What I'm listening to now

Rosanne Cash - The List

So we all know the great back story for this album by now. And to be honest, I’m starting to think that the back story outstrips the album. Look, this is a great collection of songs, and it would be pretty darn hard to totally screw it up, and Rosanne hasn’t done that. But let’s start with the song choice - there were 100 songs on that list, right? So why is the selection on this album so totally predictable? If you’re Rosanne, why not go for some of the weirder stuff on the list, highlighting your dad’s eclectic influences as well as your own ability to interpret a wide variety of songs. What bothers me most about this record, though, is how uninterested Rosanne sounds on most of these songs. Compared to the vocal and aesthetic commitments of “Black Cadillac,” this is a step backwards.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Rock Art & the X-Ray Style

I know this is not exactly a new record, but I’ve been listening to this a lot recently, and have come to the conclusion that it’s really, really good. It’s unfortunate that the full extent of Joe Strummer’s genius will probably never be recognized. The mans was always ahead of everyone else, and by the time the rest of the world caught up, he was already gone. And when he tells me to “walk in like you own it/Just remember, it ain’t set in cement,” I believe him.

Apostle of Hustle - National Anthem of Nowhere

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this album before. If I have, forgive me for repeating myself. If I haven’t, forgive me for neglecting this for so long. I was addicted to this album for quite some time, and I suspect that you will be too if you give it a chance. It’s hard to explain exactly what makes this record so irresistible; it’s definitely a case of the sum being greater than the parts. But be warned, once this one gets its hooks in you, it won’t let go easily.

Levon Helm - Electric Dirt

So a few weeks ago I’m listening to the playlist created by iTunes Genius. In case you don’t know, Genius is not all that great - it tends to spit the same stuff back at you over and over again. One of the tracks it inevitably gives me if I start off with anything that’s “country” or “bluegrass” is Steve Earle’s version of his song “The Mountain” with Del McCoury. In this instance, it put both that version and Levon Helm’s version of the song on the list. Enter my wife, stage left:

“That’s the second time we’ve heard that song.” “Yes.” “This is Levon, right?” “Yes.” “Levon knows what he’s talking about.” “But he’s from Arkansas. They don’t have coal mines there.” “Yeah, but when Levon says something, he makes you believe that he knows what he’s talking about.”

I bring this up because that’s the essence of Levon Helm: he makes you believe he knows what he’s talking about. Give him a full-bore force of nature country soul outfit to back him like he has on “Electric Dirt,” and you’ve got a lethal combination. If this doesn’t make it onto some significant (in other words, not mine) top ten list for album of the year it will be highway robbery. This is a really solid record. And “Growing Trade” is a killer song.