Johnny Cash – The original conflicted badass and friend.

This song has been hounding me all week—I have seen it performed live a couple times (both great!). It sneaked on a Pandora feed when I picked Coldplay to start. (Hey, Coldplay is great to matt and frame to-you need to be in a zen state while slicing those boards to perfection!)

I have this on-and-off-fling-thing going with country music. I love the passion and the traditional “common man struggling against the odds” mixed with the drinking and facing down trouble. It cuts right to the heart of the American dream.

Maybe it’s all the time at the county fair this week—I’ll just say it—The Washing County Fair in Greenwich N.Y. — Full of bad food, rides, and….of course…cows, pigs and people of all shapes, sizes and attitudes.

It brings you back to earth.

I need to be brought back to earth.

To get out among the huddled masses and connect because I am they and they are me. I can think I am whatever I want..… but in reality –I am just a guy struggling to get by, just like lots of others here in the great Upstate agricultural land of New York.

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Which brings me to Johnny Cash. I don’t care how famous or rich he got-I don’t care about the awards and all the other trapping of his historic rise to the top of the music world.

This guy is genuine and down to earth. Accessible to prisoners, punks, senior citizens and [put another group in here-they all work] at the same time.

If he walked by you at the fair-you would think of him as a long lost friend. You would think of him as one of you.

This is a rare and beautiful thing to have.

The ability to connect with everyone.

Who does not love this guy and his music?

Respect from the cave.

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My Top 10 (or so) The First Five.

 

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While strolling around the county fair yesterday and checking out all the animals (we all got hobbies, right?).

It occurred to me that there is a difference between what is considered a prize animal and what is considered a favorite animal.

Prize animals fit all the limited criteria the judges look for- like: Is the udder on that cow well-greased and not too wrinkly (or just the right wrinkly) —-or: I just don’t know about the height of that bunny’s ears compared to the puffiness of the tail, it just looks off to me—no ribbon for “Snickers”…

You know stuff like that

And then an animal seems to just have that certain something you are drawn to……I got in this staring contest with a goat that border-lined on hysterical —the goat was so intense that I could not look away.

And that brings me to my top 10 records of all time—I decided to go with my favorites and not worry about the relevance or critical acclaim. I will try be honest about the choices, no matter how they make me look.

Warning: We may go over the 10 limit because—this is too hard to do.

Lynynrd Skynyrd.Second Helping      1974

You know “Sweet Home Alabama” …but do you know- “The ballad of Curtis Loew”

Or the great “Working for MCA”  to the cover of the J J Cale’s “Call me the Breeze”

I like the whole damn thing.

For a sophomore album to be this high quality-you know the group is beyond special.

Neil Young.Live Rust

 This guy is pretty good. I did not know that before I got this record.

The Powderfinger to Cortez the Killer combo platter is deliciously intense.

The acoustic/electric versions of “ Hey, Hey, My, My-Out of the Black and into the Blue” are something as honest and poignant as I have ever heard. They still are.

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Lyle Lovett and his Large Band     1989

This one plays a movie in your head as you go from tune to tune with no filler added. Pure Texas steer sizzled to perfection. It opened my eyes to what country music could be when it is craft-brewed to perfection. (Damn it-I just used up a great beer reference and steak reference on the same record and I am just getting started-Oh well-this one is that good)

If you have not sampled some of this guy’s work-you are missing out on a brilliant plate served correctly every single time.

The Xx      2009

When I first heard “Intro” it washed over me like one of those fans that gently spray water droplets on you on a hot day (they had them at the fair). The cool alienation of this future we now live in hit me—-this is what I call “post rock”. The traditional rock band is gone but kids still get together and want to make music. It is tough to listen to entire albums in this age of instant gratification with iPods churning out a best mix buffet for each mood—But for this record-I make an exception. It is background music for this age that none of us really fit in or know where is going.

