Search results for 'brilliant songs'

Brilliant Songs #10: Tom Waits’s “Take It With Me”

Tom Waits

Last week, a plumber digging a trench by which we will be running electricity and water to a backyard shed-glorifed-into-a-library was backing his truck up the incline of our driveway, the back weighed down by the trailing ditch witch behind him and rather severely scraping the gravel, producing a sound that reminded no one of, say, Judy Collins. Nor, indeed, of any singer in the known universe this side of…Tom Waits.

Upon reflection, I could almost see Waits in the driver’s seat, his slightly askew pork pie hat protruding from the window, backing that baby up while low-growling in accompaniment, relishing the fingernail-dirtying work awaiting him on a cloudy fall morning. Not for him the refined beauty of a choir voice, the easy swing of Sinatra, the pretty balladry of Paul Simon.

Waits never flirted with pretty, the ditch witch and its excavated mud far more his metier than is a glorious floral arrang...

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Brilliant Songs #9: James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here” 

Sometimes a particular piece of music hits you as so insightful, so acutely reflecting the issues of your time, that the songwriter seems to be channeling some urgent message the gods require in order to restore a measure of balance and perspective to the insanity that abides, on the events of your historical moment that leave you shaking your head and wondering, “How can this be happening?”

And then, in a kind of doubling down on the songwriter’s vision, the message of his or her song in a subsequent era, rather than fading into irrelevance, instead achieves even more urgency, as the forces that helped shape the original message grow only more dominant and oppressive over time.

And then, as if anticipating the far more divisive and nativist rhetoric that would sprout from the seeds planted in the Bush era, McMurtry scores with this bull’s-eye painted with eerie prescience right on the back of the ...

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Brilliant Songs #8: Gretchen Peters’s “Disappearing Act”

Gretchen Peters has been making music for a long time now, and as befits a singer-songwriter who looks in about equal measure around at the world and inside herself for her material, her music changes with the years. This is even as her core obsessions, if you will—seeking a measure of consolation and sense of identity in a fractured, wounding world—continue to propel her creativity.

Last year, at age 61, she released “Dancing With the Beast,” a deeply felt set of meditations on aging, change, depression, family pain, even truck stop prostitution (no, that last one is not autobiographical).

All manner of topics, in other words, that befit an artist who confided to NPR last year in an interview: “I have a theory that there are two kinds of people—there’s people who find sad songs depressing, then there’s us.”

As someone who counts himself quite happily among that “us,” I found t...

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Brilliant Songs #7: Vilray’s “Let’s Make Love on This Plane”

Rampaging lovers, suicide, infidelity, the deep fear of lost love—let’s face it: heartache, trouble and woe seem to be predominant in songs we come to think of as “brilliant.” You know: our true love abandoning us is deep, her falling to a wretched cancer deeper still. How many comedies and light romances have won Oscars, after all? Or even been nominated?
When’s the last time a Bob Dylan lyric elicited even a chortle?

I, no less than critics across MusicLand, am every bit as prone to this bias toward the serious if not flat-out sullen when I consider songs for this “Brilliant Songs” series...

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Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

I came across this song just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Facebook friend Eric Gray, who had just organized a house concert by Chuck Brodsky in San Francisco. Eric is a music guy, as well as a baseball guy (powerful combo…), so I of course investigated Mr. Brodsky, went on You Tube, and here we are, with Brilliant Song #6 in this occasional series.

Ironically, I was moved to write about it when checking in, as a kind of pop culture imperative, with the Super Bowl halftime show the other day.

When a band I had never heard of, Maroon 5, and its lead singer started prancing around the stage, with the singer ripping his shirt off to reveal his gym physique and every-square-millimeter-of-skin-tattoos as the young ‘uns who were herded onto the field for the occasion jumped up and down around him on cue in the usual highly staged, ridiculous-looking scene, vapid, showy and just all around fake as can be, I thou...

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