Category Archives: Music

Surprises and Songs by the Hiatt’s

For one of our wedding anniversaries, Hubs surprised me with a trip to Madison, WI. He was very tight lipped about the itinerary. I went along with it, because I am one of those oddballs that actually loves surprises. And boy, was I surprised. In the best possible way.

Once we arrived in Madison and checked into our hotel, Hubs instructed me to get in the car with him and drive to our surprise destination. I seriously had no clue whatsoever what was in store. He slowed the car down as we approached our destination and he directed me to look to my right. We were directly in front of the Majestic Theater. As I looked up at the marquee, I was beyond excited.

We were there to see the inimitable John Hiatt perform. 

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Now, for several years prior to this, Hubs and I had been fans of this prolific, soulful, uber talented singer/songwriter/guitarist/performer. Mr. Hiatt is one of those artists who has had more critical success than commercial success. That seriously confounds me, because his music-the lyrics, the melodies, the beats, the feels it evokes-is just, well, everything to me from a musical standpoint.

And I learned recently, while live streaming MPR’s The Current that Mr. Hiatt also has a mighty talented singer/songwriter daughter. Her name is Lilly.

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Lilly Hiatt

First, however, for those of you who may not be familiar with Mr. Hiatt’s work, or for those of you who have an unabashed appreciation for him as I do, I’d like to highlight what IMHO are his truly best AF songs. Then I will introduce you to the music of his daughter.

 Thank you, Google Play. You rock. You have given me the best toy a girl could ask for. The joy I get from creating playlists of my favorite artists, like John Hiatt, is immense. 

Here are my top picks from Mr. Hiatt’s collection:

“Thing Called Love” was written and performed originally by Hiatt, though most folks likely are only familiar with Bonnie Raitt’s cover of it. Both versions are great, but I personally prefer Hiatt’s. My favorite line in this song is “But Baby, we can choose you know, we ain’t no amoebas”. And I love when he sings/screeches out “just a crazy little thing called love” towards the end. Supercool.

Thing Called Love

Most likely my “favorite” favorite John Hiatt song is “Feels Like Rain”. It is simply gorgeous. It is sensual. It is soulful. It is tragically beautiful. It is best appreciated during a moment of solitude. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here it is. You’re welcome.

Feels Like Rain

“Perfectly Good Guitar” is a stand out for me also. It features some seriously tight guitar riffs and an extraordinarily catchy melody. And it pays homage to Mr. Hiatt’s appreciation for the instrument. And I found the below video of him and his band playing it live. John Hiatt is probably the best performer I have or ever will see live. For reals.

Perfectly Good Guitar

I could seriously go on for eons about all the other John Hiatt songs I love (like “Riding with the King”, or “Crossing Muddy Waters”, or “Real Fine Love”), but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to highlight Lilly. I was very pleasantly surprised when I learned of her existence. She surely has her father’s musical genes. She has her own sound nonetheless, which to me is an interesting cross between Liz Phair and Lucinda Williams. She, like her father, writes tremendously thoughtful, raw, and beautiful lyrics. Here is a sample:

If I’m lucky, one day I’ll be able to see her perform live as well. I know I’d jump at the chance to see her dad perform live again.

 

Monday Music Musings: Covers

I’m not generally much of a fan of song re-makes, aka covers. I prefer originality in my musical artists. It often appears to me that an artist is simply trying to make a buck the easiest way possible when they churn out their version of a classic song. It frequently feels disingenuous to me.

But, that said, I believe firmly that there are always exceptions to every rule. 

I could provide examples of truly terrible renditions of original songs but that would be negative and pointless. Instead, I’m going to highlight a few covers that IMHO are so well done that they might even surpass the original version. 

I also have proposals for original songs that I believe should be re-imagined by new artists. But first things first:

Killing me Softly-Originally sung by Roberta Flack with such vulnerability it brings tears to my eyes. The Fugees had quite a different, but very cool take on it:

Fugees killing it

Sweet Child ‘O Mine-Originally performed by Guns ‘n Roses. A classic rock and roll song from my younger days with one of the best guitar openings ever thanks to Slash. There’s a newer version that caught my attention while I was watching the movie “Captain Fantastic” (quirky, unconventional movie about a unique but lovable family which I highly recommend). This version is very stripped down and all about the harmony. And it’s freaking beautiful. Check it out:

Guitar Man-This song was originally performed by the 70’s mellow rock band, Bread. Growing up, I always loved it. I loved the melody and the story it told. Last year, I heard a much different, but quite brilliant version of this song by CAKE, a band of which I am especially fond. No one sounds like this band, no matter what the song is. Noone.

