October 22, 2017

Music Monday: There are years, and there are Years (part 1: 2014)

Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal

Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal

When it comes to music, there are years, and there are years. 2014 was a year. 2015 looks like it may be a year. Since I didn’t do an end-of-the-year review of music in December, I’ll write about the first today and we’ll focus on the second next Monday.

It would be hard to overestimate how much music means to me and how the songs and albums I listen to each year accompany and shape my life. Apart from my wife and family, these songs are my best friends and we share almost every day together. I am thrilled to have this forum to talk about them with you.

2014 was a relatively sleepy year for me in music. Few spectacular albums were released, nor did many concerts of note come to town. Gail and I and some friends did enjoy seeing John Gorka here in Indy last spring and his album, Bright Side of Down, proved to be a satisfying listen for folk fans like me. Gorka is one of the brightest, cleverest lyricists you’ll hear, and his talents are aging along with him like fine wine.

Here’s a performance of a song from the record that’s appropriate for the season we’re in here in the Midwest, called “Thirstier Wind.”

 

That concert also introduced me to an artist I had not known before. Appearing with John was a German-born folksinger who came to the U.S. and grew up in Delaware, named Antje Duvekot. Her deeply personal and melodic songs were a perfect accompaniment to Gorka. Antje’s most recent album was released in 2012 and is called New Siberia. I was especially impressed by two songs that she sang that evening. The first was a tribute to her grandmother called Anna (available at Antje’s website), and it brought tears to my eyes as she described the fading light of a loved one in old age. The second was her song Long Way, about a memorable road trip throughout the U.S.

Here, she sings it in performance:

 

In addition I enjoyed Jackson Browne’s Standing In The Breach and welcomed the return of Natalie Merchant through her self-titled record. Gail and I also took one of our regular pilgrimages to hear James Taylor in concert on a lovely summer evening by Lake Winnipesaukee in NH. Besides that, the year was pretty quiet. It gave me a chance to explore some other artists I had somehow missed over the years, including Bill Mallonee and Josh Rouse, and to catch up on some good music from 2013 that I had put on hold, such as Jason Isbell’s Southeastern.

• • •

And now, the very best of 2014 . . .

The album of the year for me was Roseanne Cash’s The River & The Thread. More than four years after her remarkable record, The List, which I wrote about in 2013, Cash again teamed up with her husband John Leventhal to produce a great collection of classic American music. It won 3 Grammys, was voted Rolling Stone’s Country Album of the Year, and was deemed the number one album of the year by the Americana Music Association. Unfortunately, we couldn’t catch her show here in Indianapolis last September.

The River and the Thread involves an evocative journey through the American South, Cash’s family ties and other influences, and her own heart. Below is a video in which Cash gives us a tour through the process of making this record. As it says on her website, in this film “we see her creative process, witness her emotional connections and feel the power of her stories.” If you get one album from 2014, this is the one I recommend.

Comments

  1. Joseph (the original) says:

    “FIRST…”

    {…crickets chirping}

    okay, so, yeh, um…music…well…that’s cool ya know…

    {footsteps receding in the distance…}

  2. Like John Gorka. Very smooth, forthright delivery. I think that’s a nice little Martin he’s playing there too.

  3. Christiane says:

    ‘. . . how you come home to yourself ‘

    awesome phrase . . . for something people may not understand until they have lived for many years . . . sometimes this involves journeying into the past, not just your own personal past, but into the world of your ancestry . . . it takes me to a town that holds so much of my mother’s family’s history, Plymouth NC. Never lived there. Visited on numerous occasions, some funerals, and once with parents and siblings grown up to look into the life of my great-grandfather Joseph Gray Ausbon. I came away from that visit with the memory of my brother, a pediatrician looking at the gravestones of babies and children who died so young long ago and was filled with sadness, saying he probably knew today what would have saved those babies . . .

    strange little town, mother’s people buried there, and I have come to understand how it is said that ‘the spirits call to you up from the ground’ because that town IS something more to me than a ‘place’ I never lived in, and I am drawn back to it even in things so simple as reading about my grandmother’s people in the ‘digital’ on-line Roanoke Beacon during the period of the late 1800’s and early twentieth century.

