By Bob Curtis, Special to The Chronicle
One of the great joys in life is having the ability to listen to music, whatever genre. During the pandemic, music has proven to be a very important and therapeutic aspect of our lives.
While live music performances have been curtailed for over a year, we are fortunate to have recorded music at our disposal. The COVID-19 pandemic has given me time to listen to some songs from artists I admire and re-acquaint myself with older artists whose recorded material I may have forgotten or overlooked.
Allow me to introduce you to ten musicians whose music you may or may not have heard. It ain’t hard rock, but it ain’t half-bad. I have selected 2 songs from each (for no particular reasons, other than knowing that I like the tunes), in hopes that their songs may interest you to explore more of their music library. Heck, with the coronavirus still with us I think this is at the very least a pretty good way to pass some time.
1. JOHN PRINE – STORM WINDOWS (Re-recorded in 2000)/HUMIDITY BUILT THE SNOWMAN (1995). The late John Prine is one of my 3 favorite artists, the other two being Van Morrison and Tom Rush. There will never be another singer/songwriter like him. Choose any Prine song. They’re all great. Wow, he is missed.
2. RANDY NEWMAN – DIXIE FLYER (1995)/BALTIMORE (1977). I love Randy Newman’s songs. These are 2 of my favorites. Another vast library of tunes. And if you want a laugh, check out Will Sasso’s impersonation of Randy on the old “Mad TV”. I bet even Randy would have to laugh.
3. BONNIE RAITT – ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY (1974)/THE COMIN’ ROUND IS GOING THROUGH (2016). What could get any better? Bonnie’s version of John Prine’s “Angel” is one of the best. Her 2016 barrel-house bluesy “Comin’ Round” to quote Lawrence Welk, “Is a real toe-tapper.”
4. MARK KNOPFLER – WHAT IT IS (2000)/WHEREVER I GO (2015). After disbanding Dire Straits because they became too popular and commercial, Mark went solo. A musical genius. “What It Is” from the album, Sailing to Philadelphia, melds his guitar with violin, bass and keyboards into a great melody. “Wherever” features his rough, graspy voice combined with one of the most angelic voices I’ve ever heard, that of Canadian folk singer Ruth Moody. Tears will stream from your eyes.
5. GUY CLARK – BOATS TO BUILD (1992)/OLD FRIENDS (1988). The late Texas troubadour churned out some great tunes. These are two of my favorites. Relax, close your eyes and give these a listen.
6. LUCINDA WILLIAMS – EAST SIDE OF TOWN (2014)/2 KOOL 2 BE 4 GOTTEN (1998). One of the greatest county/folk/blues performers of all time. “East Side of Town” is a great put-down song. “2 KOOL” is from a classic so-called “Americana” genre album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.”
7. RAY WYLIE HUBBARD – THE MESSENGER (1999, re-recorded in 2020)/TORN IN TWO (2005). Heck, I thought the only tunes he sang were “Screw You, We’re from Texas” and “Mother Blues.” Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall steered me in Ray Wylie’s direction. Thanks, Mayor. Who knew?
8. JASON ISBELL – IF WE WERE VAMPIRES (2017)/OUTFIT (2007). A young Jason Isbell had to leave the group Drive-By Truckers. But he landed on his feet. His story-songs are some of the best in the business. You won’t find too many bad songs in his growing repertoire. An amazing talent.
9. TOM RUSH -ROCKPORT SUNDAY/NO REGRETS (1968)/THE DREAMER (1999). New Hampshire boy makes good. Harvard grad Tom Rush has been singing and playing the guitar since the early 1960’s and he hasn’t stopped. A master story teller with a powerful voice, he’s also a very funny man. For proof of his humor, listen to his Wise Old Geezer song, “Old Blevins” that he “appropriated” from the Austin Lounge Lizards. It’ll make your day.
10. JOHN HIATT – ROBBERS HIGHWAY (2018)/MASTER OF DISASTER (2005). He can play blues, country, rock, folk or all combined. This musician has been rocking since the mid-1970’s with no let up. He’s recorded over 20 albums, all of them with some great tunes. I could have substituted a number of tunes for the two I have chosen, but alas, I could only choose two.
Have a great day, everyone!
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