Essays on Music
Cover Versions Norah Jones’ breath-of-fresh-air cover of a Hank Williams classic is one of the best interpretations I’ve heard in a long time.
But Why Were They Shipbuilding? I always knew what this song was about, but it took me a while to figure out why it was written. For my money, this is Elvis Costello at his finest.
In Search of a Powerful Voice It’s always a joy to come across an album by a favorite singer who hasn’t been heard from in a while, especially when you’re seeking a strong voice and the new album is by Jennifer Warnes.
Calling All Angels Did you ever feel that mysterious forces caused you to be in a certain place at a certain time? Here’s a story about a recent such experience that left me exhilarated for days.
Influences On Popular Music The forces that shape popular music are numerous, and range from physical and emotional states of mind to the political and literary environments in which it’s created. Here’s a song that made me think a bit more than usual.
George Harrison – A Postscript Comments to the Blue Ear Forum on the passing of George Harrison, one of the more spiritual musicians to emerge from the world of rock ‘n roll.
Music of the Times How my music-listening habits were affected by the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
And Then There Are the Poets… There are plenty of lyricists, but it’s the poets–like the great Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt–who touch us most deeply.
Dark Humor for Dark Times Like the great New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams, Loudon Wainwright manages to be both dark and funny. “Hard Day on the Planet,” though, is mostly just dark.
Rock ‘n Roll and the Rhythm of Language It may only be rock ‘n roll, but ya gotta make sure the audience hears it. John Hiatt’s “Memphis In the Meantime” comes across loud and clear.
The Mary Ellen Carter Folk music may slip in and out of fashion, but it will always be a part of the foundation of popular music. Need a lift? This song is almost as good as a straight shot of adrenaline.
Who Says Pop Music Stinks? A rumination on the apparent decline of smell references in popular music over the last 20 years or
so. Warning to the aromatically challenged – this essay includes some of my favorite smell lyrics.
Lyle Lovett – American Craftsman at Work An appreciation of the singer/songwriter’s “If I Had a Boat,” and also his tribute to the Texas songwriters who have influenced him.
Two Songs by Shawn Colvin A look at the intimate and introspective work of Shawn Colvin, one of today’s more accomplished singer/songwriters.
Storyhook Songs How two obscure songs vabout the Old West, each of which could have been episodes from the Twilight Zone, got their hooks into me.
John Hartford–An American Original A brief tribute to an artist from America’s heartland, whose work embraced songwriting, stringed instruments, and his beloved Mississippi River.
Sailing to Philadelphia A peek under the cloak of this song shows it to be an American history lesson in disguise–by a British songwriter, no less. Mark Knopfler relates the hopes and fears of two mid-18th century surveyors.
Bob’s Oscar-Winning Song Commentary on Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” which made use of a clever little mechanism to emphasize an existentially insightful lyric. Did you hear it?
Paul Simon’s the One An end-of-the-century acknowledgement of Simon’s career and his contributions to popular music, along with a review of his latest work.
Randy Newman’s Bad Love, on Dreamworks Records A review of the latest work by one of America’s great contemporary songwriters.
Danny O’Keefe – On Songwriting and the Creative Process The songwriter’s thoughts and comments about dancing with the muse, from a July 2000 interview.
An Interview with Danny O’Keefe The complete July 2000 interview.