Skip to content


Rare On Air

Seriously, discount viagra more about
who doesn’t love the cello? One of very few instruments that somehow manage to have a majestic yet intimate quality, the cello just makes me feel…good. Its timbre is as unmistakable as its resonance is deep. While most people inevitably associate the cello to Classical music and in turn to one of its most popular figures, Yo-Yo Ma, it’s actually quite satisfying to hear it used in other genres. Admittedly, Yo-Yo Ma himself has a long history of incorporating it in his genre-bending albums, but I had never heard it featured in popular music until I came across Ben Sollee’s Learning to Bend album from 2008. Despite what may seem like a handicap, he seamlessly blended Americana, Jazz and even a hint of R&B (the real kind, of course).

A few years ago, I attended a concert at one of my favorite venues in Chicago, The Old Town School of Folk Music, and was completely mesmerized by the opening act, Abigail Washburn (also a member of Uncle Earl, whose Waterloo, Tennessee album is one of the best contemporary old-time country/bluegrass albums in recent years). It was through her incredible debut solo album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, that I first heard of Sollee. While his cello is heard on every song, I was too transfixed by Washburn’s voice and banjo (or maybe it was the occasional bluegrass song she sang in Mandarin…) to give any further thought to Sollee himself. He later joined Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet band, alongside Bela Fleck and Casey Driessen.

Learning to Bend was released a few months later and it immediately became one of my favorite albums of the year. The combination of unique instrumentation, earnest lyrics and soulful delivery demanded repeated listening – and I complied.

A few honest words, Ben Sollee. A plaintive, almost meditative plea for politicians (and probably Bush in particular) to be…real. The plucked cello and dirge-like fiddle set the perfect atmosphere. One of my favorite tracks from 2008.

How to see the sun rise, Ben Sollee. Jazz- and Soul-influenced, Sollee urges a former lover to give him a second chance and teach him how to…

hold a bird in my hand and watch it grow
See those feathers bloom
But don’t let it fly
Even though that’s what it’s supposed to do

It’s not impossible, Ben Sollee. While the lyrics lament societal expectations for boys to not cry, what initially grabbed my attention was the lively instrumentation straight out of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (minus Wooten’s driving bass). And yes, that is Bela on banjo.

The entire album is wonderful, and it was just released on vinyl – so get it!

I also highly recommend Abigail Washburn’s beautiful Song of the Traveling Daughter album.

Sometimes, Abigail Washburn.

[audio:01-Sometimes.mp3]

Seriously, discount viagra more about
who doesn’t love the cello? One of very few instruments that somehow manage to have a majestic yet intimate quality, the cello just makes me feel…good. Its timbre is as unmistakable as its resonance is deep. While most people inevitably associate the cello to Classical music and in turn to one of its most popular figures, Yo-Yo Ma, it’s actually quite satisfying to hear it used in other genres. Admittedly, Yo-Yo Ma himself has a long history of incorporating it in his genre-bending albums, but I had never heard it featured in popular music until I came across Ben Sollee’s Learning to Bend album from 2008. Despite what may seem like a handicap, he seamlessly blended Americana, Jazz and even a hint of R&B (the real kind, of course).

A few years ago, I attended a concert at one of my favorite venues in Chicago, The Old Town School of Folk Music, and was completely mesmerized by the opening act, Abigail Washburn (also a member of Uncle Earl, whose Waterloo, Tennessee album is one of the best contemporary old-time country/bluegrass albums in recent years). It was through her incredible debut solo album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, that I first heard of Sollee. While his cello is heard on every song, I was too transfixed by Washburn’s voice and banjo (or maybe it was the occasional bluegrass song she sang in Mandarin…) to give any further thought to Sollee himself. He later joined Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet band, alongside Bela Fleck and Casey Driessen.

Learning to Bend was released a few months later and it immediately became one of my favorite albums of the year. The combination of unique instrumentation, earnest lyrics and soulful delivery demanded repeated listening – and I complied.

A few honest words, Ben Sollee. A plaintive, almost meditative plea for politicians (and probably Bush in particular) to be…real. The plucked cello and dirge-like fiddle set the perfect atmosphere. One of my favorite tracks from 2008.

