Cassi-DJ: Today's Playlist (10.05.19)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hey folks. Hope everyone is having a good day. I've been fighting a lingering cold, but I managed to once again join my friend Mike on his radio show on WMFO-FM here in Greater Boston. (See this post from a few weeks ago for more on WMFO-FM.)

My nephew C was supposed to join us and make his radio debut, but he's also suffering from a cold - one much worse than mine. He also just started nursing school, and, as his mother reminds him, he's still only a few months into his recovery from the serious health issues he was dealing with for over a year and a half. He is, wisely, being extra cautious and making sure he gets sufficient rest, even when it means passing up on something he was very much looking forward to. Fortunately, there's always next time, C. :c)

In spite of my rougher-than-usual voice, I had a terrific time per usual. Mike always does a terrific job, and makes it easy for me to sound relatively coherent (not a given, believe me!). I've already booked my next visit; mark your calendars for Saturday, November 2nd, folks. :c) In the meantime, here are the songs from my set today. Enjoy!


First up is a great live version of "Landed," from Ben Folds's 2005 album Songs For Silverman. This version is from a reunion tour he did a few years later with his pre-solo career band Ben Folds Five (which, naturally, is a trio lol). Check out his phenomenal piano chops on this one:

Track number two is interesting. It's a song called "Swimmer," by Amanda Shires. She began her career as an award-winning fiddle player (she joined the legendary Asleep At The Wheel while still a teenager) before launching a solo career as a singer-songwriter.

She's actually recorded two versions of this gorgeous song, which she wrote about falling in love with her future husband, Jason Isbell (a favorite of this blog). The first is a lovely, country-flavored acoustic version from her 2011 Carrying Lightning album. (That's her doing the whistling, incidentally.)

Then, in 2018, she recorded a terrific rock-oriented album called To The Sunset, which included a radically reworked version of "Swimmer" featuring electric guitars, more pronounced drums and percussion, and what sounds like a heavily treated fiddle playing the whistling part from the earlier version. Give it a listen:

After listening to both versions back to back today, the difference in her vocals between the two versions is quite striking as well. The original version - which I believe she recorded after she and Isbell were a couple but before they married - is more wistful. Her singing in the 2018 version, by which time they had been married for several years and had a daughter, by contrast, is more assured (but equally affecting). Anyway, I digress. :c)

Third on my playlist is the definition of a "deep track," in this case from someone regular readers can probably guess is one of my favorite artists, Bruce Cockburn. "January In The Halifax Airport Lounge" is on his 1975 album Joy Will Find A Way, which for many years was available only in his native Canada. (It was finally released in the US in the early Nineties, when he signed with Columbia Records and they reissued his entire catalogue here.)

The song was indeed inspired by an afternoon he spent waiting for a flight in Halifax, Nova Scotia; however, a closer listen reveals that it's true subject is the loneliness a touring musician faces, constantly on the road away from loved ones (in his case his wife and young daughter). I particularly love the keyboards on this one, which makes me feel  (in a good way) as if I'm right there in that mid-70s airport lounge.

Continuing the Canadian theme, another favorite of mine - Blue Rodeo. When I sat in with Mike last month, we played "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," a song written and sung by Greg Keelor. This week we featured "New Morning Sun," from their 2013 album In Our Nature, written by Keelor's songwriting partner and band co-leader Jim Cuddy. He explains what inspired the song in the intro to the excellent live version recorded in Keelor's farmhouse, where they recorded the album.

The second-to-last song was Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said," from their 2004 album A Ghost Is Born. A wrenching, deeply personal song, Jeff Tweedy wrote this while struggling with an addiction to the painkillers he was taking in an attempt to control his chronic, debilitating panic attacks.

The song, particularly his savage, Neil Young-esque guitar playing in the song's second half, attempts to evoke what those panic attacks feel like. As someone with altogether too much firsthand experience with them, I can attest that he captures their primal terror with unnerving, bone-chilling accuracy. As Mike said after watching this video later, "He isn't just playing this; he's living it." Just so.

Bringing the set to a close (and necessarily lowering the intensity level) is that rarest of beasts: an obscure Beatles song. (Well, relatively speaking, anyway).

"Long Long Long," which closes what was Side 3 on the vinyl version of the White Album, is a beautiful, eerie song written by George Harrison. (Really, it's a song that only George Harrison could have written.) While the lyrics could be interpreted to be about a lover, the "you" he references is, in fact, God. The languid, hushed atmosphere of the song is punctuated only by Ringo's patented, perfectly placed drum fills in the breaks.

(As we listened to the track in the studio today, Mike commented on how heartening it is to see people finally recognizing what a great drummer Ringo was. I have a book that details every single recording session the Beatles ever held. The book's author, who listened to literally every second the band spent in a recording studio, said that in eight years of recording, playing literally hundreds and hundreds of takes of songs he was learning for the first time, Ringo made a total of two - yes, two - mistakes. That is the definition of "rock-solid.")

Incidentally, one of my favorite pieces of Beatles trivia involves this song. The strange rattling sound that starts at 2:32 is caused by an empty wine bottle that happened to be on top of a Leslie speaker in the studio. As Paul held a sustained note on the Hammond organ he was playing, the bottle began to vibrate. The entire band spontaneously incorporated it into the song: McCartney held the note on the organ, Ringo played an extended drum roll, and Harrison sang a wordless, ghostly howl before bringing the song to a close with a dissonant, thrashing chord on his Gibson guitar - one of the most moving, affecting song endings from a band that was endlessly inventive in finding new ways to do just that. 

OK, that will do it for this post. Hope you all enjoyed the tunes. See you next time... :c)


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