This past Wednesday I went to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Wolf Trap with Shovels & Rope and Blackberry Smoke opening. Since it was on a Wednesday night and staring at 7, I bought us tickets inside the pavilion since we wouldn’t be able to get there early to get decent lawn seats. It turned out to be somewhat of a good idea since it was all thunderstormy until right when we got there. Though it never rained after we were actually in our seats, so we would have been fine on the lawn I guess. The problem with sitting inside for this particular show is that I screwed up my back again and then slant of the seats was killing my back the entire time. I would have been much happier lying on a blanket on the lawn.
I’ve seen Shovels & Rope open for other bands several times. I don’t super love their music. I don’t generally sit down and listen to it, but they are fascinating to watch perform since they both play so many instruments.
I had never heard of Blackberry Smoke before I went to this concert, but they wound up being my favorite act of the night. They play that sort of Southern guitar rock that I have a very big soft spot in my heart for. I really enjoyed their music and it was perfect listening for sitting outside on a summer night. They also played a cover of “You Get Lucky”, which is one of my favorite Tom Petty songs. I gathered from the program that they put this song out on an EP and Amanda Shires plays on the recorded version with them, which means they’re running with other artists I love. It makes me wonder how I’ve missed hearing about them in their 20 year career. Now I know.
I sadly didn’t love the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s set. I do love their music, but apparently only when it’s limited in their studio albums. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that they would be a complete and total jam band live because it makes total sense, but it didn’t and they are. I do not care for jam bands. I grow very bored by songs that go on for 15 or 20 minutes with long instrumental jams. There was a whole lot of that at this concert. I was also curious about the fact that they didn’t play their current single “Hard Case”. I wasn’t super disappointed by it, but I thought it was odd. They did start off with my favorite song “Anyhow”, so I could have been happy to leave after the first song. My husband who really didn’t enjoy the concert said we should have if that was the case. I still adore Susan Tedeschi’s voice, but I’ll stick to listening to it in album form from now on.
I’ve been so excited about The Highwomen, which is a supergroup consisting of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby, ever since they announced it. I’ve been anxiously awaiting actual music from this project for months. Last Friday they announced that they would be dropping their first song today, so I’ve known since then what my New Music Friday post was going to be this week. They’ll be doing their live concert debut this time next week at the Newport Folk Festival, so I’ll be looking forward to that for the next week.
As I have written about here several times before country music has a problem in that it’s decided that no one wants to listen to music by women. Maren Morris is one of the few female artists that has been able to break through the barriers of the country music machine and actually get played on country music radio. Brandi Carlile said she wanted to start this group because she grew up listening to fierce female country artists and it makes her sad that her daughters don’t have that now since women have been all but banished from country music radio. I don’t know if they’ll actually break through to country radio, but I see that CMT will be playing their video all day long so that’s something. The music is very old school country and doesn’t sound like today’s pop country, so I’m not sure that country radio is going to embrace it aside from the fact that it hates women. I however very much like it and can’t wait for the full album. I also love that the video features a bunch of other female country artists old and new. So go have a listen to the Highwomen’s first song “Redesigning Women” and hope that they manage to break through some barriers.
After last year when there didn’t seem to an overwhelming song of summer and the summer before that was dominated by Despacito, 2019 has a couple of strong contenders that stand out from the pack. Happily for the first time in what seems like awhile I actually like them all.
I think pretty much the undisputed song of the summer is Little Nas X’s “Old Town Road”. It’s been at the top of the Billboard charts for the past 14 weeks and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
There are a couple of other songs that are ubiquitous enough at this point that they too could make a case that they are the song of the summer.
Lizzo actually has two of them. “Juice” is still the song that is inescapable more than any other song because not only is it still all over the radio it has been included in seemingly every commercial, tv show, and movie that’s come out this year. It definitely has the fun attitude and beat of a perfect song of summer, but it’s power does seem to fading. Partly that’s due to the fact that Lizzo’s song “Truth Hurts” is overtaking its airplay. It is also an excellent jam and has some momentum that will probably give it staying power for the rest of the summer.
Finally, there’s Billie Eilish’s “bad guy”. It’s been moving up the charts over the past 14 weeks, but has stalled out at number 2. We’ll see if it has the power to finally bump “Old Town Road” out of the top spot, but I suspect it might be one of those songs that sits at number 2 and never reaches the number 1 position. Just for the record I am anti the new remix featuring Justin Beiber and am going to be annoyed if that’s what gets it there.
I’m actually a little surprised that Billie Eilish has become as popular as she’s become. First she seemed very niche among a specific teenager group and something the olds didn’t understand. Now her music seems to have become more universally loved though her core audience seems like it’s still very hardcore teenager. I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be with pop music, if you can even call her music pop music. “bad guy” is probably the song that comes to the closest to being an actual pop song, which is probably why it has become popular. I love it and want to do a little dance to it every time I hear it.
