One the great things about having a working iPod again this year is the ability to share the “25 Most Played” songs on my iPod/iTunes again.
This exercise always tells something of the story of the year in tune and lyrics. There are different reasons for each of these songs being in the list.
In an annoying bit of commercialism, when you export a playlist iTunes doesn’t include songs that aren’t for sale on iTunes. So, to work around this, I’ve copied and pasted the list so that all 25 songs appear here.
Let’s get rolling…
Eric’s 25 Most Listened To Songs for 2009
1) “Nobody’s Cryin'” Patty Griffin 1000 Kisses
So, the first confession here is that for inexplicable reasons, this incredible CD never made it on to my radar. I had “Flaming Red,” and liked it well enough. But, Good Lord, what an amazing CD this is. I first heard the song when songwriter friend Karyn Oliver played it around the circle one morning at our Camp Nashbill home. Something about this melancholy lyric really touched me and, as you will see from the rest of this list, I got pretty hooked on the whole CD too. It’s such a gentle and kind wish for, apparently, an old lover:
“I wish you well
On your way to the wishing well
Swinging off of those gates of hell
But I can tell how hard you’re trying
Still have this secret hope
Sometimes all I do is cope
Somewhere on the steepest slope
There’s an endless rope
And nobody’s crying.”
What an incredible song….all I can say.
2) “Cry” Slaid Cleaves Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
OK. So, yes, the first two songs titles in this list are indeed ironic.
A music-writer friend gave me a pre-release copy of this CD, and it quickly became a favorite for the year. Of course, anything from Slaid Cleaves is good. But there is real depth to these lyrics….themes of love, life, and loss. This song features the lyric that makes up the song title. Reminds me a bit of the Buddhist ideal that “life is suffering.”
“Every bond is a bond to sorrow,
Every blue sky turns gray
Everything you love will be taken away
Cry for your Momma
Cry your Dad
Cry for everything you know they never had.”
Again, something about this song haunted me this year, and I just kept listening again and again.
3) “Reelin’ in the Years” Steely Dan Can’t Buy a Thrill
As I said, the different songs in this list make it here for very different reasons. This one has a very specific reason. It was a part of Connections‘ “SuperHits of the 70″ show, that we debuted back in September.
And though perhaps it can’t be bought, I can assure it’s a thrill to sing (sorry, just had to…), and I was pleased that it was one I got to sing it. If I might say so myself, we really kill on this one. So, anyway, the very clear reason that this one makes the list so prominently is that I listened it over and over in the car, trying to get the timing down. (it’s a pretty non-standard timing to sing to, btw…)
4) “I Receive” Israel Houghton The Power of One
My general dislike of “Christian music” is well known. I have written about it a lot, most notably here. Despite the fact that I really enjoy songs with spiritual themes, I find most “Contemporary Christian Music” to be formulaic and predictable.
Then, back in November, I participated in the three-days of the Sojourner’s Justice Revival” here in Dallas, sponsored by Sojourner’s Magazine.
Israel Houghton and The New Breed closed the last night night of the three day event….and they totally blew me away. They did this song, and they did a bunch more songs from this CD, which seems like something of a solo-project for Houghton (pronounced “Ho-Ton”).
Good Lord, this band rocks. They are instrumentally and vocally amazing. So, yes, I ran out and got the CD, an clearly started listening to this song in particular, over and over again. I mean, it wasn’t even on my radar screen until the last seven weeks of the year, and it ends up at #4? Wow.
If I can say this about a “Christian” Band, these guys kick ass. I also like their commitment to social justice and change. I like that they chose to release their most famous live CD from their tour in South Africa. I REALLY like this CD and the amazing production.
So, the song….it just builds and builds….I am a totally sucker for a song that builds. You have to kind of stick with it all the way through to hear how dramatically it builds. The drum sequences seem intentionally dissonant to the melody, which sort of floats for a while…and then…slowly….it just all comes together. Very very nice production. Pretty decent lyrics. Amazing feeling.
Yes, it’s true. For the sheer musicianship itself, I would recommend this CD to almost anybody.
5) “Iris Blue” Johnsmith Kickin’ This Stone
I first heard John do this song during a Kerrville Mainstage set (perhaps in 2007?), and was immediately haunted by the lyric. What a great metaphor…that roses, generally, are not very hearty or lasting flowers….but something like an Iris might last a lot longer.
Most songs written about married couples in the “middle” of their marriage are truly horrible, schmaltzy, and generally unlistenable. But John cuts right to the honest heart of it here:
“Could you send along a simple card
No bows and arrows or cupid hearts
Something more real, more everyday
Something that shows the work it takes….
