May Music

More than sixty new CD albums have been added to CPL’s music collection in the last month alone! Here’s a few highlights of things you shouldn’t overlook:

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81Xe6zj4unL._SX425_If you didn’t get your fill on the first two volumes of Songs of Anarchy, the fabulous soundtrack to the TV series Sons of Anarchy, volumes Three and Four are here, and are they ever beautiful! Do not miss Maggie Siff’s heartbreakingly gorgeous a capella rendition of “Lullaby for a Soldier,” or if you’re in a more upbeat mood, “Love is My Religion.” “Dock of the Bay” is a rendition worthy of Otis Redding himself. On Four, be dazzled by an off-beat and wild version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that will stick in your head. “Aquarius” is catchy, and Katey Sagal’s updated “Greensleeves” remains touching. While the albums are utterly delightful71G6L0Sox0L._SX425_ on their own, each covering a wide variety of musical styles (Joshua James’s “Crash This Train” is sublime), at times it is gut-wrenching to hear them, if you know the context from the show in which each song is played. I cannot recommend the four albums enough.

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If you’re into something completely different, give Grammy Award winner Tom Paxton’s new album Redemption Road a try. Paxton is old-style folk; not quite country, not quite bluegrass, not quite modern, but it is music indexthe entire family can enjoy without having to worry about language or content. He is Raffi, for grown-ups, and if you can’t imagine that, then check out his song “Skeeters’ll Gitcha.” Like a true folk singer, his songs are observations about humanity and the absurdities of modern culture. “If the Poor Don’t Matter” is a haunting tune in the best tradition of folk music. “If the poor don’t matter, then neither do I.” If you like calm, soothing music that’s worth singing to without being overpowered by loud orchestration, if you like music that feels as if you’re sitting around a campfire and the guitar is playing just for you, you’ll enjoy this album.

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A third album you don’t want to overlook is Rhiannon Giddens first solo foray, Tomorrow is My Turn.index You last heard Giddens as the lead singer for the Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she wowed listeners with her pure tones and perfect pitch. Here she takes center stage in what isn’t so much an album as a resumé. Each song is different, from folk to blues to country to more popular beats such as Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind,” and the easy-listening vibes of “Tomorrow is My Turn.” It’s not an album to blow you away, but a solid repertoire that says “Here’s what I can do, come see where I go.” If you like female vocalists who never fail to hit their mark, you will love her. My only wish is that she’d pick a direction: I think she’d be a fantastic blues singer with her throaty, clear style, and I would love to hear an entire album of her belting out some of the traditional songs, or even some Broadway tunes. She’s a delight on the ear.

Songs of Anarchy, Volume 1 and 2

Jacket.aspxRarely do I leave a CD in my player for more than a month straight. It’s been two months now, and aside for taking two weeks off at the holidays, it’s still in there, and I listen to it every day. Songs of Anarchy is the soundtrack to the FX television show Sons of Anarchy.
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You do not need to be a devotee or even know of the television show to adore the soundtrack to the series. Sons of Anarchy is an ultra-violent soap opera following a fictional biker gang in California. You know the characters are despicable, but they are written so well and to such depth that you cannot help but feel sympathy for them – while you call them names for being that stubborn. All that violence is offset by a soundtrack that is both entertaining and breathtakingly poignant. There is no set tone – the albums contain a mix of popular, rock, country, folk, alternative – whatever fits the moment. Many of these are covers of old greats by the series’ incredible house band, The Forest Rangers – a driving version of Gimmee Shelter (in which you can understand the lyrics), an achingly beautiful instrumental version of Fortunate Son, a gorgeous tweaking of House of the Rising Son with lyrics to fit the show. It was the deep blues rhythms of John the Revelator that first caught my attention watching the series (who else works an entire song into a drama series every week, like a prize in a Cracker Jack box?), and it made purchasing the album inevitable. The song wouldn’t leave my head, and I needed to hear it again.
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Katey Sagal, lead actress in the show as Gemma Teller, is also a singer in her own right with albums to her name. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire puts the original to shame, and Strange Fruit will give you the shivers.
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Volume 2 of Songs of Anarchy is a must if you listen to the first. There is just too much good vol 2.aspxmusic. Coal War, the season opener to year four, is a foot stomping ballad that crosses the line between country and pop much the way The Eagles did. The Lost Boy is a tragic ballad on its own, but if you know the series, it is played out in its entirety as one of the lead characters makes his sacrifice for his best friend, and it will bring you to tears. No Milk Today was originally a fluffy pop piece done by Herman’s Hermit’s in 1966; slowed down, it takes on a haunting new meaning when you consider it accompanies the kidnapping of a nine-month-old baby by the IRA.
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Kurt Sutter, the creator/producer/writer of the show (he also stars in it as Otto, and he’s married to Katey Sagal), wanted music to be an integral part of the show, setting tones, carrying themes, underscoring the action. What he managed is beyond brilliance, touching the stories and the viewers/listeners alike and playing with their emotions. Because of the varied styles of music, you might not like every track on the albums (the version of Slip Kid is too metal for me), but these albums are certain to please almost everyone.

 

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