I picked this theme out of the 47 that were available because I like Green Bean Casserole. A lot of people do, but it’s strange that I do, because the major ingredient in the casserole, second only to the beans, is cream of mushroom soup, and I LOATHE mushrooms in all their fungal forms. I hate the way they taste. I hate the way they smell when they’re cooking. I hate their texture. I just hate mushrooms, and even the smell of cream of mushroom soup kind of makes me gag a little. Yet, there is some kind of alchemy that occurs when you mix it with green beans that makes the whole works palatable to me. I cannot explain these things; they’re just part of the Kristie mystique.
You want me now, don’t you?
Growing up, I enjoyed green bean casserole on many an occasion, and I was under the impression that this was my mother’s very own special recipe, because home was the only place I’d ever had the stuff. And then came 7th grade, when I joined the swim team. The team had an end-of-season family potluck banquet, and after we put our dish of whatever-it-was on the table, I noticed someone else had brought a green bean casserole. And then I saw another dish filled with green bean casserole. And another. And another. And I turned to my mom and said, “How did all these people get your recipe!?!?” And she told me then that it was on the back of the can, and pretty much the whole world had the recipe. And so began the end of my innocence.
How is this mix like green bean casserole? It is filled with a lot of music, much of it classic, that everyone knows and likes. Much like the casserole. We grew up with it. We dig it. While it’s nothing terribly impressive from a culinary standpoint, it’s always appreciated and enjoyed. It’s somewhat tempting during these mix exchanges to bust out some of your more obscure stuff to show off what a brilliant musicophile you are (and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always resist that temptation), to avoid things that are (or were) too popular, but I wanted to go another way. I wanted my mix to play like you’re listening to the radio, and you hear a song come up that makes you say, “Oh, I LOVE this song,” and reach over to turn it up. And you know how sometimes you do that, and then the next song is also one you love? And then sometimes you get superlucky (less and less on commercial radio these days, but it does still happen from time to time) and you get a third song you also love, until the radio is totally cranked, and your day is totally made? That’s what I wanted my mix to be. And it is, for me. If I got the following queued up on the radio, I’d be turning it up, singing along, and dancing in my car seat as much as the seatbelt would allow.
I don’t know if it’ll do that for you, but I hope so. It’s pretty heavy on oldies, because I am a hippie in a 30-something body; even the newer stuff has a retro feel to it. And that’s the “forgotten” part of this green bean casserole—there’s a lot of old stuff that was always good, but has disappeared from common memory (and mine) due to time, or just the pile of music that I acquired after it, or was so much a part of the audio fabric of the time that we don’t even think about it anymore. These swaps always give me a chance to go through my whole collection as I plan the mix, and an opportunity to see that I do, indeed, have way more music than a single human can ever listen to in a lifetime, and that probably indicates some kind of mental imbalance. But there are worse problems to have. I gravitated toward a lot of piano and brass, soul and funk. I’ve discovered in the last couple of years that I am, and probably always have been, a big fan of funk. The draft playlist was really long this year, and culling them to fit on a CD was harder this year than the five that preceded it. But that’s the challenge, innit? As always, if you want more from any of the artists on this mix, hit me up via e-mail. I’m always happy to share.
And now, the mix!
1. This Is How a Heart Breaks (Rob Thomas)
This is year 2 of starting my mix off with strong drums. They really get me, and this song rocks. A lot of people rag on Matchbox 20, and Rob Thomas by association; I once read an interview with the band, and one of the guys was wearing a t-shirt that said “Cool bands don’t sell records.” Rob Thomas is a master songwriter, knows how to rock, and has a great voice. If this song doesn’t make you want to move, you may want to check your pulse. You could already be dead.
2. Alice Childress (Ben Folds Five)
Another good drum intro, and great piano. I love Ben Folds a lot, and this is a beautiful song. I like how it gets quiet after the bridge as he goes into the last verse. It’s little things like that that make me happiest in music.
3. I Like You Better (The Black Velvet Band)
The female vocalist in this band is Maria Doyle Kennedy. If you saw The Commitments, you’ve heard her before; she was the brunette with the better voice. She also recently played Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors. This is a great song. I was playing it, and Scott said “Best. Song. Ever.” This was his CD, the only one of the band we have, which is a damn shame. I should look for the others.
4. February (Jen Trynin)
The first time I ever heard this song, I was driving north on Hwy 15 in Minnesota, listening to 97.7 FM out of the Cities, which was a great eclectic radio station of the kind there are few of anymore. I don’t think it’s even still a going concern, at least not in the format it was then. And I thought the singer was a man. Not so much, but the music behind this song, particularly the chorus, is exquisitely, beautifully heartbreaking. Love it.
