It’s become a tradition for me to reset the “number of plays” on the iPod/iTunes each Jan 1st and, come December 31st, to see where my ear has led me in the year that has passed.
Clearly, it was another awesome year in music. In years past, I have spent a lot of time on this blog, posting detailed links to each of these songs/performers. But it dawns on my, you’re all big people with keyboards and access to “The Google.” So knock yourself out.
You need to hear some of these folks, if you haven’t already. And what follows is, best as I can look back and remember, why I heard them so much this year…
SONG ARTIST ALBUM
1. “Icarus Ascending” Dan Fogelberg Full Circle
Far and away, one of the highlights of my year was being invited by Jean Fogelberg and Deb Jelinek to be a part of the Fogelberg Weekend in Peoria. What an amazing, incredible gift. I was asked to be a part of an opening night party at the Hotel Pierre in downtown, as hundreds of Dan Fogelberg fans and friends from all over the country descended on that city for the dedication of a memorial to Dan. Peoria was his hometown, and many of the folks there that weekend knew Dan in high school, or played with him in his first band. Even got to meet his mom and brother.
Jean Fogelberg is such a lovely and generous soul. It was an amazing, amazing time. I could go on and on about it. I should. I should really finally write a blog about the weekend. This song was always a newer favorite of mine from Dan, but it took on special meaning that weekend, when the memorial was unveiled and the lyrics from this song provided the centerpiece for the whole thing.
Of course, the lines “There is no darkness in this place that we’re bound…love is the only thing that matters” are in and of themselves poignant. But there’s more. It turns out that Dan intended this song to be something of a tribute to artists everywhere who, like Icarus, risk it all to climb higher.
He wrote a description of the song that I find incredible powerful. You can read the whole thing here, and it’s definitely worth reading. I heard this read twice during the weekend, and it deeply moved me each time.
Here’s a sample. About this song:
“It’s perhaps as close as I will ever come to really expressing my core philosophy. I’m not talking financial here, but spiritual rewards. Many great artists never realized financial rewards. This is a song to those artists, more than someone like me, who has had every reward I can possibly think of. So many great artists struggled all their lives and will never see the perks. This song says you have to have enormous courage to follow the muse and that’s Icarus. The Greek story is one of the great stories of optimism and foolishness, that he would make wax wings to fly to the sun. But as an artist you’ve got to be fearless and keep flying to the sun even though you know you might crash. ‘ There is a gamble in each proud act of flight’ is one of the best lines I’ve ever written.””
Something about these thoughts deeply moved me. It just felt like the song was speaking to me all through the weekend. I probably played it a million times on the way home.
I will never forget the scene in the hotel that night, as we played FOUR HOURS of continuous Dan Fogelberg music to hundreds of people. I will never forget the unbelievable moment of “Phoenix,” where many of us musicians took the stage and played a song we’d *never* played as a group before. I’ll never forget the joy on Jean Fogelberg’s face as I could see her in the audience in that moment, the whole crowd literally jumping up and down. I will remember Kevin Yeargin playing this song on Dan’s own Martin 12-string.
And I’ll remember that ride home, filled with joy and listening to this song over and over.
2. “Fear Of Wasted Time” Court Yard Hounds Court Yard Hounds
Court Yard Hounds are 2/3rds of the Dixie Chicks. Man did I LOVE this CD this year. As you will see, several songs from the disk made it into the Top 25. That means I listened to it a lot. The production on the whole thing is just amazing. And I *love* the sound. Great, great songs. This one is the lilting closing track…an acknowledgment of time’s passing and the fear that time is short. A song for us all to reflect on.
Poking around their website, I found this quote which seems to have inspired the name of the band, but also probably speaks to this song too. What a fantastic quote.
3. “All The More” Karyn Oliver Red Dress
My dear friend Karyn Oliver, released her CD “Red Dress” this year. If you don’t have it, you should. It’s fantastic. She’s a great, great writer. As you’ll see, many of her songs make the list, because I just love the CD. This one is a real favorite. “All the More” is a really tender and kind song, addressed to a friend in need. A lovely sentiment, and a personal favorite. Brought me to tears the first time I heard it.