How to see the sun rise, Ben Sollee. Jazz- and Soul-influenced, Sollee urges a former lover to give him a second chance and teach him how to…

hold a bird in my hand and watch it grow
See those feathers bloom
But don’t let it fly
Even though that’s what it’s supposed to do

It’s not impossible, Ben Sollee. While the lyrics lament societal expectations for boys to not cry, what initially grabbed my attention was the lively instrumentation straight out of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (minus Wooten’s driving bass). And yes, that is Bela on banjo.

The entire album is wonderful, and it was just released on vinyl – so get it!

I also highly recommend Abigail Washburn’s beautiful Song of the Traveling Daughter album.

Sometimes, Abigail Washburn.

[audio:01-Sometimes.mp3]

KCRW, cialis sale pilule a public radio station in Santa Monica, has been at the forefront of new music of all genres for decades and home to three of the best music programs on radio: Morning Becomes Eclectic, New Ground, and Sounds Eclectic. I might have never heard these programs had I not accidentally come across a used CD at a local music store during my senior year in college. The CD was Rare On Air, Volume 1 (1994; not available on vinyl), a compilation of live, mostly acoustic performances at KCRW that not only had wonderful songs, but also opened a whole new musical world that I’m still exploring to this day. Fourteen years later, it’s still one of the best compilations in my collection.

Every song is quite good, but a few are just exceptional – and it all starts with the unmistakable voice of Leonard Cohen, who recites his short, but beautiful poem:

I Heard of a man who says words so beautifully
That if he only speaks their name, women give themselves to him
If I am dumb beside your body while silence blossoms like tumors in our lips
It is because I hear a man climb the stairs and clear his throat outside our door.

The poem seamlessly transitions into the first track, “Silent All These Years”, by Tori Amos. While I’m generally not an Amos fan, the poem sets the perfect, subdued mood for the song. On the second track, John Cale dramatically re-works, “Cordoba”, a song he originally did with Brian Eno. Unlike the sonically complex original version, the live version is just Cale and his piano (played with a march-like cadence), but still somber in tone. (Speaking of somber, I love his cover of Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which not enough people have heard since it’s automatically associated with Jeff Buckley’s cover).

Just before you start reaching for your anti-depressants, the third track starts and out comes one of the most exquisite melodies you’ll ever have the pleasure to hear – made even more pleasurable by its simple, yet life-affirming lyrics. Peter Himmelman’s “Always in Disguise” is on my desert-island mix, and it should be on yours too.

Always In Disguise, Peter Himmelman (aka Bob Dylan’s son-in-law).

The fourth track, “My Drug Buddy”, is Evan Dando (The Lemonheads) and his acoustic guitar with harmony provided by Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies). I don’t know what it is about Dando’s voice accompanied by a solo acoustic guitar, but man, I can listen to him all day long.

My Drug Buddy, Evan Dando with Juliana Hatfield.

Without this compilation, it’s quite conceivable that I would never have explored the music of X, Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams and Chet Baker. If it weren’t for X, the seminal California punk band, I may not have explored punk beyond The Clash and failed to discover The New York Dolls, MC5, Television, The Ramones, and The Stooges. As for Nick Cave, I admit I didn’t get his music at first, but man, once I did I was sold. I eventually worshipped at the altar of Nick Cave (and the Bad Seeds) out of both love, and uhm, fear. If you listen to enough of his music, then you’ll know what I mean.

God’s Hotel, Nick Cave.

Lucinda Williams’ cover of a Nick Drake song (“Which Will”) set me on three paths of music discovery: Nick Drake, Williams’ earlier folk-blues catalog, and acoustic folk-blues music in general, all of which I’m sure I’ll write more about in future entries. And Chet Baker? Well, he’s not actually in the compilation, but it does include an achingly beautiful David Wilcox song called, “Chet Baker’s Unsung Swan Song”, which imagines the life and tragedy of Chet Baker. At that point I was still learning about Jazz and hadn’t really paid any attention to Chet Baker (who I wrote about earlier), but after hearing Wilcox’s song I had to find out more.

Chet Baker’s Unsung Swan Song, David Wilcox. This too is on my desert-island mix. (Btw, this performance is better than the original on his Home Again album.)

As a bonus, here’s Hallelujah, by John Cale. It’s from the tribute album, I’m Your Fan: Songs of Leonard Cohen (1991). Jeff Buckley was clearly influenced by Cale’s version.


Posted in Covers, Desert Island Mix, Gateway Song, Music Mind Map.