I almost missed my connection to posting something for New Music Friday this week (ba-da-bump). I have a gross head cold. It’s the first head cold I’ve had in almost 3 years. It’s about as fun as I remember. I have a lot going on in the next few days for both work and fun, so I stayed home from work yesterday to rest up and try and knock it out. I didn’t wind up really sleeping at all last night, so I went into work for the one important meeting I had today and then came home again. Amidst all that I thought I might just skip my New Music Friday post this week because I didn’t have the energy to figure out what I was going to write about. Then The Head and the Heart dropped a new song in my lap today. I love The Head and the Heart. I’ve seen them in concert countless times. I don’t have the mental energy to say much about the song, but I do like it and look forward to hearing what follows.
The song “Common” by Maren Morris featuring Brandi Carlile was released as a single about a month ago, but it’s off of the GIRL, Morris’ sophomore album which comes out today. There are several reasons I wanted to write about this song today that actually don’t have much to do with the song itself.
It’s International Women’s Day, so it felt important to talk about a song written and sung by a woman. By now anyone reading this should know my love of Brandi Carlile. She has been out there fighting the good fight with her music and her foundation, The Looking Out Foundation, and in many other ways for a long time. She also talks a lot about forgiveness and finding common ground too, and this song is just another example of that. I don’t know nearly as much about Maren Morris, but I do know this new album is in part a response to her experience in country music where women are insanely sidelined.
That leads me into what I really wanted to talk about in this post and which this song is the perfect segue into. This week it was announced that Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Maren Morris are teaming up to form a straight up country super group called the Highwomen. The name is a nod to the Highwaymen, a super group formed by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. I’m super excited about this and cannot wait to hear the music. They are all somewhat country adjacent in their musical leanings. Brandi is more Americana and folk than straight country. Amanda Shires stuff ranges from more old school traditional country to a more pop country on her newest album. Maren Morris is decidedly pop country and often leaning more on the pop than the country. Of course in many ways that’s mostly what country music is in many respects anyway these days. I’ll be curious to see in direction they go with this and what in their minds constitutes country music.
They are doing this to fight the fact that country music pretty much discounts women artists. It’s maddening. I personally way prefer female country to male country, but the powers that be seem intent on keeping women out and then blaming it on the listeners. It’s insane that country music has gone backwards in this. When I started listening to country music in the 90s there were so many female artists. Arguably they were bigger than the male artists at the time. And of course if you go back into country history there are some power house women. Brandi has been big on promoting other female artists and doing whatever she can to build up the next generation of women musicians. She grew up loving country and said she doesn’t want her daughters growing up and not having any female country artists to listen to. It remains to be seen whether country radio will play anything put out by the Highwomen. Maybe. I wake up to Baltimore’s country music station every morning and listen while I’m getting ready for work. They talked about this yesterday. Of course they had no idea who Brandi Carlile or Amanda Shires were. So we’ll see, but they talk about Kacey Musgraves all the time and all her success with her new album, but have I heard them play a single song from it? No I have not. No matter what the country music machine decides to do with this album I for one will be listening to the heck out of it whenever it drops.
And just one final amusement from this. They’ve all been posting lots of photos and videos this week as the Highwomen get to work. There were a lot of everyone involved getting Highwomen tattoos. Brandi Carlile got hers across the top of her spine and said it was so painful she wanted to stop partway through, but Jason Isbell, who is Amanda Shires’ husband, told her if she stopped now she would have a tattoo that just said MEN.
Anyway, “Common” is perhaps a little taste of what might be coming for us. The ooh oohs at the beginning of this song give me chills every time.
Local Baltimore artist Cris Jacobs dropped the first single, “Painted Roads”, from his forthcoming new album Color Where You Are yesterday. As far as I can tell for the moment it’s exclusive to Relix so you’ll have to click through into their article to hear it. I can’t embed it here, but I do highly encourage you to do so because it is an excellent song.
I read on his website that the original version of the song was inspired by Tom Petty, so no wonder I like it. It’s final version is no longer a straight forward rock song, but it’s got a really nice groove to it. I also love the theme of taking joy in the everyday. Go take a listen. I promise you won’t regret it.