4. “So Many Changes” Dan Fogelberg Love In Time
I played this one a lot this year because I was trying to learn it. It’s a great great lyric, and one that especially touched me, knowing that Dan no doubt recorded it while deep in the midst of his own life and death struggles with prostate cancer. The positive message is one that we all need to sing to ourselves, but hearing somebody in that position sing it to us is even more powerful:
“Do you think that it’s wise
To be cursing the cloudy skies
Don’t come to me with your cries
When the sun’s shining in your eyes”
5. “Generous Friends” K.C. Clifford Orchid
K.C. gave me a copy of this CD at Kerrville in May, and it was one of the ones that captured me all the way home. Great to see her and David there, and to share some songs. This song is a benediction, really. The lyrics are an homage to the benediction in some contemporary wedding ceremonies. (It’s very close to the words in the benediction of the ceremony in the current UM Hymnal…) A great, great song.
6. “When I Was In Love” Bill Nash Dreaming Again
I remember when Bill first wrote this song, and I’m really pleased he now has a recorded version to share with the world. It’s won a couple of awards. Bill calls this is “forties torch song.” The production is from Tom Prasado-Rao. And the song is all Bill. A great song from his long-awaited CD, “Dreaming Again.” If you don’t have it, you should. Bill: so happy that you put out this record!
7. “Not With My Jesus” John Flynn Dragon
I was sitting around the “Camp Kantigree” circle late one night, waiting to play, and John Flynn was just about to leave. Before he did, he played this song. My Lord. Add this to the “songs I wish I’d written.” I was literally near tears at the end. An amazing and passionate defense of religion, against the extremists who would attempt to hijack it…told first from a Christian perspective, then from a Muslim one, and finally from God’s. Powerful songwriting, and a word that need hearing.
8. “October Day” Karyn Oliver Red Dress
9. “Right Now” Karyn Oliver Red Dress
10. “Happy Hour” Karyn Oliver Red Dress
Three more from Karyn’s great new CD, “Red Dress.” Did I mention that you should buy a copy? Well, you should. One of the great joys of life getting to hear songwriter friend’s songs before they release them. My memories of this song are around our “Camp Nashbill” campfire, with dozens of people singing background vocals.
“Right Now” is a song dripping with longing that really features Karyn’s awesome voice.
“And I follow the tracks down 10th Street, to the Waterfront Hotel,
I write you only the good things, so that you’ll know that I’m doing well.”
Then later, perhaps my favorite lyric I have heard in new song during the past few years:
“I like the curve of your mouth,
I think I’d like the taste of your skin
And I like it when your done playing
You kinda smell like sin.”
The may not have intended it (or maybe so) but the singable chorus of the last song, “Happy Hour,” definitely describes Karyn. She’s going places.
Maybe around the world.
11. “Red Cab to Manhattan” Stephen Bishop Red Cab to Manhattan
Midyear, one random FB status update from Neale Eckstein sent me on a quest to fill in the Stephen Bishop gaps on my iPod. Stephen is another of the songwriters buried deep back in the depths of my musical DNA. My copy of “Bish” (the vinyl) is so worn, I doubt it would even play anymore. That one random status update resulted in all the Bish songs you see on this list, and the quest to re-visit his music.
This song is from an album that didn’t get a lot of play when it was released. There’s something about it that’s really haunting to me. It’s melancholy and takes me back to a time when I’d broken up with a very serious girlfriend. I used to listen to this song over and over:
“My and my car broke down…
So I’m gonna take a red cab to Manhattan,
See “It’s A Wonderful LIfe”
Take Jimmy Stewart out to dinner,
Buy some postcards for his wife.”
12. “Come Home” Bill Nash Dreaming Again
If you know Bill’s music, you know his great song “Come Home.” Which many of us count as our favorite Bill Nash song, and which is one of my favorite Christmas songs. A couple of years ago, Bill had the idea to re-write some lyrics and with a few simple changes, found that it was now a lovely song about Kerrville. I have SO many memories of this song…of singing it around the camp at Kerrville…of singing it in groups so many places…it’s a really great Kerrville song.
13. “I’d Lend You” Bill Nash Dreaming Again
This is a haunting spoken word piece from Bill. Bill, as most will know, has MS. He’s fought it for years. Bill doesn’t directly talk about his MS all the time, but this is as raw as it gets. The poetry here…the heartfelt truth of life….is beautiful. I had to listen over and over.