    If there is such a thing as ‘genetic memory’, then maybe a part of ‘who we are’ resides in ‘who they were’, the ancestors, the old ones. It would account for those feelings of connection that are not so easily explained away as the memories of a few visits from time to time or the phrases spoken by relatives overheard by a child of a place they loved and left reluctantly. some thoughts inspired by Rosanne’s reflections 🙂

    • Some of us are cut off from returning to the places of our ancestors. We may not know who they were, or be unable to return to the places where they were, for one reason or another. For example, I am unable to trace back my family, on either side, beyond two generations; and I’m unable to travel to the Italian locales where any evidence for who my ancestors were before that might be found.

      There are also forms of familial alienation that make it impossible for some of us to return to our biological homes. We are cut off not only by barriers of distance and time, but deep, unbridgeable dysfunction that has required us to move on, and not look back.

      God bless those of you who are able to “come home to yourself” in the way described; we others hope that, though it is a way, and an important one, it is not the only way.

      • Robert, I took her remark to be “come home to your Self”, which fits with her thoughts on creating outside of linear time, and stepping in and out of the river of Time. That might seem like a fanciful distinction but I believe it to be at the very center of the Way Home available to us all, including you, and aside from all the barriers and bad experiences put up by the dysfunctional self.

        • Perhaps, Charles. It all gets rather paradoxical, doesn’t it? Some days I would say that home is not where I came from, but where I’m going; that I have never been there, but hope to arrive one day. Otoh, on other days I would say that I never left home, I’m home now and always have been. Paradox after paradox.

          Thanks for the good word.

          • “Some days I would say that home is not where I came from, but where I’m going”

            I would say both. Accepting paradox would seem to be the way out of modern either/or thinking, quite a jump. And yes, I believe you are home now, the trick being to realize that. All easier said than done. I believe you will make it.

  4. kerokline says:

    Seriously though, can we talk about 2015??

    New Decemberists album, continuing their trend of dialing back Colin Meloy’s tendency to hog the spotlight while writing better songs. Also, less accordion.

    New Iron and Wine, my personal favorite band/artist of all time. “Archives Volume 1” sounds like a sister album to Iron and Wine’s first (and imho best) album, Creek Drank the Cradle, and I love it sooo much. Iron and Wine B sides are better than pretty much anyone’s A sides. It’s absurd. Like an angel that sits on your shoulder and whispers things in your ear.

    New Sufjan Stevens album. I’m excited for it at least 😀

    New My Morning Jacket, Bob Dylan… It’s a good year for folksy Indie.

    Also, if you’re into pop/rock/indie… New Mumford and Sons, Passion Pit, Florence + the Machine, Ellie Goulding, Blur, Muse, Modest Mouse, Deathcab for Cutie, Faith No More (!!), Fleetwood Mac with the “Rumors” lineup (!!!)

    I’m just saying. It’s looking really good 😀

    • Next Monday, kerokline. It’s shaping up to be a great year. The Decemberists kicked it off for me too.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      When I heard rumor of a new Blur album, my heart skipped a beat. Can’t wait.

      Speaking of new Fleetwood Mac, another 2014 recommendation is Stevie Nicks’ “24 Karat Gold” album that came out late last year. Not all of it is great, but there’s some very strong material.

    • New Muse, allegedly new U2 (Songs of Experience), rumors of new Korn, Metallica, maybe Systems of a Down…

      2015 could be epic.

  5. Thanks for sharing your music pick of 2014.

    My top album of last year was The War on Drugs’ “Lost in the Dream.” With nods to Petty, Dylan, Springsteen and Knopfler – sometimes all in the same song – it’s a masterpiece of the honesty of the human condition, storytelling and musicianship.

  6. Since it’s #musicmonday, I’ve been going back lately and rediscovering bands I listened to 10 years ago, before I went back into christianity with that cult church. Was listening to a lot of U2 (naturally), Green Day, System of a Down, etc…many bands that for the next 10 years or so I barely listened to. Yet now I’m “rediscovering” them, and remembering that time in my life. I was a lot more carefree, happy, excited about the future even if uncertain about direction…I remember life being sunnier, more vivid…better.

    Honestly, feels like I’m waking up from a decade long dream. Or like the drugs are finally wearing off, and I’m rediscovering color and light and warmth, but with a new sore, tender area inside of me. Don’t think I’m fully there yet.

    Speaking of music, anyone remember Hells Bells? Stumbled upon that documentary again this morning, and it reminds me of so much Satanic Panic scare stuff from my childhood, and all the sermons and youth group meetings concerned about the demonic influence of the secular world. (Speaking of, I got to meet the creator of Hells Bells multiple times at the c church…he’s still around and still preaching/peddling his gospel.)