One of my friends has been asking me to tell her what my top ten concerts are. I told her that was really hard and told her maybe I could come up with a top three for her. I’ll probably end up somewhere in between. I’ve been thinking about what factors I would consider to put something in my top tier of concerts and I decided I probably couldn’t really rank the concerts I’ve been to. I’ve been to a lot of concerts and I wouldn’t begin to know how to decide which ones I liked more than another that is if I could even realistically remember what they all were off the top of my head. Instead I decided to answer a variation of the question and go ahead and put it in a blog post. Instead of ranking my top concerts I decided to talk about what concerts have been the most memorable for me for some reason or another. I’m not sure that would make them the best concerts I’ve ever seen, but they’re ones that stand out to me in my memory.
Neil Diamond at the Omni in Atlanta (probably)
This Neil Diamond concert had to go on the list because it was my very first concert ever when I was 10 or so. I don’t actually remember that much about it, but I know it was when we were living in Atlanta and that it was in some sort of arena, so I’m assuming it was at the Omni Center, which was where the Atlanta Hawks used to play basketball. I could be entirely wrong about that though. Even though I don’t remember much about that particular concert itself it is of course memorable to me because it was the first in a very long list of concerts I would go to in my life.
Christopher Paul Stelling at the Newport Folk Festival
I could put so many things from the Newport Folk Festival on here, but I’m refraining from making this one big post about Newport. There are a couple of sets that do deserve a mention here though. I didn’t actually know much about Christopher Paul Stelling before I went to see him on the Harbor Stage first thing on a Sunday morning at the Newport Folk Festival. It wound up being one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. First of all Christopher Paul Stelling is this super intense acoustic guitar player. For much of his set it was just him on the stage with his guitar and he had the audience enraptured. It was kind of a singular experience to watch. Then as if the performance itself wasn’t enough it ended by him proposing to his girlfriend, who is a member of his band, on stage. It was kind of the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a concert.
Brandi Carlile at everywhere
There was no doubt that Brandi Carlile was going to wind up on this list. It’s hard to even pick any particular concert of hers to put on this list because they are all so amazing. She’s someone I could just see over and over again and never get tired of watching perform. Every time I see her I can’t wait to see her again. That was true from the very first time I saw her live at the Lyric Opera House to the most recent time at the 2018 Newport Folk Festival and everything in between. I have to give a special shout out to seeing her at The Beacon in New York City this past April partly because it was my first time at The Beacon which is a wonderful venue and second because I had a front row seat, which was amazing. The concert I’m going to single out though is her set at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival. I’ve gone back and listened to NPR Music’s recording of this set many a time when I need a pick me up. There was such a sense of hope at that time. It was like the high in the world when it seemed like we were standing on the top of the mountain and things really were moving in the right direction in the world before everything fell apart. I listen to this to remind myself that I once felt that hope and that hopefully I will one day again.
Cowboy Mouth at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, NC
Cowboy Mouth is a New Orleans based band that I saw a whole lot of times when I was in college and in my early 20s. I gather they are still together and touring, but I lost track of them a long time ago. They are really outstanding and engaging performers. They were always about creating an atmosphere of positivity and energy. They are also an interesting band because the lead singer is also the drummer. I always enjoyed all their shows, but at one of the ones I saw at a now defunct little concert venue in Winston-Salem, NC called Ziggy’s not only did the lead singer crowd surf but he took his drum set out into the crowd with him and sat there drumming on top of the crowd. That’s some trust right there. It was pretty amazing. I should also shout out seeing them at the House of Blues in Chicago because I have an everlasting reminder of that show with the ringing in my right ear that has never gone fully away since that show 21 years ago. So thanks for the tinnitus I guess. By the way consider this your periodic reminder to always wear hearing protection at concerts. Love your ears. I wish I had started earlier in my life.
