I haven’t been sleeping. First off, I seem to have trouble actually going to bed. I putter around and I mean to get to bed, but I don’t actually lay down until it’s already pretty late. Then I often have trouble actually falling asleep. Last night I actually was sleeping and I had a dream that woke me.
I was on a hillside somewhere and noticed that I had sat down next to a little garter snake. Harmless little fellow. Well, then it pulled its head out from its coils and I noticed it was quite a larger snake than I had thought. Not a python or anything, but maybe a 5-footer of some kind. I scooted about 3 feet away from it figuring it wouldn’t be interested in me. It looked at me and then struck suddenly. I was so startled that I jumped and woke myself. It was 4:30 AM and I was wide-awake, heart pounding. I didn’t get back to sleep last night.
As I lay there contemplating the vague outlines of my dark room, it occurred to me that a sleep mix might be a good topic for today. This isn’t sleepy music, but all of the songs have sleep in the title (save one). Sleep has inspired some great music. I hope you enjoy them.
- Sleep – Crack the Sky
These guys were a classic 70s act that never quite broke through, but I was into them back in the day and they’re still great. A lot of their songs are tongue in cheek, but this alternately energetic and beautiful song is one of their more serious tracks.
- Sleeping Beauty – A Perfect Circle
Well, you’d never fall asleep with this one on but it’s fantastic. Guitarist Billy Howerdel wrote songs for Tool’s Maynard Keenan to sing and their album “Mer de Noms” is packed with winner after winner.
- Majik City / Sleep Logging – Glocca Morra
Glocca Morra’s vocalist spends a fair amount of time screaming on this album, but the melodies are pleasing and the arrangements are interesting. I like this two-parter.
- Can I Sleep in Your Arms? – Willie Nelson
I’m not a big country music guy, but Willie’s “Red Headed Stranger” is a masterpiece. Give a listen to this gorgeous track. Most of the album has this emotional, mellow feel.
- Sleeping Lessons – The Shins
This is apparently what I need. Kind of a cool fan-made video for this song of two distinct halves. I really like how the unusual melody Mercer sings plays with the repeating keyboard and guitar arpeggio.
- A Song for Sleeping – Stone Temple Pilots
This was the best song on “Shangri-La Dee Da.” My daughter just aked me to put it on her mix, too, for anyone still looking for more kid’s music. Incidentally, how many hundred times do you have to play this song on Guitar Hero to nail it like this?
- Sleepless – Soul Coughing
“I got the will do drive myself sleepless. Skeedunt. Stunt the runt, smoking Buddha blunt.” Where do the lyrics come from?
- Sleepwalk – Santo and Johnny
What a fabulous vintage instrumental, circa 1959. I can see the bobby soxers slow dancing with their letter-wearing boyfriends now.
- Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) – Radiohead
Radiohead kind of lost with Amnesiac / Kid A but, man, they came roaring back on Hail to the Thief. These guys remain the best current band I have never seen live.
- A Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd
Out of their entire impressive body of work, I believe this is the most beautiful song they ever wrote.
- Sleepyhead – Moke
These guys only put out a few albums before they broke up in 2001, but the one to pick up is “Superdrag,” which has this one.
- Sleep to Dream – Fiona Apple
Apple was only 19 when this was released so presumably she was even younger when she wrote it. It’s a remarkably mature song to come from such a young woman.
- Sleep on the Left Side – Cornershop
“When I Was Born for the Seventh Time” has a bunch of fascinating, irresistible songs like this one and, sadly, some weird stuff that is hard to listen to. This one always makes me happy when it comes up.
- Sleep Comes Down – The Psychedelic Furs
Not the typical sound you expect when you think about the Furs. It’s a cool track, though, that has aged really well.
Enjoy this with a Daylon’s Bedtime and get to bed. Have a great weekend.
Today I have to write about an album you have probably already heard. But on the off chance that there’s someone out there who missed it, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people praising “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
“Raising Sand” won album of the year in 2009 and it seems to me it could hardly miss. You start with Allison Krauss, who has won the 3rd most Grammy Awards of anyone all-time (behind conductor Georg Solti and performer/composer/producer/conductor Quincy Jones). Then you add rock legend Robert Freaking Plant of Led Zeppelin. Then Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett steps in and they recruit a host of jazz and bluegrass legends to back them up. The result was a platinum selling, critically acclaimed masterpiece.
Clearly, the focus of “Raising Sand” is the amazingly sweet pairing of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Krauss has a lovely voice, obviously, and a great feel for the bluegrass and folk that permeates the album. Plant is versatile and also quite comfortable singing folk music. Plant’s slightly rougher voice works incredibly well with hers and they harmonize beautifully. Krauss’ pure-as-ringing-crystal voice keeps them grounded while Plant’s loose style and rock fills keep things from getting sterile. It’s a potent combination.