2019 continues to throw more new music at me that I can handle. So I have two new songs for you this week. First up I have “Look Away” by Stephen Puth. Until this week when I heard him doing a breakdown of this song on the podcast Switched on Pop, I didn’t even know Stephen Puth existed. I know and enjoy music by his older brother Charlie Puth. I didn’t know the Puth family had multiple singers in it. It’s a pop song that very much sounds of this era of pop songs, but I like it. Like Marshemello (ft. Bastille)’s “Happier” this song sets the sad lyrics about a relationship falling apart to a somewhat jaunty pop melody. I always appreciate the juxtaposition of lyrics and music whose tones don’t match.
I also have a new song by the band Joseph for you. I’ve written about them numerous times here before, but in case you’re not familiar they are a band composed of three sisters. Apparently as is often the case with bands even those composed of family members, they reached a point where there was too much discord and they almost disbanded the band. This song, “Fighter”, is their response to their decision to try and fight for the band and stay together. As usual it features some beautiful sisterly harmonies. I’m glad they’ll be sticking around.
This week I have some country music for you, by ladies no less. I like country music, but it also makes me insanely mad with how awful it is to women artists. It’s crazy how it’s gotten worse instead of better. The 90s were full of women artists topping the country charts. Now you’re lucky if you hear a song sung by a woman once every three hours on country radio.
My old school clock radio (no exaggeration there as I’ve owned it since I was 8 years old) is set to wake me up to Baltimore’s country radio station. Generally the first thing I hear after I wake up is a segment on Nashville News. It drives me crazy how they will talk about women artists and then never, ever play them. Runaway June is one of them. Since I only listen to maybe 30 minutes of the station a day I even looked back through their playlists to confirm that I just wasn’t missing it. At least in the couple days worth of songs I looked through Runaway June didn’t appear once and the number of songs by women was paltry. It really makes me want to throw things.
Anyway, I first became familiar with Runaway June a couple of years ago when we took a trip to Nashville and they played at the Grand Ole Opry the night we were there. It surprises me that it took them this long to finally release a full length album. I’ve been enjoying it, and chose the song “Head Over Heels” to share here today because I like the word play. That’s something I think country music does really well. I’ve been particularly enjoying the word play in Morgan Wallen’s “Whiskey Glasses” recently as well. It’s good to know that there are still some excellent female country artists out there even if the country music machine is misogynistic garbage and refuses to play them.
I’ve been making my way through NPR Music’s Best Songs of 2019 (So Far) playlist. 2019 really has been an excellent year for new music so far. I make my own Spotify playlists of new music that I like from each year. We’re only half way through this year and my 2019 playlist already has 51 songs on it. By comparison my playlist for all of 2018 only has 38 songs on it. One of the songs I put on my 2019 playlist and which I wrote about in one of my new music Friday posts was Gary Clark Jr.’s “Pearl Cadillac”. He is not an artist that I have historically loved as a rule, so I didn’t dig any deeper into his This Land album, but I should have because I finally just heard the title track thanks to the NPR Music list and just wow.
I don’t even know what I can say about this song and its video but holy crap. Gary Clark Jr. is not pulling any punches. He has written a very raw, angry, emotional song about a country that has not dealt with its racial issues no matter how much it likes to tell itself it has. Accompanied by an incredible video, this is one of the most powerful songs I have ever experienced. I wish it had gotten as much attention as Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” rightly did. The fact that it took me who is crazy into music half a year to discover it means it is definitely not having the impact it should. Be forewarned that this song is very NSFW or small children.
A few months ago I had a post about Morrissey’s cover of “Wedding Bell Blues”, which I claimed was a terrible cover song. Today I’m going to write about a cover song that I actually think is really good. the bird and the bee are an indie rock band with a number of albums to their name, but oddly enough I have never heard any of their original songs (at least as far as I can recall). I was only previously familiar with them from a cover album they did of Hall & Oates songs. Now they’re back at it with an album of Van Halen covers, and I’m going to be talking about their cover of “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love”.
In my opinion a good cover song adds something to the original and just doesn’t completely mimic it. I think the bird and the bee have done a couple of things with their cover “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” that make it a worthy cover song. The easiest box to check is the switch-up of the gender of who is singing the song. Though that in and of itself doesn’t make it a good cover song as is evidenced by the Morrissey song I was just talking about. Switching up the genre is also a good move. They take Van Halen’s rock song and turn it into an electro-pop song. Bonus points for making an 80’s synth sound, which is a nice nod to Van Halen’s dominance in the 80’s (though this song was actually from 1978). Finally, the adjusted the tempo if I’m not mistaken. At least to my ear (and the running time of the song would back me up on this) they’ve slowed the tempo down just a little bit. Not enough to make it crazy different, but just enough to give it a slightly different edge. It is an excellent cover song, and one I’m very much enjoying at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for me to actually go check out some of the bird and the bee’s original music.