Tom Petty at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD
Tom Petty is one of my all-time favorite artists. For various reasons the first two times I saw him in concert I wasn’t there for the whole thing. I finally got to see him perform from top to bottom at Royal Farms Arena for his 40th anniversary tour. It was an amazing show and full of so much joy. It was kind of like one giant sing-a-long. It sadly was only a couple of weeks before he passed away, so it was also the last time I will ever get to see him. I’m happy he got to go out on a high note and that I was there to see it.
Holly Williams at the 9:30 Club
Holly Williams comes from a long line of country royalty as the granddaughter of Hank Williams and daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. After a car accident she was unsure if she’d be able to play and tour again so shifted her focus to other things. She now has a couple of stores and does some old house renovations in the Nashville area in addition to raising three young kids so she’s obviously keeping busy with other things, but I really do miss her music. I gather she plays every once and awhile still in Nashville, but unless something changes it’s unlikely I’ll get to see her again. This show was actually her opening for Jason Isbell the first time I ever saw him live. The song she got a lot of attention for on her final album was a song called “Waiting on June” which was about her grandparents on her mother’s side. It’s a beautiful song about their life long love that moved everyone in the audience to tears. I have never been at a show surrounded by people in tears because they were so moved by a song. It was a truly special moment that I won’t forget.
Dawes at The Ryman
I love Dawes and have seen them in concert many times. However, this particular show is on this list more for the venue than the band. I being who I am have a concert venue bucket list. The Ryman was right at the top of it. It was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and is known as the church of country music. Whatever concert I first saw there was bound to wind up on this list no matter who it was. It is an amazing venue and I would love to see more shows there in the future. For now though the only one I’ve seen is Dawes. Their show there was fantastic. They played for a full three hours, but my husband taking me to this show as a present because he knew how much I wanted to see a show at the Ryman is really why this concert winds up on this list.
This was kind of a fun exercise to write a post off of someone else’s prompt. If anyone else has ideas of something they would like me to write about let me know. I definitely reserve the right to veto anything, but I’m definitely open to writing more posts based on things people ask me.
Last night I went to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Rams Head Live. The opening act was a band called Valley Queen, which I was unfamiliar with prior to the show. They were a low key rock band. It’s not any music I would ever bother to listen to on my own, but I didn’t hate it. Plus I’m always happy for more female fronted rock bands, which they are.
I had seen St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Newpork Folk Festival, but this was the first time I had seen them in a concert of their own. It turns out that maybe I don’t like St. Paul and the Broken Bones as much as I thought I did. At their heart they are a soul band and I really like that part of their sound, which all the singles they’ve released from their three albums decidedly are. I actually don’t think I ever fully listened to their second album, so I’m not sure what the songs from that album are like. I have listened to their most recent album a couple of times and did know that it had a bit more of an experimental sound that I liken to soul but with a 70s synth space age sound. I didn’t mind it as background noise while I work, but it turns out I wasn’t super into listening to it played live while I didn’t have anything else going on. There were a couple of times when Paul Janeway, the lead singer left the stage and the band just played by themselves, which I wasn’t super into. Overall the band was into the show, the crowd was into it, I just wasn’t into it. Oh well. When you go to as many shows as I do they can’t all be winners.
As an interesting side note apparently Paul Janeway took his now wife to a concert at Rams Head Live when they first started dating. He told that story last night and it’s made me super curious ever since given that they are from Alabama, and it makes me wonder how they wound up at a concert in Baltimore when they had just started dating. I supposed I will never know.
Lula Wiles put out their sophomore album, What Will We Do, at the end of January. I first heard it and fell in love with it when NPR Music had it as one of their First Listen albums before its release. The first song on the album is a hauntingly beautiful folk song about staying with someone and going through the motions even after the love is gone because there never seems to be the right time to actually leave either. Their harmonies are wonderful and bring a great depth to the song. Go have a listen.
Florence + the Machine dropped a couple of new songs at the end of January. I somehow missed that until this week, but I figure now I can write about one of them in conjunction with purchasing tickets to see her in concert this summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I don’t really have much to say about the song except it sounds like a Florence song with its sort of sweeping melodies and background chorus. It’s going to be another great song for her to swirl around the stage to. I can’t wait until June.