What are you listening to lately?
To celebrate our 6-month anniversary, we're sharing our current audio favorites. Everyone is invited to join in!
Technically, October 18th (tomorrow) is our six-month anniversary, but Juke isn’t a slave to the calendar. We're celebrating a day early! Woo hoo! A huge thank you to everyone who has signed up in the past six months. Our subscribers are our favorite people. If you have a moment, please jump into the comments section below to say hi and tell us what you’re listening to these days.
And if you joined us in the past 90 days, let me explain quickly that today's post is actually the second of a series of Juke Anniversary smorgasbords, in which I ask all our contributors to answer one question. Last time, the question was "What are you reading lately?" (Given that we’re a bunch of writers and artists, we had some passionate replies to that one.) Today's question, though, inspired just as much fervor. Everyone responded in their own particular way, which is what I love about asking these open-ended questions. Some had a lot to say (Again, we’re a bunch of writers). Others kept it jaunty. Each contribution was a gift, though. I love reading them. And now I have a bunch of new songs in my playlists.
Speaking of playlists, I've put each of the available songs in today's post into a playlist on Spotify. I don’t normally use Spotify (the ads arrive at a punishing volume and last too long) but it’s useful for this kind of thing. Click the embedded thingy at the bottom of the page if you'd like to listen to the whole list.
Okay, I’ll go first...
Honestly, since I started getting these responses, I’m listening to everything else on this list. But I’ll take off my publisher hat for a minute.
My favorite time to listen to music is when I’m driving. Music sounds different at highway speeds. Some songs just can’t cut it. They loll around the backseat and beg to be taken to a dark, quiet room somewhere. Others are racing ahead so recklessly they’re a danger to your pedal foot (those songs go on the “workout” playlist). But then a special few are perfect.
I have a long list of road songs (roughly 60% of Lucinda Williams’ catalog is on there) but I’ll single out two I’ve had on heavy rotation lately. First, On My Way by Valerie June. The whole album is FANTASTIC—rootsy, bluegrassy, quirky—and it all travels well. This song in particular has been special to me lately.
(If you listen to it on Spotify, they’ve tacked on the acoustic version of Someone to Love to the end of the track. And, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good song too. I just wish they’d kept it as a separate track the way it is on the original album. Feel free to skip forward once On My Way ends.)
Second, Katie Cruel by Karen Dalton. Again, you should listen to the whole album. Somehow she caught the same supernatural head cold as Billie Holliday and Janis Joplin, and there just isn’t a bad song. But her interpretation of Katie Cruel is, like Townes Van Zandt’s Kathleen, so deeply folk that it becomes something otherworldly.
Oh man, I could talk for hours about Townes too.
Damon Falke: On Another Note
By way of a confession, I do not listen to a variety of music. I know people who listen to a variety of music and to a lot of music. I sometimes feel envious of those tunes, singers, bands, and musical moments that friends can recall. Many of those tunes, singers, bands, and moments come from contemporary musicians. I admit that I haven’t made much of an effort to discover new music. What new music I do appreciate usually is the old stuff played or sung by the living. Such is the plight of an average jazz man. But like all jazz men, I can’t get away from the old tunes played by the old innovators and stylists and composers of such tunes. And lately, and this partly is because of the season, I’ve been feeling Ben Webster.
Listening to Ben Webster late at night playing a jazz ballad approximates prayer. You arrive humbly or in need. You hum along for a moment. You meditate. Then you listen. I can’t find a better version of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” than the LP track from Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson. Although for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to “It Never Entered My Mind.” The track can be found on Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster. It’s a song that continues to warm my listening heart, and Sinatra’s version reached me first. My grandmother, which is to say my father’s mother, purchased for me the Sinatra album, In the Wee Small Hours, when I was 11 or 12 years old. Back then an “album” meant a cassette tape. I listened to the tape again and again, sometimes pressing fast-forward or rewind to favorite songs like, “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “I See Your Face Before Me.” Among these favorites was, and remains, “It Never Entered My Mind.” Frank croons us through even the silliest of lyrics:
And once you told me I was mistaken
That I’d awaken with the sun
And ordered orange juice for one
It never entered my mind
Honestly, I am fond of this lyric and I almost love it, except I can’t get past the orange juice bit. Yet Frank brings us back, as he often does, to our own melancholy each time he sings the refrain. While Frank lingers on the vowels, we return to whomever or wherever we wish to be.