5. Nothing Ever Hurt Like You (James Morrison)
Actually heard this on local radio one morning on the way to work, and I was blown away. Old school, sexy excellence. It’s sexcellence! But it’s actually one of the newer tracks on the mix.
6. Breaking Us in Two (Joe Jackson)
I adore the piano riff in this song. Joe Jackson was an influence on others in this mix, including Ben Folds and Josh Fix. I loved his songs in the ‘80s; it’s good to go back to the source.
7. Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
I came to Joni late in life—my 30s. Hers was a name I knew, but her music was a mystery until I picked up Clouds a few years ago. And then I realized that I DID know her, but like many ‘70s artists, I hadn’t connected the name with the songs that had settled deep in my mind. This was one of those songs. Such a beautiful voice and great songs. Time has really done a cruel number on her voice and I can’t listen to her new stuff, but we have the memories.
8. Lie to Me (Jonny Lang)
I remember when he was Kid Jonny Lang; he actually was from a town not far from where Scott and I lived in Buffalo, MN. Kid had amazing guitar chops and a voice marinated in whiskey, smoke, and gravel, despite being 15 or so at the time this one came out. 15. I hate him. And yet I love him. And thus, the blues are born.
9. Rolled in from the South (Josh Fix)
Josh Fix is my new favorite of late. I discovered him from a 4-bar clip that was a bumper for an advertisement for local music on KFOG, out of San Francisco, and I was enchanted. It took weeks of listening to that commercial to get enough of the lyrics to Google him and find out who the hell he was, but I finally did it. He plays all the instruments and sings the multiple vocal layers himself on this album; I would love to see him live, if only to see how he’ll manage it outside of the studio, but I suspect the songs will hold up. I think he’s amazing. He wears his influences on his sleeve: Elton John, Todd “the God” Rundgren, Queen. All good stuff that has a loving home in my record collection already, but he does his own thing, too. He is the next wave.
10. John Saw that Number (Neko Case)
I love Neko Case. On a regular basis, I will queue up all of her albums and listen to them straight through. I can’t think of another artist I do that with except the Beatles. Her lyrics are odd poetry, her voice powerful and straightforward, and the reverb tasty.
11. Vagabonds (New Model Army)
This song was off the Thunder and Consolation album, a cassette that was in extremely heavy rotation in Scott’s Buick when we were dating. The result is that the music and the band hold a special place in my heart. This song is full of musical surprises. Scott broadened my musical horizons considerably, though he’s never developed an appreciation for the ‘70s music that I love. We argued about it on our first date, in fact. He was bagging on my musical taste at the beginning, and hasn’t quit yet.
12. I’m Not a Kid Anymore (Sloan)
I discovered Sloan one day as I gave a preview listen to the new music that came out one Tuesday on iTunes, and my eye was caught by the title of their album: Never Hear the End of It. 36 tracks, no space between, and I was hooked by the second one. Very ‘70s glam rock, I thought. 4 band members, 4 songwriters, 4 very different styles, but it just works. This song hits home with me. I, too, am “up to my ass in routine.”
13. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
This is one of the first songs I ever learned (some of) the words to. It came out in 1973 and hung around for awhile, so that was pretty early, indeed, as I myself came out in 1971. It always reminds me of living in Superior, WI in the first half of the ‘70s. I’ve been a fan of the Dan ever since.
14. You’re Still a Young Man (Tower of Power)
Growing up, I only knew Tower of Power as a horn outfit that rented its considerable talent out to other bands. I didn’t know until relatively recently that there was a whole band. That gap in my knowledge was rectified by the inimitable Dave Morey, the now-retired host of KFOG’s 10@10. Dave was from Michigan, and had a deep love for funk, soul, and Motown. His daily mixes reflected that, and exposure made me realize that I had that love, too. I do not have the words for how much I love this song, from the trumpet intro, to the ritardando at about 2:55 that just gets me where I live, to the big finish. If I were forced to pick my top 10 favorite songs ever, this would be among them. Great band. Greater song.
15. Find the Cost of Freedom (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
The first time I ever heard this song was in a heart-shattering, jaw-dropping cover peformance by Theresa Andersson. It took awhile to run it down, only to find myself back at home with CSN. They sang the song at Woodstock, and it was a B-side to “Ohio” until it appeared on their “So Far” album. It’s short, but the even shorter vocal portion never fails to give me full-body goosebumps.