Welcome to the 11th annual installment of the It’s a Very Shenry Christmas Memorial Mix CD swap. (Now you know why I abbreviated it in the title.) 11 years is eons in internet engagement time, and only the diehards remain this year to participate in this swap. However, if you dig my mix, as will be explained momentarily, you may download the works here. Merry Christmas!
This year’s theme was “Deep Cuts.” The songs on my mix were deep cuts in the usual sense that they weren’t songs you’d hear on the radio, even if it was a radio-friendly act, and in the emotional sense, whether it was because they prodded at an existing scar, or because they touched me so deeply that they created their own cut. Hope you enjoy it!
The One That Got Away-The Civil Wars
This is off the 2nd and last album from this aptly named duo who, last we heard, were no longer on speaking terms and had not been for some time. Anyway, this one is particularly sad when you realize it’s likely as much truth about the band as it is fiction for the sake of songwriting. (Just because something is fiction doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth, anyway.) There are many opportunities in life that didn’t come my way as I hoped, and I came, in time, to view most of them as bullets dodged after all, and I was grateful that was the case. Nothing like realizing you sidestepped, however inadvertently, a huge mistake. Sometimes you don’t, though, and really, really wish you had. You can feel the wound in this song.
Leaving Eden-Carolina Chocolate Drops
I was folding laundry one morning when I got a text from Scott saying something to the effect of “Hey, I think you might like this band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.” So I pulled them up on Spotify and listened while I folded, and while I am not, as some are, averse to banjo playing on principle (I happen to quite like it), as I listened to the album I did not feel myself becoming a fan. It was a little too countrified even for me, and I admit, I’m particular about vocals and their singer didn’t really have what I like. But still, I let the album play on so I could give it a fair shot. And then this song came on, with the same lead singer but in a totally different style that really showed her voice to advantage and some sweet cello and mandolin, too. I came in from the other room to see what it was, added it to the draft playlist for this mix that I keep year-round, and decided to learn to play it myself. So this is a deep cut in the sense that I’d nearly given up on this band, but there was a gem buried in the tracks. This is the only song off the album I bothered to buy. The melody on “And I am not afraid of that bright glory up above” kills me. I loved and learned and sing this song just for the chance to sing that.
Added bonus connection is that I’ve been to Rockingham County, North Carolina, where I was given driving directions that included “Turn right after the big horse barn, where the sign for the lady selling cockatiels is, and you’ll drive nearly straight into the dry cleaner.” I drove into a small town that looked pretty dried up, and the dry cleaner was right where they said it would be–jutting out into the middle of the road. The South is a strange place.
New Religion-Duran Duran
I half-hesitate to even make such a bold pronouncement, as I’ve been a Duran Duran fan for over 30 years now and as a lifer, I love many, many of their songs, but this very well may be my favorite, off of my favorite album of theirs, Rio. It was buried on the B-side of the record/tape, and even when I switched to CD, and later digital, I still hear the album in 2 parts. There’s just so much going on musically that I just love, particularly the competing yet complementary lyrics in the prechorus and killer bass line.
When You Go-Jonathan Coulton
My first introduction to JoCo was through a song called “Code Monkey,” and then later, the zombie hit, “RE: Your Brains,” both of which were highly amusing, and I’d chalked him up as a geek novelty songwriter. A talented geek novelty songwriter, though, to be sure. He put out a greatest hits album, JoCo Looks Back in 2008, and I picked it up, because I’d only listened to his songs on YouTube previously. One day, this song came around on shuffle play and broke my heart, and when I grabbed my iPod to see who it was, because I didn’t recognize the beautiful voice I was hearing, I was completely surprised. I hadn’t given the novelty songwriter nearly enough credit.
Cherche la Rose-Marlene Dietrich
My first introduction to this song was as background music to a YouTube video that had gone mildly viral (like a 24-hour flu). I can’t even remember what the content of the video was (I think there was a couple in it, and I think maybe it was in Swedish, but I claim no reliability on the latter) because I was transfixed by this song in the background. I’m not sure if the song was in the credits, but somehow I made with the Google-fu and found out the name and singer and was surprised to find it was THE Marlene Dietrich. I love this song so much, it earned it’s own blog post awhile back, but this is the first time I’ve put it on a mix. Note also the wonderful solo violin swooping in and out; kills me.
I don’t remember where I first ran across Miles Kane, but it’s been in the last 2 years. This song grooves like nobody’s business, and that’s why it’s here.
