A weekend playlist
Please pardon the indulgence, but here are the three things that took up of most of my music listening over the weekend. The have very little in common, I suppose, other than, perhaps, how strongly each conveys its own particular zeitgeist.
Ray Noble and Al Bowlly. Noble led some of the classiest dance bands of the 1930s in both England and the United States, and wrote such standards as "The Very Thought of You", "The Touch of Your Lips", "Love Is the Sweetest Thing" and "Cherokee". The Mozambique-born South African crooner Bowlly added his unique vocal stylings to over 500 of Noble's recordings, and was likely one of the singers who inspired Paul McCartney on his new "Kisses on the Bottom" CD (hat tip to Tom Reney's post about Sir Paul on the New England Public Radio Jazz Blog, including a splendid Al Bowlly film clip). Noble/Bowlly CD reissues abound, from the sketchy to the obsessively complete; you might do best with a pair from the British label ASV, one covering the English years, the other the American years, both nicely balancing the vocals and the instrumentals.
The Louvin Brothers. Ira and Charlie Louvin (born Loudermilk) grew up the hard way in southern Appalachia, working long hours in the cotton fields, taking repeated beating from their father, learning hymn-singing from their mother. Music was their means of escape, taking them to engagements all over the country, into radio stations and recording studios and, eventually, onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Ira's hard-living ways led to his death in a car wreck in 1965, by which time Charlie had already gone it alone; he died in 2011. The New York Times review of Charlie's memoirs, "Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers" inspired me to revisit their music, starting with the album of the same name, mostly notorious for the hellfire of its cover illustration. But dear reader and listener, do not let the cover art put you off. This is among the most uncanny and intricate vocal harmonizing you'll ever hear, on par with anything we play on WFCR's classical music shows. And Ira and Charlie sang the God-fearing words like they meant them, even if they didn't always live them.
Winterpills: "All My Lovely Goners". For both musical locavores and the farthest-flung readers, the Pioneer Valley indie-rockers have a new album of inspired, intelligent, well-conceived and beautifully-produced songs that might remind you of how warmed you were the first time you heard The Byrds or Crosby, Stills & Nash. And it gets better each time through, which is not always the case with music you enjoy right off the bat. Well done.
Finally, remember the music doctor's advice: All of these sounds and others, along with your Bach, Beethoven and Basie, are part of a well-balanced musical diet. So, indulge freely!