Guitar Man by CAKE

Sara Smile-To me, this has always been an absolutely gorgeous song, originally performed by the great pop duo, Hall and Oates. Hubs is a huge fan of the music of Joan Osborne (from “What if God was One of Us” fame). She crafted it into a sultry, soulful serenade yet didn’t stray far at all from the original version, for which I give her much credit.

Sara Smile by Joan Osborne

Sunny-Originally performed by Bobby Hebb back in 1966. It’s a sweet, simple, jazzy pop confection that stands the test of time. However, the version by Bryan Adams, which I first discovered watching Scandal (that scene with Olivia and Jake on a beach far away from their normally scandalous lives), elevates it to a new level thanks to the gravelly vocals of Mr. Adams. Btw, Shonda Rhimes and her crew are geniuses when it comes to choosing the right songs for the right scenes, especially in Scandal. 

Sunny by Bryan Adams

Proposals for new covers that my songbrain would so love to hear and see:

Imagine a cover of this song being done by, say, the Foo Fighters or Green Day. It would be so very timely given the political unrest in Trump’s America. Perhaps this could be the opening song for a televised fundraising event for the #resist movement? Or sales of this cover could directly go to the #resist movement? Or Planned Parenthood?

A Little Good News, originally performed by Anne Murray. This song is perhaps even more relevant today than it was when it came out in 1983. I would love to see a version of this (perhaps as part of the above mentioned televised fundraising event for the #resist movement?), with Anne Murray, along with Jewel, and the Dixie Chicks. How cool would that be?

 

The music of a melancholy Monday

Yes, unlike my usual upbeat self, today, Monday, I am feeling blase, minimally motivated, and melancholy-ish. There’s no good reason for it I’m healthy, Hubs and I have a nice home to live in, the spawn are fully functional adults, busy with their own lives far away from here. Maybe that’s it.

September is a month I have always loved. And here I am, smack dab in the middle of it, and I just don’t have the same enthusiasm I used to at this time of year. I see all the pictures on Facebook of those friends and family of mine with their kids sporting their new duds on the front stoops of their family’s home for the first day of school. Some of those kids are smiling (not surprisingly, the younger they are, the bigger the smiles), some have that look on their faces that communicate they are cooperating with this photo shoot under great duress.

Weird thing is, it turns out as much as I was pining for the “empty nester” years whilst my spawn were spewing hateful insults at each other and gifting Hubs and I with gray hair, I do terribly miss those days. Funny how that is.

On those odd days in which I’m not feeling so perky, I rely on my music. Not only am I drawn to a great melody, solid drum beats and guitar riffs; I am a sucker for a great lyric. Some just stick with you. You know what I mean, right? They resonate with you at your core. They make you think of someone you love or have loved. They make you feel less alone in the world. They make you feel better.  Sometimes they even inspire you.

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This is the part of this post where I am going to do a little sharing.

Here’s just a few song lyrics that resonate with me right now, today. Monday.

“We can never know about the days to come, but we think of them anyway”-Anticipation by Carly Simon.

Honestly, I probably do this too much.

“Some people are just meant to be a memory, to be called upon to remind us how we’ve changed”-Coming Back to a Man by Dawes

Sad, but true. Relationships we have throughout our lives provide some good lessons. 

“We are the lucky ones, some people never get to do all we got to do”- Now and Forever by Carole King

How I feel about my marriage to Hubs. We most definitely are the lucky ones. 

“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad, if it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?”-If It Makes You Happy, by Sheryl Crow

Good question. The answer often alludes me.

“You can build a mansion, you just can’t live in it. You’re the fastest runner but you’re not allowed to win. Some break the rules, and let you cut the cost. The insecurity is the thing that won’t get lost”-No one is to Blame, by Howard Jones

My way of expressing the frustration I have with myself as a writer. 

“When the road gets dark and you can no longer see, Just let my love throw a spark and have a little faith in me”-Have a Little Faith in Me, by John Hiatt

My way of saying, stick with me people. I am part hot mess and part optimist. But my determination to be light in the darkness will never wane.

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here. It’ll be here, better than before. Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone”-Don’t Stop, by Fleetwood Mac.

I’d love to add the line “and don’t forget about today” but I’ve no clue where it would go. Guess I just think while it’s important to put some focus on tomorrow, the future that holds so much promise, not living in the present prevents you from finding peace in your soul. 

