

In recording Diary of a Mod Housewife, Rigby says she wanted to “balance being a mother and a wife and still being a rocker at heart.” She hits the target in this song: no subordination here, two equals madly in love.

All My Ex’s Live in Texas by George Strait

May 17, 2010

All My Ex’s Live in Texas

Performed by George Strait

Written by Sanger D. Shafer and Linda J. Shafer

There are plenty of downhearted songs about past loves, but not this gem from George Strait. It’s as breezy, graceful and fun as a spring day on the porch with a cold beer. Everything works together to create a gem of a country song: the well-honed craftsmanship of the songwriting, the consummate musicianship that skips the flash in favor of playing in service to the tune and George Strait’s honeyed and laconic voice that fits the song so well.

This track provides another example of how George Strait finds popularity in the too-often derivative and bland contemporary country music market while keeping true to his country music touchstones and country-swing roots. You can hear Bob Wills, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams loud and clear in his music. Strait has the knack for picking songs right for his voice and style and his performances all contain an organic integrity: the pedal steel and fiddle open this song not because of some formula, but because they are absolutely perfect for opening the song.

Play “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and you know you’re in the hands of a master when Strait sings the opening chorus with its irresistible hook:

Metal Firecracker by Lucinda Williams

May 16, 2010

Metal Firecracker

Written and performed by Lucinda Williams, originally released on the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. You can listen to the song here.

“Metal Firecracker” is a grown up break-up song that shimmers with guitars, loss and vulnerability. The metal firecracker of the title is a tour bus and the song concerns a love gone bad. The song avoids the moaning and self-pity that saps too many break-up songs as it both recalls the passion of the affair and finds a way forward.

I Killed Sally’s Lover by the Avett Brothers

May 12, 2010

I Killed Sally’s Lover

The Avett Brothers From Live, Vol. II You can hear a live version here, here and here, .

You’re in a beer-soaked, sweaty North Carolina bar, three guys on the stage and wham: One-Two-Three-Four, guitars, banjo and upright base blast off like the amuck off-spring of speed metal and bluegrass, think Appalachian Ramones.

In one breath, we get the whole story: “Somebody get my shot got/Somebody get my blade/Sally’s been laying with another man/And he’s sleeping in my place.” No qualms, no equivocating, the singer relishes the moment, “Gonna shoot him sure as rain/You can run as fast you want to boy/I’ll kill you just the same.” They play with such reckless abandon, such joy. No moaning in a corner over betrayed love, no deep thoughts; it’s a song making lust tangible: “You can try to hide all you want boy/There ain’t nowhere to go.”

Stuck Between Stations by the Hold Steady

May 11, 2010

Crank this tune and enter the mess of whirling images and thoughts of fame, poetry, drinking, art, depression, Minneapolis winters, Catholicism, guilt, lust, and longing, most of all, longing for the promise and clarity offered by a girl. The song sometimes sounds bizarrely upbeat given that the core of the lyrics tell of John Berryman – the great American confessional poet – and his demise: jumping off the Washington Street Bridge in Minneapolis and drowning in the Mississippi River.

Juke by Little Walter

May 11, 2010

Feel like some Chicago blues? Want to hear some great harp work? Call up “Juke” and crank the sound. The first and only harmonica instrumental R&B single to reach number one on the Billboard charts, from the opening notes, Little Walter wraps that harp sound around chiming guitar chords and dances across the shifting boogie beat.