To return to Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster, if you’re feeling a little sassy then I suggest listening to “Blues for Yolande.” It’s a blues number that makes you move—first with a head nod or two, next dipping the shoulders in time with the rhythm section, maybe leaning backwards and forwards and soon enough, you’re feeling the groove!
Another tune that’s been in my ear recently is Roy Hargrove’s recording of “The Nearness of You,” which is on Hargrove’s Family LP. It’s worth mentioning that song is a Hoagy Carmichael ballad, with lyrics by Ned Washington, who wrote lyrics for several tunes that have become jazz standards and for good reason. Take the first couple of verses of “The Nearness of You”:
It’s not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me, oh no
It's just the nearness of you
It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It's just the nearness of you
That phrase alone, the nearness of you, can conjure up any number of our lonely, pretty moments. Hargrove’s version is fairly straight ahead. His playing is unhurried and rich, never rushing to the end of a note. He wants to sit with the tune, and he wants us to sit with his playing. It’s soulful, even sexy.
As fate or something would have it, I heard Roy Hargrove play in Telluride, Colorado, years ago. This was probably around the same time the Family LP was released. He played The Sheridan Hotel, and my name got added to the guest list. The way that happened is I was on a street in Telluride, changing out of a pair of waders, and this man walking by stopped to ask me what I was doing, what sort of pants was I wearing. I told him that I was a fishing guide and that I was getting out of my fishing pants. He asked me if I liked to fish, and I told him sure, I like to fish. He mentioned that he played piano. I told him that jazz was my favorite music and that the piano was my favorite instrument. Turns out I was talking with Marc Cary. If I recall correctly, Hargrove lead a sextet in those years and Marc Cary played piano in the group. Marc asked if I was going to the show that evening at The Sheridan. I told him that I didn’t know about the show. He told me to turn up at the Sheridan and he’d put my name on the guest list, and that’s what he did. I had my pick of seats and watched the set that night. It was one of the very best nights, and I happened to be in one of the best rooms on the planet. One of the very best.
That was the last I ever saw of Marc Cary or Roy Hargrove or any of them, though I go on listening to them. I don’t know why, but autumn is a good season for music, maybe especially jazz. Cooler days and golden hills. The smell of rich earth and rain and layers. And here I am again, with Roy Hargrove getting me through another night and “The Nearness of You” easing away in another room. It’s something that happens. Such tunes.
While in the studio I like to have music playing. I have my favorite “stations” via Pandora or Spotify. And depending on mood or time of day it might be Josh Groban, Paul Horn or Patsy Cline. This week I found a wonderful young Brazilian Guitarist, Plinio Fernandes and his debut album, Saudade. And invariably I start my painting day with Philip Glass. He always sets the right mood for the start of the work day of painting.
I'm playing Villa-Lobos: 5 Preludes, W419 No. 1 in E minor by Plínio Fernandes
and I'm playing Morning Passages by Philip Glass…
First off - happy 6 months to Juke! It has been a privilege and a pleasure to take part in this group endeavor, this communal whomp whomp, this pedal-powered rocket launch of art into the stratosphere. I hope it can keep going and I wish Juke many happy returns.
As for what I’m listening to, that has always been a mixed bag. Before I get to that, though, I’d like to bring my “what are you reading” post up to date. Aside from some weird random poetry and not-so-random snippets of this and that, I’m mainly reading Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books in sequential order. I cannot tell you how much I’m loving it.
And music? I am not listening to albums so much these days. I doubt many people are unless it’s a deliberate strategy, based on reading articles about what’s cool and in vogue. I grew up listening to albums, but not quite so much anymore. I’ll tell you one other thing I’m not doing and have never done - I don’t stream. I hate the concept and the quality. I keep a massive music library on my phone and my computer and tend to open the sonic refrigerator door often and just pick at whatever is speaking to me.
