A few singles

Hard Promises
Hard Promises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This months The Word magazine has an interesting article about music sharing and curating, proposing the idea that it might be right for a Slow Music movement to match the Slow Food movement.

I like this idea because I’ve thought for a long time that there’s something not quite right about the way music is being consumed these days. I’m not just being nostalgic when I say that for me as a teenager music was a precious commodity, the more so because it was relatively expensive and sometimes hard to find.

My daughter recently returned from a trip to Paris with a copy of Tom Petty‘s Hard Promises on vinyl – in spite of the fact that we do not have at home the means to play said vinyl. I think she instinctively gets it, though. She knows that vinyl is cooler than a download or a CD, and she is quite willing to wait patiently for the playback occasion to present itself.

I joined ThisIsMyJam because the idea of sharing just one song at a time appealed to me.

Everyone’s a critic these days and there are hundreds of blogs reviewing albums and gigs, making the traditional music press more or less redundant. When you read the kind of shit written by professional journalists these days (like this crap from Barney Hoskins in the Graun), it’s not surprising. I’ve published the occasional album review on blogs myself, but personally, I find it a bit of a bore.

Something that occured to me the other day was that the idea of reviewing singles seems to have died a death. Back in the 60s and 70s, the release of a new single was an event. These days a single, if it appears at all, tends to be just a pre-release track from a forthcoming album, part of the hype machine. But then I thought, why not? I’m actually much more interested in writing a review of a single track than I am a whole album.

So here are a few singles I’m playing at the moment. In no particular order:

So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore – Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson has released a few decent singles recently, probably from a forthcoming album, but I think it’s great to grab a track in isolation. This one is a slow tempoed ballad which gets to the heart of a certain type of male behaviour.

“I’ll be the bad guy / I’ll take the black eye / When I walk out you can slam the door

I’ll be the SOB / If that’s what you need from me / So you don’t have to love me anymore”

Like all Jackson’s records, the production values are high, and the instrumentation is traditional country: a beautifully mixed ensemble of piano, fiddle, guitars, drums, and vocals. The electric guitar solo is a fine piece of work, and the dynamics of the track rise and fall in a subtle way to the plaintiff ending. The lyrics carry the song (written by Jay Knowles & Adam Wright): he’s happy to leave her with plenty of excuses to complain about him to her friends because he knows she needs to stop loving him. Classic country.

Slow Me Down – Cyndi Thomson

I was pleasantly surprised to see Cyndi Thomson making a comeback. Her first album and single, back at the beginning of this century, were big hits, but then she withdrew from the music industry, feeling unable to take up the promotional grind for a follow-up album. She released a five-track EP in 2009 (“This Time”) and then this single in 2011. It’s another downtempo number, starting with arpeggioed acoustic guitar, piano, and her vocal. Thomson’s voice is sweet and clear, and instantly recogniseable. A string arrangement joins as the track builds. The lyrics could almost make this the theme tune of the Slow Music movement.

Georgia Mud – Joanna Smith

Guitars, mandolin, vocals. This is a typical product of the Nashville scene. A pleasant enough vocal, hard to tell apart from the liks of Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Julianne Hough and the like. This could have been released at any time in the past 15 years. One of the reasons I’ve always liked Country is that it has this timeless quality. Like Julianne Hough’s song “That Song in My Head“, and hundreds of other country tunes this is one of those songs which are nostalgic for some event in the recent past, in this case some kind of sexual adventure involving mud in, er, Georgia. I like it by the way, which isn’t to say that I can’t see what a construct it is.

Come Home – Faith Hill

Had to acquire this by nefarious means because it’s still not available on the UK iTunes. Faith Hill is by now country royalty, and has clearly had other things going on in recent years. Her last studio album of original material was way back in 2005. She’s released a few singles in the meantime. This is a typically baroque production (there are probably 90 tracks in the mix). I believe Hill’s vocals are always double-tracked, one dry and one wet, and that’s before you get to the layered guitars, backing vocals, pounding rhythm section. Her voice, like husband Tim McGraw‘s, has a lot of exciter on it, so that the track positively fizzes. It’s a masterful production though, building to a massive climax and the strange intrusion of some Beatles-style backing vocals in the fade. Great track.

2 responses to “A few singles”

  1. A recent living room upgrade was to put back a record player. Not a hi-fi, just a corner of the room self contained 33-45 rpm spinner (a la Dansette). I received it as a Christmas present and it’s good fun to ship a few LPs in from the garage (5-6 at a time) and leave them to be played and commented upon. I’m tempted to get some ‘new’ ones, but the ones in the local Oxfam shop were terrifyingly expensive.


  2. We bought my daughter one of those ion USB turntables, which we’ve plugged into a pair of Edirol active speakers. It’s actually a pretty nice little system. She’s also obtained a few other vinyls from a friend and a few from our loft. It’s strange to hear decades-old LPs playing upstairs. We’ve even got one of those BBC Sound Effects library LPs.
    Oxfam seem to put a lot of their vinyl online. Noticed a cheapish 10cc album or two, but the rest have, as you say, massively inflated prices.


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