Johnny Cash’s American Recordings (1994) is perfect music for dark, winter evenings. It’s a comeback record that marks the beginning of Cash’s immensely creative partnership with Rick Rubin. I think it’s worth getting for the cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on a Wire’ alone. Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues (2000) is an all-round brilliant folk album, featuring a diverse range of songs with an Irish-American flavour. Neil Young’s triple album compilation, Decade (1977) is just a sublime retrospective and contains some of my favourite Young songs, such as ‘Expecting to Fly’, ‘Helpless’ and ‘Winterlong’. What’s even more amazing is that this retrospective was produced so early in his career.
Thea Gilmore’s Songs from the Gutter (2002) is not her most consistent work, but a great showcase of her talents, with catchy protest songs, soaring ballads and some excellent covers, perhaps most notably the version of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine’. Ani DiFranco may finally be growing on me. I really like her upbeat last album, Which Side are you on? and the song ‘Red Letter Year’ was my New Year track. PJ Harvey’s ‘Peel Session’ recordings (1991 – 2004) offer stripped down, intimate versions of her songs, some of which I prefer to the original album versions (‘You Came Through’ and ‘Victory’ are my favourites). Kristin Hersh’s sixth solo album, The Grotto (2003), is the one that I listen to the least, not because I dislike it, but because there’s a vulnerability to it that I find a little too intense and raw. It feels like the older and sadder sister of 1994’s Hips and Makers
I’ve been listening to The Kills a lot this month, especially Blood Pressures (2011). ‘Future Starts Slow’ has been one of my most played tracks this January. Apparently, it featured on The Vampire Diaries, but I didn’t know this, honest, I just happened to learn about it from the slightly embarrassed people commenting on You Tube.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live album, The Abattoir Blues Tour (2007), disappoints me. The band just doesn’t seem to have gone to much effort to make the songs interesting and different to the album versions, and Nick is yelling and droning more than usual. Listen to Live at the Albert Hall (2008) or Live Seeds (1993) instead.
The pop song of the month was Pink’s ‘Bad Influence’. I don’t drink much anymore and don’t really like partying, but it’s fun.
AC/DC’s Back in Black 1980) motivated me through the task of cleaning my flat, which I’m sure is not at all the purpose it was intended for.
- Johnny Cash, Thirteen
- Steve Earl and Sharon Shannon, The Galway Girl
- Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield, Expecting to Fly
- Robert Plant, Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
- Thea Gilmore, December in New York
- The Kills, Future Starts Slow
- Kristin Hersh, Deep Wilson
- Ani Di Franco, Red Letter Year
- Pink, Bad Influence
- AC/DC Hells Bells