I’m On Fire-Stateless, featuring Shara Worden
Scott and I were watching Continuum one night, and this song came on over the last couple minutes of the episode, and I scrambled for my phone to get Google to listen to it and tell me what this heart-wrenching, beautiful awesomeness was, seeing as TV show credits are pretty shitty about telling us who wrote the songs they’re using. Once I found and downloaded it I listened to it over and over again, and then I worked up a chart and set to learning it. It’s been backburnered for awhile now, as an electric guitar song (I’ve been on an acoustic kick*), but it’s going to be coming to a Tucson stage in 2015 for sure. The building swell at the end gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes every time. That’s when I know music’s gone straight to my soul.
I discovered Tony Lucca via the very first of these swaps (I think it was Liz’s mix), and ended up picking up his albums. I think I have all of them now, and I’ve always appreciated his voice and his interesting lyrics; he’s appeared on my mix before. Then he did a stint on The Voice before I started watching The Voice (I watched it for the first time last season) and was, as I understand it, basically torpedoed by Christina Aguilera, with whom he was a Mousketeer when they were kids (though she didn’t recognize him at his audition). I don’t know what her beef was with him, and I don’t know if The Voice helped him get his music career where it really ought to be, but I wanted to say, “Man, you’ve got fans from way back!” He probably knows. Anyway, he put out a new album this fall via a Kickstarter campaign, which I contributed to, because hell yes I want some more Tony Lucca music. The album seemed like a departure for him, but a good one. This song rocks.
People Don’t Get What They Deserve-Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
I confess it…I’m losing track of my music: what I have, where I found it. I cannot tell you where I discovered Sharon Jones, but if I had to guess, it was probably KXCI, which is where I find most of my new music these days. I just love the theme of this song. Karma often seems indifferent where it shouldn’t be. The saddest part of sharing this song with you is that while it’s great on the album, it doesn’t even come class to the energy and phenomenal power of her live performance, which I got to see last March. It was like soul music heaven, a party that seemed to go on forever. And all this from a woman who was recovering from cancer and treatment only recently (and still growing her hair back). She’s tiny. But she is amazing. And here is where I show you the photo she kindly took with us (“us” being my bandmate Jerry and friend Natalie and me), and gloat mightily that I got to meet the source of one of the greatest shows it has ever been my pleasure to attend.
You Never Need Nobody-The Lone Bellow
There are so many lines in this that I’m sure most adults can relate to, however temporarily. And the vocal harmonies are fantastic.
Sufjan Stevens was doing a series of state-themed albums while back, and this one is off Michigan, which I bought mostly because I’ve been both a Yooper and a resident of Da Mitten. I particularly liked that it had a song called “Tahquamenon Falls,” site of a family camping trip during my youth. Anyway, this came up one day, and it was just so stripped down, yet pretty, I put it on the draft list. It made the cut this year. Holland, Michigan, like its namesake nation, is know for tulips. That’s your fun fact for the day.
This marks the 3rd appearance of Ms. Andersson on my Xmas mix. Loved her first album. Her second has never really grown on me, but for this song which caught my ear and it’s an odd, beautiful little song with overlapping harmonies, all Andersson, and some unexpected lyrical choices. You don’t get a lot of songs with “electromagnetic” and “binary” in them.
God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise-Ray LaMongtagne
We had good seats for Ray’s show this past October, although there was a surfeit of drunk assholes in the audience heckling from the cheap seats to the point where he scolded them from the stage, and still they didn’t stop. Such behavior at shows makes me stabby, as I’ve mentioned probably at least 150 times in this space. Anyway, I tried to ignore the jerkturds, and this song, which I didn’t remember offhand started, and he had me at the opening riff. I knew immediately that I was going to learn it, and this concert instantly derailed the *electric guitar kick I’d been on.
The Great Divide-Willie Nelson
I know I heard this one on KXCI, and I thought Willie Nelson must have a new album. And then I thought about how I didn’t have a single album of his, though he was on heavy rotation at our house back in the late ‘70s; my mom was a fan. So I picked up a greatest hits album with this on it. The thing I like about Willie is that he has a rich, unique voice better than country music in general, and his appearance (and that of his beat-to-hell guitar) would make one expect. And it’s held up pretty well over his 81 years. I love the strings backing this up; the whole thing has a very Old Southwest feel to it.
The Way We Fall-Alela Diane
As I started putting this mix together, I checked out recent downloads over the last 2 years, and realized that there was a fair amount of music I’d bought but had barely listened to, if I’d listened to it at all. (Which is why I’m on a music-buying moratorium for the foreseeable future. If I have so much music I haven’t listened to some of it, I don’t need any more.) So I decided to listened to my iPod in the car from Abbey Road to Zombie Heaven. The second album on the list was About Farewell, whence this track comes. “You never know when it’s the last time” hit me hard.