That said, I will leave you with this video. Because underneath the melancholy of today, I’m still an optimist.

Don’t Stop

 

 

Me & my Songbrain

I have what can only be described as a “songbrain”. How it works:  a certain word or phrase will be used in my presence, or a mood will strike me and a song starts up between my ears. It’s like a have some kind of jukebox that clicks on just the right song to match what’s going on with me emotionally in the moment. I don’t have to will the song to play, it just does. 

Now, readers who are familiar with my blog surely understand my deep and abiding love for music. I have been known to wax nostalgic about music from my growing up years  like I did here: Song Stories

I’ve also shared my love of making Google playlists for myself, like I did here: Music Therapy

Suffice it to say:

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Bottom line

 

This is the song that runs through my head on days when my 50 year old body is crack ‘a lacking and I forget what I came down to the kitchen pantry to get. Today, truth be told, is kinda one of those days. Thank the good lord I have a massage scheduled later.

 

This is the song in my head when I’m feeling sassy, playful, and I’m having a particularly good hair day.

This is the song Hubs and I could very much relate to when our spawn were, at 14 months apart, in the throes of those oh so fun teenage years. It allowed us to daydream for a bit. Thanks, Fastball.

This is a song I recently discovered while listening to The Current, a MPR station out of the twin cities, which has a show on Sunday mornings entitled “United States of Americana”. This is a song that really makes me think and feel. Now when I am reading or watching news reports about young black youth being harassed, beaten, or killed (as in the case of Trayvon Martin in Florida), I hear this song in my head. “With a pocketful of Skittles”. That line, to me, is the essence of the entire song. He was just a kid.

“My Sweet Lord” by the late, great George Harrison is so beautiful to me. It comes to mind for me when I’m feeling present, aware, and grateful for all of the blessings I have in this life of mine. It’s both comforting and worshipful to me.

Singing in the Sun

In celebration of our nation’s 241st birthday, Hubs and I attended our first “big name” outdoor concert (since moving to Colorado last year) at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater in Denver. We saw the band Train, with warm up acts Natasha Bedingfield and O.A.R. Now if you’re into seeing live concerts as I am, your first question is likely going to be “how was the show?” I’m going to answer that question first because the concert itself is not going to be the primary focus of this post.

The concert was GREAT! We weren’t terribly familiar with the warm up bands, knowing only a few of their songs from listening to them on Sirius XM over the past couple of years. But both were pleasant surprises. Natasha can really belt it out, and, as Hubs noted, she has quite a knack for “liturgical” dance. I commented that I’d like to hear her rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin. Her songs are very pro-female, melodic, and catchy as hell (like that earworm known as “Pocketful of Sunshine”). O.A.R. impressed with some really inventive reggae, jazzy beats and strong vocals. And then came Train. Spectacular, people! They played all their best songs (IMO), in addition to pairing up with O.A.R.’s phenomenal horn section for a supercool version of Paul Simon’s Call Me Al. Later on, Pat and the boys performed a stellar rendition of David Bowie/Queen song  “Under Pressure”. Hubs and I agreed that this concert was one of the best we’ve ever seen.

As I alluded to earlier, I have more to say about this event-specifically about the people we encountered.

We got to the venue more than an hour before the gates opened, to improve our chances of getting the best spot on the lawn. We waited in line next to a chatty brother/sister duo. After shooting the breeze for a bit, the sparsely mustacheoed 19 year old brother asked Hubs if his name was Adam. When Hubs replied “no”, this kid said he “had to ask” because he thought Hubs voice sounded like Adam West, the original (and his favorite) Batman. His blond and dimpled 13 year old kid sister told us excitedly about how she recently attended ComicCon and got to meet Dustin from “Stranger Things”. She also shared that she was wearing a “kitty cat” headband because the ears on it were red, and she didn’t have anything else that was red to compliment her otherwise blue and white attire to commemorate the birthday of our nation. Together, the 4 of us talked about our favorite Train songs (hers was “Hey Soul Sister”, mine was “Save me, San Francisco”). What was especially notable about this duo was the sweetness of their interactions with each other. They had not known each other personally for much more than a year from what I understood. This is because as a tot, he had been adopted by another family  in another state and had only come to know his birth family after his birth mom sent him a friend request on Facebook a couple of years ago. He shared that his adoptive parents told him he was adopted from the get go (as a mom, kudos to them). He told us that he told his mom he wasn’t sure how he should respond. But respond he did, because he now lives with his birth dad (a lanky tatooed guy who worked security for this concert). He’s now going to school for welding at a nearby college.  These two kiddos playfully teased each other throughout our little conversation. What a couple of great kids, I thought to myself. Both sets of parents should be so proud.