    In hindsight…

    Satanic Panic + KJV Onlyism + Revivalism + Fundamentalism = my childhood church

    Satanic Panic + Pentecostalism + Fundamentalism + Culture War = the charismatic church I walked into as an adult

  7. CrazyChester says:

    +1 War on Drugs

    Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szYrXzEi0cg

  8. My own personal musical discovery in 2014 was the work of a contemporary Russian composer named ALEXANDER KNAIFEL. HIs career in many ways mirrors that of his rather more famous Estonian colleague Arvo Pärt. They both began as avant-garde modernists but by mid-career perceiving the approach to be a creative dead-end moved back into tonality, drawing heavily from the Eastern choral tradition. But though they drink from the same well there the similarities end. Knaifel has a different aesthetic. For one thing he has not completely abandoned his modernist tendencies. Knaifel is s minimalist but not in the sense that he composes simple repetitive melodies but that much of his music is designed for at most two or three voices. For him silence is a member of the choir; another voice to be orchestrated.

    Ah but “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating” will it not? I tried to find something representative on YouTube even though their compressed audio doesn’t reward this kind of performance very well.. This is a piece called “Chapter Eight”, a setting for a part of the Song of Songs (Chapter Eight if you didn’t guess). One plus is you get to hear Rostropovich play cello. See what you think.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYJVGXPZbFo

    • Can’t wait to hear this, Stephen!

      Other than Eric Whitacre’s crazy-cool virtual choirs, and Glenn Rudolph’s “The Dream Isaiah Saw” last Christmas, I haven’t really been upside the head with anything choral for a while. This sounds like it could be interesting — thanks for the tip!.

  9. Robert F says:

    Some old music covered by an even older performer, for the perpetual 16 year old that some of us carry around:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrPWm245eqc

  10. Robert F says:

    Just one more. Neil Young at his haunting best:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gfjoAyqfLs

  11. Since tomorrow happens to be St Patricks Day, and my favorite band is Irish…here’s one of the B-sides from Songs of Innocence

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3faDM1lWiHw

  12. “The Crystal Ballroom”
    Life begins with the first glance
    The first kiss at the first dance
    All of us are wondering why we’re here
    In the crystal ballroom underneath the chandelier

    Wet the glass ’til the glasses sing
    We punish our hearts ’til the heart bells ring
    ‘Cause where we come from
    We’re not always kind
    The human story is what love leaves behind

    We’re the ghosts of love
    And we haunt this place
    We’re the ghosts of love
    In every face
    In the ballroom of the crystalline
    Everyone’s here with me tonight
    Everyone but you

    Our first chance is their last dance
    Our life is shaped by another’s hands
    Buttoning, unbuttoning her Coco dress
    Stopping and unstopping every cold caress

    Born for bliss, born for this
    Every human life begins with a kiss
    Kissed by every kind of possibility
    And everyone is here tonight with me

    We’re the ghosts of love
    And we haunt this place
    We’re the ghosts of love
    In every face
    In the ballroom of the crystalline
    Everyone’s here with me tonight

    Everybody’s here with me tonight
    Everybody’s here with me but you
    Everybody’s here with me tonight
    Everybody’s here with me but you
    Everybody’s here with me tonight
    Everybody’s here with me but you
    Everybody’s here with me tonight
    Everybody’s here with me but you

    Born for bliss, born for this
    Every human life begins with a kiss

  13. Christiane says:

    yes, tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day . . . here’s hope that Martha of Ireland will come and visit us at imonk . . . always enjoyed reading what Martha shared here . . . she was our connection to the Emerald Isle, home of the ancestors of many, many American people, USA and Canada . . . she is missed

  14. My favorite album of the year is Shovels and Rope – Swimmin’ Time. They’re a husband-wife duo and make what might be called “dark gothic country-americana rock.” They have some similarities to the indie-folk scene, but are harder rocking and edgier, even slightly punkish. They have amazing harmonies, are great songwriters and talented multi-instrumentalists, and put on a killer live show.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1n7FAsiezo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S4FR8NJMfc

    And one live video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxz7XSwx0RI

  15. John Royse says:

    I know there is a lot of good music out there, but Rosanne Cash did a masterpiece with “The River and the Road”. If you haven’t heard the track “When the Master calls the Roll” you should drop everything and obtain and listen. It ripped out my heart the first time I heard it and brings me to tears on any re-listen. Simply a kick to the gut/heart…..

    Here’s a You Tube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmcvwa9M53o