Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Posts Tagged ‘Singer Songwriter

Kathleen – Josh Ritter

July 27, 2010

Kathleen

Written and performed by Josh Ritter.

“All the other girls here are stars – you are the Northern Lights”

As long as poets have written their verses, they’ve sought metaphors to convey the beauty and spirit of the objects of their affection. So few succeed, yet here comes Josh Ritter out of Moscow, Idaho with an opening line to make you swoon. That he sticks to the metaphor speaks to the depth and conviction of his craft:

They try to shine in through your curtains – you’re too close and too bright.
They try and they try but everything that they do
Is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you.

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Hats off (To the Big Queen City) – Phil Cody

July 3, 2010

Hats off (To the Big Queen City)
Music and Lyrics by Phil Cody from Phil Cody’s album Sons of Intemperance Offering.

Singer-songwriter Phil Cody resides in Los Angeles, but he grew up in Cincinnati and it’s an exile’s love for his lost home that fuels this high-energy love letter of a song. You can feel the energy right from the opening big strums of the guitar joined by a raucous B-3 Hammond organ followed by some backgrounds shouts, “Hey, hey what are you doing?” Cody steps front and center to the microphone, “Hats off to the big Queens City/She is the lifeline to my heart.” No irony here, no subtlety, just joy and love. Ringing guitars, propulsive drums and that voice, full of yearning, make the case. Even the nonsense lines (“la de da…do it do it”) convey meaning and heart.

Birches – Bill Morrissey: A Married Couple’s Love Song

June 16, 2010

Birches – A Married Couple’s Love Song

Written and performed by Bill Morrissey

In his song, “Casey, Illinois,” Bill Morrissey sings, “Now I’m not young in a young man’s game,” a sad truth; playing and listening to rock music favors the young. The quintessential rock music still flows from Elvis’s braggadocio and broken heart rhythm and blues and Chuck Berry’s car songs. We grow excited about that new young band (Kings of Leon, anyone) and often forget or shake our heads over the Stones in their 60’s still trying to rock and roll. Many of the best artists have continued to produce as they enter their senior years and their audience ages too.

Yet much of the best music comes from older artist dealing with themes of maturity and much of the audience has aged too. Think of Dylan’s recent work – perhaps more resonant that anything he has ever written. Neil Young still thrashes about trying to make sense of the world as he sees it while Van Morrison still seeks his vision, only not as a young man would. Springsteen’s movie song, “The Wrestler,” grapples with finding victory in accepting one’s fate. Dylan’s song “Red River Shore” – arguably one of his best ever – may make no sense for the 20-year-old college student who lacks the experiences to understand, but it resonates with sadness and recognition to the older listener.

Bill Morrissey’s “Birches,” a love song as moving as any you will hear, stands as an example of a song that the young man or woman may not comprehend, but will rivet the middle age man or woman as it captures the small defeats and victories that infuse a marriage. Those familiar with Morrissey know the intricate craftsmanship that goes into his story-songs: concise, rich and telling details. Others have likened him to minimalist short-story writers like Raymond Carver, though the better comparison seems to be Andre Dubus given the New England settings, the deep empathy for their characters and the underlying spiritual dimensions in their work.