Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends! This year, it happened to fall on May 5th, which happens to be a hump day. Couldn’t have asked for better timing! And you can’t ask for a better topic than what I have for you today: music. I like music. In fact, some have said that I even “like it a lot”. I listen to all types of music, and don’t really tie myself down to one genre. Heck, I’m not even one of those guys who says, “I listen to everything except rap,” or “country”. I listen to it all – as long as it doesn’t sound like a bunch of untalented bullsh. There are some rap and even some R&B songs that I dig quite well. I’m very open-minded. Now one thing I cannot stand is that assy sounding crap where the R&B singer just holds out a syllable and tries to hit every note in the scale. You know what I’m talking about? Listen to the Fugees’ Killing Me Softly cover if you’re not sure. That crap makes me want to murder music in the face.
But other than that, yeah, I think I’ve made my point. I like music quite well. But here’s what this column is about: sometimes I like to break into a certain style reminiscent of times gone by. You know. Something like that. And here’s how I really explain it: I am not one who takes a radio with me when I go camping – even though I love and live and breathe music. I go camping to get away from techmology. I don’t want to be bothered by radio waves. But there is a growing list of music I would be okay with hearing while I sit round a campfire drinking Cold Ones and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Let me show you this list.
I say growing list. Well, I don’t know how much it will grow, but for now it is only three albums. Yeah, it’s that selective. And maybe you can think of another good one or two to add to the list. But for now, these are the only three I’ve ever run across that are just the right speed and style to make me okay with hearing it out in nature. Because really, and the first two especialy, there are no electronic sounds or anything that sounds modern at all. It’s just really good stuff.
Okay, so let’s get started. First on the list is Elvis Costello’s newest album, titled Secret, Profane and Sugarcane. Now you know Elvis and how prolific he is with his music. He’s released close to thirty albums. And I have them all. He was the original punk rocker. With albums like Spike, Armed Forces and Punch the Clock you get the full feel of punk rock. While if you are looking for something a little harder, you might go for Brutal Youth, The Delivery Man or Trust. You in the mood for country? Almost Blue. Jazz? Check out his duet with Marian McPartland, called Piano Jazz, or with Allen Toussaint – The River in Reverse. Classical? Il Sogno – a complete masterpiece of classical music with the full ensemble, composed by Elvis himself. You get the point. The guy is rich with diversity.
Most people probably don’t like all his stuff, mainly because they’re set on one or two genres. And since his music dips into so many different ones, he’ll lose some fans on some of them. Well not me. Since I like selections from all those genres, I like every album of his. Not necessarily every song, but definitely a few from every album. Okay, but back to the point dude. The point is that Secret, Profane and Sugarcane is different than all of them to date. It’s old saloon-style country. No joke. It literally sounds like something you would hear if you were to walk into an old west saloon in the mid 1800s. With the stand-up bass and the fiddle, the banjo and the acoustic guitar, it’s just full of old schoolness. There’s no steel guitar like modern country, and no electric instruments. It’s just really, really cool. You must check it out.
The second album on the short list is Mark Knopfler’s Get Lucky. Now you know this guy. He was the lead singer/guitarist from Dire Straits. An amazing guitarist and a brilliant songwriter (though no one has ever accused him of being a great singer…), you know he can dish out some great tunes. Well this is no different. And, by the way, for the record, I love his voice. It’s not one of the best technical voices you ever heard, but I think it’s fabulous. Rich and thick with soul. Just like this album. Imagine stepping off a train into the mid 1500s where there is gathered a large group of Irish peasants throwing down and partying outside the castle walls. Yeah. This is the music that would be playing. You talk about culture, this album is solid Renaissance music.
The third album, and it doesn’t maybe fit in here as well as the other two, but it’s no less effective, is Bob Dylan’s Modern Times, which I believe is his latest work too. Funny, all three of these guys’ latest albums came out at pretty close to the same time and they all went old school. Modern Times is just a great folksy album with a lot of spirit and a good feel. And I think Bob’s voice has finally matured to the point of being great. He, like Mark, has never had what people call a pretty voice, but man I think it sounds cool – especially on this album. He’s always been a folk artist, but this is like modern folk if you will. And it’s just different and hearty enough that it belongs on this list.
So I’ll say once again, I’m usually against music at the campsite. But if we were sitting up late around a campfire, maybe drinking and enjoying some smoke (from the campfire, that is) or something, I wouldn’t mind having these three albums play lightly in the background. In fact, I may take them next time we do go camping. I will make a camping playlist on the ole iPod. Yeah. So please, dear readers, hook a brother up. If you can think of any good albums that just stir up a hefty dose of nostalgia and make you feel good all over, drop them in the comments box here. I’d love to give them a listen and possibly add them to my list.