Search results for 'brilliant songs'

Brilliant Songs #32: Susan Werner’s “May I Suggest”

I thought about appending the song discussed here as the musical selection to last week’s post on C.S. Lewis’s “Learning in War-Time” sermon, but I was so struck with the lyrics of “May I Suggest” that I found myself wanting to take the deeper dive that is the purpose of this “Brilliant Songs” series. So here we go…

In its lyrics, “May I Suggest” can be seen as a kind of companion to “Learning in War-Time.” It goes Lewis’s case—for the value of intellectual inquiry, art and beauty no matter what the world situation is—one better by making an overt, poetic appeal to the transcendent dimension that life so often beckons us to consider when we step back just a smidge from the daily grind.

Too many scenes and dreams to count or remember, but their sum total can make all the difference in lives lived with good fortune and the good grace to appreciate it.

Werner uses the arts of writing and singing a beautif...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #31: John Hartford’s “Miss Ferris”

Sometimes it happens this way: You’re 9 years old in the fourth grade and your stern-but-fair teacher Miss Ruth Ferris has had the remains of an old paddle steamboat hauled onto your school grounds a little ways off the Mississippi River in St. Louis. She does so partly for fun, and partly for the sake of instruction and storytelling on the ways and boats and people of the river, which she reveres.

You stare at the boat in awe, climb up into its pilot house, run your fingers over its paddlewheels—and you feel something taking root in you. You don’t know it yet, but you will never forget these moments.

Then, barely a teen, your jaw drops the first time you hear Earl Scruggs play the banjo, so now music joins the river in a grand and passionate fusion...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #30: Tandyn Almer & The Association’s “Along Comes Mary”

It was always the “psychodramas and the traumas” that caught my ear. I must have heard The Association’s “Along Comes Mary” a thousand times in the months after its March, 1966 debut, drawn by its almost hypnotic drive, melodic refrain and multi-syllabic wordplay.

But the words tumbled forth with such breathlessness and clung together so tightly that I never saw fit to peel them apart to ponder and appreciate not only their meaning, but also the verbal dexterity they required of the singer.

Proof positive of the latter would be to stick the lyrics in front of yourself after you’ve finished here and just try to sing along as I did recently with: “And every now and then I spend/My time at rhyme and verse and curse those faults in me.” Or: “And when the masquerade is played and neighbor folks/Make jokes as who is most to blame today.” Good luck!

But over the years, it was always the “psychodramas and the trau...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #29: K.C. Douglas’s “Mercury Boogie”

The light & the dark, the transcendent & tragic, the hopeful & hopeless—it’s all mixed and jumbled up, both gladdening and tormenting us in alternate takes, asking us to swallow it whole as the price of our humanity. Surely, the dark forces that seem all around us at the moment are real enough, and they want nothing more than to have us surrender to their come-hither, sucking sound of despair.

They tempt us, the ultimate menacing seductress, to give in, give up, lose faith in the notion that goodness and beauty and even lightness of heart can persist, can still have a say, in the face of recurrent evil.

Evil wants us to think that joy is trivial and inappropriate to our circumstance, that art and music and dancing are frivolities, for dillettantes only, unfit for somber times.

Persisting in hope, joy, play and art is the ultimate, meaningful riposte, a political and spiritual act, a necessary means to co...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #28: Mike Batt’s “Market Day in Guernica”

Eighty-five years ago this past week, April 26, 1937, was a market day in Guernica, Spain. It was a Monday, when farmers from the surrounding countryside would bring their crops into the town square to sell to residents and others who flowed in from surrounding towns in the autonomous Basque Country.

The Spanish Civil War was raging at the time, pitting the Republican government against General Francisco Franco’s rebel Nationalist faction and fascist allies Germany and Italy. Guernica, with a population of some 5,000, had not been a center of combat, but it stood some 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, population nearly 200,000, which Franco coveted as a strategically important possession to bring the government to its knees.

Batt was looking back to Guernica when he wrote this song, but nearly 20 years on and still active, the Twitter hashtag he features next to his name @MikeBatt is #StandWithUkraine.

That ma...

Read More