Note to self: This is relatively new and many other indie bands should go in this spot—like Arcade Fire or Arctic Monkeys or something—but like that goat at the fair that wanted to stare me down-this one found me and made a connection.

The Pretenders     1979

I don’t know if 1979 was the best year in rock music or if it just happened to be the year that I hit that transitional “coming of age” deal that seems to define you. Music from this time of life gets right down in the DNA. Like a color stain on your soul that refuses to wash out no matter how many rinse cycles life puts you through.

I have no control of where and when I grew up—I also have no control of this friggin’ awesome record that came out at this time. If I was 5 years younger or 5 years older-this list would and should be completely different—but I am what I am and that’s all that I am—I am a guy in a cave telling you what I feel at a clip of about once a week.

This is only half the original lineup (that looks like Martin Chambers on drums?…somebody help me here), this version has so much heart and spunk, I could not resist.

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When I get through this—it will be a permanent page on this site.

Thanks for reading and —- Cheers from the cave!

The Pretenders

The Pretenders first record is one of my favorite records of all time and a capstone to my collection. I am throwing on a song from it because another blogger was talking about this album and fired me up!

Thanks to stephan1001 over at http://1001albumsin10years.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/the-pretenders-the-pretenders-1980/ for getting me motivated to do a short post

You cannot pick a bad song-even my least favorite “Brass In Pocket” is better than 98% of all commercial rock music produced since 1950- and it is only my least fav because the rest of this record is so damn strong.

The power and energy in this candy coated but bittersweet melodic punk music is unrivaled.

Chrissie Hynde is the Queen of Rock Music.

The Pretenders first record is nothing short of brilliant.

I love it and all it stands for.

It has got me working on a post to unveil my top 10 records ever made (long overdue) and will come out on a blog near you real soon.

And just in case you need to see this song in a softer light to feel the genius of it- I offer you this:

SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS ONE THAT MADE THE LIST

Cheers from the Cave!

We miss this guy already

He did not care who or what he gunned down in the middle of a rant-he went for it and hit it most of the time.

My whole family was the same sadness and disbelief at the news-he was accessible to all no matter what age or status.

I will admit to being a little disappointed with “The Crazy Ones”—I thought Robin and Buffy together would be surefire but he had lost his mojo—-no big deal because the work was so strong up to that point- we can get over one dud….right?

Is there something going on?

We still love you man.

My favorites are “Dead Poet’s”, “The Fisher King” and “Good Will Hunting” but I don’t want to get picky in this post because it was all good.

It saddens me because there was so much going on under the surface that we did not and could not know—it was not part of the show.

And he was all about giving all he had to bring the best every time.

I feel like we as a nation lost something special. We all knew one side of him so well that the other side seems incomprehensible.

We all have hell hounds of one kind or another on our tails as we go through this life—sometimes they get to eat.

But-still— we assume our heroes are above that and will prevail.

I don’t blame anyone or anything-I just feel that emptiness of watching a bright light go dark.

 

 

Reflections on “Bad”

“The great thing about being music insane instead of regular insane is that you hear songs in your head instead of voices”

Yeah—I said that in another post which I may or may not have published-

Anyway, it’s 3:07 in the morning and I am wide awake-“Wide Awake, I’m not Sleeping’—to quote a line from Sir Bono. Maybe it’s that super moon outside which has us all a little wired-the werewolves are just a little more hairy and track you down a little faster!

“Bad” is playing in my head as I shift positions and filter through all my 99 problems until I decide they will dissipate to solutions and I will get up and write a blog post.

It is “leave this hollow place and break away into the half-light…through the flame” that makes the trouble all run from me.

The power in that line and the power in this song has me in a trance.

I have never been to Ireland so forgive me if my vision of a place where Christianity and mysticism combine with rain to keep the land green and Guinness flows naturally to fill a pint glass are a little off. (That is my feeling and I hope to check that with an actual visit in the not too distant future)

This song could only have been made by an Irish band-it has all of that in it and more.