14. “Look Out Any Window” Bruce Hornsby Greatest Radio Hits (Remastered)
I’m really not sure why, but something called me back to Bruce Hornsby this year. You know, the guy’s an amazing musician…toured with The Dead….plays killer jazz piano. Many of his songs have a biting social conscience….something I always admire in a song. This is traveling music…driving down the highway at 75, belting it out at the top of your lungs….and hopefully living it, not just singing it.
15. “One Step Up” Bruce Springsteen Tunnel of Love
Among the other old songs I was drawn back to this year was this one. I used to love to play this one on guitar, and still do. Wanted to re-learn it. A powerful, honest song from a guy who writes a whole lot of them.
16. “Howl At The Moon” Cheryl Wheeler Mrs. Pinocci’s Guitar
I spent several lovely nights this summer, walking in moonlight. And although I sang and remembered many moon-songs this year, there’s no better one than this one, in my estimation.
17. “Delight” Court Yard Hounds Court Yard Hounds
18. “See You In The Spring” Court Yard Hounds Court Yard Hounds
Two more from the Court Yard Hounds. Did I mention that I LOVE this CD? Damn, it’s good. Delight (Something New Under the Sun) is an amazing and driving song. If you had any doubts, this song will convince you, that this is not your cousin Louise’s Dixie Chicks. This is something new under the sun. And I love it.
See you in the Spring is an amazing duet with Jakob Dylan. Many duets are really just glorified background vocal appearances. *This* song was clearly written, and is sung, as a dialogue between two lovers caught between the cold of Chicago and the heat of San Antonio. Just a fine, fine song that will capture you quickly.
May I just say that those two can write some amazing songs.
19. “Ever On” Dan Fogelberg The Wild Places
Another one from Dan. Another older one. I think I played this one a lot on the way up to Peoria. Generally, I think “The Wild Places” was a vastly under-rated CD. To me, it’s one of the better starting places to understand Dan’s music, especially in the later years. “Ever On” is a marvelous prayer. It sort of plays off of the famous “Old Irish Blessing,” but is also clearly more rooted in Native American spirituality. It’s a lovely, lovely prayer.
20. “If I Only Had a Brain” Stephen Bishop Bish
21. “What Love Can Do” Stephen Bishop Bish
22. “Only the Heart Within You” Stephen Bishop Bish
Three more from Bish, and all from that great, great CD of the same name. You know, it strikes me, this might be one of the last CDs to really utilize full orchestration for the production. I mean, today, almost nobody does that…it’s all keyboards. Fogelberg did it. And so did Bish. The lushness of “If I Only Had a Brain” will capture you quickly.
“What Love Can Do” is just a bizarre song, and I *love* it. It makes no sense it all, and that’s what makes it great. A tribute to the great songwriter Yip Harburg (who wrote some of the great songs from the Wizard of Oz).
“Only the Heart Within You” is one of my all-time favorite songs. I know I listened to this one a lot this year so I could relearn it.
23. “Knocks Me Off My Feet” Stevie Wonder At The Close Of A Century [Disc 3)
24. “Pastime Paradise” Stevie Wonder At The Close Of A Century [Disc 3)
Have I mentioned that Stevie Wonder is a musical genius? Our current band show is a tribute to him. And so, I spent a lot of time listening to a lot of Stevie this year in the car. Actually, mostly on CD. However, I was inspired to download “Songs in the Key of LIfe” which I consider to be the first “real” album I ever bought with my own $$.
My God, it’s genius. How do you even begin to describe it? These two songs are NOT in the show, but are two of my personal faves. Of course, Pastime Paradise lives in in its remixed form. “Knocks Me Off My Feet” is such a plain, yet genuine love song…and wet kiss to the four season (the real ones, not the group). I used to sing this one at the top of my lungs when I was a kid.
25. “From Above” Ben Folds From Above
Somebody posted on FB that this was a great song. I’d never heard it, but I downloaded it, and obviously listened quite a lot.
“Who knows whether that’s how it should be
Maybe a ghost lived in that vacancy
Maybe that’s how books get written
Maybe that’s why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones”
Well, that’s it. This year’s list. Quite a fun mix of folks I know and folks I admire…brand new songs from brand new folks, and old songs from waaaay back in my musical dan.
Hope you find something worth listening to. I highly recommend doing this. All you have to do is to into iTunes today and reset the play count. Then, just enjoy the music normally and see where the iPod leads this year.
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