Cause it ain’t been all roses…
No, it ain’t been all roses…
Thank God love chose us.
‘Cause it ain’t been all roses.”
Beautiful. And true. And that’s what makes it a great song.
6) “Thanksgiving” Poi Dog Pondering The Best of Poi Dog Pondering
This is another old and obscure song. The first time I ever heard it was a looong time ago, back during open mics at the old Poor David’s Pub on Greenville Avenue. Bill Seely would host those nights, and this was a song he’d often do. These were some of my very first times playing my own stuff publicly, and sometimes there’d be just a few scattered folks there.
“Thanksgiving for every wrong move…that made it right.”
Late in the year, I sort of got personally obsessed with the idea of thanking others, giving thanks in general, and attempting to cultivate deeper ideas of thanks within me. That pushed to write my own song of thanksgiving. But it also led me back to this song too.
7) “More Than He Knows” Larry Murante Point of Entry
I’ve known Larry Murante for several years now. I met him this past May. (Yes, that doesn’t make sense, really).
A mutual online friend “introduced” us a few years back and we’ve been email/Facebook friends since. Didn’t get a chance to meet Larry until this year’s Kerrville Folk Festival, when he was one of the New Folk Finalists.
Larry came to Kerrville with Robyn Landis, another great singer-songwriter. Robyn and Larry won the Grand Prize at the John Lennon song contest this year for a song they cowrote.
What a thrill to get to know Larry in the “real world.” Some of my favorite song circles this May had Larry and Robyn in them. And this was one of the songs he played quite often. I was singing the chorus all the way home in the car, and even titled my post-festival blog after it.
The song is about a mechanic and the beautiful, dawning realization he has about the joy of being alive. I love the way the last line of the verse vocally soars into the chorus. It makes you stop and listen carefully, and fits the words. It’s a wonderful song, and Larry’s a wonderful writer.
8) “for the god whose name i used to know” cary cooper dirty little secret
Cary Cooper had a new CD this past year, called “dirty little secret.” This was one of my favorite songs on the CD, and I even used some of the lyrics in a sermon sometime back. It perfectly describes those many “spiritual but not religious” folks who have been burned, shunned, or rejected by “The Church,” or have simply found that the theology they’ve known all their lives no longer makes sense.
I’ve known Cary longer than almost any other musician friend. I am so proud to know her, and tremendously respect and admire what she’s done with her life and music.
9) “Nothing To Remember” Karyn Oliver Hurricane
I also met Karyn at last Spring’s Kerrville Folk Festival. Melanie Schaffner invited her to join us at Camp Nashbill, and she’s now not only a Kerrvert, but also a loyal subject of King Bill of Nash. It was so good to have Karyn, Meg Braun, Joe Jencks, and Jaime Michaels camping with us this year. Karyn has an *amazing* voice, and is a great writer and performer. Some of my best memories from this festival were from times around our camp with all these guys and in some great, great song circles and great hanging out.
BTW, for those of you here in Dallas, Karyn is headed our way this very weekend. She’ll be opening at Uncle Calvin’s on Friday, January 8th, and then playing a house concert at Tom Noe and Linda Silas’ place the next night. There are details at her website here.
10) “Links In A Chain” Joe Jencks Links In A Chain
Ditto what I said in the last entry about Joe Jencks too. Although I’d met Joe some years ago at Kerrville (I think he was there for a “South Florida Folk Festival” showcase…) I didn’t really get to know him until this festival. Besides songwriting, he and I share a lot of common interests in theology, spirituality and politics and social justice, and so it was very very cool to get to know him. And, given how obscure some of the theological interests are, amazing that he and I were both a part of our little camp. In fact, he’s got a new “New Year’s” letter on his website that describes some of the conversations we’ve had about life, theology, etc…
This song is on his new CD, and it had just come out in time for him to be offering it for sale. It’s one of my favorite songs on the CD, and really a strong one that talks about the connections between generations, families, and people. I love the connections between people, and the serendipity that happens as we get closer and form bonds of friendship and sometimes family. This is a great song for remembering all of that.
11) “Rain” Patty Griffin 1000 Kisses
12) “Chief” Patty Griffin 1000 Kisses
These last two were also a part of my rediscovery of Patty Griffin this year….
13) “Beautiful Thing” Slaid Cleaves Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
Another one from Slaid Cleaves’ great new CD.
14) “edge of the world” cary cooper dirty little secret
A little over a year ago, a mutual friend of both Cary and me had perhaps the most unthinkable tragedy befall her: Her son died in a car crash. My earliest memories of the Kerrville Folk Festival are of Cary and this friend together…they were inseparable in those days. Cary wrote “edge of the world” for her, in the wake of this tragedy. It’s an incredible song about a terrible tragedy.