“Bad” was an anthem in the much maligned decade of the 1980’s. We forget about the quality.

“If I could, If I could, I would let it go”

You can interpret this classic anyway you want.

I see it as the never ending struggle to escape the bonds that bind us to whatever we struggle with—being wide awake gives us a chance to look at them clearly for what they are—they are temporary-the permanent is still being formed.

Hey, that is just me.

Just a guy who writes about rock music and is wide awake under this big bright moon.

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Outlaws.Hurry Sundown

The Outlaws

This is filed under that weird nostalgic sensation of a song replaying in your head from 30 years ago for no apparent reason.

Almost like your brain goes on a random search mode and pops up a song from a lost playlist.

There was no digital when this baby was born.

There was no cell service or internet.

There were just a few boys from Florida playing southern rock with a western theme and traveling around to any hockey rink or county fair that would take them.

I am not one to say that those days were better.

It is just strange how the mind will open a dusty screen door and let the breeze from a past once lived drift gently into the present.

For a while this was my favorite band…Like the new Pepsi to the established Coca Cola of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I kind of forgot about them.

Happy

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Happy

Happy

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion,

If you want to be happy, practice compassion”

As the Dalai Lama says,…. And that kind of sums it up for me.

And since I have a music website of some small disrepute, I thought I might just throw out a little happy playlist and attempt to defend it.

*I am using the totally legal format of Spotify for the first time. I also drew the lines of a happy face so this is 100% free range copyright approved-and no animals were harmed in the making of this post!

Rock music does not lend itself to happiness as a rule- with all that minor pentatonic and brooding vocals and such.

But, here is my quick “go to” list of songs that bring a lightness to my heart and brighten up the cave a bit.

Louis Armstrong.What a Wonderful world

The Rosetta stone that all other contentment songs are measured against. Satchmo put down his trumpet and preached it out.

Squeeze.Pulling Muscles from a Shell

This song always brings a smile to my face-it is light and bouncy with some layers of indiscretion only jabbed at…you know—fun. And funny at the same time.

Bob Marley.Three little Birds

What can you say about a man of peace and a champion of the oppressed-he lost himself in his music. Yes, he was wasted most of the time-I don’t see that as a deal breaker –I just see it as: we all have our hurdles to get over- some we do and some we don’t. Any 24 year old living in their parent’s basement and using this guy as an excuse to smoke week is a complete idiot. He triumphed despite his problem not because of it.

The Notorious B.I.G. Big Poppa

This is misogynistic and hedonistic to a certain extent but it is also smooth and full of joy. So how can that be? How does an old pasty white guy like me enjoy some Biggie? Well., this song is funny and the big guy is so smooth with the rhymes that I find it irresistible. To me, the “flow” outweighs all. He was a man of his time and place and he spoke the truth as he found it—-that is what all the greats do.

Bobby McFerrin.Don’t Worry be Happy

Simple and free advice. Happiness is often a choice that we can make.

Lyle Lovett.Give me back my Heart

Lyle crafts songs with an intensity of spirit and Texas swagger that each one is like a mini rodeo ride for the soul. I could pick many of his songs that make me laugh and this one always gets me off the dirt and back on the bull!

Pharrel Williams.Happy

It’s just happy-you want to sing along and join in.

  1. Kelly.Iginition Remix

Give me that woo, woot – it’s the fiicken weekend baby.

Fitz and the Tantrums. Out of my League

The more I hear from this group, the more I like them. They have enough range to separate themselves from the nameless ocean of indie rock music. So what if things are out of your league?-so what if you are in over your head?—-we all are…so let’s dance and get on with it…..or something like that.

The Lumineers.This must be the Place

Brilliant cover of a Talking Heads classic that makes you take a fresh look. They took all the quirky-over-thinking- nerdness out of the original and replaced it with a real organic heart. It’s not the same song done this way.