I admit I’m not young and cool. I admit I think Lady Gaga should put some pants on. I admit I’m in that demographic of Super Bowl halftime-show viewers who said, “You know, Pete and Roger haven’t changed that much since I first saw them in ’75. When we had to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways to get to the show.” But I was blown away by the great music I heard on the recent Grammy Award broadcast. I mean, despite Lady Gaga’s weird green Tinkerbell ensemble, her performance was powerfully awesome. Same with Beyonce and Pink. And Green Day and Kings of Leon. And I found myself tapping and clapping along with newcomer the Zac Brown Band. And Taylor Swift was intriguing — I mean, she knows she can’t sing but she’s so supremely confident that she does it anyway? Who is this kid??? So then I wanted to hear more from these folks — and of course classic favorites such as the Dave Matthews Band and even the Black-Eyed Peas. If I were music-savvy and had plenty of money, I’m sure I’d already have a Grammy-worthy CD and iTunes collection. But I’m not and I don’t. So, Wal-Mart to the rescue! Running past the electronics department — between office supplies and dairy — I spotted this $11 CD of Grammy nominees and I’ve been rocking out ever since. I promise you have to smile when you hear Fergie promising you a good night and Sugarland bemoaning that “It Happens.” You can order it from http://www.grammy.com/, too. This is like bullet points for pop music of the past few months — your kids and friends will be impressed.
My new favorite CD is “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” by Steve Martin. Yes — that Steve Martin. We all remember him strumming on the banjo as part of his stand-up comedy act, but turns out he’s a serious and seriously talented banjo composer and player. On the surface, the tracks here — Martin wrote 14 of the 15 — are foot-stompin’ bluegrass at its best. Even our 16-month-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, dances along when the strummin’ and the fiddlin’ start! But “The Crow” is so much more than a banjo homage — it’s a celebration of life and love and friends and family. Martin’s songs tap into such authentic emotion that you’ll wonder how the “wild and crazy guy” from Saturday Night Live could write such a sweet song as “Pretty Flowers” or such a heart-pulling melody as “Words Unspoken.” I’m telling you, you’ve got to buy this CD. And I’m talking the real actual CD here. Oh, sure, you could be all cool and modern and download it for your laptop or MP3 player, but then you’d miss out on the delightful CD book that explains the background for each song and honors Martin’s friends — such as music greats Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs and Vince Gill — who help out on the album. “The Crow” is a must-have winner. Go listen. Now.
My wonderfully dear husband made a CD love-song mix for my Valentine’s Day present. It was one of his best mixes ever — and he’s known for coming up with some great ones. I posted about it earlier and had several requests for his playlist. So here it is, with a couple notes:
I Want to Hold Your Hand – T.V. Carpio (Across the Universe soundtrack)
Ain’t No Cure for Love – Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat)
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) – Art Garfunkel (Breakaway)
Let My Love Open the Door – Pete Townsend (Empty Glass)
Message of Love – The Pretenders (The Singles)
This and That – Michael Penn (March)
A Girl Like You – The Smithreens (11)
Gimme Little Sign – Don Dixon w/Marti Jones (E E E)
Real Love – Regina Spektor (Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Darfur Album)
Big Love – Fleetwood Mac (Greatest Hits)
Until the End of the World – U2 (Achtung baby)
Linger – The Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?)*
Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting (The Dream of the Blue Turtles)
My Doorbell – The White Stripes (Get Behind Me Satan)
Genius Of Love – The Tom Tom Club (eponymous album)
She’s Changing Me – Fleetwood Mac (Bob Welch vocal) – Heroes Are Hard to Find
Warm Love – Van Morrison (Best of)
This is Us – Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris (All The Roadrunning)
I’ll Work for Your Love – Bruce Springsteen (Magic)
Mayor of Simpleton – XTC (Oranges & Lemons)
Renaissance Eyes – Don Dixon (Most of the Girls Like to Dance But Only Some of the Boys Do)**
* While I like the sound of this song, the lyrics ultimately may not be the best for a Valentine’s Day mix, depending on the status of your relationship. I had to delete a song to make this fit, and if I had to do it over, I’d probably leave this off and substitute “Where Do You Go to My Lovely,” preferably the version by Peter Sarstedt from the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack.
** Yes, that’s the title of the album. As I understand it, he would start with a painting by a friend as the cover image for his albums (which also included “E E E” and “Romeo at Juiliard”), then write a song inspired by that image for the appropriate album. Fans just call it “Girls LTD.”
My husband is the best CD mixer ever. I think it stems from his wide-ranging curiosity about all things pop culture. He’s open to every music genre and has an encyclopedic knowledge of who recorded what and when, where and with whom. He even made tape mixes back in the olden days — not easy! But now he’s got CDs and computers and iTunes and he comes up with some brilliant mixes. (In fact, five years later people still say that the mix he created for our wedding favors was the best. Ever.) So you can guess what my Valentine’s present was: A lovely, lovely mix of some beautifully quirky love songs. Like The Smithereens’ “A Girl Like You” and Art Garfunkel’s “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).” There’s also “Message of Love” by The Pretenders, “This and That” from Michael Penn,Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris’s “This Is Us” and some Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison plus a song I’ve never heard, “Renaissance Eyes” by Don Dixon. This CD is a keeper. My husband, too.