Julie Byrne – Sleepwalker (2017)

March 9, 2020 – Day 260

Julie Byrne learned her Dad’s fingerstyle guitar playing at the elderly (for a guitar player) age of 17 but she caught on quick, maybe due to growing up in the snowbelt of Buffalo, New York and being stuck inside due to the weather. The style whcih she attributes to her father is nimble and natural. “Sleepwalker” from Byrne’s second album “Not Even Happiness” has a melody that sounds like someone should have written it before now. As for Byrne’s voice it is a natural fit for folk music, and her easy going delivery reminds me of Nick Drake. “Of all the roads in the cities that I passed through / Of all of the eyes that I searched inside / The one sense of permanence I felt was mine”

Annie Lennox – Ladies of the Canyon (1995)

March 8, 2020 – Day 259

I’m not sure what the occasion was, but on August 7, 2013 Annie Lennox wrote a blog post at annielennox.com which contains the admission: “I don’t know if I would have ever thought of becoming a singer/songwriter/recording artist/performer if it hadn’t been for Joni Mitchell. With her glorious voice, inimitable guitar style, and poetic and acute lyrical observations, her songs sank deeply into my psyche and bloodstream (along with just about everyone else on the planet!).” After a long and celebrated career with The Eurythmics and a giant start to her solo career with 1992’s Diva, Lennox’s follow up was a covers album, 1995’s Medusa. The title track from Joni Mitchell’s album “Ladies of the Canyon” was recorded during the album sessions but was inexplicably left off of the album, instead released as a B-side to Grammy Winning “No More I Love You’s” and then donated to a Joni Mitchell tribute album, 2007’s “A Tribute To Joni Mitchell”. “Trina takes her paints and her threads / And she weaves a pattern all her own / Annie bakes her cakes and her breads / And she gathers flowers for her home”

Bonnie Raitt – That Song About The Midway (1974)

March 7, 2020 – Day 258

Even before her commercial peak, Bonnie Raitt was turning heads with her powerful and soulful voice – on her fourth LP, “Streetlights” she uses her voice to take on Joni Mitchell’s “That Song About The Midway” from Joni’s 1969 album “Clouds.” Raitt’s interpretation has some touches of Joni; a touch of vibrato, and a feeling that she has her tongue in cheek while delivering some of the clever lyrics. She uses the power of her voice sparingly which adds power to the songs when it is time to soar. According to David Crosby, Joni wrote “That Song About The Midway” is about the end of their brief romance in the 1960s. David Crosby was the producer for Joni’s first album. He also stated publicly that Bonnie Raitt is the best singer in the world and they would go on to perform together at events like No Nukes and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts. “Over time I’ve lost my fire, over time / Always playin’ one more hand for one more dime / Slowin’ down, I’m gettin’ tired”

Dennis Wilson – The River Song (1977)

March 6, 2020 – Day 257

Dennis Wilson was the real Beach Boy, the only actual surfer in the band despite all of the Beach Boys songs which contained “surf” in the title. Dennis Recorded “Pacific Ocean Blue”, his first and only solo album, well into his career, in 1977. Brian dominated the early Beach Boys albums but the other Wilson brothers were able to contribute creatively to the band in a big way as Brian started to struggle, so the solo album wasn’t his first creative outlet. Therefore this solo album was very accomplished and critically acclaimed even if it didn’t translate to album sales. The opening song, “The River Song” continues the water theme and is the only song on the album which his brother Carl receives a writing credit. The song is rich with Beach Boys hallmarks; rich harmonies, doo-wop, but it is also a song which features touches of gospel and a rolling, circular piano part which you wouldn’t find in a Brian Wilson song. Dennis and Carl made their brother proud: Brian said his reaction to the album in 1977 was “Dennis, that’s funky! That’s funky!” “Oo mighty river / I would love to be like you / Oo lonely river / Has not got the time to say”

Gorillaz – To Binge (2010)

