It's been quite a week, as all the weeks seem to be. Here's some peaceful music for a brief respite.
Mary-Elaine Jenkins -- "Hold Still"
I can't think of a better song to kick off this meditative list than Mary-Elaine Jenkins' "Hold Still." It's not exactly a happy song, but it does have a beautiful flow. Even as Jenkins gently rasps through a list of her anxieties, the band's gentle determination suggests that life will continue, regardless of how these tensions resolve. The gorgeous string arrangement helps, too. It's one of the slower songs of an album that brings a little flavor to the Brooklyn singer-songwriter landscape, but I'll bet it's a showstopper just the same.
Rosie Carney -- "Thousand" (feat. Lisa Hannigan)
Rosie Carney's been building a reputation for herself as the future of Irish folk. Her song "Thousand" shows her staying power -- much like her artistic ancestors, Carney's got that uncanny ability to pierce the heart of the matter with lyrics that cut and display a love of language. "Thousand" has a catchy hook but, most importantly, a melody that will stay with you for a long time. Carney modernizes the tradition by giving her composition breathing room: there are moments of silence here, all the more stark thanks to Carney and Hannigan's intricate duet.
Joseph Houck -- "Along The Trail"
I wrote about Joseph Houck's album Roam over the summer (and featured some of that music on the podcast) and it might be a good idea to catch up. On his new album Congeries, Houck expands his reach from gentle folk into jazz, old-time music, and some more up-tempo folk rock. "Along The Trail" is an spacious song of appreciation and contentment -- a happy song that actually says something. We could all use more of that.
Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravamen -- "Wake Up, You're Rockin'!"
I couldn't resist ending on something upbeat, though. Here's how Joe Castro describes his band: "We define ourselves as a rockabilly band because the term rock and roll
these days has become so broad that it’s completely meaningless. But I
consider us to be a rock-n-roll band in the truest sense of the word, in
the tradition of the pioneers of the genre like Buddy Holly, Eddie
Cochran, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley and Johnny Burnette. My Dad grew
up in Brookyln in the’ 50s, and would tell me stories about going to
the Alan Freed shows at the Paramount and seeing Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee
Lewis and Buddy Holly. As a kid, those guys were legends to me. Couple
that with being taken to the drive-in to see films like American Hot
Wax, American Graffiti and Grease - that beat was in my ears from a very
early age. It’s in my blood. I’ve always loved it.”
The song lovingly recreates the wild sexuality, aggression, and just plain weirdness of early rock'n'roll with an updated sensibility.
Canyon Trail -- "Rain on Sunday"
I featured some of John DiStase's instrumental music a little while ago on the podcast. DiStase brings his craftman-like guitar playing to another of his projects, Canyon Trail. The song is reminiscent of '90s pop -- though the lyrics here dive a bit deeper than most of the radio hits of the time. While the guitar gets center stage in this arrangement, there are some generous harmonies here that bring extra pathos to the tragedy of a dying relationship.