Category Archives: other folks

A Johnny Cash interlude

Well, today is Johnny Cash’s birthday, and I can’t help but spend a little time reflecting on him. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash – he’s in my dad’s top tier, for sure. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it: he was a genius. His Christmas Spirit album is pretty much the only holiday album I can listen to without wanting to tear my hair out. That voice. Oof. It’s a bit criminal that PJ hasn’t spent more time covering him. I think they could do him justice.

So here’s a little sampling of the epic amazingness that is Johnny Cash.

This one never, ever gets old.

This one, just to stand in wonder at just how low that voice could go. Daddy definitely sang bass.

If you haven’t listened to all the American recordings, you should, and not just for “Hurt”, though of course that’s amazing. This is probably my favorite (though it’s very hard to choose), a cover of Bonnie Prince Billy (this is how I discovered him, another musical genius).

Seriously, if someone wrote this song today, it would sound as fresh and intense as it did then.

What’s your favorite Johnny Cash song? Post a link in the comments! I’m going on a Cash binge all week!

Other music to make your ears happy

In case you were wondering, I do listen to lots of awesomeness other than Pearl Jam. I’ve been on a pretty intense PJ kick the last year (as evidenced by this here blog), which is pretty normal behavior for me in stressful times (i.e., trying to finish a dissertation). I always felt better about how much I listen to Pearl Jam after seeing one of those (awesome) Eddie Bridge School interviews when one of the kids asked him about music he likes, and he said, “Fugazi…I probably listen to them every day”, and I said, oh ok. Here’s a guy who clearly likes a LOT of music and he still has one band that he listens to every day. So, I’m good. But, the single-minded obsession is wearing off a little bit, and I thought I’d post a few other things that you might want to check out.

I’m not going to include tunage by the usual suspects, which, if you’ve been reading along, are probably pretty obvious by now: I really, really, really dig R.E.M., the Who, Tori Amos, Cat Power, Ben HarperSleater-Kinney, and Patti Smith. I would have called U2 my favorite band for probably 20 years of my life, though I hardly listen to them now. Instead, I’m going to put some stuff here that maybe you haven’t heard before, but you should definitely check out. You’ll note: I’m a big fan of melody. I’m not a big fan of a lot of things other people who like Pearl Jam a lot seem to love: not, for example, really into Soundgarden or Nirvana.

The National – BloodBuzz Ohio. These guys have a whole lot of amazing to explore, but this is the song that got me turned onto them.

Andrew Bird – Effigy. This guy is an amazing musician, super fun live, and can whistle (!) like nobody’s business. I saw him at the Moore and it was like watching a full band…but it was just him. 

Explosions in the Sky. The whole of the album The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place is absolute magic. It’s just indescribably awesome. This is what I listen to, on repeat, when I really need to focus and write.

Kristin Hersh – Like You. This woman is absolute greatness, and she’s got a career a mile long and twice as wide. Get on it.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness. First, obviously, you better listen to Johnny Cash every chance you get. I discovered Bonnie “Prince” Billy via one of the American cover albums (and a New Yorker profile). That cover is a haunting,  ridiculously beautiful song, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) is a total, complete genius (and a trip to see live). Here’s the Johnny Cash cover (with BPB singing on there, too): And here’s BPB doing “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise?”, another gem:

Gillian Welch – Orphan Girl. Even if you say you don’t like country (which is a stupid thing to say, since Johnny Cash is country), you’d be a fool to not give this woman a chance. She’s got a voice so beautiful it might break your heart in pieces.

Believe You Me (and Better Man), Bad Radio 1990

Have you seen these? It’s Ed’s band before Pearl Jam. Crazy. There’s more of their stuff online, but I find most of it fairly unlistenable (such as “What?” which comes at the end of this video. Oof). But this one, “Believe You Me”, I like. I feel like his voice sounds more like his voice now than the early PJ stuff does. Please note the huge PT painting in the background. Cool.

Also. I know in PJ20 they made a big deal about Ed “finding his voice”. But, I dunno. Seems like he was well on his way to being a total rockstar already.

And here’s Bad Radio doing “Better Man” in 1989 (the video is not great). Nice pants.

P.O.S. covers Why Go

I dig it. “I’ve got my flannel shirt…” For a little more P.O.S. (he’s a hip-hop artist from the Twin Cities), check this out.

A Ben Harper interlude: Paris Sunrise #7, Rotterdam 2010

I went to see Ben Harper last night at the Crocodile in Seattle, and as usual, he blew me away. The Croc is by far the smallest venue I’ve ever seen him in (capacity is just 560 – it was sold out). It was a fundraiser for his cousin, Justice Steve Gonzalez, who is running for retention on the WA state supreme court. If you’re a Washington state voter, vote for him on August 7 in the primary. He’s awesome.

Sadly, no footage yet of the awesome show last night, but I’m in a seriously Ben Harper kind of mood today. He played this last night, just him and his Weissenborn. It hurt, it was so amazingly awesome. Get thee to a Ben Harper show.

St Vincent covers Black, NYC 2012

Another cover of “Black”, this one from the Portlandia tour. I’m not too familiar with St Vincent, but I know she gets a lot of airplay on KEXP so she must be good. I quite like this one, even if she seems a little embarrassed to be singing a song so raw to all those NYC hipsters.