Once the gates opened, we made a bee line to the grassy seating area. We made the decision to not lug our favorite oversized handmade quilt with us, knowing we had to park the car in the ramp, walk at least a mile to have a late lunch and a couple of adult beverages, then another few blocks in the sweltering 90 something degree heat to the amphitheater. Carrying a heavy quilt held no appeal for either of us.

In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision. We did get ourselves a plumb spot on the grass, directly in front of the fence overlooking the pricier reserved seats and stage. Unfortunately, the grass was quite wet and as I had no interest in standing for what ended up being the better part of 3 hours before Train came on stage, we plopped our arses down anyway. We spent the time people watching, which is a favorite pastime of mine. We saw millenials with their school aged spawn, seeking familiar faces on the lawn. We saw a younger couple with what was most likely a beloved aunt in a wheelchair, positioning her so she had the best possible view of the show. We saw middle aged couples dressed in their best summer attire holding plastic cups of beer while searching for their seats. We saw amped up little kids with goofy headbands festooned with sparkly red, white, and blue ribbons.   We saw numerous middle aged men wearing hawaiian shirts (like Hubs, who has insisted for years that he started the white American male hawaiian shirt trend back in the early 90’s). We saw asian-americans, hispanic americans, mentally disabled americans, LGBTQ americans, older americans, younger americans, african americans. Essentially, we were amidst a sea of American humanity. Which was fitting considering this was the 4th of July, right?

We interacted two more times with the brother/sister duo. The first was prior to the warm up acts. They walked past on the walkway below us and stopped over. They were hungry and complained to us that they couldn’t find anything to eat except hot dogs, and they wanted nachos. We didn’t know precisely where the food vendors were, as we had had ourselves a pretty generous lunch about 2 hours prior, but we suggested they head on down to the area close to the nearest entrance where it seemed it would be more likely they’d find what they were looking for. The boy offered his hand and introduced himself as Nick. He remarked, “maybe we’ll see you again someday” which I thought was terribly unlikely but so very sweet. We saw them much later, as Train was singing their last song prior to the encore. They were presumably leaving to meet up with their dad for the ride home. They waved and smiled enthusiastically at us. The revelation I had in that moment was we have entered a new stage of life where we are not necessarily the fun party-hearty concert going supercouple anymore. Instead we are the couple who random kids look to for guidance and support. We might as well have the word “parent” stamped onto our foreheads. And that’s ok. 

In all honesty, I was going to gripe about the worst of humanity that we encountered during this concert as well. I’ve decided however, to not go down that road, because Mr. Drunkjerkface who chose to squeeze himself in front of me during the encore and proceed to glance over at me and shake the living hell out of the bungey corded fence thing so that I no longer wanted to stand there and jam out deserves my attention on this post as much as Donald Trump does for his asinine tweets. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Now for some pure unadulterated humiliation (you may need to rotate your viewing device for this-sorry!)…..I present to you a clip of a woman who shall not be named but in her defense she is 50 and technologically inept at recording part of a Train concert that is why you don’t see Train here. But at least you can hear them.

 

Volume

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Volume is today’s word prompt today according to WordPress. I found this ironic, as I discovered this while Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till you Get Enough” began to play on my “Get Pumped” playlist. It’s one of those songs, at least for me, that simply begs to be heard at full volume.

Then I got to thinking about all the other tunes I enjoy most at higher decibels. The ones that will catch my attention from the first couple of chords and instigate bodily gyrations. The ones that make me wax a bit nostalgic about my younger, carefree college days. The ones that bring back memories from times spent with life long friends, moments that cannot ever be re-captured.

I remember in my college days, back in the 80’s, when my girlfriends and I were getting ready for “Thirsty Thursday” at one of the many local watering holes, cranking up Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” (funny that years later, I ended up living so close to the Rocky Mountains).  My friends and I would be frantically trying on different outfits, ratting our hair out and applying copious amounts of Aqua Net in an attempt to make ourselves as appealing as possible to those frat boys we lusted after. “Rocky Mountain Way” fueled me on many of those nights.

Joe Walsh Rocky Mountain Way

I am a lifelong fan of the Rolling Stones. “Honky Tonk Woman” with it’s cowbell opening, quickly followed by the drum beat and swampy guitar sounds, is most appreciated at a higher volume. When Hubs and I saw them on their “Steel Wheels” tour in 1992 in the twin cities, this song was the highlight of the night for me.

Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman

“White Wedding” by Billy Idol is another one of those songs best heard at a high volume. Hearing this song makes me smile like a fool. It brings me back to a time, many years ago, when Hubs and I were 4 wheeling through the woods in northern Minnesota with our oldest, dearest couple friends. We had this song cranked up to the max and laughed hysterically as we bounced around in the jeep like ragdolls.

One night a couple of years ago, Hubs and I were cooking up a little dinner in the kitchen of our sweet “Grandma” house back in Wisconsin, when “Burning Down the House” came on. I looked over at him and he looked at me. Words did not need to be spoken. I turned up the volume and the most fun dance party ever ensued. Thankfully, we were able to finish our supper making duties in the midst of our shenanigans and did not burn down the house.

Burning down the house

Then there’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. A song this dramatic is made to be played louder than others. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any Gen X’ers like me and the Hubs that didn’t appreciate the homage paid to this great classic rock song in the “Wayne’s World” movie.

wayne’s world bohemian rhapsody

So fellow music lovers, what songs compel you to “crank up the tunage”?

Song Stories

I love how certain songs evoke specific memories, don’t you? Like you turn on the radio and a song comes on that just pulls you in. For me, sometimes I don’t even understand what the connection is that allows a particular song to invade my brain and heart with long forgotten memories. Like the song “Dance With Me” by Orleans, which came out in 1970 something when I was probably 6 years old. When I hear this song, I instantly recall my mom’s friend Bev. She loved me and I loved her. She had two daughters of her own, who were much older than me, in high school actually. My mom has told me that when I was little, I was actually the only baby amongst her group of friends, many of whom had children older than me. So I got a lot of attention back then. Especially from Bev. I remember spending afternoons at her house, just me and her, making craft projects using juicy fruit wrappers. Bev died of cancer when I was about 9. I knew she was sick for a while, and it made me so sad. I remember being in the hallway of the hospital, waiting for my parents and being angry at them because they wouldn’t let me see Bev. Of course, they were trying to protect me from emotional pain. I so wanted to see her again but never got the chance. My best guess is that “Dance with Me” must have been playing on the radio at some point on the way to Bev’s, on the way home, or when I was hanging out with this lovely woman making weird crafts.
Dance with me

And then there’s the song Sister Christian by Night Ranger.
Sister Christian
This one evokes memories of being a newly licensed driver at 16. I relished the independence of driving all by myself in my dad’s dark brown Ford Thunderbird through our small town in Minnesota. This song would come on which would prompt me to crank it up and sing along at the top of my lungs. If it was still on when I got to wherever it was I was headed, I parked and kept the car running so that I could listen/sing until the very end. This activity made me feel cooler than cool (though admittedly, I was by all accounts the opposite of cool at that point in my life).

Nowadays, when I happen to hear Little River Band’s Reminiscing, I feel a sense of light and playfulness. It vividly brings back scenes from a summer when I was probably 10 or 11, and my parents and I went tubing on the Apple River. We were part of a caravan of my parent’s friends, cousins, and their kids, who were mostly older than me. The sun was shining, the water was crisp and cold, and the beer was flowing for the adults as was the pop (Orange Crush and Dad’s Root Beer come to mind) for those of us under the legal drinking age. What a sweet childhood memory!

When Hubs and I got hitched back in 1990, I was adamant that the song “Evergreen”, originally performed by Barbra Streisand, be sung at our wedding. It is a dramatically beautiful and romantic song and I felt it captured the love I felt for my soon to be husband. I remember I had to actually put up a bit of a fight to get the minister’s approval for my cousin’s wife to sing this song. The line “you and I will make each night a first” for some reason apparently offended his Lutheran sensibilities. But in the end the song was sung. And it made me bawl like a baby during the ceremony. I was overcome with emotion and could hardly choke out the words “I do”, largely because of the sheer beauty and lyrics of this song.
Evergreen

Back around the time Hubs and I were engaged, I declared that “Kokomo” was “our song”. Kokomo
It is a sweetly romantic song that created in me a strong desire to whisk ourselves away to a tropical island where we could lay on the beach sipping fruity cocktails all day long. Just Hubs and I. No one else, no distractions. Just me and him and peace and quiet. We had to work hard for many years, but thankfully were able to take a splendid vacation by ourselves to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Kokomo was the theme song of course.

What’s your soundtrack, fellow music lovers?