March 5, 2020 – Day 256

A Gorillaz song can be anything and any genre really, and this one happens to be a song that sounds like it was written on a Casio keyboard. I don’t know if “Casio keyboard music” is a genre but I suspect the search term would return some interesting results. Gorillaz is all about the guests and “To Binge” from “Plastic Beach” is a duet between Albarn and Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon. A melancholy song, Nagano and Albarn are trying to find their way back to each other, it’s true. “I’ll wait to be forgiven / Maybe I never will / My star has left me / To take the bitter pill”

Morgan Delt – Some Sunsick Day (2015)

March 4, 2020 – Day 255

Morgan Delt is totally California, at least “Some Sunsick Day” is, from his Sub Pop debut “Phase Zero.” In the category of “songs that feel like California which have sun in the title which are written and performed by California musicians” it’s definitely in the top 5 with “China Cat Sunflower” by The Grateful Dead. Tremolo guitar, echoey vocals, a catchy melody and a nice warm sounding production on which, incidentally, Morgan Delt plays all the instruments which is where he’s definitely not at all like the Dead. Still though, what a great melody. “Running around totally naked / We’ll finally find what we need / After we start over again”

Dungen – Tio Bitar (2007)

March 3, 2020 – Day 254

Dungen broke out into the world beyond their native Sweden with their 3rd LP, “Ta Det Lugnt” after critical acclaim was heaped onto the album. A studio effort between producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes and guitarist Reine Fiske (many other musicians contributed in smaller doses), they made a lush sounding psychedelic rock album which owes as much to McCartney’s first solo album as it does to 70s. The album that doesn’t get talked about as much is the darker psychedelic feeling “Tio Bitar”, an album that feels at home turned up loud in a car with the windows down on a hot day. Both “Ta Det Lugnt” and “Tio Bitar” have some amazing instrumentals and they feel like the glue which holds these albums together. “C Visar Vägen” feels like a spiritual successor or sequel to The Beatles “Flying” which is aptly named because the song feels like it is travelling somewhere, likewise for “C Visar Vägen” which means “C Shows The Way.”

Construction & Destruction – Balaenoptera Borealis (2009)

March 2, 2020 – Day 253

A song about the Sei whale, named after whale’s Binomial name: “Balaenoptera Borealis.” The lyrics begin with a description of a Sei that has been beached, and then there is a description of a battle on the sea. Whether or not the battle lead to the beaching of the whale is up to interpretation, but in evaluating, consider the Sei’s status as endangered species and the repeated accusation of “you had a hand in this” in the lyrics. The music is dark crunchy power chords, made whale sounds and a duet from Dave and Coco, also known as Construction and Destruction. Recorded at their home studio, The Quarantine, in Port Grevile, Nova Scotia, Canada, which I imagine is the perfect setting (on the Bay of Fundy) when writing a song about a whale. “Blow! Lo! Blow! / The general has burnt our boats. / He is stiffening our resolve. / He is narrowing our berth–“

Simply Saucer – Bullet Proof Nothing (1974/1989)

March 1, 2020 – Day 252

“Bullet Proof Nothing” was recorded in thw 1970s but wasn’t released until 1989. Simply Saucer attempted to record an album with fellow Hamilton, Ontario, Canada musician Daniel Lanois but the sessions were not completed and the results sat on the shelf for all of that time. “Bullet Proof Nothing” is single-worthy, even in its demo form. It’s a melodic proto-punk song that would’ve killed at CBGBs. After 1989 various Simply Saucer recordings have been unearthed and songwriter Edgar Breau resurrected the band. “I like the way that you treat me like dirt / Every night you better treat me like dirt / The way you use me, use me, baby, confuse me”

Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone (2010)

February 29, 2020 – Day 251

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy wrote the title track for the album “You Are Not Alone” and he also produced the album. It has some of the recognizable cadences and hallmarks of a Wilco song. The collaboration is not an obvious one, other than they are both musicians from Chicago. Tweedy wrote for her a song about isolation, loneliness and injustice which anyone can relate to. Rock Hall of Famer Mavis Staples still sounds great at this point in her career, this collaboration with Jeff Tweedy coming 40 years after the release of her first studio album, and there were more collaborations between the two to come. “Every tear / On every face / Tastes the same”