Meanwhile, the musical textures of the album are wonderful. As the producer, Burnett gets credit for the overall sound of the album. It is at times warm and comfortable, at others driving and danceable. The musicians include men like Marc Ribot, Mike Seeger (half-brother of Pete), and bluegrass legend Norman Blake. These guys know their business and Burnett uses them brilliantly.
I often cherry pick albums so I don’t have to listen to some tracks I’m not crazy about. “Raising Sand” goes right in the CD player. They set a consistent mood throughout the album and the whole thing is great. I like these 7 in particular.
- Rich Woman – They open “Raising Sand” with this track. Oozy guitars, smoky percussion, and effortless harmony vocals ease you right in.
- Killing the Blues – John Prine’s original version of this song is slow and soft, but it sounds harsh next to the sanded smoothness of Krauss and Plant’s sweet crooning and gentle slide guitar.
- Polly Come Home – This is one of two Gene Clark songs on this disc. If they played it any slower it would stop altogether, but somehow it is quietly compelling.
- Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – This is an old Everly Brothers tune and the original hops. Krauss and Plant do it credit with their energetic version and the close harmony work on this is as good as any song on the album.
- Please Read the Letter – The composers of this were actually Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. This is an old Zeppelin song that never made the cut. Plant was delighted to dust it off and get Krauss’ voice and violin in this new interpretation for its release.
- Fortune Teller – Allen Toussaint wrote this cute song back in 1962. Since then it has been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, and now these two.
- Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson – Plant takes a seat and Krauss sings this without him. The studio musicians are hot, though, and they swing this blues classic by Little Milton.
I saw Robert Plant and Alison Krauss perform at Bonnaroo last year when they toured on this album. I think it had been a long time since Plant had played in front of quite so many screaming fans. He was very obviously blown away and having a great time. It was fun to watch. Plant and Krauss actually started working on a follow-up to “Raising Sand,” but Plant said in an interview published in USA Today that those sessions never found their groove and they apparently gave up on it. Too bad. Interestingly, Plant hung around in Nashville and put together another project, “Band of Joy,” which I only discovered today. I have ordered it, of course. I’ll let you know.
I think a lot of artists get frustrated with some of the crowds at Bonnaroo. Bands who are used to wowing the crowd and rocking the house are sometimes perplexed that they don’t get as much energy back from the audience as they’re used to. There are two reasons for that. The main thing is that people are spent. By the time the big evening shows come on, people have spent 9 or more hours in the June Tennessee sun, they’ve danced, maybe drank during the day, and probably didn’t get that much sleep the night before to begin with. The other thing is that a live show, which is usually a highlight of your week, becomes almost commonplace. I had seen over 20 shows before Sunday kicked off.
I have heard front men ask the crowd, “Are you digging this at all?” And we are. The crowds are very appreciative. That’s why we brave the traffic, expense, and elements to see the shows. We’re just tired and a little jaded. I remember festival veteran Jeff Tweedy of Wilco saying, “I know you’re hot and tired and enjoying the music. I’m not going to ask you to sing or clap with me. Just be comfortable and we’re gonna play some music for you, alright?” That probably got the biggest hand Wilco had received thus far in their set. It was with a mixture of sadness and relief that I set out to see the shows on Sunday.
I have been a long time fan of Calexico and theirs was the first show I saw Sunday. They were in fine form playing their slippery blend of rock and mariachi Tex-mex. The songs are often mellow, but surging with controlled energy. Here is a good recording of great performance of a representative track. I loved “Feast of Wire” and have another on order right now. Check them out.
I stopped by Lucero’s show, not having done any homework on them and not knowing what to expect. Turns out they play deep southern rock that is almost country. The songs are heartfelt and kind of cool but definitely not my thing. I will still recommend it to folks who lean that way. Check out this track, for example. I like this one. I just didn’t enjoy the show too much and I left. Sorry, Lucero. It’s not you; it’s me.
After that I had to go check out Blues Traveler. They’re not as hot as they were in the 1990s and I have seen them before. Still, I love their songs, what’s left of John Popper remains the most impressive harmonica player I have ever seen, and their first 3 albums were the soundtrack to my fun post-college years. The guys still have it. It was an energetic and fun show, in spite of the fact that my attempts to claw and elbow my way into the tent for some shade failed.
I had to pass on They Might Be Giants, Dropkick Murphy’s, and saddest of all Ween because I needed some shade, food, and beer at my tent for a little while. I returned to the venue much refreshed and ready for the last two shows of the weekend.
Phoenix is a band from Versailles, France that has been at it for about 10 years now. I really enjoyed their set of ear friendly pop with elements of electonica. The first minute I walked up, I didn’t think I was going to like it because radio pop usually has a little bit of a hill to climb with me, but they won me over by keeping most of their songs either a little edgy or surprising.