Or I lean into whatever ear worm has taken hold and I just surrender myself. That, lately, has been Freight Train, both the original, by Elizabeth Cotten, and the cover by Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe.
(click the tweet above to listen)
I also bought an amazing collection by J.B. Lenoir, called Alabama Blues, mainly for the song about the whale, featuring Ebby Hardy on drums.
I mean, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I should stop there.
Songs in my headspace…
1. 'Happy Hour' by Sid Grimes (sidgrimes.com). Sid's an Austin-based singer-songwriter who volunteered to go on my dive bar book tour (to actual Texas dive bars), and she started every show playing this original tune. We also shot a promotional YouTube video for the book that uses the song; it's the only place you can hear it until Sid gets it recorded properly (in the near future).
2. 'I Like Austin But I Love San Antone" by Garrett T. Capps (garretttcapps.com). Garrett is a very original San Antonio performer who is something of a cosmic honky-tonker. This song captures some of the classic Austin/San Antonio rivalry, which is a very silly thing to begin with.
For several years, my friend Aaron Parrett and I have argued over the merits of Tom Waits' music. We are both musicians ourselves, and Aaron has been trying to persuade me that I need to overlook the later stuff, where he adopted the fake gravelly voice persona, and listen to Closing Time, his first album. I finally gave in about a year ago, and the thing I was missing all these years was that Mr. Waits is an incredible songwriter. His lyrics are in turn heartbreaking and hopeful, but more than anything, they take you right into a time and place that is uniquely Tom Waits. So yeah, I've been listening to him a lot lately, not to mention playing some of my favorites like "Little Trip to Heaven" and "Downtown Train."
I am currently listening to the dictates of my own conscience.
That's really it right now. I'm just writing like a fiend, and not listening to music or tv or anything!!!
I recently revisited "Canary: The Washington Post Investigates." Several years ago, I read an article in The Washington Post about a woman who had been sexually assaulted on the streets of DC. The police captured her assailant, and he confessed to having assaulted numerous other women over the past several months. It seemed like an open and shut case, and her assailant would be put away for a long-time, but when it came time to sentence him, the federal judge, Truman Morrison, gave him a slap on the wrist sentence of 10 days in jail. Further, he was allowed to serve his time in two-day increments, so he wouldn't lose his restaurant job. I recognized the judge's name. He was the man who had sexually assaulted my ex-wife when she was a teenager. I reached out to my ex, who, in turn, reached out to Amy Brittain of The Washington Post, and Canary is the story which ensued. It's a powerful story, spanning decades, and won the Online Journalism Award for Excellence in Audio/Digital Storytelling.
Musically, I have been in love with Kishi Bashi, of late. His power pop has the intricate sensibility of classical music infused with infectious pop-rock enthusiasm. "I Am the Antichrist to You" is one of the most beautiful love-songs I've ever encountered, and "Manchester" is my favorite song about writing since Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write the Book."
“Supercurl” by El Buho featuring David Rothenberg
“Freediving Music For Dryland Training” by Michal Zygmunt
“Life Of” by Steve Tibbetts
and the song of the decade — “Party On” by New York Electric Piano
Listen to the Spotify playlist here…
We hope you’re enjoying Juke. You can subscribe for free to receive new posts by email. To support our work and receive special member-only benefits, please consider a monthly or yearly paid subscription.
Greetings from the wilds of Jury Duty & kudos on six months of wonderful, spirited writing! I have conventional, eclectic taste in music & am on a pretty steady diet of Mozart, Billy Preston, Janis Joplin, Prince, Beethoven, Billie Holiday, Johann CHRISTIAN Bach...& always, always, The Beatles, The Who, The Stones & Elton John.
Oh I just love this, Tonya! so very fun to read each person's contribution. I now have a whole new musical and audio world to bring into the studio! Thanks everyone for sharing your faves.