15) “Birds” Dan Fogelberg Love In Time
I wrote earlier this year about this CD here, but, here’s the nutshell again. Sometime after Dan realized he could likely die from his prostate cancer, he finished master recordings for a final CD, put them in a envelope inside of a safety deposit box, and asked his wife to see to releasing it after his death.
This year, she was able to do that, and Fogelberg’s “Love in Time” hit the stores. Interestingly, my favorite song on this CD is a different one called “So Many Changes.”
But this song made the chart for different reasons. It’s actually an old Neil Young song that closes the CD, and it’s really a powerful way to end the CD.
“When you see me fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It’s over….it’s over.”
As I wrote in in that other blog:
“That would be enough. But there’s a final chord. A final chord that I won’t give away here.
Sufficed to say, it brings things “full circle” for anybody who has loved Dan’s music from its beginning. I don’t know whether it’s a touch he intended, or whether it was added later on.
Where ever it came from, may I just say “thank you.”
It moved me to tears. Again, not giving away the farm here; just get a copy and give it a listen. If you’re a longterm Danfan, you won’t be able to miss the musical homage that closes this last song, and closes a circle on his entire life and work in music.”
16) “Dream Again” David Wilcox Open Hand
I had the good fortune to see DW twice this year, first at the Wildflower Festival back in May, and then again when he played Uncle Calvin’s for the very first in time ever. This is probably my favorite song form the new CD. Like its title, the lyrics have a dream-like quality. And although the verse/chorus structure of the song stays the same, the lyrics build in each verse, and you suddenly realize it’s about more than it was a few lines before.
Is it about a couple? A generation? A nation? The election? All of it? None of it?
17) “True and Fine” Drew Nelson Dusty Road to Beulah Land
Drew is a songwriter friend I met at Kerrville a few years back. It seems to me he’s been had some great years, personally and professionally since then. This song is on his new CD, and there’s a part of it that evokes being at the festival itself.
Drew’s also begun building guitars which, for him, is a bit like a Jedi making his own Light Saber. In fact, it’s a lot like that. Got to see/play his first one at the festival. It was sweet.
18) “Making Pies” Patty Griffin 1000 Kisses
Yes, yet another one from the Patty Griffin CD. Boy, I sure liked this one….
19) “Dreams” Slaid Cleaves Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
Yet another one from Slaid Cleaves’ great new CD.
20) “More Of A Man” Andy Gullahorn Reinventing The Wheel
Andy was definitely a “Columbus Discovery” for me this year. I heard him at the Wildflower Festival in May, in a “Writers in the Round” circle. Sometime about this song really struck me. A *great* metaphor about what it means to “be a man.” It’s funny, tender, and true all in three and a half minutes. I loved this song so much, I rushed down to the table and immediately bought the CD. It pretty much describes my life these days.
He’s got a great voice, and a really tight style. His voice and some of his musical phrasings are wonderfully evocative of Jackson Browne (surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed this…)
I also genuinely loved his song “Holy Ground,” which I’m kinda surprised didn’t make this list…
21) “Coming Over Me” Betty Soo Little Tiny Secrets
Betty Soo is a great writer from Austin, and although we have a lot of mutual friends, I’ve never really gotten to know her real well. But I love her music and I love this first song from her newest CD. Got to see her at Wildflower (that same circle with Andy), Uncle Calvin’s, and at Kerrville, in and around the Rouse House Camp this May. Her songs are smart and funny and very human, and the production on this CD is fantastic.
BTW, I think she has one of the coolest website designs out there right now.
22) “Crooked” Jaime Mchaels Crooked
One of my big joys at Camp Nashbill this year was having a tent right next to Jaime’s and to get to spend good time with him. It was a big year for him at the festival, as it was his first “mainstage” performance ever. He had a great set. This is the title track from his great new CD, and was one he did a lot around campfires last Spring. I have great memories of us all singing along with the beautiful and tender “oohs.”
Jaime’s been a touring musician for many years, and I’m really pleased to see the success he’s having.
“Sometimes I only want to listen, to what the universe is saying…”
It’ll knock you off your feet.
23) “One Spectacular Moon” Jaime Michaels Crooked
This was another one from Jaime. And another one that Jaime sang around many a campfire last May.
Now, every time I look up at a big beautiful moon, I think of this line.
24) “Love Is The Reason” Joe Jencks Links In A Chain
Another song from Joe. Really strong lyrics, and is certainly in the category of songs I’d wish I’d written.
25) “Point of Entry” Larry Murante Point of Entry
One final one from Larry Murante. The title track from his great CD, about not being afraid to let the world in.