The final show of the week was Dave Matthews Band. I have been a big fan of DMB since I saw them at Red Rocks in 1994 (before the official release of “Under the Table and Dreaming”) opening up for Los Lobos who were in turn opening up for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Judging from the number of platinum albums under their belt, there is a great chance that everyone reading this has at least 1 DMB album. I am pleased that their new album, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” is great and has some tremendous music on it, particularly because they played a lot of songs from it. Matthews himself seemed either a little goofy or maybe just drunk, but it didn’t stop him or any of the band – including former Flecktone Jeff Coffin, filling in for the untimely deceased LeRoi Moore – from putting on a powerful rock show. DMB has been at this for 20 years and had no problem engaging the 50,000+ in the field.
Another Bonnaroo come and gone. Nothing left but to finish the beer back at camp and get ready to pack it up in the morning. It’s always strange to head back to civilization, where people wear the full complement of clothes and don’t drink beer at 10:00 AM. Throughout the day when we encountered grungy, weary people in gas stations and fast food restaurants on our way home we would look for the bracelet and share a nod or a smile. I wonder who is going to headline next year…
It comes to us all at some time in our lives. The end of a relationship you didn’t want to end. It’s a sick and helpless feeling and a sad time. Plus the older the relationship is, the harder and more complicated the process is. Still, there’s nothing to do but carry on. As Janeane Garofalo noted, “You can’t argue your way out of dumped.”
At times in my life when I have felt hurt and lonely, I have found sympathy, camaraderie, forgetfulness, and healing through music. Here are some songs that might help you through a tough breakup, if they don’t make you want to stick a fork in your neck.
- How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? – Al Green
When you’re mourning the end of a relationship, you don’t want bouncy, happy music. You want the reverend to tell you how it is.
- Love Is a Losing Game – Amy Winehouse (featuring Mos Def)
Winehouse is a woman who has had some love troubles and though you might not think Mos Def would fit in well with her sound, it’s an inspired pairing.
- Breakin’ Down – Ben Harper
There’s a certain joy to Harper’s music, even when the lyrics are as heartbreaking as these.
- Bad Luck City – R.L. Burnside
“It’s a problem when you love them womens and they don’t love you.” The great R.L. Burnside wails and moans, his guitar cries right along with him, and somehow you feel better.
- I Miss You – Blink 182
This is the only Blink 182 song I like. I don’t think it’s about a breakup, but it is about missing someone.
- Again and Again – Bob Mould
This is the sound of marriage breaking up. The song is heart wrenchingly honest and beautiful.
- Sideways – Citizen Cope
“Whenever you come around me these feelings won’t go away. They been knocking me sideways. I keep thinking in a moment that time will take them away. But these feelings won’t go away.” Well spoken, sir.
- Coast – Eliza Gilkyson
I believe Gilkyson wrote this song after the death of her father, but it’s about taking some time for yourself to figure out your feelings are and what is next.
- I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
If there’s anything harder than losing someone, it’s losing someone to someone else. The black humor with which Costello meets this makes it a little easier.
- Knowing Me Knowing You – The Lemonheads
Turns out this is a good song, but I didn’t realize it because I don’t like Abba. Dando and company do a good job with it, though.
- Let It Die – Foo Fighters
The Foos rock, so you can viscerally feel the anger behind the lyrics in this song.
- And the World Turned – Gabe Dixon
I have written up Gabe Dixon before. He is a gifted piano player and songwriter who respectfully declined an offer to tour in Paul McCartney’s band. This song is about turning the corner after a hard breakup.
- Find Another Girl – The Hives
This song is a bit goofy, but it’s somehow uplifting just the same.
- Guess I’m Doing Fine – Beck
Beck wrote this album in the aftermath of a breakup so it’s full of emotional songs of loss and recovery. He is a real craftsman, too, so it’s not the quirky fun of “Odelay.”
- Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
The lyrics to this song have it all: the knowledge of something special going away, the lingering desire, the sadness, the anger… and it’s a beautiful song to boot.
- Divorce Song – Liz Phair
Disentangling from an entrenched relationship is fraught with unexpected complications, like the ones Phair encounters in this song.
- Always See Your Face – Love
John Cusack turned me on to this gem about being unable to escape the memories of a loved one who is gone.
- Song for the Dumped – Ben Folds Five
Simply the best breakup song ever written. God bless Ben Folds.
Enjoy with 6 or 7 salty gin and tonics. Have a great weekend.
This one was an AltSounds review. I was hoping it was going to be an up-and-coming jam band. Turns out it’s an aging bar band. They have their moments, but it’s a pretty specific niche they do well. The name of the album is “Let’s Get Lit With…” (The Mojo Gurus), which ought to tell you something. Read the whole review here: http://hangout.altsounds.com/reviews/113170-the-mojo-gurus-lets-get-lit-with-album.html